Monday, October 7, 2013

Fantastic Fest 2013 Wrap Up: Jonesy's Top Films

This year's Fantastic Fest came with much anticipation. The festival was moved to a different location, The Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, because the Lamar location was still under renovation. However, as always, the team of individuals that put together this festival did no disappoint this year. In fact, this may have been the most solid set of programming I've seen in the three years I've gone. Out of all the films, only two were disappointments. It was tough to pick just five favorites, but I finally narrowed it down. But seriously, almost all the films I saw I would recommend.

Now onto my picks!

If I was forced to pick my absolute favorite film of the festival, though it's a tough choice, this film would have to win. In a festival where you can go from an absurdest Japanese comedy to a surreal German drama, it's refreshing to watch a low-key thriller with stellar characters. It's a classic revenge story but it never felt cliche or predictable. Seek this film out if you can.

On the flip side of low-key, this melodramatic film is balls-to-the-wall insanity from the very beginning. Though the director's cut, which was the version screened, is over two hours, the film never felt long or ill-paced. It's an absolute gore fest that would make Tarantino giggle with joy. Rival Japanese gangs, a young group of filmmakers, an aspiring mob daughter, and a catchy toothpaste ad makes this one of the best action comedies I've ever seen.

This was my final film of the festival, and I still can't fully wrap my brain around what happened. As the director, James Ward Byrkit, stated before the screening, he intended to make a film that needed multiple viewings, and he delivered. With a small cast coupled with a parallel universe concept, this little film is smart, clever, and ends up in the same league as PRIMER and TRIANGLE that you don't mind seeing more than once because the plot is that dense.

This was a rough film to watch. It's dark and the ending will stay with you for days after. It's a remarkable film for a first time filmmaker. It's not overly complicated, but acting is superb and like I stated at the end of my review, you will need to play with a litter full of kittens to help alleviate the feelings you feel afterwards.

As a teacher, this film hit close to home. Bullying is the hot button issue nowadays, and this is the most realistic depiction I've seen. Director Matthew Johnson uses handheld cameras to immerse the audience into his tortured world.  It's funny yet touching, and it shows that anyone can become "the outsider" and a target.

It was a great year, and now I'm counting down the days until Fantastic Fest 2014.

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