Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fantasia Day 20 (Tuesday, August 7)

Today’s adventures were relatively tame – you can tell that things are winding down, with everyone more or less sleepwalking to the finish line.

Caught up on some writing in the morning (I’m now 1.5 days behind, not terrible), watched three films in the press room in these waning hours, then caught up with ParaNorman directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler and pals on the red carpet for the “closing film” ceremonies.

(The lovely blonde lady and boy are the French dubbing artists for the animated characters for the movie’s Canadian release.)

I was allotted a brief five minute interview slot with Mssrs. Fell and Butler, during which we chatted about fright films that affected them growing up and the dearth of kids’ horror offerings today…right up until the point where bull-in-a-china-shop Mitch Davis brought the encounter to an end. (To be fair, I don’t think he knew that there was an interview going on, but boy howdy, he sure didn’t look around much to find out either.) Not a big deal, as I was probably four and a half minutes in anyway.

Due to it being the closing film, our press passes did not gain us admission (hence my visiting yesterday’s press screening in the Latin Quarter, but this apparently marked the first-ever 3D film to be shown in Concordia Hall. Good job, guys! Moving with the times…

While ParaNorman unveiled itself before the masses, I walked around with Matt, discussing various screenplay ideas we’ve been kicking around as we searched for food, finally settling on a North African establishment which served up a heaping bowl of tajine (vegetable stew with couscous) for $7. Got back to Concordia in time to watch Painted Skin: The Resurrection, preceded by a Lifetime Excellence Award presented to legendary film scholar David Bordwell by good friend and co-director of Asian programming, King-Wei Chu.

I freely admit my ignorance to Mr. Bordwell’s legacy, but I’ll make a point of checking out his work moving forward. The education’s never over, my friends.

The evening ended with a final visit to the Irish Embassy pub, everyone tired, giddy, celebratory and sharing their best-of/worst-of lists. Cinematic traveling companions such as New York Asian Film Festival programmer (and all around cool dude) Paul Kazee have already hit the trail, with only one more day (for me) to go. Winding, winding, winding down.

Cat, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Byeon, Seung-wook (South Korea)

Park Min-young stars as a shy, young woman whose love for animals finds her employed at a grooming salon and – when her favorite four-legged customer’s owner dies mysteriously in an elevator accident, she adopts the furry beast and almost immediately starts experiencing visions of a blue-tinged child with yellow eyes. Fairly standard K-horror stuff, complete with ghostly apparitions showing up in closets, under beds, everywhere but in the butter dish, and aural jump scares galore as Min-young and her beat cop paramour Kim Dong-Wook try to discover the cause for the paranormal disturbances. Not to say it isn’t enjoyable on those terms, but for those versed in the genre, there aren’t a lot of fresh frights on display.

Alter Egos (2012) (1st viewing) d. Galland, Jordan (USA)

Writer/director Galland’s amusing meditation on the superhero mythos, watching the spandex suit set deal with ordinary problems such as girlfriend trouble, insufficient government funding, and where to store those civilian duds when fighting crime…as well as the occasional supervillain menace. Kris Lemche stars as ’Fridge (short for Refrigerator), currently going through an ice-slinging midlife crisis, with Cabin Fever’s Joey Kern (as C-Thru) and Brooke Nevin (attractive if uncooperative hotel clerk) lending solid support to a silly, silly cause.

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012) (1st viewing) d. Knappenberger, Brian (USA)

The internet collective Anonymous is given a face behind its ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask, with director Knappenberger tracking the group’s evolution from merry pranksters to controversial purveyors of protest, targeting heavyweight institutions such as the Church of Scientology, PayPal, Sony, and the Egyptian government. While they are portrayed as a force for “chaotic good,” their facelessness presents the frightening side effect that they can launch attacks on anyone, at any time, for any reason. If I have any complaint, it’s that the film gives only the vaguest lip service to innocent bystanders caught in the cyber crossfire. True, the organization has accomplished heroic deeds, but with great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes, and it quickly becomes clear that not everyone involved is interested in being responsible, mature or in anything other than sticking it to The Man…whomever the all-too-subjective Man may be.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012) (1st viewing) d. Wuershan (China)

Opulent on every level, this epic Asian fantasy film is gorgeous to behold but perhaps commits the sin of taking itself too seriously for a story concerning fox and bird demons infiltrating a warrior princess’ court. A few judicious trims and a lighter touch overall couldn’t have hurt, but with spells casting, swords flashing, giant bears’ teeth gnashing and romance everlasting, it’s hard to complain too much. An in-name-only sequel to Gordon Chan’s 2008 smash Painted Skin.

2012 Totals to date: 380 films, 331 1st time views, 209 horror, 146 cinema

Fantasia Totals: 84 films, 80 1st time views, 40 horror, 68 cinema

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