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Fantastic Fest 2010: The Top 5 Things I Learned at Fantastic Fest

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
October 5th, 2010

Fantastic Fest. Sometimes it’s nice letting the words sink in. Fantastic Fest. It’s too bad that this year's Fantastic Fest has come and gone, but it was a truly great time - as it always is. There were surprises to be had, alcohol to drink, a giant cow to cook over an open flame, and overall time spent with good friends watching some truly fantastic films.

This year, like last year (which was my first) I learned a few things. Of course I learned more than 5 things, but these are the memories that stuck out the most, and these were some of the most talked about moments that weren’t experienced by everyone at the Fest.

1. Movie bloggers can, in fact, be tough guys: In the Fantastic Debates, at issue for the debate was whether or not a filmmaker must adhere to a certain code of ethics when promoting their films online versus journalistic responsibility towards coverage/support of independent filmmakers. Todd Brown represented not only his own site (Twitch) but stood up for the profession of online film criticism when a Fantastic Fest Filmmaker (who I don’t feel needs to be named) attempted to anonymously post positive comments regarding a trailer for his movie.

The debate was heated, the filmmaker was passionate in his defense of his actions, but in the end, the crowd sided with Todd Brown. Mr. Brown, who is easily 6’3” and even dons a neck tattoo, was also victorious in the boxing ring, proving that movie bloggers are capable of holding their own, not only in a verbal debate, but also in straight up hand to hand combat.

*The above picture is Tim League stretching before his bout with Michelle Rodriguez*

(Photo courtesy of @angela31)

2. Anything can, and will, happen at Fantastic Fest: Think of the craziest combination of karaoke singers you can think of, singing maybe the silliest, most mockable song of all time. If you thought of Tim League (Festival Director/Alamo Drafthouse founder and owner), Bill Pullman, The Wu-Tang Clan’s The RZA, and Elijah Wood singing karaoke to "It's Raining Men" then not only do you have a rich imagination, but you’ve just thought of something that actually happened at this year's Fantastic Fest. Several hundred lucky badgeholders and Highball drinkers were able to witness such an event. I sadly did not witness this event and even though there are pictures, I still almost refuse to believe this happened.

3. You can meet some of the coolest people that you've only been conversing with 140 characters at a time with: I've only been writing for Gordon and the Whale for a couple of months now, and since I have, I've gotten to know so many people on Twitter. There were a lot of folks I would converse movies and other general common interests with before I became a writer as well, but I would have been hesitant to call anyone I hadn't met in person a friend. Within the first few days, you become accustomed to introducing yourself by your Twitter name, and even asking someone what their Twitter name is after they’ve told you their real name.

Getting to know some of these people was my absolute favorite thing about this year's fest. I was astounded at how well you feel like you know someone that you’ve only been conversing with 140 characters at a time with. A minor fun fact for this year's fest: having a Twitter account would have been the way to see the purchase link and the moment it went live for next years badge's. So get a Twitter account, not only will you get to meet some of my favorite people (or the coolest people in the world, as I like to call them), but you can be in on the ground floor for most of the information for the festival as it becomes official.

4. In a zombie attack, there is no place to hide in The Alamo, or The Highball: This year, in conjunction with Fantastic Fest was another festival, the first annual Fantastic Arcade. It showcased local video game developers for a number of different platforms such as iPhone, Xbox Live, PC gaming and holding tournaments for great games, such as Street Fighter IV. The tournament was a great success, but one of the more popular features of Fantastic Arcade was a modded map of Left 4 Dead 2, the famous first person shooter game on PC. The developer of that mod, Zapwizard, created an exact replica of the layout of the South Lamar shopping plaza where the Alamo Drafthouse and The Highball are located. When playing on this map, you can walk around and explore both locations. The player can go upstairs in The Highball and check out their favorite karaoke rooms, do some bowling, even play skeeball. In the Drafthouse you can hang out in the lobby, check out the theaters (which have screen captures of some of this year's Fantastic Fest movies being projected on them!) and if you've ever been curious to know what the projection booth and the upstairs offices look like ,you can finally find out. I was fortunate enough this year to go up there a couple of times and I can tell you that they are almost exact in every detail.

Here is a video featuring some action from the insanely fun game:

5. Fantastic Fest films themselves can also teach you a few things: The movies that play this festival are so diverse that its not just about blood and guts, monsters and martial arts. It's those things and a lot more of course. A scant few of those things:

-One of the festival favorites this year was inspired in part by the music of the Beatles (GOLDEN SLUMBER) complete with some historical perspective to a major historic United States presidential event (the assassination of John F. Kennedy) and even general life lessons. Lessons like it always pays off in the end to be an ultimately sweet and nice guy to everyone you meet.

-If you’ve ever been curious as to which girls are the most under-fucked in Norway (FATSO), you could have learned that very fact. It's asthmatic ones, if you're curious.

-Sometimes there is just no reason for things to exist (RUBBER).

-Music can come from anywhere, and if your city's music lacks soul, six drummers just might take it back (SOUND OF NOISE).

-In Norway, trolls aren't just cute creatures with long, spiky hair (TROLL HUNTER).

-If you are a serial killer, and you ever decide to cut off the head of a pregnant woman whose car is broken down on the side of the road, be sure she's not married to a Korean secret service agent (I SAW THE DEVIL).

-Finland has 13 different Santa Clauses, and the cute old guys with white beards are most certainly not them. They do however exist in the Finland lore, sadly though, so do their balls.(RARE EXPORTS).

-If there’s ever a movie you want to be in where the zombies are slow and not intimidating in any way regardless of the situation, you’d want to be in THE DEAD.

-“Sluts have feelings too!!” (A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN) - Brian Kelley

-Bean paste can heal any wound (BEDEVILLED). - Brian Kelley

These were just a few of the information nuggets you could have attained at this fest from the amazing lineup.

This year’s Fantastic Fest was just that, fantastic. The Alamo Drafthouse and their amazing staff and volunteers who all work nearly every hour of the day just so that we geeks and cinephiles can live this one week in utter bliss and harmony are truly amazing and they deserve every ounce of credit that goes their way.

This one week is my favorite of the year, and I’m sure it’s that way for almost everyone attending the fest. The things I learned weren’t necessarily new to me, but next year if you're a first timer, know that I’ve only put the most memorable things in this piece. Next year could be even more crazy.

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