Of course, there was absoutely nobody at the ticket counter and I got a decent spot just before the stairs at 8:30 (for a 9:45 show). I settled in for a long wait with the newly-discovered and very enjoyable Sound on Sight Sordid Cinema Podcast (their podcast is great and so is the website; if you are a movie fan, bookmark it). Then we were informed by one of the very polite and helpful (and fully bilingual) Fantasia volunteers that the film would be starting a half-hour late due to a last-minute decision by the producers of the previous film (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) to search everybody for recording devices. No wonder people had been tweeting from inside about wishing the movie would start! I already ranted about the retardness of this behaviour by the studios, but this time it sounds like even more of a clusterfuck as they decided to do it at the last minute (you can just see the studio exec at his desk, his face buried in a pyrex bowl of cocaine, suddenly lifting up to text with his iPhone 4 oh yeah make sure no recording devices of any kind at screening don't forget pirates are taking food from our baby's mouthes his face then plopping back into the bowl) , thus giving Fantasia staff no chance to prepare or communicate to the attendees.
The irony of this behaviour is lost on nobody. These companies want to generate buzz and goodwill among the hardcore fans in the movie community by showing it at festivals like Fantasia. Then they piss everybody off by forcing them to go through an offensive and delaying search. It's like so many of these other failed security efforts. The real criminals will manage to bypass the security while the real fans all have to suffer. Hey studio execs, listen to your social marketing people when they tell you how many "Marketing FAIL" tweets and generally critical blogs there were.
Fantasia offered refunds and of course nobody took them up on it. This is Fantasia, what's another half-hour? The only people who were bummed were the dudes who had just finished sparking up. Now the timing of their high was all fucked up! Fortunately for me, a friend of mine, who had friends on the inside to save him a seat came and joined me with his wife and another friend and we killed the time having a pleasant conversation about all the movies we'd seen.
The Tucker and Dale screening had none of that nonsense and we got into the theatre at a swift pace. Relative to my position in the line, the theatre was the most crowded I'd seen it. Since I was a lone wolf, I got a good seat in the upper section 5 rows back, a decent view but still among the people. And I was glad to be among them, because wow was there a long, boring presentation of the various jury prizes before the movie. I'm sure the Fantasia organizers are aware that this section really needs to be improved. But in case they aren't and anybody is listening, clearly the jury prizes and the participation of the judges is very important for the festival and the films involved, but you need to do something to jazz up the actual presentation. The woman next to me suggested a separate press junket. I'm not sure that's the best solution as you lose your captive audience, but at that point, I would have welcomed it. At the very least, maybe coach the various jurors in how to handle a mic and speak to an audience. You could barely hear most of them and when you could there was no energy or cadence in their voices, so the announcement of the winning movies had no punch. The people were getting very restless. The funniest part was when Steven Severin, one of the judges, was explaining how he was holed up in his hotel room for 12 hours watching the movies he had to judge. The guy behind me cried out "and masturbating furiously!" You could feel the seats shaking everybody was laughing so hard and trying to hold it in.
It's fascinating to see the disconnect between the people participating in this presentation and the rest of Fantasia. For the films they chose, they each wrote a brief essay on the film, talking about its "clarity of vision and honesty" and other old school film school talk that I forget even existed anymore. Particularly striking was the guy from Telefilm, who delivered the most generic paean to Fantasia which made it seem like not only had he not seen a single film, but that he only had the vaguest notion of genre films in general, like they were just "what the kids are watching today." He ended up sitting in front of me and kept turning his head in an annoyed way when people were getting rowdy. Now I could be completely misjudging this guy and I am highly biased against Telefilm, but that was the impression I got.
Finally, the director and the two stars of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil were called up and they got it right away, sending us right to the movie (though you could tell the director was loving being up on the stage and probably could have standed hanging out there for a little longer; I don't blame him).
Be aware that my critical faculties are highly suspect when talking about this film. I vibe so much on the general scene of Fantasia that when the crowd is rocking I'm just having such a great time, that it is difficult for me to separate my general enjoyment from my perception of the movie itself. I suspect I am going to have a hell of a time ranking Tucker and Dale. I can safely say that it is a great premise, very funny and driven by its two excellent leads. Furthermore, it is ultimately a really sweet, heart-warming movie, due again to the eponymous heroes but also to a direction whose heart is in the right place. It's nice to see a movie where you feel like the director isn't trying to be cynical or badass or edgy.
Just looking at this picture makes me laugh again.
Tucker and Dale are two good-hearted good ol' boys who have succeeded in realizing their dream, to buy a "vacation home" in the West Virginia woods. On the way up there, they run into a group of vacationing and partying college students at a gas station. The students are totally freaked out by the hillbillies right from the start and Dale only makes it worse when he tries to make conversation with a scythe in his hand, giggling weirdly out of pure nervousness. Of course their dream home, a delapidated cabin with bones hanging from the ceiling (and a great opportunity for humour and character development as Tucker and Dale ooh and ahh over how fancy it is) happens to be right next to the students camping spot. Miscommunication escalates until the two parties are in full-fledged war with each side thinking the other is totally insane. It's a difficult writing task to keep these kind of mistakes piling up without making them too preposterous. The writers totally succeed here to absolutely hilarious effect. They also add an overly intense leader-type character among the college students who eventually becomes the antagonist as the layers of his character are peeled away.
It's good the stars were so strong in this movie, because the dog could have stole the show.
Again, I was having a total blast with the rest of the audience. I got freaked out when Dale's awesome dog was threatened and teary-eyed when Dale starts to develop a connection with the good college girl. I was also working on my flask of Elmer T. Lee. So take my words in that context, but as far as I can tell Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a great movie, a sure-fire crowd-pleaser that definitely merits general distribution. It also has major star power. I don't really understand why it hasn't been picked up already. A great choice for the closing movie and another totally fun evening at Fantasia.
Where are the Browncoats?
Hilariously, I totally didn't realize that Alan Tudyck, the guy who plays Tucker, is Wash from Firefly until the Q & A. Man, somebody come and confiscate my geek badge! Talk about nerd fail, though I do think it is a testimony to his skills as an actor, because I kept thinking he reminded me of somebody but he just seemed so different from Wash, that I never keyed in to it.
[Also super-exciting is that Angelica (who was rocking the wheels of steel before the show tonight and rocking it hard) told me that Mitch had been reading my blog. She introduced me to him and he said that next year he would give me a link on the front page. I basically feel like I am already in Mitch's debt for all the ridiculously kickass programming he and his crew have done for the last six years at Fantasia and it's been a pure pleasure for me to really dig in this year and write about it. So I wasn't really expecting anything, but I have to admit that I am pretty psyched. A big thanks to Angelica for the connect!]
Tonight is the real last night of Fantasia and I have very high hopes for the double-bill of Mesrine, the real-life French gangster. I love me some 70s gangster action and this time my wife and a friend will be coming to both shows, so I won't have to creep out the strangers next to me with my excessive enthusiasm.