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Vol. 923 No. 8 (Subscribe) (Contact: micah[at]reeldistraction.com) Thursday, September 18 2014
Fantastic Fest 2012 - Day 2 - Graceland, Miami Connection, New Kids Nitro
Genre: Festival Coverage

This article is part of Fantastic Fest 2012

Today marks the start of my fifth Fantastic Fest. Although it started yesterday (Thursday), I followed my normal schedule and worked a half-day before heading down on Friday. This morning's work ended up stretching a bit longer than I expected, and so instead of heading out of town at noon, which would have given me plenty of time to make the 5:30 screening of The Conspiracy, I left at 2, which didn't. It did, however, put me at South Lamar right at 6 (despite Mopac being pretty stop-and-go for a stretch), and I was lucky enough to be able to get in via standby to the last screening of this time slot, Graceland (with not even enough time to spare to change clothes... I spent the entire night in suit pants and a button-down shirt... I took off my tie before I went in, and ultimately regretted it... if I was going to be dressed up for FF, I shouldn't have half-assed it).

Oh, I should mention that on my way down to Austin, I received reports that my "Pretty Christmas Presents" Stranger Home Video bumper played before at least three different movies, including the Antiviral. From all reports it got great reactions from the audience, which is awesome.

I really didn't know anything about Graceland before sitting down. I kind of remember watching a trailer that seemed really slow and boring about a guy quietly searching for his daughter. I recall that the trailer turned me off and I didn't even watch it all the way through. So I was pleased to find out that the film itself is much more non-low-key. It's a Filipino crime-slash-thriller-slash-drama about a driver for a morally corrupt politician who gets caught in the middle of something beyond his pay grade.

The lead actor's naturalistic vulnerability gives stakes to what otherwise is a routine plot, and the film's ability to give an authentic (I assume, since I've never been to the Philippines) street-level view of what life is like in that country is the icing on the top. We found out after the screening that Drafthouse Films has picked this one up, which was surprising to me because although I enjoyed the film, it didn't blow me away.

After Graceland I had an hour to kill, and was easily able to fill it by catching up with VivaChiba, DeadbeatAtDawn, Accordion27, MedialifeT, and other old friends. As great as the movies at FF are, segments like this are by far my favorite part of the festival.

Eventually we were let in to Miami Connection. I'd originally considered seeing Sinister in this time slot since it was such a big hit at SXSW, but the fact that it will be in theaters soon, coupled with the fact that I knew that Zack and the Drafthouse crew were going to be pulling out all the stops for Miami Connection, made me decide at the last minute to schedule this one in.

And I'm glad I did, because this is a completely earnest and heartfelt (but entirely ridiculous) movie that I would have been ecstatic to discover if I'd found it in a VHS haul. Before the movie rolled we got a quick martial arts demonstration by the film's hero and guiding force, Y.K. Kim. To the shock and legitimate worry of many, he placed a watermelon on Zack's bare stomach, and then sliced it all the way through with a katana without cutting Zack. I understand loving a movie as Zack apparently does, but trusting your mid-section to the star of a one-off 80s flick (albeit one that apparently is a legitimate Grand Master) is beyond my comfort zone. That's why Zack is the king, I suppose.


Dragon Sound Is Back Together Again For The First Time (Click For Larger)

As for the film, it was made almost entirely (or wholly entirely?) with non-actors who happened to be in Y.K. Kim's martial-arts sphere. That fact, chief among others, resulted in the sort of film that I adore. One where none of the principals have ever made or been in a movie before, and their career ended after the movie wrapped. The result on movies like this - often referred to as Regional Genre Cinema - frequently results in a movie that feels like it doesn't abide by any of the rules that we routinely enforce upon movies; like it was a movie made by an alien race who had never seen a movie, but had only had the concept of movies explained to it by some enthusiastic drunk guys. Which, as someone who values truth and a complete lack of sarcasm in genre cinema above all else, is highly sought after. I mentioned to Brian M. afterward that if this movie had been made this year, I likely would have totally hated it. And it's not that I necessarily value things from the 80s more than things from now, but I know that most anything that's made now along these lines presents itself as a joke, like a Black Dynamite does, which just is not for me.

So Miami Connection. There are endless scenes that literally add nothing to the plot. Line readings that are beyond ridiculous. An overall plot that makes less than no sense if you try to describe it to someone. But these "shortcomings" are anything but, as the film manages to gel in a way that is pure distilled entertainment. I won't give anything away, but there's a beat toward the end of the film that, although it's been in a hundred thousand movies and normally doesn't mean anything, manages to evoke real emotion (at least for me) given how clunkily endearing the characters have ended up being. There are a surprising number of characters in the film that I related to, which can only be a testament to the sincerity of the actors and the frequent broad-strokes of the characters ... in most unseen films that I watch from this era, every character, even the lead, is paper thin. That's not a problem with Miami Connection.

This is a film that I want to see several more times down the road (luckily it's getting released by Drafthouse Films), if only to incorporate some of the more remarkable bits of dialogue into my daily life.

Oh, ninjas.

Following Miami Connection I headed to the Highball (which is going to be shut down in three weeks!!!) to see Dragon Sound play their first live concert ever. Except I tarried on the patio to talk to friends, and by the time I got into the Highball, they were already starting the second of two songs that they know. So I heard the Down With Ninjas song and then karaoke started. I have to admit, however, that Dragon Sound rocked fairly hard. Not sure how much of that was credited to them or to Evan and Zack on backup guitars. I'll admit that I'm not sure who all was "really" playing. It seemed like everyone (other than Tim) was legitimately playing.


Terrible Picture.

So once karaoke started, I decided to see if I could get into any of the midnight movies. Or, actually, one particular midnight movie. I had a ticket to Doomsday Book, but I'd heard overwhelmingly that it wasn't a good midnight pick. And since I was already a little tired, I decided to see if I could swap my ticket for New Kids Nitro. And to my surprise, I could... Nitro didn't even come close to selling out! (Shame on everyone who doesn't see this film at FF). When I walked in, there was a terrible animated short going on. But I found out later that I fucking missed a screening of my "Luther's Divorce Becomes Inevitable" bumper. Shit. I've now had at least three different bumpers screen at multiple movies at FF11 and FF12, and have yet to see a single one. I really want to watch one of my creations with a crowd.

Anyway, I'd seen Nitro earlier this year, and loved it this time around as well. I'm not sure what it is about these particular characters, but with them and the Trailer Park Boys, I lose all critical judgment and find myself enjoying whatever the fuck they do. (And I don't get like this with any "stupid dude" humor... for example I really didn't particularly care for the FUBAR movie that I saw). It'd be pointless to walk through these notes and tell you all the shit I found funny, so I'll just say that I laughed steadily throughout. And although most movies I watch once and then never again (there's an overwhelming amount of new stuff to get to!), I will definitely revising both of the New Kids movies in the coming years.

During the Q&A I asked whether they had an idea for a trilogy (since last year they announced the concept of zombies for the second film), and the director said they were happy with how this movie turned out, and that they had moved on from New Kids. That's a bummer because I want more, but at the same time, this is a good way to go out. They're working on something new with their "trademark sense of humor," and I'm excited to see what that is.


The New Kids Crew

After the film, I snagged a picture with the two leads who were there and the director (who flipped off the camera), then headed over to the Highball for a bit before heading home (Tim's promised closing-song karaoke of the Miami Connection Friendship song never happened). I headed to the HoJo where things are all sorts of fucked up, but it's $49 a night, so I can't complain. It was funny that I checked in a 2:30, and as I was doing so, a chunk of super drunk people straggled in. The night manager said to me "yep, 2:30. You can set your watch by it. Every night. Some people shouldn't drink." I had a nine-pack of tall Millers with me and gave him one for his troubles.




Classy Joint, This.

Ready for Day 2 (for me, 3 overall).


Author: Micah
Post Date: 09.21.12

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