Fantastic Fest 2018 Recap

(Welcome to The Fantastic Fest Diaries, where we will be chronicling every single movie we see at the United States’ largest genre film festival.)

It’s raining at Fantastic Fest this year. The forecast says it’ll drizzle all week. And when the skies aren’t opening up, the air is thick with humidity. It’s typical of Austin, Texas – this city will never not make its visitors and denizens alike miserable when it comes to weather. It comes with the territory. You get used to it or you melt.

And yet, we gather in the increasingly warm lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. And yet we congregate under the outdoor tents, attempting to stay dry and cool. And yet, we never consider going home or calling it a day. Because we’re here to see movies at one of the world’s craziest film festivals, a place where major Hollywood premieres and foreign oddities are treated with equal reverence.

Welcome to Fantastic Fest. On day one: David Gordon Green’s incredibly entertaining Halloween, the wild German arthouse horror import Luz, and the astonishing and deranged thriller The Perfection.

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15 Movies We’re Dying to See at Fantastic Fest 2018

Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the United States, kicks off tomorrow and /Film will be in attendance. Soon, we’ll be neck-deep in horror, fantasy, action, and general all-around weirdness and we’ll be sharing with you what you must see and what you must seek out. Few film festivals encourage curiosity and being adventurous quite like this one.

But before things kick off, our team came together to talk about the movies we want to see above all others. Sure, we’re going to discover new favorites and hidden gems during the fest, but these are the movies we’re prioritizing.

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if beale street could talk review

Art reflects the culture it’s created in. In the ’30s and ’40s, directors like Frank Capra produced optimistic comedies and dramas to help uplift a national morale brought low by the Great Depression and World War II. In the late ’70s and ’80s, punk music and hip-hop spoke to political frustrations. Part of the value of the art that makes up popular culture is what a piece of music, literature or cinema can tell us about the prevailing cultural attitudes at the time it was made.

In this way, events like the Toronto International Film Festival are valuable not just as marketing tools by studios to kick off their awards campaigns, but as a way to show audiences what ideas are currently dominating our cultural conversation. By gathering the biggest, newest films in one place, festivals like TIFF invite the world to consider what’s been on our collective minds, and provide a space to have a dialogue about it.

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birds of passage review

We’ve seen plenty of films giving us stories from the South American drug trade from the colonial-style perspective of the white man. Now is the time for Birds of Passage, a filming providing a gripping look at how the burgeoning business of marijuana affected the indigenous tribes of Colombia.

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Olivier Assayas’ Non-Fiction shows one of the great contemporary filmmakers at his most perceptive and loquacious. His latest film strays away from the mysticism of recent entrancing efforts like Clouds of Silas Maria and Personal Shopper, instead portraying an hour and 45 minutes of exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) conversations about the state of the arts and society at large. I couldn’t take notes fast enough to capture all his brilliant observations on everything from the discussion on the decline of the critic as tastemaker to a sly bit of visual humor ridiculing the multiplicity of electronic devices in our lives.

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Peterloo Review

Mike Leigh intentionally delayed the production and release of his film Peterloo to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the event it portrays, a massacre of peaceful protestors in Manchester by the British Army. Yet its historic status should not obscure that Peterloo is less a moment in time preserved in amber and more of an ongoing struggle. Though the period dress and dialogue are different, the conversations about forcing a democracy to respond to its neediest citizens are depressingly relevant.

Better yet, Leigh does not need to resort to rubbing our noses in the contemporary parallels. His methodical, delicate approach to depicting what led up to a watershed moment in British political history makes its own case. Leigh trusts his audience to understand the slow drip of social change and how a speech or a small act of defiance can ripple outwards. Peterloo might not be a particularly rousing political drama, but fans of other procedurals like BPM depicting the funneling of activism into progress will find the film’s patience a refreshingly honest change of pace.

Find out more in our Peterloo review below. Read More »

Dogman Review

Italian director Matteo Garrone has risen to international stardom with lightning speed, especially since his 2008 film Gomorrah took the second-highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Yet, for all his acclaim, I have tended to find his work remote and slightly inaccessible. Garrone’s latest film, Dogman, is a film worthy of his stature and the first time his bite has been as strong as his bark. This morality tale wrings gripping drama from an imperfect man backed into an unenviable corner.

Find out more in out full Dogman review below. Read More »

Teen Spirit Review - Elle Fanning

If A Star is Born was the folk song of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, a familiar tune brilliantly rendered by cover artist Bradley Cooper, then Teen Spirit was its pop song. The film is derivative, calibrated to appeal to a lowest-common-denominator audience … and yet admittedly catchy, even if it’s immediately recognizable as an interchangeable work.

Find out more in our Teen Spirit review below. Read More »

Can You Ever Forgive Me Review

“Who’s the master, the painter or the forger?” asked Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle as he looked at a fake Rembrandt hanging on the walls of a major museum. Director Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? asks the same question, albeit from a much less cynical perspective. The film tells the true-life tale of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a writer who began crafting forged letters from dead celebrities when her literary career plummeted. As Lee buries herself deeper into a pit of deception, Heller finds both entertainment and involving drama.

Find out more in our Can You Ever Forgive Me review below. Read More »

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In fabric review

Berberian Sound Studio and Duke of Burgundy director Peter Strickland once again pays homage to Euro-horror of yesterday, crafting a sumptuous sensory overload. In Fabric finds the filmmaker following a haunted dress from a demonic department store, and it’s every bit as weird and amusing as that scenario suggests.

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