It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. But nobody got hurt and the game was spot on. Fantastic Fest doesn’t just limit itself to movies. There are karaoke events and boxing matches that I have never been interested in attending, but an early morning preview of a board game did itch my curiosity.
At 10 o’clock in the am, I was sitting in the Highball (the bar space adjacent to the flagship Alamo Drafthouse in Austin) with seven other people ready to play the Mondo-branded board game based on the 1982 John Carpenter film The Thing.
Mondo licenses titles from classic and cult films and makes their own posters and games, which ultimately sell out and become collector’s items.
The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 is the board game that fans of the film are destined to play. The production is limited to 1982 copies. A one-hour playing time results in a cool breeze although it could last longer — I have played games of Risk and Monopoly that extended into futileness long after their due date.
Five to eight players should properly play the game, and you merge into one of three groups: scientists, technicians and managers. There are cards that dictate whether you are human or alien as well as cards that point you into specific rooms within the game.
Suffice it to say that I started the game as a human, got another card that changed my identity into an alien, and in the end was recognized for what I was by the person who was loading the evacuation helicopter. What a board game! Beats the heck out of Cards Against Humanity.
Fantastic Fest also offered nightly podcasts broadcast from the Highball. On the nights that I was there, I dropped in for live podcasts being hosted by Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie.
On this particular night, the father daughter duo was interviewing Austin resident Elijah Wood.
Wood, looking cool with a groovy hat and a casual demeanor, talked about the evolution of New Zealand during the making of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. “I wish I’d bought property there in the beginning because after it became a tourist destination the prices skyrocketed,” he said.
The previous night the Maltins were talking to Gilbert Gottfried about the documentary Gilbert as well as the entirety of his career. Problem Child, Beverly Hills Cop II and Aladdin all come into play. And after talking about all those iconic roles the conversation switches to The Aristocrats.
Gottfried introduced the “Aristocrats” joke at a Hugh Hefner roast right after 9/11. A good joke can never happen too soon no matter what disaster has befallen in the same time frame. Perhaps not ironically, Gottfried was fired as the voice of the “Aflac” duck because of one of his Twitter remarks. I guarantee you after you see said remark in the film you will be shaking your head for how lame the content was, especially compared to the current political environment.
In the docu Gilbert, you realize just how normal a guy Gilbert really is. Gottfried is married and has two cute kids. He makes ends meet for his Manhattan lifestyle by flying out on the weekends to stand-up gigs around the country.
In an appearance at the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Gilbert launches his first joke: “A guy won the lottery for $500 million. He goes home and tells his wife to pack her bags. ‘Oh, honey I’m so excited what should I pack?’ I don’t care, just pack your suitcase and get the fuck out of here.”
The entire audience bursts out into laughter.
Gottfried hoards freebies, which his wife has stashed in bags under the bed. Gilbert has complimentary soap bars from TWA (which went out of business nearly twenty years ago).
During the podcast Leonard and Gilbert start talking about the golden age of television and actually break out into a rendition of the theme song from Car 54 Where Are You.
Later that same afternoon, Free Press Houston was in one of the Alamo Drafthouse interview rooms, a soundproof environment decorated with framed gold records and mock windows boarded with wood as if anticipating an invasion of possible hurricanes or zombies.
It was here I talked to Blake Jenner, the writer, producer and star of the indie film Juvenile.
Bradley Buecker who had helmed episodes of Glee, in which Jenner was a leading performer, directed the film.
“He’s a great director,” says Jenner. “He knows how to talk to actors, and hold down the fort.”
Juvenile revolves around a gang of teenage car thieves. Their method revolves around getting a car to stop and then beating the shit out of the driver and stealing the car.
Eventually, Jenner becomes dismayed and totally rejects the plans of his once friends. However, he realizes he can’t escape his past no matter what the end result.
We’ve seen Jenner blossom as an actor in television shows like Glee and Supergirl, and films like Everybody Wants Some!! and The Edge of Seventeen.
“We raised some money on Kickstarter and a couple of financiers came on board and we were ready to go,” says Jenner. Amazingly the film looks slick and polished, and when the producer tells me it costs less than half-a-million dollars I am astonished.
“Pennies and favors is how we made this film,” laughs Jenner.
“We had the crew of a million dollar movie, because of Glee,” notes producer Robert Ulrich, who himself is a well-known casting director in Hollywood.
Some of the scenes in Juvenile are portrayed in reverse motion and it becomes a model for how the film will unwind. Juvenile has such a circular motion that the non-linear sequences seem to meld into a repeat of what has come before.
“When I wrote the movie it was completely linear, so that is Brad’s influence,” says Jenner.
“There was no plan to reverse it when we shot it,” says co-star Grant Harvey, “That happened in the editing process. There was no plan to reverse anything while we where shooting. We were way along in post and Brad just did it.”
In the middle of Juvenile, Grant and Blake face off against one another holding guns to each other’s heads. “It’s like a seven minute scene, and it was the most satisfying scene to act in,” says Harvey. “There’s a lot of ad lib and Brad just let us do our work as actors.”
The characters that Harvey and Jenner play are not on the same page at this point in the movie.
“It’s weird the way his character makes me feel like my character needs him,” says Jenner.
Fantastic Fest unwound over fifty films during the entirety of this year’s edition. We will be talking about many of these films over the coming months.