Fantastic Fest wrap up
Fantastic Fest 2011 closes out with Comic-Con and a wild superhero party
Eight days of blood, guts, explosions, laser beams, twisted comedy, awkward sex, short films of all varieties, partying, beer, food and friends (both local and out of town) couldn't keep Fantastic Fest badge holders from ending the seventh year of the festival with a bang. The fest came to a close in style with the US premier of Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope and a superhero carnival where fans and filmmakers mingled amidst inflatable games and gallons of booze.
Bleary-eyed attendees filled two auditoriums at the Drafthouse for the closing night film, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope directed by documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold). On the red carpet, producer and Austinite Harry Knowles, along with several of the films subjects (James Darling, Chuck Rozanski, Holly Conrad, and Skip Harvey), talked about the film before coming into the theater, where Fantastic Fest Creative Director and Alamo Drafthouse co-founder Tim League took the stage to introduce the film and lament the end of Fantastic Fest 2011. For one last time, the lights at Fantastic Fest 2011 went down, Shiner beer was delivered to each seat and the movie rolled.
Anyone who has seen a Morgan Spurlock documentary will know what to expect from Comic-Con in terms of tone and style (it's pure docu-tainment), the biggest difference from his earlier films being that he never appears in front of the camera. The focus of the film is on several self-defined "geeks" who are making the journey to Comic-Con in San Diego for various reasons. The range of subjects and their interests is impressive. From Holly Conrad, a costume designer who has created real-life versions of characters from the videogame Mass Effect 2 in order to participate in the convention's masquerade party, to Chuck Rozanski, a comic book dealer who has been in the business for over 30 years and is feeling the shift in focus at the con in his pocketbook, different perspectives are well-covered. Those looking for a detailed history of the convention or an exploration of logistics involved in organizing an event that draws 150,000+ people each year will not find such information in Comic-Con and would be wise to modify their expectations. The film is concerned with the adventures of pop culture addicts, seeking to understand what draws so many of them to one place each year and profiling the effects of the con on their lives. In that sense, it's a hugely crowd-pleasing film. Featuring interviews from geek culture gurus like Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith and normal, everyday geeks (and some truly cheer-worthy moments in the main subjects' own stories), Comic-Con is a funny, fascinating success.
After the final screening, focus shifted to the closing night party, a superhero costume carnival held at the American Legion building. The lawn was covered in inflatable games, Aquaman's pool and, of course, several drink stations featuring a punch spiked with Ambhar Tequila and beer from sponsor Shiner. Inside, the entire second floor was turned into a giant karaoke and dance party. There was also an exotic dancer's pole, where professionals and amateurs alike could swing to the beat of the music. Food was plentiful, all carnival themed: mini corn dogs, fried butter and bacon, tater tots and funnel cake. The festive atmosphere was also quite laid back, the entire lawn covered in party-goers reminiscing about the past eight days of movies. Amongst the badge holders were filmmakers and stars also discussing the fun they'd had in true Fantastic Fest no BS, no talent-coddling tradition.
Many fans were dressed in elaborate costumes—some known superheroes, some made up on the fly—and even a Harry Knowles look-alike could be spotted. Jugglers and stilts-walkers cut through the crowds, adding to the carnival atmosphere. Despite exhaustion on the parts of all, the party was a wonderful opportunity to spend a final few hours talking with friends, saying goodbye to out-of-towners and, for the first time in eight days, spending some time standing up and walking around. Judging by the crowd that still lingered after 2 am, many didn't want Fantastic Fest to end. Sadly, though, it is over. As people return to whatever reality from whence they came, the countdown to Fantastic Fest 2012 officially begins!