Those who missed Dragon*Con's annual Independent Film Festival over Labor Day weekend are invited to sample selections monthly at the state-of-the-art Rockledge Apartments Theater, 2075 Powers Ferry Rd, Marietta GA 30067 starting Thursday, September 30, at 7:00 PM, with a comedy block.
"This is where I should describe your humble author's place of birth and childhood. But I'm not humble, and I can't imagine why anyone would care where I came from.
So, what's important about me? Well, the most important fact is that I'm always right. That is essential for a film critic (and even the lesser "film reviewer"). A film critic who is worth anything must be right in some kind of objective way, or it's all just vague opinion. And if that's all it is, then critics should be replaced by polls.
"Ah," you say, "if the film critic's thoughts are more than opinion, then why do some critics disagree with you?" That's easy; it's because those critics are wrong, while I'm right. It really is quite simple.
Do I sound arrogant? Good. Who needs a wishy-washy critic?
I am a freelance film critic and film historian. You didn't know there were freelance film critics? It's good to learn, isn't it? Since I am freelance, that means you can hire me. Do you have a newspaper, website, radio station, or production company? Chances are, you would benefit from retaining my services. If I were you, I'd do it at once."
1. Tell us about the Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival. What, Where, When, Who? Where do the submissions come from? How do you program? What distinguishes the festival from others festivals—like Fest League's Shorts Fest, and Atlanta Underground, as well as Atlanta Film Festival?
The Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival is an event festival taking place around Labor Day inside the larger Dragon*Con convention in downtown Atlanta. Each year we screen the very best in genre films, by which I mean everything except movies where people sit around and talk about their problems. We have mystery and science fiction, horror and musicals, fantasy and comedy, action and every kind of animation. With that, we add in seminars on filmmaking, panels with film experts, and talks with celebrities. And since we are inside Dragon*Con, we also have concerts, costume contests, and even a parade. It is four days of 40,000 close friends and a wild ride.
We get films from all over the world. This year we screened a Japanese surreal thriller, a Belgian dark comedy, an Iranian drama, an Australian documentary, a German horror picture, and an amazing number of comedies right here from Georgia.
I look for what will entertain; everything else is secondary.
2. What would surprise people about this festival? How does your content fit in thematically fit in with Dragon*Con? How does the content differ?
It seems the biggest surprise for people that we are not just a horror festival, or not just a science fiction festival. Because we are a part of Dragon*Con, it is often assumed that our scope is more limited, but then Dragon*Con is a pretty broad event. Dragon*Con has a track on Star Wars, sure, but also ones on Asian culture, Space and science, and British TV. Not exactly small tent. We don’t try to fit in, or be different. My only concern is that we have the very best, most entertaining, most exciting, most thought-provoking film.
3. What is your favorite selection from this year's festival and why? How has the festival evolved over the years? With so many changes in the independent film scene, how do you see this event developing? Do you ever see the festival event growing into Comic*Con?
Oh, I can’t come up with a single favorite. I wouldn’t try. We had Dichen Lachman (of "Doll House") as a ring girl escaping low life criminals in Sunday Punch, a fantasy epic with puppets in Yamasong produced by Heather Henson, and a biting comical religious satire done in 2 minutes with Necronomicon. More favorites than I can name.
As for the scene changing, it does, but we don’t. Part of how we are different is that there are so many fads in indie film, all of which I ignore. I look for what is good, not trendy. A film needs to speak to today’s audience, but in general: good is good.
Comicon is a different type of animal. Festival to festival, I don’t’ know that theirs is larger than ours. As for the entire convention, they’ve gone the way of big Hollywood announcements, and we’ve edged more to indie fare. But I don’t see any big philosophies at work. I’m happy for them to do their thing, and we do ours.
4. What are the best things about the films at Dragon*Con? What annoys you most about the Dragon*Con crowd? What do you love most? Favorite costume? Worst trend?
I always look forward to meeting the filmmakers, chatting with them. Nothing beats watching a film with an appreciative audience, then grabbing a beer with the director. With regard to the rest of Dragon*Con, I never see it. I have the festival to run, so the rest is just a blur of background to me.
5. Is 3-D a fad or is it the wave of the future?
3-D in its current form is certainly a fad. Fun and a way to increase ticket sales, it isn’t a big enough change in film (like the coming of sound, color) to make a lot of difference, nor does it have much of an effect on story telling. It’s a stop gap between technologies. In time, we’ll have something more immersive.
6. Can M. Night Shyamalan's career be salvaged?
Poor M. Night Shyamalan, always getting picked on. Well, not so poor since he still gets worked. I can’t say much about his career; success or failure in Hollywood is always just a single blockbuster or flop away. Artistically, that’s another matter, and yes, I’d say he can be salvaged, though it’s not the way to bet. After a string of horrible films., that were less about story-telling and more about a single not-very-surprising surprise, he’s made the proper move with The Last Airbender in that it was a complete departure from his previous work. That it was not a shining star of filmmaking isn’t the point, but rather it got him out of his rut. But then the man made The Sixth Sense; does he really need to do more?
7. What is your favorite Dragon movie? What is your favorite Con movie?
Favorite Dragon film? It’s not a category filled with contenders, but of that small field, I give the crown to Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes childhood does it right. Con movies are a harder grouping. Again, I slip away from the indie world to Galaxy Quest. It did a reasonable job of showing the convention world, and a better one of hitting every geek joke.
8. What Sci-Fi or genre classic deserves a remake? What recent remake should be undone?
Remakes are such an easy target. I keep in mind that Bogart’s The Maltese Falcon was not only a remake, but the third shot at the material, and that was 1940. My choice for SF film in need of a remake is Forbidden Planet. The concept is brilliant (I’ll keep away from spoilers), and its take on Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" is ripe with possibilities. But even with some skilled actors (Walter Pidgeon), the execution is painful. Sexist, with more cheese than fifteen pizzas, it is impossible to take seriously and enjoy with anything but a smirk. Last word was J. Michael Straczynski is going to try it, though that’s been the rumor for years.
As for what remake’s need to be tossed into oblivion, there are so many: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Betwitched, I am Legend, Solaris, War of the Worlds. But perhaps the greatest offender in recent years was Rollerball. It didn’t even know it was science fiction. The theme was gone as was anything close to reasonable cinematography. A horrible piece of filmmaking that didn’t even have flashy special effects as an excuse for its existence.
9. Given the indie roots of so many blockbuster directors (Christopher Nolan, Jon Favreau, Sam Raimi, James Mangold), what up and coming indie filmmaker would you like to see working with a big budget/high concept project?
Going deep indie here: Yfke Van Berckelaer. Her musical Zombie Love was nearly perfect. But then what isn’t to love with the dancing and singing undead? I’d love to see her go far.
Any filmmakers should keep in mind that the Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival will begin taking submission in March, 2011 for the next show (info at www.filmfest.dragoncon.org. And any film fans should check out our monthly “Dragon*Con presents” film screening at Rockledge in Marietta.
Dragon*Con Film Festival Comedy Block
Thursday, September 30, 7:00 PM
Rockledge Apartments Theater, 2075 Powers Ferry Rd, Marietta GA 30067
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