It has been a few days since I returned home from Actionfest, but after watching 15 movies plus some extra shit including sleeping in a strange and loud place in essentially three days, I needed some decompression time before jumping back into things. Really it was sleep time while still being unable to fall asleep before 3am for whatever reason.
AAAanyway, the final day of Actionfest went by a lot quicker than the previous days. It was really because I only saw three films total, but also watched some of a stunt show in the parking lot (you can see highlights of it above), a stunt panel with some veterans including Aaron and Chuck Norris themselves, and a closing ceremony that I probably left too early.
I started the day with Robo Geisha. I was really excited to see this one after watching the trailer, but unfortunately the trailer highlights almost all the entertaining parts of the film. The story for me just wasnt that interesting, and really dragged at times. The highs were very, very funny, but the lows were too much to make this film feel like anything but average overall.
Next up in the day was Valhalla Rising. This was a funny experience because by this point in the day, more public movie goers were wandering in hoping to see Chuck Norris' official appearance, and somewhere along the way someone told these poor souls that a violent viking movie was playing. I was at an advantage in a way because I knew what to expect going in for the most part thanks to GGTMC's Toronto Film Festival coverage of it last year. But despite this, I still feel like the film went way over my head. It is violent and looks fantastic, but I could not figure out myself what Refn was trying to say. It definitely needs to be rewatched, but for now it was solid but not great for me.
After the gory vikings, I walked outside and checked out some of the stunt show going on. Chuck Norris was speaking to the crowd, and I was disappointed to see he was dressed in a nice suit instead of a denim shirt! After the show was a panel of stuntmen, and the Norris brothers which was really interesting. I wish there was a way to watch it again as I wasn't taking notes or anything. There were some great stories including Aaron Norris talking about doubling for his brother in Good Guys Wear Black and kicking a dude through a car windshield. Chuck had a really interesting story about his rise through the ranks in a manner of speaking - talking about trainign with Bruce Lee, and actually giving martial arts training himself to Steve McQueen and Bob Barker!
Finally, I wrapped up my Actionfest films... #15!... with Born to Fight. This film is fucking nuts. The stars here? The STUNTMEN! For a weekend filled with praise left and right for stuntmen, this was probably a really great way to end it. The acting in Born to Fight was really bad, and honestly the story just kept going on and on and wasn't all that thrilling. But I do not know how they completed this film without at least one stuntman casualty. Insane stuff going on, but overall not a super film.
I made my way after this to the Orange Peel in downtown Asheville for the awards ceremony and a show by local band Reigning Sound. I have to say the awards show was pretty lame as a majority of the awards given out seemed to just favor people that were there as opposed to what may have actually deserved to win. The best example of this was the award for best film at Actionfest.
Granted, I am not certain what films were eligible, but the "jury" awarded Isaac Florentine, the only director who's film showed attending the festival, best director. I saw at least three films better directed than Undisputed III... including Johnnie To's Vengeace. One of the festival organizers even called To the best working action director! I have nothing against Florentine, and I liked Undisputed fine, but this just had me rolling my eyes.
14 Blades won best fight scene, and I can agree with that one. There was a great scene wwith Donnie Yen fighting a very young guy who's name is escaping me in a restaurant/inn sort of area. Both of them would try to beat the other before a coin or bowl stopped spinning. Cool stuff.
They gave a special award to Marko Zaror for being an action star to watch or something like that. I could certainly agree with this. Zaror is pretty magnetic on the screen, and seemed like a humble and truly nice guy in real life.
There were some achievement award for the stuntmen attending, which was cool to see. I didn't have a good way to write them all down in this music venue, so I'm having trouble remembering.
The oddest award for me was best picture for Merantau. The film was OK I guess, but apparently the jury loved it. For it to be awarded best over the likes of Vengeance, Valhalla Rising, and what was probably my favorite film Harry Brown was just bizarre. Sure the fighting was fun, but the acting was NOT fun... especially the two white guy villains who were awkward and terrible. The story had its heart in the right place, but was not all that original or exciting. Blerg
I was getting tired of it all, and the crowd at the Orange Peel was the exact sort of crowd that screamed "this band coming up is going to be LAAAAAAME", so i left during Chuck's acceptance speech of his lifetime achievement award. He was telling the same story as the panel of his break into the business and training with Bruce Lee. I missed apparently his refusing the award and instead giving it to his brother Aaron who directed a it of Chuck's work and doubled/stunt coordinated as well. Oops!
And apparently I was wrong about Reigning Sound as well, because I looked up some songs and they don't sound bad at all! Ooooops!
I was tired, so whatever.
Actionfest was a lot of fun, and I am curious to see how it grows in the future. Carolina Cinemas was a cool venue, and I really appreciated the VIP pass holders being able to utilize the upstairs lounge there. For a festival put together in four months, they did a fantastic job, and I'd certainly recommend everyone keep an eye out. With more time to plan, I'm sure it would be better next year. Some technical issues with films, and the fact that it was impossible to see every film due to lots of overlaps were a bit of a problem, but not huge. My biggest technical gripe with Carolina Cinemas is how "zoomed in" all the films were. I do not know exactly how all the projector shit works, but when subtitles are constantly cut off and the framing has heads chopped, etc., something is wrong with the way the films are displayed.
I mentioned it on Twitter as well, but I will also say that attending this 3+ day event alone was a little trying. I'm a pretty solitary kind of guy, and going to see a flick alone doesn't bother me at all. But seeing 15 movies by myself that I feel somewhat passionate about and having no one to talk about them with afterwards was just a little depressing. Festivals like this I think are best with crowds, and especially I would imagine with friends. Seeing Undisputed with a respectfully loud audience reacting well to a film heightens my enjoyment, but having a buddy to drink a PBR and talk about how sexy Scott Adkins' six-pack was afterwards would really have been preferable.
So thanks, Actionfest and Asheville! Hope to kill ya next year!