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By Mark Bell | March 14, 2010

Day Two started off in epic fashion, as I and my friends Ed and Brian, made our way to the IFC Crossroads House for some free breakfast burritos. At a film festival, one can not survive on alcohol and conversation alone, so being able to snag some grub before starting the day was a real blessing. Sure, the lounge didn’t open until 11am, so you do eat, and start your day, later than you may have hoped, but it didn’t cramp my style, as I still made it to the screening for “Phillip the Fossil” on time.

“Phillip the Fossil” is a feature film by director Garth Donovan. A previous film of Donovan’s, “Everyone’s Got One,” was released by Film Threat on our Film Threat DVD label, so I’ll admit to a slight over-interest in seeing his film. Not a bias, just an interest. Luckily, the film was quite good, and as the first narrative competition film screened at this year’s fest, I think it set the bar high.

“Phillip the Fossil” tells the tale of aging party-hound Phillip. You know, that guy who is in his 30s, but still hangs out at the high school keggers and cultivates an air of coolness about him because most of his company is too young and immature to realize, at least at first, how much of a loser he actually is. Having gone to high school in New England, I found the situations and people populating this Massachusetts-set film to be so on-the-nose the film could’ve been a documentary. You don’t want to believe that this film is portraying reality, but it truly is, loser-warts and all.

The lead in the film, Brian Hasenfus, is easily one of the most charismatic on-screen presences I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy in a long time. Even though he’s pretty much a scumbag loser king of his own pile of s**t, he still commands your attention. Even though it’d be easy to call him a “douchebag” and leave the room, you still sit and watch to see what he’ll do next… and then you wind up sympathizing with him.

“Phillip the Fossil” is a stellar character piece, and a portrait of small town America that is frightening in its honesty and reality. Donovan delivers, and I’d be surprised if Hasenfus doesn’t walk away with some sort of acting accolade by the time this festival ends.

After the “Phillip the Fossil” screening, I made my way over to the Austin Convention Center to check out some of the panels and look around the Interactive Exhibition Hall… which I’ll need to go back and do again tomorrow, as I ran into quite a few friends, press and filmmakers alike, and I spent much time chatting with said friends. I ran into filmmaker Malcolm Ingram at one point, and he informed me that all the questions I had about the homosexual “bear” community would be answered in his doc “Bear Nation,” playing Sunday night. And, yes, I DO have questions I’d like answered, and I’m pretty psyched to check out the premiere. Malcolm’s previous doc, “small town gay bar,” was very good, so I have high hopes for this one too.

After conversing with various friends, I made my way back to the condo to get together with Don Lewis, who, as documentary short film juror, was getting ready to head over to the Alamo South Lamar for the documentary short film program. I tagged along, and I’m glad I did, because the documentary shorts program was also quality, through-and-through. In fact, as I sat watching the shorts, I became increasingly happy that I was not a juror who would need to pick a winner. Out of only six shorts, I think at least five of them are worthy of the top prize. Again, glad it’s not me making the call.

After the shorts program, I ran into Jonathan London from Geekscape and proceeded to hang with him and his friend Greg Georg. They were in line for the documentary “The People vs. George Lucas” and, coincidentally enough, I planned on seeing the film too, so I hopped in line with them. Jonathan is actually one of the pundits in the film, as is Film Threat founder Chris Gore and a number of other film-geek/”Star Wars”-geek personalities that I am happy to call my friends. In fact, the doc is so loaded with friends, all saying things on-screen that they’ve said to me in private when discussing “Star Wars” and George Lucas, that it was like re-living fragments of my “SW”-centric life.

The documentary is thorough, and I’m glad it wasn’t an exercise in people whining about George Lucas. All charges against, and for, him are leveled in an even fashion, and, for better or worse, at least the facts are all right there for you to pick through. Lucas has done some things I disagree with, but he’s done some things that have shaped my life for the better too so… the documentary is a must-see for “Star Wars” fans, past and present, for the sheer perspective and logic it offers.

When the documentary was over, I, Jonathan, Greg Georg and Bloody-Disgusting’s own Tim Anderson made our way next door to the new karaoke/concert venue/bowling alley/bar known as the High Ball. Another brainchild of Alamo Drafthouse mastermind Tim League, the High Ball is easily one of the coolest places in Austin to hang out, and that’s where the “People vs. George Lucas” after-party was held… which included folks dressed as stormtroopers, including the DJ, and apparently also included free mini-lightsabers… which I somehow managed to not snag (and man, did I want one… and a laser pointer; apparently the night prior, at the “Predators” advanced footage screening, they were giving out Predator laser scope pointers (with the three red slashes), and if anyone has an extra, please find me and give me one, because that is TOO COOL).

I hung out there for a while, at one point speaking with Tim League himself who endorsed “Serbian Film” as the most disturbing film he’d ever seen… which scares and intrigues me at the same time, but perhaps not enough to chance being scarred for life by things I can’t un-see… but I eventually made my way back downtown for the IFC Party… which was far too crowded and far too loud. I saw many friends there, but I couldn’t actually hear anything they said, nor could they hear me (heaven, I’m sure, for them), so I didn’t stay long. Don and I wandered over to the “Dirty Pictures” party instead, which was less crowded, but at that point, I was done and ready to come back to the condo to type all of this. And upload the images and videos contained here.

Here’s Don’s take on “Trash Humpers” after last night’s screening…

And here’s video proving how easily Don can be influenced by a film he sees…

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