A big part of me wishes I was able to attend the first annual ActionFest this weekend, in Asheville, North Carolina. Think of it as the festival made for people who were raised watching all sorts of action movies on VHS or cable TV. The event has been created and organized by several friends, and it sounds like it has been one heck of a time. A mix of new and classic titles, along with stunts and panels, I will do my best to make it there next year. Of course, if ActionFest is anything like its spiritual cousin Fantastic Fest, next year will likely be swarmed with newcomers just like me. From his L.A. Times blog, Steven Zeitchik reports on the festivities thus far, which has primarily served to honor the legacy of stunt performers in cinema history:
There’s much to chew on from the events here, like the reaction one might have upon hearing the stuntmen behind cultural monuments such “Predator 2” talk about themselves as artists and about modern-day CG engineers as philistines. (Actually, hearing them discuss their craft in detail, and seeing them practice it up close, you realize just how much skill and science are involved, not to mention how much improvisation and danger. “There isn’t a man on this panel who hasn’t lost a good friend on a stunt,” Aaron Norris said at a roundtable featuring stunt coordinators, second-unit directors and other action-film types.
That panel saw the group trade war stories about their most grisly injuries and daredevil tricks, lie down on the couch to confess the moments of their greatest fear and proclaim, to the righteous applause of the audience, that there should be an Oscar category for stuntmen before announcing they’d created their own awards and would hand them out Sunday night.
And then there are the films — for instance, the rarely screened cuts of “Code of Silence” or “Braddock: Missing in Action III.” Or the the premiere of the Avi Lerner concoction “Undisputed III: Redemption”, which — and maybe this is the mountain air getting to us — is actually pretty good, a Russian-inflected prison martial-arts movie, as though “Death Race,” “Rocky IV” and “Karate Kid” get together and bear a love child (one who can pull off a convincing head stomp).