Fantastic Fest 2011: Fantastic Debates Recap

Ryland Aldrich, Festivals Editor

It was a packed South Austin Gym Saturday night for this year's edition of the Fantastic Fest's Fantastic Debates, described by one journo as the best dog and pony show in this stinky 4-H barn. It was man vs. machine, hobbit vs. hobbit, scientist vs. weirdo, and Austin film icon vs. caravan dwelling documentary cinema star. While some punches went sailing over their targets, a few struck well and clean leaving the audience in stitches.

The first fight on the evening's card was a rematch of last year's brother on brother Zellner battle with the elder Nathan taking the position that robots are always evil and David with the opinion that the robots will inherit the Earth anyway, so we might as well embrace them now. David got large laughs for his comments about a robot never breaking your heart while Nathan's Randy Savage shtick was as big a hit as his "it's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Asimo" line. However, things took a turn for the worse when David replaced himself in the fight with a small female "cyborg" named Medium Wonder. While a clever idea, this made for a boring fight as there was no way Nathan was going to take a real swing at a girl about a third his size. In the end, it was the audience's general opinion that robots are pretty cool that gave David Zellner the win.

Fight number two was a haunting example of hobbit on hobbit violence as Elijah Wood took up arms against Dominic Monaghan, arguing over whether World of Warcraft is a complete waste of time. Monaghan made a surprisingly sincere case for the escapism the game offers with the biggest laughs coming from his tale of an attractive female suitor lavishing him with treasure to win his affection - only to later learn she was a guy named Dave. Elijah didn't have much to say other than WoW sucks and CoD is great - but he was able to hold his own in the ring against a +20 Lb. Monaghan in what was easily the most entertaining fight of the evening. The two danced around the ring with plenty of agility, each landing a number of good blows before collapsing into each others' arms after the full two rounds in full spirit of Merry and Frodo. Monaghan's physical advantage coupled with the stacked crowd from his earlier screening of The Day gave Big Dom the W.

Due to the relative obscurity of the third fight's contestants and the overwhelming heat in the boxing gym, the crowd flooded out of the stifling venue while a couple of dudes took the stage to debate the validity of NASA. Andy Howell Ph.D got all scientific on "NASA Hater Hunter's" ass who really had very little to bring to the table. The fight was just as one sided as Howell stood a few feet over Hunter. As one journo put it, it was a Wookiee fighting an Ewok (and we all say how that Iguchi movie ended, right?). This one went to Dr. Andy with ease.

Most of the crowd returned to watch what all expected to be a massacre as the main event featured Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League going mano-a-mano with bare knuckle brawler and star of the documentary Knuckle James Quinn McDonagh. The topic was basically Texas vs. Ireland and the debate went pretty quickly. Tim threw out a couple good jabs, his main stance being that Ireland's gene pool is depleted due to all of the best fighters in Europe immigrating to America. McDonagh's only comment was, "I'm losing the debate, but I'm not losing the fight." Nuff Said. Unfortunately for all the bravado, the addition of boxing gloves to a fight seemed to sap the strength from Quinn McDonagh who just kind of barged around the ring without throwing any big punches. Tim wasn't arguing. What made less entertainment for the fans meant less brain damage for League and that result seemed fine to him. The spirited response from the fans gave Mr. Tim League the money clip and another year on top.

While the big ticket battled ended up with a bit of fizzle, all things considered it was a pretty strong showing. No lives were lost and the crowd left with smiles. Next year, however, we're gonna need to see some blood.

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