I survived 13 hours at SIFF

Officially, it was the 12 Hour Movie Marathon, but since I’m constitutionally incapable of turning down a free meal, I was at SIFF Cinema at 9:00 am sharp to enjoy a delicious breakfast courtesy of Seasonal Goods Catering. After tasty scrambled eggs, the best scones I’ve had in a long, long time, fresh fruit and fruit juice, I got up to get an equally tasty latte from Magna Cum Latte and mock SIFF Programming Manager Beth Barrett for showing up with an overnight bag with comfy shoes, a pillow and a blanket. Movie fans are familiar with the concept of foreshadowing, so you won’t be surprised that later on I found myself thinking, “You know, I should’ve brought a pillow and a blanket myself.”

That I didn’t is my sole regret about the Movie Marathon which was otherwise such an excellent time that I’m already planning to be there next year.

When I told people that I was going to the marathon, they all had the same two questions: “How are you going to keep your butt from going numb?” and “How are you ever going to sit through 12 hours of film?”

The first one was answered by simply getting up and walking around during the breaks between movies. As for the second, well, it’s not entirely unknown for me to spend half a day watching movies, I just don’t usually do it all in a row. Well, except during the festival when I spend hours and hours watching movies…but even then it’s not 12 hours in a row. I decided to keep notes on how the day went so I could report back afterwards. Times are approximate because I kept forgetting to check.

10:00 am Director and SIFF co-founder Dan Ireland greets the audience and introduces the first film of the day, which happens to be his first film, The Whole Wide World. Considering my long-standing irrational dislike of Renee Zellwegger, of all the films on the day’s schedule, this was the one I was least looking forward to seeing. As it happened, this was the one I most enjoyed. Zellwegger puts in a pitch-perfect performance as Novalyne Price Ellis, a schoolteacher and aspiring writer who falls in love with pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard (played wonderfully by Vincent D’Onofrio), the creator of Conan the Barbarian. It was a perfect film to start the day, an engaging story of love and what it takes to find one’s voice.

Noon: Lunch boxes are brought out. I’d actually contemplated not buying the pre-paid meals by Madres Kitchen and simply subsisting on snacks from the concession stand but it was nice to have a real meal to accompany the second movie, Gus Van Sant’s To Die For, a movie I hadn’t seen at the time of its 1995 release because at the time I had an irrational dislike of Nicole Kidman whom I’ve grown to admire quite a bit. (Maybe the same will happen with Zellwegger). A black comedy with a serious streak, To Die For adapts a novel inspired by the real life Pamela Smart case into a clever look at just how far some people will go to pursue their dreams, no matter how unhealthy they are.

2:00 pm Is anyone getting bored yet? I’m not. I look around and no one else seems to be. It’s good to have some variety in programming and what could be more different from the first two films than The Road Warrior, the second of the “Mad Max” movies that made Mel Gibson a household name long before the public ever came to suspect that he might not just be crazy on film. Gibson is serviceable in a not particularly challenging anti-hero role in the post-apocalypse dystopia so popular in 80s films, but the movie which once seemed SO COOL to me hasn’t aged well and is now merely an entertaining trifle. It does make for a nice little break, though, as next up is another heavy movie.

4:00 pm Blood Simple, the Coen Brothers debut, stars the always charismatic Frances McDormand as the cheating wife of an oily Texas bar owner who hires a slimy private eye to spy on her and the bartender with whom she’s been cheating, setting off a tangled web of double crosses, triple crosses, mayhem and murder.

6:00 pm Even more twisted is Paul Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man in which a novelist begins an affair with a bewitching woman he eventually comes to believe is a witch, or at least a black widow, having married and murdered three previous husbands and now on the look out for the fourth. At this point I wish both that I had a blanket and that this wasn’t the fifth of six movies. I’d seen Road Warrior years ago but none of the others. I might’ve never seen them otherwise but I’ve enjoyed them all so much. That’s the great thing about movie festivals, after all; you get a chance to discover movies you’d otherwise maybe never see.

8:00 pm The final film of the day brings us back to Seattle with Trouble in Mind, a 1985 neo-noir filmed in Seattle–called “Rain City” in the film–starring Kris Kristofferson, Keith Carradine, Lori Singer and Genevieve Bujold. Writer/director Alan Randolph graciously stopped by to introduce the film. Ex-con and ex-cop Kristofferson gets out of jail and heads to “Rain City” to hook up with ex-girlfriend Bujold, who has taken a semi-maternal interest in Singer, new in town along with her low-rent hood boyfriend Carradine. As Carradine becomes involved in a local jewelry theft ring which eventually gets him in trouble with local crime lord Divine (in a rare non-drag performance), Kristofferson becomes involved with Singer and a series of sub-plots twist and turn into they all become one.

It’s interesting to leave Queen Anne and head downtown after being reminded of how it looked 25 years ago.

Last year’s marathon was 24 hours long and some of this year’s audience members hoped that next year’s would return to that length. I’m torn. I could’ve gone for another film or two, but I’m not sure I could stay awake for 24 hours and having fallen asleep in movie seats before, I know that they don’t make the greatest bed. Anyway, it’s always better to leave ’em wanting more than to give them too much and now I’m even more excited for the upcoming festival than ever.

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