Archive for the ‘SIFF’ Category

siff: closing weekend guidance (12-14 june)

the bear, still courtesy siff. (see this!)

Friends, it seems that we are almost at the end of another installation of the Seattle International Film Festival; hope you’ve all made it through! Suriving on little sunlight and lots of concession treats isn’t as glamourous as you’d think, but the rich tapestry of films make it worth the effort. So, some guidance from us, on movies to consider to get the last delicious drops out of SIFF’s final weekend:

No Age performs the Bear [siff] : So this is a buddy pic starring real live trained bears in the Canadian Rockies. The description leads me to believe that it’s about an orphaned cub and her grown-up, possibly gay, adoptive protector on the run from the ever-present hunters who occasionally take a break to get stoned out of their mind on mushrooms. Of course, it’s made by the French (I still regret not seeing the original version of March of the Penguins). As if the existence of this film isn’t amazing enough, tonight’s screenings will feature an original score performed by No Age, the art punk duo from LA, whose Nouns electrified last summer with the youthful optimism in the face inescapable sunlight and sweltering pavement. These dialogs between modern musicians and classic films are among the more exciting and unique productions that occur at SIFF; do your best to make it to one of these screenings. [josh] June 12, 7:00 PM & 9:30 pm (The Triple Door)

Adam [siff] : Explores the tricky issues in romancing an electrical engineer with Asperger syndrome in New York City; starring Hugh Dancy in the title role and Rose Byrne as his love interest.  [josh] June 12, 7:00 pm; June 13, 1:15 pm (Uptown)

Kimjongilia [siff] : To us, Kim Jong Il is zany dictator whose ambitions to send a nuclear weapon in the general direction of Alaska seems a little less terrifying than it should. This documentary, through the harrowing stories of thirteen escapees, reveals the bleak truth of life in North Korea under his reign. The producer and director are expected to attend; so expect thoughtful discussion to follow. [josh] June 12, 6:30 pm; June 13, 1:30 pm. (Pacific Place)

Talhotblond [siff] : A creepy true story of obsession and the internet in which “the lovers never meet face to face, but one person ends up dead, another goes to prison, and the families of all three are changed forever.” I’m almost certain that I heard this story on a show like This American Life, either way, this documentary sounds relentlessly fascinating. [josh] June 12, 9:15 pm; June 13, 4:00 pm (Pacific Place)

Once Upon a Time in the West [siff] : A gang of gunfighters attempt to steal land valuable to the railroad company from a widow who lives alone and only has two drifters to help her fight off the thugs who will do anything they can to defeat her. Slow, brooding, and sinister with Henry Ford cast against type as the villian, this classic Western is worth seeing any time, doubly so when you can see it on the big screen. [zee] June 13, 1:30 pm (Harvard Exit)

Amreeka [siff] : Muna and her teenaged son Fadi win a US Green Card lottery and leave Palestine to settle in Chicago with Muna’s sister and her husband. Adjustment is tough for them, made worse by their moving in just as the US goes to war with Iraq, and Muna’s years of skilled job experience mean nothing in her new land where she struggles to find a job. In the meantime, the usual stress of being a teen added to this massive change in his life leave Fadi struggling to find himself. [zee] June 13, 6:30 pm (Pacific Place); June 14, 4:00 pm (Pacific Place)

Every Little Step [siff] : Just like A Chorus Line itself, this documentary follows the casting for the 2006 Broadway revival of the musical about a musical. The meta doesn’t stop there, as the filmmakers also bring in archival footage from the staging of the original production. [josh] June 13, 7:00 pm (Egyptian)

Hachi [siff] : Richard Gere, a ridiculously cute dog, and a sad and sweet story of enduring loyalty that changes the lives of everyone it touches. Yes, of course it’s cloyingly sentimental and designed to manipulate you into tears and sniffling, but everyone needs a good cry now and again. [zee] June 13, 6:30 pm (Cinerama); June 14, noon (Cinerama)

Il Divo [siff] : Chatting with other SIFF addicts at the “SIFF Lounge” at Boom Noodle, we all agreed that this documentary about former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti was one of the most fun flicks we had seen at the festival. The political intrigue, backroom deals, potential criminal activities, and murderous mafia subplots are so thick that it may require a lifetime in Italy to absorb, but the direction is so assured, the characters are so colorful, and the performances are so compelling that the details become secondary. [josh] June 13, 9:15 pm (Cinerama)

Kaifeck Murder [siff] : A photographer and his young son travel the German countryside together and stop in Kaifeck, a small town with brutal mass murder in its past just in time for the annual Twelve Nights festivals during which some of the celebrants wear scary Perchten costumes in honor of ancient German folklore goddess Perchta. The photographer becomes obsessed with the story of the murder but no one in town will talk to him about it so he decides to investigate himself. This is when things get really weird. [zee] June 13, 10:00 pm (Harvard Exit); June 14, 4:30 pm (Harvard Exit)

Manhole Children [siff] : So bleak & miserable, in this Japanese documentary Ulan Bator’s impoverished seem less like fact than cruel fiction. Admittedly difficult to watch and a bit too long, but the surprising intersections of harsh lives exposed by this Japanese documentary are like few things I’d ever seen. [josh] June 14, 9:00 pm (SIFF Cinema)

Marcello Marcello [siff] : This Swiss film about a fictional island where young men woo eighteen-year-old girls on their birthdays is back for a fourth screening by popular demand as one of the final screenings of the festival. [josh] June 14, 9:30 pm. (Cinerama)

OSS 117: Lost in Rio [siff] : After twenty-five days of intensive festivaling, why not bid SIFF adieu with a farcical French spy uncovering and undertaking shenanigans in 1960s Rio? The screening is followed by a big party at the Pan Pacific, complete with food, cocktails, live music, and plenty of exhausted filmgoers and programmers. [josh] June 14, 6:30 pm (Cinerama)

siff : week three (8-11 june)

watch out! francis ford coppola and vincent gallo are coming to town. (tetro still courtesy siff)

Today SIFF enters its third and final week and by now the dazed looks and impulsive habits are becoming more and more apparent among festivalgoers as they (we) balance movie fatigue and a desire to catch as many films as possible before or passes turn to pumpkins. Here, then, are a few to consider as you make your way through the weekday screening options.

On the way, do take notice of just how great the trailers and bumpers before the film are. They’re cute enough on first viewing, but when you’re still taking delight in them after a dozen or two screenings and trying to figure out where all of the sound clips are from, you know that the creative teams at Wong Doody, Digital Kitchen, and Oh Hello did something right in crafting these exquisite contraptions that set the mood for the festival.

Cold Souls [siff] : Paul Giamatti gets the Eternal Sunshine for the Being John Malkovitch treatment when he’s inspired by a New Yorker article to turn over ninety-five percent of his soul to a science fiction creation. The psychic weight loss relieves his angst but kills his acting. [josh] June 8, 7:00 pm (Harvard Exit); June 10, 4:30 pm (Harvard Exit).

The Square [siff] : the twitters are aflame with praise for this Australian thriller, likening the illustrated tale of the dark side of karma to a less kind and gentle intense Coen Brothers flick. [josh] June 8, 4:30. (Uptown)

Poppy Shakespeare [siff] : “N” is happy being a long-term day patient of a London psychiatric hospital. She’s befuddled when a new patient shows up on the ward insisting that she’s not insane and demanding to be released from care, but despite their differences, “N” and Poppy become close friends as “N” helps Poppy in her attempt to prove her sanity to an institution determined to keep her crazy for as long as it suits them. While anyone can appreciate the story of their growing friendship and the battle they wage, people familiar with mental illness will be especially grateful for the respectful, realistic depictions of people with mental illness. [zee] June 9, 4:30 pm (Harvard Exit); June 14, 9:30 pm (Harvard Exit)

(500) Days of Summer [siff] : Office drones meet cute over mutual soundtrack appreciation. One of them doesn’t believe in love (a common thread in this season’s SIFF romantic comedies), the other does. The title tells you that the clock is running on their relationship, which is told in shuffled vignettes. Summer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s love-interest mentioned in the title, is played by Zooey Deschanel, whose overwhelming appeal might make save this from the cloying cuteness of its premise. Particularly if she sings. [josh] June 8, 7:00 pm (Egyptian); June 9, 4:30 pm (Egyptian)

Don’t Let Me Drown [siff] : When asked at the press launch to recommend one film from the festival, the artistic director picked this love story of two latino families facing love and loss in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. Interesting, if only for the ability to glimpse into the programming instincts of Carl Spence! [josh] June 9, 7:00 pm (Admiral); June 11, 7:00 pm (Pacific Place).
Krabat [siff] : Orphaned teenager Krabat works in a mill in 17th century Germany for a master who practices the dark arts. For the first time in his life Krabat gets a taste of what it’s like to be powerful, but he’s forced to choose between loyalty to his best friend or continuing his pursuit of a more comfortable life. In this dark fairy tale, it’s not an easy decision. [zee] June 9, 9:30 pm (Admiral): June 11, 9:15 pm (Uptown); June 12, 4:00 pm (Uptown)

Tetro [siff] : Vincent Gallo has the title role in Francis Ford Coppola’s first script since 1974. Among the big names, early reviews single out Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the little brother who tries to understand older, bohemian Gallo in Argentina. For an extra $125, join the director for an intimate pre-screening reception. [josh] June 10, 7:00 pm (Egyptian)

The Spy and the Sparrow [siff] : A former secret agent retires to Seattle twenty-six years after an assignment in East Berlin goes terribly wrong. Thomas Sparrow insists he remembers nothing of those past events, but neither the Russian mobster nor the pair of CIA operatives following him believes this. In the meantime, he attempts to reconnect with his troubled daughter whose psychiatrist is another former spook. Locally filmed and produced. [zee] June 10, 9:00 pm (SIFF Cinema); June 13, 11:00 am (SIFF Cinema)

My Suicide [siff] : When seventeen-year-old Archie announces that his final school project will be his videotaped suicide pandemonium erupts at his school. Teachers freak out and try to stop him; students divide themselves into camps that both scorn and idolize him. [zee] June 10, 9:30 pm (Pacific Place); June 11, 4:30 pm (Pacific Place)

Give Me Your Hand [siff] : The interactive online SIFFter and truly wonderful iPhone application cooked up by POP invite the whiling away of small moments by flicking through genres. If the filters used ANDs instead of ORs, those looking for French, erotic, coming of age, gay, road movies, featuring twins and funerals would look no further than this entry which finds brothers walking from France to Spain to mourn their mother. This might be terrible, but give them points for covering so many bases. [josh] June 11, 9:30 (Egyptian); June 14, 4:45 pm (Egyptian)

Afghan Star [siff] : Even in Afghanistan, devasted by years of war and Taliban rule, people really, really want to be pop stars. More than 2.000 people audition for a shot at stardom in a country where viewers voting by mobile phone are having their very first encounter with democracy and where a woman dancing on stage threatens both the future of the show and her very own safety. [zee] June 11, 6:30 pm (SIFF Cinema); June 13, 11:00 am (SIFF Cinema)

siff: recommendations for weekend three (5-7 june)

watch these dudes contemplate doing it on film. and then party with them tonight. (humpday still, courtesy siff)

Why hello there SIFFers, we’ve all survived and are ready to enter our third weekend of the fantastic-so-far Seattle International Film Festival, where weekends offer all the more hours to overdose on moviegoing with plenty of film partying thrown in for good measure. This weekend also marks the spread of the festival into West Seattle, where the neighborhood will be welcoming the festival to the Admiral Theater and their side of the bridge with a party at Skylark. [wsb].

Let SIFF be your air conditioner and sunscreen; in addition to repeat screenings for previously-mentioned films [mb] here are some of the things we are most excited about seeing over the next few days:

Humpday [siff (gala)]: Lynn Shelton, no stranger to the mumblecore sex comedy [nerve] and recipient of cake and cash for her genius filmmaking, brings two straight guys together in a scheme to film a gay entry for the Stranger’s annual porn film festival. All sorts of male bonding and awkwardness ensue. A gala event follows the Friday night screening, allowing you a chance to rub elbows with the stars and production team over drinks and noodles from Boom while pretending that you didn’t just see them contemplating getting naked. [josh] June 5, 7:00 pm (Egyptian/gala); June 7, 1:30 pm (Egyptian [siff])

Four Boxes [siff] : Two men and a woman move into a dead guy’s house to photograph his possessions to sell on E-bay. They discover that the dead guy was a fan of a voyeur-website, a site they keep watching themselves. After they discover what looks like a murderous plot by the creepy guy the site’s cameras focus on, their already-tense situation starts getting intense, especially as the action appears to be closer than they’d like. Shades of Blair Witch but without the annoying camera shake. I found the ending a little annoying but the story kept me wanting to know what happens next all the way up to then. [zee] June 5, 9:30 pm (SIFF Cinema); June 7, 1:30 pm (SIFF Cinema)

OSS 177: Cairo, Nest of Spies [siff] : Prepare yourself for the sequel, which screens at the SIFF closing night gala, by watching the Golden Space Needle-winning original comedy spy thriller. Note, second screening is outdoors and by donation (a.k.a., approximately free). [josh] June 5, 9:30 pm (Uptown); June 6, 9:00 pm (Juanita Beach Park).

Il Divo [siff] : Director Paolo Sorrentino dramatic telling of seven term Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti’s life of political entanglements and comebacks. When it screened at Cannes last year Variety said: “An intensely political film so wildly inventive and witty that it will become a touchstone for years to come … This is a brave, bold film whose chances of international success are relatively small, but whose ramifications are huge.” [#] Thanks to SIFF, you have a chance to soak up the splendor. [josh] June 6, 11 am (Egyptian); June 13, 9:15 (Cinerama)

A Woman Under the Influence [siff] : As part of its archival presentations, SIFF is showing a recently restored print of John Cassavetes’s 1974 film starring Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk that marked the dawn of the independent film movement and chronicled a wife’s growing mental instability. [josh] June 6, 4 pm (SIFF Cinema)

True Adolescents [siff] : If you missed the Thursday night screening of this made-in-Seattle comedy-drama, here’s your second chance to see this great film and make it a Mark Duplass double-feature (he’s one of the dudes in Humpday, too). A Saturday night party at the Comet features the Blakes performing as the fictional band The Effort. [zee] June 6, 1:30 pm (The Egyptian)

World’s Greatest Dad [siff] : imagine the trainwreck that is Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldwait shooting a film in Seattle. You don’t have to speculate because that exact film is screening this weekend. Maybe it’s amazing? The blurb promises that it “couldn’t diverge any further from audience expectations”. June 6, 6:30 pm (Egyptian); June 7, 4:00 pm (Egyptian).

Little Joe [siff] : “Little Joe never once gave it away/everybody had to pay and pay” sang Lou Reed in his classic “Walk on the Wild Side” but Joe Dallesandro wasn’t actually a hustler. A personable and attractive young man, he’s best-known for his iconic appearances, usually naked, in several Warhol films directed by Paul Morrissey. Years down the line, he’s gregarious and well-spoken, telling his own history and talking about the ins and outs of the New York art scene in a thoroughly engaging style aided and abetted by a ton of archival footage that would make the movie worth watching all on its own. Joe will appear at both screenings of the documentary. [zee] June 6, 7:15 pm (SIFF Cinema), June 7, 4:00 pm (SIFF Cinema)

the Karamazovs [siff] : A last chance to see this story of an acting troupe from Prague staging a Dostoyevsky production in a Polish steel mill. It’s been earning plenty of praise during the festival, with mild warnings about its highbrow tone, but what else are film festivals for if not a bit of snootery? [josh] June 7, 11 am (Harvard Exit)

Alisa’s Birthday [siff] : Alisa is a ten-year old girl who lives in a future Moscow where her father is a space zoologist and family friend Uncle Gromozeka is a blue-skinned alien from another planet. She’s invited along on an expedition to a dead planet and then sent back in time with the haughty Professor R-r-r (who just so happens to look like a one-eyed kitten) with a potential cure for the virus that wiped out all living beings. Will Alisa and R-r-r complete their mission in time to save the planet from certain destruction and still make it back to the new and improved future? Bright, lively, and fun with appealing characters, charming art, and an interesting, suspenseful story, Alisa’s Birthday is equally appealing to kids and adults–anyone who enjoys a good story with bright, stylish art will enjoy it. In Russian with English subtitles. Subtitles will be read loud at the June 7 and June 14 screenings. [zee] June 7, 11:00 am (Kirkland); June 9, 7:00 pm (Pacific Place); June 14, 11:00 am (Pacific Place)

Sounds Like Teen Spirit : a popumentary [siff ] : It’s quite possibly worth a bus ride to the eastside to catch this documentary that follows four contestants in the Eurovision Junior songwriting competition. The film is a heartbursting mix of all the joy and sorrow of ambitious artistic child performers. So far, it ranks among my favorites from this year’s festival. If you liked Spellbound and thought that all that it needed was a more international angle and better choreography, than you’re bound to fall in love with this one, too. I felt a little crushed we find out who wins the top prize, but the results are presented as almost an afterthought to the journey; so I suppose is part of the point. [josh] June 7, 4:00 pm (Kirkland).

The Necessities of Life [siff] : Tivii is an Inuit man from Baffin Island sent to recover from tuberculosis in a Quebec City sanitarium. Alienated by culture shock and isolated by language barriers, Tivii languishes in despair until a kind-hearted nurse orchestrates the arrival of a young Inuit patient who can translate for the older man. As Tivii and Kaki recover from their illness, the older man refreshes the younger’s knowledge of their shared cultural history. [zee] June 7, 4:00 pm (Harvard Exit); June 8, 4:15 pm

Rain [siff] : Life in the Bahamas isn’t just about lounging on the beach drinking fruity tropical concoctions – real life for many of its residents is troubled and bleak. A teenager raised on a small rural island by her grandmother is forced into Nassau to meet the desperately poor, trick-turning drug addict mother she’s never known. Determined to find a way out of the mean streets, Rain takes up running. Her gift at the sport could be her salvation, but only if she can survive her very rough life. [zee] June 7, 9:00 pm (Kirkland Performance Center); June 12, 4:30 pm and June 13, 7:00 pm (SIFF Cinema)

SIFF spotlight: True Adolescents

trueadolIn a big festival like SIFF, it can be hard to decide which movies to watch and it is all too easy to miss a really great film simply because you’re so very overwhelmed by your myriad of choices. In all honesty, I really hadn’t paid much notice to True Adolescents until I got a nice little note from writer/director Craig Johnson talking about how this locally-produced film is his love letter to Washington state. Since I’m definitely biased in favor of people who write nice notes as well as people who love Washington state, I decided I’d better give True Adolescents a try. I’m definitely very glad that I did. I love this movie and think that you will, too.

True Adolescents is both a comedy and a drama, a comic look at the dorky guy who doesn’t know that he really isn’t cool and also a thoughtful meditation on growing up and the complicated struggle to shed childhood for the sake of adulthood. True Adolescents makes us laugh at the guy stuck in the middle of a childhood gone so stale it’s practically a fossile but it’s never mean-spirited about it.

Lead character Sam seems like a happy-go-lucky sort. On some level he’s aware that he’s not exactly the brightest and the best, and yet, is his life that horrible, really? Oh, sure, he’s a go-nowhere wanna be edging towards never-been whose certainty that fame and fortune are just around the corner doesn’t even convince the unsophisticated teens who end up in his care. Sam spends his nights singing in a band (they play the Funhouse and the Comet and it’s neat to see those places on-screen) and his days scrounging off the goodwill of people who fall for his genial, undemanding charm even when its against their btter judgement, but he’s happy, isn’t he? Even Sam isn’t always sure of that. Mark Duplass plays Sam with a perfect mix of cocksure charisma and sad sack insecurity, expertly illustrating his childishness without alienating an audience that has to at least kind of like the guy in order to root for his success when an urgent situation demands he finally navigate the bridge from child to adult overnight.

The characters that surround Sam are strong and well-played as well. Melissa Leo is luminous as sympathetic aunt Sharon who takes Sam in yet again when grown-up life has gone over his head; even frazzled and frustrated, she manages to radiate such warm-hearted compassion that the screen fairly glows every time she’s on camera. Bret Loehr, as Sam’s cousin Oliver, and Carr Thompson, as Oliver’s best friend Jake shine in their roles, making their characters credible and likeable, even when they’re doing that whole smart-aleck teenaged boy thing. Their genuine adolescence makes Sam’s act of never growing up stand out all the more as a limited and limiting way of life; Oliver and Jake sometimes put on a jaded front, but the world still holds wonder and chance to grow for them and although they’re years and years younger than Sam, they seem so much closer to actual manhood than he does.

The settings in the film deserve special notice: the scenes in Seattle are stylish and cool and vibrant and real. The scenes outside the city show just how beautiful the countryside is up here and how amazing it is that we live in a big steel and glass city surrounded by so much beautiful green, blue, and brown. When Johnson said it’s a love letter to Washington, he’s not kidding.

Finally, the soundtrack deserves notice, too. Sam’s band, The Effort, is portrayed by local favorites The Blakes and the artists represented in the movie’s music also includes The Black Keys, The F**king Eagles, the Sonics and more. Checking out the music page gets you the whole list and links to more info on the bands.

True Adolescents screens at SIFF June 4 at 9:30 and and June 6 at 1:30 at the Egyptian.

I invited Johnson to share a bit about his movie and he was happy to oblige; click the jump read on.


SIFF : films to consider for week two (1-4 June)

indie rocker goes into the woods … true adolescents still via SIFF

Ahoy, friends. SIFF enters its second full week today with a whole lot of features from the Northwest Connections program. For me, at least, the festival has started out better than any I can remember. Along the way I’ve been posting SMS-sized reviews [twitter]; and looking back on my list I haven’t even been tempted to tear the ballot anywhere south of 3. In fact, many have left me tearing a spot somewhere between 4 and 5 to leave it to the tireless volunteers to decide whether to round up or down.

In addition to being the halfway point, this twelfth day of the festival also marks the opening of an eastside venue at the Kirkland Performance Center. There, several previously screened films will get repeat showing to either save fans a trip across the lake or tempt others to venture eastward to catch some buzzy films that they missed, including several of our recommendations for last week. [mb]

Like Dandelion Dust [siff] : Based on a novel of the same title by Karen Kingsbury, this is a knockout gutwrenching adoption horror movie, with a happily contrived tearjerker ending. though I admit they never won me to their side,  Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper give the standout performances as the working-class biological parents who attempt to reclaim their son from his happy upper class home. Passions run high, as Sunday’s Q&A was lively, filled with lobbying, a visit from the author and her family, and nearly taken hostage by a well-meaning advocate for open adoptions. [josh] June 1, 7:00 pm (Kirkland)

The Strength of Water [siff] : Even death can’t completely sever family ties in this intense drama enriched by its immersion in Maori culture as practiced in modern small-town New Zealand. Ten-year old twins center the story, when tragedy strikes unexpectedly, everyone around them is affected. [zee] June 1, 9:30 pm (Harvard Exit); June 8, 4:30 pm (Admiral)

Welcome [siff] : Dramatizes the experience of immigrants attempting to make their way into England through the story of a Kurdish teen making his way across Europe to find his recently-emigrated girlfriend on the other side of the English Channel. But before he can make the crossing, he’ll need to strengthen his swimming skills, which is where the friendly former lifeguard comes in. [josh] June 2, 9:15 pm (Harvard Exit)

Zombies of Mass Destruction [siff] : Part of the Northwest Connections series, this film focuses on a small Washington town where progressive attitudes seem to have passed by. A son returns home with his partner, intending to come out, and a daughter returns home to help in her father’s restaurant. This would be your standard ‘don’t see eye to eye’ movie if it weren’t for the zombie virus outbreak that occurs. In order to stay alive, everyone must put aside their differences and work together. [patricia] June 2, 9:15pm (SIFF Cinema); June 4, 10:00 pm (Kirkland)

William Kuntsler: Disturbing the Universe [siff] : Depending on your perspective, you might see William Kunstler as a hero or a villian or maybe a little of both. The flamboyant civil rights figure who turned courtrooms into theater to push an agenda of equal rights for all turned into an egocentric attention hound who took any case that would keep him in the limelight. His daughters process their feelings about him in this interesting documentary that takes a complex look at a complex man. [zee] June 2, 4:30 pm (SIFF Cinema); June 4, 7:00 pm (SIFF Cinema)

Animated Enemies with James Forsher [siff] : Propaganda films have been a tool of politicans since the Spanish American war. Cartoons attacking the enemy were particularly popular during the World Wars and WWII saw a bonanza of animated appeals aimed at encouraging hatred of the enemies of the day. Local film historian Dr. James Forsher of Seattle University curates a selection of these vintage pieces. Appealing to history fans of all sorts. [zee] June 2, 7:00 pm (SIFF Cinema)

The Whole Truth [siff] : Filmed in various locations around Seattle, this “screwball comedy” starring Law & Order’s last-minute lesbian as an acting coach who makes shady defendants appealing sees its world premiere at SIFF. Hijinks ensue when she finds out that one of her clients is on the lamb with a lust for blood. [josh] June 2, 9:30 pm (Pacific Place); June 3, 4:30 pm (Pacific Place).

Art and Copy [siff] : Prior to the 1960’s, advertising was a staid industry; Madison Avenue executives designed campaigns that were all variations on the same limited themes, about as exciting as a grey flannel suit. That all changed when groups of rebellious creative types, bored with the same old thing, came along and changed the rules with exciting, unusual ad campaigns that didn’t just sell products but actually changed lives. An absorbing look at just how powerful creative work can be. [zee] June 3, 7:15 pm (Pacific Place); June 5, 1:15 pm (Pacific Place)

Sweet Crude [siff] : Seattle filmmakers risked their freedom to make this documentary about the Nigerian oil industry; they returned with this story of corporate greed and environmental devastation. June 3, 7:00 pm (Egyptian); June 7, 1:30 pm (Kirkland); June 13, 1:30 pm (Egyptian)

Prodigal Sons [siff] : Kimberly Reed goes back to her hometown in Montana for her high-school reunion and the fact that they all knew her as Paul, the captain of the football team, is actually the smallest of the surprises in this intriguing, intimate look at a family with a history more colorful and complicated than most. Every bombshell dropped is followed by an even bigger one as the film examines the tangled mass of sometimes completely contradictory feelings shared by siblings who both love and resent one another. [zee] June 3, 9:30 pm (Pacific Place); June 6, 11:00 am (Pacific Place)

True Adolescents [siff] : You can tell this movie was made by a local, because for once the local scenery is used not just as a colorful backdrop but as the integral part of the whole that it is. Amiable but shiftless Sam is the lead singer of a band (played by local favorites The Blakes) whom he believes are thisclose to a major label deal. Superstardom awaits, but in the meantime, his had-enough girlfriend has just made him homeless so Sam has take advantage of his aunt’s hospitality, not for the first time. When he gets talked into taking his teenaged cousin Oliver and Oliver’s best friend Jake for a camping trip on the Olympic Peninsula, well, that’s when all the trouble starts and thank goodness for that. [zee] June 4, 9:30 pm (Egyptian); June 6, 1:30 pm (Egyptian)

Katia’s Sister  [siff] : Young teen Lucia is quiet, plain, and very lonely living in a seedy part of Amsterdam with her mother and her beloved older sister. The Russian immigrants hoped for a better life but mom is forced to turn tricks and Katia’s greatest aspiration becomes a gig at the local strip club. Lucia retreats even further into herself, alienating the one person who is nearly a friend to her, as she watches her family fall further and further down into despair. Can she keep her optimism in a world that offers no reward for it? [zee] June 4, 4:30 pm (SIFF Cinema); June 9, 9:30 pm (Egyptian)

SIFF spotlight: A Sea Change

sea-change Sven Husby grew up in Seattle (he was graduated from Ballard High School) so he knows about the importance of fish both economically and ecologically. That’s why when he read a New Yorker article about “The Darkening Sea”, he was stunned and horrified by the idea of a world without fish, a very real possibility. Ocean acidification is a serious threat to all sea life, starting from the tiniest of creatures and heading all the way up the food chain and yet not many people have heard of it.

Being filmmakers by profession, Huseby and his wife, award-winning director Barbara Ettinger, decided to make a film to awaken and educate the public to this growing menace. A Sea Change begins with a talk with Elizabeth Kolbert, author of “The Darkening Sea”, the article that set the film in motion. A conference at NOAA at Sandpoint introduced the filmmakers to a number of scientists racing to understand and eradication ocean acidification and their work is included in A Sea Change as well.

Too much science talk can be overwhelming for the layperson but Huseby and Ettinger keep it human by illustrating Huseby’s travels around the world showing landscapes and seascapes and images of the ocean underneath its surface. Cinematographer Claudia Rashcke-Robinson’s camera follows as Huseby visits places like fishing villages in Alaska, the Copper River Delta, and the glaciers of Norway in between trips to conferences and labs. He also spends time with his five-year-old grandson, Elias, and their charming conversations add a welcome note of lightness to this dark tale. It’s for the sake of Elias and his siblings and cousins that Huseby and Ettinger are so driven to get the story of ocean acidification out there.

The experts who appear in this film are blunt: “Are we screwed?” – “Yes,” replies Dr. Edward L. Miles from UW. But there’s still some hope.

Says Huseby: “We made the film to build broader awareness of the ocean acidification issue. We want the audience leaving the theater wanting to know more. Wanting to understand better the broader effects of anthropogenic CO2. We want people to conclude that we have to act if we want a sustainable world for future generations? We want people to focus in on the world their grandchildren will inherit.

“I believe that there is still time to slow down CO2 output, to stabilize it and over time to reverse it. We have to build the political will to go there. We have the financial and technical resources to make it happen. It is all about bringing the political leadership on board.”

“[People wanting change] can talk to friends, to neighbors, to politicians, to the press about ocean acidification. Most importantly right now they can contact their Congressional leaders and demand that we play a leadership role for cutting CO2 at COP-15 in Copenhagen in December.”

A Sea Change screens tonight at 7:00 pm at the Egyptian Theater and tomorrow at Kirkland Performance Center at 4:00 pm. Ettinger and Huseby are expected to be at both screenings; tonight’s screening features a panel of experts, advocates and critics talking about the issues this film raises.

SIFF — weekend 2 (29 – 31 May) considerations

the hurt locker; courtesy SIFF

SIFF enters its second weekend; so don’t let the weather keep you away from the cool air conditioned comforts of catching a film or five. In addition to second screenings from some of this week’s weekday recommendations [mb], there’s an embedded weekend festival of short films [siff], and a few more suggestions to keep you busy at the theaters. Let us know if you’ve run into any unmissables!

Shortsfest Opening Night [siff] : A weekend of shorts programs kicks off with a varied collection of short films ranging from the very serious to the very light-hearted; of particular “note” is a short about an office romance enabled by the very creative use of sticky notes. [zee] May 29, 7:00 pm (SIFF Cinema); June 2, 9:15 pm (Egyptian) [June 2 screening includes Jury Award-winning films]

Hansel & Gretel [siff] : If you’ve been following Media Babe‘s annual chronicle of extreme SIFF-ing, you’ll know that this one has gotten her most enthusiastic (OMG! SEE THIS MOVIE! SEE IT! SEE IT! SEE IT! ) endorsement for those who “like dark fantasy, seriously messed-up magic realism, surrealistic, creepytastic, visual whirlwind movies” [lj]. That kind of excitement makes me think that checking out this South Korean take on the familiar fable might be worth checking out. [josh] May 29, 3:30 pm (Egyptian); June 7, 9:30 (Admiral).

Miao Miao [siff] : Quiet Japanese exchange student Miao Miao doesn’t know anyone in Taipei until outgoing fellow student Ai befriends her on a whim. As the two grow closer and closer together, Ai starts developing feelings for her friend that are more than platonic even as she dutifully helps Miao Miao pursue her own crush on a CD store owner who hides his own romantic tragedy behind a blank face and headphones that play no music. All the while Ai fights with the father who only wants to be closer to her and Miao Miao takes calls from her elderly grandmother whose Alzheimer’s has her reliving her own first love as if it were hapening now. A sweet, warm-hearted, and thoughtful look at friendship, family, young love, heartbreak and hopefulness set against a lively urban backdrop. [zee] May 29, 4:30 pm (SIFF Cinema); June 2, 7:00 pm (Egyptian)

Pirate for the Sea [siff] : Pirates have gotten a lot less loveable since this spring’s Somali incidents. Luckily, this film features Paul Watson, whose plundering seeks to protect the environment and animals instead of commandeering oil or doubloons. Found too extreme by Greenpeace, this Friday Harbor-based captain’s efforts with Sea Shepherd Society were featured as part of 2007’s memorable Sharkwater (about another eccentric yet dedicated activist). This film follows his actions, trials, imprisonment in service of saving the endangered oceans. [josh] May 29, 6:45 pm (Egyptian); May 30, 11 am (Egyptian).

Food, Inc. [siff] : We all know that processed food is bad for you, but just HOW bad, many of us have no clue. Robert Kenner’s documentary about Big Food posits an industry that gets away with actual murder, putting profits before people, and engaging in unhealthy, unwholesome practices all with a nudge and wink from the very government agencies charged with protecting the consumer. May change your eating habits for good. [zee] May 30, 4:15 pm (Egyptian); May 31 7:00 pm (Egyptian)

City of Borders [siff] : A documentary set in a Jereusalem gay bar and the stories of the surprising characters who convene there. May 29, 4:30 pm (Egyptian); May 30, 1:30 pm (Egyptian) [josh]

The Hurt Locker [siff] : A second chance to catch this taught story of a bomb squad detail in Iraq and the nail-biting suspense entailed with the diffusion of the improvised explosive devices that have become the deadly threat of the ongoing war. [josh] May 30, 4 pm (Uptown)

Egon & Donci : [siff] : Amateur scientist Egon and his spirited, human-like cat Donci are created in broad comic strokes, but many of the visuals in this computer-animated cartoon from Hungary are so rich and finely-wrought that they appear to be images of real scenery. Eschewing dialogue (with the exception of a scattered handful of vocalizations), director Adam Magyar manages to convincingly portray Egon & Donci’s epic trip through space from their home planet to Earth inspired by their discovery of the wreckage of Voyager 3. Whimsical and entertaining though a few minutes shaved off its 75-minute running time might have kept a few scenes from dragging on a bit longer than necessary. [zee] May 31, 11:00 am (Pacific Place); June 5, 11:00 am (Pacific Place)

Cloud 9 [siff] : the main thing that you need to know about this is that it is definitely not the same film as Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, which is about aliens in South Africa, not horny old Germans. [josh] May 31, 11 am (Uptown); June 2, 7:00 pm (Uptown).

Yes, I Can See Dead People: [siff] : this midnight adrenaline entry looks kind of like the action adventure version of Miles’s (from Lost) life. Luckily, those seeking Asian horror ghostbusting can catch more school-night friendly screenings next week. But screaming just seems to make more sense in the dead of night with other wannabe insomniacs. [josh] May 30, Midnight (Egyptian); June 2, 2009 9:30 PM (Uptown); June 5, 9:45 (Admiral).

SIFF spotlight: Deadgirl

The thing you need to know first and foremost about Deadgirl, playing this weekend at SIFF is that it is a film about the limits of loyalty and the struggle to do right when you’re not even sure what that means told via a story in which a group of teenaged boys repeatedly rape a zombie woman chained to a table. It’s a hard idea to process and even the movie’s own makers understand if you decide to pass–they know that their film’s not for everyone. It’s definitely not for the squeamish: there’s a minimal amount of gore, but what is shown is pretty extreme. More importantly, though, Deadgirl is simply a very disturbing movie which would be no less disturbing if not a single drop of blood were shed. It’s definitely one of the more disturbing films I’ve ever seen.

SIFF recommendations: 26 – 28 May

Moon. Screenings tonight and tomorrow as part of the Seattle International Film Festival.

Moon [siff] : Three years alone in space working in a mining colony on the moon makes Sam very excited about his return to earth but with only two weeks left to go, things start getting very, very strange. Where did that body come from and why does it look so much like Sam? Is Sam losing his mind or is there another, more sinister explanation? [zee] May 26, 7:00 pm (Egyptian); May 27, 4:15 pm (SIFF Cinema)

All Tomorrow’s Parties [siff] : Unlike many mega-music festivals (where you cry and sleep in tents), All Tomorrow’s Parties brings attendees to beautiful chalets where artists curate evenings by inviting their favorite bands to perform. On the occasion of the festival’s tenth anniversary, this documentary compiles footage from hundreds of filmmakers and dozens of bands. Likely to send you packing for this year’s event in New York starring the Flaming Lips and Animal Collective. [josh] May 26, 9:30 pm (Egyptian); May 28, 4:30 pm (Neptune)

It Takes a Cult [siff] : The Israel Family were a common sight in Seattle at one time; their robes, long dresses, and long, flowing tresses making them stand out even in the late 60s into the 70s. From a small commune on Queen Anne, they grew to be over 300 in number, led by the charismatic Love Israel who convinced new members to hand over everything they owned, even their minds. This examination of cult life offers a peek at what draws people to cult life and what they get out of it, both good and ill. [zee] May 26, 9:30 pm (SIFF Cinema); May 28 5:00 pm (Pacific Place)

Rembrandt’s J’Accuse [siff] : Peter Greenaway dives headfirst into Rembrandt’s masterpiece, the Night Watch, formulating conspiracy theories and forensic investigations. The painting is massive and a spectacular specimen of the Dutch golden age, which should provide a rich canvas for a documentary whose description promises an exercise in “self-reflexive mental yoga”). [josh] May 27, 7:00 pm (SIFF Cinema); May 28, 2009 4:30 pm (SIFF Cinema).

Hansel and Gretel [siff] : If you’re one of those people who just can’t bear “creepy children” movies, you might want to pass on this, but fans of terror-tinged suspense will enjoy this candy-colored South Korean film in which a young businessman struggles to escape the House of Happy Children, populated by three children who aren’t. Long-time horror fans are already familiar with the “troubled kids develop creepy powers” trope and the kids’ backstory will surprise no one, but solid performances from the cast and the lucious production design add a note of refreshment. [zee] May 27, 9:15 pm (Neptune); May 29, 3:30 pm (Egyptian); June 7, 9:30 pm (Admiral)

Mothers and Daughters [siff] : Three moms and three daughters experience emotional upheaval and physical change in their lives, in between snippets of documentary-style talking head discussions of how they feel about their mother or daughter. The dramatic portions of the movie are wonderfully performed chapters of interesting characters facing challenges in their lives–a best-selling author struggles to get emotional validation from her resentful daughter who longs for her own life but is too afraid to move forward with it, a “daddy’s girl” must make peace with her mother and her own complicated emotions when their father/husband abandons them by e-mail, a self-made businesswoman deals with racism and the lingering sorrow of her daughter’s death while trying to be an inspirational figure to a young woman pregnant from a one-night stand–which makes up for the drag of the documentary part, a conceit which should have been left on the drawing board.. [zee] May 28, 7:00 pm (Uptown); May 29, 4:15 pm (Uptown)

School Days With a Pig [siff] : Instead of just dissecting a fetal pig like most science experiments, a Japanese elementary school teacher introduces his class to a piglet. They are to spend the year raising it for an end-of-the-term main course. Attachment and national controversy ensue! [josh] May 28, 4:30 (Egyptian); May 31, 9:15 (Pacific Place).

Beauties at War [siff] : A small valley town seeks to defeat its larger, more prosperous neighbor in the annual beauty contest the larger town has won for two decades in a row by enlisting a secret weapon in the form of an ex-resident who they think is a big-time entertainment star because he once had his picture in a TV guide. [zee] May 28, 7:00 pm (Neputune); May 31, 9:00 pm (Uptown); June 6, 9:30 pm (Admiral)

Sounds Like Teen Spirit : a Popumentary [siff] : if you thought that American Idol is over-the-top dramatic, multiply it by nationalism and you’ll get the high stakes world of Eurovision. Take that and cross it with the heightened sense of importance of all things teenage and find the Eurovision Junior, followed here from each country’s finals to the grand continental competition. [josh] May 28, 9:45 pm (Egyptian); May 31, 4:45 pm (Egyptian); June 7, 4:00 pm (Kirkland)

SIFF spotlight: Little Dizzle

Photo by Matt Daniels for SIFF

We’re five days into this year’sSIFF and buzz is starting to radiate out from festival attendees. One of the most talked-about films so far has been The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, written and directed by local filmmaker David Russo (Populi, Pan With Us) and produced by local producer Peggy Case in association with NWFF and filmed right here in Seattle.

The darkly comedic sci-fi flick in which a laid-off computer programmer gets a new job as a janitor only to become the unwitting subject of a scientific experiment that causes hallucinations, wild emotions, and a twisted sort of male pregnancy is meant to be a consideration of “hope for the hope-averse”, per Russo, an assessment shared by cast members Marshall Allmann and Natasha Lyonne.

In a wide-ranging conversation a couple hours before Sunday night’s sold-out screening of Little Dizzle, Allmann and Lyonne shared their feelings on difference between European and American major studio films (European films tend to follow the story while American films follow the star), the difference between major studio and independent films (Lyonne says that independent films allow her to be more creative as an actor – “it’s like I’m another screenwriter” – but takes care to point out that “an indie film isn’t necessarily good and a big film isn’t always bad”), Natasha’s fondness for watching mindless entertainment as a way of relaxing and how ironic this is in the context of the choices she has made as a working actor (particularly since she describes working in independent film as making her feel “warm and embraced”), dinner theater in Antarctica, which Werner Herzog movie is the most accessible to someone unfamiliar with his work (Rescue Dawn, a film that screen at last year’s SIFF) and Christian Bale (who starred in Rescue Dawn.

Allmann expressed concern that the current downturn in Bale’s popularity was something he should worry about for himself should his star rise high enough to fall, but Lyonne, who would know, talked about the cyclical nature of popularity for most actors: “You’re up, you’re down and then someone else moves into the circle and it all keeps going.” (Not that Bale has that much to worry about; Allmann pointed out that signing up for the right “franchise” guarantees a name actor a certain level of comfort; Bale currently is part of two.)

Both actors were happy to be back in Seattle, having enjoyed filming a movie both wanted to be a part of the moment they first read the script. Lyonne particularly enjoys being in Seattle, describing it as “a very pro-existence town” where she feels she can just be herself. Asked what their hopes are for the movie, Lyonne and Allmann both expressed the hope that the movie does well and is seen by a lot of people, not just to further their own careers but because they feel that it’s a movie worth seeing. Allmann reported that he’s seen the movie several times “and the audiences always like it a lot” and is looking forward to seeing the film develop a larger following once US distribution is obtained. Negotiations are ongoing.

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