The 2013 Seattle International FIlm Festival came to a end yesterday with a closing-night-gala screening of Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring at the Cinerama and an awards brunch at the top of the Space Needle.
Winners of the Golden Space Needle Audience Awards:
Fanie Fourie's Lobola, directed by Henk Pretorius (South Africa, 2013)
First runner-up: The Rocket, directed by Kim Mordaunt (Australia, 2013)
Second runner-up: Monsters University, directed by Dan Scanlon (USA, 2013)
(I expect to see "Third Best Movie at the Seattle International Film Festival!" featured prominently on the Monsters University posters.)
Twenty Feet from Stardom, directed by Morgan Neville (USA, 2013)
First runner-up: The Punk Singer, directed by Sini Anderson (USA, 2013)
Second runner-up: Harana, directed by Benito Bautista (Philippines, 2012)
Nabil Ayouch, Horses of God, (Morocco, 2012)
First runner-up: David Ondříček, In the Shadow, (Czech Republic, 2012)
Second runner-up: Joss Whedon, Much Ado About Nothing, (USA, 2012)
James Cromwell, Still Mine, (Canada, 2012)
First runner-up: Mads Mikkelsen, The Hunt, (Denmark, 2012)
Second runner-up: Terence Stamp, Unfinished Song (United Kingdom, 2012)
Samantha Morton, Decoding Annie Parker, (USA, 2013)
First runner-up: Onata Aprile, What Maisie Knew, (USA, 2012)
Second runner-up: Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha, (USA, 2012)
BEST SHORT FILM
Spooners, directed by Bryan Horch (USA, 2012)
First runner-up: My Right Eye (The Apple of My Eye), directed by Josecho de Linares (Spain, 2012)
Second runner-up: Malaria, directed by Edson Oda (Brazil, 2013)
And the winners of the special juried categories:
BEST NEW DIRECTOR
Harmony Lessons, directed by Emir Baigazin (2013, Kazakhstan)
Our Nixon, directed by Penny Lane (2013, USA)
BEST NEW AMERICAN CINEMA
C.O.G., directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez (USA, 2013)
Congratulations to all of SIFF 2013's winners and survivors! SIFF 2014 starts in ten minutes.
Recommendations for the pre-penultimate day:
As yet unseen but of interest:
Based on a true story, Decoding Annie Parker follows Annie Parker (played by Samantha Morton), a cancer survivor seeking to understand why the women in her family keep getting breast cancer, and Dr. Mary-Claire King (played by Helen Hunt), a geneticist whose years of work led to the discovery of the BRCA genes that are now known to indicate an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The cast also includes Aaron Paul, Rashida Jones, Richard Schiff, and Maggie Grace. Looks to be very interesting!
Here is a recent article about the movie from the Seattle Times.
Decoding Annie Parker plays Thurs June 6 at 7 pm at the Egyptian and Sat June 8 at 1:30 pm at the Egyptian. The screenings will benefit the King Lab at the University of Washington, which studies breast and ovarian cancer, and tickets are $25. Annie Parker, Dr. Mary-Claire King, and director Steven Bernstein will be in attendance.
The TBA films are being filled in, and a new addition to the SIFF lineup is Lil Bub & Friendz, about a very special cat with unique characteristics. Lil Bub is tiny, and she has extra toes (22 toes total!), stubby legs, and no teeth, but lots of charm. She has a giant fan base and her own YouTube channel. All hail Lil Bub!
Lil Bub & Friendz plays Sat June 8 at 9 pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown.
Apparently I'm in a SIFF movie tomorrow night, and Joel Connelly notes my attire:
“Evergreen: The Road to Legalization in Washington,” is an 86-minute documentary on how our voters finally decided it was time to exercise a modest use of intelligence...
“Evergreen” features a dour journalist — Jonathan Martin of The Seattle Times — who hedges his prediction on whether I-502 would win. (It swept to victory with 55.7 percent of the vote.) Steve Sher, interviewing on KUOW Radio, asks questions that could not penetrate a sheet of tissue paper.
In contrast, there are the original, revealing, amusing observations from Dominic Holden, news editor at The Stranger and a former Hempfest boss, on how ex-lawmen and civic pillars became advocates for marijuana legalization. (Friends of Holden will note his inevitable attire, a much-worn World Wildlife Fund T-shirt with a faded panda.)
I really gotta chuck that old thing. Showtimes are here.
IT AIN'T OVER YET.
More, more, more...
And tonight at the Egyptian, SIFF presents the U.S. premiere of the documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, an event which will be attended by Ms. Walker herself and is appropriately hyped in Stranger Suggests.
Part of a group of bohemian poets, philosophers, and dancers who made radical art, James Broughton was a poet, a pioneer of queer filmmaking, a teacher, and a free-spirited man who had a dynamic and amazing life, and who knew some of the most interesting people in the San Francisco art scene from the 1950s onward. His avant-garde films included dance, nudity, poetry, love, and all modes of sexuality. Big Joy includes excerpts from his poetry and films, documentation of him throughout his life, and interviews with people who knew him. His personal life was adventurous and complicated, and he made the most of everything the world had to offer. A friend said of Broughton: “He was forever liberating people.”
Big Joy plays Fri May 31 at 6 pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown and Sat June 1 at 1:30 pm at Pacific Place.
This week’s Short Film Friday will not, again, be a short film but instead a promotion video for the local film actor Paul Eenhoorn. Why am I doing such a thing? Because SIFF is what’s really happening right now. And what does Eenhoorn have to do with SIFF? He is the star of Chad Hartigan’s This Is Martin Bonner, a film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013 and won the Audience Award for Best of NEXT. The star will make an appearance today, May 31, at SIFF's screening of Bonner.
The avalanche of goodness continues.
And for the music lovers:
Full SIFF Guide here!
Recommended films for this wet Wednesday:
Beyond the Paul Constant purview there's the burgeoning-Rwanda-film-industry documentary Finding Hillywood, the Sundance-approved drama (starring Seattle's own Paul Eenhoorn) This Is Martin Bonner, and the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. Full SIFF guide here.
If you attended a SIFF movie over the long weekend, chances are you saw this beautiful card splashed across the pre-show presentation:
And I'm here to announce that it's true! I'm hosting Nicolas Cage Match, a Nicolas Cage film festival, at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown on Saturday, July 6th. And you should come! From 11 in the morning until late at night, we're showing six Nicolas Cage movies—Raising Arizona, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Vampire's Kiss, Adaptation, Con Air, and The Wicker Man, in that order—in a Nic-til-you're-sick spectacular. Plus: Short Cage-themed videos before the movies, a food truck featuring Cage-themed sandwiches, and other special treats along the way.
Tickets for the full day of movies are $35 (only $25 if you're a SIFF member) and they're on sale right now. Join me on Fourth of July weekend to celebrate the most intense American film actor of our time in some of his most iconic roles. I promise that this will be an insane amount of fun.
This riveting documentary revisits the 1991 testimony of Anita Hill at the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. It is still disturbing to see her sitting alone at that table in front of the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee—and Orrin Hatch's ugly badger face—while they make her go over the details again and again. The amazing way that she was treated like she was on trial, when in fact she was a witness in front of the committee, is infuriating: the race-baiting, the accusations of lying, the patronizing attitudes. The film also sees current-day Anita Hill looking back at that time and shows her continuing work for equality and social justice. Her testimony started the national dialogue on sexual harassment and also completely changed the trajectory of her life. Anita is really worth seeing.
Anita plays again Sun May 26 at the Renton Performing Arts Center at 3:30 pm and on Mon May 27 at the Egyptian Theater at 10 am. Director Freida Mock will be in attendance.
This week’s short film is another music video (I will return to proper short films next week) for Hey Marseilles’s “Heart Beats.” The reason for picking the video is the local cinematographer and current Genius Award nominee Benjamin Kasulke, who helped make it with “Hayley Young, Sean Donavan, Mel Eslyn, Jeremy Mackie, and a zillion others.” In this year’s SIFF, Kasulke’s work can be seen in 2 local productions—Lynn Shelton’s Touchy Feely and Dayna Hansen’s Improvement Club. "Heart Beats” captures Seattle perfectly.
So much good stuff today, including:
Over the weekend, I saw a bunch of SIFF movies, and it didn't occur to me until after I'd watched them all that they had one thing in common: They all were directed by, written by, and/or starred strong women. Ten or fifteen years ago, these movies would have appeared as a festival within the larger festival under a Feminist Films banner, but now they're standing on their own.
Frances Ha was directed by a man—Noah Baumbach, doing maybe the best work of his career—but it was co-written by and stars Greta Gerwig. As a young New Yorker whose friends are all growing up and moving on, Gerwig's Frances is a very likable protagonist. She's self-conscious, but not in a late-Woody Allen sort of way. She's often impolite, but not standoffishly so. She causes a lot of problems for herself, but she's not a composite made up of the sum of her personal problems. Frances Ha is a remarkably good-hearted story that brings to mind a cross between Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky and one of Woody Allen's better, earlier New York films.
Sini Anderson's The Punk Singer, which I saw a preview of and which screens on Friday and Sunday this weekend at Harvard Exit, is a straightforward documentary about Bikini Kill/Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna. You're not going to see anything new, technique- or structure-wise, but the story is compelling from start to finish because the subject is fascinating, and the footage of Hanna dancing around stages (from shitty Olympia dives to a protest in Washington DC to some fancier clubs) is super-entertaining to watch. If you're into films that stretch the capabilities of documentaries, Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell is for you. Polley, who has evolved from an excellent actor into an excellent director, brings a special kind of confidence to her first documentary. Perhaps that's just because she's working with such a familiar cast: Stores We Tell is about Polley's mother, who died young and who left behind many secrets, including the identity of Polley's real father. It's a movie that alternates easily between warmth and prickliness. From the too-passive, highly inexact title on down, Polley spends a bit too much time focusing on the power of stories when she already ably demonstrates the power of stories with her story (every time I see or hear someone expounding on the importance of stories to human beings—it happens a lot on NPR—I get the feeling that it's just another way to compliment the audience for spending their time consuming a storytelling medium), but otherwise, Stories We Tell is a moving, generous account of a family's secrets and strengths.
And then there's the vampires. Byzantium is directed by Neil Jordan, but its cast (Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan) and its screenwriter (Moira Buffini, adapting her play of the same name) are all women, and it's a decidedly feminine take on the vampire myth. The greatest joy of Byzantium is that it's not a reheat of every other vampire story that's come before; these vampires have different weapons (rather than fangs, they have long, sharp thumbnails that they use to pierce arteries) and origins than any cinematic vampire you've seen before. Byzantium begins with the end of one life for our vampires (Arterton has the harder role, here, as she's got to make a vampire/stripper seem not like a From Dusk Till Dawn-style cliche, but Ronan is typically incredible as an eternal 16-year-old) as they're forced to flee one small British town and head to another. This is something they've been forced to do again and again, as they're chased by mysterious agents every time their cover story slips. Byzantium is a slow-burn movie—the script smartly drops the viewer into the middle of the narrative and slowly reveals the backstory in dollops—but it's worth it, as the vampires at the heart of the story are forced to consider whether eternal life means an eternally unchanging life.
None of these movies are similar in theme or plot or structure, but they're indicative of a greater sea change in the filmmaking world. It's no longer necessary for a film festival like SIFF to cordon off a selection of movies as "women-made films." There are enough quality films featuring women that they can't be contained anymore, and there are plenty more movies to come in SIFF demonstrating the importance of women in film; hell, the closing night gala, The Bling Ring, is produced, directed by, written, and stars women. This is the new normal, and it's awesome.
The opening line of a story on the SIFF premiere by the Seattle Times' Nicole Brodeur:
You look at director Lynn Shelton and think, “Why is she behind the camera?” Girl's a stunner.
Brodeur was called out for her comment by Seattle's Reel Grrls, and a short conversation ensued.
Thanks for fighting the good fight, Reel Grrls.
Full festival guide here, two recommended picks for today below.
Celebrate the Seattle International Film Festival world premiere of the feature film Scrapper at the Crocodile. After the 6 pm premiere screening at the SIFF Uptown Theater the afterparty will begin at the Croc featuring live music from Rose Windows, Kithkin, and Ephrata. Mingle with the stars and filmmakers from the movie including Michael Beach (Sons Of Anarchy, Soul Food, Insidious 2) and Joanna Angel (Burningangel.com).
You guys, that's porn star JOANNA ANGEL!!! Check out the official trailer (and my personal high-fives to director Brady Hall):
This weekend brings a bunch of SIFF stuff that the Stranger SIFF Review Board loved, including the Wikileaks documentary We Steal Secrets, Noah Baumbach's and Greta Gerwig's Manhattan-flavored comedy Frances Ha, the dead pet-fetishizing documentary Furever, the French family farm-fetishizing documentary After Winter, Spring, and the modern-day adaptation of Henry James' What Maisie Knew.
And in the non-SIFF world, there's Francois Ozon's In the House, the highly effective Filipino kidnapping thriller Graceland, and the cliche-ridden mob film The Iceman, plus all them StarTrekIronManGreatGatsbyblockbusters.
Full film info here.
For the next three weeks, Short Film Fridays will feature work by directors who are participating in the current Seattle International Film Festival. The first film in this series is a music video made in 1994 by the Seattle-based director Josh Taft. The music video is for one of the most important tracks in the history of hiphop, Nas’s “The World Is Yours.” The world premiere of Josh Taft’s first feature, Alive and Well, a documentary about people dealing with Huntington’s disease, happens at SIFF Cinema Uptown on May 22nd (7:00 pm).
SIFF has a dozen or so movies about food, or farming, or fruit, or wine, etc. this year, and of the ones that we were able to screen by press time, we REALLY liked four (good job, SIFF!).
After Winter, Spring
Is there anything cuter than a farmer rubbing the fuzzy face of an hour-old calf, asking, "Is there anything cuter than this?" Yes: when the farmer and the calf and the question are all French, as is the case in this achingly lovely documentary about family farming in the Périgord. Shot over the course of a year, it's so pretty, it's ridiculous, and the people—from the idealistic couple starting a tiny organic operation to the 88-year-old vintner/philosopher—are marvelous. Facing tough times, they love their animals and their land with inspiring hope. Also featured: a famous foie gras farm, cast in a human and arguably humane light. (BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT)
Harvard Exit, Sun, May 19, 4 pm
SIFF Uptown, Mon, May 20, 8:30 pm
Inspired by reading The Grapes of Wrath and wanting to get his hands dirty, an overeducated white East Coast Yale grad heads out to Oregon to work in the apple orchards. Based on a David Sedaris essay from Naked, the story begins on the long-haul bus ride, where "Samuel" (his new identity) is accosted by a parade of weirdos. At the farm, he has trouble connecting with anyone and he is comically unprepared to exist in the real world. Will Samuel find happiness in the simple things instead of overanalyzing and sneering at everything? Or will he run back to his old life? Thanks to the film's wonderful performances and entertaining dialogue, you'll have a perfectly good (if not revelatory) time finding out. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
Egyptian, Fri, May 24, 4 pm
Egyptian, Sun, May 26, 7 pm
Renton, Mon, May 27, 6 pm
Tonight the Seattle International Film Festival invites you to get out of town, with a free, 15th-anniversary screening of Smoke Signals—the first feature film written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans, with a script by Stranger columnist/Stranger Genius Award winner Sherman Alexie—tonight at Snoqualmie Casino. (Bonus: cast members Elaine Miles, Evan Adams, and Michelle St. John will be in attendance!)
Full info here.
(Much Ado About Nothing was the Opening Night Gala film selection at SIFF tonight. It won't be screening again during the festival, but it opens
nationwide in New York and Los Angeles on June 7th and in Seattle on June 21st, so if you missed out tonight, you'll be able to see it soon.)
This movie is a classic example of the they’re-sure-having-fun-up-there concept of entertainment. It was filmed in a matter of days at director/adaptor Joss Whedon’s own house, with actors who are all his friends, in cheap black and white on digital cameras. (Whedon famously conducts after-work readings of Shakespeare with the casts of his television shows and films, so he had plenty of practice.) And you know what? Everybody sure does look like they’re having fun up there, to the point where you want to forgive the film’s obvious flaws just because you feel like you’re an invited guest at an intimate dinner party.
This horny, very funny staging of Much Ado About Nothing is set in an opulent modern-day estate during a wedding, when distant friends and family gather together because they have to. It’s a cozy affair, and the actors are all practically flirting with Shakespeare’s language (standouts include Clark Gregg, who wins this affable movie’s coveted Most Affable award; Nathan Fillion, who feasts on his small comic-relief role; and Amy Acker as a strong, confident Beatrice). There’s some silly physical comedy, willful deception on a large scale, and, because Much Ado is arguably the world’s first rom-com, every major player makes one asshole move that seems totally out of character. (Blame the writer for that last one.)
But it’s light and fun and funny and delightful—it’s so rare that a movie claps Shakespeare on the back like an old bud, rather than putting him up on a pedestal, like he’s in a museum. Who cares if some of the acting is a little hambone? (Alexis Denisof’s Benedick wavers between charming and cartoonish.) Or that the music, by Joss and Jed Whedon, is simply terrible? Or that a few directorial tricks—a whooshing white-out transition between scenes is more jarring than useful—seem more telenovela than feature film? Everybody is—all together now—having so much fun up there that you want to forgive them their trespasses. And so you do.
(This post has been updated since its original publication to reflect the correct release dates. I apologize for the error.)
At McCaw Hall, tonight brings the opening of the 39th Seattle International Film Festival, which is curated by a board of professionals and commences with Joss Whedon's brand-new Much Ado About Nothing.
And at Central Cinema, tonight brings the opening of the first-ever Black and Beautiful Film Festival, which is curated by Franklin High School senior Mia Roberson and commences with 1971's Shaft.
Our exhaustive guide to SIFF is live on our site and physically arriving on the streets of Seattle even as you read this. You already know where to go to look up individual movies and read all our Slog entries about SIFF. But did you know that you can also read our reviews and descriptions of every single SIFF movie all in one ridiculously long document? It's true! And it may just be the best way to discover that hidden cinematic gem you didn't realize you've been missing all your life.
They don't call SIFF America's biggest film festival just for kicks. Besides corralling 273 films (plus multiple shorts packages) from all over the globe, the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival is three and a half weeks long, which means you have almost an entire month to dive into SIFF, get sick of it and ignore it for a while, then dive back in all over again.
As ever, there's a ton of stuff worth seeing, from glorious art films to splashy documentaries to craptastic cult fare. The opening-night gala brings Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, which has been sold out since it was announced and will likely involve a hilarious mingling of speech-giving civic dignitaries and screaming Whedonistas. The centerpiece gala brings the much-buzzed-about documentary on backup singers Twenty Feet from Stardom. And the closing-night gala brings The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola's ripped-from-the-headlines drama on Hollywood thieves. (The fact that it has a plot means it's already 10,000 times better than 2010's Somewhere.)
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. Among the non-gala film events that have The Stranger excited: Fateful Findings, a fledgling classic of brilliantly terrible cinema in the manner of The Room; The Punk Singer, Sini Anderson's revelatory documentary about Kathleen Hanna; Furever, a squirmy documentary about the pet-memorial business; and An Evening with Kyle MacLachlan, during which the Northwest native and beloved Hollywood star will submit himself to an onstage Q&A (complete with clip show!), then hang out and watch the classic pilot of Twin Peaks on the big screen.
Here is The Stranger's guide to every single film in SIFF 2013, featuring eyewitness reviews of more than 130 films and a half-dozen jokes in poor taste.
In case you couldn't tell, Seattle International Film Festival season is upon us. This morning was the official press launch for SIFF, which brought some announcements about what to expect out of the festival this year.
You already know about the sold-out Much Ado About Nothing screening that's opening the festival up. The first announcement at the press launch was the Closing Gala film, Sofia Coppola's Emma Watson-starring The Bling Ring. This is the brand-new trailer for that one:
Other announcements include special guest appearances by Kyle MacLachlan (along with a screening of the Twin Peaks pilot) and director Peter Greenaway; the inclusion of 38 Northwest-centric films including a documentary called Evergreen: The Road to Legalization; a full slate of music documentaries including films about Peaches and Kathleen Hanna, and a documentary about backup singers titled Twenty Feet from Stardom that will be screened as the Centerpiece Gala along with a performance from two singers in the movie; a focus on African movies including an international smash-hit South African romantic comedy titled Fanie Fourie's Lobola; and a midnight movie slate including a couple of zombie movies (one of which is a documentary about zombie walks) and a so-bad-it's-good cult-hit-in-the-making in the style of The Room called Fateful Findings.
Tickets go on sale online and at physical box offices on May 2nd, and the festival runs from May 16th through June 9th. There will be literally hundreds of other films in the festival, and you can expect The Stranger's as-comprehensive-as-is-humanly possible SIFF guide to hit the streets just before the festival begins. Find lots of trailers for many of the SIFF movies I mentioned above after the jump.