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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

posted by on May 27 at 9:48 AM


This biography of the late, great Hunter S. Thompson is a thoroughly entertaining joyride through the life of a complex character. Fast and furious from the get go, the film examines the many faces of the boundary-pushing journalist: patriot, activist, booze-addled gun freak, muckraker, family man, depressive, iconoclast, visionary, asshole.

Loaded with archival video, photos, and audio, plus smartly edited interviews with his wives, son, editors, and friends, and peppered with Thompson's own writing, voiced by Johnny Depp, the documentary succeeds because it feels so bloody thorough. The only bothersome device is the overly loud, sentimental music at every key moment.

The crowd at the stifling hot Egyptian seemed pleased with the antiwar, anticorruption, pro-human sentiments that parallel today's liberal agenda and gave the film a hearty round of applause as the credits rolled. I exited equally inspired and depressed.

Gonzo doesn't screen again at SIFF but is scheduled to open in Seattle on July 4.

SIFF 2008: Day 6 Recommendations

posted by on May 27 at 9:46 AM

Sydney Pollack is dead, so feel free to stay home and rent Tootsie if you must.

But SIFF continues! The early slot is something of a crapshoot today. We didn't like either of the films we saw (Breakfast with Scot, The Greening of Southie), and the others--none of which has U.S. distribution--haven't gotten much attention elsewhere. So would you prefer a political drama about a Congolese travel writer living in Belgium (Juju Factory, 4:30 pm at Pacific Place), a melodrama about the healing love shared by an Australian farmer and an abused Afghani refugee (Unfinished Sky, 4:30 pm at SIFF Cinema), or a Gérard Depardieu vehicle about trying to make your Algerian adopted son pass as French (Michou d'Auber, 4 pm at Uptown)?

Michou d'Auber

The middle slot is much more competitive. Our top picks are the experimental doc Loos Ornamental (7 pm at Northwest Film Forum), the Uruguayan film The Pope's Toilet (7 pm at Pacific Place), and Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, introduced by Seattle Shakespeare Company A.D. Stephanie Shine (6:45 pm at SIFF Cinema). Mongol (6:30 pm at the Egyptian) is pretty exciting too, though it'll open in Seattle later this month.

In the late slot, we recommend the somber All Will Be Well (9:30 pm at the Harvard Exit).

Monday, May 26, 2008

SIFF 2008: Day 5 Recommendations

posted by on May 26 at 8:30 AM

Out of two excellent movies in the morning slot, I'm going to steer you toward Fantastic Parasuicides (11 am at Harvard Exit), unless you saw it yesterday. In that case, Boy A (11 am at the Egyptian)--not to be confused with the shitty Dream Boy--is also a good bet, though it'll open in Seattle later this summer. (We didn't get a chance to see Terra or Nocturna though. Anybody have an opinion on those?)

In the following slot, Stranger critics weren't fond of any of the films without distribution. Take a break or get a sneak peek at Heartbeat Detector (1 pm at Pacific Place), which should land back in Seattle theaters eventually.

Of course, there's an array of riches in the next slot: Lynn Shelton's My Effortless Brilliance (starring former Stranger film editor Sean Nelson, it's Old Joy without the painful Portland earnestness--4 pm at the Egyptian), Up the Yangtze (a doc about cultural change and civil engineering in China--4 pm at Pacific Place), Jia Zhang-ke's Still Life (also about the Three Gorges Dam project, but a narrative film--4:15 pm at the Uptown), and Dust (a mildly experimental doc about, um, dust--5 pm at NWFF).

Next, you can check out this year's Fly Filmmaking Challenge (6:30 pm at the Egyptian) or the guaranteed-solid Sita Sings the Blues (6:45 pm at Uptown).

And in the late slot, your best bet is Mermaid, a Russian film about wishes that come too true.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


posted by on May 25 at 5:42 PM

From Slog commenter "commenter":

SIFF royally fucked up the 11am showing of Head-On at Pacific Place, showing the 98 Greek film of the same title instead then waiting an hour before stopping the film and announcing the mistake. The apologetic SIFF worker handed out free tickets and asked that people keep the snafu to themselves. Whoops. Would have been nice of them to tell us that before we wasted an hour watching a different movie. If we hadn't been in the middle of our row we would have walked out about 10 mins in since the film they did decide to show was awful.

Thanks SIFF!

At first I thought, wow, that sounds like a pretty difficult mistake to make, since Head-On and Fatih Akin's new film The Edge of Heaven, which also played this weekend at the festival, are both handled by the same distributor. Turns out the '98 Greek movie is also handled by Strand Releasing. So it might be the distributor's fault.

Sill, this rivals and probably bests the several times a print has caught fire at the Egyptian during SIFF. Whoops!

Cue "The Day the Music Died"

posted by on May 25 at 11:54 AM


So I saw Gonzo yesterday at the Egyptian. Brad's review is dead-on. It's's probably great if you don't know much about Thompson but you want a crash course...but the great Thompson documentary has yet to happen.

The best part of the movie has to do with the 1972 campaign, which of course was the basis of Thompson's best book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. The movie pretty much nailed the deflated weirdness of the entire campaign.

(Politics-wonk ahead, and for the entirety of this italicized paragraph, so skip over if you're not a history nerd: I was kind of perplexed by why the movie tried so desperately to make it seem as though Thompson derailed the Muskie campaign with his allegations that Muskie used drugs. Muskie had already derailed the Muskie campaign by crying, well before Thompson's Ibogaine allegations. Also confusing was why they left out the fact that McGovern really fucked himself over by declaring that he was behind Eagleton 1000% before he flip-flopped and dropped him from the campaign.)

The beginning and the end of the film get a little too sappy and "you weren't there, man" with the whole sixties thing. My entire life has been spent being told, again and again, exactly how important the sixties were, and I am so tired of hearing about it. This canonization of the entire sixties has gone from a cliche to some sort of meta-cliche back to being a cliche again. And the musical choices--"All Along the Watchtower," (really?) "Sympathy For the Devil," (oh, come on!) and "The Day the Music Died" (Jesus fucking Christ!) are embarrassing, obvious, and dull.

So there's some stuff to get through. But there are moments where Thompson really shines. And there are other moments where he looks like a total dick. And those parts of the movie are really wonderful. It plays again at the Egyptian at 9 pm on Monday. If you have an interest in seeing it, you should go, and if you adjust your expectations, you'll be glad that you did.

Also last night at home, I watched a documentary called Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed. It's about a black woman who ran for president in 1972. It's a pretty great documentary about the same period as Gonzo, and it also is a perfect example of how you can make a movie about that time in American history without falling back on Freedom Rock. And Shirley Chisholm, with her giant hair and her dense lisp, is totally an inspiration. You should Netflix that after watching Gonzo.

SIFF 2008: Recommendations for Day 4

posted by on May 25 at 1:45 AM

Wow, there are lots of equally good alternative schedules today.

You could go to the Egyptain for the Ben Kingsley appearances (Elegy with an onstage Q&A at 2 pm, then the still-great Sexy Beast at 6 pm) and stay for the new Patti Smith doc (Patti Smith: Dream of Life, which is being distributed by Palm Pictures and should return to Seattle in late summer or fall, at 9 pm).

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

Or you could start off with the excellent Heavy Metal in Baghdad (technically has distribution, but might not make it back to Seattle, 11 am at SIFF Cinema), then scoot over to Sita Sings the Blues (no distribution, 1:30 pm at the Uptown), The Last Mistress (has distribution, 4 pm at the Uptown), and The Fall (opens next week, 6:30 pm at the Uptown).

I kinda like this option. Head to Pacific Place for Head-On (11 am), which is always worth seeing again, and then catch Fatih Akin's new film, The Edge of Heaven (has distribution, 1:30 pm). I loved the film and thought its many tonal shifts were beautifully handled, but some critics hold that it's too busy. You should see it so you can weigh in. From there, tromp up Capitol Hill and see either the experimental architecture film Loos Ornamental--which Jen Graves loved--at Northwest Film Forum (no distribution, 5 pm), or the archival presentation of It Always Rains on Sunday at my favorite SIFF venue, the Harvard Exit (4 pm). Then find dinner and return to the Harvard Exit for the awesome South Korean omnibus film Fantastic Parasuicides (no distribution, 9 pm).

Other movies worth seeing throughout the day include Chris & Don: A Love Story (has distribution, 1:15 pm at Harvard Exit), Up the Yangtze (has distribution, 7:15 pm at Pacific Place), and The 3 Little Pigs (no distribution, 9:45 pm at Pacific Place).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Reviews for 5/24

posted by on May 24 at 11:30 AM

Since our guide came out Thursday, we've posted three new reviews.

Dream Boy. Ryan S. Jackson writes, "Clumsy and clichéd from start to finish, this is one to miss."

The experimental film Loos Ornamental, which Jen Graves has endowed with the coveted "Don't Miss!" tag:

Loos Ornamental

First come a few words in German, and then there are no words at all, only images of Adolf Loos's architecture, arranged in a chronological slide show of long-held video stills inside and outside the buildings, mainly in Vienna. Loos famously eschewed ornament, reducing form to function by exposing beams, stacking grids, and letting materials express their own conditions. This makes for some genteel moments, but there's also the return of the repressed, in perfectly flat and geometric surfaces that nonetheless roar like baroque sculpture because they are made of wildly mottled red or green marble. Drunk on the dream of modernism, you reach the end of the film, where there's only a cube gravestone with the architect's name on it. It's right in the city, and a train passes close behind it. JEN GRAVES

And I review Marie Losier's Portraits in Cinema, a program of biographical shorts about filmmakers and other eccentric personalities: "The first, about filmmaker/composer Tony Conrad, was made over a longer period than the others, and it shows. As he performs a little sped-up chicken dance or pickles curly garlands of film stock, Conrad narrates the story of his youth and influences, including early roommate and collaborator Jack Smith. It’s delightful." I didn't know it going in, but occasional Stranger contributor Brian L. Frye did camera for some of the films in the program.

SIFF 2008: Recommendations for Day 3

posted by on May 24 at 10:40 AM

I got up too late to make it to an 11 am movie, so I'll assume you did too. I would have recommended you see Before the Rains, even though it's opening next week, because if you listened to my advice yesterday you would've already seen Continental, a Film Without Guns, and All Will Be Well sounds way too depressing for a sunny Saturday morning.

The 1 o'clock slot is packed with sweet (if slight) movies without U.S. distribution. Try Mermaid, from Russia (1:15 pm at the Egyptian), or the French-Canadian The 3 Little Pigs (1:30 pm at Pacific Place).

Filmmaker Brillante Mendoza has a film at Cannes this year that I'm very curious about, so I think I'm going to head over to the Harvard Exit for double dose of his previous work: Foster Child at 1:30 pm and Slingshot at 4 pm.


Also worth seeing in that late afternoon slot: Ballast (has distribution, 4:30 pm at Pacific Place), The Red Awn (no distribution, 3:30 pm at SIFF Cinema), and Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (has distribution, 3:45 pm at the Egyptian). The SIFF website doesn't mention it, but I know Gonzo's director Alex Gibney is in town, so he might be doing a Q&A. If so, I recommend hijacking the conversation and asking questions about his last movie, Taxi to the Dark Side.

The evening slot has two great films with distribution: Chris & Don: A Love Story (6:30 pm at Harvard Exit), about the relationship between writer Christopher Isherwood and his much younger lover Don Bachardy; and Boy A (7 pm at Uptown), about a juvenile deliquent trying to adjust to life on the outside. They're both getting brief week-long runs at the Varsity in August, so you may want to catch one or both even though they're coming back to Seattle. Eat, for This Is My Body (7 pm at Northwest Film Forum), an experimental film about colonialism in Haiti, looks totally crazy. I might try to catch that. I mean, check out this trailer:

And for the late evening slot, you should obviously come to My Effortless Brilliance (9:30 pm at the Egyptian), the new film by Lynn Shelton (We Go Way Back). Former Stranger film editor Sean Nelson plays the main character, so we're obviously biased. I sent the screener all the way to New York for something resembling an objective review. Here's Michael Atkinson's (starred) verdict:

Mumblecore cries out in the wilderness in this personality-rich, bare-bones ultra-indie, which follows a flabby, narcissistic middle-tier young novelist (ex-Stranger scribe Sean Nelson) as he haplessly seeks to reconnect with a wary and embittered college friend (Basil Harris) in and around a cabin in the forests of Eastern Washington. Any pro-am awkwardness is wittily absorbed by the scenario, but while the performances are all savvy and convincing, Shelton (who splits screenplay credit with her improvving cast) steers entirely clear of drama. Think of it as Old Joy without the seasoning.

I believe there's a party after My Effortless Brilliance, which is good, because the midnight slot tonight is Epitaph. Thumbs down.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Few Notes on the Opening Night Gala

posted by on May 23 at 5:24 PM

I know it's been covered a lot today, but I had a couple things to say about the movie, too. And it's too late in the day to be linear, so...

I was surprised to see Mayor Nickels effectively applauding the WTO protesters during Michael Seiwerath's wonderful acceptance speech.

This was a bad, bad movie. It was very, very bad. If it didn't have local interest, I seriously doubt if it would even be considered for SIFF at all.

I was so happy when the crowd booed and hissed at the archival footage of Howard Schultz talking about how much money Starbucks was going to lose thanks to the protests. It was simply lovely.

Fake Gary Locke's accent was completely inexcusable, much moreso than the shots of Safeco and Seahawks Stadium in the opening shots of the film.

The dialogue was worse-than-TV-movie bad. The actor who had to refer to motherhood as "The greatest adventure of all" should get an Oscar for keeping a straight face.

Also: He did a fine job with a shit part, but instead of Django, Andre 3000's character should have been named Jar Jar.

I will watch Woody Harrelson in anything for ever and ever.

Similarly, I would like Ray Liotta to be Seattle's for-real mayor right now, please. As an aside: Does anyone know if he wears eyeliner, or if he has the world's thickest eyelashes?

Mayor Liotta's first law as mayor should be a ban on Seattle Q&A's. The beret-wearing woman who told the cast of this schlockfest that they accurately depicted "the heart of an activist" should be ashamed of herself.

The party was beyond lame, but the non-VIP party was better than the VIP party.

Opening Night Postmortem

posted by on May 23 at 2:46 PM

Ah, opening night. The stress! The gaping! The radical once-a-year fashion statements! Personal favorite moment: Artistic Director Carl Spence's adorable 7-month-old baby, posing on the red carpet. (Sorry, I didn't have a camera.) Personal low point: Tromping down to the Very Important Tent after being sweet-talked by a publicist ("of course you're invited to the dinner!") and then being denied by another publicist at the entrance ("if [publicist's name withheld] wants to come down here and argue with me, then sure!"). But let's get to the important stuff:

The Movie.

Battle in Seattle is bad, but not quite as terrible as I thought it would be. As I see it, the problem is this. Stuart Townsend tried to tackle many of the lofty themes of Medium Cool (the problem of journalistic objectivity, the sacred inertia of women and motherhood in an era of political upheaval), but in the most embarrassing possible shorthand.

Medium Cool

In Medium Cool, a photojournalist continually confronts situations—a car crash, protests, poverty and despair—that invite his participation, and he resists. In Battle in Seattle, a dumb blond, status-quo news anchor witnesses a single act of police violence and promptly joins the protesters. Medium Cool has a fairly uncomplicated, late-'60s view of femininity: The main female character is a dirt-poor widow (her husband died in Vietnam) from West Virginia who's just moved with her young son to the Chicago ghetto; she's linked firmly to her native land through a green and gold-flushed flashback to a baptism in an Appalachian river. For this naive, almost earth-mother figure, Battle in Seattle substitutes Charlize Theron, makes her pregnant, and has a police officer club her in the stomach for no reason. I guess it's tricky to reduce any character in 2008 to an icon of idealized womanhood, but I guess you can always resort to pregnancy. Ugh.

Medium Cool was filmed in part at the actual 1968 Democratic Convention protests. Director Haskell Wexler sent an actor, in character, to weave through the protesters, and stitched together his documentary footage with the rest of the fictional storyline. (Best meta line ever: "Watch out, Haskell, it's real!") Battle in Seattle didn't have that option (foresight?), but despite some skillful editing, there's an obvious break whenever archival video of the protests shifts to the glossy 35 mm reenactments. They should have used video in the protest scenes to make it blend better.

Also, the dialogue is ridiculous. And there are two apostrophes missing from the closing crawl text. (Got that, Jonas-the-marketing-guy? Take that to the top.)

All that said, this was one of SIFF's better opening-night picks in recent memory. I'd rank it ahead of The Illusionist, and although it's certainly a worse movie than Son of Rambow, the local angle gives it massive bonus points. Me and You and Everyone We Know remains the high-water mark.

The Party:

There was no free booze at the regular gala party, eliminating the reason for there to even be a gala party, and even in the VIP tent, one had to beg for extra drink tickets from passing SIFF employees or find a super-VIP to wield their magic wristband. It was a sad scene. Here's one reader's report from the regular gala:

Wtf was SIFF thinking charging seven bucks for a drink? I don't know about everyone else, but as a single mom working two part-time jobs, seven bucks is a lot of cash to throw away on watered down booze. I had a mini-sturgeon on crostini thing (how were they planning on feeding 3,000 people with fish on crackers? I didn't see Jesus around to multiply the fish, or make free Vitamin water into free wine.) I stayed for 15 minutes, realized my feet hurt in my shoes and wanted to go get some real food. I hope more people rip them apart for this lame and borderline embarrassing event. I don't want to sound like a malcontent but I thought you should know how much (further) downhill SIFF has gone since last year.

What happened, SIFF? Why no free booze? Did you lose a liquor sponsorship or something?


Oh, rad. I didn't realize Northwest Film Forum was screening Medium Cool again this summer. You'll be able to see it Friday-Sunday, August 22-24. (Spectacular timing, NWFF, just before this year's Democratic National Convention and the opening of Battle.)

SIFF 2008: Recommendations, Day 2

posted by on May 23 at 12:11 PM

This post begins a series of recommendations for every single slot in the Seattle International Film Festival. Wish me stamina! Here are some things I'm taking into consideration: 1) Did our critic like it?, 2) Does it have distribution and can we expect it to open in Seattle later this year?, and 3) If SIFF didn't get us a screener for review, what are other critics saying? So, without further ado, Day 2:

I'm recommending a straight Pacific Place slate today: The Pope's Toilet (from Uruguay, doesn't have distribution, Eli Sanders loves it) at 4:30 pm, Ballast (American indie, has distribution but no firm Seattle opening date, Charles and Manohla Dargis love it) at 7 pm, and Continental, a Film Without Guns (from Quebec, no distribution, David Schmader loves it).


Also recommended and without large-scale U.S. distribution: Vexille at the Egyptian at 4 pm, The Red Awn at SIFF Cinema at 6:30 pm, and (we haven't seen this one yet) Portraits in Cinema--short experimental films about George and Mike Kuchar et al., plus a narrative short about the birth of a pair of hands made in collaboration with Guy Maddin (Brand Upon the Brain!)--at Northwest Film Forum at 7 pm.

Also recommended for people with SIFF passes who don't care whether a film is opening later in the year: Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven (Strand Releasing is a smaller distributor, but I would be shocked if this superb film didn't show up in Seattle theaters sometime this year) at the Egyptian at 6:30 pm, Before the Rains (opening next week) at Uptown at 7 pm, Catherine Breillat's The Last Mistress (opening in Seattle July 18) at the Egyptian at 9:30 pm, Elite Squad (huge distributor--The Weinstein Company) at Uptown at 9:30 pm, and Jia Zhang-ke's Still Life (this one has a distributor, but could still slip through the cracks in Seattle) at SIFF Cinema at 9:30 pm.

For all your SIFF scheduling needs, see And tell me what you're seeing in the comments!

SIFF Opening Night: My Brain is Melting

posted by on May 23 at 12:10 PM


Like 14 billion other Seattleites, last night I ventured over to McCaw Hall to catch the opening night of the Seattle International Film Festival. As Lindy West reported, it was star-studded. (I saw the mayor!) It was also, for me at least, a completely surreal endeavor.

I showed up around 6:30 and got myself into the line that stretched impressively around McCaw Hall to the north entrance of Memorial Stadium. While in line, we were sporadically besieged by various factions, from patchouli-soaked pamphleteers to the pair of unfortunately adult men hired to promote Juno On Demand(TM) by dressing like Michael Cera's character (high yellow shorts, tight yellow headband) and handing out orange Tic-Tacs. (As many of us in line were forced to learn, dressing like a sporty teen can make a perfectly healthy thirty-something look already dead.)

Once inside, Jake and I managed to snag a couple seats in the upper balcony while all other available seats in the area filled up quickly. Tragically, the seat directly next to us was taken by a well-dressed, elegant-seeming older man, who nevertheless managed to give off the stink of several dozen dead animals. Parsing the scent in retrospect, I can report it came on strong with a piercing rancid-mustard stink, underscored by the duller stench of sixteen Value Village sofas soaked with whole milk and left to dry in the sun. There was simply no ignoring this smell, and so we had to give up our precious seats and re-join the huddled masses desperately searching for others.

After 10 minutes and several disheartening dead ends, we gave up. Wading through freakishly huge crowds in search of seats for a film of negligible quality only drives home the fact that we have an apartment and a TV, and we soon retreated to both.

Once home, the surreality continued, as IFC was in the middle of a start-to-finish broadcast of R. Kelly's monolithically bizarre serial hip-hopera Trapped in the Closet. I've seen TITC before, numerous times, but last night was the first time I'd encountered it since watching the entirety of The Wire on DVD, and I was stunned to learn what countless Wire/TITC fans already know: The security-guard husband of Trapped in the Closet's Bridget is played by Omar from The Wire.

This weird fact dragged me back into the intoxicating horror of Trapped in the Closet all over again, and my evening-long brain-melt was complete.

Thanks, SIFF!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

SIFF Opening Night Live Slog!

posted by on May 22 at 6:40 PM

Update! 9:50pm

Well, I did not particularly enjoy watching The Battle in Seattle. Maybe it was the vague sea turtle politics, or Movie Gary Locke's craaaazy accent (because all Asians have English as their second language?), or every word anyone spoke at any point when there was a lull in the explosions: "I don't want the cover of some brochure magazine to be the closest we ever come to adventure." "You want adventure? You just signed up for the greatest adventure of all!"

There are about a million Stranger writers here, so I'm sure they'll have more to say about the movie tomorrow. For now, here's Angela Garbes on Charlize Theron: "She didn't get to do much in this movie but lay in the fetal position and cry."

After the movie, during the Q&A, Stuart Townsend announced "We're as indie as it gets." Really? As indie as it gets?

It is after 10pm and the fried snacks in the VIP tent are now cold. I'm skipping the press conference, but if it's anything like the post-show Q&A it should yield many variations on the phrase, "I read the script and it was just so powerful, you know?" Now I'm going to go back and get some cake.

And finally, I give you Charlize Theron's legs, Michelle Rodriguez's posture, and Andre Benjamin's adorable face:


Hey people!

You know what is fucking boring? Celebrities. Walking around. Celebrities walking around talking to John Curley about their characters from Battle in Seattle.

The first thing that happened to me when I got here was that I missed Andre 3000, the only celebrity I actually wanted to see/photograph. Luckily, the back of his outfit (which I witnessed while chasing him down a hallway, before being savagely denied entrance to the Very Important Tent) did not disappoint: mismatched double denim and a straw hat.

I don't have much time, because I have to go, you know, watch that movie, but here are a few first impressions:

1. The Loneliest Curley

John Curley has stitches in his startlingly aged neck. Did someone knife our Curley?

2. Michelle Rodriguez is seriously wearing the worst outfit ever. I'll leave the dressing while drunk jokes to y'alls peoples.

3. The Foot of Rodriguez

M-Rod says: "My character's pretty complicated but, you know, she's a cool chick."

4. Were you wondering what Charlize Theron's tiny nose looks like? You're welcome!

5. According to my sources, Eddie Vedder and le Charlize just had a meet-cute on the red carpet. I would have photographed it but I was in here. Blogging. For you.

More to come after the movie!

It Strikes Me...

posted by on May 22 at 2:14 PM

... that it'd be pretty easy to leak the Secret Festival films this year—just create a fake account on the SIFF site (they just want an email address) and "add your own review" enormous hints. Not that I'm suggesting you break any enforceable oaths or anything.

I mean, all hell would rain down on your easily deleted email address. Wouldn't want that.

Think $50 Is Too Much for a Ticket to Battle in Seattle?

posted by on May 22 at 11:30 AM

Battle in Seattle

Eh, you're probably right. Here's The Stranger's unsparing review:

Written and directed rather ambitiously by actor Stuart Townsend and jammed with an all-star cast, Battle in Seattle tells a true story but gives us no reason to care about the people, their lives, or their political causes. The protests that occurred at the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999 may well have been historically significant—but you wouldn't know it from this self-serious dud, which insists on TELLING us how important the issues are rather than SHOWING us. The laughably generic dialogue doesn’t help, either. (Director Stuart Townsend and actors Charlize Theron, Martin Henderson, Mary Aloe, Michelle Rodriguez, and Andre Benjamin scheduled to attend.) ERIC D. SNIDER

But that doesn't mean you don't secretly want to see it. And you're in luck, because if you're the first to email with the words "THE BATTLE'S IN DENVER, DOOFUS!" in the subject line, I'll give you two free tickets. You have to be able to pick them up at the Stranger office on Capitol Hill before 5:30 today.


UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations to Steffany Powell and her quick trigger finger.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our SIFF Guide Is Live!

posted by on May 21 at 10:33 AM

From Seattle's only newspaper, the most comprehensive guide to the Seattle International Film Festival: Over 150 real reviews and zero publicist bullshit. Each film is linked to its SIFF page so you can quickly purchase individual tickets. We also have dates for films that are supposed to open in Seattle later this summer and information about guests scheduled to attend the festival. Plus, all the posts from the Slog that are tagged "SIFF" land on that page, so you can easily review our previous coverage.

Stay tuned for Lindy West liveblogging Thursday's opening-night festivities!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

SIFF Hot Tip: Week One Rocks

posted by on May 20 at 1:27 PM

Our comprehensive guide to the Seattle International Film Festival should go live later this evening, but I've got a few early tips to whet your appetite. From my introduction to the guide:

If you’re thinking about a weeklong pass, the first week of the festival seems especially packed with gems, including this year’s low-key Sundance discovery Ballast; The Last Mistress, Catherine Breillat’s exciting venture into period filmmaking; The Edge of Heaven, Fatih Akin’s superb followup to Head-On; Jia Zhang-ke’s semi-recent feature Still Life; and Casting a Glance, a new landscape film by experimental filmmaker James Benning. We also adored the lower-profile entries The Pope’s Toilet; Continental, A Film Without Guns; Fantastic Parasuicides; Boy A; Chris & Don: A Love Story; and more.

To that list I'd also add The Fall (which opens in Seattle next week), The Red Awn, Before the Rains (which also opens in Seattle next week), Elite Squad, All Will Be Well, My Effortless Brilliance (which is a conflict of interest! Former Stranger film editor Sean Nelson is in it. But our East Coast freelance writer Michael Atkinson, who's never met Sean, confirms it's worth seeing), and... oh, that's enough for now.

I've just been scouring Week 2 for Stranger Suggests possibilities, though, and that stretch is looking pretty dire. ShortsFest—an all-shorts weekend featuring one or two local films in almost every program (the better to fill seats with, my dear)—makes it pretty easy to skip SIFF Cinema entirely for a few days; and some of our least favorite movies in the festival (Ben X, One Hundred Nails, Young People Fucking, Magnus, Garden Party) are screening then. There are certainly worthwhile films scattered throughout the week, but individual tickets are probably a better choice.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Drunk from the Now; A Blast from the Past!

posted by on May 15 at 11:46 AM

I vaguely remember mentioning something about a “Charlize Theron” person that is scheduled to be, as those of us “in the business” are fond of saying, “on the red carpet” at SIFF’s always uber-glam Opening Night (May 22nd! I’m already drunk!). And goodness knows that that’s just exciting as all hell. I also think I said something about Stuart Townsend’s abs, and about how he and/or they will be “red carpeting”, too. (OMG! Just LOOK at the boner that man gives me!) But what I don’t vaguely remember telling you, because I vaguely remember just finding out about it two fucking seconds ago myself, is that Michelle Rodriguez of, you know, “Lost” or whatever, will also be “on the red carpet” Opening Night. As it were. But of course, she’ll be ripped to the tits, and driving a car. Ba-dum-bum.

And now, this poor misguided letter:

Dear Adrian, I don’t live in Seattle anymore, but I read Celebrity I Saw U every week. I moved to Boston last year. But yesterday while I was working at the JFK Presidential Library, none other than Kate Hudson, Owen Wilson and Owen Wilson’s nose came strolling in! I was shocked. I sold them their admissions ticket, and they spent two hours in the museum. They didn’t say much because they were too busy being disgustingly cutesy with each other, concluding their tour with a lover’s game of tag in our pavilion. Gross! Who knew that suicide attempts actually do strengthen a relationship?

Anyway, I immediately thought of Celebrity I Saw U, since I love your column, and these are the only celebrities I’ve ever seen.


I am sure I speak for everyone when I say Thank you, Aly, for that remarkable glimpse into the secret and unnerving world of Hudson-Wilson love, for your weekly reading of Celebrity I Saw U, and for your creepy ability to read through time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gay Zombies Were Here Before You, Bruce La Bruce

posted by on May 13 at 6:27 PM

From a miffed Chris Diani, director of the locally produced Creatures from the Pink Lagoon:

Hello Stranger,

Did you catch the description of Bruce LaBruce's new movie, Otto; or, Up with Dead People in the SIFF guide published in the Seattle Times? They're calling it "the world's first gay zombie movie." I find this particularly interesting, considering my own gay zombie movie, Creatures from the Pink Lagoon, was released two full years before Otto and has screened in Seattle five separate times in the past two years. What's more, Creatures from the Pink Lagoon was submitted to SIFF in 2006 (they rejected it) and the Seattle Times has written about Creatures on three separate occasions. I'm tempted to chalk it up to the whole "SIFF ignores local filmmakers" meme, but couldn't someone have done a simple Google search before going to print?

Incidentally, my gay zombie movie wasn't the world's first; I believe that honor goes to Alex Dove, whose 2003 film Zombies is about - you guessed it: gay zombies. And in 2007, a short film by Michael Simon titled Gay Zombie made the film festival rounds, playing in the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, among others.

And while I've got your attention, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for the starred review you gave Creatures from the Pink Lagoon back in 2006. We've been using Andrew Wright's quote "near-galactic levels of both enthusiasm and snark" in all our press materials ever since.

Best regards,

Noted. It should also be said that the Seattle Times doesn't know a thing about the movies in the guide; most if not all of the copy is provided by SIFF. And assuming the print guide did contain this outrageous claim--I left mine at home today--it appears that they've fixed it for the web. Now it says only: "Gay zombie movie!" Indeed.

OK, now that we have cleared up the question of which zombies came first, how about this: Which movie's zombies are gayer? Creatures...

Creatures from the Pink Lagoon

or Otto...?

Otto; or, Up with Dead People

I don't know. The Creatures have a balletic reach, but check out that bunny rabbit...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Let the Schedule Plotting Begin

posted by on May 11 at 12:00 PM

SIFF tickets are on sale today to the general public--the web site's a little pokey today, but if you have patience, you can buy 'em online here. Other outlets are at Pacific Place (second floor kiosk), SIFF Cinema, and SIFF HQ (400 Ninth Ave N in South Lake Union).

Our full guide doesn't come out for another week and a half, but I'll do some advance tips on the Slog every so often.

Fond of UK gangsters? You are so in luck. In addition to a screening of Sexy Beast (here's a vintage Stranger review) introduced by Sir Ben Kingsley himself, there's an archival screening of the 1947 Robert Hamer film It Always Rains on Sunday and a brand-new documentary about East End toughs called The End.

Still Life

Fascinated by China's Three Gorges Dam project? The festival has both a narrative feature and a doc about by the social upheaval caused by its construction: Jia Zhang-ke's much-admired Still Life and the new Canadian-made doc Up the Yangtze.

Did you attend Translations: Seattle's Transgender Film Festival this weekend and still haven't had enough? One of the best docs in SIFF this year is Be Like Others, a look at the differential treatment of transsexuals and gays by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Though it doesn't push any one conclusion, it does bring up the frightening possibility that garden-variety gay teens are getting their dicks chopped off because clerics and doctors tell their parents that the Qu'ran is totally OK with sex change operations, but that homosexuality is punishable by death. There's also an intriguing narrative film from Argentina called XXY about a pubescent hermophrodite being pressured to choose a sex.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

SIFF Official Guide Out Now

posted by on May 8 at 11:45 AM

The complete SIFF schedule and guide (including search functions) are live now at

The Edge of Heaven

SIFF members can buy tickets now (I recommend Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven, pictured above); normal people have to wait till Sunday.

The hard copy version of the cheery publicist-penned guide is in today's Seattle Times. Our no-bullshit guide, packed with real reviews, will go live on our website by Wednesday, May 21, and the hard copy will be in that week's edition of the paper.

Good to know: Broadway Performance Hall is not going to be a venue this year, which means it isn't a box office either. You can buy tickets in person (required if you're getting student or senior discount ticket packages) at Pacific Place, SIFF Cinema, or SIFF HQ in South Lake Union (400 Ninth Avenue N).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

SIFF Is Trying To Kill Me

posted by on May 1 at 3:25 PM

I’ve been wearing my skinny pants lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed. (Sorry…um…try putting some ice on that.) My secret? Recession? Mania? Booger-sugar? Yes. And SIFF, goddammit. SIFF! Opening Night is coming quicker than a coked-up choir boy, so I’ve been living on rice and foul intentions. The press kick-off happened just this morning, which I missed completely of course, because they insisted on moving the event someplace completely asinine called “SIFF Cinema”, which is waaaaaay the hell down in Seattle Center, and not conveniently just across the street from me at Harvard Exit Theater, which is where the damn thing usually happened, and where God damn well intended it to be. And I try never to burn fossil fuels just for free Mimosa if I can help it. But these are the terrible rumors:

Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend have something or other to do with the Opening Night Movie, which is about a traumatic event I personally suffered called the WTO Riots, and they will be attending said opening night to dazzle us with their Theron/Townsendness. I’m planning an in-depth interview with Stuart’s abs, and also to Wikipedia Charlize Theron presently to educate myself, and thusly the world, as to exactly what the gosh darn heck a Charlize Theron is. (Some kind of water bird? A mystery.)

So. Stay tuned for further developments. Or don't. Whatever. I'm getting dizzy.


(Stuart’s abs are on the left. That’s Condoleeza Rice there on the right.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Compare and Contrast

posted by on April 18 at 12:58 PM

The new trailer for Battle in Seattle (which, if you haven't heard, is the opening night film at SIFF this year):

And the theatrical trailer for Medium Cool.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Breaking: SIFF Opening Night Film

posted by on April 9 at 12:23 PM

The opening night film for SIFF '08 is going to be--unsurprisingly--Battle in Seattle, a Medium Cool ripoff (sans documentary footage) about the WTO protests starring Charlize Theron, Andre Benjamin, Woody Harrelson, and Ray Liotta as Mayor Schell--I mean, Mayor Tobin.


Here's the Variety review.

Maybe we can get some fancy turtle protesters down at the opera house? It's the evening of May 22.

Monday, June 18, 2007

An Interview About Interview

posted by on June 18 at 10:00 AM

I don't like messages that much.
I prefer covering the war between a woman and a man.

-- Theo van Gogh (1957-2004)


Every time SIFF rolls around, there's one director I'm more excited about meeting than any other. In 2005, it was Gregg Araki. In 2006, it was Michel Gondry. And in 2007, it was Steve Buscemi. While I got a generous 40 minutes with Araki—and I'm bummed his comedy Smiley Face wasn't part of this year's line-up—I got 25 minutes with Gondry. Alas, I only had 15 minutes to ask Buscemi 30 minutes worth of questions. Still, I'm glad I got the opportunity, and it was a pleasure to speak with him. (Back when I was a SIFF volunteer, my favorite guest was Bertrand Tavernier. What a charmer!)

As expected, Buscemi is down-to-earth in person and, yes, better looking than he appears on-screen. (In Interview, his hair is dyed brown, in Delirious, it's dyed a particularly unflattering black; in reality, it's more of a greyish-brown). Granted, I've never found him unattractive, but he's often described as a character actor, which I tend to think of as shorthand for "not leading man material." Eh, nothing wrong with that. Incidentally, I was watching The Big Lebowski as I transcribed this interview—hey, it happened to be
on TV at the time. Here are a few excerpts from our chat.

Continue reading "An Interview About Interview" »

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Embarrassment of Metro

posted by on June 17 at 5:25 PM

A final word on SIFF by Alex Deleon, a film critic from the land of Hungry:


With over 250 films of every kind to choose from, (mostly new or very recent, but some archival oldies as well), the Seattle Int'l Film Festival might be described as an "embarrassment of riches", mostly gold but, inevitably, some dross and Fool's Gold mixed in with a treasure chest as large as this. The main problem for the would-be writer is not filtering out the nuggets from the crap, the promising from the obviously to be avoided, but trying to navigate the city bus system between the widely scattered venues so as not to miss beginnings of important films, or making tooth-gnashing choices between unmissable movies scheduled at the same time, over-lapping time slots -- or simply, too far apart geographically to get to both. The result is that you grab what you can and hope the ones you missed will show up at a press screening or anotherr festival somewhere down the line. A further result is that you often find yourself viewing some incredibly incongruous concatenations of films, which, in "real life" (which is to say non-festival life) you would never ogle in such weird juxtaposings).

Continue reading "The Embarrassment of Metro" »

SIFF 2007: Jury Awards

posted by on June 17 at 1:55 PM

The complete list of awards is up at the SIFF website (thanks, stinkbug).

A few quick notes. The awards this year were made by Joey DeCamp of the Chihuly Studio, and they are hideous. I failed to bring a digital camera, but imagine a greenish phallus covered in bulging cysts.

The Grand Jury choices are all pretty solid--it looks like we starred all the winners that were screened in advance. The juries tapped Sons for the New Director Award (Charles Mudede really liked it); for New American Cinema, Shotgun Stories (which I quite liked, and mentioned in my introduction to this year's SIFF Notes); for documentary, Out of Time (which I enjoyed, though I don't know that I'd compliment the cinematography as profusely as the designated juror did).

The Special Jury prizes are a little more dubious, but not terrible, which is all you can ask.

SIFF 2007: Audience Awards

posted by on June 17 at 1:23 PM

I've always advocated the embarrassing/not embarrassing strategy for voting in the Golden Space Needle Awards: vote 5 on any movie you'd be OK with winning the audience award; vote 1 on any movie you couldn't stand winning the audience award. Unfortunately, this strategy is difficult to stick to. Everyone wants to register his or her precise opinion, blind to the fact that any careful discernment is going to mashed into an indifferent mean.

Yet again, the Golden Space Needle Award winner is kind of embarrassing. This morning at the Skyline level of the Space Needle (where I, coincidentally, had my high school prom), SIFF announced that Outsourced--a fairly mediocre romantic comedy distinguished only by the fact that it's locally produced--is this year's top vote-getter. Thanks so much, Seattle, for demonstrating to the rest of the world that we're a bunch of dopey partisans. Outsourced plays again at the Egyptian tonight at 9:30 pm.

The Golden Space Needle for best documentary is less embarrassing, though it probably proves mostly that Seattle is full of gays who like documentaries. For the Bible Tells Me So will play again tonight at the Harvard Exit at 6:30 pm.

SIFF 2007: Father's Day Finale

posted by on June 17 at 10:08 AM

It's the very last day of the festival, wherein awards are distributed (I'll post an update once they're announced), parties stretch long into the night, and I finally get some sleep. The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in the film festival wrap up below. Check out if you don't like scrolling down the Slog.


Neptune, 11 am. I apologize for saying Arctic Tale was too big for the film festival. This film, from the producers of March of the Penguins, seems like a cri de coeur at the way MoP was taken by social conservatives. Arctic Tale is insistent about the danger global warming poses to the adorable animals of the arctic.

Arctic Tale

It seems to include the not-so-cute walrus baby for two reasons: 1) to introduce kids to the delicate relationship between predator and prey that forms a backbone of any given ecosystem; and 2) to provide an example of alternative family structures that exist in nature. Walrus babies are apparently raised by their mothers and what Queen Latifah dubs an "auntie"--another big fat female walrus who bonds to and helps to guard the baby as though it were her own. Arctic Tale is not as beautifully filmed as March of the Penguins or as elegantly assembled, but it's definitely worth seeing. Good for older kids, though they'll make merciless fun of the music, if the tween crowd at the Neptune last night was any indication.

Pacific Place, 1:30 pm. The Bet Collector is deeply sobering, but has some of the best acting in the festival.

Late afternoon is a tough one. Should you see Cthuhlu so you can jump into the city-wide fight, siding with the "it's innocent camp, which is the only camp--hooray!" crowd or the "oh my god, how embarrassing for all involved" crowd? Warning: the video projection may not be pretty. Or watch Sex and Death 101, the major-motion-picture debut of the Heathers screenwriter? (I didn't catch this on Friday. Anybody?)

Harvard Exit, 6:30 pm. Skip the tedious closing-night movie and rejoice in the extra screening of For the Bible Tells Me So, a gays-versus-fundamentalism doc that David Schmader loved. First Run Features has picked up the film for distribution, so you should be able to see it in Seattle later this year or in 2008.

There's not much worth seeing in the final slot of the festival. Sneak into the party or sneak off to bed.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

SIFF 2007: Saturday Highlights

posted by on June 16 at 8:44 AM

What to see on the second-to-last day of the festival? The Stranger's recommendations for every damn slot in America's biggest film festival continue below and at

(SIFF has also just announced new shows for the excellent doc For the Bible Tells Me So and the mediocre local rom com Outsourced. SIFF Notes has been updated accordingly.)


Pacific Place, 11 am. Everybody loves Sons, a Norwegian film about an overzealous anti-pedophile.

SIFF Cinema, 1:30 pm. The last film in the Swashbuckler Saturdays series is Scaramouche. La France, avant la révolution! Starring lots of swords.

Egyptian, 4 pm. Josh warned you off Children of the War yesterday (but Lindy liked it!), and the Queen Latifah-narrated Arctic Tale is really too big for a film festival, so I'm going to steer you to Delirious, the Steve Buscemi vehicle about celebrity.

Egyptian, 7 pm. Assuming you missed out on tickets for the gala, why not stay for another round of Buscemi in Interview (which he also directed, from a scenario by murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh)? Bradley Steinbacher liked it.

Egyptian, 9:30 pm. Stick it out at the Egyptian for the freaky kid horror film Joshua, which Andrew Wright adored. (Do not confuse with Kyle, which annoyingly plays in the same slot.)

Neptune, midnight. The replacement midnighter is End of the Line (on the SIFF Notes grid but not the Seattle Times guide; don't be confused), which is a Canadian horror film set on a subway. Excellent.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Crafty Work: A Chat With Bülent Akinci

posted by on June 15 at 3:56 PM


One of my favorite films at this year's festival was Running on Empty. Bülent Akinci's striking debut walks a fine line between existential dread and mordant comedy. The film is beautifully shot and inventively structured, but style never overshadows substance. There's French chanson, a surprisingly erotic shower scene (the woman is fully clothed, which somehow makes it sexier)—even some dancing. Yet Running on Empty is not—thank God—quirky. It's a noirish picture about a salesman at the end of his tether.

Though the Berlin-based writer/director rejects the term "road movie," Burkhard Wagner (Requiem's Jens Harzer) spends the entire film trolling the Autobahn. At night. From the start, it's clear something is seriously wrong with this wiry fellow with the crazy laugh, but he has a knack at this selling thing. Wagner's plan is to off-load his insurance policies, then return to his neglected wife and child. But things aren't quite what they seem, an impression reinforced by the editing, which makes it difficult to distinguish past from present, reality from fantasy. Then again, that's exactly how Wagner perceives the world.

I met up with the soft-spoken filmmaker while he was in town with Running on Empty. Unfortunately, there are no more SIFF screenings and the film doesn't have US distribution. That's a situation that will, with hope, change at some point in the future. One way or the other, I'm certain you'll be hearing from Akinci and Harzer again. The director was accompanied by a translator, but provided most of his answers in English. Here are a few excerpts from our conversation.


How did you end up in Germany?

Because of my parents. My mother came to Germany in order to work, so after six months, she took me also.

When was this?

In the 1970s. [Akinci was born in Ankara in 1967.]

Continue reading "Crafty Work: A Chat With Bülent Akinci" »

Some SIFF Advice

posted by on June 15 at 2:43 PM

I was complaining to Annie about a SIFF movie I saw last weekend, Children of War, a documentary about the MS-13 gang. And she said: "Slog about it because it's playing again this weekend!" [Harvard Exit, Saturday at 4pm].


Based on our reviews, I had circled a slew of movies at the beginning of the festival, including Children of War. The review mentioned Ronald Reagan and El Salvador, and so I was sucked into my teenage protest past and ran out to see the movie.

Gong! All context and no substance.

The context is that Ronald Reagan's war in El Salvador was bad—and combined with our follow-up conservative deportation policy, the U.S. government created the MS-13 problem. That's the context. And I believe it, I guess. But it's hardly enough to carry a whole movie.

The only other thing we get is gang members, including the founders, talking about how they joined the gang to fit in and have a sense of community. What a stunning revelation! We also get some FBI guys saying we must stop this gang.

Problem is, the movie (scared to give any credence to the FBI POV, I guess) and content to linger in the analysis that the gang is merely a side effect of Reagan policies (and let's be indignant about that), we don't learn a damn thing about the gang.

Seriously. Not a thing. Do they run drugs? Do they run prostitution rings? Do they run extortion, protection, and blackmail rackets? What makes them a "gang." What kind of documentary is this?

The movie does talk about the time some MS-13 members shot up a school bus of kids, but there's absolutely no context on that.

If it was the filmmaker's intention to make me feel sympathetic to these gang members and bitter about American policy, it would help to paint a richer picture—even if it's unflattering to the gang—so, I could wrestle with the story myself. This movie told me what to think and then had a lot of gang members saying the same thing for two hours.

Unwittingly highlighting this lack of substance, the movie is divided into sections (a title card, "Origins," for example, announces each section). Every time that happened, I'd think, "Cool, maybe this movie's gonna start now." But alas, a minute into every new chapter, I'd find myself asking, "How is this section any different from the preceding one?" The answer is: It wasn't. More gang members talking about the need to fit in. And more narration about Ronald Reagan.

SIFF 2007: Friday Highlights

posted by on June 15 at 12:00 PM

Twenty-one days down, three to go! It seems my capsule review of Cthulhu is drawing consternation from some quarters. To clarify: "recommended" means "worth seeing at SIFF." Not: "You might as well eviscerate yourself and bleed to death on the dirty sidewalk if you can't get tickets to this film." (That's "Don't Miss!", naturally.) Reviewing local films is more political than reviewing theater, I swear. So who saw Cthulhu last night? It's all gloriously anonymous down in the comments.

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in the festival continue below and at


Pacific Place, 2 pm. We weren't able to review Iska's Journey, but the Variety review is encouraging. (And by "encouraging," I mean, "In her dirt-poor village in the Zsil River valley, Iska works in terrible conditions scavenging metal, coal and anything else of value from the rubble. When she returns home penniless after daring to dicker with a buyer, her resourcefulness is rewarded with a sound beating.")

Harvard Exit, 4:30 pm. Miss Gulag is a smartly executed doc about a beauty pageant at a brutal Russian prison camp.

Miss Gulag

"Emerging Master" Rafi Pitts is in town, though I'm not sure if he'll be introducing his 1997 movie Season Five (Pacific Place, 4:30 pm). He will introduce It's Winter (Pacific Place at 7 pm), a film with risqué (for an Iranian film) intimations of extramarital shenanigans.

Another interesting option in the 7 pm slot is a work-in-progress peek at Sweet Crude (Neptune, 7 pm), which is being produced by the fine people at Verité Coffee. The film is a doc about oil and volatile politics in the Niger Delta. And if you've always wanted to accost Winona Ryder, she's in town to promote the world premiere of the feminist revenge tale Sex and Death 101 (Egyptian, 6:30 pm), directed by Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters.

Sex and Death

Neptune, 10 pm. It's already out at Scarecrow, but Confession of Pain, from the directing team responsible for Infernal Affairs, should probably be seen on the big screen. Little Book of Revenge (Pacific Place, 9:30 pm) might be worth a look too. It's the U.S. premiere of a Quebecois black comedy.

Skip the midnight show and get rested for the penultimate day of the festival.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

An Educated Guess

posted by on June 14 at 1:21 PM

I kind of think the Secret Festival screening this weekend will be Michael Moore's Sicko.

SIFF 2007: Thursday Highlights

posted by on June 14 at 11:24 AM

A bunch of new reviews went up yesterday. Two very bad movies (of course I had to see them): The Neve-Campbell-gets-naked-and-it's-still-pointless I Really Hate My Job and the ugly, boring La León. Does anyone know Argentinian slang? The Spanish word for "lion" is masculine; the ferry in the movie is called "El León." My best guess as to why the movie is called "La" instead is that it's some kind of gay slur? Affectionate gay slur?

Plus, one okay movie: Steve Buscemi's Interview, reviewed by Bradley Steinbacher. And one excellent movie: The freaky-kid horror feature Joshua (not to be confused with Kyle, which is also in the festival this weekend), reviewed by Andrew Wright.

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in the festival continue below and at


The early matinee--dull French triangulation d'amour--is no good. Stay at work, buddy.

4 pm, Neptune. Falkenberg Farewell is where it's at. Prudish gays and adventurous art lovers should also enjoy Black, White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (Egyptian, 4:15 pm).

6:30 pm, Neptune. Assuming you don't live on the Eastside (where Joshua is playing at Lincoln Square, 6:30 pm), it's time to witness the mostly incomprehensible yet nonetheless entertaining Cthulhu, by former Seattle City Council candidate Grant Cogswell and former inmate in a Czechoslovakian prison Dan Gildark (no, seriously; a press release is after the jump). Some reediting has occurred since I saw the film for review, so feel free to take the capsule with a sprinkling of sugar.

The Cthulhu netshed: best part of the movie

Neptune, 10 pm. If you've been there all night, you might as well stick around for Blood on the Flat Track, a very Seattle Channel doc about the Rat City Rollergirls. Pretty good if you aren't expecting genius. (Note: I saw this one in its rough cut too.) The audience should be raucous.

Now for the curious tale of Cthulhu director Dan Gildark, as recounted in a press release.

Continue reading "SIFF 2007: Thursday Highlights" »

Man of One Face, Many Personalities

posted by on June 14 at 11:00 AM

There's something sweet about him...
yet he can project danger and insanity.

-- David Chase, The Sopranos


Not too surprisingly, Steve Buscemi is all over YouTube.
See below for a couple of choice clips from his diverse career
as an actor (Parting Glances, Mystery Train, Fargo, etc.).
Interview, his English-language remake of Theo Van Gogh's
Dutch original, represents his fourth directorial effort after
Trees Lounge, Animal Factory, and Lonesome Jim.

[As for the Chase quote. Not only did Buscemi play the doomed
Tony Blundetto, he directed four episodes of The Sopranos,
including "Pine Barrens," for which he received an Emmy Award.]

I realize I've left out a ton of titles, including those, um, Michael
Bay blockbusters, the animation efforts, and the early TV appearances (Miami Vice, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Tales
From the Crypt
, etc.), but everyone's bound to have their favorites.


Take Tom DiCillo's Living in Oblivion, for instance [above,
pictured with James LeGros and Catherine Keener]. Buscemi's beleagured director represents one of his best loved performances. And he's even better as a neurotic paparazzo in DiCillo's Delirious, which plays almost like a companion piece. I particularly enjoyed
his Odd Couple rapport with Michael Pitt's aspiring actor.

But that is now, this was then...and here's a scene from
Reservoir Dogs (warning: anti-Semitic content!):

Continue reading "Man of One Face, Many Personalities" »

Cthonically Speaking…

posted by on June 14 at 10:45 AM

Ahh. The sweet, sad sunset of SIFF! And so it’s begun. Tragic. Like waking up from a warm and wonderful dream to a cold and ugly woman. The movies all go away. The booze dries up. The parties pitter out. Life plods on.

But no chunky chicks have sung quite yet (as far as I know), so we all still have a few glorious days left to snatch what SIFFiness we can. And tonight, for me, it’s Cthulhu!

As David has already explained below, Cthulhu is happening this very evening at the Neptune Theater (6:30 sharp!), and Eric has already informed ya’ll about the big Chthulhu party afterwards. (They both forgot to mention that I’m in the damn thing, but since I’m just an extra, I’ll forgive. But I’m an awesome extra. The fucking king, yo.)

But Cthulhu isn’t the only option for those whose tastes run to the dark and peculiar, as do mine. There is also One Day Like Rain, which is screening at Harvard Exit tomorrow night and defies synopsis. The SIFF catalogue gives it a valiant attempt, however, and calls the film, "A pleasantly confounding, dreamlike combination of Donnie Darko and Ghost World, with a little bit of Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure." Indeed? I watched the film's awesome trailer six hundred million times and have come to two conclusions: something about this movie seems to capture me, and I can’t even begin to figure out what the hell is going on. So I asked the writer/director, Paul Todisco, and this is what he told me:

How did this movie happen? And WHAT is it ABOUT??

This story just kind of poured out of me during a couple weeks in June in 2005. It had been brewing in my head, though, in some form or another for ten years. It was birthed from a decade of metaphysical readings and mystical studies and practices...I pursued those things because I was compelled to and was fascinated by them. I knew a movie (or several movies) was going to come out of it somehow, but I didn't know what. I don't think I really knew what it was going to be even when I sat down to write. But there it was, a story about teenage girls, suburbia, and elevating consciousness. All the elements I'm familiar with were there - I grew up in a suburban neighborhood - North Syracuse, New York - and understood the angst that can result from childhood years in such a place. Alchemy, metaphysics, and the evolution of consciousness were also major themes. And I guided the story along, of course, as it unfolded. Many things that I had always wanted to put in a film found a place in this story. It was like putting puzzle pieces together - I had the pieces all ready...they had been ready for years. I think my subconscious just pieced them all together for me.

Which of the characters do you personally identify with?

Definitely Gina. Gina has a unique way of seeing the world; she has a clarity of vision. She is both obsessively inspired by and burdened by the responsibility of this vision.

Additionally, there is a bit of me in every character. I think it's impossible to write anyone (that is, to make them a believable character) without identifying at least a bit with some element of them.

Does "One Day Like Rain" have any connections with your earlier work?

Although it's quite a big departure from my first feature, which was mostly two guys talking, was very character-driven, and was about the inter-personal relationships between people, this movie is very visual, and is about transpersonal relationships, meaning, the relationship between a person and the cosmos - or the soul. It's very unique in that way, and a huge challenge. But there are still connections between the two films. They are both about suburban malaise; and in a way, David Keenen (main character in "Freak Talks About Sex") struggled with a lot of internal dilemmas and ultimately, I believe, experienced a shift in consciousness. So the themes that were just barely being birthed in "Freak..." are now the forefront of the entire film in "One Day Like Rain." And there are stylistic similarities. I shot both films with the same visual style. I just had much more visual, non-dialogue scenes in "One Day Like Rain."

Before I made "Freak..." I made a conscious pact with myself that I would make a film that avoided any "cheese." My goal was realism, and to get natural performances, yet to still direct it carefully and with beauty. I am pleased with the outcome of "Freak...", and with "One Day Like Rain" was ready to layer on the next step, which was to try to put more of the text into the visuals themselves, to tell the story visually and stylistically, to make the film less realistic and more atmospheric, more surreal, and more of a visceral experience. This is a bigger challenge and I knew creatively that I had to have a film like "Freak..." behind me before attempting this territory. Of course, there is still a long way to go with future films...

What's your favorite thing about this film?

I love most of all that it is a visual journey and, hopefully, a kind of transcendental experience. I want it to transport the viewer into a new way of looking at things; everyday things that may be very familiar to us. And I love that it is the kind of movie that reveals more to the viewer the more a viewer thinks about it or the more times he/she watches it. These are the kinds of movies I love, and I really think "One Day Like Rain" is rich enough to offer this as well.

People bring themselves to this film. Every interpretation is different, but within specific parameters. I tried to find the right balance between mystery and message.

Well, I'm still confused. But I'm eager to riddle it all out.


Cthulhu Premiere Tonight

posted by on June 14 at 9:13 AM


Tonight Seattle audiences can finally get a look at Dan Gildark and Grant Cogswell's Cthulhu, the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired, gay-themed, set-in-Astoria crypto-zombie thriller, which has its official world premiere at the Neptune this evening.

Cogswell's a friend, which is why I attended an early screening of Cthulhu, and I really dug it. As that aggresively hyphenated description above suggests, the film is twisty and mysterious and I'm happy to report that it's all very confidently executed and quite spellbinding. Yes, Tori Spelling plays a supporting role, and she's fine, but if we're going to name-check participants beyond Gildark and Cogswell, it should be cinematographer Sean Kirby, the acclaimed shooter of Zoo who does equally lovely work here.

See the trailer and buy tickets for Cthulhu's two SIFF screenings (one tonight, one Sunday afternoon) at the film's glamorous official website.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SIFF 2007: Wednesday Highlights

posted by on June 13 at 10:43 AM

The Stranger's recommendation for every slot in the festival continue below and at Does it seem to anyone else as though the quality of the films is flagging in the last stretch?


Pacific Place, 2 pm. Start off with the pleasantly morose doc Out of Time, about old-timey Viennese businesses that have outstayed the interest of their clients. (Except the middle-aged butcher. Everybody loves the butcher, but the cheeky bugger wants to retire to the countryside.)

SIFF Cinema, 4 pm. OK, I recommended it yesterday, but who can resist another still from the wack Indonesian musical Opera Jawa?


The Hungarian generation-gap drama Fresh Air (Neptune, 4 pm), which we weren't able to review, also looks good. Here's the Variety writeup.

SIFF Cinema, 7:30 pm. This one should be good. Anthony Asquith's A Cottage on Dartmoor is a proto-noir from 1929 concerning a barber, a manicurist, and a love triangle. Introduced by self-styled "czar of noir" Eddie Muller.

The late evening slot is tough. Oh La La! is silly (and should probably have been called Augustin Puts on a Show, so as not to mislead the easily titillated), Vitus is a dumb movie about a precocious child, Several People, Little Time is a (very badly titled) Polish movie about a cranky poet. Then there's a dubious shorts program. I suppose I'd probably go with How Is Your Fish Today? (Harvard Exit, 9:30 pm), from China.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance

posted by on June 12 at 4:06 PM

And we would go on as though nothing was wrong.
And hide from these days we remained all alone.
Staying in the same place, just staying out the time.
Touching from a distance, further all the time.

-- Joy Division, "Transmission" (1981)


The four music-related films I was most looking forward to seeing
at this year's SIFF are This Is England and Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, and Control. The first three have already played. The fourth, Anton Corbijn's critically acclaimed Ian Curtis bio-pic (based on Deborah Curtis's Touching From a Distance), wasn't part of the 2007 line-up.

I guess I shouldn't feel too bad. A friend waited in line for an hour at Cannes last month and wasn't able to get in. Fortunately, the trailer—in English with French subtitles—has just been posted to YouTube:

American release dates haven't yet been announced for
The Future Is Unwritten, 30 Century Man (which was
just picked up for US distribution), and Control, but you
can now sign up for updates regarding the latter

Interestingly, Sam Riley, who plays Curtis, appeared as Mark E. Smith in Michael Winterbottom's 24-Hour Party People (Sean Harris assumed the Curtis role—and did a great job, too). This Is England opens in limited release on 7/25. Also, don't miss the rousing concert documentary Gypsy Caravan, which opens at the Varsity on 7/20.

Click here for more information about Control (at my site).