SIFF 2017: One Year Later

I surprised myself the other day when I discovered that I had not, in fact, written about my screenings at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). I can really only attribute it to laziness. Maybe I thought, “no one actually reads these, anyway, so why bother?” I’ll tell you why. Even if no one else reads them, I have referred to past write-ups on several occasions, especially when recommending a film to someone for which I cannot remember its title. And so, on the eve of the next festival season, I shall endeavor to recall last year. At the very least, I shall make a list.

The Wedding Party
Screening : 5/20/2017 5:30 PM
Venue : SIFF Cinema Uptown
We started off with a Nigerian rom-com about two families clashing on, well, the day of a wedding. It’s kind of a classic old money vs. new money send up with lots of side stories to keep the action going throughout the film. According to the IMDb trivia, it is either the highest or second-highest grossing film in Nigeria. Its sequel takes the other spot.

Brigsby Bear
Screening : 5/20/2017 8:30 PM
Venue : SIFF Cinema Uptown
I really liked this one. It’s weird and quirky, but heartwarming, too. It’s probably available on one of the streaming services.

The Trip to Spain
Screening : 5/21/2017 11:00 AM
Venue : SIFF Cinema Uptown
Having seen the first two “Trip” films and the series, I couldn’t not see this one as well. The UK series and the first Trip to Italy were really the best of this group, but who can resist those landscapes and Rob Brydon? Ouch! What about Steve Coogan? Gotta love the Coog, but his character here has taken a nasty turn, and he makes it a little difficult to watch.

Weirdos
Screening : 5/27/2017 4:15 PM
Venue : AMC Pacific Place 11
I had to look this one up to remember what it was about. It’s a coming-of-age road movie set in mid-1970s Nova Scotia, which is mostly OK. However, I was really annoyed at Molly Parker’s “crazy mom” character. (The first listing under Plot Keywords on IMDb is “mentally unstable woman”.) I’m no psychologist, of course, but she didn’t seem to have a specific malady, except that generic “crazy” act. At first she just seemed like a flighty artist type. She had a couple mood swings before becoming a bit paranoid, then just shut herself up sobbing. Anyway, it was a year ago, so I don’t remember details, but it felt to me like the director told Ms. Parker, “act crazy” rather than, say, “act Borderline Personality Disorder” or whatever. (“your character has cancer.” “oh, is it skin cancer? leukemia? pancreatic? lung?” “just cancer. play cancer, and make it real tragic.”)

The Little Hours
Screening : 5/28/2017 12:30 PM
Venue : SIFF Cinema Uptown
This didn’t seem to get the attention I thought it would. Hilarious sexcapades set in a Middle Ages convent. What’s not to love? Writer/Director Jeff Baena and actor Aubrey Plaza were on hand for a Q&A after (I think they’re, like, together).

Angry Inuk
Screening : 5/29/2017 11:30 AM
Venue : SIFF Cinema Uptown
Documentary centered on seal hunting by the Inuit and how that way of life is being threatened by legislation and popular attitudes in North America and the European Union.

7 Minutes
Screening : 6/3/2017 12:00 PM
Venue : SIFF Cinema Uptown
A tense Italian film set mostly in an employee breakroom of a textile factory where the union reps are discussing whether they should give up seven minutes of their break times. Seems like such a simple question with a simple answer, but if you start thinking about the implications, or watch these women do so, you’ll see it’s really not simple at all.

Kati Kati
Screening : 6/4/2017 6:00 PM
Venue : Ark Lodge Cinemas
My first time at the Ark Lodge Cinemas. If I weren’t so stuck in my two-mile radius (inertia), I would go to this theater more often. It’s the type of neighborhood establishment we should be preserving and patronizing. The film was good, too. Made and set in Kenya, it is about a group of people who are transitioning from living to the dead. That is to say, they are dead, but they are not quite ready to let go for one reason or another.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Screening : 6/10/2017 3:45 PM
Venue : SIFF Cinema Egyptian
If you need a good cry, or would like to step outside your bubble of privilege, check this one out. Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender activist in the Stonewall era of New York who died under suspicious circumstances in the early 1990s. While she’s the focus of the film, it is just as much about the people who survived her and live in the aftermath, sometimes good, and a heck of a lot bad. We all want to be loved and understood and accepted, but it alludes some people, or comes at a really steep price. And in some cases, justice may never be served.

Albüm
Screening : 6/11/2017 4:15 PM
Venue : AMC Pacific Place 11
This Turkish film explores adoption and family dynamics. A couple decides to expand their family by having a child, for seemingly no other reason than it is expected of married people. In order to do so, they must adopt, but they are not willing to admit this fact and go to all sorts of extremes to hide it. This is a very dry, black comedy. I think that some films are better understood in their own country, and perhaps one could say that about this film. Apparently the woman who plays the wife is pretty famous in Turkey, so I feel like this movie would have a relatively universal appeal there. Here it is pretty uncomfortable.

So there you have it, folks. (or, just me) I have summarized my 2017 SIFF intake. I have made pains to make it easier for me to post on this blog, so I do plan on staying on task for this year’s festival. My first film is less than four days away!

SIFF 2016: Day Ten, The End

The last day of the festival was also our last day of festival, and we found ourselves once again at the Uptown. The awards had been given out that morning, and we were in line to see the big winner, Captain Fantastic. It had a couple advantages – one, the star, Viggo Mortensen was a spotlight guest of this year’s festival, and two, the film was in large part made in the Pacific Northwest. Even without the advantages, Captain Fantastic has a lot going for it. An off beat family, raising themselves (dad included) in the wilderness of the lush PacNW, is forced to reconcile themselves with the real world. It’s funny and sad, and all around well-written. It was a hit at Cannes, and will be released in theatres in July. I’m pretty sure it will do decently well.

In case you’re interested, my favorite of this festival has got to be The Brand New Testament (Day Eight), tied with Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Day Seven). A very close second is Girl Asleep (Day Three). Check them out if you can.

If you are reading this in time, do check out some of the “Best of SIFF 2016” screenings this weekend. They will be replaying some of the films we saw, as well as quite a few others. Hurry, before they’re gone!

SIFF 2016: Day Nine

The festival is winding down, and for our penultimate screening we find ourselves returning to the Uptown for the world premiere of Middle Man, starring Jim O’Heir. Mr. O’Heir was in attendance, along with writer-director Ned Crowley, and actors Anne Dudek and Andrew J. West (they brought gifts for the audience!). The framework for the story is a familiar one, this time involving a CPA who decides to pursue his dream of being a stand-up comedian and the mysterious hitchhiker he picks up on the way to Las Vegas. They get stuck in a kind of time warp, like those dreams where you’re running but don’t actually get anywhere. They are so close to Vegas, but can’t seem to get out of a town called Lamb Bone and its quirky residents. A black comedy, there are some moments of gore. My favorite character turned out to be the troubadour TQ, who sang a song and dressed a bit like Chris Isaak.

This film fails the Bechdel Test. And while I don’t know that it would have benefited from passing, it does have the overall feeling of a dude pic, even if those dudes are middle-aged (or older?). The few women there are in the film, however, are pretty much treated the same as the men, so there is that. No spoilers!

SIFF 2016: Day Eight

After a quick trip to Capitol Hill for the fourth and final time of the weekend, we headed to the Uptown for The Brand New Testament. I had high hopes for this one, as it stars Benoît Poelvoorde (as “Dieu”) of Man Bites Dog fame. It’s a silly thing. I’ve rolled my eyes at people clambering to Audrey Tatou films, as if a good actor cannot be in a bad movie, or just their presence will make any film worthwhile, and here I am deciding to see a film in large part because of one of its stars. Regardless, I was not disappointed. The premise is that God has a tweenage daughter who decides to rebel against grumpy ol’ dad. With the encouragement of the spirit of her brother, JC, Ea sets out into the real world to shake things up. The real star is, of course, Ea (Pili Groyne) who starts on her path of reckoning by texting everyone with a mobile a countdown to their individual deaths. There are some strong reactions to this information, and some lives are changed irrevocably.

To be clear, The Brand New Testament is a comedy. A really great one. I’m not sure if it will get a theatrical release in the US, but I would guess it will find its way onto Netflix eventually.

After some discussion, we have concluded that this film most likely passes the Bechdel Test.

SIFF 2016: Day Seven

Back in Capitol Hill for the second time in one day (haircut!), and the third time of the weekend (I went back a fourth time Sunday for non-cinema-related business), we had the delight of watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople at the Egyptian. From the guy who brought us Eagle vs Shark, this was a fun trip through the bush of New Zealand. A city boy, in need of fostering, with gangster ambitions gets placed with a couple on a farm. Things go well at first, then the boy, already prone to running away, is given a big reason to make himself scarce. He’s teamed up with gristly Sam Neill for an adventure in the wilderness. A favorite of the festival, sometimes the audience laughter blocked out subsequent lines (jokes?).

Wowee, forget the story – New Zealand is an awesome bit of topography! There were some really great aerial shots and sweeping vistas that make Annabel Langbein‘s show pale in comparison. But, seriously, except for one excruciating scene of harsh nature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a very enjoyable film. It will be showing in some theaters later this month. Does not pass the Bechdel Test.

After the movie, we wandered over to Molly Moon’s to get some ice cream before they closed for the night at eleven. The weather was perfect for it, and the swiftly moving line was well out the door. We’re not quite there yet, but summer nights in Seattle can really be downright pleasant.

SIFF 2016: Day Six

One byproduct of the film festival is that I spend way more time in Capitol Hill than usual. We made the trek on Friday, joined by a third wheel – I mean, friend, to the Egyptian for Burn Burn Burn. Like My Blind Brother, this was a first-time directorial effort by a British woman. And while they shared some themes (such as survivor guilt), they couldn’t be more different, especially in terms of tone and setting. In Burn Burn Burn, two friends set out across Great Britain, scattering the ashes of their recently deceased best friend. They are young, so the death is a tragedy, and the trip forces the women to deal with things they wouldn’t have otherwise. There were moments of hilarity, and plenty of heavy times, too. Well worth the effort, and passes the Bechdel Test.

Afterward, we had a nice dinner at Via Tribunali, where I discovered that I prefer the Fremont location. No surprise there.

I’m really kidding about the third wheel comment, by the way, in case anyone was worried.

SIFF 2016: Day Five

Thank goodness for national holidays. No work, and we get to see another movie! This time it was Contemporary Color at the Egyptian. David Byrne spearheaded an event where ten high school color guard teams were teamed up with ten composers for a grand exhibition. Each musician composed a new song for their team and performed it live while the team performed their routine.

I find it extremely heartwarming when high school kids get opportunities such as these. Color guard teams are not the superstars of high school. From what I remember, it was made up with people who could not make the cheerleaders, or who wanted to be in band but had no instrument. But here they are getting to be in a huge arena (Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre) with thousands of audience members, some for the last time in their high school careers. It was televised, apparently, on a local broadcast, and now it’s made into a film. That’s got to feel amazing.

I ground my coffee by hand this morning. No mishaps.