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.

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.

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!

Yet More Words on Marriage Equality

Marriage is, at its core, a social contract. Two adults pledge to be responsible for each other. If they want to add a spiritual or religious element to it, they have the freedom to do so.

If marriage were purely a faith-based institution, the federal and state governments would have no legal basis for enacting any laws relating to marriage. Adults would only be able to file taxes as individuals – at most their spouses would be dependents (a whole other can of worms). Spouses would be obliged to testify against each other (maybe that’s just a TV thing). There would be no divorce – good luck getting your records after the split.

On June 6, will it be legal for all consenting adults to marry each other, regardless of gender, or will there be enough religious fanatics in Washington to force the issue to a popular vote? We’ll just have to wait and see.

My Next Great Idea: Returnable Shampoo Bottles

I’ve been thinking lately about water bottles (who isn’t?) and it led me to thinking about shampoo bottles. The average American surely goes through much fewer in a year than the evil store-bought water bottle, but we still must go through quite a few. So I got an idea. There could be a little return receptacle at the grocery store/pharmacy where consumers can place their empties while picking up their new bottle. When the distributor comes to refill the shelf, they take the empties back to the distribution center, and then they make their way back in bulk to the manufacturer. There they get washed and stuff, and then refilled. If the bottles now are not in a reusable state, they may need a redesign, or maybe they just need to be melted and reformed, I don’t know.

I’d like to start a pilot program with a smaller company – I was thinking Giovanni since I use their product – and see how it goes. It may be an idea that fails miserably, but it may be the start of something much bigger.

Sensational View! *sizzle*

Last night I had the opportunity to see Tabloid, which is currently in limited release in the US. Primarily an interview of Joyce McKinney after the fact, the film shows what can be accomplished if one completely disregards the thoughts and opinions of others and acts accordingly. Ms. McKinney almost literally goes by the beat of her own drummer and got into a bit of trouble because of that, back in the 1970s. She followed her one true love to England where she ultimately was to stand trial for kidnapping said true love. Much happened – or didn’t happen, depending on who’s telling – before and after the alleged kidnapping, which is revealed bit by bit as the film goes on. Delusional or completely truthful, McKinney is a unique individual who managed to give a small group of people quite a wild ride. A bit odd at times, there were moments which caused me to laugh out loud. The story is ridiculous in the best sense of the word.

SIFF 2011 Day 11: And So It Ends

My final day at SIFF was one of annoyance and melancholy.
After a morning of Vampire Diaries on DVD, I headed over to SIFF Cinema (conveniently located!) for Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians. I watched this film mainly because a friend of mine would be referenced in it. As it turns out, Benjamin had quite a bit more screen time than I had anticipated, and I was surprised and delighted to see his wife, also my friend, Megan on-screen as well. (It really should not be a surprise to see Megan on the silver screen, and if you have spent ten minutes with her, you’d know why.) It is really difficult for me to write objectively about this film for the very fact that it’s about self-proclaimed Christians. The film follows a team of blackjack players made up of primarily pastors and other “devout” Christians. I use the capital C to emphasize that the appellate is more name than description. The only player that seemed a true christian to me was Mark, the pastor who quit because he could no longer correlate his spiritual life with his casino life. The filmmaker of Holy Rollers was on hand for a Q&A but I felt my mind would burst if I had to listen to more of the claptrap. So I left during the credits and headed to Pacific Place for my final film.
The evening ended with a sorrowful Belgium film called Illégal. A single mother of one has made her way in Belgium as a cleaner for nearly ten years when she is randomly spotted by police and detained for lack of papers. Not wanting to be deported back to Russia, she hides her identity from authorities while waiting out her time at a detention center. She suffers while also bonding with fellow detainees. A guard at the center empathizes with the foreigners although she needs the job to support her own family. Events reach a cresendo at the center, bringing the guard to a turning point and bringing a sincere tear to my eye. Illégal is available on DVD and will be on Netflix Instant Watching in July.

SIFF 2011 Day 10: Crop circles, or Corpsicles?

Friday night found me again at the Harvard Exit for All Your Dead Ones (Todos Tus Muertos), a sort of social commentary out of Colombia. A farmer finds a pile of dead bodies in his corn field on election day. The tempo was a little off in my opinion (surprising, then, that action junkie Toni liked it), but there were some nice, comic moments. I expected more activity from the dead – I know, that’s a peculiar thing to say, but I think you’ll get what I’m saying if you read any reviews. One of the actors was in the house for the screening and was able to shed some light on the political landscape of Colombia which made the film, for me, much more understandable and enjoyable. (I was also impressed with myself for how much of his spoken Spanish I was able to understand.) I didn’t really understand the reason for bookending the film with scenes of the farmer having sex with his wife, but I suppose in retrospect it was a way of “grounding” the story in the reality of the day which was, in it’s own weird way, supernatural. I don’t expect All Your Dead Ones to have a US theatrical release, so look for it on DVD.