SIFF 2019: Let’s Hop On Over to Europe

Sunday morning we mosey down to Pacific Place to see Swedish kids’ movie Sune vs. Sune. A funny little adventure involving one fourth-grade boy named Sune, a new boy in school named Sune, a girl they both like, their parents and teachers, and other kids in and out of school. For what it was, it was quite enoyable – funny and well-paced. And although it’s not necessary to know the back story of old Sune, what we did find out after is that Sune is quite a well-known character in Sweden. He came to being for a local radio program back in the 80s and subsequently developed quite a following. This is like the fifth feature film about Sune and his family. There was also an animated tv program and many books published relating his tales. We found the tv show on youtube, and since it is very much a Swedish phenomenon, with no English subtitles. I think the filmmakers really found a confluence of universal appeal with Sune vs. Sune, so I don’t know if I’ll be running out and watching the other films, even if I could find them. (Though I might try to read a book in my pursuit of learning the Swedish language.)

Later, we got to Shoreline Community College a little early and took a little stroll around campus. If it weren’t for being in Shoreline (Seattle elistist am I), it was be a pretty cool school to attend. Very much in the woods, with lots of nature all around. Of course, my allergies would kill me, too, if I spent too much time there, but I’m sure some people would love it – and do! We were there for Palace for the People, a documentary depicting Soviet-era palaces, their history and original purpose, and their current states. Five were featured, in Moscow, Sofia, Bucharest, Belgrade, and Berlin. They were/are grand contructions of public use buildings, meant to show the people how good life is under Communist rule. All but the Berlin Palace of the Republic are still standing and in use. The film itself is maybe lacking a bit in narrative, it is after all made by a couple of photographers, but the subject itself I find immensely fascinating (immense like the buildings themselves!).

SIFF 2019: Uptown House 2, Times 2

Saturday was a perfect day for watching movies, dark and rainy. We got a little gardening done, and after trying Little Big Burger (Field Roast version) we headed back to the Uptown. (I will admit now that I started writing this probably the very Sunday following this Saturday I’m describing, but then I had some technical issues and just gave up. It is now nearly three weeks later, and I’m finally finishing this.)

OK, so first film was Sgaawaay K’uuna, or Edge of the Knife, the first film performed in the rare Haida language. You can look it up on Wikipedia and learn that only a couple dozen people still speak this language. A small tribe is gathering for their annual fishing party, in preparation for the winter, where we see that one of the tribespeople, Adiits’ii, is not completly respectful of tradition, and subsequently suffers the consequences. Eventually the whole tribe suffers, of course, but Adiits’ii really suffers the most, one might argue, as not only did he accidentally cause the death of his beloved nephew, but is also taken over by demons in the woods. Perhaps I had low expectations, thinking it might be hokey or exploitative, but it was neither of those, and ended up being one of our faves of this festival.

After a little jaunt to the KEXP Gathering Space, it was back to the Uptown for Frances Ferguson. A quirky little tale of a young, attractive teacher who has an illicit relationship with one of her students. A far extreme from a Lifetime Movie, the story was presented as a low-key, minimalist comedy, complete with voice-over narration from Nick Offerman. The rhythm and pacing of this film was very unusual, which I feel very much contributed to the comedic success, but which also could be off-putting to some. Another highlight. A successful Saturday, indeed.

I neglected to mention last time that the Who Let the Dogs Out documentary was led by a documentary short about a dude who won a drug-crazed weekend with Van Halen from MTV back in the 80s. It was funny seeing how nuts these guys went, and trying to imagine something like that happening now.

SIFF 2019: Don’t Feed Your Dog Chocolate

This was documentary weekend. On Saturday we went to the Uptown for Le Chocolat de H, which sadly didn’t come with samples. Hironobu Tsujiguchi has won best in show at an annual French chocolate contest for six years, and now he’s preparing for the next contest. We follow him as he decides on which Japanese flavors to showcase, and we follow him to Ecuador where he visits the plantation that supplies some of his cacao. It was kind of like a high end episode of Japanese Style Originator without the celebrity panel.

Pacific Place Mall is undergoing a huge renovation, but the theater is still open. Today we went there to see Who Let The Dogs Out, about the origins of the eponymous hit song. Ben Sisto spent ten years on the research which he apparently has been presenting as a live show, and now we get to see it on film, along with quite a few interviews of musicians and producers involved in said history. In some ways, I would say this film is reminiscent of The Search for General Tso (see SIFF 2014: Day Two).

I found both films interesting and enjoyable, even if I can’t get that danged song out of my head.

SIFF 2019: Let’s Open This Can of Worms

Here we are, waiting for the Opening Night Gala to begin. It maybe it already has? How does that work? We’ve shown our tickets, bought our drink, and now we’re sitting in our seats listening to Derek Mazzone “spin” some tunes before the festivities begin.

As usual, the Seattle crowd is an odd mix of dressed up and dressed down. Even me and the B are wearing our nicer duds (but not too nice).

Tonight’s film is Sword of Trust. Will update after.

LATER: It was a late night; this is the morning after. The festival has commenced. Before we could see the film, we heard some speeches and saw a heartfelt tribute to the late Paul Allen.

The film itself was good, mostly light hearted and funny, and the first feature Lynn Shelton has filmed outside of the PacNW. Significantly, it was made in Alabama, which had an interesting effect on the proceedings. The producer would remind is that decisions made by the state government this week don’t necessarily represent the values or beliefs of the majority of people living there. Ms. Shelton, star Marc Maron, the cinematographer, and one other of the filmmakers came on stage afterward for a fun Q&A with Beth Barrett. Maron went on a bit of a rant, but it was quite funny so it was OK.

After that, we headed over to the party at Fisher Pavilion. It was quite loud, and we don’t generally talk to strangers, but we got free ice cream, potato dumplings, and cocktails, so it was worth the slight discomfort of being in a crowd.

Our first regular film is tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled for my all-important updates!

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!

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!