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.

SIFF 2016: Day Four

We headed up to Shoreline Community College to see The Intervention, starring Melanie Lynskey. Writer/director/star Clea Duvall introduced the film and participated in post-show Q&A. Touted a Big Chill of a new generation, it is a great effort for the first-time director. They call it a comedy, but I’d call it more of a drama with comedic moments and elements. I suppose, as most things, it is subjective, as one audience member mentioned that it was the first time they had laughed out loud at a movie in a long time. Laugh or cry, it was good enough that it got bought at Sundance, which means more people will have the opportunity to feel what they’re going to feel.

Does this film pass the Bechdel Test? I think it might, if only for at least one scene where two women are talking about their relationship with each other.

I hope Shoreline has a little more money to invest in a better sound system.

SIFF 2016: Day Three, Twice As Nice

Saturday found us back at the Uptown for two films, before enjoying some aprés film banter and then a birthday party in Ballard.

Up first was a surreal Australian coming-of-age story called Girl Asleep. Set in what could have been the late 1970s or early 1980s, or maybe No Time, our heroine makes the transition from not-girl to almost-woman by transporting to the fantasy world of an old, possibly magical, music box. Fun to watch eye candy, there is nothing new as far as the general plot and “moral” of the story go, but overall quite a nice film. Even nicer, it was sponspored by Snoqualmie Ice Cream who handed out free samples afterward. (It was preceded by the short film “Driftwood Dustmites” – ten minutes, but I could not wait for it to be over.) I see Girl Asleep has been picked by Oscilloscope, so it should be available for viewing in the near future. Bechdel Test: PASS.

We were joined by a couple friends for Kedi, a documentary about the special relationship cats have with the city of Istanbul. Like Neko Atsume but with real cats (BTW – two dudes sitting in front of us for My Blind Brother immediately each checked their game when the film was over). We are introduced to several cats and the humans who have assumed the role of caretaker for them. The cats have free reign over Istanbul, and they are many. Amazingly, I think the film could have used more cats (just like this paragraph). There were too many shots of the city itself – expansive views of the skyline, overhead shots of the old buildings, shift tilted vistas of the harbor. I get it, it’s not just about the cats.

We headed over to a nearby coffeehouse to discuss, and yet another coffee-related mishap befell me. This time I did not even want coffee, but ordered a peppermint steamer (presumably syrup and steamed milk). I was handed a cappuccino. In a way, it may have been making up for the spilled coffee of the previous day, or maybe the universe is just messing with me.

SIFF 2016: Day Two

On Friday we headed over to Pacific Place for My Blind Brother, the full-length adaptation of a short from 2003. Writer-director Sophie Goodhart was on hand to introduce the film and to participate in a Q&A after the film. A charming and somewhat off-beat romantic comedy, it stars Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, and Adam Scott as the titular brother. It’s a funny tale of sibling rivalry. I’ve had a crush on Mr. Scott for some years now, but by the end of the film I was actually a bit smitten with Mr. Kroll – a very funny guy, but not someone who is usually a love interest.

It has no more screenings at this festival, but I would think at the very least it will be on one of the streaming services before too long. Did not pass the Bechdel Test.

The evening did contain some tragedy, as my barely-sipped-upon cup of coffee took a header onto the floor while I waited in line. Nothing could be done to save it, and it was soaked up by a travel pack of tissues and a couple handfuls of paper towels. It was the second coffee-related misfortune in recent days. The first happened in Portland when I ordered a Mexican Mocha in a drive-thru and was served a latte. At least then I still had a nice cup of coffee.

SIFF 2016: Day One, Here We Go Again

Yes, folks, the Seattle International Film Festival is upon us once again. I have eleven films to see this year, and I am keeping the world up to date on my viewings. We’ve got selections from Australia, Belgium, France, New Zealand, Turkey, and the UK, as well as five from the US. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, one of these years I’ll get a Full Series pass and take off work for the duration of the festival. There are just too many to choose from, and obligations just get in the way.

For the first time, a week of screenings is being held at the Majestic Bay in Ballard. We start our adventure here with Microbe and Gasoline (Microbe et Gasoil), from Michel Gondry. Introduced to us a kid’s movie, I wouldn’t pigeonhole it as such. It is a road movie involving two outcast middle school boys who decide to take their summer break, and their destinies, into their own hands and out into the French countryside. It is whimsical and endearing, with a touch of fantasy. Fun for all ages, but be aware that there are some nude (lewd) drawings shown.

This film fails the Bechdel Test, but it would have been weird if it had passed, considering its titular subject matter. There is another screening on 5/23 at 7pm at the Egyptian, and it will have a week-long run at SIFF Uptown in June or July.

And Then I Did Something Slightly Different

The Seattle Public Library had a flash fiction contest, so I entered it. The aim was to celebrate the late Octavia Butler, a writer I’m sad to have only just learned about, on the anniversary of her death. I wish I would have known about her when I was much younger and more willing to take myself down dark paths.

I was informed that I did not win, so I guess it’s OK for me to “publish” my work now. 

It Was a Cloudy Afternoon

It is Saturday and I’m putting on my shoes. I drag out the process, like a toddler getting ready for bed. When it comes to walking I’m of two minds. Having lived in New York for some years, I’ve walked miles with no complaint. Having lived in Seattle now even longer, I’ve grown lazy and impatient. “Can’t we just drive? It will be faster.” Sometimes I say this out loud. Mostly I keep my whining internal.

Once outside, I forget my struggle. The daffodils have started blooming, the cherry blossoms budding. Small, brown birds are chirping from the bare branches of trees. We can smell food grilling somewhere. There is a thick layer of clouds making the air cool but not cold. The sidewalk is clear and smooth. It’s never as bad as the anticipation.

We’re analyzing the architecture of the houses we pass, marveling at the uniformity in what ostensibly are unique, old buildings. Each facade its own color, windows placed similarly but with varying shapes. We lament the proliferation of new construction, devoid of personality. “Was it really any better fifty, sixty years ago? Back then, each family was packaged in their own little box, the same but different from the one next door. Now the packaging might be uglier, but really the only thing that’s changed is that we’re packed in bulk.”

On the corner waiting for the signal to cross Interlake Avenue, we pat the head of the bronze walrus. “Remember when this whole block was scaffolding?”  We’re startled by a flash of light streaking by overhead. Another whizzes over, then several more. The air fills with static electricity, and I have an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

We continue east on Forty-fifth, not saying anything, but walking with urgency now.  A few more flashes slice through the sky as we pass the Mexican restaurant. The library is on the next block, and we go inside.

A few people have also seen the light show from inside and have gathered near the windows. We join them in the northeast corner, where we can get the widest view. Those who had still been seated when we entered raise their heads one by one. Each one fills in the spaces at the perimeter of the room. Everyone is now pressed up against each other, gaping silently out the windows.

Whirlpools form in the cloud cover, and out of them reach slender black legs. I can see this happening across our entire vista. The closest is not quite overhead, maybe above Ravenna. The spindly legs reach down further from the flashing clouds, followed by glistening black vessels hundreds of feet across.

A whimper breaks the silence. We turn to each other with expectant faces. Someone must know what is happening. In a moment there is a burst of activity. The librarians lock the doors, the lights are turned off, orders are given to be seated among the book stacks. We could be the lucky ones, they say, since the food bank is in the same building. I’m not sure luck has anything to do with it.

The invasion has begun.