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praderwilli
A week and a half after the film festival has ended I've finally decided to complete my mini-reviews for the last two days of SIFF. The delay wasn't exactly unavoidable. However, in my defense, my laptop literally crashed and burned. Okay it didn't literally crash but it did literally burn. It's rather alarming to see smoke coming out of your computer, I can tell you. The electrical burning smell wasn't enjoyable either.

Anyway... back to the fest.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good festival with far fewer parties and only a handful of truly terrible films. The worst thing about the fest is that I had to work so I didn't make it to as many screenings as I generally do. Also, most people had to pay for their drinks at the parties, which is a travesty, I tell ya. A travesty! Thank goodness I was a VIP so I got to drink as much booze as I could tolerate... for FREE! Huzzah!

Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Tennis Shoes (USA) 2008 ***
Poorly made documentary about Garrison Keillor. The director seemed to have no idea how to assemble and edit footage. The film consisted of randomly put together clips of Garrison and Co. working on and performing his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, interviews with Keillor and footage of the doc crew following Garrison around in his daily life.

For me, what made the movie watchable is that I'm a fan of Garrison Keillor and his radio show. I used to listen to it every Saturday but somehow got out of the habit. I have a fond affection for the show and the man that created it. He's charming, funny and he has a beautiful radio voice. So, this movie was not torture to watch.

Days and Clouds (Italy) 2007 **1/2
Boring movie about a couple having financial problems. That was the entire plot. They have bills. They lose their house and they have to work for a living. You know, if I want to experience this all I have to do is live my own life I don't need to go watch a movie about it.

Bottle Shock (USA) 2008 ***
For some bizarre reason SIFF screened the closing night film on Saturday instead of Sunday. The closing night film is about the Judgement of Paris wine tasting in 1976 in which two California wines won the top prizes for whites and reds in a blind taste test. Apparently there's another film being made on the subject that sounds infinitely better and is based on the book written by Steven Spurrier, the British wine merchant who organized the 1976 tasting in Paris.

Bottle Shock follows the story of the winemakers of Chateau Montelena, who created the winning Chardonnay in '76. It is obviously largely fictionalized and focuses on a stupid romantic triangle among the young (and supposed, I guess) "pretty people". I would have rather seen the real story of the California winemakers and the judges in Paris. But no, we get silly Hollywood bullshit instead.

The film was attended by Bill Pullman and Freddy Rodriquez and I think a producer or something. Hey, it was over a week ago and I don't remember. Additional notes: Bill Pullman is still good looking and without a VIP lounge the closing night party was lame. Except for the free drinks. That was good. Bizarrely, Alan Rickman won the audience award for best actor at SIFF. He was the only decent part of Bottle Shock because he is Alan Rickman after all, but... the movie was lame. Whatever.

Secret Festival #4 ***
Straight from a famous film festival, the last entry was pretty good if viewed as a genre film. But it wasn't as good as it should have/could have been. Also, if the filmmaker was going for a "shocking twist" it sadly failed. I figured it out in the first five minutes. I think the director either should have been very clear about what was going on or better at hiding what was going on. The distinctive narrative style was marred by idiocy and/or trying to be too, too clever. If Tarantino had made this movie it would have been great.

Towelhead (USA) 2007 ****
Good adaptation of Alicia Erian's novel of the same name. Directed by Alan Ball of Six Feet Under fame. The plot follows the sexual awakening of a thirteen year old Arab-American living in Texas with her strict father during the Gulf War. Sure we've seen this story before.... about boys. This one is about a girl, which seemed to make some people uncomfortable. I thought it was brilliant with a stunning performance by Summer Bishil as the young girl.

Total Movies seen: 84
Total bags of popcorn consumed: Um... not sure I lost track, must have been about four or five. And one Bagel dog!
Free Booze at closing night party: A glass (well, plastic cup, really) of champagne and two Grey Goose vodka/tonics.

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
Triangle (Hong Kong) 2007 ***
Three great Hong Kong directors collaborated on this film- Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To. The story is a continuous narrative and is told using the exquisite corpse method. The film, perhaps understandably, has a rather complex setup and didn't seem to flow together well. The last 30 minutes filmed by Johnnie To were the best. The look of the film and the cinematography were beautifully done.

Sunrise (USA) 1927 *****
Next we attended a presentation of F.W. Murnau's innovative expressionistic masterpiece, the Academy Award winning Sunrise. It was screened at the Triple Door with live musical accompaniment with an original score written and performed by The Album Leaf. Sunrise remains one of the most visually stunning films and the addition of The Album Leaf's ambient synthesized rock score enhanced the experience tremendously.

Before I Forget (France) 2007 *
This movie was almost unwatchable. Yet we stayed and watched the whole thing. Go figure. Directed by Jacques Nolot who previously made Porn Theater which was also a bad film, but made up for it by being pornographic. Before I Forget follows the life of an aging hustler living with HIV. It is told in long slow shots where nothing happens interspersed with boring conversations of the central character meeting up with other aging gigolos. It really wasn't very good.

At most festival screenings Seattle audiences applaud politely even if the film is mediocre. When this film ended a few people applauded sarcastically in response to which everyone else laughed. It was the most amusing moment at the screening.

Total Movies seen: 79

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
Vice (Russia) 2007 ***
Denis is a successful DJ. He has a beautiful girlfriend. The only thing he doesn't have is money. Rather than letting his rich girlfriend borrow money from Daddy in order to prevent their eviction he gets involved in dealing drugs instead. Things do not go well for him.

This movie has a distinctive if not original look to it, with super saturated colors and an aggressive editing style. It stars, Maxim Matveev as Denis. He bears a striking resemblance to Orlando Bloom and therefore has been dubbed by L. & I as the "bargain basement Orly". This film is certainly watchable but nothing to write home about.

Mysteries of Pittsburgh (USA) 2008 *1/2
Stupid, bad, hateful movie about Art Bechstein, the son of a gangster who has just graduated from college and is hanging out with screwballs during his last summer before he has to begin his adult life with a real job.

The only thing worth watching in this film is Nick Nolte as the schmuck's mobster dad and Mena Suvari as a vapid slut. Unfortunately they only have minor roles. Instead we're forced to follow Art and his friends, Sienna Miller, who cannot act and Peter Sarsgaard, who can act but he's awful in this film. There's only so much you can do with a lousy script. Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber who previously directed Dodgeball. If that's not a ringing endorsement for this film, then I don't know what is.

Alexander Nevsky (Soviet Union) 1938 *****
Then we ended the night with sublime perfection. This film is essentially a thinly veiled propaganda film about Russian hero Alexander Nevsky who defeated the Germans when they invaded Russia in the thirteenth century. Word to the wise: do not attempt to invade Russia- especially in the winter. You will get your ass kicked. Directed by legendary filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein, who manages to raise this film from propaganda to art and tells a pretty good story with great style in the process.

With Alexander Nevsky, Eisenstein created the first cinematic use of editing film to music. He collaborated with famed composer Sergei Prokofiev (Peter & the Wolf), who created the score to accompany the film. SIFF presented Nevsky at Benaroya Hall with live accompaniment of the Prokofiev score by the Seattle Symphony. This event was truly stunning. The moment at the end of the battle when the soldiers lay dead and dying on the battlefield while the soprano walks to center stage and sings a lament for them made my hairs stand on end.

And for anyone who has seen this film... I have one thing to say: The helmets. The helmets are not to be missed.

Total Movies seen: 76

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
The last week of the festival and my mini reviews are haphazard, shorter and less coherent as exhaustion creeps up on me and knocks me on my ass. Sorry!

Em (USA) 2007 *
The worst film of the entire festival- self indulgent drivel with bad camera work. Wow! Sign me up for that torture.

Perfect Match (France) 2007 **
Bad and boring French "romance". The woman is uptight and the man is self pitying, self absorbed, and self centered. Do I care whether or not they get together? No, I do not.

The Girl By the Lake (Italy) 2007 ***
Competently made murder mystery based on a Norwegian novel, Don't Look Back, by Karin Fossum. I liked the detective working the case although I had no interest in his problems with his wife and daughter. This movie was certainly watchable but nothing special.

Total Movies seen: 73

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
Princess of the Sun (France) 2007 ***
Mildly entertaining animated feature about young Prince Tutankhamen. Who knew the ancient Egyptians spoke in perfect French?

Island of Lost Souls (Denmark) 2007 *****
Three plucky kids must face an Evil Necromancer, a menacing scarecrow, ghostly possession and thousands of trapped souls. It's a perfect balance of action, comedy and story. One of the best of the fest. Surely a bad Hollywood remake cannot be far behind.

Stranded: I've Come From a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains (France) 2007 ****
In October 1972, a plane carrying a rugby team from Uruguay crashed in the Andes. Of the original 45 passengers, 16 managed to survive in spite of incredible hardship- snowstorms, cold, avalanches and lack of food. Famously or infamously the survivors resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Thirty-five years later the survivors and their children visit the crash site. In interviews each survivor details the story of their miraculous survival. A fascinating and well done doc.

Total Movies seen: 70

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
Only went to one film yesterday. Having to work during the film festival has destroyed my viewing schedule.

Walt & El Grupo (USA) 2008 ***
In 1941, Walt Disney and a group of artists, animators, musicians and publicists went on a goodwill trip to South America all funded by the US government. They visited Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. When they returned they made two films based on this trip- Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Personally, I am a big fan of Walt Disney so the subject matter was interesting but the film itself was not particularly well done.

I liked the photos and footage from the trip and the interviews with South Americans talking about their memories of Walt Disney was great. The interview with Walt's daughter would have been better if it had been longer. Why was she barely in the doc? I liked the idea of reading the letters to home from "El Grupo" however the decision to have descendants read the letters was not well thought out or well done and it created confusion as to who was writing which letter.

Total Movies seen: 67

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
Secret Festival #3 (Country?) year? **
This week's secret film was originally supposed to play at SIFF as a regular screening but after it was picked up for distribution it was pulled from the fest. Unfortunately, it was not a very good movie. It was in fact quite bad.

The first bad secret festival selection of the year. Ah, good times. If I'd known that it would be crappy I could have gone to Pacific Place to see the last ten minutes of Saturn in Opposition which we unfortunately missed at its first screening due to the fact that the people who run Pac-Place are morons.

Bliss (Turkey) 2007 ****
Thanks steve98052! Because of your recommendation for this film we changed our plans at the last minute in favor of seeing Bliss rather than the Claude Chabrol film playing at Uptown Cinema. This was a lovely movie that would have been a lot harder to see than would an easily accessible French film.

The story concerns a young woman from a small village who is raped. Because she has "sinned" and brought dishonor to the family she must do the right thing by committing suicide. When she fails to kill herself she is sent to Istanbul with a returning soldier who is also son to the village leader. He is instructed to take her away and kill her. Gorgeously shot, good story and the lead actress gave a charming and engaging performance.

Becky Sharp (USA) 1935 *****
Archival presentation of this recently and beautifully restored classic, it was the first feature length film to be made in full (three strip) Technicolor. The story is a very loose (ever so loose) adaptation of the William Thackeray novel Vanity Fair. Vibrant colors and sumptuous costumes fill each frame but the heart of the film is Miriam Hopkins delicious and joyful performance as the conniving yet charming Becky Sharp.

This is one of my all time favorite movies so I've seen it several times. It was wonderful to see it gloriously restored and on the big screen. And on that happy note we went home instead of going to see the Jackie Chan film, The Young Master, as we had originally planned.

Total Movies seen: 66

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
Saturday was a day of mostly bad movies. I was tired and grumpy all day. But why did the midnight movie have to be so good? I could have gone to bed earlier if it was crap.

The Drummer (Hong Kong/Taiwan) 2007 ***1/2
Yesterday we saw a bad movie starring Tom Hanks' son. Today we saw a pretty good movie starring Jackie Chan's son, Jaycee Chan. The story follows Sid, a gangster's son, who is always looking for trouble. He sleeps with the girlfriend of a rival mob boss and must go into hiding. While on the lam in Taiwan he has a life changing experience when he meets a group of Zen drummers.

Lots of beautiful scenery and some really cool drumming. Then there was a dumb shoot out at the end that kind of ruined the movie for me. I wish there had been more drumming instead, because that was really cool.

Half Life (USA) 2008 *
Stupid movie about a dysfunctional family. The young boy in the film quietly wanders around having animation fantasies. This one came off like a student film- i.e. self consciously arty. The director attended the screening but we didn't stick around for the Q&A because we hated the movie.

Derek (UK) 2008 **
Documentary about British filmmaker, Derek Jarman. The old interviews with Derek Jarman were interesting and the clips from his films were nice. But there wasn't any real insight into his life and work and the voiceover narration from Tilda Swinton was annoying as hell.

When Did You Last See Your Father? (UK) 2007 **1/2
Blake (Colin Firth) has an overbearing father (Jim Broadbent). Blake discovers that his father is dying from a terminal illness. The movie goes back and forth between the present and Blake's memories of his childhood. The directing is intrusive and heavy handed and the story is nothing new. The only good thing about the movie is that Colin Firth takes a bath. I liked that scene.

A Secret (France) 2007 ***
The film is set in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. A young Jewish boy living in Paris discovers that his family has a big secret. This one was okay. The second film of the day to feature a complicated father/son relationship. My biggest complaint: a shocking under use of Mathieu Amalric.

Sukiyaki Western Django (Japan) 2007 *****
This new film from the controversial and prolific director, Takeshi Miike, is bright and fun. It's a hyperstylized homage to Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns with nods to Quentin Tarentino's Kill Bill. Tarantino even makes a cameo appearance. The story concerns two feuding clans in Nevada in a town that has struck gold. Filmed entirely in English, I'm pretty sure that Miike utilizes every single Old West cliche known to man kind. This one was a lot of fun.

Total Movies seen: 63
Total bags of Popcorn consumed: Popcorn for dinner brings my total up to three! Popcorn for dinner is so much better than eating one of those awful bagel dogs.

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
This Way Up (France) 2007 **
The filmmaker shot this documentary at Our Lady of Paris, a senior living community in the West Bank, while nearby the wall of separation (built by the israelis to stop suicide bombers from infiltrating country) is being built. Ultimately, the film lacked focus. The director couldn't decide if this was a movie about old people or a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was mostly just boring.

The Great Buck Howard (USA) 2008 **
Bad, bad Hollywood film starring Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks not as good looking, not as talented and charmless son). Colin Hanks plays Troy, a young man who has been pressured into going to law school his whole life by his dad (Tom Hanks in a cameo). Troy hates law school and leaves it to take a job as a personal assistant to mentalist Buck Howard (John Malkovich), who is modeled on The Amazing Kreskin. I didn't care about Troy or the stupid romance. The only thing keeping me awake was John Malkovich's scenery chewing performance. Everytime John Malkovich was on screen at least I wasn't bored.

Saturn in Opposition (Italian) 2007 ****
Beautiful movie ruined by not seeing the last ten minutes. From director Ferzan Ozpetek (Facing Windows, Steam: The Turkish Bath), this film follows a group of tight knit friends living in Roma. They gossip, squabble and support each other through everything. Unexpectedly, they have to come together in tragedy. This movie was gorgeously shot and had a beautiful pace and rhythm to it. On a shallow note, thank god for gay directors because the men in this film are all really good looking.

Then tragedy struck for the audience as well when, with only ten minutes to go, Pacific Place was evacuated for what we learned later was only a drill. Those bastards!

Otto, or Up With Dead People (Germany/Canada) 2008 ****
Gay Zombie Porn from Bruce LaBruce. That's all you need to know really. Either that interests you or it doesn't. Everyone at the midnight screening of this movie seemed to like it. I did too.

Total Movies seen: 57

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

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praderwilli
Very tired and a day behind on my mini reviews. This will be as short as humanly possible. Also, there will very likely be many mistakes. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Call Me Troy (USA) 2007 ***
Documentary about Gay rights activist Reverend Troy Perry. He did lots of cool stuff. This movie however, is not cool and is only mediocre at best.

Man On Wire (UK) 2007 *****
Yet another best documentary of the festival. But this time I really mean it. On august 7, 1974 French wirewalker, Philippe Petit, strung a cable between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and then walked across. This movie documents that feat in a beautiful and imaginative way. The film is made up of interviews with all the participants of Philippe's elaborate plan, home movies, archival footage and photographs of Philippe's stunts. (He also walked a wire between the towers at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the pylons of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia.)

Accompanying the interviews is a highly stylized dramatization of the group accomplishing the break in to the WTC and setting up of their steel cable. The dramaztization is filmed in black and white with the look of a French bank robbery caper. It creates drama and tension and comedy.

Recommended. Though I found one passholder who didn't care for this film. Everyone else has raved about it.

Boystown (Spain) 2007 ***1/2
Campy comedy about a perfection obsessed real estate agent who is murdering little old ladies so he can buy up their apartments, modernize them and then sell them for a profit to beautiful young people. Reminiscent of Pedro Almodavar- strong female characters, gay boys and bright colors dominate each frame. This one was fun, fun, fun.

Total Movies seen: 53

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic

Tags: ,

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