Tonight in Seattle:  

The Egyptian

SIFF 2014: Closing Weekend Highlights

The Great Museum

The end of this year’s cinema mega-thon is nigh, and if you've slacked on your SIFFage there's still time to do something about it. Here I present to you seven sure-fire hits that I personally guarantee will provide you some major cinematic enjoyment, all unspooling (digitally) over the next few days.

DON'T MISS:

The Great Museum
{screens June 7 at 2:30pm at the Uptown}
Absorbing year-in-the-life documentary following directors, preservationists, curators, and general staff of Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum during a major renovation and re-brand. The film offers fascinating visual treats aplenty – art and artifacts in various states of exhibition, decomposition, and restoration – with new (old) surprises constantly being unwrapped and unveiled.

La Mia Classe
{North American premiere. Screens June 7 at 8:30pm at the Uptown, and June 8 at 4:30pm at the Harvard}
A group of aspiring Rome-based immigrants take a mandatory Italian language class and encounter shared grief, social integration, and humanity. This is actually a movie about itself – the students are real, the teacher is an actor, and we see fourth-wall ruptures via shot setups and off-script developments that inform the third act. Do see it, and when you find yourself unsure of what’s fiction and what (if anything) is not, don’t worry: it’s all saying the same thing, and the point is a profound one. Director Daniele Gaglianone is scheduled to attend these SIFF screenings, and I wonder if Q&A sparks will fly here like they did in Venice.

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SIFF 2014: Week Three Highlights

Boyhood

SIFF 2014 is lurching along into its final week, and there's still time to catch up on your cinema (over)consumption if you've yet to partake. I can't protect you from the well-meaning but terrible pre-film bumpers imposed on audiences at each screening -- the membership and Egyptian ones are particularly egregious, more so when viewed more than one time -- but I can help steer you in good directions for feature presentation choices.

Here are some hits, misses, and in-betweens coming up in the fest's final ten days (May 30 - June 8).

DON'T MISS:

Boyhood
{screens May 31 at 5pm at the Egyptian, and June 1 at 8pm at the Harvard}
Boyhood is a quiet triumph, though you may not fully realize it for a while. In tracking the evolution of a young man named Mason and his family -- shot over 12 years, using the same cast throughout -- Richard Linklater has achieved something quite unlike anything I've ever seen in cinema. It consists of 164 minutes that don't necessarily fly by: like life, it's sometimes boring and imperfect, and change can reveal itself so gradually that you only notice it in aggregate.

Seeds of Time
{screens June 1 at noon and June 2 at 6pm at the Uptown}
It should come as no surprise that global food production in its current state is unsustainable, and that a decrease in crop diversity is a key factor. Seed banks around the world preserve long-uncultivated plant varieties in an effort to ensure food security for future generations; the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Arctic Norway is the most unique and perhaps the most important. It's the brainchild of conservationist Cary Fowler, and both creator and creation are explored in this nicely-done doc, which is good for foodie types and enviro-types alike as it reveals some very inconvenient truths about the disintegration of the world's food supply.

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Latest comment by: imaginary amie: "

"I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Kathleen Quinlan in the frame at any given moment."

I love you so much, embracey. :) 

"

SIFF 2014: Week Two Highlights

Difret

Capitol Hill (both the 1960s and 2010s varieties), a freaky alt-reality Paris, and dear ol' Sesame Street are among the cinematic destinations awaiting you during SIFF 2014's second week (5/23-5/29).

DON'T MISS:

Difret
{screens May 24 at 3pm in Renton}
After being abducted and raped, a rural 14-year-old Ethopian girl (Tizita Hagere) shoots and kills her attacker in an act of self-defense, pitting herself and a tenacious human-rights attorney (dazzling Meron Getnet) against long-standing tribal traditions. Writer-director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari's debut feature is a compelling and devastating adaptation of an extraordinary true story. Wonderfully naturalistic performances (by mostly non-pro actors) lead viewers into the characters' worlds, and into the tense legal drama that grows from it.

Fasten Your Seatbelts
{screens 5/23 at 4pm at the Egyptian and 5/25 at 7pm at Lincoln Square}
Refreshing, frequently surprising Italian comedy-melodrama with touches of the exquisiteness of my favorite of director Ferzan Ozpetek's films, Facing Windows. This one follows another beautiful young woman who gets with another loutish (but hot) love interest and who ends up looking at her life from some existential outside place. The score is gorgeous (when it's not trying to be lite), the narrative surprising (even when the twists are Lifetimey). I really did laugh, and I really did cry.

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SIFF Review: Willow Creek

Willow Creek SIFF 2014

Holycrap, you guys. I was not expecting to get completely and totally sucked in by Willow Creek, especially because Director Bobcat Goldthwait has been calling it, “The Blair Squatch Project.” But 10 minutes in, I was ALL in, and even though the premise is ridiculously goofy, the film itself falls firmly in the horror genre.

The ridiculously goofy premise is this: Jim (Bryce Johnson) and his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) take a road trip to the site of the Patterson-Gimlin film footage in search of Bigfoot. It’s clear up front that Kelly isn’t a believer and that even though Jim might kinda-sorta want to believe, this is more about a fun birthday weekend for him that fulfills his childhood dream. Jim’s brought along a camera with plans to film the entire trip as a documentary of their findings, frequently turning it on himself and Kelly and interviewing local townspeople on the way to their end destination.

You’re set up right from the start to watch this as a comedy, because there’s no way freaking Bigfoot could be scary, right?

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Latest comment by: imaginary rich: "

+1 on Willow Creek. I also didn't expect much of this one, but for different reasons. I just wasn't a fan of other recent Goldthwait stuff. Though I wasn't entirely up ont the found footage aspect either. Regardless it worked for all the reasons ...

SIFF Take: Lucky Them

The complete opposite of the devastating Eden (SIFF, 2012), Lucky Them is a part comedy, part “eesh, I can identify with that” romance, but not exactly in the traditional sense of the word. Toni Collette completely kills it (like she does every. single. time. Yes, even in Hostages) as Ellie Klug, a Seattle music journalist employed at fictional magazine STAX, whose editor demands she find out what happened to her missing rock-God ex-boyfriend as the anniversary of his influential album approaches. As a reluctant Ellie starts her assignment, she runs into two men that complicate the task: Lucas Stone (Ryan Eggold): a talented, and uh, very good looking, young musician, and Charlie (Thomas Hayden-Church), a rich acquaintance who offers to finance her search in exchange for filming it.

Side note: how much would I love it if Oliver Platt actually ran a music magazine in this city? The answer is SO MUCH. So, so, so much.

While I admit imaginary embracey’s comments about some of the details of her job being fantasy-based are correct, it didn’t bug me much because of my instant connection to the character. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not trying to claim that I have anywhere near the level of journalistic fame or skill that Ellie does in the film, I’m just saying: a female writer who hooks up with all the wrong people and pines after a long-lost love to the point where it sabotages her current relationships? That hits close (probably a little too close) to home. Also adding to the authenticity: I feel like I’ve met every single character in this movie multiple times. The first thing that occurred to me when Charlie appears on screen was, “Oh man. I meet that guy at every SIFF Opening Night party, every single year.”

Short story: I love this one as much as I love The Off Hours and Eden. It’s a completely different kind of love, but it’s still love. My heart is yours once again, Ms. Griffiths.

{Lucky Them screens at SIFF on 5/22, 7pm at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center for Renton Opening Night, and again on 5/23, 9:15pm at The Egyptian. Director Megan Griffiths & Writer Emily Wachtel are scheduled to attend both screenings} 

SIFF Review: Mirage Men

You may want to believe - but in what exactly? That aliens are among us and engineered the creation of our species through DNA experiments on early primates? Or maybe that the government has been running a focused disinformation campaign to spread stories of UFO's to distract the public, flummox the Soviets, cover up advanced technology programs, or perhaps just to goose Hollywood box office numbers? And don't forget about the possibility that these government coverups are muddying the waters - hiding our dealings with the aliens by spreading half truths about aliens. 

Yep - if you thought the final years of the X-Files was all over the place, brace yourself for Mirage Men. This documentary delivers access to the players - from UFO researchers telling tales of good men turned mad by the NSA, to the OSI agents who told the lies.

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SIFF 2014: Week One Highlights

40 Days of Silence

Our local month-long movie megathon struck again Thursday with Jimi: All Is By My Side, a Jimi Hendrix biopic devoid of Jimi Hendrix music. But even if you missed the opening night soiree there's plenty more to feast your eyes and ears and emotions on before the cinematic smorgasbord unspools its final reel projects its last digital file on June 8.

The TIG SIFF staff will be here for the duration to help you make sense of the typically mammoth schedule, and as in years past I'll bring you a roundup of brief capsule previews for films to be screened the coming festival week. I'm happy to report that, so far, the joy-free staleness of Jimi isn't at all the deal for upcoming offerings. (Many of them, anyway.) In fact, of the SIFF 2014 films I've seen to date, the shining gems far outnumber the out-and-out stinkers.

Here are ten features to queue up for, one to avoid outright (yes, only one so far!), and six to be cautiously optimistic/pessimistic about, all screening at some point during the festival's first week (May 16-22). You're welcome.

DON'T MISS:

The Case Against 8
{screens May 16 at 6:30pm at the Harvard, and May 17 at 11:30am at the Uptown}
A moving and highly entertaining documentary following the six-year battle between California's same-sex marriage ban (2008) and the Supreme Court declaration of its unconstitutionality (2013). The film makes its revelations beautifully, peppering usual doc elements with legal intrigue and turning tides. I knew very little about the counsel team (led by Republican Theodore Olson and Democrat David Boies, who had been opponents in the Bush v. Gore recount case in 2000), and even less about the plaintiff couples (Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo), but was very happy to spend time with them all. Sure, the film preaches to the choir -- but what a beautiful sermon it is.

Difret
{screens May 17 at 6pm at the Uptown, May 18 at 3:30pm at Pacific Place, and May 24 at 3pm in Renton}
After being abducted and raped, a rural 14-year-old Ethopian girl (Tizita Hagere) shoots and kills her attacker in an act of self-defense, pitting herself and a tenacious human-rights attorney (dazzling Meron Getnet) against long-standing tribal traditions. Writer-director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari's debut feature is a compelling and devastating adaptation of an extraordinary true story. Wonderfully naturalistic performances (by mostly non-pro actors) lead viewers into the characters' worlds, and into the tense legal drama that grows from it.

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SIFF Take: The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins Bill Hader Kristen Wiig SIFF 2014

A film with Kristen Wiig AND Bill Hader? This should be HILARIOUS, right?!?! Right. Except, it isn’t. I mean, it is and it isn’t. The Skeleton Twins casts these two former SNL cast mates as twins Maggie & Milo: a very broken set of siblings who haven’t spoken to each other in over 10 years until suicide attempts on the same day bring them together again. HAHAHAHA. Oh, wait.

Speaking of “skeletons,” both of them have plenty in their closet, only Maggie is obsessed with hiding hers while Milo displays his right out in the open for everyone to see. As they try to navigate their messed up lives and renewed relationship while also dealing with Maggie’s clueless husband, and Milo’s former … lover (?) things get more and more and MORE f**ked up, but hey! At least they have each other. Director Craig Johnson (True Adolescents, SIFF 2009) provides plenty of humor to balance out the dark times—my favorite involves the theme song from 1987’s Mannequin—but credit for this film blowing me away really goes to its two leads. This one is a must-see; I highly recommend purchasing your ticket for its only SIFF screening on Friday NOW.  

{The Skeleton Twins screens at SIFF on 5/16, 9:30pm at The Egyptian. Director Craig Johnson is scheduled to attend} 

SIFF 2014 Preview: NW Connections

I honestly feel like the SIFF NW Connections programming gets better every single year! The 40th Seattle International Film Festival has an impressive roster of documentaries and features with local directors, actors, writers, and locations. ALL of this makes me incredibly happy! Let’s take a look at what’s happening this year.

My first thought when I spied the new Megan Griffiths film in this year’s line-up was, “AWESOME!”  And awesome it is. Lucky Them stars Toni Collette as a Seattle music journalist (for fictional magazine STAX) who’s never quite gotten over her famous and handsome musician beau’s disappearance. It’s packed with great acting from Collette and her co-stars, lots of recognizable Seattle scenery, and more introspection than you usually get from a “dramedy.” GO SEE IT! It’s great. {Screens 5/22, 7pm at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center, and again 5/23, 9:15pm at The Egyptian}

Raging grannies seems like a thing I’d like, so I’m planning to check out Two Raging Grannies, a documentary about Seattle residents and best friends Shirley & Hinda, who ride around on their scooters with megaphones shouting suggestions about solving the global economic crisis. I LOVE IT. {Screens 5/28, 7pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown, 5/29, 4pm at Lincoln Square Cinemas, and again 5/30, 1:30pm at AMC Pacific Place}

And this one should be ... funny? Maybe? Local director Brett Fetzer’s first feature My Last Year with the Nuns involves Seattle monologist Matt Smith’s 8th-grade coming-of-age story set in 1966 … with Smith playing ALL the roles. Whoa. {Screens 5/21, 6:30pm and 6/26, 11am at The Egyptian}

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SIFF 2014 Preview: Face the Music

Hello, Imaginaries! I can’t believe that the 40th Seattle International Film Festival starts THIS THURSDAY! (what. the. what.) Anyway, if you haven’t had a chance to check out the Face the Music line-up this year, let me moonwalk you through it, because there’s a lot of really rad stuff I don’t want you to miss!

First up, let’s take a look Keep On Keepin’ On, a tribute to jazz legend Clark Terry, who taught Quincy Jones and Miles Davis, and who helped blind pianist Justin Kauflin realize his dream. There are two special events happening around this spectacular documentary: An Evening with Quincy Jones, in which the Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Jones at the premiere screening of the film, and The Justin Kauflin Trio is playing at The Triple Door as a companion performance with a special introduction by Quincy Jones. Sounds like a 3-day jazz-lovers extended dream date! {An Evening with Quincy Jones Special Presentation Screening & Tribute 6/4, 7:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown; Keep On Keepin’ On screens again 6/6, 4pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown; Companion show with The Justin Kauflin Trio, June 5 at The Triple Door, 7pm}

And of course, Opening Night is the premeire of Jimi: All is By My Side, a story about Jimi Hendrix before he was Jimi Hendrix. Sure. Okay. Why not? Outkast's André Benjamin stars as Jimi, a rising musician caught in a sticky love triangle between Linda Keith and Kathy Etchingham. SCANDALOUS. {Screens on SIFF Opening Night, 5/15, 7pm at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall} 

Nick Cave fans, check it: get a peek into the enigmatic musician & writer’s everyday life—sort of—with a fiction-mentary by Directors Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard. 20,000 Days on Earth is described as “blending fact, fiction, and fantasy” and the trailer looks AMAZING. Can’t wait to see this one. {Screens 5/16, 10pm at Lincoln Square Cinemas, and again 5/21, 9:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown}

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