Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

The final (sniffle) week of SIFF approaching portends the beginning of another annual Seattle film tradition, STIFF.  This Friday {6/3} the Seattle True Independent Film Festival opens it’s doors to go mano-a-mano with their more established counterpart SIFF.  Yeah, yeah – I get that there’s a tradition of counterprogrammed fests, more voices are good, yada yada yada.

When the Charlie Brown style adult voices end all I’ll I’ve heard is that I’m gonna have to make some choices (i.e. miss some films) because the two events overlap. But that doesn’t mean one should stick their head in the sand and ignore the extra bounty. STIFF is here and worth paying attention to. Focusing more on english language independent that on international fare, it’s different enough to make some sense (see, I can be nice).  Plus it’s hard for me to be too critical about MORE film choices. So in the spirit of hey it’s here, all-access passes are only $50 (and include more films all year) parties are included and all venues serve alcohol – let’s peruse the schedule together …

But first some basics:

Attending is pretty easy.  The festival takes place at three core venues:

The Jewel Box Theater at Rendezvous in Belltown

Central Cinema in the Central District

Northwest Film Forum on 12th Avenue in Capitol Hill

Tickets are $8 online or $10 cash at the door. All Access Badges (including parties and monthly STIFF nights screenings post-fest) are $50.

Unfortunately my direct knowledge of films playing STIFF this year is limited. I’ve seen a good number of films playing in the last week of SIFF so hoping to use some of that “free time” to make a foray into STIFF’s alternate universe. Here are a few of the things I’ve either seen or caught my eye.  The range of the films is really, really broad – from multiple music themed docs to sci-fi adventure. The full schedule is available online, with most films having a trailer to at least give you a sense as to the visual style of the film.

The one feature length picture (out of a bit more than 50) I’ve actually seen is The Beekepers. It’s a slacker comedy about a group of housemates who engage in an epic YouTube related wager in pursuit of winning enough money to get their money out of a coma. Thankfully the film is less a statement on the current health care industry than an opportunity to pay some homage to Kevin Smith. Most of the characters full somewhere in the dufus to douchebag personality range but in a mostly appealing way.  I cannot put my finger on why but I had a hard time stopping the film to do other things that really needed doing – mainly sleep.  There’s some clever dialog and more laughs than a fair number of Hollywood comedies (OK, most of them). The story doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense, but by the end I just didn’t care. Not characters I’d want in my life – but worth checking out onscreen.  With bonus points for an extremely geeky retro-video gamer subplot. Plays at the Northwest Film Forum 6/9 @ 9:15pm

I’ve seen two of the shorts Cataplexy and Connect To. Some readers may recognize the first as it’s one of my picks from SIFF Shortsfest. Clearly too good to limit itself to just one festival I’m glad to see a repeat appearance as part of STIFF. In the film an awkward start to an evening sets the stage when a fellow’s ordered in companion turns out to be an old classmate. Things go in a somewhat predictable but satisfying direction. I don’t want to say more, but for me a well calibrated piece of mini meets cute, high-concept romantic comedy. If time permits I’m going to try and catch it again.  {plays 6/6 at 9:30pm with Little Blue Pill at the NWFF and 6/10 at 6:15pm at the Jewelbox Theater as part of a shorts package}

Connect To is locally produced from soup to nuts and follows two strangers who meet on a bus. Their main commonality is that they’re both running away from something. Initial awkwardness of the seat mates moves to something else over the course of the proceedings. It’s an interesting watch and I’ll be keeping an eye put for local actress Wonder Russell in her future appearances. {plays 6/8 at 9:15pm at NWFF ahead of feature Desert Son and 6/11 at 4pm at the Jewelbox Theater as part of a shorts package}

One could argue it’s a promising sign that I’ve seen two STIFF shorts and felt both worth seeing. Or you could argue it’s clearly statistically insignificant. But I saw only one short from STIFF last year and found it most unpleasant. So by that math I’m way ahead.

There are quite a few shorts packages mixed in with feature length entries playing at STIFF. Even a quick perusal of their schedule brings up a number of things that would merit a closer look. I can’t vouch personally for any of them – but I pulled out three that struck me interesting:

Little Blue Pill – First off it plays with Cataplexy so at least I know part of the presentation will be fun.  And then the description seems worth taking a chance on, “Little Blue Pill is a raucous comedy about an unlucky hipster who accidentally takes two Erecta (erectile dysfunction pills) and goes through a day of misadventures.” {Plays 6/6 at 9:30 pm at the NWFF}

Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone – Ever since I heard them rock the Ritz with the lyrics “U.G.L.Y. you ain’t got no alibi”  I’ve been ready to catch this doc.  In the words of the festival comes a longer justification, “From the shifting faultlines of Hollywood fantasies and the economic and racial tensions of Reagan’s America, Fishbone rose to become one of the most original bands of the last 25 years. With a blistering combination of punk and funk they demolished the walls of genre and challenged the racial stereotypes and political order of the music industry and the nation. Telling it like it is, the iconic Laurence Fishburne narrates EVERYDAY SUNSHINE, a story about music, history, fear, courage and funking on the one.”  Yes – that says Laurence Fishburne narrates.  ’nuff said {plays 6/4 at 4pm at the Jewelbox Theater}

The Bellman Equation – Just because I’m a total nerd I’m guessing I may be unable to resist this one. Honestly, they had me at invented the field of dynamic programming. Or as the festival puts it, “What is the Bellman Equation? This film searches for the mathematician who helped invent the Atom Bomb and invented the field of dynamic programming while being persecuted by McCarthy. A 12 year odyssey by the grandson of Richard Bellman, to solve the many issues surrounding Richard Bellman’s life and death. Bellman remained an enigmatic figure to all who knew him, and his stature as one of the great mathematicians in history brings his grandson to some interesting revelations.” {plays 6/6 at 8pm at the Jewelbox Theater}

That’s just a few to whet your appetite. And don’t forget many play at Central Cinema where you can sate your appetite for a meal and dessert in addition to having a beer. It’s as close to a festival at the Alamo Drafthouse we’re likely to get here in Seattle. So join me in giving STIFF a try. Just also join me in giving ’em a nudge to shift the start date by a few weeks next year. 😉