Archive for the 'SIFF Screenings' Category

Coming soon: another blog post

Monday, January 21, 2008

Yes, you read about it here first, folks. Yummy or Crummy will be adding another blog post here sometime in the very near future. Do hold your breath, and don’t sit back and relax, because before you know it my new blog post will kick you in the teeth and throw you down like your daddy never could, no matter how much he drank.

Sneak Preview: Superbad

Monday, August 13, 2007

Superbad posterOK I saw Superbad last Thursday thanks to SIFF‘s free member preview, but I couldn’t post about it until today because of my web host moving fiasco. Anyway, I’m now happily hosted with Dreamhost, and moving the WordPress database over was surprisingly easy. Anyway, that’s for another day…

I was pretty excited when I got the email from SIFF telling me about the preview — I was sad when its screenings got cancelled during the festival this year. Well — it didn’t disappoint! It was really funny. The plot was not nonexistent, but it wasn’t important. It was just a way to get the characters from A to B — what made this movie fun to watch was all the things in between. It was like watching several episodes of a funny TV show strung together to make up a movie. Oh yeah, with swearing. The characters are familiar — geeks who dream of not graduating high school as virgins. The driver of the plot is almost too clechĂ©, too — it’s to get to a party with booze so they can, you know, not graduate as virgins. But somehow the dialogue and all the subplots make this movie seem more fresh. The movie also doesn’t disappoint in the area of gross humor — these “lowbrow” comedies all seem to include one or two really filthy jokes just to try to top (bottom?) each other. It’s mild compared to other R rated movies, but it still gets laughs.

The incompetent/juvenile cop jokes last a bit too long, and that’s my only complaint. I’m definitely showing my age with these comparisons… But the writing is smarter than, say, Van Wilder, and it’s not as slap-sticky as Scary Movie (or the derivatives) or Dude, Where’s My Car? — the only thing I can think of that’s close is American Pie, but the characters are definitely more likable in Superbad!

SIFF 2007: It’s Over

Monday, June 18, 2007

There, I resisted saying, “it’s a wrap!”

This year’s SIFF sort of came and went. Seems like everyone I talked to said, “it’s over already?” But I guess that’s because we always seem to be super busy around this time… I miss those days when I actually had time to see 29 films (2005) while also planning a wedding!

Anyway some quick recaps… I expected more of a roudy crowd for Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls, for being a local film and all. But it was a pretty tame audience (except for the presence of Skeletora), maybe because it was the second showing. The film was fun as expected, but a little lacking in terms of the “story” element that a lot of the documentaries these days have. The filmmakers seemed content in just filming and having the rollergirls talk about themselves, and no compelling characters or plots emerged. Maybe that’s disingenious to expect from a documentary — what? That’s what a fiction is for? But if you want to tell an engaging story, you can’t just string together interviews no matter how interesting you think those people are. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the film and I liked the people in it — maybe that’s the problem… There was no villain!

Waiting in line at Cinerama, SIFF 2007 closing night

Moličre was cute, witty, funny, and touching at the same time. It’s a fictional account of early part of Moličre‘s life, and it speculates as to how he became considered to be one of the greatest comedic playwrights in his time. The director Laurent Tirard introduced the film by saying he hopes that more people will learn about the playwright’s work because of the movie. I feel that he succeeded, because the movie was very approachable, and made both Lucretia and myself curious about the kind of work he produced. Not that we’re jumping on Amazon to buy his plays, but if we came across one someday we might pick it up to read it.

Cinerama was a great choice for the closing night venue. It was grand enough to mirror the spectacle of the opening night — and it’s just a damn great movie theater. We skipped the party, though — I wish we knew more friends who have enough money and time to enjoy SIFF (being pretty much free, it’s easier for us).

SIFF 2007… More films to write about

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Been too busy to see the films I’ve been wanting to check out! And even if I go I haven’t had time to write about it. For now, posting to say I saw these films. Hopefully more on them later.

Last weekend:
White Light/Black Rain, important to see if you don’t know much about the physical and mental impact that an atomic bomb can make. Simple message = it’s really, really, really, really bad.

Last night in Bellevue:
I Really Hate My Job, a fun film that has a great play-like feel. Featuring all-women ensemble, great if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant.

Today at Neptune:
Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls — this should be another fun movie.

Tomorrow, closing night:
If I get tickets (doubtful at this point), we’ll try to go see Moličre at Cinerama.

SIFF 2007: Rocket Science, Kurt Cobain About a Son, and Nanking

Monday, June 4, 2007

After a week of no films, Lucretia and I were anxious to get back into the festival with two screenings on Saturday, and one on Sunday. We hadn’t even marked two of the three movies in “My Festival,” but we read the descriptions as we ate breakfast on Saturday, and they both sounded promising — plus they were showing back to back in the same theater, which meant we could relax between two films! The third one was Nanking, which I had planned to see all along.

Rocket Science is about a stuttering high school boy who gets a crush on a girl on a debate team, and decides to join the team himself. During the Q&A, the director Jeffrey Blitz said that while he was making Spellbound, he became interested in what these kids lives were really like off camera, or alternative scenarios like what if this kid didn’t win, etc. So according to Blitz, this movie allowed him to explore all those questions and answer some of them in a form of fiction. It’s certainly an interesting concept — and really, it’s no wonder that some of the recent documentaries (like Spellbound or Mad Hot Ballroom) have spawned fictional versions. (On a related note, The King of Kong that I enjoyed last week will be made into a fictional adaptation, too. I can totally see Ben Stiller playing Billy Mitchell.) Anyway the film was very much enjoyable!

Kurt Cobain About a Son

Kurt Cobain About a Son is nothing like any other films I’ve seen, in that it simply consists of Cobain’s audio interviews from ’92 and ’93, playing against the backdrop of film footages from three cities that made Cobain who he was (Aberdeen, Olympia, and Seattle). The film contains no other interviews, and it does not show Cobain’s face at all until the very end, in the form of Charles Peterson‘s photographs. Admittedly it was a difficult style of film to sit through. We’re essentially sitting there and listening to Cobain talk for 96 minutes. Throughout the interviews, he is all of these things: candid, irrational, funny, paranoid, sweet, immature, and down-to-earth. The director AJ Schnack chose to let only Cobain speak, and it really helped paint a picture of who he was. I was afraid that it would be another attempt to put Cobain up on a pedestal, like he was some kind of a tragic god of rock and roll. Instead, it turned out to be an honest portrayal that showed Cobain for who he was — just a human being with emotions and shortcomings like the rest of us.

Nanking

Nanking is a documentary that blends real interviews with some reenactment by actors (of actual letters and journals). It’s about the Japanese invasion of the former capital city of China during World War II. It recounts the atrocities caused by the Japanese military and the effort by the foreign missionaries to protect the Chinese people. Not just as a Japanese national but simply as a human being, this was a hugely disturbing film to sit through. But it’s important that as many people as possible watch something like this, to be reminded that nothing good comes out of a war. I am certainly not proud of how the Japanese military acted during the war — their acts were simply indefensible. But I do think it was a bit unfair to paint the present attitude of a whole country with such a broad brush and suggest that the majority in the country doesn’t believe the war crime really happened. The extreme right wingers shown in the film are rare, and most people in Japan would not agree with their radical nationalism. In any case, it’s a powerful film about an event that more people should be aware of.

SIFF 2007: Paprika

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Paprika

I’m going to keep this one short. I enjoyed watching Paprika, but I couldn’t help but wonder why so many anime films end up with a larger-than-life evil monster destroying a city. I mean, literally. Somehow it brings me back to the Ultraman series, and I wonder if nostalgia has something to do with it. On one hand I’m amused by the pattern, but on the other hand I’m a bit disappointed because these artists are so creative, they should be able to come up with something else. Oh well — at least this movie set itself up to have a scene like that. Others, I can’t really find a good excuse for them. Anyway, it sure was a pretty movie. Even though I liked it, I can’t help but expect more from anime as a genre. That’s why this post is crummy.

SIFF 2007: The King of Kong

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Donkey Kong The King of Kong is the best film I’ve seen at SIFF 2007 so far. OK, so it’s only the fourth day, and I’ve been to five screenings so far. But this is one of those documentaries that you just cannot believe is true, because if you could make this up it wouldn’t be nearly as good. It’s not just the classic arcade thing that draws on your nostalgia, but it’s the good vs. evil and the spirit of fair competition that makes you root for the main character. It’s also very funny — watching these geeks talk about their passion is hilarious. The film has a perfect villain, and he continues to voluntarily supply unbelievable lines that you could not pay him to say. This film is precious. Not to trivilaize the hard work they put into making this, but the filmmakers were lucky to have found a story like this. And you’ll feel lucky to have seen it if you go. And I feel doubly lucky because POP has a DK arcade machine (my high score: measly 100,000+), and this movie is definitely going to affect my productivity in the weeks to come.

SIFF 2007: Youth Run Amok (collection of shorts) and Paris je t’aime

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lucretia and I aren’t going anywhere for the Memorial Day weekend… Just too much to do around the house and to prepare for our trip to Japan in July. But that doesn’t mean we can’t check out a few films!

Youth Run Amok Youth Run Amok is a collection of short films about being a child or a teenager. It was mostly sad and depressing — but one of them, called Warlord, was funny and didn’t take itself too seriously, so it stood out. I also liked Aruba, about a boy who takes matters into his own hand so he can escape a bad situation. The photo is from another one, The Saddest Boy in the World, which was OK.

Paris je t’aime Then we stayed at Harvard Exit for Paris je t’aime, a collection of 18 mini features, all directed by a different director, all set in Paris, and all about love. Mostly love between two adults, but with some exceptions. It felt a bit long towards the end, but almost all the mini stories were beautifully shot and enjoyable to watch. Some were pretty funny, too. Gus Van Sant, the Coen brothers, and Wes Craven are among the directors, and Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman star in the film… along with many more famous names and faces.

Short stories are great for film festivals. If it sucks (which wasn’t the case for most part today), it’ll be over soon! We sat near the aisle for both screenings today, but didn’t get the urge to get up and leave.

SIFF 2007 is here

Friday, May 25, 2007

Woo hoo! SIFF 2007 is finally here. POP is once again one of the grand sponsors, on the account of the work we have done for their box office application and the website. So once again, I was lucky enough to get a sponsor pass that gets me into all regular screenings. I’ll have to purchase tickets for special events like galas or forums, but for most part it’s great to be able to run around and see films without having to be too discriminating because of the price.

Son of Rambow The opening film this year was called Son of Rambow. It was a very, very cute film about crazy imaginations, a home-made movie, and friendship. The main characters were sweet, not tooth-achy but more in a satisfying way. And funny, too. Someone at work accurately described the humor as Rushmore-like.

I must say that McCaw Hall as the opening venue was very impressive, too. I know a lot of people were probably there on a free ticket just like I was, but SIFF still did a great job filling up the place, and creating a great excitement around the event. As usual, Gary Tucker did an awesome job of making the daunting task of reading the sponsor list funny and participatory. (This concludes the Yummy part of the post.)

So that was Thursday night… Lucretia and I decided to take advantage of the Memorial Day weekend by checking out some movies while the buzz from the opening night celebration is still strong. So Friday night, we went to see Pleasant Moments (Hezké chvilky bez záruky), a Czech film about a female shrink whose “endless parade” of patients seem to drive her crazy by the end. I must say, we did not enjoy this movie very much. Some people might say that this is exactly the style of movie to expect from a Czech director, but if that’s the case I’ll have to say, “No, thank you” to all movies from that country. I’m trying to stay somewhat open-minded about this, but shaky camera work, faded colors, circular plot with no real progression, bad acting, bad dialogue, and even bad translation combined to make a pretty bad experience for both me and Lucretia. When I went to see Once last week, the director was happy with the sometimes shaky camera movements because he was able to achieve authenticiy without making the film ugly. And I completely agree — it was a beautiful film. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about this film — it got ugly! But hey, don’t take my word for it. Go see for yourself!

Sneak Preview: Once

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Once

Once is a contemporary musical film about two young musicians who fall in love. The story couldn’t be simpler, which highlighted the great music and the gritty, “realistic” looking cinematography even more.

In addition to the free screening of the film, we were treated to a Q&A session with the director John Carney and actors/musicians Glen Hansard of The Frames and Markéta Irglová. More on this down below.

OnceI can’t say anything bad about this film. Every character was likable, even a street drunk who tries to steal money from the main character. That might be counterintuitive, to have a whole cast of likable people. But that’s not to say that the main characters do not face any challenges. They can’t help but make music, but they also have their daily responsibilities to make the ends meet. They have family to care for and think about. They can’t run off and be together forever after no matter how romantic that might feel. It’s the way this film resists the Hollywood-esque urges in every way that makes it charming. I especially liked the last scene, where a more “produced” film would have taken the same scene up another notch in terms of cinematographical “trickery,” but Carney used just enough of the unexpected angle to communicate the main character’s feeling. It was crystal clear without being too over-the-top.

OnceAfter we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the director and the two actor/musicians who play the main characters would make an appearance. The Q&A after the film was insightful and funny. It’s always nice to see artists showing passion for their craft in a fun-loving way (as opposed to self-absorbed and too serious, like how some people can be). We learned about how Hansard and Irglová wrote some of the songs together, the different approaches for directing music-centric scenes and straight acting scenes, etc.

Then Hansard and Irglová performed some of the music from the film. Hansard even used the broken-ass guitar that his character uses in the movie. They were taking audience requests — it was fantastic. These artists have every reason to be excited about this project — go see this film if you can! It’ll be playing in SIFF, and will open in Seattle in June.

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