- Host & Guest
- Adam's Apples
- The King
- Twelve and Holding
- The Hidden Blade
- Cave of the Yellow Dog
- 13 (Tzameti)
- Man Push Cart
- Joni's Promise
- Starfish Hotel
- Every Other Week
- The World According to Sesame
- The Fish Fall in Love
- I for India
- Sacred Heart
- Perhaps Love
- Close to Home
- You are So Handsome
- In Bed
- Tough Enough
- We Shall Overcome
- OSS 117 - Nest of Spies
Of course I reserve the right to change this list like 20 times or so... ;-)
Gravehopping - the much hyped black comedy about a man who earns his living giving speeches at funerals. I liked the first 2/3 of the film. It lost me in the final moments with some rather brutal violence and the tragic consequences.
Me, You, Them - An earlier film from the director of House of Sand. Pretty good all around though I think I preferred the more recent film.
We Go Way Back - Local Seattle filmaker's story of a 23 year old stage actress who begins to look at her life through the eyes of the letters she wrote herself at 13. I loved the idea of a child writing letters to herself to open in the future and how the youthful idealism/optimism recolors the life of the adult.
Americanese - Couple has issues, they deal with issues, other couples form. Just didn't hold my attention, I think the only film this festival I didn't make it all the way through.
A Prairie Home Companion - I thought this was pretty pleasant. Felt very much like listening to the radio show. Not much more for me and certainly not less.
We Shall Overcome - Danish boy in 1969 stands up to his super bully of a headmaster. I thought this was really good. Totally drew me in - even without "change is in the air" angle I think I would have enjoyed it. Watching the young main character being influence by his teacher, rock and roll and the speeches Martin Luthor King added a great flavor to the story.
Quinceanera - Coming of age story of Magdelena as she approaches her 15th birtday. Interesting mix of characters and a very enjoyable story. This and We Shall Overcome made a great double feature for me. I really recommend this one.
Science of Sleep - New film from Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Very surreal and at times beautiful film about an artist who has serious difficulty understanding where dreams end and reality begins. I thought the film was extremely visually interesting, but I wasn't fully drawn into the characters. Though this might have been that I had one of the worst seats in the entire festival and could barely see at times. Several friends did really enjoy the characters so I may have to re-watch this when I can actually see the entire screen at one time.
Itinerairies - Ex-con wrongly accused of a murder goes on the run and finds love and happiness, however briefly. I thought this was a nice quiet end to the festival. Not a huge standout but interesting nonetheless.
First People on the Moon - An imagined documentary about the Russian space program. Its actually won "best documentary" at at least one film festival. I can almost understand that given the meticulous recreation of Soviet era "archive footage." While it had be really intrigued with the technical aspects of its creation I wasn't truly into the movie in a deep way. So brilliant idea which wasn't as deeply entertaining as I'd hoped.
Tough Enough - German film about a boy who moves with his Mom from the suburbs to a tougher urban neighborhood. He has to adapt rather quickly to the challenge. By the end of the film it's not clear that his success is really a long term achievement. I thought this was gripping all the way through with a strong performance from the young lead.
House of Sand - Brazilian film that travels the lives of three generations of women stuck outside "civilization" in the sand dunes. A women and her mother are dragged by a slightly crazy husband out into the sand. He dies shortly thereafter leaving them to fend for themselves. They make a life for themselves amidst the others living in the area. I've heard a lot of people calling it a bit slow. I enjoyed it all the way through though.
Just got out of a screening of "In Bed." One of my great positive surprises of the festival. Kind of like a cut to the chase version of "Before Sunrise.". Lots of talking, but with far more sex and a reduced need to try to figure out how you can like the movie so much yet still find Ethan Hawke so damn annoying. Though that last part might just be me. I won't say much more as I wouldn't want to give away much of a pretty short film. In keeping with the name there is a fair amount of bedroom activity. So if you work for the MPAA you may need to avert your eyes and ears.
An overview of some of the films I saw yesterday and today
- Backstage - French film about an aging pop star who meets and sort of adopts one of her mega-fans. I got the impression from the chatter on various lines throughout the day that a lot of folks didn't much care for this. I sort of enjoyed it, every film can't be mind blowing amazing. Every character was troubled in their own way and everyone makes progress of a sort by the end of the film. The pop star wasn't particularly sympathetic which is what I think may have soured people. But I don't think she needed to be to make the filmwork. The young fan did a really good job portraying someone whose life revolved around their favorite act.
- TV Junkie - they say no one is addicted to just one thing, and this movie lends truth to the cliche. This documentary follows the life of a man who obsessively documents his life on film. Things are off to a good start for him as he achieves a reasonable level of fame and fortune on Inside Edition. His life then veers out of control as his addiction to crack takes over. He shot over 3000 hours of footage including diary entries and general moments in his life. He speaks candidly to the camera about his addiction and the self-awareness that he can't seem to act on. We watch his degenerating marriage and his placing blame on others for what he can't control. It's well edited and really amazing that all the footage exists. At the same time I think one can reasonably ask yourself, "And why do I want to watch this...?".
- Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters - If and when this exercise in Hollywood studio masturbatory cheerleading plays on HBO (I believe they produced it ) it might be worth watching. In the meantime I'd recommend spending your theater going funds on something else. It has its entertaining moments, both intended and otherwise. If the studios hadn't been filmed saying so I'd never have known they were such crazy risk takers. ;-)
- Close to Home - Israeli film that follows young women draftees in both their military and personal lives. I really liked this film. It shows what feels intuitively like a realistic view of what happens when you draft teenagers who'd rather be somewhere else.
- Liubi - One of those films where almost all of the characters are screwed up in their own unique way. Liubi is a Russian elder care giver who moves in with a Greek family. From the first moment there are ill feelings stirred up upon her arrival - starting with the daughter in-law who complains that her husband should have picked less attractive help. Overall I thought it was OK, if a bit frustrating to watch the characters' behavior. I've never seen a film where the characters so desperately need an introduction to birth control. This was one of the films recommended in the festival preview - I don't think it quite lived up to its billing.
- You Are So Handsome - Finally a French romantic comedy at this festival that was truly funny and romantic. Maybe I'm just a sap for this type of flick but I really recommend it. It's definitely not the best romantic comedy I've seen, but I had a good time which is more than enough for me on most days.
- Princesses - I'd been looking forward to this movie for a while based on the description in the summary book. Thankfully it wasn't a letdown. Given the subject matter (two prostitutes from differing backgrounds develop a friendship) it was a quiet but effecting view of a depressing lifestyle. I'm not sure yet if I'd put it in my top 10 for the festival but I do think it's one of the better things I've seen. The great soundtrack gives it a good number of bonus points in my book.
Just wanted to get some of the film list updates on the blog. I'm going to try and come back in the next day or two and add some more comments. In the meantime I'm going to try and get some sleep.
- Isabella - Sort of liked this one, though not really a standout of the festival for me. Depressed policeman finds he last a long lost daughter, finds a purpose yada yada yada. Kept my interest more through the performances (and likely idle curiosity) than anything about the story. Won an award for best music at a previous festival. I found this mystifying as - barely noticed music at all.
- Comedy of Power - Left me flat. Didn't really care much for any of the characters. No real interesting twists.
- Live Free or Die - Can't recommend this. Interesting premise (sort of) but never really seems to go anywhere.
- Who is Harry Nillson? - Some great visual work making old photos almost seem to come alive. If you wanted to hear about Harry Nillson this might work for you. You might be better off reading a bit online and buying some of the CD's. But if you're a fan going in you'll likely enjoy it.
- Los Aires Dificiles - I liked this one. Maybe more later. :-)
- Delwende - Interesting film from Burkina Faso - amazing to still see people in today's world believing in witchcraft. Painful to watch due to some of the subject matter, but very interesting. Not a major advance in film-making but something I'm glad I caught.
- I For India - Great, very personal documentary on one families experience in the Indian diaspora. The father of the film maker left India (moving to the UK) in the 60's to continue his medical career. Much of his communication with his family over the decades was done via film and reel to reel tape. This is woven together with current film/video to show the families experiences and pain from both sides. I saw it practically by accident and I'm so glad I did.
- Sacred Heart - I thought this was very good. Just not enough time right now to try to explain this - partially because I'm still trying to understand parts of it. :-)
- The Standard - Great tracking shot in the beginning. Pretty likeable acting across the board. I did like this - though I wasn't really in the mood for the subject matter. I'm actually thinking I would have liked it better without the kids in school with guns part thrown in.
- Stranger With Candy - if you like the TV show I assume you'll like this. I'll admit I laughed at times (sometimes quite hard). But if you're not already a fan of the show you might want to wait for video.
- Perhaps Love - Chinese musical / love story. I really liked this which is saying something as I dislike musicals.
- The Iceberg
- Burnt Out - And you thought your job was bad ...
A quick update on some of the things I've seen since the last posting. I
- You and Me - Cute idea in that one of the main characters writes the text for photo-novels which tend to follow her love life. Beyond that though not terribly memorable.
- 7 Virgins - Not bad but nothing too remarkable. Kid out on a pass from reform school has a bit too much fun in the run up to his brother's wedding.
- Something Like Happiness - Interesting slice of life of the experiences of several characters in the Czech Republic. Definitely held my attention.
- The Birthday - Not terribly great. Lots of characters that seem interesting at first but don't really cause any feelings of caring in the viewer (at least this one). Not really funny, not particularly interesting. None of these downsides fully balanced by the the attractive actress in the publicity shots.
- The Prince Contemplating His Soul - While not the greatest movie at the festival, very different and interesting. Follows an elderly sage and his granddaughter in their search for the once in 30 year meeting of dervishes. The music is great and gives some background (though perhaps not as much as I would have liked) into Sufi practices.
- Eve and the Firehorse - Charming little movie, very cute young actress driving the show. Two children raised in America by Chinese parents blend Christianity and Buddhism into their own faith. Probably unlikely to change your views on religion but a very watchable film.
- Crime Novel - Longish saga of 3 (or maybe 4) friends who go into organized crime. Sort on mafia entrepreneurs in that they form their own organization. If you love mafia flicks this one is probably going to work for you. I'm glad I saw it but I wouldn't say it was showing me anything new.
- Initial D - If you like the idea watching cars race down the same winding mountain path 20 or so times you're going to love this film. I enjoyed some of the goofy (on purpose I think) acting and the initial racing scenes. But when I read the description of tofu deliveryman turned race car driver I was expecting a bit more. I read this was based on a manga and it does translate that feel onto the screen. A bit odd though watching what I believe is a story set in Japan acted in Chines.
- Lower City - Brazilian love story between two men and the prostitute they cross paths with. Not bad. I think though City of God may have given me overly high expectations for Brazilian film. Watch that instead if you want the crime angle or "The Man Who Copied" for a better love story.
- Not Here to be Loved - Nice French story about an older man who finds companionship through dance. I know - but it's way better than the one with Richard Gere in it.
- Every Other Week - Really funny Swedish movie about the divorcee lifestyle. Sprinkled throughout the film are some hilarious "commercials" for products targeting divorced parents - they range from chicken to Ikea. In the case of Ikea they've either got an incredible sense of humor or someone's going to get sued.
- Dreamland - Folks overcoming the issues holding them back on a sun-baked trailer park in Texas. Nice enough film, if a bit predictable. Glad to see that kid from Ed is getting work besides the Apple commercials.
- Lovesick - Romanian film giving a view into the rocky relationship between two college girls in love. Oh yeah - and the way too close relationship between one of the two and her brother.
- Three Times - Very creative Chinese film telling three stories with the same couple in three eras. I liked the first story quite a bit more than the second two. Overall I didn't really love it, but it was really interesting to watch. Opinion from others I've spoken to seem to be split between great and horrible.
- The World According to Sesame Street - Great, great, great! Of course how bad would you have to be to get me to say something negative about Sesame Street. This film isn't affiliated with the show. It takes us inside the "Sesame Process" used to setup co-productions in other countries. Bangladesh, Kosovo, and South Africa get special focus. Just be aware this isn't for kids though - but it's really fun and interesting. It's going to air on PBS in late October.
- Blood Rain - CSI set in historical Korea. Really good mystery/detective story with a bit of the creeps thrown in. Sadly, I can't give a complete review as I missed the payoff. More accurately at the moment of "and the killer is ..." the film broke. :-( So I'll be waiting for a video release to find out what happened.
- Manslaughter - Former radical older man loves younger girl. Girl involved in accidental killing of cop (well sort of). Issues come up. Well down, well acted and a bit painful to watch because of the subject matter. You're not going to come out smiling and dancing but it delivers what it's trying for I think.
- The Fish Fall in Love - Really good. Another win for Iranian film at SIFF. The thing is though that the entire story could have been cleared up for the characters with a little proactive communication, or even a short letter. I wish I knew more about if the filmmakers are actually trying to make a larger point about communication within their society. Going on my best in fest list.
I think it's going to be impossible to do even a brief writeup of each of the films I've seen. I thought I'd do a recap by title and then do some posts on the most noteworthy (at least to me). Clearly my take on these flix is a 'your mileage may vary' situation. Take Brothers of the Head which I saw in press screenings the other day. Personally I wouldn't mind have the time back to watch, read a book, or maybe sleep. But hey, faux documentary about co-joined twins starting a punk rock back seemed worth the shot - and I'd probably do it again. Left me completely uninspired. Person I keep running into this week told me she'd thought it was pretty decent - though allowed the music was horrible. For me the early UK punk was the only reason I didn't walk out...
OK - so I saw Brothers of the head. Other viewings not previously mentioned have included;
- The Illusionist - This was the opening night film. I really can't say I loved it. Think a bit David Mamet crossed David Copperfield crossed with Ed Norton doing an accent. It had an interesting if often slightly out of focus look. Main sin from my point of view was that the "twist" was pretty obvious very early in the movie.
- Short Package - Outside Looking In - Pretty good set of shorts. Got a kick out of Oedipus - bit of a different take but none the less disturbing.
- Conversations with Other Women - Not exactly sure what I think. Wouldn't put it on the top of my list. Interesting split screen camera work throughout, though I felt it may have taken away from rather than added to the film.
- The Proposition - Interesting to see an Australian version of the classic western. Not a huge fan of the genre so can't speak to it's overall merits. Decent story, not as violent from my view as folks said it was going to be. Everyone does indeed need a good scrubbing down though.
- Wordplay - Documentary on elite NY Times crossword puzzlers. Great fun. Recommend. Great clips of Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton and other notables. Keep your eye on the kid in the Trogdor shirt.
- Ski Jumping Pairs - Mock documentary. Pretty damn funny.
- Twelve and Holding - I caught this in between films pretty much as a placeholder. I was really pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. Note - this is a movie about kids - but I suspect not a movie for kids. Some parts are pretty dark but I thought it was well done and interesting to watch.
- The Method - Well the good news is that after seeing this you'll likely feel that your workplace isn't quite this bad. I know a lot of people that enjoyed this - I was left a little cold. I think there was a message about the globalization in here but I'm not clever enough to really suss it out. Or maybe I just haven't had enough time. Either way I still can't figure out why two of the characters were having sex in the bathroom during the interview process. :-)
- Dark Horse - Best short description I can come up with is a view of slacking Danish style. Shot in black and white - has a great look to it. I had a good time with this one - though nothing particular stands out in my memory to justify the recommendation.
- 1:1 - Love affair between Danish girl and Palestinian boy and the troubles they face. Well done, I can certainly see why it made the festival, but not my strongest recommendation. Mainly because the story involving whether the boyfriend's brother was involved in an attack on the girl's brother is a little transparent.
- Texas - Hmmm, how to describe, how about aggressive, drunken Italian slacking. I watched the whole thing, but didn't really hold my interest. The attempts to do some fancy playing with the timeline just made things extra confusing for me.
- Pusher - So many folks were hyping the film I figured it would have a hard time living up to the stories. But I really liked it. Very rough view of the gangster life without making it at any way appealing. Out on video now as it's an older film and worth watching if you go in for the crime stuff.
- Pusher II - Second in the trilogy. Follows on of the characters from Pusher along his tragic path. Not quite as good but if you liked the first I'd suggest checking this out. I missed the third one of the series but I'm going to try and track it down on video.
- The King - When I read the description for this I thought it was about a son returning home to a strict evangelical/conservative household. Technically that' s correct but it's pretty different than what I recall the trailer looking like. That said, I really thought this was very good. It had me completely enthralled with no idea where it was going. Definitely a film that will leave you discussing with friends.
- Adam's Apples - Great film. Do see this in the theater or rent when available. Very funny, watchable and arguably thought provoking. One of the best of fest.
- Ahlaam - There's an amazing story around the creation of this Iraqi feature. Cast and crew being kidnapped, released and kidnapped again. Interrogations and detainments with the American authorities, etc. At the beginning of the screening they read a letter from the director that was extremely moving. The movie does indeed convey the terrifying conditions in Iraq. But as a movie to go out and see it's a little tough to recommend. The dialog (at least as translated) is very, very formal and it makes it a little rough going. Possible some paring down would keep the impact and leave it more watchable. But again, the team that put it together deserves a lot of recognition.
- The Puffy Chair - I hate to not love a film with one of the best quotes in the festival. The boyfriend outside the girlfriend's bedroom, boombox raised high. Only thing that doesn't quite fit is the musical selection. When she asks what he's doing the response is classic - "You've got my Peter Gabriel CD." For me though that was the highlight of the film. It did feel like a very faithful view into watching a relationship not quite moving forward. But I wasn't really captured for the characters and that just left me not feeling very invested in the character's progress. But it does make you think twice about your furniture purchase on eBay.
- The Betrayal - I was a little sleepy during this film - and it was a little slow. So let's just say I'm withholding judgment do to my possible impairment.
- Nordeste - I really thought this was one of the better films I'd seen (at least up until that point). Story follows two women and issues of poverty and children. Heartbreaking to watch at times - kept me completely hooked all the way through. Does the audience the favor of a more truthful ending than Hollywood could have provided.
- Shaymal Chhaya - I believe this was one of the strongly recommended films from the programmers' preview. I thought it was interesting (as I learned about a conflict in Bangladesh I knew little of). But I wouldn't call it great. Interestingly enough this seemed to have one of the highest walkout rates I've noticed this year - though in this case I take back my earlier point that this is a good sign.
- The Hidden Blade - Really good Japanese samurai film. Don't go see it for the action, you'll be disappointed. You'll be rooting more for the relationship issues to work out than watching fancy swordplay.
- The Groomsmen - New film from Edward Burns. Last days leading up to the marriage of a set of 30 something friends. Lot of actors you'll recognize doing a good job with less than shocking material about becoming an adult (even if you've waited until your late 30's to do it).
- Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas - Cool idea #1- the title. Definitely best title in the fest. Second cool idea - casting the very watchable Olivia Wilde. It's a great concept for a film - slightly geeky college student's book of thoughts seeking a unifying theory of everything get stolen by pot-head sorority girl - ideas subsequently spread virally through campus. With a setup that cool had a tough bar to meet. I definitely enjoyed it though it was somewhat of a "wait for video" sort of experience for me.
- Greyfriars Bobby - Dog movie #1 in my canine double header. Part of the film for families series. I laughed, cried, etc. Good stuff.
- Cave of the Yellow Dog - Dog movie #2. From a cinematic view - a much more interesting movie. Pretty non-verbal Mongolian film about a girl wanting to keep a stray dog she found. Probably about a lot more than that. Adorably kids, very cute dog and great views of a very different lifestyle.
- Factotum - Matt Dillon being drunk and writing stuff. Not something I'd care to watch again. Nothing against the performances. Just didn't feel like I learned anything much and kept having the uncomfortable feeling the alcoholism was being glorified a bit - even though I realized nothing was being portrayed in a particularly positive light.
- Vishwa Thulasi - Interesting film. Glad I saw it being the only Indian film in the festival this year. Visually stunning for much of the movie. A little confusing at times. No recommendation one way or the other.
- 13 (Tzameti) - Add "don't undertake lucrative but unknown assignments from disreputable folks whose roof you're working on" to the one about not taking candy from strangers. Not to be watched right before you need to get some sleep. This is a true thriller in that it keeps you incredibly tense throughout the film. I can't say more without taking away from a future viewing.
- Man Push Cart - A Pakistani rock star forced to earn a living with a pushcart in NYC. I really enjoyed this one - I'll leave the review at that for now.
- Madeinusa - "For one devout Peruvian village, God dies on Good Friday and is born again on Easter; between those days there is no sin." An interesting movie that I'm glad I saw. Wouldn't put it at the top of my list for the festival - but definitely not a waste of time
- Brothers of the Head - described a bit above.
- Smiling in a Warzone - Documentary about a Danish woman you sets off to Afganistan with a little Piper airplane to give an Afgani girl her first flight - and hopefully a brighter future.
- Joni's Promise - I'm going to write up more on this Indonesian film in the next few days. Completely goofy, fun romantic comedy. Joni's promise is that he'll always get the film reel to the theaters on time. One day a women he's interested in tells him they can talk more later so long as the film she's going to watch. Of course this becomes the day nothing can go right.
- Starfish Hotel- Dark, creepy and very watchable. This is not The Ring or anything like that. But it has a similar fantastical and dark feel to it. Plus what seems to be a rather direct homage to Donny Darko - so I had to love that.
- Urban Scarecrow - Sad story about life on route 99 through Seattle. Didn't really draw me in except to hope the young main character got a break from the "parenting" practiced by his dad.
- Kissed by Winter (Vinterkyss) - a sad story set in Norway. Very compelling story of a mother dealing (not always well) with the grief from the loss of her son.
- OSS 117 - Nest of Spies - Great goofy fun in a French take on the Naked Gun crossed with James Bond. What this guy does for a good nights sleep still has me laughing to think of it.
- Linda Linda Linda - I read a comment on IMDB that this Japanese film is what Josie and the Pussycats should have been. I think that's a good summation. This doesn't deal with a band trying to make it big. It gets its drama at a much smaller scale - the girls involved are trying to put their band together for the big high school show. Great fun and I can guarantee you're going to have a hard time getting the title song out of your head.