Once week until press screenings start!!!
2009 Seattle International Film Festival
Lynn Shelton’s Humpday to be honored at Centerpiece Gala screening.
Hometown series helps launch SIFF Film Center Capital Campaign and the “35 Club.”
Seattle, WA – The 35th Seattle International Film Festival will present a revitalized Northwest Connections program featuring an unprecedented lineup of work by local filmmakers, films made in the Northwest, or with distinctive appeal to the region. Sixteen extraordinary features and documentaries and thirteen shorts pay tribute to the thriving filmmaking community in and around Seattle, and highlight an enduring international interest in cinema from and about the Northwest.
It's probably a story about a lot of things. But on the surface it covers the intersection of two groups. First a young Honduran woman on her way to the US illegally through Mexico (often riding on the top of trains). Second, a man of roughly the same age who lives in Mexico and is involved with the MS-13 gang. If you want to learn more about the gang then perhaps try one of the various documentaries. If you want to learn more about illegal immigration another source might be more complete (say anyone but Lou Dobbs). The story is sad and occasionally touching and generally well shot and interesting to watch. Not super fast (someone I know said it felt slow) though at a bit over 90 minutes it's not going to feel endless. I didn't particularly feel as though I was pulled into the lives of any of the characters - so there was a sense of looking in without truly understanding everything. I'm glad I gave it a try - not bad - just not game changing for me. One caveat - I believe I slightly dozed at some point - so if I missed the singing/dancing/magical realism segment that blew your mind then please let me know.
Makes a bit of fun at everyone (church, feminists, etc.) largely along the angle of those who become too self-righteous tend to take pragmatic shortcuts that betray the "goodness" they're trying to do. But on a more fun level it's a romantic comedy triangle type thing between opposite types.
There are basically two overlapping groups. First is the group associated with the Catholic church - with a radio show/media empire based around their program "Virgin Radio" who's organizing a pilgrimage of virgins on stilts as cover for a to be discovered business venture. All a bit seedy and none too subtle (the assistant director mentioned there was a bit of a furor in Poland over the film). On the other side is the feminist group led by the other leader who's a bit of a "the ends justifies the means" type. She's the clear counterpoint to the over the top priest running the virgin business. Her girlfriend is a much younger krav maga enthusiast who used to date the host of a TV show that both groups seem to aggressively attempt to be on (it's possible that in Poland there's just one show - or that this is a very popular one. Oddly reminiscent of the Morton Downey Jr. show). From the church side there's a somewhat torn younger man who writes religious music for them but catches the eye of the younger lesbian feminist. A bunch of coincidences, misunderstandings, and general poking of fun ensues. I could cover more but it's really just going to detract from the film. And it's sort of complicated and I'm feeling lazy. I don't think there's anything too shocking going on - but the film does make you wonder a bit where things are going, even if the ending isn't that unexpected when you think about it. At some level it is a romantic comedy - in the positive sense that succeeds where some of the earlier labeled romantic comedies at this festival failed. I liked it for it's differentness, colorful/bright cinematography and fun performances. A nice way to cap off this short local festival
Sadly, according to the AD the film is scheduled to screen in LA on Wed, but after that US distribution is unclear. I was hoping to at least hear it would be on the US festival circuit - but he wasn't too sure if that was the case. I was hoping it might play at SIFF this year.
I did want to write about how impressed I was with the way the Polish Film festival was run. For a small effort (in terms of scale) it was extremely professionally run. No glitches I experienced, everything was run on time, Q&A was handled well, etc. So nice job to the organizers. I'm guessing that the decision to hold it at SIFF Cinema which brings along professional staff, ticketing systems, and projectionists in a known venue couldn't have hurt. I'm hoping more local festivals will work with them as I'm guessing it helps to be able to focus on film content vs. the mechanics of running the festival itself.
For those not familiar the super ass-kicking Jason Statham plays the main character. He's a hired killer with perennial stubble who's injected with a deadly poison in the first film. Only extreme activity will keep him alive long enough to take revenge. The first film is a grab bag of violence and general civic disrespect that ends with him falling from a (very high up) helicopter to the ground below. So sort of hard to get a sequel going...
Tackling the thorny subject head on the new film starts with Statham bouncing off a car and being swept up by Chinese gang members. Oh right, before I forget - don't go if a multitude of slurs against various racial groups and/or members of differing sexual orientations offends you. Actually, don't go if anything offends you - there's something for everyone here in that respect.
They continue some of the style of the first film including the part about the local news broadcasting his rampage across the city (including his plot driven need in both films to have sex on camera in public to the enjoyment of LA's citizens who all enjoy a bit of exhibitionism apparently). Though for all I know that's a standard LA newscast topic. There's tons of gratuitous and somewhat graphic violence mixed in directly with lots of random nudity. As in the first film there's a generally intended sleazy feel to much of the sex related material and he's typically encountering naked people that look more like "real people" than naked people in a movie. Which is not altogether a good thing, especially given the directors thinly disguised need to have every ass in sight get slapped at least once or twice.
Oh right - why is he alive? Never answered other than he's tough - but he's super tough so at some point you can suspend disbelief. :-) In fairness it's handled well by making the whole movie have a feel of standing outside reality. Due to his toughness the Chinese gangsters remove his heart post fall for transplant into someone else. They make the rookie Bond villain mistake of deciding to harvest the rest of his organs later (vs. just killing him when unconscious), leaving him with a temporary artificial heart. Waking up and hearing the organ harvesting plan he decides to bust out of there. The artificial heart has a battery pack that seems to provide less running time than an iphone with a bad twitter habit. In movie terms this means Statham must constantly recharge by any means necessary. Think electrical sockets, tasers, electrical dog collars, and rubbing against people for static buildup. Yes, rubbing against people. It's too bad shooting people doesn't count towards the recharge quota or he wouldn't have had as much of a problem. As mentioned before, having sex in public is covered as a subset of "rubbing."
Statham's jack of all trades friend tells him if retrieved he can have the heart put back in. So away he goes to find the heart, only stopping to stomp heads, kill people and electrocute himself along the way.
It's fairly violent, and I think graphic as well (I tend to not watch closely when someone is cutting off a nipple onscreen so it could be more implied than graphic) with a bit of the surgery channel style footage occasionally mixed in. But it does answer important questions such as what happens if a stripper is shot through augmented breasts and can this director produce a gunfight with topless shooters, multicultural gangs and gay leather aficionados in a way that would make Tarantino proud? They do mix in some cute asides including a flashback to Statham's youth (sort of) - possibly the first such flashback in something toeing the exploitation/violence porn line.
If you like ethically questionable violence jokes including folks "ironically" being shot in the head, a gangster being question questioned while sodomized by a shotgun (< 3 minutes into the film no less) you'll almost certainly enjoy this. Otherwise it's hard to really predict if you'll find it fun or a sign of the impending downfall of western civilization. I sort of thought it was fun - at least more so than Transporter 3. But I'm not entirely proud for feeling that way, and I don't think it's one for the ages.
That said, one thing is certain. The folks making Crank 2 decided to truly go for broke with over the top action, lots of random T&A, more violent than necessary violence, language and more questionable jokes than you can shake a pair of nunchucks at. Pretty much not a compromise in sight - to which I think you can only say, in the immortal words of Ali G, "Respec"
From what I've sampled during SIFF events their food is pretty good - so I'm thinking dinner out is the way to go. Around $6 for a ticket - already cancelled my reservation with SIFF for Addicted to Plastic. C'mon - a choice between feeling horrible about the environment and Lloyd Dobler is no choice at all...
For more pre-film fun see how many of the IMDB quotes you can recall.
Since this isn't a romantic comedy the guy is not an asshole in the same way as the earlier two films. He's just been thrown in jail for some sort of blowup at the hospital when his first child is born. The flashbacks are pretty chronologically in order from when he finds out the girlfriend is pregnant. Initially he's a complete mensch about it. But then starts to wonder if he knows how to really handle this new chapter in his life. He has three uncles (his father died young) whom helped raise him via largely conflicting advice. One believes it's a dog eat dog world and you should step on your competitors neck to get ahead, the other is focused on financial security (just get a good, boring job) and the third says to live every moment with abandon and no thought of the future (oddly enough he's not a mortgage broker). Rather than balancing them he goes through each theory in turn. You won't be surprised to hear this results in rather spotty results at times. He does "upgrade" from his bartending gig getting a corporate job selling something. The advice helps him move up the corporate ladder and in the tradition of many films this contributes to almost destroying his family life. I'll leave it to you to find out if he makes it out OK in the end. Only hint I'll give is that it is not a Russian film (even though some of the cinematography reminded me slightly of Mermaid). Film's implicit motto - try not to act like any of the guys in a Polish romantic comedy and you'll be fine.
Overall I thought it was pretty decent. It's possibly it's standing was raised relative to the last two films I saw. But overall I do think it wasn't bad at all. The message is nothing new - I wouldn't say go for that part.
Back to what I actually watched. The first film of the night was another "romantic comedy." Which seems to follow my admittedly under-sampled syllabus for a Polish romantic comedy. Start with a guy who is a complete and total douche. Then mix in an attractive, serious and very reasonable (meaning down to earth, decent, nice, etc.) woman who against all logic in the universe has an attraction to said douche. Next have the guy be an even bigger asshole for the better part of the film. Finally, of course let them get together improbably at the very end. Manage to accomplish all without the much chemistry. Oh, almost forgot. While you're doing this throw in a little musical ditty that you play back either faster, slower, or in a slightly different key to remind viewers they're still watching the same movie (helpful perhaps if you keep dozing off). Admittedly, I've only seen the two films - but they're so starkly similar it's either a huge coincidence, a trait of Polish romantic comedy, or one of the festival programmers has a huge weak spot for this junk. The fact I've seen 2 romantic comedies without liking either much is surprising though consider what a sucker I am for the genre.
This "Polish" film was actually mostly in English and shot both in CA and Warsaw. The setup is simple as it is simple (in the second sense dumb). Ethically challenged rich lawyer is whoring his way through LA. He gets a call about some girl he slept with who's now pregnant. She says she's also underage so in a panic he flies to Warsaw to see her. She's not really underage, but is pregnant. He vacillates throughout the film about whether he wants to be involved in the kids life, etc. There's of course some manufactured emergencies late in the film that requires them to break up, get back together, etc. All standard romantic comedy content - just not super interesting. To find out the purpose of life he needs to lose his job, get sent to prison (a nice prison of course where they all share perogies - not Midnight Express prison), take a lower paying but meaningful job and get back together happily with the mother of his accidental child. I don't think I'm really giving anything important away here. Moral? - if you've got no morals to solve the problem just knock up some down to earth chick and all will work out. The film's cast has a fair number of American actors as well as all the stupidities of a bad romantic comedy (loads of sexual harassment in the workplace, fat but funny best friend, pregnant woman has gay "fabulous" friend) and was on occasion painful to watch (though I should say several of the Polish actors are clearly way better than this material). Come to think of it I'm not 100% sure why I stayed. The later reels were better - at least by comparison. If I hadn't seen the other "comedy" the night before I might have put this into one of the worst films I'd seen this year - but relatively it was less horrible. Almost forgot - lots of "humor" about Polish people not being able to understand English and American's being sort of culturally insensitive. Which is (in my experience) always a topic in films made by those damn foreigners. ;-)
So I was pretty happy to see that on their pre-launch website they appear to have the 2009 catch line, "Find the unexpected" and a logo that's not just a word. There's even a pineapple and balloons. Nothing bad I can possibly say bad about that. Who doesn't love either the fruit with a top that resembles Beaker and/or balloons?
In terms of other info there's an official list of venues included, "Main Festival venues include: SIFF Cinema, Pacific Place, Uptown Cinemas, Neptune Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, and Harvard Exit. Additional limited-run venues include Kirkland Performance Center (dates TBA), Northwest Film Forum (dates TBA), Paramount Theatre (Opening Night), and The Triple Door (Face the Music Special Presentation)."
Can't say I'm super thrilled they're including the Neptune back in again. I was sort of hoping they'd add another screen at the Uptown to keep the venues a bit closer again this year. But overall looks like things are shaping up.
Full list of films officially published on May 7th - less than a month!
A. Don't let this writeup dissuade you from trying some films at this mini-fest. I've seen at least one other one (Tricks) that indicates the festival programmers aren't completely nuts.
B. While I will try, I simply do not have the writing skills to adequately explain what's off about this film. Though this fellow at IMDB does a pretty good job of it in a shorter more concise way.
When I wrote about Last Chance Harvey I think I mentioned that only the intervention of flesh eating zombies would have improved the film. In this situation I'm not even sure it that would have been enough to salvage the effort. Don't get me wrong, I think I liked this better than Last Chance Harvey. But only because of the following three factors; decent cinematography (especially in the mountainous countryside scenes), a windsurfing nun (always awesome), and a single shot of gratuitous nudity (hey - men are so easy - it's true). But when the best thing in your film is a windsurfing nun it's perhaps time to work a bit harder on the script, acting, etc.
Probably more annoying than anything else was a stupid little musical ditty being used over, and over, and over, and over, and over again throughout the film. You've surely seen this device where a "cute" little piece of music is used to tie pieces of the story together audibly. Good films use it sparingly (if ever) and bad films seem to use it in place of writing talent. This, in case you haven't picked up on my subtle point, is not one of the good films. I could be wrong, but I believe the same sort of thing went on in I Can't Think Straight - though by comparison that film should have been nominated for multiple Oscars.
The storyline is pretty simple. Mom and daughter head off on separate vacations. Mom heads to the mountains with a guy who's supposed to just sort of chaperon until the rich dude she's really interested in (the chaperon is only very well off) shows up a few days later. The daughter (19 or so) goes to the beach being given a ride by a young, cocky asshole rich kid that she sort of likes (for no discernible interest other than the possibility that the film is really a complex metaphor for how young girls make poor choices due to their lust for "bad boys). Will they both find happiness, fulfillment, etc.? That's the big question. And if you cannot guess the "big twist" tying this all together inside a few tries I'd be pretty surprised. Other than the fact that the movie was made - that's not a twist, that's just the facts of this sick sad world. ;-)
Hmmm - enough trying to "explain" - just some random thoughts for now about the film experience;
- The relationship between the older couple is actually quite rationale. There's only the problem with their near zero on-screen chemistry. And the impression that's hard to shake that the Mom's meds need to be recalibrated as she's preternaturally happy all of the time. That differs greatly from the reasonableness of the relationship between the younger ones. Other than they both have pretty limited chemistry too.
- I seriously have no idea what the younger woman sees in her guy. He's an asshole, his friends are assholes, everyone she meets while with him are assholes. Actually, it's a pretty sad commentary on Polish youth as there's not a single character under 25 who's not a complete jerk (including waiters, bartenders, etc.). As I mentioned I wonder if we're supposed to see the younger relationship contrasted with the older one as choosing a partner for the wrong vs. right reasons. But something tells me it's not that sophisticated.
- I pretty much new it would suck 2 minutes in. Only at that point I thought there was a slim chance there would be adequate gratuitous nudity to have some redeeming social value.
- There are multiple random nun jokes - driving drunk, windsurfing, etc. They're not actually that good - but this is the sort of film that makes you grasp for something, anything, worth liking.
- The technical shooting actually is just fine. Everything looks good. I'm far from expert, but I suspect the editing is actually pretty poor. Felt as though there were a considerable number of jarring transitions. But given what the "script" probably looked like there may have been little else to do.
- Much like Last Chance Harvey - there's a scene where one of the characters ends up in the hospital. But I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be laughing out loud (which I truly was) when the mini-bus carrying the mom overturns and flips upside down when she's heading to meet her daughter at the end. Followed by my less audible sigh when the mini-bus does not then burst into flames.
- If you're going to call something a romantic comedy there ought to be comedy involved that doesn't derive solely from the viewer making fun of the film itself. Just saying...
You have been warned...
Update: I feel compelled to mention that there were definitely some people in the audience laughing in a more positive way at the film. So it's possible that I'm setting the bar too high. Though do keep in mind that I'm a complete sucker for a romantic comedy. But I did want to point out that some people did like it - so perhaps there's something I'm missing in translation.
Simplest way to say it is this movie left me flat. I really wanted to like it - but in the end my heart (nor brain) just wasn't into it. Seattle's The Stranger had a more positive take on it - check it out if you'd like another opinion. I do agree there's some clever writing mixed in. And I definitely laughed at the main character's play (The Onion Dance) - presented at the beginning of the film. But overall - I think the word the kid's would use is "meh..."
If you tried to checkout their website last week it's worth taking another look. Since then they fixed the most fundamental problem that prevented you from reading a description of the films. :-) Another thing to note is that even though it's listed as a week+ in duration it's a little shorter in reality - just the two weekends. But I think that's probably a good way to go and let's you take in multiple shows without falling asleep at work the next day.