‘film:2008’ Category Archives
by jacicita in chenillo mariana, film:2008, film:2009, sjff, zilbermann jean-jacques
I don’t think I’ve ever made it out to the Seattle Jewish Film Festival before, but this year a fellow 3 Dollar Bill volunteer gave me two vouchers, so I was able to check it out. I will definitely be back!
* Nora’s Will intrigued me for the intersection of Mexican & Jewish cultures. The film opens with Nora’s death, and as her ex-husband takes on her funeral arrangements, he challenges her attempts to manipulate the world after she has left it, and discovers that she knew him better than he could ever have hoped to know her. Delightful, subtle, and beautifully acted. Screened with the dark comic short “Banana Bread”. Both recommended.
* He’s My Girl was the film cosponsored by 3 Dollar Bill, which is running it again in next month’s Translations Film Festival. The lead is basically a tool, a musician trying to seduce one young man, while actually being in a secret relationship with a transgender Arab. Complications are kicked up a notch when his ill mother moves in with him and his ex-wife and estranged son reappear. It was more or less Almodovar lite (& French), and I prefer Actual Almodovar. Possibly because when his leads are tools the film acknowledges it and/or manages to make them sympathetic anyway.
by jacicita in film:1910s, film:1980s, film:1999, film:2008, gilliam terry, neilan marshall, parisot dean, temple julien, woo john
* The Little Princess screened as part of the Children’s Film Festival. This was the 1917 adaptation starring Mary Pickford, and the Film Forum got me in with the magic words “live score”. Performed by Leslie McMichael on three harps, it was a perfect match to a great hour of classic silent melodrama.
Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Children’s Film Festival audience was one of the best behaved I have ever experienced. Adults would do well to take a lesson from them. (Especially, ironically, paying audiences. Free screening audiences know to put the damn phones away.)
* As a tie-in with the SciFi and Fantasy Short Films, SIFF Cinema again ran a series of SciFi on Blu-ray. (Yes, film would be better. But Blu-ray in a theater is still light years ahead of my TV. Plus, audience! And leaving the house! Anyway.) Last year I made it out for 2001: A Space Odyssey (which put me to sleep every damn time I tried to watch it on video, but in the theater? It is just as brilliant as everyone says. If you have the opportunity, take it.)
This year was a change of pace from that, with a double feature of Time Bandits and Galaxy Quest. The former I had never seen before & found utterly charming, and the latter I have long adored, even though I have never seen any Star Trek at all. It still totally works, and it was a treat to see them both on the big screen.
* Earth Girls Are Easy is an 80s classic, terrible and also awesome, and quite formative in my, uh, perception of Jeff Goldblum. In other news, it’s for the best that I don’t live closer to Central Cinema, or I would be there every damn night.
* I saw the American cut of John Woo’s historical epic Red Cliff when it was released in 2009, and was unimpressed. I did think it was unfair to judge on half of the film (especially considering what a fan I am of the talent it had both in front of and behind the camera), so I was delighted when SIFF Cinema programmed the complete version. All 16 reels of it! (insert dreamy sigh).
It truly was a totally different feature, and though there were melodramatic and overly sentimental moments, they felt better earned this time around. The sex scene was still boring, though. Sad but true. The action was epic, dramatic, and absolutely clear, which is not always a given; the cinematography was beautiful; and I can’t imagine seeing it anywhere but on the big screen.
…also, can we take a moment to scan that list of films and giggle about the fact that they are all technically revival? A silent film, scifi/fantasy cheese, and a Chinese epic. Awesome.
by jacicita in film:2008, film:2009, film:2010, monzón daniel, pooley leanne, siff 2010, stanton karen, taylor-wood sam, todorovskiy valeriy
* The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls is that film we always wanted and never knew we needed: a documentary about yodeling lesbian twins from New Zealand. If you think that sounds intriguing, you’ll love it. Which I did. If it makes you want to claw your ears off, that is fair. Not all the movies are for you.
* Later in the day, I overheard a conversation regarding Ginny Ruffner: A Not So Still Life, where they said that Ginny was clearly more talented than the filmmakers telling her story, and I do think that is true. It couldn’t quite decide what sort of a documentary it wanted to be, and I feel like there is a lot more to know about Ruffner, but I appreciated the opportunity, such as it was, to peek into her world.
* Hipsters was just a crazy lot of fun, a candy-colored musical with plenty of painfully pretty young people rebelling against the conformity of Soviet Russia. I loved it, from the costumes to the cinematography to the choreography, and the 125 minute running time flew past. A++ would boogie again.
* Continuing the musical theme (more or less) next up was Nowhere Boy, the early days of John Lennon biopic. Which was fine, solid stuff, but after sex & drugs & rock & roll I’m finding myself with less patience for the solid biopic. But it is what it is. Aaron Johnson is excellent as Lennon, though there is something Casey Affleck-y about his facial structure that was distracting. Also, seriously. Thomas Sangster (Paul McCartney) is allegedly 20? But he’s looked 11, tops, in everything (Doctor Who, Bright Star, etc). Someday he’ll grow up properly and I won’t recognize him anymore. Hell of an actor, though the best part of this movie was definitely the women in Lennon’s life: his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) & his estranged mother (Anne-Marie Duff). They were fantastic.
* Cell 211 was the last film of the night and the best film of the day. Winner of several Goya awards, it’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller set during a prison riot. A newly-hired guard is touring the prison the day before his first day of work when the riot breaks out, and due to an injury moments before, he’s left behind when all the other guards escape. He poses as a new prisoner and has some good ideas of his own that help earn what little trust the leader Malamadre has to give. It’s a complex web of motivations (of guard & prisoner alike), and the cast is amazing. Definitely earned its place in the best of festival.
by jacicita in film:2008, sato shimako, siff 2010
I got a ticket for K-20: The Fiend with 20 Faces thinking it would be a cheesy Japanese pulp movie, and that at the very least Takeshi Kaneshiro would be gorgeous in it. I came out of it in love. With the film, that is. I was pretty nuts for Kaneshiro already.
It’s basically a Japanese swashbuckling superhero movie. Kaneshiro is a circus performer (pardon me while I swoon. No, really) who is framed as the true identity of the titular K-20, a masked supervillian who has been stealing art all over a non-WWII AU Japan. He escapes the police thanks to a band of thieves, and with their help he studies from the old masters of thievery so that he can challenge K-20 and clear his name. Pretty straightforward comic book stuff, but it was great fun. Something I enjoy about Kaneshiro is that even though he’s beautiful, he doesn’t take himself seriously; he’s forever in roles where he gets to make fun of himself, and there is pretty much nothing I like better than that. This role was no different — he wants to clear his name so he can get back to the circus! Awesome.
The whole thing is a fun, steampunkesque ride, and doesn’t feel nearly as long as its running time, even as it hits all the requirements of the genre. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it includes an awesome lady: the fiancée of the chief inspector, who kicks ass all over the place and is the rescuer far more often than the rescued.
It ends with a genre-required sequel set-up, and I really hope it’s happening. Even more, I hope I’ll get to see it with a festival audience. This was one of the rare times where I was grateful a film wasn’t in English; I would have lost too many lines to laughter if it hadn’t been subtitled. Good times!
by jacicita in balmes thomas, banksy, film:2008, film:2010, reed kimberly
Prodigal Sons, one of the more popular documentaries at SIFF 2009, returned for a week’s run at SIFF Cinema this winter. Filmed by Kimberly Reed, it’s a documentary that one thought it was going to be about her class reunion after her gender transition, and turned out to be quite different, recording the strain on her family as her (adoptive) brother went through some identity issues of his own. In fact, her appearance at the reunion is easily the least-tense thing about the entire feature. Reed has transitioned away from the man her brother always wished he was. Utterly compelling, but with potentially triggering scenes of family violence.
As probably all of you know, I’m a big fan of street art, so I was pretty stoked to score a pass for Exit Through the Gift Shop, aka the Banksy movie. It purportedly is a street art documentary filmed in part by a French shop keeper named Thierry Guetta, and I’m in the camp who thinks it’s really a Banksy performance piece. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it’s pretty brilliant. It’s tremendously entertaining, including heist-like sequences and even an origin story (though superhero or supervillain we have yet to see), Guetta is a character in all meanings of the word, both Banksy and Shepard Fairey come off well in it, and Banksy’s a hell of a filmmaker. And all of those things are true regardless of if the film itself is true.
Finally, on a totally unrelated note, Babies was proof positive that I was born without a biological clock. The kids were all freakin’ adorable, but I still have no desire for one of my own. The documentary is beautifully shot & very straightforward: it follows four babies (in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco, & Tokyo) for the first year of their life. There’s no narration (which I think is a strength), and very little speaking in general. The (non-subtitled) conversations adults have are not the point; it’s all about the babies learning to interact with their very different worlds in very similar ways. Is there more to it than that? No, not really. Which was totally fine with me.
by jacicita in film:2008, linklater richard
To be perfectly honest, the only reason I saw Me & Orson Welles in the cinema at all is because it was part of SIFF’s Awards Buzz series. I really wanted to see the other two titles (A Single Man & The Young Victoria), and I am a sucker for a laminated pass. So it goes. I mean, it’s basically a Zac Efron movie, and he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. I would have seen it on DVD however, because I had heard great things about Christian McKay’s performance as Welles, and right they were. He’s magnificent in a role that would have been so easy to tip into caricature or scenery-chewing.
Unfortunately, Efron is the center of the thing, and you can just see the thinking behind it, as if a certain demographic will, like, totally go see a movie about Orson fucking Welles if only it has a *dreamy* lead. Um. No. So what we’re stuck with is glimpses of what could have been a great movie about Welles’ famous modern dress production of Julius Caesar, teases of what a film about that huge personality might have been, and then we’re yanked back to Teen Beat 1937.
Two moments at the end encapsulate the ridiculousness: first, a needle drop of extreme obviousness where “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” plays over Efron looking through clippings about the show, and second, that of course Efron’s English class has been studying the entire works of William Shakespeare, and so Efron winds up reciting (badly) a speech from the play, to great acclaim from his fellow students. Whatever.
To be fair to my motives, I had also rather been looking forward to seeing Claire Danes again, which is a genetic requirement for anyone who grew up on “My So-Called Life”, but the awfulness of the Efron pulled her down. Plus, the relationship between their characters skeeved me the heck out. He’s 17! She’s my age! Ew. Just, ew.
I must also admit that I enjoyed Zoe Kazan as the more age-appropriate love interest, who seems to do nothing but hang out at museums and attempt writing for the New Yorker. She was charming. And Leo Bill as Norman Lloyd was great fun as well. They & McKay deserved a better film, and Linklater, who has done glorious things in the past, should have given it to them.
Finally, I spotted two obvious typing errors in the final credits, which seems just ridiculous. I don’t even read credits that closely! Fail.
The full version of Red Cliff is actually two films, totaling over four hours. For the Western release, it’s chopped down to two-and-a-half hours. There was a representative at the screening I attended, asking people on their way out how they liked they film. I was tempted to respond, “nice and all, but I’d like to see the whole thing someday”.
The full release can’t fix all of the problems, like that it features one of the dullest sex scenes I have ever seen (quite a feat considering it features Tony Leung), and it would be bound to include even more trite scenes (such as the classic alliance-building scene of one blade of grass easily broken, but several woven together can resist). It would, however, spare us the horrible English voice-over at the beginning, and could perhaps give more power behind the many great action sequences.
John Woo is, after all, masterful at action, but perhaps not at scale. The film is gorgeous (I loved the paper lanterns rising), the battles are clear and not difficult to follow (and have some great maneuvers with only a little wire-fu), but we just aren’t made to care all that much most of the time. Takeshi Kaneshiro’s military strategist is a lot of fun, and of course Tony Leung would be worth seeing in a dramatic staging of the phone book, but it’s just not enough.
If you want to see Leung break your heart in wire-fu, rent Hero. To see him & Woo work action magic (with Chow Yun-Fat), rent Hard Boiled. For Kaneshiro, try House of Flying Daggers or Chungking Express & Fallen Angels.
by jacicita in film:2008, vasarhelyi elizabeth chai
I was sorry to miss this documentary at SIFF, so I was pretty stoked that they booked it at SIFF Cinema for the fall. Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love introduces us to Ndour, who is a compelling performer, and his family and band members who are all characters in their own right.
It follows his success as a musician, as well as the strength of his Muslim faith which he chooses to express beautifully in the highly-controversial album Egypt. It raised a big question for me, though, that the documentary tried to avoid: namely that the extreme reactions to the album in Senegal melted away once (spoiler!) it was honored with a Grammy, giving it outside recognition. It just made me go hmm.
by jacicita in film:1960s, film:2008, kristiansen stian, robbins jerome, slgff 2009, wise robert
The Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival was last month, but. Here’s the thing. I find it pretty hard to get excited about it because there is so much crap queer film. Plus, a huge part of the program is comprised of shorts, and there are many, many more crap short films than there are short films worth seeing. Add to that the fact that the majority of American queer film is terrible, so you can also cross off a whole bunch of features.
Since I’m a member of SIFF, though, I got some free ticket offers, and I went to two of them. First up was the awkwardly-titled The Man Who Loved Yngve, a sweet Norwegian coming-of-age film (high school kids in a rock band!) that just happened to include a gay love story. It wasn’t a perfect film, but it was exactly what I look for in a queer movie, namely, a movie with characters who happen to be queer. Just like life. It won the juried award for Best Feature, so I guess it was a good one to opt for!
The second film was the sing-a-long West Side Story, which was fantastic of course. It’s one of the musicals I was obsessed with when I was a kid; I wore out the soundtrack & I owned a book that contained the script for it and Romeo and Juliet, so it was just neat to see it on the big screen, and neater still to see it with a largely queer audience.
by jacicita in 69 series, anderson lindsay, docter pete, ferreri marco, film:1960s, film:1970s, film:2008, film:2009, hill george roy, hitchcock alfred, miyazaki hayao, neame ronald, ritchie michael, soderbergh stephen, yates david
Okay, this is ridiculous. I was doing so well, and then I went to a preview screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and had some sort of a meltdown. Do I write about it as a movie person? Do I write about it as a fan? Wah! So I will just say that I enjoyed the experience (Cinerama!), that I need to see how they’ll do the final two films before I can pass judgment on what was cut out, and that it ain’t no Prisoner of Azkaban. (This is where, if I was writing as a fan, I would draw hearts around Alfonso Cuaron. Don’t judge.)
What else since then?
I saw more 69 movies: Downhill Racer (Redford!), Topaz (spy thriller, and most un-Hitchcock Hitchcock since Mr & Mrs Smith), Dillinger is Dead (which was really upsetting — I am losing my edge in my old age — but one hell of a performance from Michel Piccoli), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (which is what you should see, if you see only one of these, and not just because it stars Maggie Smith), and If…. (which was a surreal satire, and an interesting double feature with Brodie).
Then, a few ostensibly kids movies: Up, which I had wanted to see all along (the teaser trailer was a perfectly formed short film), but apparently it took record breaking heat to get me into the theater. I liked it better than Wall-E, I think, because it was good all the way through and in Wall-E I stopped being interested once humans were involved. (And have we talked about the trans character already? Yes, probably.) And I got to see a free screening of Ponyo, which was adorable. More Totoro than Mononoke, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
The Metro started its classics series again, but I have only made it over there for The Informant! I nearly forgot, which I suppose is probably a sign. It was lower-key than I had expected, but I am quite curious how it’d play on second viewing. Really rewarding, I’d suspect. Another thing I forgot about: the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Hey, maybe it won’t suck this year. There’s a first time for everything.
Not that there’s any shortage of film. I have three-and-a-half more months of 69 movies coming up, SIFF Cinema is back from its summer break (oh, how I missed it!), and buzz from Toronto has me anxious for the big award season releases to start coming out. It was 80 this weekend but I am dreaming of fall, caramel lattes, and plenty of time at the theater.