Movies postsFriday May 23, 2014
The Best Thing I've Seen So Far at SIFF
Before the screening of “Leninland” at SIFF Uptown today they showed a short film. I had no idea they were going to do this, so for the first part of the short I assumed we were watching “Leninland,” about a museum dedicated to Vladimir Lenin in Gorky, Russia, which opened in 1987. More on that later.
This obviously wasn’t that. The camera focused on an older couple in a car. Klára (Judit Pogány) is overweight and in the passenger seat. Her first words warn about the speed limit. At one point she tells her husband, Vilmos (Zsolt Kovács) to turn left, then adds, “Be careful—cars are coming from the opposition direction,” as if he’s never turned left before. She doesn’t do this nastily. She just does it. And she keeps doing it.
Vilmos is a bit intense behind the wheel. At times he gets angry. Early on, he says he’s going to record her one day so she can hear what she sounds like, and eventually he does this. He takes out the small recorder and places it triumphantly on the dashboard. She’s taken aback, stares at the thing, then sits in uncomfortable silence for 15, maybe 30 seconds, chomping at the bit. Finally she just starts talking again in the usual manner: watch out for this, the speed limit is that, what’s this road called again? He gives a small cry. It could be a cry of triumph or frustration. Maybe some combination.
I don’t want to give it away, but if you have a chance to see this Hungarian short, called “Újratervezés” (“My Guide”), do. It’s subtle, sweet, funny, poignant.
Other SIFF 2014 reports:
- How do you solve a problem like SIFF?
- SIFF's Opening Night: Red carpet and Freudian slips
- Nine Thoughts a Week into SIFF
How Do You Solve a Problem Like SIFF?
“Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter,” about a “Fargo”-obsessed Japanese girl who travels to Minnesota, is one of the films I'll be seeing at SIFF this year.
How do you solve a problem like the Seattle International Film Festival? Two-hundred and seventy-six movies from around the world and you've heard of maybe five of them. And you have four weeks. Go.
My friend Vinny simply figures out which country he doesn't know well and/or wants to know more about, and simply goes to see its movies. This year's theme for him is apparently Eastern Europe. He's going to see “Quod Erat Demonstrandum” from Romania, “The Japanese Dog” from Romania, “Tangerines” from Estonia, “Clownwise” from the Czech Republic, and “40 Days of Silence” from Uzbekistan. Not a bad strategy. Unless you wind up with dogs and clowns and Latin. But if you go to any of these movies, say hi. Vinny's nothing if not friendly.
Me, I tend to look through the SIFF guide, pick out what's interesting, and then check out its IMDb rating before buying anything.
Yeah, this can be problematic, too. “The Case Against 8,” for example, a documentary about the Prop 8 battle in California and the fight for marriage equality, is on the docket, but its IMDb rating is 5.2 Why? Homophobes and right-wing nuts. So you parse out that lot. Basically you look for something in the 7s. About 7.5 is nice. Above 8? You grow suspicious. That's a bit too high. Is it a TV show? Yes, it is. Below 6.5 and you grow wary again. Too low. Anything in the 5s, unless it's “The Case Against 8” this year or the Wikileaks doc last year, you avoid. Or I do.
Easy movies, too, get high IMDb ratings. Crowd pleasers. Difficult movies, like Terrence Malick's movies, less so. You just need to figure out which difficult movies are your kind of difficult movies. I guess that's the battle.
I wound up not going to “8” this year because it'll be on HBO soon enough (sorry) and because I already interviewed its principles in January. I also didn't get tickets for movies I really want to see—“The Congress,” “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above,” “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”—because schedules conflicted. So it goes.
These were what I wound up with, sorted by IMDb rating:
|The Trip to Italy||UK||8.2|
|Muse of Fire||UK||8.1|
|In Order of Disappearance||Norway||7.8|
|The Bit Player||Philippines||7.6|
|The Last of the Unjust||France/Austria||7.4|
|Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter||Japan||7.4|
|The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared||Sweden||7.1|
|The Better Angels||USA||6.8|
|Our Sunhi||South Korea||6.8|
|Charlie Chaplin shorts||USA||n/a|
To be honest, some of my choices simply related to proximity. “Chinese Puzzle,” for example, will be showing in a place and time that's easy for me. So why not?
But it's all a crapshoot and SIFF doesn't make it any easier. Why not, on its website, give us a sortable table of every movie in the program with relevant data? Right? So you can at least sort by title and country and genre? Wouldn't that help?
With the schedule this year, they included top picks from its half dozen programmers, which is interesting, but it's only helpful if we know what that programmer liked in the past. If, for example, the programmer says their favorite recent SIFF movies have included “The First Grader” and “Frances Ha,” well, they're not for me. If, on the other hand, they liked “Restrepo,” “A Hijacking” and “The Act of Killing,” then I'm theirs. So wouldn't that make sense? To include that? SIFF?
Last year I lucked out. The year before, less so. This year? Who knows? Crapshoot.
Oh, I also have the gala pass. So that includes, among others, the Jimi Hendrix biopic (at the opening, tonight, open bar), and Richard Linklater's “Boyhood.”
Fuck, I'm going to be busy.
What about you? How do you solve a problem like SIFF?
SIFF also needs help with their posters.
That 'Frozen'/'Wicked' Connection: Is Idina Menzel the Voice of a Generation?
Think of the connective tissue between these stories:
- Both are revisionist fairy tales in which the villain, a powerful woman (Snow Queen, Wicked Witch), has been recast as the heroine (Elsa/Elphaba).
- The standout song in each production is the moment when this character defiantly reveals her powers to the world (“Let It Go”/“Defying Gravity”).
- Idina Menzel. She voiced Elsa in the movie and originated Elphaba on Broadway.
According to IMDb.com, they're thinking Lea Michelle for the movie Elphaba. Not bad (more connective tissue: Menzel played her mother on “Glee”), but that's still too bad. Think how much Menzel's voice has already influenced kids, particularly girls. We're talking voice of a generation here.
But who would you cast as Galinda?
God's Not Dead? Goody
The shot below is one of the IMDb.com pics of one of the stars of the godawful film “God's Not Dead”:
Apparently I wasn't the only one to have problems with the movie. The message boards at IMDb.com are full of complaints from Christians. “It's bad and I'm sorry,” reads one. Yet the Breitbarts of the world still push the film for political reasons. Shame. $42.8 million and counting. Although “Heaven Is For Real,” which opened yesterday, and also looks godawful, will probably cut into that. Well, you cannot serve both God and money. Someone said that once.
What Would You Put on Captain America's To-Do List?
Here's a screenshot of the list of historical and cultural artifacts Captain America was going to check into after awakening from a 65-year deep freeze in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”:
It gets a quick laugh, as it should. Sam Wilson, the man he kept lapping in D.C. Tidal Basin, and soon to be the Falcon, was the one recommending “Trouble Man” by Marvin Gaye. Can't imagine how Steve Rogers, whose head and heart are still in 1945, can wrap his mind around that. Let alone Nirvana.
Probably too much film in there, right? I like “Star Wars/Trek” but the “Rocky” reference is unncessary. I like the economical way they handle the Cold War, though, with the Berlin Wall reference (up/down). But my favorite is probably “Thai Food.”
Question: If you were on the filmmaking team, what would *you* have suggested? “9/11” would obviously ruin the moment. The Civil Rights Movement? Or too much of a reminder of our racist past, into which, remember, Steve Rogers was born. Women's lib? Iffy terrority for the same reason. How about the A bomb, the H bomb, the Neutron bomb? Which Presidents? Which assassinations? Nah. Too close to the plot, such as it was, of that crappy 1990 “Captain America” movie.
What was the biggest thing to happen to the world since 1945? And what little pop cultural artifact might get a laugh?