erik lundegaard

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Saturday May 16, 2015

SIFF 2015 Glitches

After SIFF 2015 opening night, my first movie of the fest was “Accused,” the Dutch candidate for last year's best foreign-language film Oscar, which was playing at SIFF Egyptian at 4 PM Friday. It never started. We waited and waited. After 15 minutes, a woman with a beautiful French accent came out and haltingly told us there would be a delay. She tried a second time and then seemed to flee mid-sentence. The third time she came out, 45 minutes after the film was supposed to have begun, she said the film was canceled but couldn't say why. But vouchers could be picked up on the way outside. 

A few things:

  • Girl with the French accent: Speak up. You can get away with almost anything in this country with that accent. We'll buy whatever you have to say. Just have the confidence to say it. 
  • SIFF: Give the poor girl details before you push her out like that. Talk about rude. 

I probably wouldn't have thought much about all this but for an email from a friend today. He'd had a similar experience:

Today I was supposed to see “The Red Shoes” at the Egyptian. I'll leave out the minor glitches, and just focus on the fact that 20 minutes into the film, the projector died. After a five minute pause, things got going again. 20 minutes later, it died again, and the host apologized, saying that the projectionists had determined that the showing wouldn't continue. Both projectors had the same problem when switching reels.

He added these general complaints about SIFF:

Every year that website is dreadful, every year the will-call experience is at least a little screwy, and this year everyone is talking about the nonsensical choice for the premiere.

Yep, I guess, and yep.

If anyone at SIFF is reading this, I'd start with the website. That thing's a bitch. 


SIFF's slogan this year is “Be Watching.” We're trying, we're trying. 


Posted at 03:30 PM on May 16, 2015 in category Seattle
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Friday May 15, 2015

SIFF 2015 Opening Night

SIFF 2015 opening night

Photo courtesy of Arlene Kim.

At least the opening night movie gave me an opening line.

The Seattle International Film Festival began last night at McCaw Hall with red carpet, booze, beautiful people in beautiful clothes, and an odd choice for opening night movie: Paul Feig's “Spy,” a comedy spoof starring Melissa McCarthy, which is opening nationwide June 5. In three weeks, we'll be able to see it almost anywhere. As I wrote last week, it's the most commercial movie to open SIFF. So as P and I walked around the ground-floor lobby of McCaw Hall last night before the show, it gave me a way to break the ice. 

Most of the people I talked with were flummoxed by the choice. Yes, it seems odd, they said. Yeah, I don't get it. Yeah, I'm not happy with it. Only one dude disputed my use of the word “commercial,” thinking that previous years had movies with bigger stars. Which is true, a bit, but those movies weren't opening in three weeks in 3,000 theaters. Sometimes it helps to be a nerd and crunch the numbers beforehand.

So were there elements in “Spy” that the trailer ignored and that made it seem opening-night worthy? Not really. Basically, it's a genre spoof that still buys into the genre. (See: “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” “The Other Guys,” most every genre spoof ever made.) We laugh at our doppelganger, our schlub, struggling to make it in wish-fulfillment territory, but in the end we want them to succeed. And they do. They still look and act like us but become them. Hoorah.

It's most interesting in gender terms. The film is not only womencentric but feminist. McCarthy's character starts out as an assistant to Jude Law's character but becomes the better spy. McCarthy's assistant is female (Miranda Hart, funny) and their boss is female (Allison Janney, ditto), while the men are either testosterone-filled incompetents (Jason Statham), pretty-boy incompetents (Jude Law) or horny incompetents (Peter Serafinowicz). Its womencentric take is really the only reason it's playing in film festivals and opening ours.

This is the 41st SIFF, and 41 often seems a letdown after 40. The opening night movie wasn't as intriguing (last year: “Jimi: All Is By My Side”), and the opening-night speeches weren't quite as good. In 2014, Mayor Murray talked about seeing Barbra Streisand's “Funny Girl” nine times as a kid, adding, “By the ninth time, my parents really should've known I was gay.” This year he mostly complained about the oil rig in Elliott Bay. I forget SIFF's slogan last year but this year it's “Be Watching,” which fits laid-back, overly passive Seattle, but also has a creepy vibe to it. Particularly with the binoculars.

Even so, last night was fun. I loved running into Teresa and Erik, Kelly of Lark, Erin, and the longtime festival passholders who thought we didn't know much about movies. I liked the energy at McCaw Hall and afterwards at the Phelps Center. It's one of the few times that people in Seattle actually dress up, and it's fun to do the same. Beatles question: how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? Tiring, actually. I'll be happy to see the rest of the fest in my street clothes.

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Posted at 08:15 AM on May 15, 2015 in category Seattle
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Wednesday May 06, 2015

Is this SIFF's Most Commercial Opening Night Ever?

The film that opens the Seattle International Film Festival is often full of the intrigue of the unknown: an African film, a local favorite, a black-and-white updated Shakespeare, a serious portrait of a local rock legend.

Not this year. This year on opening night, May 14, we've got Paul Feig's broad comedy, “Spy,” starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Bobby Canavale and Morena Baccarin. At least the trailer seems funny:

“Spy” is getting a wide release June 5th, so one wonders what's the point of showing it here. That we get to see it three weeks early? It's not even premiering here. South by Southwest got it March 15th and the Louisiana International Film Festival (LIFF) has it May 7th. We're thankless thirds.

Larger question: Is “Spy” the most commercial film to open the Seattle International Film Festival? Here's that history, along with each film's widest domestic theatrical release, its domestic box office (unadjusted), and its current IMDb rating:

Year SIFF's Opening Night Movie Widest Release Domestic Box Office IMDb Rating
1991 The Miracle
41 $835,519 6.8
1992 Le Bal des casse-pieds 
n/a n/a 5.5
1993 Much Ado About Nothing  204 $22,549,338 7.4
1994 Little Buddha  139 $4,858,139 6.0
1995 Braveheart  2,037 $75,609,945 8.4
1996 The Whole Wide World  20 $375,757 7.3
1997 Addicted to Love  2,021 $34,673,095 6.1
1998 Firelight  39 $785,482 7.3
1999 The Dinner Game
67 $4,071,548 7.7
2000 Love's Labour's Lost  14 $299,792 6.1
2001 The Anniversary Party 120 $4,047,329 6.4
2002 Igby Goes Down
156 $4,777,465 7.0
2003 Valentin 15 $275,968 7.7
2004 The Notebook 2,323 $81,001,787 7.9
2005 Me and You and Everyone We Know  160 $3,885,134 7.4
2006 The Illusionist 1,438 $39,868,642 7.6
2007 Son of Rambow  155 $1,785,505 7.0
2008 Battle in Seattle  40 $224,169 6.7
2009 In the Loop  92 $2,388,804 7.5
2010 The Extra Man  33 $453,377 5.9
2011 The First Grader  36 $332,306 7.4
2012 Your Sister's Sister  101 $1,636,190 6.7
2013 Much Ado About Nothing  222 $4,328,849 7.3
2014 Jimi: All Is By My Side  75 $340,911 5.6
2015 Spy
? ? ?

SIFF mostly premeries movies that don't get much of a shot elsewhere, which is what film festivals should do. But if “Spy” follows the pattern of recent films starring McCarthy, it'll open in 3,000+ theaters. Which, yes, would be the widest release for a SIFF opening-nighter.

On the other hand, the above list is hardly full of greatness, is it? We've got two brilliant comedies (“The Dinner Game,” “In the Loop”), one Oscar winner (“Braveheart”) and two Much Ado About Nothings (Branaugh's and Whedon's). There are also several films with Seattle connectons: “Jimi: All Is By My Side”; “Your Sister's Sister”; “Battle in Seattle.” I like all that. But there's also a lot of depressive, dull fare. Out of 25 movies, how many of these would you watch again? Or once?

So maybe it's time to go another way.

Even so, opening with “Spy” feels like a bit of a cop out. Anyone know the story behind it?

SIFF 2015

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Posted at 06:41 AM on May 06, 2015 in category Seattle
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Tuesday June 10, 2014

SIFF 2014: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (And See You Next Year)


Best of the fest: theirs and mine.

Well, it’s over. After screening something like 269 movies, of which I saw 15, the 40th Seattle International Film Festival has ended. I can get on with my life.

The festival prizes have been dished out, too. Among others, the Golden Space Needle for best documentary went to “Keep on Keeping On,” about jazz legend Clark Terry, which I didn’t see, while the Space Needle for best film, director and actress all went to Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” with Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and newcomer Ellar Coltrane, which I did see, and I agree with SIFF's assessment. It was the best of my fest anyway.

Basically I’d divide up what I saw this way:





See you around, SIFF membership guy dancing in your seat. In the last month, I probably saw you more than Patricia. I have been returned home safely but pretty tired.

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Posted at 08:23 AM on Jun 10, 2014 in category Seattle
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Thursday May 22, 2014

9 Thoughts a Week into SIFF 2014

The Seattle International Film Festival is a week old tonight. A few thoughts:

  • The bearded guy in the SIFF membership ad? I like him—particularly the bit with the champagne. But before every SIFF screening?
  • Same with the “Cinescape” ad. Clever and fun, but it goes too fast to get the feel for all the movies they’re experiencing. And before every SIFF screening?
  • That said, my favorite bit in the above is the woman seeing herself in the lineup of “The Usual Suspects.” That dopey, sexy Benicio looks she gives us. That’s dead on.
  • The opening night party needed a little more food and a little less chocolate. Even Patricia thought that. Actually, she thought it first.
  • The Egyptian screwed up the subtitles for the first five minutes of the Norwegian film, “In Order of Disappearance,” so they were out of sync with the action. The last time I experienced this? At the Egyptian for a SIFF movie.
  • Even so, I’m glad the Egyptian’s back. Thanks, SIFF.
  • The theater for Wednesday night’s screening of the 218-minute-long Holocaust documentary, “The Last of the Unjust,” was ridiculously hot and stuffy. Tough enough sitting that long for a Holocaust doc; you’ve got to lose the air conditioning? It was like a cattle car in there.
  • I asked the woman in charge at SIFF Uptown to turn up the air conditioning, twice, but she said there was no more she could do. It was as high as it could go. “It’s an old building,” she said. “Well, there’s a lot of old people in there,” I said. And I wasn’t even referring to me.
  • In the end, that, plus some health matters, plus the length and breadth of the movie, made me walk out of “Unjust” after about 140 minutes. This morning I felt like a wimp.

So excluding “Unjust,” here are my favorites so far:

  1. “In Order of Disappearance,” Norway
  2. “Jimi: All Is By My Side,” USA
  3. “Dior and I,” France
  4. “The Bit Player,” Philippines
  5. “Chinese Puzzle,” France
  6. “Muse By Fire,” UK


SIFF 2014

Dead on: Benicio's dopey, sexy look. 


Posted at 03:45 PM on May 22, 2014 in category Seattle
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