Seattle postsTuesday July 14, 2015
Can’t Get Theah from Heah
Last night I drove to Sea-Tac airport to pick up Patricia, who had spent a week in Chicago helping relatives with their new baby. It was 10:30 PM so traffic was light on I-5, but I noticed when I got onto 518 that the opposite lane was slowed by construction. I couldn’t tell if it was moving construction or not. I also couldn’t think of a better route home—other than 99—so I hoped it would clear.
There were the usual delays associated with picking someone up at the airport. The cell phone lot was crowded, then the traffic to arrivals was backed up; so I texted P to meet me in departures after she’d picked up her bag. We got out of there around 11, later than anticipated, but still feeling lucky and rather sneaky.
Then we hit the constuction.
On 518, four lanes narrow to three, but they’d blocked off one lane to narrow it to two. It was the left lane that led to the I-5 North exit, and home. Even after all the cars merged, traffic was still at a crawl. Because? Because construction, or “construction,” eventually narrowed 518 to one lane. Meanwhile, orange cones actually prevented us from taking our I-5 exit to Seattle. Was that the construction project? The exits onto I-5? Regardless, we had no choice but to keep going. So instead of heading north and home, we wound up driving east, to Renton.
The whole thing seemed nuts to me. They cut off I-5? You could pick up someone at Sea-Tac but you couldn’t take them back to Seattle?
“Shouldn’t we have heard something about this?” I asked Patricia.
“When they close I-90 for repairs, they mention it all the time,” Patricia said helpfully.
That’s how we wound up on the other side of Lake Washington, taking 405 to Bellevue, then the I-90 bridge back to Seattle. I was still half-fuming, half-amused by it all; but at least we were nearly home.
Then I saw the orange cones blocking our Rainier Avenue exit.
Except, no, there was an opening that allowed us to actually exit onto Rainier. A minute later, orange cones prevented us from merging from Rainier onto Boren. Ever feel like the city’s against you? Even after we did the detour—down Jackson to 12th, then up 12th to Boren—I was now on the lookout for orange cones. I figured they would be around every corner, blocking me. Or warning me? Don’t go home!
Here’s the big news on the I-5 constuction. Apparently I should need to read the SeaTac blog more often.
UPDATE: I told the above story to my friend Evan, who responded, “The real question is: What did you do to piss off Chris Christie?”
It’s the main topic of conversation these days in Seattle. Not just the heat but the sun. It's always there. We’re not used to that.
I’ve lived in Seattle since 1991 and I don’t remember a calendar year in which we’ve had as many nice, sunny days as this one—and we’re just halfway through it. And the majority of nice days, traditionally, don’t begin until now. July 5th is traditionally the beginning of the Seattle summer. This year it came earlier. Way earlier. Because we’re Seattleites we kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. If it’s nice in April, we thought, it'll be awful in May. If it’s nice in May, we thought, it'll be horrible in June. If it’s nice in June ...
The other shoe we kept waiting to drop may simply be this: the perpetual sunshine, with the Evergreen City baking to a dry, brittle yellow, and forest fires to the east and west.
These past months, I've assumed the cloudless skies and high temps were caused by some aspect of global warming, but according to Tim Egan in the Times, quoting various scientists, including Prof. Cliff Mass (great scientist name), our current unrelenting weather niceness has less to do with climate change than “a huge dome of high pressure to the west and warm ocean temperatures."
At the same time, Egan says the perpetual sunshine is indicative of what we'll get when the world warms by a few degrees. He bemoans the possibility:
I love my little patch of the planet. Love the glaciers in August, the rivers at full flush, carpets of evergreen trees and a predominant breeze from Puget Sound that provides natural air-conditioning for more than three million people in the Seattle metro area.
I’m with him. If I wanted this much sun I would’ve moved to Arizona.
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.
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.
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|
|1992||Le Bal des casse-pieds
|1993||Much Ado About Nothing||204||$22,549,338||7.4|
|1996||The Whole Wide World||20||$375,757||7.3|
|1997||Addicted to Love||2,021||$34,673,095||6.1|
|1999||The Dinner Game
|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
|2005||Me and You and Everyone We Know||160||$3,885,134||7.4|
|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|
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?