Seattle postsSaturday May 18, 2019
SIFF Opening Night 2019: Worth It?
Yesterday at a SIFF screening of the French film “Sink or Swim” (think: “Full Monty” meets the 1985 SNL skit about synchronized swimming), I asked a friend whether she'd gone to SIFF's opening night the night before. She said she hadn't and kind of made a face. I said, “Yeah, sometimes I wonder why we do it. Basically we‘re paying exorbitant prices to dress up in uncomfortable clothes and fight rush-hour traffic in order to watch a movie in a venue not made for movies. And the movies often suck.”
“But, it’s good, it's good,” to quote Shrevie.
Before this year's show, talking with another patron in the McCaw Hall lobby, I initmated Patricia and I had been doing Opening Night for about 10 years now. I just did the math and ... nope. We did 2011 (“The First Grader”), missed 2012 (Lynn Shelton's “Your Sister's Sister”), but have been ever since. So seven years running. What have we seen in those seven years?
- Joss Whedon's “Much Ado About Nothing”
- “Jimi: All By My Side”
- “Cafe Society”
- “The Big Sick”
- “The Bookshop”
Odd mix. I like it when they get all Seattle on us (Jimi Hendrix; Lynn Shelton), but of those six titles I'd probably only wholeheartedly recommend “The Big Sick.”
BTW: You know how long ago three years ago was? That was when SIFF opened with a Woody Allen movie. No way that's happening now. Not from an org that begins every festival with the morally self-congratulatory and ultimately meaningless declaration, “SIFF acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people.” BTW: You capitalize “Indingenous”? Is that right?
This year's opener was “Sword of Trust,” also by Lynn Shelton, and starring Marc Maron, which I hope to write about soon—if for no other reason than so I don't forget about it. Maron was good. Parts were funny. I would like to hear it in a smaller, less echo-y venue.
The opening night after-party was odd and a bit skimpy. Same venue but with much less food (one food truck outside rather than six), and a red carpet/VIP area that seems at odds with SIFF's supposedly moral stances. “SIFF acknowledges that we are partying on Indigenous land, away from the rest of you, and isn't it a blast.”
For the month-long fest, Patricia and I have a list of about 10 movies to see together (including: “X: The Exploited,” “Blinded by the Light,” “Putin's Witnesses,” “Cities of Last Things” and “Meeting Gorbachev”), and I have about five more solo projects (mostly Chinese films like “One Child Nation” and “A Family Tour”), but let me know if you hear anything good. Always interested in seeing something good.
The Englishwoman who opened a bookstore and brought down a mountain of trouble.
The Seattle International Film Festival kicks off tonight with a movie that looks like not-much to me. “The Bookshop” is set in the recent past (1959), and chronicles “a headstrong widow” (Emily Mortimer) battling “provincial locals” (coastal Brits) over what was then commonplace and is now disappearing (a bookshop). Seems a bit precious and obvious. If it were set today, and featured a woman (or anyone) fighting the indifference to books of millennials (and everyone), sign me up. But this? Hope I'm wrong. If not, there's always gin and tonic at the screening. P and I will both attend in what passes for our finery.
I was in Minneapolis this past weekend, visiting my mother and seeing my nephew Jordy in a high school play (“The Laramie Project”), but I did spend some time going over SIFF's schedule of 400+ movies. Right now I‘ve got about 15 picked out, with fingers decidedly crossed.
Gotta say, the blurbs didn’t help much. Most are one-sentence long—as if directed to be so—and a few are inevitably run-ons. It's as if the writer is running downhill, breathless, trying to tell us all the good news:
In this Western-inspired crime thriller set in the Chinese countryside, a laboring family man whose brutal past led to biting his own tongue off in a fight, sets out on a mission of stunningly choreographed violence after his son is kidnapped by a crossbow-wielding, meat-obsessed gangster.
Many have trouble sticking their landings:
In a rapidly gentrifying Oakland, home to co-writers and co-stars Rafael Casal and “Hamilton” Tony Award-winner Daveed Diggs, two lifelong hip-hop-loving friends struggle to adapt in this energetic slice-of-life buddy comedy set in a world that won't let it be one. [???]
Others needed a copy editor or at least a pair of m-dashes:
Following a serendipitous meeting on a train through the rugged Turkish countryside, two should unite for a journey that will offer new insight into the importance of charting one's own path, wherever it may lead.
The gorgeous swirling sands of the Thar Desert provide the backdrop for this emotional revenge saga about a scorpion singer, famed shamanistic healers that could supposedly cure scorpion bites by chanting, who has lost her grandmother after suffering an assault.
I‘ve got a few movies picked out (“Love, Gilda”; “On Borrowed Time”; “Love Education”) but if you’ve heard anything, let me know. Don't hesitate to tell me all the good news.
The View from the 520
Yesterday it got into the mid-50s and I went for a bikeride over the newly constructed 520 bridge. The Cascades were out. My iPhone camera doesn't do the shot justice.
The bridge was crowded but not as crowded as when I did the same two months ago. You know where everyone was? Fremont Brewery. I biked by there, too, thinking I'd grab a quick drink, but the line indicated anything but quick.
Today is supposed to be mid-60s. Get out, get out, wherever you are.
The False Equivalence of the Lenin Statue in the Confederate Memorial Debate
In the wake of Charlottesville, when toppling Confederate statues and memorials not only became the topic of the day but a good idea, Seattle's embattled mayor Ed Murray brought an odd wrinkle to the conversation. He suggested two memorials in Seattle come down: a 1926 Daughters of the Confederacy memorial to Southern vets, which was on private property in Lakeview Cemetery; and the famous statue of Vladimir Lenin, perpetually on display in lower Fremont ... which was also on private property.
I was surprised to hear that the Confederate memorial even existed. Confederate Vets? In Seattle? But whatever: It was on private property. We had no say. Lenin, too. What bugged me, though, was that Murray put the two in the same category. Was he striving for objectivity? One of theirs, one of ours? If so, like many a journalist before him, he simply found a false equivalence.
The Confederate memorial was created to honor the Confederacy. The Lenin statue, brought here from a defeated Russia and placed where it was, on a nondescript street corner, wasn't set up to honor anything. The opposite, really. From the beginning, it's been steeped in absurdity and irony. Existing where it does, it carries with it an Ozymandias-like warning:
'Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains ... except for a gyro joint and some Italian sandwich shoppe
And naked cyclists once a year
This week in The Stranger I found out somebody agrees with me: a Russian to boot. He adds a coda: Look on the dildo on my head, ye mighty, and despair.
Flying into Seattle last night in the haze made all of our waterways—from Lake Washington to Puget Sound—seem like giant puddles.
And the goat-footed balloonMan whistles far and wee.