Friday May 15, 2015
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.