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SIFF 2012

Seattle Screens: ‘Your Sister’s Sister’ and The Best of SIFF

Jamie Chung in ‘Eden’

Okay, so you missed one or two or so of the films that got the buzz or won the awards at SIFF this year? Then you want to know about The Best of SIFF, a collection of features, documentaries, and shorts from SIFF 2012 playing through the week at The Uptown. Among the films in the seven-day schedule are Any Day Now, which won the Golden Space Needle Awards for Best Film and Best Actor (Alan Cummings), reviewed on Videodrone here, and Megan Griffiths’ Eden, which won the Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision (presented by Women in Film/Seattle) and the Reel NW Award as well as the Golden Space Needle for Best Actress (Jamie Chung) (reviewed for Seattle Weekly here). The complete line-up is at the SIFF Cinema website here.

And speaking of the Best of SIFF, the opening night film Your Sister’s Sister opens in Seattle (and New York City, L.A., SF, Chicago, and D.C.) this weekend. Says Kat Murphy at MSN Movies: “Your Sister’s Sister warms the comedic cockles through sharp, largely improvised dialogue and quirky emotional connection among three not-quite-grown-up 30-somethings (Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt), friends, relations and lovers who accidentally come to share a cabin in the woods for a week or so.” More from Brian Miller at Seattle Weekly here.

Jan Svankmajer: The Surreal Puppet Poet offers six features and an anthology of shorts from the Czechoslovakian stop animation genius, all on 35mm. The series runs for a week at Northwest Film Forum. I wrote up a capsule for Seattle Weekly here.

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SIFF 2012 Award Winners

The 2012 Golden Space Needle Award, voted on by audiences of the Seattle International Film Festival, goes to Travis Fine’s Any Day Now for Best Picture, with Seattle filmmaker Megan Griffith’s superb Eden taking the first runner up spot.

Audiences gave the Best Documentary award to Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War, Best Actor to Any Day Now‘s Alan Cumming, Best Actress to Jamie Chung for Eden, Best Director to Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Best Short Film to Catcam by Seth Keal.

Among the juried awards, Eden took the Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision (presented by Women in Film/Seattle) and the Reel NW Award.

Eden was, to my mind, the finest film in the strongest collection of Seattle and Washington-born and -based filmmaking ever screened at SIFF, in a line-up that was framed by opening night film Your Sister’s Sister (from hometown hero Lynn Shelton, whose recent work put independent Seattle filmmaking on the map) and closing night film Grassroots, shot in Seattle and based on the book by former Stranger political reporter Phil Campbell.

Ira Finklestein’s Christmas, from Seattle filmmaker Sue Corcoran, and shot-in-Seattle productions Safety Not Guaranteed and Fat Kid Rules the World also placed high in audience voting for the Space Needle awards.

For those who missed some of these Seattle films, Eden is coming back in the “Best of SIFF” program on Wednesday, June 20 at The Uptown. Also returning is Fat Kid Rules the World (Friday, June 15) and Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas (Sunday, June 17), among others.

Garret Dillahunt and Alan Cumming in 'Any Day Now'

But I would also like to congratulate Travis Fine and his very fine picture Any Day Now. I saw the film on a whim because it was convenient (I had screenings before and after in the same theater) and I liked the cast. I did not have high expectations and yet I was moved by the depth of Fine’s portrait of a love between two people. It’s a period film, set in a pre-gay rights era of 1979 San Francisco, with two men who are very different (Alan Cumming  plays a flamboyant drag performer and Garret Dillahunt is a buttoned-down professional just beginning to accept his identity but keeping it a secret from the rest of the world) and yet so committed to one another, and to the all-but-abandoned boy they take in, that those differences become their strength. And it’s awfully timely as well, as it turns on the effort two gay men to adopt a child in a culture that would prefer to see an otherwise unwanted boy with Down’s Syndrome dropped into the indifferent system of social services than raised by two gay men. It could easily have tipped into a preachy tearjerker but for the commitment of the film to be about people, not about issues, and not about scoring points. I had the good fortune to run into the director at the water pitcher stand at the Harvard Exit after the film and inarticulately gush over the film.

There was a time when gay cinema focused on sexual relationships but missed the everyday intimacy of a loving couple, the nonchalant physicality of people comfortable with each other, the easy intimacy of people who live together and make a life together. Any Day Now is a powerful drama of people in love that puts the love and commitment before the sexual orientation to show two men who live their love in every moment, not in displays for the camera. And that strength even tempers a tragedy with a sense of endurance and hope. It’s the most powerful, convincing, commited portrait of two people in love I have seen on screen all year.

The complete press release is below.

Parallax View’s guide to SIFF 2012 coverage is here.

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Seattle Screens: William Friedkin Comes to SIFF

William Friedkin

The final weekend of SIFF was sent off with a tribute to Sissy Spacek on Thursday, June 7, consisting of an onstage Q&A and a screening of Badlands.

Coming up on the final three days is the festival’s second tribute, to director William Friedkin on Saturday. An audience Q&A is followed by a screening of his new film Killer Joe. Emerging Master Andrea Arnold is not coming but SIFF has screenings of her new Wuthering Heights and her debut feature, Red Road. And there a few dozen more films to pick from as well. Visit the website for more screenings. Parallax continues to feature links to notable SIFF coverage from around the web here.

This weekend also launches N-E-X D-O-C-S, a festival of new works from American documentary filmmakers at Northwest Film Forum. Features the Seattle premieres of seven nonfiction features over seven days, including James Benning’s Small Roads (it opens the series on Friday, June 08) and two by Jon Jost (The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima on June 12 and Dissonance on June 14) with the filmmaker in attendance. Complete schedule here.

Prometheus, a mix of genuinely ambitious science fiction ideas and Hollywood spectacle, is sure to be the buzz film of the multiplexes and show palaces this weekend. How can Ridley Scott have such a sophisticated visual intelligence, creating screen worlds engineered in such detail as to suggest entire cultures behind the designs and technology, and then fill those worlds with so-called intellectuals who act like kids in a playroom? Seriously, the reason these supposedly top scientists of the late 21st century keep yelling “Don’t touch anything” to each other is because otherwise they’ll fingerpaint their way through the most important discoveries since the mapping of the human genome. The script fails to match its ambition, but at least give it credit for big ideas and unexpected conceptual turns and for a dense and dramatic visual experience. And for all its failures in the realm of human behavior, the cosmic mystery behind the story is enigmatic and remains so to the end. And in leaving us with mysteries, it offers something far more satisfying than a reductive answer. It leaves us with possibilities. Scott’s quasi-prequel to Alien is his first 3D production and it opens in Seattle at Cinerama and the Pacific Science Center’s IMAX theater in 3D as well as multiplex screens in both 2D and 3D presentations.

The Day He Arrives

The Day He Arrives from South Korea satirist Hong Sang-soo opens for a week at NWFF. I always forget how funny Hong’s films are until I’m in the middle of their deadpan variations on a by-now-standard-theme of immature, self-involved men and accommodating women who fool themselves into buying into their crap, at least as long as the drinks are being poured. This one, shot digitally in B&W (which gives it a kind of Woody Allen quality), is like Hong abstracted down to his essence and put on endless loop, like Groundhog Dayas a South Korean mumblecore production. A former filmmaker now teaching in the countryside returns to Seoul for a visit and ends up in a cycle, going in circles with the same friend, restaurant, bar, absent owner, even former student who crosses his path like a stalker in the streets. The only difference: don’t expect any emotion growth from this guy. Kampai!

If you haven’t yet noticed, the Sundance Cinema, located in the former Metro multiplex in the U-District, snuck in what they call a “soft opening” last week. A big Grand Opening will follow later this summer, but it’s currently open for business with a mix of titles not all that different from what the Metro showed up until it closed.

Openings

Colin Trevorrow’s made-in-Seattle Safety Not Guaranteed, which played SIFF in May, opens in theaters this weekend. Moira Macdonald interviews the director for The Seattle Times and Kathleen Murphy reviews the film for MSN Movies: “Only audiences hooked on quirky romantic comedy unruffled by grown-up passion or personality will sink happily into the warm bathwater that is Safety.”

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SIFFing: Parallax View’s SIFF 2012 Guide

The 38th Annual Seattle International Film Festival opened on Thursday, May 17, with a screening of Lynn Shelton’s locally-produced My Sister’s Sister, and completed its 25 day on Sunday, June 12 with the world premiere of the Seattle shot and set Grassroots. Here is Parallax View’s coverage and guide to SIFF resources.

SIFF 2012 Winners (Sean Axmaker for Parallax View)
SIFF 2012: Highlights, Awards, Returning Films and more (Moira Macdonald at The Seattle Times)

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SIFF 2012: ‘Unforgivable’

“I never know how each film will end. When I’m filming, I shoot each scene as if it were a short film. It’s only when I edit that I worry about the narrative. My objective is to tell a story, but that’s the final thing I do.”

Writer-director André Téchiné said that sometime in the mid-Nineties, but I’d enjoy thinking he was moved to these remarks by his 2011 film Unforgivable (Impardonnables). Unforgivable tells a story—lots of stories, really—but in ways that would frustrate a student of plot points, “motivations,” and orthodox screenplay architecture. And yet it flows along intoxicatingly.

Veteran crime novelist (André Dussolier) seeks quiet accommodations in Venice to write his next book. Instead of the tidy urban apartment with view he had in mind, the gorgeous real-estate agent (Carole Bouquet) shows him a house on the rustic island of Sant’Erasmo. He’ll take it, as long as she agrees to cohabit. She doesn’t reply, but cut to somewhat later and it’s apparent they made a deal.

But no, let’s not cut to that “somewhat later.” Instead, savor how the realtor, Judith by name, takes novelist Francis to the island. They’re in a small motorboat, on choppy waters, when the engine conks. The lady apologizes for running out of gas; Francis, a wizened fellow, cracks a joke about that being an old trick. Besides (1) reversing the classic parameters of the joke and (2) reasserting the joker’s already-apparent randiness, the joke (3) teases against gender roles and anticipates shufflings of sexual possibilities to be explored as the film unreels. Meanwhile, there they are, bobbing in a suddenly powerless boat on a restless sea with a very big and very loud cruiseship massing over them. The situation, the image and activity on screen, is at once comical, surreal, absurd, and potentially perilous. Then Judith produces oars and in scarcely more time than it takes to type this, they row to shore and safety, no big whoop.

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SIFF 2012: ‘The Eye of the Storm’

Bringing The Eye of the Storm to the screen involved the reunion of a filmmaking “family,” a brilliant bevy of old Oz hands from that heady era of filmmaking hailed as the Australian New Wave. Cast as the lead, legendary Charlotte Rampling is neck-deep in Australian acting royalty: Judy Davis (from My Brilliant Career, 1979, to Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love, 2012); Geoffrey Rush (from Children of the Revolution, 1996, with Davis, to The King’s Speech, 2010); as well as lesser lights such as Helen Morse (Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1975), honorary Aussie Colin Friels, Billie Brown, Dustin Clare (Gannicus in TV’s Spartacus), et al.

Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling

In 1978, Fred Schepisi’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith launched his successful directorial career abroad; Eye of the Storm is the first film he’s shot on home ground since the uncompromising A Cry in the Dark (1988). Nobel-winner Patrick White’s hefty novel was adapted for the screen by Judy Morris, so striking as the star of Peter Weir’s The Plumber (1979), and subsequently scripter of hits like Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City.

Morris’ two-hour adaptation has at its center—or eye—the long dying of wealthy matriarch Elizabeth Hunter (Rampling). A formidable personality, the old woman makes her bedroom a kind of theater, which estranged son Basil (Rush) and daughter Dorothy (Judy Davis) must attend, in hopes of cashing in on a much-needed inheritance. This trio of greater and lesser monsters—emasculating mother, narcissistic son, daughter bereft of joie de vivre—have at each other unlovingly, though it’s clear the aging kids desire nothing so much as the queen’s unqualified admiration. Well, except for her money.

Continue reading at Straight Shooting

Seattle Screens: All SIFF 2012, All the Time (or so it seems)

While The Dictator and Battleship compete for multiplex audiences, the usually robust Seattle film scene has otherwise given a wide berth to the annual event that devours all.

Yes, SIFF 2012 has begun. Opening night celebrates local filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s latest, My Sister’s Sister, and by extension an impressive line-up of Washington State-born films. From homegrown productions (Megan Griffiths’ excellent Eden, where Eastern Washington stand in for the American Southwest) to locally-shot films (Safety Not Guaranteed, with Aubrey Plaza and honorary Seattle actor Mark Duplass, and closing night film Grassroots, a Seattle story with Jason Biggs and Joel David Moore playing versions of Phil Campbell and activist Grant Cogswell), this is without a doubt the best showing of Seattle and Washington State cinema at SIFF ever.

Along with the premieres and galas and special presentations, SIFF will also screen Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, direct from Opening Night at Cannes, before its Seattle opening in June, and host tributes to actress Sissy Spacek and director William Friedkin during its final week of screenings and events.

How to navigate event? Parallax View is here to help. This weekend we will launch launched our SIFFing 2012 guide, with links to reviews, previews, interviews, and other coverage on the web. In the meantime, browse these resources.

Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass in Lynn Shelton's 'Your Sister's Sister'

Previews:
In addition to my Parallax View preview, here’s an overview from Richard T. Jameson at Straight Shooting and a preview of the Northwest Connections line-up from Moira Macdonald at Seattle Times.

Reviews and capsules:
Seattle Weekly has a slew of Week 1 Picks & Pans (from Brian Miller and others, including a couple from me) and The Stranger’s Guide to SIFF 2012 has just kicked in, blog style (their guide is more accessible on print right now; pick up the latest copy for the pull-out guide). And there’s opening weekend highlights from Three Imaginary Girls and more at SIFFBlog from Kathy Fennessy.

Spotlights:
Let us now praise our local filmmaking luminaries. Lynn Shelton is profiled by Moira Macdonald for The Seattle Times and interviewed by Brian Miller for Seattle Weekly (that’s in addition to a well-deserved profile at The New York Times earlier this month!). I took a look at Rick Stevenson’s “5,000 Days” project, and his documentary feature “Two Brothers), for Seattle Weekly. But where is the much deserved profile of Megan Griffiths, whose Eden is arguably the best homegrown film of the festival? Here’s one from March from IndieWIRE’s SXSW coverage.

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SIFF 2012: The 38th Seattle International Film Festival Honors Seattle Filmmaking

For first time in its 38 year history, the Seattle International Film Festival—the longest (at 25 days) and best attended film festival in the United States—opens and closes on honest-to-god Seattle films.

SIFF 2012 opens on Thursday, May 17 with the local premiere of Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s fourth feature Your Sister’s Sister, shot (like all of her features) in and around Seattle with a largely local production crew. The film made its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto fest (where it was the first film sale of the festival) and its American premiere at Sundance.

The festival closes 25 days later with the World Premiere of Grassroots, a political satire based on the real-life experience of former The Stranger reporter Phil Campbell as the campaign manager of Grant Cogswell’s city council run. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (father of Jake and Maggie), it was produced locally and shot in Seattle.

In between are 273 feature films, including 24 world premieres, 25 North American premieres, and 16 American premieres. SIFF will have the only American festival screening of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom before its theatrical release, Special Presentations of Pixar’s Brave and Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, and Gala Screenings of Alex de la Iglesias’ As Luck Would Have It, Lola Versus with Greta Gerwig, and The Details with Elizabeth Banks and Tobey Maguire (which was also shot in around Seattle).

Your Sister's Sister

Other Seattle-centric titles include the shot-in-Seattle Safety Not Guaranteed with Mark Duplass (certainly an honorary Seattleite by now), Seattle filmaker Megan Griffiths’ Eden, the family comedy Fat Kid Rules the World from actor-turned-director Matthew Lilliard, and the documentary The 5,000 Days Project: Two Brothers by Seattle filmmaker Rick Stevenson.

Sissy Spacek will be feted with an onstage Q&A and a screening of Badlands, plus additional screening of Carrie and Coal Miner’s Daughter, and SIFF pays tribute to William Friedkin with a special screening of his new film Killer Joe and revivals of The Exorcist and The French Connection.

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