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Showing posts from 2005

Yes & Me and You and Everyone We Know

I've been meaning to sit down and write about these films for what seems like ages. Actually, I've had this post sitting on my desktop for weeks and have just never managed to sit down and finish it. But I have been wanting to point out these small independent summer films, because they'll slip beneath the radar of most people. But Yes and You and Me and Everyone We Know may be among the best and most refreshingly original films I've seen this year.

Yes

I have been eagerly awaiting this film since reading reviews of it from the 2004 Toronto film festival. Yes is the most recent film from Sally Potter (Orlando, The Tango Lesson) and although I haven't found a strong personal connection with her films in the past, but they are so unique in outlook and innovative that I try not to miss them.

But Yes poses a bit of a problem as far as describing it as there is absolutely nothing I can compare it to. It is a romantic, mature, erotic, unapologetically political, defini…

SIFF diary, part 3

Godzilla: Final Wars and The Edukators

In my attempts to keep my festival going diverse, we selected Godzilla since it looked like an action packed romp and the German film The Edukators, which simply sounded interesting and I wanted to catch at least one German film during the festival as I usually like the look and often dark tone of German cinema.

We're are doing a great job of selecting films thus far.

Godzilla: Final Wars is billed as the last Godzilla film and is directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, who made Versus. I've only seen one Godzilla film and it was the 1984 one and really, I have very little recollection of it other than Godzilla meets Bambi played before it. So I am not up on the Godzilla franchise, but I did obviously know what to expect; an action flick where a rubber Godzilla battles a zillion other monsters.

We had a pretty good time at Godzilla. I was a bit surprised by the near sold out show as I had no clue that there were that many fans of the monster [1], b…

SIFF diary, part 2

Saving Face

Saving Face is about a young Chinese/American surgeon, Wil (Michelle Krusiec) whose mother (Joan Chen) moves in after being exiled from her Chinese family and friends at a time when Wil falls in love with a ballerina (Lynn Chen). Saving Face is among the films showing at SIFF that has distribution and it opened in LA and New York on Friday.

Go see this film if you get a chance. It is delightful first film by director Alice Wu. She was in attendance and it turns out that she wrote the screenplay while taking a UW screenwriting course here in Seattle. After finishing the screenplay, she decided that it needed to be made into a film and that she must direct it so she moved to New York and gave herself five years to get the film made. She learned about editing and filmmaking and ended up getting help from Wil Smith to finance the film. It was fascinating listening to her speak and I was floored and the guts it must have taken to jet off to New York to make a movie with n…

SIFF diary, part 1

While the rest of the world is lined up at The Cinerama to see Star Wars, Episode III, I spent my weekend attending my very first film festival, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). I only attended two screenings, since I am a festival novice and was uncertain how many movies I would have time to take in and am a little short on cash at this time of the month (won't get paid for a few more days), so I opted for a couple of matinee shows to test the water.

Well, I'll be taking in many more films next weekend.

Yes, it went well. Saturday, we saw C'est la Femme, a collection of short films directed by women. It was a good choice. Seven films were scheduled, although only five were shown due to technical issues. I really appreciate the short film format and have often found short subjects to be much more inventive and daring than feature length films. I especially remember a few shorts that were shown between features on the Sundance Channel with fondness. The…

SIFF diary, part 10

A World Without Thieves

Wang Li (Rene Liu) announces that she is done with living a life a crime and as she prays at a shrine after stating her intention to stop stealing while her partner and husband (Andy Lao) deftly picks the pockets of the other worshipers. After meeting the naive “Dumbo”, Wang Li vows to protect him and his belongings as they are descended upon by a train full of con-artists. The pick-pocket duels, which are stylistically similar to close contact martial arts fights, alone make this film worth checking out.

4

If topless crones who make anatomically correct dolls from bread chewies, large quantities of raw meat and graphic close ups of eating set to a soundtrack of dogs yelping and whimpering is what you want in a film, 4 delivers in abundance. 4 was funny, startling, and very engaging for the first 30 minutes when three characters weave tall tales about their lives in a bar that includes a story about a government cloning program that has resulted in villages of…

SIFF diary, part 9

Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody? and Lonesome Jim

“Are you the Favorite Person of Anybody?” is the question posed by John C. Reilly to the people he encounters on the street. Actually, he is conducting a simple survey asking first whether they are anybodies’ favorite person and then a few clarifying questions. This four minute short was very entertaining. Each person he encounters gives a different and sometimes surprising answer to his query. Not the best short or the most imaginative short that I saw this festival but good none the less.

The four minute short film, written by Miranda July (Center of the World) and preceded Lonesome Jim, the new feature directed by Steve Buscemi.

Lonesome Jim is a very understated and peculiar little film that caught me totally off guard by how much I enjoyed it. Jim (Casey Affleck) has moved back home to Goshen, Indiana defeated after a failing to make it in Yew York City. Jim is chronically depressed and has a habit of pointing out ju…

SIFF diary, part 8

Clean and Heights

The festival is over and I still have seven films to write about, but I haven't been feeling at all inspired to sit and write about film, plus there just hasn't been much time between screenings. But overall, the festival was amazing. We saw many more good movies than bad, although on Saturday, we had the misfortune of sitting through the worst film that I have seen at the festival, but that one will likely require a post all to itself, as there was just so much that was wrong about 4.

But first, I'll try to say a few words about the mid-week films that kept me out late and made me very sleepy at work during the week, and it was very worth it.

Clean

Clean was written and directed by Maggie Cheung's ex, Olivier Assayas. Emily Wang (Cheung) struggles with addiction, the desire to create music, and her need to be a mother for her son, Jay, who is in the custody of Lee's parents (Nick Nolte and Martha Henry). After spending six months in jail for …

SIFF diary, part 7

Well it had to come to an end at some point. After a very long run of excellent films, we finally found a stinker and a couple that fall under the category of nothing special. So I guess I will try to write a few words about the last three films that I attended at the SIFF.

The Warrior

The Warrior is set in feudal India and tells the tragic tale of a warrior who leaves the employ of an unscrupulous warlord and as a result becomes a wanted man. This film had a lot of promise as it has won numerous awards, including a BAFTA for best foreign language film and some recognition for the amazing cinematography. And The Warrior is a beautiful film, with amazing desert landscapes and some great cinematography. But I was hoping that it would play out like a Hindi Samurai epic, with amazing sword duels in the desert, so I was disappointed when this epic didn’t deliver any great battles. It was still quite good and moving, but a bit slow and disappointing for the lack of sword fights.

The Wr…

SIFF diary, part 6

Dead Man's Shoes, Sabah, and Mysterious Skin

Armageddon is upon us. I am certain of it. And I have proof. Gregg Araki made an excellent motion picture. And the other proof that the end of the world must be soon, I have now attended 12 screenings and have yet to come upon a film or event that I didn't enjoy. Sure, some of the films have been better than others, but if Cape of Good Hope remains the worst film that we've seen at this year's festival, then we are doing very well.

Dead Man's Shoes caught our attention because it not only stars British actor Paddy Considine (24 Hour Party People, In America), but was also written by the actor. The result is a very interesting and satisfying film of vengeance and redemption.

Richard (Paddy Considine), a soldier that after returning home from the service, finds his brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) has been tortured and humiliated by a group of small time gangsters. Dead Man's Shoes spans the 5 days that Richard spend…

SIFF diary, part 5

Murderball and Geek Love

In just a few hours, I will be at another SIFF screening, I thought I should finish writing about last weekend's films before I get hopelessly behind, which is easy to do when seeing so many movies and wanting to document each and every one.

Memorial Day was an amazing day at the festival as we took in three screenings. We started the day with Murderball, the much talked about film about wheelchair rugby. While I had heard that Murderball was an excellent documentary, it was so much more than I expected. Instead of getting bogged down in the specifics of quadriplegic rugby players, it instead focused on the sport and the intense rivalry between Team Canada and Team USA at the paraolympics in Greece. And I would have never guessed there was a documentary in the rivalry. It was absurd to watch the rage and passion in these teams as they battled for the gold in Athens, but it is the kind of rivalry that makes for great cinema.

And Murderball alone makes for gre…

SIFF diary, part 4

Cape of Good Hope and Missing in America

I'm still in shock over how well the SIFF is going. Of the 6 films I've attended this weekend, I've have yet to see a bad film. A bit of a shock really, since we've been selecting films based on lack of buzz. In other words, I'm interested in seeing the movies that I may not get to see in the future due to lack of distribution or general obscurity. So, we're passing up the big names, like Wim Wender's new film or either of Miike's new movies. But I had read a bit about the film Cape of Good Hope from critics who had seen the South African film at other festivals and from comments IMDB.com so I was confident that it would be a charming, light film.

So far, Cape of Good Hope has been the only film that was a major disappointment.

Cape of Good Hope wasn't horrible, but it was frustrating because of the amazing talent that was wasted. One of the stars was Eriq Ebouaney who we recognized as the villain in Femme Fat…

SIFF2005: SIFF diary, pt. 3

Godzilla: Final Wars and The Edukators

In my attempts to keep my festival going diverse, we selected Godzilla since it looked like an action packed romp and the German film The Edukators, which simply sounded interesting and I wanted to catch at least one German film during the festival as I usually like the look and often dark tone of German cinema. 

We're are doing a great job of selecting films thus far.

Godzilla: Final Wars is billed as the last Godzilla film and is directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, who made Versus. I've only seen one Godzilla film and it was the 1984 one and really, I have very little recollection of it other than Godzilla meets Bambi played before it. So I am not up on the Godzilla franchise, but I did obviously know what to expect; an action flick where a rubber Godzilla battles a zillion other monsters.

We had a pretty good time at Godzilla. I was a bit surprised by the near sold out show as I had no clue that there were that many fans of the monster [1], but i…

SIFF 2005: SIFF diary, pt. 2

Saving Face

Saving Face is about a young Chinese/American surgeon, Wil (Michelle Krusiec) whose mother (Joan Chen) moves in after being exiled from her Chinese family and friends at a time when Wil falls in love with a ballerina (Lynn Chen). Saving Face is among the films showing at SIFF that has distribution and it opened in LA and New York on Friday. 

Go see this film if you get a chance. It is delightful first film by director Alice Wu. She was in attendance and it turns out that she wrote the screenplay while taking a UW screenwriting course here in Seattle. After finishing the screenplay, she decided that it needed to be made into a film and that she must direct it so she moved to New York and gave herself five years to get the film made. She learned about editing and filmmaking and ended up getting help from Wil Smith to finance the film. It was fascinating listening to her speak and I was floored and the guts it must have taken to jet off to New York to make a movie with no real …

SIFF2005: SIFF diary, pt. 1

While the rest of the world is lined up at The Cinerama to see Star Wars, Episode III, I spent my weekend attending my very first film festival, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). I only attended two screenings, since I am a festival novice and was uncertain how many movies I would have time to take in and am a little short on cash at this time of the month (won't get paid for a few more days), so I opted for a couple of matinee shows to test the water. 

Well, I'll be taking in many more films next weekend.

Yes, it went well. Saturday, we saw C'est la Femme, a collection of short films directed by women. It was a good choice. Seven films were scheduled, although only five were shown due to technical issues. I really appreciate the short film format and have often found short subjects to be much more inventive and daring than feature length films. I especially remember a few shorts that were shown between features on the Sundance Channel with fondness. There was …

deep shadows and brilliant highlights

"It's time to prove to your friends that you're worth a damn. Sometimes that means dying, sometimes it means killing a whole lot of people."




When it comes to movies, I am definitely in the style over substance camp and Sin City is overflowing with style. Meaning, it would likely get a pretty fine review from me without any story at all. But Sin City not only looks amazing, but it also has some substance along with all of the blood that often runs thick and white and rain that pours down in white lines during much of the film. The look of Sin City raises it above the typical motion picture and into the realm of art.



In Sin City, Robert Rodriguez has brought the work of Frank Miller to the big screen not just by telling the stories of Sin City, but by using the graphic novels as his storyboards, painstakingly reproducing each frame into film and giving the film its very innovative look. And the result is glorious to behold. Shot in glorious black and white and using…

the fun of graphic violence

On Friday, I was pleasantly surprised that Old Boy appears to have gotten distribution in the US and will be opening next week. I'm sure most of you have not heard much of anything about this very violent film from Korea. And if it weren't for Scarecrow Video, I would know of it either. But mixed among new releases and staff picks was this film, and curiosity about this eastern psychological thriller resulted in taking it home.

And all of these weeks later, I am still haunted by Old Boy.



Oh Dae-su is held hostage in a hotel room for 15 years as retribution for some forgotten slight, but he has no idea who his captor is or what sin he has committed that resulted in his captivity. When he is released, he searches for the identity of his captor and attempts to determine the reason for his 15 years of punishment. Old Boy is a very stylized and very brutally violent film, so violent that I would have said that it would never be released in the US. This is a very troubling f…