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For Your Consideration

November 18, 2006 Uptown, Seattle Christopher Guest makes me laugh. Waiting for Guffman kills me and I own a copy of Best in Show , a movie that I quote frequently. But that last couple of Guest's movies I've seen have been significantly less funny. This is my attempt to say that I failed to laugh at much of anything in For Your Consideration. Sad since I love the cast and there were moments that elicited a chuckle, but most of those moments were featured in the trailers. Maybe after seeing some very funny comedies late, the bar is simply set too high, but I don't think this is the problem. I think the problem is the subject matter. The idea of a completely ridiculous movie being considered an Oscar contended isn't a very outlandish idea in the first place. So the film plays too little like a mockumentary and seems like it could easily be an actual documentary. Oh well. I guess occasionallyl when you see as many films as I do, there will be the occassion

The Fountain

November 26, 2006 Metro Cinemas, Seattle Several years ago, I remember waiting with anticipation for Pi to open. Pi was Aronofsy's first feature and it wasn't a dissapointment. It quickly ranked among my favorites. Requium for a Dream didn't make me rush to the theaters and to this day, I have only watched some of it on cable. This can be blamed on my annoyance with the addiction plot line. Drug addiction doesn't interest me. I've seen plenty of films on the subject matter and haven't cared for any of them. Cest la vie. But I did make a point to see The Fountain . And I have no idea whether or not I could call The Fountain a good film, but I would certainly call it an interesting film. I'm not going to bother to sum up the plot beyond saying that the film interweaves three stories, or maybe just one story in three settings, one involves a historic quest for immortality through seeking the fountain of youth, one is a modern day story of a researche

The Last King of Scotland

November 2, 2006 Pacific Place, Seattle I was excited about this film as soon as I heard that Kevin McDonald was making a film staring Forest Whitaker. As far as I'm concerned, Forset Whitaker does not get enough good roles and after seeing a trailer for the Last King of Scotland , I was even more excited about seeing the film. Forest Whitaker looked like a perfect choice to depict the brutal Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin. And he didn't disappoint. Forest Whitaker gives an Oscar worthy performance. The problem with The Last King of Scotland is the way the story is framed. We learn about Amin through the eyes of a young, Scottish doctor who is at first charmed by Amin until he slowly realizes how Amin rules. Unfortunately, the reveal is not as suspenseful as a slow reveal should be and not nearly as interesting as a portrait of the man's life as Amin's personal doctor was not aware of all of his affairs and actions, only those that either concerned Amin's me

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan

Right after seeing Sacha Baron Cohen's film, Borat, I was disappointed. I didn't laugh nearly as hard as I had hoped and it wasn't quite as outrageous as I had expected. But in retrospect, I have to admit the comic brilliance of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen has adeptly created a film about a fictional man, Borat, from a fictionalized Kazakhastan and used this creation to show the hipocracy of America. Using tactics pioneered by reality television shows, Borat travels across America on a quest to find his true love, Pamela Anderson. On this journey, he meets numerous people who share their thoughts about a multitude of things, exposing the way some Americans really believe about race, class, homosexuality and the other sex. It is a very interesting film. Sure, it gets laughs from ambushing Pamela Anderson with a wedding bag, traveling with a bear, and a bit of naked wrestling, but this film is also very smart in its sly portrayal of the wealth of prejudices that are ali

SIFF 2006, part 10

Ah, it was another good year at the festival. And I'm already down to my last films for this year. It is rather sad it is over so soon. Time to Leave In general, I adore Francois Ozon's films. Ever since Swimming Pool and 8 Femmes , I have gone out to my way to not miss his films. So I was excited to get the chance to see another of his films at this year's SIFF. Time To Leave on the surface seems like it might be a difficult film to like. It follows Romain's (Melvil Poupaud) path to exceptance of his own mortality after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. As the film begins with his diagnosis, we don't really have any idea about his life before, other than he was an ambitious and very successful fashion photographer. But after, he is cruel to his lover, lashes out at his sister, and in general withdraws from everyone in his life, generally through being angry and mean. He seems to insure that he will spend his last days alone. Ozon's last release

SIFF 2006, part 9

SIFF Screenings: June 16 Starfish Hotel Arisu (Koichi Sato) spends his days as just another white collar office worker and his evenings are marked by a distant wife (Tae Kimura) and thus he reads the mystery novels of Jo Kuroda. After his wife disappears, Arisu finds himself at the center of a real mystery, one where a brothel is burnt down, his wife may lead a second life and he may have set it all into motion with an affair two years ago with the mysterious Kayoko (Kiki) at the Starfish Hotel. This is an absolutely fascinating film. It appears to be a modern film noir, but has some uncharacteristic plot developments at its core. Just don't make the mistake I did and keep equating Mr Trickster to Frank despite the uncanny similarities. Actually, Starfish Hotel does have a bit in common with Donnie Darko , except it is less about figuring out a puzzle and actually has more in common with Eyes Wide Shut . Arisu has begun on a marvelous journey. I'm not certain what is r

SIFF 2006, part 8

SIFF screening: Tuesday June 13 Eve and the Fire Horse This was another SIFF film that attracted my attention for being sounding really lovely and has Vivian Wu. I love Vivian Wu, but hadn't seen her in a while. I had initially passed, but when I had a find 6 more films to see thanks to the acquisition of passes that needed to be used, I added this film. What I have learned is not just to pay attention to whether a film has won awards at other festivals, but to pay attention to which awards. If they are honors like "Most Popular Canadian Film" or People's Choice awards, run far, far away. I should have learned this last year after suffering through Cape of Good Hope , but I did it again this year. "Hey look, this film was really popular at Sundance, we should see it!" Ugh. What I have learned is that the people suck. This film was horrible. It is about a Chinese immigrant family with two young girls, Eve and Karena. Eve is struggling with religion.

SIFF 2006, part 6

Screenings: June 10 Three Times I had planned to not see as many films this year because there are significantly fewer films this year playing at SIFF, that will open wide in just a few weeks, I still owe the government some money, and as of early August, work on my half-sleeve will start and the first session will be a long and therefore costly one, so I really need to focus on saving right now. Well, plans changed when was given a whole bunch of passes by Scarecrow Video. So we got to add some more movies to our festival, without paying for a ton more tickets. So I added a few titles that I would have skipped, since Three Times is already playing in a few theaters around the US. The film caught my attention because Hou Hsiao-hsien is a respected director from Taiwan and I have not yet seen any of his films. Three Times is composed of three short films focusing on a relationship between two characters portrayed by Shu Qi and Chang Chen. The three films are stylistically very

SIFF 2006, part 7

Screenings: June 11 - Film Noir Archival Presentations The Man Who Cheated Himself The Window It is very lucky that won those passes, because otherwise, I probably wouldn't have decided to pick up tickets to any archival screenings. I have a tendency to assume that anything that has been made is around somewhere and thus, I could just rent these old films. Plus, I hadn't heard of these films, didn't know the stars, etc. But this was a really great afternoon at SIFF. While the films were not the greatest that I've seen at the festival, the experience was great for seeing two little known noir films in a whole theater of movie fans. But the highlight was definitely Eddie Muller . He was very funny, informative and gave great introductions to each of the films. Most importantly, he talked about the film noir foundation and their efforts to attention to old films. Knowing that hundreds of films are made and that numerous studio projects get shelved and so

SIFF diary 2006, part 5

Screenings: June 9 Linda Linda Linda Linda Linda Linda is a song by the Blue Hearts, a band that that is an inspiration to girls in Linda Linda Linda . The girls are in an art school and have been in and out of numerous bands. They form a band with a new singer, Son (Du-na Bae of Take Care of My Cat, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance ), who is a Korean exchange student and is in the process of learning Japanese. This is a delightful movie. The plot is simple, a group of girls work on a song for a school performance, but the movie doesn't simply rehash other teen-centric film. Instead of falling into cliches about teen girls, or trying to be a cute fantasy about girls in rock, a la Josie and the Pussycats, it feels more realistic about high school relationships. The girls have crushes, most of which don't develop into anything and are only expressed in occasional brief awkward meetings that feel excruciatingly long, just that way I remember. They have falling outs. They make ne

SIFF diary 2006, part 4

13 (Tzameti) It is a shame that one doesn't usually step into a theater with absolutely no idea about the movie that is about to start. Sometimes, I suspect I do myself a disservice with all of the research, reading reviews, watching trailers. I never go into a film without expectations. And I'm very pleased that I didn't know anything about 13 , beyond it being a thriller from France that a few people at IMDB seemed to like. At the beginning, nothing is revealed except that Sébastien is a young immigrant working on the roof of a man with a morphine addiction and some mysterious connections with some kind of underground activity. After eavesdropping on a conversation, Sébastien ends up in the possession of a ticket that could make him a large sum. How, he hasn't a clue, but he follows the directions landing himself in a "game" where he could stand to earn some money, but also is in no position to back out, once he has arrived at this destination. I'

SIFF diary, part 3

I am horribly slow at keeping my blog at all updated, but I've been just a bit swamped. I keep getting "this close" to landing a better job, meaning lots of interviews and correspondence that doesn't end up panning out. did manage to find a better job though and started it this week. And the film festival does suck up my life just a little. Especially, when I only seem to have tickets to late showings, which is messing up my sleep patterns too. Frostbite This year I am taking in a couple of the midnight adrenalin series films. I don’t think of myself as someone who is into gory horror films, but it didn’t take too much arm twisting to convince me to pick up tickets to Frostbite , the Swedish vampire movie. But now I’m at a loss for what to say about this film. Was it good? Hmmm, I don’t think good really applies, but it wasn’t bad. I was amused and the special effects were much better than I expected. As for whether I would recommend it, I think it depe

SIFF diary 2006, part 2

Dear Pyongyang Documentaries are often low on our priorities and tend to only catch our attention in the case of the film being particularly innovative, on a favorite subject matter, or the film has attracted a lot of critical acclaim. But recently, I have been watching a lot of Japanese film and attempting to learn about the culture so it seemed logical to take in some Japanese films at SIFF, including this Japanese documentary about Koreans living in Japan. Dear Pyongyang did take a little to get into. Too much of the beginning required reading a tremendous amount of text about the history of Korea, the differences between North and South Korea, and Japan's place in this history. This background was much needed for those of us with little more than a sketchy understanding of the history of Korea. Dear Pyongyang follows and attempts to make sense of the lives and views held by the filmmaker's father, specifically his undying loyalty to North Korea. This is contrasted sharp

SIFF diary 2006, part 1

Saturday was my first day of SIFF and it was a very good day, especially since I struggled a bit this year to find films that I had much enthusiasm about seeing. It took really pouring over every title to find the 11 films that I wanted tickets to and then, for this long weekend, we picked up a few individual tickets. Ski Jumping Pairs The first screening I attended was for this, I assumed, small Japanese mockumentary, poking fun at the process of a ridiculous sport becoming an Olympic sport in 2006. The creator and director, Mashima Riichiro, was in attendance and did talk about making this very silly film. Additionally, he pointed us to the official site where one can buy the DVD and ski jumping tee-shirts and other goodies. Due to the existence of Hello Kitty brand ski pair gear, I'm thinking this might not be as small a film and I thought. Anyway, the film was exactly what I expected. It was safe, non-offensive and blatantly fictional documentary about the great sport o

This weekend’s movies

Breakfast on Pluto : I have been completely infatuated with Neil Jordan’s films ever since seeing The Crying Game , but I was a little worried about Breakfast on Pluto . Actually, I was ecstatic as soon as I had read about this project about a young Irish man known as kitten during the early 1970s glam era. A gender ambiguous character, played by Cillian Murphy, in London during the 1970s sounded like the best cinema experience since Velvet Goldmine. I couldn’t wait. So I picked up the book a while back. Very strange read. I liked the voice of Patrick “Pussy” Braden, but the book was very dark. Generally, I go for dark subject matters... just look at my favorite films of the year, but I really didn’t want a tragic tale about Patrick “Pussy.” It could have been heartbreaking. Thankfully, Neil Jordan took all of the aspects that I liked about the book and tarted it up into a wonderful fairy tale that had me beaming for the duration of the film. And I could turn around right now