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Showing posts from 2013

Planet earth is blue and there's nothing I can do.

Outer space is such a common setting in cinema that we tend to forget about the realities of space travel. As a reminder, Gravity opens with... AT 372 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH THERE IS NOTHING TO CARRY SOUND NO AIR PRESSURE NO OXYGEN  LIFE IN SPACE IS IMPOSSIBLE After having seen Gravity , it comes as no surprise that director Alfonso Cuaron wanted to be an astronaut. Gravity is a film that is awe struck with the view of earth from space and of humanity's achievements in space. There are numerous satellites, labs, space stations, alongside trash and debris orbiting the planet and Cuaron places his narrative outside one of the stations in this surprisingly crowded landscape. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is in the process of completing a repair at the opening of Gravity , when Houston reports the possibility of incoming debris due Russia shooting down a satellite. Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) is the veteran space mechanic assisting Dr. Stone, mostly with banter meant

An account of First Seattle Erotic Film Festival

In the first installation of "how to start your very own film festival" , I only outlined how the films were selected, because that is what making a film festival is about, finding awesome films and then inflicting them upon the unsuspecting public. If only that were true. Turns out there was so much more involved in making a film festival happen. First, you need a venue. The Seattle Erotic Art Festival was in the process of setting dates for a summer or early fall festival when this process began in May, but one thing was obvious, where ever the festival was going to be held would be appropriate for an art gallery, a store, and maybe even a show, but it would not be appropriate for showing 35mm, 16mm or 8mm film. From the beginning, I knew that Dennis Nyback would be providing content so we needed a venue that still has projectors. There aren't many of those left with the recent transition to digital, so really that left only the Grand Illusion, Northwest Film For

How to start a festival in 12 easy steps.

This is where the impersonal, cinema blog takes a one-eighty and the personal pronoun gets polished and prominently displayed. I made a film festival. Not completely sure how this happened, but it started with a meeting over coffee concerning 19 short film submissions to the Seattle Erotic Art Festival 2013 and culminated in 4 festival screenings at the historic Grand Illusion Cinema , with the words "Erotic Film Festival Aug 2-4" on the marque. The last four months are a blur, but with the help of friends, both old and new, the small number of submissions led to numerous sleepless nights, enthusiastic and oft' unrealistic pipe dreams, until four programs materialized. Not everything went as planned, but in the end, it all came together and there were no casualties. The first task was the easiest. Watch the submissions. There was only 120 min of video, so that was simple, but this did culminate in the first festival related panic. There is an unrelenting critic

Cities for People, not Cars.

I've lived in cities most of my life, and I prefer to live in a city. However, there are frustrations with life in the city, but according to The Human Scale and the Jan Gehl , many of issues are due to poor planning, instead of just being inherent to life in the city. The Human Scale presents the work to architect and city planner Jan Gehl on creating an inviting, safe, sustainable, diverse, and healthy cities. This could have been a dry, intellectual documentary, but I found it highly engaging. Mostly because it was so smart on the problems of cities and how cities can be changed to favor human connection. Much of The Human Scale can be summed up by saying that cities have changed in the last century to accomodate cars, not people. And as a result, we have become more isolated from each other, less engaged in city life, and significantly less safe. Out of frustration over the the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, we bought a home in a condominium complex on the edge

One story of a city in the desert

It is difficult to throw a rock in Seattle and not hit a burner, at least it seems that way. So many people have told me of the transformative experience of attending this event, held annually in the middle of the Black Rock desert. I've always remained skeptical and tend to see burners as affluent men and women that use the art and personal transformation as an excuse to take a week away from the real world and party. Meaning, I see Burning Man as mardi gras, in the desert. But stunning photography comes out of the festival each year and Spark: A Burning Man Story was an opportunity to challenge this perception. That said, Spark was a well made film. Long time burner Steve Brown co-directed the film was Jesse Deeter, who brought to the project a decade of experience from working on Frontline. As a result, the film looks amazing. Central to the film are two artists that are creating giant art pieces for the playa, one is a burning man vetren creating Block Rock City's ow

The Final Member

In September, I'll be in Iceland for a couple of days, so in preparation I'm doing what all good world travelers do to prepare for immersion into a different culture, I'm watching Icelandic movies.  This is a surprisingly easy task as cinema is the largest industry in Iceland, so even non-Icelandic films have plenty of obviously Icelandic names in the credits. This year at SIFF, there is only a couple of Icelandic films. One of these is  The Final Member ,  a documentary about the Icelandic Phallological Museum and as such essential viewing for a traveler.  This documentary is centered on  Sigurdur Hjartarson , or Siggi as he's called in the film,  who was given his first phallus, a bull's penis, as a gift from an instructor which led to this life long habit of collecting penises. His collection of penis bones and jars of preserved members became a bit larger than the typical living room conversation piece and so the Icelandic Phallological Museum was born clai

Girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls...

Where does one begin? Peaches Does Herself is a German concert movie of Peaches. Written by, Directed by and starring Peaches. But how does one describe this experience? Normally, I skip the Face the Music program of films at SIFF each year, but Peaches Does Herself was described as the queerest film in the festival. As it turns out, I knew exactly one Peaches song prior and still know little to nothing about her, but it didn't matter. I enjoyed the music and most of all, I loved her persona. Her sexuality was on display and was not only unapologetic, but read as loud as if it were a billboard with "fuck normalcy and judgement, this is who I am" in bright pink neon. To give an overall impression of the film, I've decided just to lay out what happens along with stills. I suspect that is the best I can do for readers to decide whether this is something they should seek out. The film begins in Peaches' bedroom and after the dancers climb through a giant vu

Grrrls in front

I cannot write about The Punk Singer like it is just another SIFF documentary. I always try to look at cinema analytically, but this movie became personal and by the end, I was cheering for all that Kathleen Hanna has done and will do. There was a period of time when music meant something. In the 80s, I was crazy about Duran Duran which took me to Bowie, The Culture Club... Later Guns n' Roses were huge and I had a metal phase, but after high school, I didn't connect with music the way I did at 15. In college, what spoke loudest was cinema. And this totally makes sense. It was the beginning of the New Queer Cinema and while those movies didn't make it up to Anchorage until years later, the impact on cinema was immediate. It wasn't until probably 1995 when I was finally seeing the movies by Gus Van Sant, Gregg Araki, Todd Haynes, and so on, but it was still in the movies where I was finding the stories that spoke to me. The cinema is where my adult identity was for

Key of Life

I love Japanese cinema. And probably in part due to the Seattle International Film Festival, I discovered that contemporary, non-genre cinema from Japan can be amazing and film festivals are the only places to find these films. Sure some Japanese movies make it to the theaters each year, but these tend to be horror movies or Anime. We don't get many opportunities to see the other types of movies that are made in Japan. Key of Life is surprising because it really shouldn't be good. Any plot synopsis that essentially claims it's like Trading Places in Japan, except Dan Aykroyd has amnesia, does not sound promising. So I honestly don't know how director Kenji Uchida pulled this off. There are three characters, Kanae is a successful and very detail oriented business women who decides to get married. So she puts her wedding day on her calendar and informs friends, family and colleagues of the impending date. The only problem is that she hasn't met the groom jus

The James Franco Gay Bar movie

The short film, In Their Room: London from director Travis Mathews is an experimental film simply observing gay men in the privacy of their own rooms. It shows probably 10 men grooming, sleeping, dressing, undressing, searching the internet for hook-ups, showering, even using the toilet. I don't really have much to say about this film. It gives a glimpse into a diverse array of lives. But really, those lives aren't all that diverse. Mostly white and mostly bearded, engaging in very similar activities. I guess this makes a few men stand out. Like the man pictured above, surrounded by images of Morrissey as he applies make-up, the elderly cross-dresser, and the black man do stand very separate from the others, despite the fact that they are all engaged in very similar activities. Perhaps in privacy we reveal our shared, humanity as many engage in the grooming rituals dictated by a shared culture? The most frustrating aspect of In Their Room: London was the lack of time de

SIFF 2013: Concussion

The simplicity of the plot synopsis, does not do justice to the film's emotional complexity. Abby, played masterfully by Robin Weigert, is overwhelmed by a sense of isolation and alienation despite living a good life with a family that she loves. At the beginning of the film, Abby is losing her temper with her two children as her wife of 20 years is trying to get Abby to the emergency room with as little drama as possible. Kate chastises Abby for shouting at the kids. Abby, holding ice to her head with blood matted in her hair after taking a softball to the head, is very relatable in her anger and marital dissatisfaction. From that moment forward, Abby begins a journey to discover what is missing and this takes her into a world of high class, lesbian call girls. Concussion is about an emotional reality of long-term relationships that doesn't often find a voice in this culture. Following in the footsteps of The Kids are All Right (2010), Abby and Kate are another upper cl

Every new technology is expensive, and sooner or later every new technology gets into bed with lechery.

The Seattle Independent Film Festival has landed, again. I don't have the time or money to attend this year, but just cannot stay away. And I started off my festival with a Peter Greenaway film, Goltzius and the Pelican Company .  If I were forced to pick just one film as my favorite, it would be Peter Greenaway's 1996 motion picture, with the emphasis strongly on picture, The Pillow Book . After I assumed that his other works would similarly resonate, but was so very, very wrong. Since, I've developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Greenaway's cinema having been completely confounded by a few, respecting others, completely disgusted and repulsed by one, occassionally bored, but then completely charmed and delighted by the previous film seen at SIFF in 2009, Rembrandt's J'Accuse . I wasn't sure I was up for the Greenaway gamble, but when a pair of free tickets landed in my lap, I couldn't stay away. With Goltzius and the Pelican Company, P

The vampire's kiss

Recent cinematic incarnations of the vampire are completely infatuated with the romance of the mythologies of immortal being that's only vulnerability is daylight, but all but forgotten is the inherent horror of an unliving creature with an all encompassing thirst for human blood. Kiss of the Damned enriches the eroticism with a healthy serving of horror. Xan Cassavetes pays homage to of the vampire movie of long ago. From the opening shots of something primal and hungry rushing through the night, until the screen is splashed in red in a sequence that has more in common with the B-movie or the erotic horror movies of Europe during the 1970s than the blood sucker that have become all too common place at the movies. The scales began to tip away from the horrific in the 1980s, with Anne Rice. In her novels, the emphasis was placed on the homo-eroticism inherent in the vampire's kiss, which seemed more often to result in the gift of immortality and enduring companionship (do

We're living in a pornified world and I am a pornified girl.

For the last year, I've been volunteering at  The Grand Illusion Cinema  and  The Center for Sex-Positive Culture . Most of my volunteer hours at CSPC are in the library, which is a fascinating place. Since the other librarians are more enamoured with the books, the growing collection of video pornography is a bit neglicted, so I've taken on the task of curating the collection. And being just a tiny bit obssessed with cinema, I saw this as a chance to learn about a genre that I am ignorant of. Like many women, I am not an avid consumerof pornography, but my cinema fixations are a porn-adjacent. I gravitate toward films with explicit sexual content and movies that explore alternative relationship styles. In high school, I enjoyed titilating titles like 9 1/2 Weeks and scanned the cable channels for episides of the Red Shoe Diaries. And in college, I saw nearly every movie that I could find with a GLBT plot-line. Now that I'm no longer using cinema to vicariously explore my s

2012 in film

Someone says it at the end of every year. Last year was the best year in cinema that I can remember. Well, as I was thinking about the movies that I watched in 2012, I can honestly say that 2012 stands out. Personally, 2012 was an especially tumultuous year, dealing with increasing physical impairment and a sudden end to the career that was built over the last 15 years, but it the year at the movies was one similarly marked with evolution alongside nostalgia. The movies of 2012 definitely speak to the fact that in 2013, the theaters that remain will be digital. It follows that the movies have quality of reverence for the past, but the year also embraced change and demonstrated forward momentum and innovation. There was so much to love in 2012, that I doubt that I will be able to edit my list down to 10. The first trend is the dominance of female protagonists and movies made by women in the films that were among my personal favorites. Looking over my personal list of noteworthy cine

Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow is a director who's career has always been of interest. Not only is she the only woman to be awarded the Oscar for for directing her previous film, The Hurt Locker , but her films practically ooze testosterone. Not only are they in the male dominated genre of the action movie, but they tend to have an exclusively male cast. Bigelow's films are in the world of men and are concerned with the stories of men and while I've liked many of her films, I have been mildly disappointed that such a talented director is not interested in bringing more female-centric narratives to the screen. But Bigelow has a female protagonist in  Zero Dark  Thirty  and I would even go so far as to call this a feminist achievement in cinema. The procedural detailing the process of tracking Osama bin Laden's location and coordination of the the attack on the compound only had three female characters among the seemingly all male military and government, but despite being such a smal