SIFF 2012 Picks

SIFF technically runs year round, but the actual Seattle International Film Festival is now in full swing until June 10th. Last year’s SIFF viewing was a lot of fun, both volunteering and viewing. This year is a bit more quiet on the SIFF front for us since we have other obligations and trips. I do have picks (as always) even though some of the films have passed or are already sold out but they will remain on my radar to check out at a later date and time. See you at the theater!

A Checkout Girl’s Big Adventures (France) :: Anna Sam’s bestselling memoir inspired this enchanting yet reality-grounded romantic fable. Anyone who’s spent time in retail will empathize with her heroine, Solweig (Déborah François), a literature graduate who dreamed of becoming a teacher, but became a checkout girl in a big box store. With their father in a coma, she looks after her 10-year-old brother and vents her frustrations through an anonymous blog. “Who’d be a checkout girl by vocation?” concludes one entry. (read more…)

Breathing (Austria) :: The remarkably assured directorial debut from veteran Austrian actor Karl Markovics (best known for The Counterfeiters) negotiates an intriguing interplay between the perilousness of youth and the inevitability of death. Roman is an inmate at a juvenile detention center whose last hope of parole rests on his ability to hold down a job, in this case, as an assistant in a Vienna morgue. (read more…)

Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best (USA) :: Some of the world’s greatest songs have been created by perfectly-paired weirdos. Ryan O’ Nan’s directorial debut not only explores this premise, it celebrates it. Alex (O’Nan, who also wrote the screenplay and music) is an emotional and professional mess whose life is on a steep downward slide. Jim (Michael Weston) is a socially awkward misfit who lives with his grandfather. After being dropped by their respective bands, the two have no choice but to join forces. Enter Cassidy (Arielle Kebbel) a bored rock ’n’ roller who offers to manage the bumbling duo. Love, heartfelt hijinks, and yes, a “Battle of the Bands” ensues. (read more…)

Dreams of a Life (United Kingdom) :: In December 2003, Joyce Carol Vincent died while wrapping Christmas gifts and watching television in her north London flat. The cause of her death remains unknown to this day, as her remains were not discovered until three years later, sitting on the couch with her television set still running. In this “dramatized documentary,” director Carol Morley asks, how could this happen in Europe’s largest, most populous city? (read more…)

Fat Kid Rules the World (USA) :: Actor-turned-director Matthew Lillard successfully translates K.L. Going’s novel into a hilarious and deeply touching cinematic examination of two societal outcasts who have all but given up on the world. Troy, an overweight teen, lives in his fantasies and decides to end it all by stepping in front of a bus. Marcus, a druggie and high school dropout, saves Troy at the last moment and begins using him for occasional money to buy food or drugs. (read more…)

Grassroots (USA) :: “Monorail.” When Grant Cogswell hears that word in 2001, he sees an inexpensive, elegant form of mass transit, a Jetsonian future of silent public transportation and unclogged streets. In order to make his dream a reality, Grant needs to run for City Council. But there’s one problem: Grant is a loud, obnoxious, sometime music critic for The Stranger, with no connections and no voice in Seattle politics. How can Grant campaign for office? (read more…)

Keep Calm & Carry On (United Kingdom) :: Visit the fish-and-chips van, or perhaps break out the tea and crumpets, while enjoying some of the best short films the British Isles has to offer.

King Curling (Norway) :: Break out your brooms, sharpen your skates, and polish your stones—curling in all its competitive and comedic glory returns to SIFF. Truls Paulson once ruled Norway’s curling sheets until he snapped under championship pressure. Diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and subsequently banned from competition after his outburst, Truls has become a pill-popping flunky to his wife Sigrid and her dog Pelle, until he learns that his old coach, Gordon, is near death. (read more…)

Lola Versus (USA) :: At age 29, Lola (Greta Gerwig) thinks she’s right where she ought to be: finishing her dissertation and cozily nested with her longtime boyfriend, who surprises her one morning with a proposal. But just as all the details get settled, the prospective groom gets cold feet, forcing Lola to restructure her life and reconsider the men of New York City. Helping her get back in the saddle are her two best friends, the obviously lovelorn Henry (Hamish Linklater) and the randy, consummate single gal Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones), who brings Lola down to earth by sharing her own relationship struggles and search for romance. (read more…)

Moonrise Kingdom (USA) :: When director Wes Anderson hit American cinema screens with his critically acclaimed debut Bottle Rocket, it heralded the arrival of a singular new talent. Among his early fans was Martin Scorsese, who wrote in Esquire magazine, “He knows how to convey the simple joys and interactions between people so well and with such richness. This kind of sensibility is rare in movies.” In his newest film Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson delivers a wonderfully droll yet touching comedy filtered through his own unique vision. Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, it tells the story of Suzy and Sam, two 12-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As a violent storm begins to brew off shore, various authorities begin a frenzied search, including Suzy’s parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray), Sam’s summer camp troop led by Ward (Edward Norton), and the local sheriff (Bruce Willis). Full of Anderson’s trademark dry wit and color-coordinated formalism, Moonrise Kingdom is a sweet, nostalgic romp that will bring out the kid in all of us.

Safety Not Guaranteed (USA) :: “WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.” When Seattle magazine writer Jeff (Jake M. Johnson of Fox’s The New Girl) stumbles upon this unusual classified ad, he heads off to the scenic Washington coast, accompanied by recent college grad Darius (Aubrey Plaza of NBC’s Parks and Recreation) and nerdy intern Arnau to investigate its origins. (read more…)

Starbuck (Canada) :: A massive box office success in Québec, Ken Scott’s comedic Starbuck tracks a likeable middle-aged loser as he wrestles with regret and responsibility. Hapless deliveryman David Wozniak gets parking tickets at every single stop along his route, has thugs on his tail for massive overdue loans, and his girlfriend announced that she was pregnant just before dumping him. These, however, are the least of David’s concerns when he returns home to find a lawyer in his kitchen. The past is back to haunt him in the form of a class-action lawsuit, launched by 142 of the 533 children who resulted from the 648 sperm donations he deposited over 20 years ago. (read more…)

SuperFly :: SIFF FutureWave continues its exciting partnership with Longhouse Media to present the SuperFly Filmmaking Workshop for Youth. The SuperFly short films will open the FutureWave Shorts program. Cinema lovers of all ages will enjoy this very special film event that gives voice to the future of filmmaking.

The Beautiful Game (USA) :: “Soccer has a following larger than any one religion,” says Archbishop Desmond Tutu in this dynamic portrait of six Africans whose lives are impacted by the sport. And like a religion, soccer unifies and uplifts. For some, it provides an intense cultural bond, gluing African cultures together. For others, the sport creates opportunities to escape crippling poverty and hardship, to gain scholarships and a chance to choose their own fates. The Beautiful Game showcases young players from Nigeria, Ghana, The Ivory Coast, South Africa, Egypt, and Cameroon, their stories told with scenic backdrops as unique as each player’s life. (read more…)

The Last Man on Earth (Italy) :: Things are tough in 21st century Italy, just as they are everywhere in the world. The economy has tanked and Luca is lost, lonely, and confused. But the announced and imminent arrival of aliens from outer space means everything is about to change. It’s all everyone can talk about—except Luca. Instead, he’s stuck managing the demons left behind when his mother abandoned her family when Luca was a young boy. Now the grown man is a frightened woman hater, and the only woman he can talk to comfortably is his transsexual friend he’s known since childhood. (read more…)

The Mexican Suitcase (Mexico) :: In 2007, three mysterious, old suitcases were discovered among the belongings of the Mexican ambassador to Vichy France. Inside were approximately 4,500 negatives shot during the Spanish Civil War by a triumvirate of revered war photographers: David “Chim” Seymour, Gerda Taro, and Robert Capa. They were subsequently returned to Cornell Capa, the younger brother of Robert, and founder of the International Center of Photography in New York City. (read more…)

Your Sister’s Sister (USA) :: Hometown heroine Lynn Shelton triumphantly returns with her fourth feature and the follow-up to the SIFF 2009 favorite Humpday with this engaging, humor-infused relationship drama, shot entirely in the Northwest. Your Sister’s Sister marks the first time in the history of SIFF that work by a Seattle-based filmmaker has opened the festival. A year after his brother’s death, Jack (Mark Duplass) is alternately emotionally wobbly and outright volatile. When he makes a scene at a memorial party, good friend Iris (Emily Blunt) arranges for Mark to take a solitary retreat at her father’s cabin on a Puget Sound island, theorizing this isolation will offer closure and spiritual relief. (read more…)

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2011 SIFF picks – Part 1

2011 SIFF picks – Part 2

2011 SIFF picks – Part 3

siff picks – part III

siff picks – part I          siff picks – part II

siff officially ended last night. i slowed down towards the end of the festival, both with volunteering and viewing. but here are the last of batch of films i chose.

treatment

Leonard (Joshua Leonard, Humpday) is an L.A. filmmaker with big ideas but no clue about how to turn them into real projects. Nelson (co-director Sean Nelson) is his long-suffering best friend who humors Leonard, but never takes his grand plans seriously. Rather than work on a script, Leonard first focuses on landing bankable talent, namely an A-lister known as Gregg D (Ross Partridge, Baghead, The Off Hours). The only problem is, Gregg has just checked into Wingspan, an ultra-swanky, $10,000-a-week rehab clinic for substance abuse. In a stroke of demented genius, Leonard decides to fake a drug addiction, check himself into the clinic (using Nelson’s trust fund), befriend Gregg D, and become the next Oliver Stone. But once he’s inside Wingspan’s ridiculously cushy grounds, Leonard realizes that, in spite of his charade, perhaps he’s not that much different from the other patients. With a strong Northwest filmmaking pedigree, Treatment is not only a spot-on satire of Hollywood narcissism and phony celebrity rehab culture, but also a sobering study on the perils of ambition and obsession. Look for brilliant comic cameos by John Hodgman (The Daily Show), and musician Robyn Hitchcock, who also provides original music for the film. (source)

presspauseplay

The digital revolution has changed the way artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers create and share their art. Virtually unlimited creative opportunities have been unleashed, and with little more than a laptop and an internet connection, almost anyone can record a song, write a novel, or make a film, and then instantaneously share it with the world. Icelandic musician Olafur Arnalds went from making homemade digital compositions to performing with a full classical orchestra. Filmmaker Lena Dunham was able to make her award-winning film Tiny Furniture the way she envisioned thanks to new digital technologies. Best-selling author Seth Godin broke new ground when he decided to leave his publisher behind and give away his book for free online. Filmmakers David Dworsky and Victor Köhler talk with some of the digital era’s most influential creators and explore the burning questions underneath this vast cultural transformation. Is allowing new technology to subvert old business models really giving artists unprecedented freedom? Are the truly talented drowning in an ocean of mediocre content? And with everyone able to create, what defines art in the digital age? (source)

animation united

Join our side of animation superstars as they endeavor to show you to strange, new, and exciting visions in short film form. (source)

mammuth

Anchored by the kind of tour-de-force performance that has made Gérard Depardieu an icon, Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern’s offbeat, affectionate, and frequently very funny road movie provides the hulking actor with his best role in years. He plays Serge (known as “Mammuth” to friends, after his rusting old motorcycle), first seen attending his retirement party at the local pork slaughterhouse. An honest and genuine guy—if not exactly an intellectual heavyweight—Serge finds himself at loose ends now that his working life is over, and it is his wife Catherine (the superb Yolande Moreau) who suggests he seek out his old employers in order to get all his pension-application paperwork in order. Out comes the motorbike, and off scoots Serge on an adventure that will see him cross paths with con artists, his kooky relatives, some hilariously officious bureaucrats—and the ghost of his first love, as embodied by Isabelle Adjani. Delépine and de Kervern underscore the laughs with an unsentimental thread of genuine emotion throughout and then they do the smart thing: they let Depardieu take over. His Serge is one of the most unforgettable characters ever on film. (source)

siff picks – part II

siff picks – part I              siff picks – part III

every song is about me

Ramiro is a thirty-something man who fulfills his passion for literature in his uncle’s small bookshop. During daily strides along the streets of Madrid, he dreams about romance and poetry. One day, he comes home to find a letter left by his fiancée Andrea in which she puts an end to their relationship. In his attempt to forget her, he spends his spare time hanging out with his friend Lucas, who suddenly decides to marry an Argentinean barmaid for immigration purposes. Depressed, Ramiro gives a new try to romance, but it is Andrea he truly wants. Literature, love and life intertwine in this delightful and retro Spanish romantic drama. Like the title reflects, the screenplay explores both the absurdity and beauty of young life, set against a charming Madrid backdrop. The atmosphere of the French New Wave genre inspires this first film by Jonas Trueba, without leaving aside the contradictions of the modern world. Nominated for Best Director and Best Actor at the Goya Awards. Director Jonas Trueba scheduled to attend. (source)

backyard

Árni had an idea. He just wanted to record some group of friends in a simple way in his backyard. He’d set up some equipment in his shack, invite a few bands, and feed them all pizza and pancakes. He passed out a few flyers and before he knew it, some of the most exciting, young Icelandic musicians showed up to play. His humble project evolved into one of the most popular intimate live events of the year, gathering a crowd of neighbors and music lovers from all around the city. This concert documentary gives us a glimpse into Reykjavik’s up-and-coming music scene—a tight, supportive group of musicians who bounce inspiration off one another’s sounds, from the sweet post-rock of Borko to the bouncy synthpop of FM Belfast. Mùm—experimental electronic veterans of the scene—also perform, as do newer groups such as Hjaltalin, who won Album of the Year at the 2010 Icelandic Music Awards. Backyard is a record of the independent Icelandic music scene with some of the most celebrated artists in Reykjavik today. Director Arni Sveinsson scheduled to attend. (source)

the most important thing in life is not being dead

With a title that is as obvious as it is absurd, The Most Important Thing in Life Is Not Being Dead evokes the early work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children), with a little Terry Gilliam thrown in for good measure. Crafted by a collective of three directors (two from Spain, one from Switzerland), the delightfully deadpan narrative follows a piano tuner suffering from bouts of insomnia. To make matters worse, the pianos that used to mysteriously fix themselves for him during the night are now stubbornly sticking to reality and staying broken. One night, he sees a strange man in his living room, but when he tells his wife, she refuses to believe him. Or, maybe, she’s just telling him that… Set during the end of the Franco era in Spain, a period of political deceit and distorted reality, this visually inventive and funny film continually finds new ways to set things topsy-turvy. Director Pablo Torrado scheduled to attend. (source)

richard ayoade!

richard ayoade was in seattle last friday to talk about his debut directorial film feature, submarine. i voted 5 stars on my ballot, as did michael. the film is the perfect blend of comedy and sadness, very real with a bit of weird. ayoade’s humor shines through the perfectly chosen cast. every component of this film works well together from the cinematography to the soundtrack (by alex turner of the arctic monkeys). i absolutely loved this film!

we grabbed some seats up front for the q&a session. ayoade is very humble and seemingly shy but it didn’t keep him from cracking jokes as people were leaving the theater while he talked about directing music videos and the characters of his film.

check out this ifc interview with ayoade!

up: chatting it up with the siff lady.   down: hangin’ with some hipsters.

clip from it crowd

siff picks – part I

the seattle international film festival has officially started and runs until june 12, 2011. i am very exciting because this will be my very first year to attend! i have eagerly been making my film choices along with a detailed schedule for the next few weeks to maximize my siff viewing. it is so easy to go online and buy tickets to any film and siff members get a discount. i volunteered this year and received some free vouchers so i was able to expand my choices a bit more.

siff picks – part II           siff picks – part III

submarine

Oliver Tate is a cool literary genius…at least in his head. To others, he’s a misunderstood teenage boy attempting to stand out against the busy backdrop of 1980s Wales. Never lacking for ambition, this fifteen-year-old boy sets himself two tasks for the summer: to lose his virginity before it becomes legal to the unromantic pyromaniac bully Jordana, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and her former lover, who is also a New Age psychic performing strange rituals in the house next door. Thanks to the clever use of slow-motion and freeze frames, as well as a novel use of voice-over narration to capture the main character’s unique sensibilities, this debut feature film is a breath of fresh air, melding together New Age British arts and an ironic fairytale. Adapting Joe Dunthorne’s cult novel and citing Woody Allen as his greatest inspiration, comedian-turned-filmmaker Richard Ayoade offers a hilarious tale about teen love with all the cleverness and subtlety of British humor. (source)

Director Richard Ayoade is scheduled to attend!!!!!!


the future

A cat named Paw-Paw narrates from within his cage at the animal shelter. A young man stops time and has a conversation with the moon. A woman is coerced into a bizarre dance by a suddenly sentient t-shirt. From these moments it should be clear that we are once again in the world of artist, author, and filmmaker Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know). Sophie (July) and Josh (Hamish Linklater), are a young couple who realize that their plans to adopt a pet could mean a big step forward in their lives. So they make a pact to take thirty days and simply follow their dreams. While their experiment starts out lighthearted, they both soon uncover insecurities that threaten to ruin their relationship. July’s second feature is as assured and inventive as her much acclaimed debut, filled with droll humor and pathos, and punctuated by surprising moments of magical realism. The story of Sophie and Josh is a reflection of our fears of romance, aging, stagnation, and all the other uncertainties of the future. Director Miranda July scheduled to attend. (source)

perfect sense

Recently heartbroken, Susan (Eva Green) devotes herself to her medical practice, where she encounters a peculiar patient: following an intense, yet inexplicable bout of grief, he’s lost his sense of smell. Soon afterwards, she discovers other similar cases emerging throughout the globe. While the number of victims swells to epidemic proportions, Susan meets Michael (Ewan McGregor), a talented chef at a local restaurant, and commences upon a sudden, intense affair. Meanwhile, the mysterious disease progresses—first causing ravaging hunger, before robbing people of their sense of taste. Even as they succumb to the disease, the newly forged couple embarks on an increasingly sensual adventure, experiencing head-spinning, stomach-tightening moments of pure connection. Influenced by such recent films as Blindness and Children of Men, director David Mackenzie, a SIFF 2008 Emerging Master, fashions an intimate apocalyptic drama, aided by McGregor and Green’s erotic on-screen chemistry, in which love blooms anew even as the world outside their bedroom window wilts away. (source)

There is a tribute to Ewan McGregor this Sunday that includes a Q&A session with him and SIFF will present the Golden Space Needle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting to McGregor. (info)

love

In 2007, rock band Angels & Airwaves approached writer/director William Eubank to collaborate with them on a visual work inspired by their music. LOVE, the resulting film, perfectly captures the intense, dreamlike quality of their music, while offering so much more. Beginning during the American Civil War, Lt. Lee Briggs embarks upon a secretive mission to report on a mysterious object found in a Western desert canyon. Following Briggs’s discovery, the action jumps ahead to the near future where astronaut Lee Miller is nearing the end of his service onboard the International Space Station. However, contact with Earth grows erratic, as he’s told, Something is going on here. When all communication stops, Miller finds himself stranded alone, his life-support systems and his sanity dwindling away, until he makes an unexpected, strange discovery aboard his ship. Drawing inspiration from such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and the recent Moon, Eubank fashions a visually dazzling piece of cerebral science fiction that explores the fundamental human need for connection and the limitless power of hope. Director William Eubank, Producers Tom DeLonge and Mark Eaton, and actor Gunnar Wright scheduled to attend May 21 and May 22 screenings. (source)