[End of June, in reverse]

(500) Days of Summer wants desperately to be quirky. We can see that in the parenthetical in the title plus the fact that Zooey Deschanel’s character is named Summer. It dreams of being Annie Hall with a slice of Amelie, as directed by Wes Anderson.

It fails.

You want to like it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is cute and wears cardigans (but none even approaching the awesomeness of the one Jason Segel* wears in I Love You, Man). Zooey is cute and wears adorable dresses.

They have no chemistry.

My favorite part of the movie** was probably Joseph’s apartment, if only because it has a chalkboard wall in the bedroom. Terribly impractical — I mean, imagine the dust — but the sketched-in headboard *is* charming. More charming than the chewing-gum-ad-like dance sequence.

My least favorite part of the movie was about five minutes in, when the (annoying & intermittent) voiceover informed us that there are two kinds of people in the world: men & women. The rest of the preview audience thought that was hilarious. They also seemed to like the rest of the movie much more than I did. (Oh, and they were very charmed by the trailer for the film where Hugh Dancy plays a dude with Asperger’s, as if Mr Dancy has ever offered evidence that he can actually act.)

So be it.

In much better film news, last week I saw two French films. Wait! Come back! One was a James Bond parody! There were guns and hot chicks!

OSS 117: Lost in Rio was the SIFF volunteer appreciation party film. They don’t tell you the title ahead of time, so it’s a bit like the Secret except you can talk about it afterwards. I was pretty excited (in spite of the fact that I had been in New York that morning & was dead tired) because I quite enjoyed the first one, OSS 117, Cairo: Nest of Spies, and I had missed two screenings of the sequel. They’re totally ridiculous and manage to be offensive to everyone. Which, in my book, is okay. I mean, it’s Bond/spy movie tropes, so they’re going to be offensive anyway. Might as well kick it up a notch.

Lost in Rio is also notable for being, if possible, more gay than Cairo: Nest of Spies. Both are great fun. Jean Dujardin’s smile is money in the bank, and the jokes are always on him.

On the totally opposite end of French cinema was another 69 movie, My Night at Maud’s, which I liked very much, but as it’s a classic I can’t imagine I have anything to add to the conversation. I am sad I could not manage to stay awake long enough for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice afterwards, but it had been a long week. And I am old. Apparently.

* I just looked at the IMDb to make sure I spelled his name right, and one of his in-development titles? Is Untitled Muppet Project omg yay.

** Upon reflection, my favorite part of the movie was really a bit towards the end where a character suggests going for pancakes, and the audience is expected to remember the bit at the beginning where they were having said pancakes, without the benefit of flashback. How sad that that’s rare. Sadder still that no one sitting around me seemed to get it.


I was doing so well, and then I was very sick for a week, which threw off both my filmgoing and my posting. So now you get the entire second half of SIFF all at once. Lucky you!

* Mothers & Daughters wasn’t a perfect film, but it featured some stunning performances. It follows three vaguely interconnected mother-daughter pairs, and I would have been happy to see entire films on all of them, but particularly Gabrielle Rose & Tantoo Cardinal. It spawned a conversation at the bus stop afterward, even, including a gentleman who found the whole thing too intense and had to leave.

* The second Secret movie was a crazy, colorful flick I wouldn’t have sought out on my own.

* I picked The Missing Person largely because I was interested to see a performance from Michael Shannon, who was apparently *the* reason to see Revolutionary Road. The film is a modern noir, reworking tropes as appropriate. I liked it very much, and would like to see it again since I had a coughing fit & had to miss half of the ending. Apologies to everyone sitting around me; I am much better now!

* The third Secret movie benefited particularly from the Secret set-up, because not knowing the synopsis going in, I wasn’t waiting for the ‘hook’.

* I took one for the team and saw Humpday. It’s mind-blowingly popular in Seattle, partly because it’s from Seattle director Lynn Shelton, and partly because Seattle apparently loves its mumblecore. I have no idea why. The film is funny enough and Mark Duplass is exceptionally charming, but it isn’t nearly as revolutionary as it thinks it is. Trading on straight white male privilege is not art, kids, and it’s certainly not shocking.

* The Dark Harbor is a Japanese film about a lonely fisherman who discovers a woman and young boy have moved into his closet. He chooses to let them stay, and the result is a sweet and tender film. Outstanding, actually, since I just saw that this is a first feature from the writer/director. Confidential to the guy who sat behind me: we get that you think it’s funny. You do not need to guffaw and stomp your feet. Also, don’t crow “oh, I know what’s going to happen!” Guess what. You didn’t. So shut up.

* Don’t Let Me Drown was a high school love story, set in post 9/11 New York. It’s a simple story, well told.

* I picked Lovely Loneliness because it starred Inés Efron, who was marvelous in last year’s XXY. This film was a romantic comedy of sorts, with Efron as the neurotic lead. Well-acted, visually beautiful (I *want* her apartment!), and quirky (in a good way).

* Never one to pass up a revival film if I can possibly help it, I got to see a Once Upon a Time in the West. Fantastic, obviously.

* The final Secret movie I guessed based on clues the programmer gave the week before. Does this make me a gigantic nerd? Yes, probably. But I was glad to see it.

[More SIFF!]

I missed the Belgian film Rumba when I first put my schedule together, but I overheard a passholder discussing it, so I was able to catch the second screening. I was interested in it because I had seen the team’s previous feature, Iceberg a few festivals ago. Both films are nearly dialogue-free, with slapstick & surrealism in simple sets with largely static cameras. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it sort of thing, I suppose, but for me they both succeed more than they fail, and are more than worth it for something totally unlike everything else I see in dark comedy. I would be very interested in seeing their short films.

Last night I caught a late screening of Hansel & Gretel, a South Korean reversal of the story, here with adults being trapped in the depths of the woods by children. A lot of it was very promising: it was well-cast & visually gorgeous with a great score, however I didn’t love it. I felt the pacing was off, it should have been about a half hour shorter, and it didn’t come close to the creep factor that I expect of Korean horror.

I’m taking tonight off, which is good because I feel like I am coming down with something, then I have a Canadian film tomorrow & a relatively slow weekend. Hmm. I should probably go find some more films!

[SIFF09, weekend one]

Apparently all the cool kids are Twittering SIFF reviews, but I hate Twitter with the fire of a thousand suns, so y’all will have to bear with me over here. (Also, I might have to unsubscribe from Publicola for the duration. Retweets are not blogging, you idiots, and they’re certainly not *politics*. Why no one can understand that if we wanted to read tweets we’d be on damned Twitter is beyond me.)

But anyway. I’ve had a slightly weird festival so far, having spent more hours volunteering than seeing movies, at least in the first two days. However, since I *have* seen movies, I am ahead of a lot of the festival staff, who tend to see the first five minutes of a feature and then have to go back to work.

My first movie of the festival was Sunset Boulevard, one of the unfortunately few revival screenings I am going to be able to make. I had never seen it before, which is ridiculous considering what a Wilder fan I am, but so it goes. I loved it, of course. It was part of a TCM festival-within-the-festival, and as such was introduced by Robert Osborne, which was nice. I am a sucker for that sort of thing, as only a girl raised on AMC by Nick Clooney can be.

Second up was my first Secret film ever, which I very much enjoyed. A fast-paced, snappily scripted start to the Secret fest. I’m looking forward to the rest. The big appeal for me is that it’s a film experience that’s impossible the rest of the year, where I know absolutely nothing about a film going into it. I read too much to have that in general, so it’s pretty cool to have it here.

Next was the first film I could actually vote on, Morris: A Life With Bells On. I was initially super annoyed about it, because I found out it was a mockumentary only after I bought my ticket. I, gigantic dork that I am, wanted an actual *documentary* on Morris dance, and if I had realized it earlier I probably wouldn’t have gone. Ah well. It worked out, as this is easily one of the best non-Guest mockumentaries I have seen, and starred quite a range of familiar UK faces, including the pinnacle, Sir Derek Jacobi, and others famous perhaps only to me (Ian Hart, Richard Lumsden who was the father in “Sugar Rush”, Dominique Pinon from City of Lost Children & Delicatessen). It was well-paced & very funny, and the Morris men in the audience were duly appreciative. So, good times.

Monday I was possibly the youngest person in the audience for Gotta Dance, which is unfortunate, as it was an utterly charming movie. If you want to be reductive, it’s Young@Heart but with dance, following the first senior dance team for the Nets. It deals with more body issues and yet fewer health ones than the chorus, which makes sense. I totally loved it, and it was one of those rare films where I realized that I never once wanted to check my watch.

I wound up the long weekend with a late showing of Warlords. If you like Hong Kong historical epics (and I do), then it’s definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately, it fell to the curse of the Egyptian, with botched sound at pretty much every reel switch. (The Egyptian is famous at the festival for … technical difficulties. The worst I remember was 3 Needles, where the first 10 minutes, all English voice-over, played without sound. At least Warlords was subtitled.) Anyway. Of the cast. I suppose you all just know Jet Li, but I was in it for Andy Lau & Takeshi Kaneshiro. Andy Lau is worth seeing in anything. If you aren’t familiar with him, you should rent Infernal Affairs, where he co-stars with my boyfriend Tony Leung.

And that is all for now! Let’s see if I can keep up like this for the rest of the festival. Heh.