[SIFF weekend one]

As some of you may recall, I have a few Feelings about the Egyptian theater, so it was fantastic if not altogether surprising news when SIFF announced at Opening Night that they had signed a 10 year lease and would be reopening it in the fall. (The purchase of the Uptown *was* a surprise; like any good Seattleite I’d been steeling myself for a condo conversion of that space.)

The Egyptian is, in particular, the home of the Midnight Adrenaline series and the Secret festival, which are two of my favorite things about SIFF. Both tend to be well attended, cultish hidden rooms of the festival; you’re in on an experience that most of the city is missing. It was thus rather perfect when it turned out that my first film of festival was going to be Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight Friday. RHPS played at SIFF lo so many years ago in the Secret festival; can you even imagine?

This presentation of Rocky descended at times into chaos, with more variation in callbacks than you get at regularly scheduled performances, but it was still the perfect way to kick off my festival experience. And I feel pretty bad for everyone involved in cleaning the theater afterward.

On to the rest of the weekend!

* Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is a Goonies-esque Spanish film based on characters from a comic strip. At least, I have been told it is Goonies-esque; I personally have never made it past the first ten or fifteen minutes of The Goonies. Zip & Zap is a cute boys-in-boarding school story with the requisite Evil Headmaster, Strange Mystery, and of course only One Girl. Which is fine. It has fun visuals and stays close to its comic book roots.

* Burkholder is a follow-up (not a sequel) to SIFF fave Old Goats. Like its predecessor, it’s essentially an excuse for hanging out with the nontraditional actors who play the leads, and though it doesn’t work quite as well as the first, it does tell an important story about aging, particularly without the support of close family. Also, it’s charming.

* I kind of hated Words and Pictures. More on that later.

* We Are the Best! is, at least at the halfway point, my favorite film of festival. It’s the utterly delightful story of three seventh grade girls who form a punk band in 1982 Stockholm, and everything about it feels fresh and true, from the DIY fashion to the songs about hating sports (I feel you, ladies) to the fraught first steps with boys and the value of their friendship with each other. It’s getting a proper release in the States — in Seattle it’s coming to a Landmark theater soon — so don’t miss it.

* Witching and Bitching technically is a picture about how women are evil, but honestly, it’s so ridiculous that I can’t get that bothered by it. It opens with what is now one of my favorite film heists, pulled off by men in various mascot costumes, from Minnie Mouse to a living statue to Spongebob. During the getaway, they bond over the ways in which women have made their lives difficult, they accidentally recruit a cab driver to their cause, and they soon encounter a coven of witches, as if their experiences with the ladies were not challenging enough already. The coven features Almodovar regular Carmen Maura strolling upside down on the ceiling as she chats on the phone, which honestly is almost enough of a reason to watch it right there.

* Secret #1 was a delight.

* Regarding Susan Sontag is a straightforward documentary elevated by some creative visuals and a striking score. Coming to HBO soon, I think.

* Borgman is a dark comedy about a mysterious man who gradually takes over the life of a family. It reminded me Kill List crossed with Dogtooth, and maybe a dash of Leos Carax’s M Merde. It’s not for everyone, but this is true of all the best things.

…and that was weekend one!

[SIFF 2014 preview]

On my first pass through the SIFF guide, I circled over 80 films. Since I can’t take vacation for festival this year, I had to make a lot of hard decisions. I do the Secret, I tend to skip all galas, & I’ve been spending some quality time with the list of films that are coming back.

Though right out of the gate this is a challenge because here are some party movies I am excited to see: BOYHOOD (a 12 year project by Richard Linklater), LUCKY THEM (the new film from Seattle director Megan Griffiths), I ORIGINS (Mike Cahill & Brit Marling’s follow-up to Another Earth), and THE GRAND SEDUCTION (director Don McKellar).

Special guests this year are Laura Dern (where I’m trying mighty hard to resist the temptation to see WILD AT HEART again), Chiwetel Ejiofor (ditto SERENITY), & Quincy Jones.

SIFF Moods are back, to help navigate whether you’re new to festival or a pass holder looking for a comedy or a film about music or what have you. Also try browsing by film program, where you can narrow down the festival to anything from Midnight Adrenaline (a personal fave) to Films 4 Families and FutureWave (for teens) ((hey, I see stuff in these programs too)). Asian Crossroads is another of my go-to festival programs, and give Catalyst a try for the most independent of independent films.

Other films that hopped out at me on my first pass through the catalog:

  • ATTILA MARCEL, the live action debut from the director of The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist.
  • BURKHOLDER, the sequel to the charming local film Old Goats
  • LEADING LADY from the director of last year’s Fanie Fourie’s Lobola
  • THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES for those who dig the Swedish crime pictures
  • NIGHT MOVES from Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy)
  • RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS is a First Nations film being compared to Winter’s Bone.
  • AFRICAN METROPOLIS is six short films from across Africa
  • KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER is the story of a Japanese woman for whom the line between fact and fiction is blurred, specifically regarding the film Fargo.
  • THE TURNING, 18 interlocking short stories
  • MARY IS HAPPY, MARY IS HAPPY, which blends Twitter and cinema
  • BEGIN AGAIN, from the director of Once, this was previously titled Can A Song Save Your Life, and I for one welcome this new title
  • SHAKE THE DUST, about breakdancing worldwide
  • WE ARE THE BEST, for which I am going to break my “is it coming back” rule, because it’s about 13 year old girls forming a punk band in 1982 Stockholm. Basically, made for me and I refuse to wait any longer to see it.

Things I’ve heard good buzz about from other festivals: THE SKELETON TWINS, IDA, THE DOUBLE, CALVARY, LADY BE GOOD

And of course I’m intrigued by a bunch of midnights: THE BABADOOK, LATE PHASES, and RIGOR MORTIS.

On the archival front, I’m planning on LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (because I think I require the focus of the theater to attempt that movie) and ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (which will be my first film of festival and my first film back at the Egyptian, which honestly seems kind of perfect).

How about you guys? What are you most excited about? What did it hurt you to cut right out of the gate? I’ll be posting daily updates — what I’m intrigued by, what I’m seeing, what I liked — on Twitter, and I welcome any and all recommendations! I know a few of you are rocking the press screenings, and we particularly welcome your feedback on what you’re seeing!