[The Works of Danny Boyle]

I haven’t written about the other National Theatre Live broadcasts I’ve seen this year — they may be shown at the cinema, but they aren’t films — but I did want to mention Frankenstein. SIFF Cinema made a weekend of it, showing three days of double features from Danny Boyle as well as both filmed versions of the play.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller & Benedict Cumberbatch, switching the roles of Victor and the Creature from night to night, Frankenstein has been an extremely popular production both at the National and in broadcast around the world. There are plenty of reviews all over the web from people who know far more about theatre than I do, but I will say that I thought the device of telling the story from the point of view of the Creature was quite effective.

The first version I saw had Miller as the Creature and Cumberbatch as Victor. It hadn’t occurred to me until then, but Cumberbatch was quite obvious casting after his success with “Sherlock Holmes”*. Both characters are men who fancy themselves gods. Miller is also a more physical actor, so he was a more natural choice for the Creature.

All the same, it was interesting to see that switched up two days later, with a more poetic Creature & a more physical Victor. I’m glad I got the chance to see both. The rest of the cast was also marvelous, particularly Naomie Harris as Elizabeth.

All of this was a great excuse to have a weekend of Danny Boyle films, and the perfect opportunity use up my last batch of SIFF Cinema vouchers. Win win!

Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Shallow Grave I have all seen before on DVD, but it was great to see them all again on the big screen. 28 Days Later in particular benefited from being shown in the theater; the epic shots of an empty London deserve the big screen.

Sunshine is the only selection I’ve seen in the theater before, and is one of the very few scifi films that I love. I was disappointed that the presentation was on Blu-ray rather on film; the image pixelated in some scenes, which is one of the many ways that digital projection drives me up a wall. All the same, it’s better to see Sunshine on Blu-ray in the theater than at home on my 32 inch TV. So it goes.

Millions is the only feature I hadn’t seen before, though I have read the book. It’s Boyle’s family film and is just ridiculously charming. So is the book 🙂 (Also, it was charming in spite of the fact that I recently saw James Nesbitt in “Jekyll”, and so he makes me a little nervous.)

They also ran two of Boyle’s short films, which was a treat even in low resolution. Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise stars Timothy Spall as a vacuum cleaner salesman / force of nature, and Strumpet is a magical, a modern fairy tale starring Christopher Eccleston and Genna G as two talented people who find greater scope for their art in each other, only to clash with the forces of the music industry.

*I didn’t actually like “Sherlock Holmes”, though that is a post for another day and perhaps another blog.

[Be pleased then, you the living]

SIFF Cinema is back! I am full of glee! I dug out my volunteer vouchers and caught the last screening of You, the Living on Thursday night, and am so glad I did. Just marvelous, and definitely one of my favorite movies of the year. (Nevermind that it actually came out in 2007. Compared to the majority of stuff I’ve seen this year that’s practically brand new.)

It’s a Swedish black comedy, a series of vignettes that makes use of drab sets, dryly absurd humor, and repeated lines to comment on the human condition. Which makes it sound dour, but it’s not. To borrow Ebert’s term, it’s elevating. Things go wrong for everyone. Let’s have a drink and see how tomorrow goes.

The entire film is shot on soundstages, and it put me in mind of Synecdoche, New York (which I loved). It’s more accessible than Synecdoche, which is counter intuitive what with it being vignettes rather than more-or-less narrative, but there you have it.

I haven’t seen any of the director’s other work — this is only his fourth feature film as he apparently works about as quickly as Terrence Malick — but like Malick, I suspect they’re all very much worth watching.

[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.

[Three totally unrelated films]

* During the festival, a friend came up to Seattle and we went to Sex and the City. I know, I know. But I love the show, I do, and I wanted to know What Happens Next. But to me, it resembled nothing more than really bad fanfiction. Which is sad, because there is really good fanfiction for this show.

* At the festival someone handed out passes to what would turn out to be the first audience screening anywhere of Milk. I’ve never attended a test screening before, just lots of press ones, so that was an interesting experience in itself. I know a lot of folks doubt the casting of Sean Penn, and I did too, mostly because even though I can see that he’s a great actor, I can pretty much only see him as himself. And I must admit that in the film it went back and forth for me; sometimes he was Sean Penn, and sometimes he was Harvey Milk. He got more Milk as it went on, though, and like I said, I think a lot of this is in my head.

I did think that Emile Hirsch, James Franco, and Alison Pill were particularly great, and I will be interested in seeing it again when it comes out in December (!!) to see how it compares to this cut. I read on the IMDb, always a source of accurate information (heh) that they are shooting pick-ups still. So, we’ll see. There were some things I thought were off: the integration of Milk’s audio recordings was a little forced, for example. And there’s a little self-indulgent Van Sant slow motion. But there were also some glorious shots, like some where Milk & White were dwarfed by the magnificent interior of City Hall. I love that sort of thing, where the director doesn’t compromise a big screen vision for the sake of eventual small screen viewing.

But most of all, what I put on the survey afterwards is that it reminded me that it’s all right to still be angry. Probably not what the studio was looking for, but no less true for all that, and particularly notable leading up to this disgusting Seattle Pride weekend where everyone’s supposed to show queer unity or whatever by buying stuff. *spits*

* Finally, last night I trekked up to Shoreline for my last chance to see OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. It was a last minute addition and surprise audience award winner at last year’s film festival, so I had been pretty much dying to see it. It’s a French James Bond parody, and it was worth the wait. Hilarious, with a side of ho!yay. Excellent! Probably would have been even better if my French wasn’t basically non-existent, but the subtitles were good. Hey! They’re shooting a sequel! Awesome. Also, I’d love to get my hands on some of the older OSS movies, even though the IMDb voters appear unimpressed.