[Final weekend. Still more woe!]

* Crossing Hennessy was a charming little romantic comedy from Hong Kong. The couple is being set up by their respective families, never mind that neither of them are interested and both in fact have romantic interests already. Cute, a little slow, but worth it for the organic development of the characters. Wei Tang (best known for Lust, Caution) was particularly great as Oi Lin, and Loy’s family was comedy gold.

* At the End of Daybreak was surprisingly low-key for most of the film, considering its ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter. A 23 year old guy is in a relationship with a 15 year old girl, and when her family finds out they demand payment rather than taking it to court. His impoverished mother (the utterly fantastic Kara Hui), scrapes it together, only to have the girl’s family change their mind about prosecuting. Hard to connect with at the beginning, and hard to watch at the end.

* I had a rather stupid amount of fun at the Grease singalong. It’s one of those movies that holds up, in case you were wondering, in its goofy, candy-colored way. I didn’t see it all the way through until it was rereleased when I was in college (though I had seen almost all of it in bits and pieces) and it still totally worked. The singalong works too; it’s a gorgeous print, and the subtitles for the lyrics are animated and hilarious. Good times! It’s getting a proper release in July. Dinah Manoff (Marty Maraschino) was at our screening, but I didn’t get to stay for the Q&A because I had to haul on up the hill for Howl. She was charming at the intro, though, and I heard she was quite impressed by the Seattle audience’s enthusiasm. As well she should be!

* Howl is one of those movies I would typically try to hold off on since it has distribution, but I don’t think it’s coming out until the fall, and I was tired of waiting. It’s rather brilliant, I think, in that it’s really a movie about the poem rather than being yet another biopic. It takes us through the poem on four tracks: Ginsberg performing “Howl” in 1955, animation of the poem, interviews with Ginsberg about poetry in general and ways in which it was informed by his life in particular, and the obscenity trial. It’s basically porn for English majors.

Also, I can’t remember the last time I saw James Franco play a straight guy. Which is a-ok by me. This, Milk, and then of course the Spider-Man franchise. Wait, Harry wasn’t supposed to be in love with Peter Parker? And what about Saul & Dale in Pineapple Express? No? Ah well. My bad.

* I really enjoyed Secret #4. This has been a strong series, and I am looking forward to next year. I have trouble remembering the titles of 3 of the 4, though, so that makes keeping it Secret all that much easier!

* A late addition to the festival, Thunder Soul was a great selection to end with. It’s a documentary about the Kashmere Stage Band, a high school band from Texas whose teacher turned them into a world class funk band. Now they’re reforming over 30 years later for a benefit concert. Total crowd pleaser documentary, and if you’re not at least a little teary-eyed at the end you have no soul. Erm. No pun intended.

* And yet, it wasn’t the end, because after my final volunteer shift I slipped into the screening of RoboGeisha, which was hilarious and awesome, and I think we should have seen the midnight of it instead of Splice.

[Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory]

We bought our tickets for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in Smell-O-Vision ™ basically the minute they went on sale, which turns out to have been a wise move. Even if it had just been a revival screening of the film I would have been in, because we all know a) it’s fantastic and b) I’m nuts for revival film, but this showing came with treat bags of things to taste & smell, sing-along lyrics, and our fabulous host, Augustus Gloop.

Audience participation events can be hit or miss. I’ve enjoyed sing-along Chicago, West Side Story, and of course The Sound of Music, but I had a pretty awful “Buffy” experience, with an audience screaming so much at the screen that you couldn’t hear whole stretches of dialog. Wonka had a great balance between the obligatory cheers & hisses and actual movie-watching, and boasted a better-behaved audience than Buffy. Unsurprising, because a decent chunk of the Wonka audience was made up of children. (Not as much as you’d think, though, because this is Seattle, and we have a lot of nerds.)

There were a bunch of great moments, which I won’t spoil for you since they’re going to do it again at the holidays, but my favorite was probably when the whole audience was blowing bubbles, which have never been prettier than they were caught in the light from the projector.

There’s nothing like a movie in a theater, kids. Nothing.

[Metro Classics]

As I’ve rather obsessively discussed, one of the reasons I would find it difficult to leave Seattle is the sheer accessibility of film, including multiple revival series. One of my favorites is provided by Metro Classics, and my only criticism of them is that they don’t sell series passes; if I could buy a pass, I would be much more diligent about attending films.

I did make it to three out of this last series. First, Swing Time, because I felt the opportunity to see a Fred & Ginger movie on the big screen was not to be missed. I haven’t seen Swing Time since I was a child, obsessively watching AMC (back when they actually showed American Movie Classics), and it was great fun. There are a bunch of great numbers in that show, like “A Fine Romance” & “The Way You Look Tonight”, and of course the dancing is filmed flawlessly in long & sweeping takes. It does have a blackface number that takes one aback as a modern viewer, but to the film’s credit, it’s not a mockery or a caricature. It’s a tribute to Bill Robinson, a great dancer.

On a showbiz roll, I came back the next week for All That Jazz, Bob Fosse’s over-the-top musical about his own death. We went over parts of it in my college film class (the fucking brilliant opening scene in particular — name me another movie that delivers that much information about the main character in less than one minute) but I don’t think I’ve seen it in full since then.

Roy Scheider brings incredible energy to the role of Joe Gideon, Fosse’s stand-in, and it will forever be the primary project I associate with him (followed by SeaQuest DSV, lest ye think me some variety of snob.) There’s a magnificent use of sound, one of those things that when it’s good you don’t notice and when it’s amazing you do. The whole thing is deeply personal, incredibly dark, excessive, perfectly flawed, and beautiful. It’s definitely the film in this series I’m most glad I made the effort to see.

Barton Fink is an entirely different kind of showbiz movie, with John Turturro fighting writer’s block in a hellish hotel in Hollywood. It’s not the sort of film that you’d expect really needed to be seen in the theater, since it’s more of a character/allegorical piece, but on DVD I had never noticed how fantastic the sound design was. (No, seriously. It’s amazing.) And of course it’s lit by Roger Deakins, who is a genius. In the end Fink‘s not my favorite Coen brothers film, nor is it their most accessible, but it is exquisitely crafted.

[Summer!]

Okay, this is ridiculous. I was doing so well, and then I went to a preview screening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and had some sort of a meltdown. Do I write about it as a movie person? Do I write about it as a fan? Wah! So I will just say that I enjoyed the experience (Cinerama!), that I need to see how they’ll do the final two films before I can pass judgment on what was cut out, and that it ain’t no Prisoner of Azkaban. (This is where, if I was writing as a fan, I would draw hearts around Alfonso Cuaron. Don’t judge.)

What else since then?

I saw more 69 movies: Downhill Racer (Redford!), Topaz (spy thriller, and most un-Hitchcock Hitchcock since Mr & Mrs Smith), Dillinger is Dead (which was really upsetting — I am losing my edge in my old age — but one hell of a performance from Michel Piccoli), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (which is what you should see, if you see only one of these, and not just because it stars Maggie Smith), and If…. (which was a surreal satire, and an interesting double feature with Brodie).

Then, a few ostensibly kids movies: Up, which I had wanted to see all along (the teaser trailer was a perfectly formed short film), but apparently it took record breaking heat to get me into the theater. I liked it better than Wall-E, I think, because it was good all the way through and in Wall-E I stopped being interested once humans were involved. (And have we talked about the trans character already? Yes, probably.) And I got to see a free screening of Ponyo, which was adorable. More Totoro than Mononoke, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Metro started its classics series again, but I have only made it over there for The Informant! I nearly forgot, which I suppose is probably a sign. It was lower-key than I had expected, but I am quite curious how it’d play on second viewing. Really rewarding, I’d suspect. Another thing I forgot about: the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Hey, maybe it won’t suck this year. There’s a first time for everything.

Not that there’s any shortage of film. I have three-and-a-half more months of 69 movies coming up, SIFF Cinema is back from its summer break (oh, how I missed it!), and buzz from Toronto has me anxious for the big award season releases to start coming out. It was 80 this weekend but I am dreaming of fall, caramel lattes, and plenty of time at the theater.

[January 09]

On with 2009!

* Doubt. I did not realize until JUST NOW that John Patrick Shanley also wrote and directed Joe Versus the Volcano. That is hilarious. Now I am really sad that SPL doesn’t have a copy. I might have to reactivate my Netflix account now. As for the actual movie, I quite dug it. I haven’t seen the play to compare, however.

* Amarcord. Gorgeous & raunchy & touching. Love!

* Easy Rider. Not the first time I’d seen it, but the first time on the big screen. Deservedly a classic.

* Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my favorite movies of all time, and so it was such a treat to be able to see it on the big screen.

* Let the Right One In. Second time. Still cold, still sweet, still too good to even be mentioned in the same sentence as That Other Vampire Story That Is All Popular Right Now.

* Elevator to the Gallows was the only title in SIFF’s French Crime Wave series that I made it to, but at least I made it to one! Which is good, as it is fantastic, beautiful & tragic, totally tense and engaging.

* Alice’s Restaurant. This movie makes me so glad I bought a 69 series pass. Would I have managed to drag myself over to the Film Forum & pay $10 to see it Thursday night? No. But as it was already paid for, I had no trouble at all. It’s a time capsule of a movie, strange and funny and sad. I’m glad I went.

* Che. (Part one, part two.)  Seattle’s one of ten or so cities to get the roadshow edition of this film, and we are so lucky. I have been following it since Cannes, through the struggle to get distribution without having to chop it up, and finally the decision to release it in two parts, but roadshow it as a four-and-a-half hour film. To see it that way was a gift.

* Synedoche, New York. I am sorry I did my best of 08 before I saw this movie. I am sorry I saw it on its last day at the second run theater. I am sorry I did not turn around immediately and see it again, even though I have no idea how I would have gotten home. I can’t stop thinking about it.

On a mostly unrelated note, the tshirt I made this avatar from has been reprinted at Threadless. Finally I was able to buy one! Yay.