[SIFF Ewan McGregor Tribute]

Suppose I better start writing about SIFF before I get ridiculously behind. Or, I guess, more ridiculously behind. I am having a good festival, but it has been too full for much reflection, even with my lazy mornings. But I will try for you, my three loyal readers!

This weekend SIFF presented Ewan McGregor with the Golden Space Needle award for acting, so that seems like a good place to begin. As a part of that the festival screened four of his films (two new, two archival) and presented him with the award at a tribute event.

Because I’m poor, I opted to volunteer at the Tribute, which worked out perfectly: I got to see pretty much everything and I got film vouchers at the end!

So, the films! [The two archival choices are perhaps slightly less strange when you remember that SIFF just screened Trainspotting and Shallow Grave as part of their Danny Boyle weekend.]

+ I had never seen The Pillow Book before, and now I’m glad that I waited for the theater opportunity. The unique visual style, from the pages from the book to the various takes on picture-within-a-picture, would be wasted on DVD. It was my first Peter Greenaway film; which one should I watch next?

+ I of course have seen Moulin Rouge roughly eleventy billion times, but possibly only on DVD? I have an uncertain relationship with Luhrmann; I have Serious Issues with Romeo + Juliet (for all I love the universe of Verona Beach), but on the other hand Strictly Ballroom* is one of my favorite movies.

Moulin Rouge is of course great over-the-top fun, a Technicolor love letter to cinema & melodrama. It was a treat to see it on rich, beautiful 35mm. This time around I particularly enjoyed how beautifully smarmy Richard Roxburgh is as the Duke. There’s an art to that, and he is perfect.

+ Beginners was the film screened at the Tribute, a rather personal effort from writer-director Mike Mills. It was shot as two separate films as they really are two different stories about Oliver (McGregor) and they were then edited together.

The first is a film about the death of his father Hal (the impeccable Christopher Plummer) and the second is the start of a romance with Anna (Melanie Laurent). It’s pretty cute, though I rather wish I hadn’t seen the trailer beforehand as it gave away a lot of the quirk, as it were. Also, I wish the sound had been better, but that is the way of things at the Egyptian.

+ Perfect Sense is one of my favorites at the festival, and the first film I really feel the need to press on other people**. McGregor is a chef & Eva Green is an epidemiologist, and they meet in Glasgow as a world-wide epidemic begins which gradually robs people of their senses.

It’s beautifully done, the apocalypse made personal, and I strongly believe that it must be seen in the theater. The controlled environment is so key to the experience. It reminded me of my beloved Last Night in a lot of ways, so if you like one, check out the other.

*…speaking of movies they should show at Central Cinema (which, I pretty much always am).

** My true favorite is a favorite for personal reasons, so the recommendation cannot universally apply. I also really liked the first Secret, which I cannot tell anyone about. So it goes.

[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.

[Holy Pajamas.]

I saw one movie a month for a while, which didn’t seem worth posting about, but now all of a sudden I have found my groove again. Let’s catch up. (Which is possibly the most-typed phrase on this blog. Oh well.)

* Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Exactly what you think it will be, and probably all the more effective because I got to see it with some of my favorite ladies in the world.

* The Pineapple Express. Loved it. Shut up, all of you. I can’t help it. Saul+Dale=BFFF.

* Burn After Reading. People have such short memories. When No Country For Old Men came out, people were surprised, as if there had never been Blood Simple. Then this year the Coens come out with this, and there’s, like, collective whiplash. Catch up, folks. It’s a wicked amount of fun, but it didn’t stick with me, which is totally fine.

* The Lucky Ones. Three clichés on a road trip, while on leave from the war in Iraq. Terrible, but not in an interesting way. I suspected as much going in, but Rachel McAdams is cute, the movie was free, and what else am I going to do on a Sunday morning?

* The Godfather. Recently restored & reissued, it played at the Cinerama, which is basically the best thing ever. Just as utterly captivating as always.

* Richard III. The Ian McKellen version. Fabulous. Obviously. I am not even close to a Shakespeare purist, so my toes curl for interesting updated. 1930s Fascist England? Why not? Also, the music is *fantastic*.

* Looking for Richard. Shown as part of a double feature with the above (and also in the same weekend that I saw The Godfather. Quite a lineup.) I love basically everything about Richard, from the high propaganda of Shakespeare to the back-to-the-source telling of The Daughter of Time, and in this piece, we get a peek on on actors approaching the text. Great fun.

* The Secret Life of Bees. Another free movie. I am ashamed to admit that its treacly sentimentality totally worked on me (hey, sometimes it happens) but oh MAN. Can we please, for the love of god, someday have this movie without the damn white people? Thanks.

* Ashes of Time Redux. Gorgeous. Can’t wait for the DVD. (Please, don’t bother with the original DVD. It is literally unwatchable.)

* Zack and Miri Make a Porno. One more for free. I love Kevin Smith, I love Seth Rogen, & I loved the surprising number of featured handknits. I also love that the couple sitting next to me got up and walked out a half-hour into it. I mean, seriously. Seriously. It’s not like *anything* in the movie was a surprise. I mean, come on. It is exactly what you think it will be.