[Arboring Film at Northwest Film Forum]

As a part of their 15th anniversary celebration, last week the Northwest Film Forum ran the Arboring Film series. For $15 I could buy a pass for a week of films that had their roots, as it were, in support provided by the Film Forum. I only made it to six of the fifteen features, but it was very much worth my time.

* Off Your Rocker was described as “rough around the edges” in the series program guide, and here’s the thing. If the Film Forum is describing it that way, it must be *seriously* rough. And it was. A pseudo documentary about an underground club serving as a sort of Make-a-Wish organization for the elderly, it was a fantastic concept limited by a lot of elements in its execution. I’d love to see someone with more resources have a go at a remake, but all the same, the senior stunts that actually appeared in the film — the high speed chase & the go-cart racing — made it worth my time.

* It was followed by Naked Proof, which I enjoyed a lot. It’s an unconventional little story about a PhD candidate with an overdue dissertation and a sudden and strange responsibility for an unknown pregnant woman. The narrator is played by writer August Wilson, in what is probably his only film appearance, and appearances by locals Matt Smith & Charles Mudede make this a clearly Seattle production. Also, scenes in the Lemieux library made me desperately miss some aspects of undergrad. Who knew?

* I’m a sucker for any documentary about a subculture, and though it’s a common subgenre now, Bingo was one of the first. It’s directed by the writer/director behind Outsourced (which is now apparently a sitcom, because the world is very strange), is fun to watch, and does exactly what it says on the tin.

* First Aid for Choking is a feature set in Moscow, Idaho, following the lead’s attempts to either get out of town or at least put her past behind her, neither of which is a simple task with small town ties reeling you back in.

* Brand Upon the Brain is the main reason I bought a pass in the first place. Guy Maddin on the big screen is a must-see, and if you’re going to pay for one film, you might as well get a pass & stretch yourself a bit. That’s my thinking, anyway. It turned out to be one of Maddin’s more accessible features, and of course another mythic story of his childhood. This time, his parents ran a “mom and pop orphanage” in a lighthouse on an island. Like you do. There’s a mystery! Teen detectives! Mad scientists! Lots and lots of references to Twelfth Night, which I am a sucker for. Good times! Someday I’ll actually see a Maddin film with Maddin narrating. And then I will just keel over, dead of awesome. Also, it’s notable that it was a Seattle film, because most (all?) of Maddin’s other work happens in Winnipeg.

* We Go Way Back was the final film of the series. I was a little unsure of it going in, as I am the only person in Seattle who hated Humpday, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think it’s IMDb rating is really unfair. It’s a gentle story of a 23 year old taking a closer look at where her life is going, and what her 13 year old self would have thought of it. At 23 she’s an actress, and the film is set against a production of Hedda Gabler, perfect in local theater awfulness.

The only film I missed that I really wanted to see was Police Beat, but it was showing the same night & time as The Apartment over at the Metro Classics series, and I am only human. Still, it’s most awesome to live in a town where a difficult decision like that even has to be made.

[DVD roundup]

Once the film festival ended, I reactivated my Netflix account. Oh, you lucky people!

* Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Not my favorite of the Apatovian genre, but these two things I much adored: Paul Rudd being decidedly not typical Paul Rudd, and the puppet vampire musical. I swear, if people had told me earlier about the musical, I would have seen the damn thing in the theater. This probably says too much about me.

* Old Joy. Two old friends reunite for a road trip to a hot springs in the Cascades. Humpday totally lifted these character types, making Old Joy the interesting & awkward, reconnecting-masculine-friendship part of Humpday without the angry-making trading on straight privilege in pursuit of ‘art’. I actually got it because it’s from the same director as Wendy & Lucy, which is one of my favorite films so far this year. Old Joy is good, but Wendy & Lucy is better. (No, I am not just saying this because I love Michelle Williams.)

* Gran Torino is a difficult movie to pin down. It was extremely effective storytelling (also, which no one has mentioned, gorgeous cinematography), but I finished it with a lot of complicated feelings about the racial politics of it, a problem regarding which others have spoken better than I could manage in general, let alone in a capsule post.

* The Wrestler. I missed an opportunity to see this for free before it came out, and I am glad I did. I think the fighting scenes in particular would have been too intense, but at home on the TV the impact was lessened to some extent. Still compelling, though.

* Nothing but the Truth. I think this went straight to video, which is unfortunate. It’s a solid film with a stronge ensemble including the always-worth-watching Vera Farmiga, story inspired by the Valerie Plame case. Good stuff.

[DVD time]

I reactivated my Netflix account for a month, so let’s take the opportunity to talk about a few things that are out on dvd.

* I put The Station Agent on hold at the library after I saw Wendy and Lucy. I do not know why I don’t own it. It’s a stellar small film, and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Which reminds me, you should also see The Visitor. I didn’t post about it at the time because I didn’t see it in the theater, but it’s excellent.

* I really don’t think that Bon Cop Bad Cop played at SIFF, which is unfortunate, because seeing it on the big screen would have been particularly awesome. For all of you who think I don’t recommend enough films where things blow up, this one is for you. There are some subtitles, though, because one of the cops is from Toronto but the other is from Montreal. You’ll just have to deal.

* Rachel Getting Married is one of those films that had me whispering to myself every so often, “This is such a *good* movie”. It has some flaws, but I do not care, because it is stunningly acted & full of beautiful, heartbreaking moments. Anne Hathaway is grand as promised, but the supporting cast does marvelous work as well.

Other things I saw: Vicky Cristina Barcelona* (Penelope is, of course, fabulous, but I found the characters terribly irritating, and don’t get me started on the voice over), Role Models (a few entertaining moments, but essentially is further proof that I only love stupid comedy if Seth Rogen is involved), and Cadillac Records (a solid music-business flick with a fantastic cast. Does exactly what it says on the tin).

* I am still a Woody Allen fan, though probably the last film of his I enjoyed was Sweet and Lowdown and the last one I loved was Everyone Says I Love You. They’re showing Take the Money and Run this spring in the 69 series, and I can’t wait.

[On DVD]

I stopped posting Netflix stuff at some point last year because, really, I saw a lot and it was impossible to keep up with. I do want to still post some things I see on DVD, because they are interesting or lesser-known or just old or perhaps really terrible and you should be warned away. Basically, if I have something to say about it, I’ll post, but you don’t need to know that I watched In Her Shoes for the third time this month. For example. Not that I would do that. Do de do.

* Away From Her was a brilliant directorial debut for the astonishingly talented Sarah Polley. I heard a lot about Julie Christie in the (American) press, but Gordon Pinsent’s performance is what I took away from the film. Beautiful.

* The Lives of Others. Gorgeous. See it.

* Children of Heaven. This was so great! It’s an Iranian film about a brother and sister who have to share a pair of shoes (he lost hers, and they can’t afford a new pair). A lovely small film about a family trying to protect each other.

* Rope. Somehow, I had never seen this before! It was pretty cool to see John Dall again so soon after watching Gun Crazy. What a delicious role. I really loved the interview portion of the special features. It’s rare to watch a behind-the-scenes and have people be critical of a film. The screenwriter (if I recall correctly), thought that the murder should not have been shown (so as to increase tension as to whether or not there was a body), that Jimmy Stewart was miscast (his part should have had a sexual undercurrent with at least one of the murderers), and he also questioned the way it was shot. That point is interesting to me, because I think the illusion of seamlessness increased tension. It’s something that could be done better now, but was an interesting experiment then.

[Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival]

A friend won a pair of party passes and shared with me, which means I went to four more movies than I had expected.

* The Walker. It was the Opening Gala, so clearly the programmers thought a lot of it. I didn’t love it. It was a very cold film. Woody Harrelson gave a very studied performance, but I felt that was in keeping with the character, who essentially performed as NonThreatening Gay Best Friend for DC society ladies. Here’s the thing I liked about it, though — whether it worked or not, it was a political thriller first, with a gay lead second. That is still rare enough to be comment worthy.

* Shelter. The folks sitting behind me thought *this* should have been the Opening Gala film, and they may have a point. I saw an awful film at SIFF a few years ago about a gay tagger, and this is everything that film *should* have been and a bit more. It still didn’t make it all the way up to objectively good, but the issues the lead character was dealing with had less to do with being gay and more to do with his co-dependent relationship with his sister. Which is a nice change.

* The Witnesses. Realistic & believable — though cold — film about the start of the AIDS epidemic. Well-acted, but there was just something missing. And I found the American character at the end really irritating because he had a strong Italian accent. Fail.

* The King and the Clown. This was easily my favorite of everything I saw at the festival.

* Eternal Summer. I didn’t love it. I wonder if I would have liked it better if I had *not* come straight from The King and the Clown.

* Itty Bitty Titty Committee. I really wanted to like this, but I kind of hated most of the characters. Sadness!

…I am so tired of mediocre gay cinema.