Tonight in Seattle:  

Sasquatch 2014, Day 1

This year's Sasquatch! Music Festival, taking place at the beautiful Gorge Amphitheater, was originally scheduled to be split between two separate weekends the second incarnation slated to take place over 4th of July). While that never ended up materializing, we were still left with a fantastic three days of music -- the weather stayed nice for most of Memorial Day weekend, with only a little bit of wind and a light drizzle momentarily interrupting what was, overall, an excellent festival. 

Here's a few of the bands I managed to catch over the first day (Friday):

Modern Kin: The Portland outfit kicked off Sasquatch 2014 with a 1:00pm set at the Yeti stage, and did a good job of getting the crowd warmed up. All three members of the band contribute vocally, and the live show is a communal effort of sorts. Modern Kin is essentially Drew Grow and the Pastor’s Wives cut down to three members, picking up where the Pastor’s Wives left off, channeling their live energy into catchy tunes; at times loosely reminiscent of The New Pornographers. The rhythm section was pretty on point as well.

The Physics: Over on the larger Bigfoot stage, the Seattle hip-hop trio got the crowd grooving, bringing in a lot of passers-by just making their way into the venue. The best crowd reaction was for maybe their best summer-time jam “Coronas on Madrona”, from their fantastic 2011 album Love is a Business. The young crowd -- still fresh and ready to start the weekend -- was more than willing to dance along with them.

Kithkin: This local quartet wasted no time getting down to business on the small and entirely local Narwhal Stage. The band jumped, kicked, thrashed and shouted their way through songs off of their recent debut LP. Some bands confuse energy with quality, but luckily, Kithkin are blessed with both. Lead singer and bassist Kelton Sears spent most of the set yelling so hard you could see the muscles and veins in his neck, and also spent a good amount of the show in the crowd, holding his bass over the heads of their raucous crowd and attempting to crowd surf on top of them. It's clear why they put mics in front of all four members of the band -- someone on stage would probably feel left out if they didn’t get to scream along.

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SIFF Take: Born to Fly

Born to Fly at SIFF 2014

If Evel Knievel had been into dance, a bit LESS risk averse, and had a borderline cult-like following then Born to Fly would be about him. Instead, it's about Elizabeth Streb, the founder of "pop action" dance: a mash-up of stunt work, acrobatics, dance, and general disregard for the laws of physics and good sense. Oh, sometimes with giant mechanical apparatuses thrown in for good measure.

The dance is truly something to behold onscreen as company members throw themselves at walls, dodge rotating I-beams, and generally make dance look more suicidal (or at least more masochistic) than I'm used to seeing. The picture alternates between Streb's history, performances, and interviews with her dancers. It's hard not to note the bordering on deity worship that has the young men and women literally risking life and limb to aspire to Streb's punishing esthetic ideals while barely making ends meet. But then again, they seem to be having a hell of a lot of fun with their extreme take on motion arts. I just wouldn't want to foot the bill for their post career medical coverage.

It's hard to believe I'm enthusiastically recommending a dance documentary outside the Step-Up* series - yet here I am. This is an interesting documentary both somewhat about why people do irrational things and the wow of watching them. I hope people will notice it amongst the multitude of other options during the festival this year.

* No - I'm not interested in being told those aren't documentaries. They just seem so reasonable and realistic all the way through.

{Born to Fly screens at SIFF 5/26, 5:30pm and again 6/6, 1 pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown, and 5/28, 4:30pm at AMC Pacific Place}

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SIFF Take: Why Don't You Play in Hell

Equal parts Yakuza drama, slavish love story to classic cinema shot on film, romantic comedy and over the top bloodbath, the Venn diagram intersection of those genres makes it feel as if Why Don't You Play in Hell was specifically created for midnight film audiences. The wacky gonzo feel was incredibly appealing especially once I decided that logical consistency had no place in evaluating the film.

It's hard to comprehensively explain the tangled plot and motivations of all the characters. Thankfully I don't especially want to say anything that would take away from deconstructing the tangled bits yourself. There are three groups interacting over the course of a ten year period. A group of gonzo (and supremely un-talented) filmmakers also known as the "Fuck Bombers," two gangs of feuding Yakuza - one of whom dress only in kimono, and finally a budding potential romance between the former child actress daughter of a Yakuza boss and a random guy she meets on the street while trying to run away. Ultimately all these groups are pulled violently together to make a film. Yep ... that's seriously the plot.

Mixed in there's plenty of references to specific films and cinema in general. What's not to like?

Why Don't You Play in Hell is an ultraviolet genre film that likely will appeal to the sort of folks who like to see films about film - assuming they can look past all the blood. And I'm talking little child sliding across a floor covered in the stuff two inches deep levels of blood. I know for many readers I had you at two inches of blood. But even if it doesn't sound awesome I'd suggest a broader group give it a chance - you might surprise yourself.

{Why Don't You Play in Hell? screens at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival on 5/24 at the Egyptian Theater and again 5/26 at Lincoln Square Cinemas}

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SIFF 2014: Week Two Highlights

Difret

Capitol Hill (both the 1960s and 2010s varieties), a freaky alt-reality Paris, and dear ol' Sesame Street are among the cinematic destinations awaiting you during SIFF 2014's second week (5/23-5/29).

DON'T MISS:

Difret
{screens May 24 at 3pm in Renton}
After being abducted and raped, a rural 14-year-old Ethopian girl (Tizita Hagere) shoots and kills her attacker in an act of self-defense, pitting herself and a tenacious human-rights attorney (dazzling Meron Getnet) against long-standing tribal traditions. Writer-director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari's debut feature is a compelling and devastating adaptation of an extraordinary true story. Wonderfully naturalistic performances (by mostly non-pro actors) lead viewers into the characters' worlds, and into the tense legal drama that grows from it.

Fasten Your Seatbelts
{screens 5/23 at 4pm at the Egyptian and 5/25 at 7pm at Lincoln Square}
Refreshing, frequently surprising Italian comedy-melodrama with touches of the exquisiteness of my favorite of director Ferzan Ozpetek's films, Facing Windows. This one follows another beautiful young woman who gets with another loutish (but hot) love interest and who ends up looking at her life from some existential outside place. The score is gorgeous (when it's not trying to be lite), the narrative surprising (even when the twists are Lifetimey). I really did laugh, and I really did cry.

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The German Doctor

{The German Doctor opens in Seattle on Friday, 5/23 and is screening at Sundance Cinemas Seattle & Lincoln Square Cinemas} 

Eeeesh. From the moment you see Àlex Brendemühl appear on film as German SS Officer Josef Mengele in The German Doctor, you get the wigs. While hiding in South America, Mengele meets a family traveling to re-open an inherited hotel + a doll factory (what), and takes a creep-tastic interest in their 12-year-old daughter Lilith. Although it’s not the type of creep you might expect; the doctor is actually interested in using Lilith to continue the human genetic experiments he was running at Auschwitz. Like I said, EEEESH.

Things get even worse when he finds out Lilith’s mom is pregnant with twins, and Mengele realizes he can experiment on them too, injecting the same “hormone growth serum” he’s been giving Lilith into one of the babies in utero, and doing god-knows-what-else to the other. DOUBLE EEESH. Weirdly, mom and daughter don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with the doctor giving them both injections, or with him keeping a extremely detailed journal filled with sketches punctuated by “scientific notes.” 

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