Tonight in Seattle:  

Festivals

Best of SIFF 2015 series {6/12 - 6/15}

The Dark Horse

Another year, another SIFF, another Best of SIFF program at the Uptown. Once again the intrepid festival programmers have curated a roster of films (13 features and a shorts program) comprised of audience and jury award winners and fest favorites; this year a beloved archival presentation is included as well. So if you procrastinated over the last month, or feel in any way under-SIFFed, now's your chance: encore screenings run June 12-15 at the Uptown.

As in previous years this looks like a broad but solid lineup. One of my personal SIFF 2015 favorites, Vincent, makes a well-deserved repeat appearance, while others I loved (Short Skin, Haemoo, Corn Island, Guidance) are conspicuously absent. So it goes.

The full schedule, with some parting thoughts on the selections covered by the TIG team this year:

FRIDAY 6/12

4:30p
Frame by Frame
Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision
I didn't hate this documentary, which follows four Afghan photojournalists actively working to reframe their country and build a free press. There's an odd glossy sheen on the interview footage that doesn't really jive with the photogs or their amazing work, but media-savvy viewers (and those who enjoy seeing Independent Lens-type docs on the big screen) will find a lot to appreciate.

7p
The Dark Horse
Golden Space Needle Awards: Best Film, Best Actor
How do you reckon Cliff Curtis will display his new Golden Space Needle trophy? He won one for his performance as a bipolar speed chess champion who helps turn around the lives of some 15,000 Maori children in New Zealand by teaching them the intricacies the game. In-queue buzz was extremely high on this film, and our own Roxie Rider was among the voices of praise, saying "every performance defies superlatives" in an "extraordinary, tremendous film."

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SIFF 2015: Closing Weekend Highlights

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

OK, SIFF procrastinators, this weekend is your last chance to partake in this year's grand cinema binge... until the "best of fest" program rolls around next weekend at the Uptown. But who knows what'll be included in that lineup. (I'll preview it for you when I find out.)

In the meantime, I can give my seal of approval to two very good films I've seen already, and my safe-bet certification to a few more I plan to stand in queue for, all on offer during SIFF 2015's final weekend (6/5 - 6/7).

DON'T MISS:

Eisenstein in Guanajuato
{6/6 7p Harvard Exit, 6/7 5p Uptown}
Septuagenarian filmmaking dynamo Peter Greenaway gives us a challenging, visually ambitious, downright playful film about Sergei Eisenstein's misadventures in Mexico in the early '30s during production of ¡Que Viva Mexico! (an Eisenstein-unapproved version of which will also screen during closing weekend). Greenaway's typically dizzying pictoralism, sex-and-death juxtapositions, and unapologetic salaciousness are all present, as is his unending devotion to sheer experimentation: he remains one of cinema's last true innovators, and no film of his should be overlooked, ever.

The Wolfpack
{6/5 7p Uptown, 6/6 11a Egyptian}
Enthralling, often seriously creepy documentary about a nine-member family sequestered for nearly two decades in a Manhattan housing project. The film focuses on the six brothers, the off-kilter inner lives they've developed after copious consumption of Hollywood home videos, and their efforts to step outside the bizarrely arbitrary boundaries set by their once-devout Hare Krishna father. A big Sundance winner, and a strong contender for best non-fiction film of the fest.

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Sasquatch 2015 - Monday: Alvvays, Courtney Barnett, Kendrick Lamar, Run The Jewels, Tame Impala, THEE Satisfaction

at The Gorge

Sasquatch Music Festival 2015

Getting things started right on Monday afternoon were Seattle hip-hop R&B duo THEE Satisfaction. With local producer and beat maker O.C. Notes as their DJ, MC”s Stas and Cat vibed their way through a set filled with cool jams and some heavy beats. The bass in this set hit HARD. The duo even worked out some choreographed moved, and they played off of each other really well. Young rapper and fellow Sasquatch performer Porter Ray even joined the group onstage to spit a verse.

As the weather started to take a slight turn towards the ugly side, Courtney Barnett and co. took the main stage and put on a pretty powerful show. Winds and light rain started to infiltrate the festival in the middle of her set, and with roadies frantically running around stage behind her and with wind blowing all around her, Barnett ripped through her catalogue of fantastic rock songs.

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Sasquatch 2015 - Sunday: James Blake, St Paul and the Broken Bones, St. Vincent, Temples

at The Gorge

Sasquatch Music Festival 2015

One of the pleasant surprises (at least for me) was the late afternoon Bigfoot stage performance from the Birmingham soul septet St Paul and the Broken Bones. Front man Paul Janeway sang with a ton of energy. He’s got a voice that seems to have an Otis Redding tone to it, with some occasional touches of Al Green. Backed by a pretty solid backing band, he worked the crowd with his pipes and energetic dance moves and spent most of his time on the catwalk at the front of the stage. Towards the end of the set they performed a couple covers of some soul classics; Sam Cooke’s “Shake” and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”.

Following St Paul on the Bigfoot stage, Temples brought their 70’s influenced psych rock and huge, chugging guitar sound in all its glory. The quartet broke out a new song titled “Henry’s Cake”, and although it started out soft and melodic, it didn’t take long to get loud and heavy. Watching this set I couldn’t help but imagine the band walking around in the artist areas trying to meet Robert Plant.

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Sasquatch 2015 - Saturday: Father John Misty, Modest Mouse, The Budos Band, Vox Mod

at The Gorge

Sasquatch 2015 Music Festival

The Budos Band came ready to rock the mid-afternoon crowd on the main stage. One member of the band played the biggest saxophone I’ve ever seen. A quick Internet search tells me it’s a sax called a “contrabass saxophone”; pretty good low-end sound coming from that thing. Their sound has grown a little more rock oriented over the years, but that didn’t stop a group of young men in the crowd from throwing down a mat and break dancing to their set. I didn’t see the break dancing crew for the rest of the weekend, which is a shame because there were a lot of shows that could have used some break dancers in the crowd!

Over in the El Chupacabra tent, local beat maker Vox Mod energetically rocked a modest-sized but enthusiastic crowd. Accompanied by Ben Van Citter’s visuals which included some sci-fi movie scenes and neon graphics, Vox Mod twitched and jerked his way through the 45-minute set. He was about as energetic a man behind a computer and some electronics (his set up wasn’t visible so I’m guessing here) can be.

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Sasquatch 2015 - Friday: Action Bronson, Flume, Little Dragon, Sleater-Kinney

at The Gorge

Sasquatch Music Festival 2015 - Washington

Starting things off on the right foot Friday evening, Queens rapper Action Bronson rocked a large crowd on the Bigfoot stage as big drops of rain came down. The crowd seemed to actually gain energy once the rain started to fall. Bronson rapped over some crowd favorite beats like Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” before departing the stage eating a plate of food. It takes a lot of swagger to bring your dinner up on stage with you.

Later on the Bigfoot stage Little Dragon brought their dancey jams. The drumming was on point, and lead singer Yukimi Nagano kept everyone engaged by bouncing around the stage, occasionally banging on a drum or shaking a tambourine.

Friday’s headliner Sleater-Kinney played a shockingly under attended set on the main stage. Maybe the younger crowd wasn’t that familiar with them? Sleater-Kinney still put on a great show for those in attendance. Corin Tucker’s voice sounded great bellowing up the hillside.

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SIFF 2015: Week Three Highlights

Beti and Amare

A harrowing Korean sea thriller, a sultry sapphic summer romance from Lithuania, and a gorgeous Ethiopian genre mashup are among your best bets during SIFF 2015's final (!) week and weekend (5/29 - 6/7).

DON'T MISS:

Beti and Amare
{5/29 1:45p Uptown}
Intriguing 1930s-set genre pastiche about a young Ethopian woman trying to live a normal life while avoiding Mussolini's troops and local thugs. It's a supernatural romance, existential drama, and revenge thriller all in one. It's also dreamy in the best possible way, with a visual style that frequently stuns.

Haemoo
{5/29 8:30p Lincoln Square}
Horrifying, often punishingly intense sea thriller co-written and produced by innovative Korean genre genius Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Mother). Even when the psychosis-tinged narrative develops a nasty case of sea-sickness -- and boy, does it ever -- Haemoo sinks spectacularly. Bring the Dramamine.

Mr. Holmes
{5/29 7p Uptown, 5/31 4p Pacific Place}
Ian McKellen plays an elderly Sherlock Holmes in the late 1940s (and, in many time-toggling flashbacks, as early as the late 1910s), living a quiet countryside life with his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her inquisitive young son. In revisiting an unsolved case he worked on toward the end of his investigative glory days, Mr. Holmes confronts the difficulties of aging, of his roles in various fictions, and of (not always) remembering. Entertaining throughout, even when the performances teeter into hammy territory.

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Latest comment by: Roxie Rider: "

Wonderful reviews, sir. I'm especially eager to see Mr. Holmes. It sounds fascinating.

"

SIFF 2015: Week Two Highlights

Blind

A twisty Norwegian drama, a charming lesson in Euro-male anatomy, and the year's quietest superhero movie are three great options during SIFF's second week (5/22 - 5/28).

DON'T MISS:

Blind  
{5/26 3:30p Uptown}
This directorial debut from the writer of 2012 festival favorite Oslo, August 31 is a twisty, tricky drama about an imaginative, recently-blind aspiring novelist and the worlds she creates. And the worlds we all create, really, around what our loved ones are up to when our eyes aren't on them. The film gets progressively more delightful each time the narrative rug is pulled out from under the characters and the viewer. (Key word: viewer.)

Short Skin
{5/25 6p Lincoln Square, 5/31 7p Pacific Place, 6/1 4p Uptown}
Poking up out of the glut of coming-of-age stories at SIFF this year, here's one with a very interesting, um, entry point. It's set in Pisa and follows Edo, a sensitive teen who loves books -- he's even wearing a Powell's t-shirt at one point -- and who, goaded by his lout of a best friend, feels the need to lose his virginity by the end of the summer. But that'll be difficult, not for any shortage of eager females, but due to his titular issue: he suffers from phimosis, which means even masturbation is painful. That's right, this is a dick movie, and it's unbelievably frank about anatomy, (hetero)sexuality, and gender myths. Expect approximately half of the viewing audience to visibly shudder at multiple moments.

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SIFF 2015: Week One Highlights

Guidance

Our beloved movie gorge-a-thon kicks off tonight with Spy, an amusing Paul Feig / Melissa McCarthy collaboration that spoofs and reveres great spy thrillers. It's big and boisterous, and will play very well to the back of the (very large) house at McCaw Hall.

Many cinematic experiences will follow over the subsequent 24 days, and they'll often prove more insightful, intimate and/or impactful than the opening-night comedy blockbuster. Others will be rowdier and more fun. If there's one good thing our festival's big bloated schedule offers, it's the pure variety of the filmic wonders. And TIG's intrepid SIFFers are here to help you peruse and choose.

So off we go on SIFF 2015's first week (5/15 - 5/21), which serves up a profoundly romantic Samurai flick, food documentaries of wildly varying quality, and the funniest downward-spiral movie you'll see all year.

DON'T MISS:

Corn Island
{5/17 12p Uptown, 5/18 7p Harvard Exit, 5/19 3:30p Lincoln Square}
Patient viewers of this mostly dialogue-free festival-circuit darling will be rewarded handsomely. A farmer and his teenage granddaughter build a hut and sow corn on a no-man's land island that forms each spring in the Inguri River between Georgia and Abkhazia (and smack in the middle of those nations' conflicts). The haunting, brilliantly crafted circle-of-life drama that ensues -- it feels like a fable, really -- is a thrill to behold.

Flowers
{5/15 4p Uptown, 5/16 6:30p Uptown, 5/20 6p Lincoln Square}
Emotional and compassionate Basque-language Spanish drama about an unfulfilled middle-aged woman whose life gets a mysterious lift when she begins receiving regular flower deliveries from an unknown admirer. Quiet suspense grips the viewer ever so gently, and the film's emotional payoff is as lovely and delicate as a fresh bouquet.

Guidance
{5/15 9:30p Harvard Exit, 5/16 3:30p Uptown}
Downward-spiral movies don't get more charming than this. An aging former child star (writer/director Pat Mills, who was actually a cast member on You Can't Do That on Television back in the day) with a penchant for booze and bad decisions somehow gets away with successfully masquerading as a high school guidance counselor. Horrific, hilarious shit ensues -- conservative viewers will be absolutely appalled -- but every time the film threatens to fall apart completely it somehow gets even better. Mills has created a role and a world that exists far outside reality, but his commitment to it is absolutely beguiling. And oh, so funny.

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Bumbershoot 2014 music picks: Monday music loungin’

Monday is my day for lining up at Bumbershoot to try and get a seat in the sweet air-conditioned KEXP Music Lounge. There are a few things I’d like to hit Saturday and Sunday, but I’m planning to spend almost all day Monday in there, seeing: 

Hurray for the Riff Raff
1:15PM

The Reverend Horton Heat
2:30PM

Nada Surf
3:45PM

Rose Windows
5:30PM

 

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