Tonight in Seattle:  

Festivals

SIFF Take: Lucky Them

The complete opposite of the devastating Eden (SIFF, 2012), Lucky Them is a part comedy, part “eesh, I can identify with that” romance, but not exactly in the traditional sense of the word. Toni Collette completely kills it (like she does every. single. time. Yes, even in Hostages) as Ellie Klug, a Seattle music journalist employed at fictional magazine STAX, whose editor demands she find out what happened to her missing rock-God ex-boyfriend as the anniversary of his influential album approaches. As a reluctant Ellie starts her assignment, she runs into two men that complicate the task: Lucas Stone (Ryan Eggold): a talented, and uh, very good looking, young musician, and Charlie (Thomas Hayden-Church), a rich acquaintance who offers to finance her search in exchange for filming it.

Side note: how much would I love it if Oliver Platt actually ran a music magazine in this city? The answer is SO MUCH. So, so, so much.

While I admit imaginary embracey’s comments about some of the details of her job being fantasy-based are correct, it didn’t bug me much because of my instant connection to the character. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not trying to claim that I have anywhere near the level of journalistic fame or skill that Ellie does in the film, I’m just saying: a female writer who hooks up with all the wrong people and pines after a long-lost love to the point where it sabotages her current relationships? That hits close (probably a little too close) to home. Also adding to the authenticity: I feel like I’ve met every single character in this movie multiple times. The first thing that occurred to me when Charlie appears on screen was, “Oh man. I meet that guy at every SIFF Opening Night party, every single year.”

Short story: I love this one as much as I love The Off Hours and Eden. It’s a completely different kind of love, but it’s still love. My heart is yours once again, Ms. Griffiths.

{Lucky Them screens at SIFF on 5/22, 7pm at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center for Renton Opening Night, and again on 5/23, 9:15pm at The Egyptian. Director Megan Griffiths & Writer Emily Wachtel are scheduled to attend both screenings} 

A very imaginary 2014 Sasquatch! schedule

{Damien Jurado + Band / by Victoria VanBruinisse

Another year, and another weekend at the Gorge is upon us! That's right -- this weekend brings with it our favorite northwest festival season opener, Sasquatch!. Running this year from Friday through Sunday (and thus avoiding the whole, "I really should have taken Tuesday off from work!" mess), the 2014 lineup is no slouch, with a little something each day for everyone. So, without further ado, here are our cream-of-the-crop picks for each day of the fest:

Friday, May 23rd

The day starts off with a bang from the barrier in front of the Yeti Stage, where you can catch Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller noodle through classic favorites and hopefully a spin through the new record the band is touring behind. (KEXP has been spinning "Most Messed Up," the title track from the most recent Old 97s album, and We. Are. Loving. It.) After a dip by the mainstage and a few comedy acts, the night runs back-to-back with killer sets from Phosphorescent, Foals, Phantogram, and Damien Jurado -- and that's just the tip of the iceberg!

Check out the day's schedule here, and our recommended stops below:

1:00pm // Yeti Stage: Modern Kin
2:00pm // Yeti Stage: Rhett Miller
3:10pm // Sasquatch Stage: De La Soul
4:45pm // El Chupacabra Stage: Eugene Mirman
6:00pm // El Chupacabra Stage: Princess feat. Maya Rudolph
6:35pm // Bigfoot Stage: Phosphorescent
7:15pm // Sasquatch Stage: Foals
8:00pm // Bigfoot Stage: Phantogram
9:15pm // Yeti Stage: Damien Jurado
10:40pm // Sasquatch Stage: Outkast

Saturday, May 24th

Day two out at the Gorge gets rolling with one of our favorite east-coast-turned-Seattle bands, Pela We are Augustines Augustines down on the mainstage. They'll bleed nicely into vibes from First Aid Kit to warm up the afternoon, followed by what we're sure will be the sleeper hit of the weekend, Jonathan Wilson (who is up the hill on the Yeti Stage at 4:10pm). Wilson's "Can We Really Party Today" has been a mixtape staple since Fanfare's release last year, and we can't wait to get a taste of what depths he can go to live! We'll be spending most of the rest of the night on the genre-rollercoaster down on the mainstage, with sets from Violent Femmes, Neko Case, and the National, among others.

Saturday's full schedule is here, and our can't-miss sets of the day are as follows:

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SIFF double take: Muse of Fire and The Search for General Tso

Examine, if you will, two documentaries very similar in tone and structure: upbeat, pleasant, and curious. One asks a very large question: How do you make Shakespeare relevant to contemporary audiences? The other asks a small one: Where did General Tso’s chicken come from? One is populated with some of the most talented actors of our time. The other, with restaurant owners, fortune cookie manufacturers, and one dedicated menu collector. Both had impressive animated interstitials and charming interviewees. The crowd loved, loved both of them. But only one was an effective documentary. The Search for General Tso, directed by Ian Cheney (King Corn), was unwaveringly fascinating and unexpectedly suspenseful from titles to curtain. What a great question: who did create this bizarrely ubiquitous dish? The surprisingly satisfying answer is unveiled after first exploring things like who the historical General Tso was and what he was famous for, the history of the American immigration policy towards China, regional variations between American Chinese menus, and what it looks like to manufacture take-out boxes.

There was no suspense and far less revelation in Muse of Fire, directed by and starring struggling actors Dan Poole and Giles Terera. Poole and Terera are funny and winning, but the film is at least as much about how hard it was to make the film as it is about Shakespeare, relevant or otherwise. 

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Latest comment by: imaginary rich: "Yep - Search for General Tso was really satisfying. Frankly I was sort of shocked by how interesting I found it - hope lots of folks take your advice and discover it during the fest or later. "

SIFF Review: Mirage Men

You may want to believe - but in what exactly? That aliens are among us and engineered the creation of our species through DNA experiments on early primates? Or maybe that the government has been running a focused disinformation campaign to spread stories of UFO's to distract the public, flummox the Soviets, cover up advanced technology programs, or perhaps just to goose Hollywood box office numbers? And don't forget about the possibility that these government coverups are muddying the waters - hiding our dealings with the aliens by spreading half truths about aliens. 

Yep - if you thought the final years of the X-Files was all over the place, brace yourself for Mirage Men. This documentary delivers access to the players - from UFO researchers telling tales of good men turned mad by the NSA, to the OSI agents who told the lies.

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SIFF Review: Monsoon Shootout

"The law is what it is. If you can't use it to get justice then you're the ass!" - Rookie officer Adi addressing his superior.

Monsoon Shootout from director Amit Kumar is a tight and satisfying take on first day on the job dramas such as Training Day, while layering in a metaphysical treatment of the power of choices we make each moment of our lives. Clocking in at a fast 88 minutes, a lot gets packed into this one.

The film kick offs with Adi's first day on the job as a cop. He's teamed with Khan, a beyond pragmatic lawman who believes in justice but not upholding all the details of the law. That's made pretty clear when within minutes of reporting for duty Khan executes a group of suspects in the extortion murder of a real estate developer. Adi's asked to crash their car to cover up the "escape" attempt, and his moral dilemmas begin. Before long he's making choices that are all over the shades of grey spectrum as they try to put away Shiva (aka the "Ax killer"), who's just the tip of the bloody spear wielded by local gangster "the Slum Lord." In the meantime, corruption is all around in what could just as easily serve as a scathing indictment of Indian society as it could a hard-nosed police thriller.

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SIFF 2014: Week One Highlights

40 Days of Silence

Our local month-long movie megathon struck again Thursday with Jimi: All Is By My Side, a Jimi Hendrix biopic devoid of Jimi Hendrix music. But even if you missed the opening night soiree there's plenty more to feast your eyes and ears and emotions on before the cinematic smorgasbord unspools its final reel projects its last digital file on June 8.

The TIG SIFF staff will be here for the duration to help you make sense of the typically mammoth schedule, and as in years past I'll bring you a roundup of brief capsule previews for films to be screened the coming festival week. I'm happy to report that, so far, the joy-free staleness of Jimi isn't at all the deal for upcoming offerings. (Many of them, anyway.) In fact, of the SIFF 2014 films I've seen to date, the shining gems far outnumber the out-and-out stinkers.

Here are ten features to queue up for, one to avoid outright (yes, only one so far!), and six to be cautiously optimistic/pessimistic about, all screening at some point during the festival's first week (May 16-22). You're welcome.

DON'T MISS:

The Case Against 8
{screens May 16 at 6:30pm at the Harvard, and May 17 at 11:30am at the Uptown}
A moving and highly entertaining documentary following the six-year battle between California's same-sex marriage ban (2008) and the Supreme Court declaration of its unconstitutionality (2013). The film makes its revelations beautifully, peppering usual doc elements with legal intrigue and turning tides. I knew very little about the counsel team (led by Republican Theodore Olson and Democrat David Boies, who had been opponents in the Bush v. Gore recount case in 2000), and even less about the plaintiff couples (Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo), but was very happy to spend time with them all. Sure, the film preaches to the choir -- but what a beautiful sermon it is.

Difret
{screens May 17 at 6pm at the Uptown, May 18 at 3:30pm at Pacific Place, and 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.

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SIFF Take: The Skeleton Twins

The Skeleton Twins Bill Hader Kristen Wiig SIFF 2014

A film with Kristen Wiig AND Bill Hader? This should be HILARIOUS, right?!?! Right. Except, it isn’t. I mean, it is and it isn’t. The Skeleton Twins casts these two former SNL cast mates as twins Maggie & Milo: a very broken set of siblings who haven’t spoken to each other in over 10 years until suicide attempts on the same day bring them together again. HAHAHAHA. Oh, wait.

Speaking of “skeletons,” both of them have plenty in their closet, only Maggie is obsessed with hiding hers while Milo displays his right out in the open for everyone to see. As they try to navigate their messed up lives and renewed relationship while also dealing with Maggie’s clueless husband, and Milo’s former … lover (?) things get more and more and MORE f**ked up, but hey! At least they have each other. Director Craig Johnson (True Adolescents, SIFF 2009) provides plenty of humor to balance out the dark times—my favorite involves the theme song from 1987’s Mannequin—but credit for this film blowing me away really goes to its two leads. This one is a must-see; I highly recommend purchasing your ticket for its only SIFF screening on Friday NOW.  

{The Skeleton Twins screens at SIFF on 5/16, 9:30pm at The Egyptian. Director Craig Johnson is scheduled to attend} 

SIFF Review: Miss Zombie

Miss Zombie cannot be the first zombie movie with such an intense art house esthetic, but it's the first I've seen. More importantly this quiet but disturbing Japanese family horror film brings a level of sympathy unusual to the genre, creating one of the few zombies where you care about their backstory and what happens to them. And no, Warm Bodies does not count.

The story starts with the delivery of a female zombie to a doctor's country home. Sent by a friend trying to create a new business around "low grade" zombies, the box comes with two instructions: 1) Don't feed her meat, and 2) Use the included pistol if things get out of hand. Zombiness in this universe is a viral condition of sorts. Lower grade carriers tend to be docile and not considered a large danger ... of course, things can change pretty fast under the right circumstances.

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SIFF 2014 Preview: NW Connections

I honestly feel like the SIFF NW Connections programming gets better every single year! The 40th Seattle International Film Festival has an impressive roster of documentaries and features with local directors, actors, writers, and locations. ALL of this makes me incredibly happy! Let’s take a look at what’s happening this year.

My first thought when I spied the new Megan Griffiths film in this year’s line-up was, “AWESOME!”  And awesome it is. Lucky Them stars Toni Collette as a Seattle music journalist (for fictional magazine STAX) who’s never quite gotten over her famous and handsome musician beau’s disappearance. It’s packed with great acting from Collette and her co-stars, lots of recognizable Seattle scenery, and more introspection than you usually get from a “dramedy.” GO SEE IT! It’s great. {Screens 5/22, 7pm at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center, and again 5/23, 9:15pm at The Egyptian}

Raging grannies seems like a thing I’d like, so I’m planning to check out Two Raging Grannies, a documentary about Seattle residents and best friends Shirley & Hinda, who ride around on their scooters with megaphones shouting suggestions about solving the global economic crisis. I LOVE IT. {Screens 5/28, 7pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown, 5/29, 4pm at Lincoln Square Cinemas, and again 5/30, 1:30pm at AMC Pacific Place}

And this one should be ... funny? Maybe? Local director Brett Fetzer’s first feature My Last Year with the Nuns involves Seattle monologist Matt Smith’s 8th-grade coming-of-age story set in 1966 … with Smith playing ALL the roles. Whoa. {Screens 5/21, 6:30pm and 6/26, 11am at The Egyptian}

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First bands announced for Capitol Hill Block Party {July 25-26-27}

{Capitol Hill Block Party}

The festival announcements just keep on comin'!

As you may have already heard this morning on KEXP, the first bands for this year's Capitol Hill Block Party are live, and they're looking like a good start to a killer party -- we'll be spending a long weekend in July with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Spoon, Chromeo, Matt and Kim, The War on Drugs, Odesza, Sol, Beat Connection, Star Slinger, Budos Band, Tanlines, XXYYXX, Angel Olsen, Poolside, Cymbals, Shy Girls and many, many more still to be announced.

We can't wait to hear what local bands will be taking up the rest of the slots, and who KEXP will have live from the Bean Room -- as we get more information, we'll be sure to share it with you! In the meantime, keep an eye out on the official Block Party website for updates. Three-day passes are on sale today at the lowest price ($99.00), the full lineup will be out on the 29th, with schedules and single-day tickets available on June 3rd.