Tonight in Seattle:  

Film

Better Living Through Chemistry

{Better Living Through Chemistry opens in Seattle on Friday, 3/14, and is screening at SIFF Cinema Uptown and Sundance Cinemas Seattle}

The title says it all, even though it’s kind of messed up: take drugs, let loose, and your life will vastly improve … okay, it’s not exactly like that, but Better Living Through Chemistry does feature a protagonist that experiences a (mostly) positive life change after taking a crap-load of drugs.

Douglas Varney (Sam Rockwell) is a meek pharmacist who’s just taken over his father-in-law’s business in a small, picturesque town. Varney is clearly dissatisfied with his home life. His wife treats him like shit, his son prefers to call him by his first name, and his FIL can’t be bothered to change the name of the pharmacy from Bishop’s to Varney’s—even though Douglas is now the legal owner.

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Wes Anderson Fans: Download FREE passes to The Grand Budapest Hotel!!! {3/12}

It's not like I even need to encourage all of you Wes Anderson-philes to go see his new flick, but just in case I do -- how about some FREE passes to encourage your movie night pick next week?

In case you haven't been paying attention, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film "set in alternate-history 1920s Europe in a country called the Republic of Zubrowka, where a famed hotel concierge by the name of Gustave H. is bequeathed a painting called Boy with Apple after his one night stand, Madame D, is killed. Madame D's son, Dmitri, vows revenge on Gustave by framing him for Madame D's murder. Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy, and his love interest, Agatha, help Gustave hide Boy with Apple from Dmitri and the authorities." So, typical Wes stuff, yeah? SOUNDS AWESOME. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in Seattle 3/14, but there's a preview screening next Wednesday (3/12) at SIFF Uptown, and we've got a download link just for Imaginaries! CLICK HERE to get your passes, and do it quick! I predict they'll go very, very, very fast. 

Screening Info:
Wednesday 3/12
SIFF Cinema Uptown
7:00 PM

**Seating is first come, first served, and is not guaranteed**

2014 Seattle Jewish Film Festival kicks off this Saturday!

While during March a lot of attention in the film world focuses on Austin and SXSW there are still some great cinematic adventures to be had right here in Seattle. First among them is the Seattle Jewish Film Festival which kicks off this Saturday night. This year’s theme is “The Good, The Bad, The Funny.” Though I expect if you asked the organizers they’d tell you that “the bad” part of their slogan isn’t intended as a critical assessment of any of the choices on offer. There’s something to be had for all interests with events running all the way through March 9th. 

Opening night is The Zigzag Kid which sounds akin to a Hardy Boys caper, if they Hardy Boys knew what a bar mitzvah was and included trips to the French Riviera and Isabella Rosellini. The opening night film includes a dessert reception post film. I could make more jokes about the super-gentile nature of the Hardy Boys, but frankly none of them would be especially funny expect to me. But if you want to experience some old school Jewish comedy that actually lands the punch you might be interested in the festival's signature Sunday matinee event. 

This year’s Sunday Brunch and film pairing (which I’ve always wanted to attend but never quite get to) includes a screening of the Catskill’s comedian documentary When Comedy Went to School. Perhaps more inmprtantly it also includes a spread of Jewish comfort foods. The film itself catalogs the key role that Catskill Mountain resorts played in the development of the comedy we enjoy today. I cannot say this is the greatest documentary of all time, frankly cheesy CGI production value of the non-interview footage and narration of Robert Klein is pretty groan worthy. But it’s still worth it for the broad set of vintage footage and contemporary recollections about the Catskills. I still chuckle to myself at some of the jokes when I recall them months later. So, add in the promised brunch spread and I think this one will be a winner.

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Winter’s Tale

{Winter’s Tale opens in Seattle on Friday, 2/14, and is screening at AMC Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, and Oak Tree Cinema}

Going into Winter’s Tale without having read the book, and without really knowing what I was getting into was … interesting.

What looked like a period romance with some kind of time travel twist in the previews actually turned out to be a battle between heaven and hell for souls, complete with a winged horse and magical (evil?) gemstones. These things probably read really well on paper, but not so much on screen—at least, not in this adaptation. Thankfully, Colin Farrell can act his way around anything, even if it's a glowering, hammy Russell Crowe.

Farrell is Peter Lake, an orphan set adrift on a toy sailboat and cast towards the shores of New York by his parents, who failed to pass the health exam and become citizens in 1895. At some point, he’s adopted by the nefarious Pearly Soames (Crowe), who also happens to be a demon, and serves Lucifer by, I guess, corrupting souls, killing hope, and delights in shredding virgins with his claws and doodling portraits with their blood.

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Recommended event and game: MovieCat is awesome! {1/21}

You guys, I've been wanting to tell you for awhile that MovieCat is AWESOME. And I’m not just saying this because my team, Requiem for a Dream Team, has won a round of MovieCat trivia at Central Cinema before (and come close to winning a second time).

MovieCat is so many things, but primarily it’s a movie trivia game for your smartphone and a fun live event that happens about once a month at Central Cinema. The local creators (and hosts) of this super-cute cat-themed movie game, Jessica Aceti and Brian Kirk, just launched a sequel to their first game, MovieCat 2, which has some added features including new categories that make it even more boss than the original game, and the ability to have 2 players for a trivia battle. And it’s not easy! (although you can set the difficulty level to easy, or medium, or hard, depending on how confident you are with your movie trivia knowledge). These guys KNOW their stuff, and there are some questions in there that even my most hardcore film-loving friends don’t know the answer to.

The next Central Cinema event actually happens tomorrow night, Tuesday 1/21, at 7pm, and tickets are $6. The prizes range from MovieCat prints to delicious cheesecakes, and always include an amusingly “authentic” movie prop. That rug that my friend Andrew won one time really ties his room together.

Tickets to the trivia night are $6, and I recommend you get there early because it's popular! Plus, arriving before 6:30 means you get a good seat AND happy hour pricing on food and drinks. Don’t forget to download the game for only $1.99 to prep beforehand.

A very imaginary “best of” 2013 movie list

It is time once again for me to dig into the vault of my ever-failing memory and pull up a list of the best movie things I saw in 2013. (Thankgod for Letterboxd...) 

Best acting job I’ve ever seen Leo do: The Wolf of Wall Street
I completely forgot that was Leonardo DiCaprio up there on the screen while I was watching him reenact Jordan Belfort’s insane life … which is really unusual. And while I’m saying for the second time how much I loved this film and can’t wait to see it again, I’ll just throw in that I am not in the camp that thinks this movie glorifies Belfort’s behavior. It’s not about the victims, because that would be a different movie. It’s about excess and greed and hookers and drinking and drugs and money. You know, typical Scorcese stuff. And it’s great. It’s really, really, really GREAT.

Best film about a guy you probably shouldn’t care about, but do anyway: Inside Llewyn Davis
I’m still not sure how I feel about all that folk music, but I do know how I feel about the Coen Brothers. I like those guys an awful lot. Llewyn Davis is kind of a dick, but he’s also kind of not. And you end up rooting for him, even if he isn’t rooting for himself. Confused? I might be too, but it’s a good film anyway … and I sure do like that orange cat.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

{The Wolf of Wall Street opens in Seattle on December 25, and is screening at Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place, and the Regal Meridian}

At one point last eve, amidst the rum balls and hot buttered rum and glasses of cava, I declared that I had to write this review and my love suggested that I could just claim my drunken state was “research” into the excess shown in The Wolf of Wall Street. Brilliant, right? And then, I totally forgot and fell asleep.

Brushing the sleep out of my eyes early this morning instead, I’m here to tell you that Wolf is my favorite Scorsese movie since Goodfellas. It’s funny, no, I mean, REALLY funny, and Leo. Mygod. I didn’t even notice it was Leonardo DiCaprio up there on the screen. It WAS Jordan Belfort.

The “wolf”, if you don’t know, is a guy who started on Wall Street as a stockbroker’s intern, got laid off on Black Friday, and then lucked into selling penny stocks and got really great at it, opened his own boiler room turned firm, and proceeded to screw his clients while making millions and millions and millions of dollars for himself ... but of course you can only do that for so long before someone catches you. 

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DVD captures Lemolo's Beautiful Night

When local dream pop duo Lemolo sold out two nights at the Columbia Theatre for the release of their debut album Kaleidoscope, no one was more surprised than the artists themselves. Fortunately, their surprise didn’t stop them from thinking ahead, and they worked with local production company Creative Differences to record both shows for a DVD called Beautiful Night: Lemolo Live at the Columbia City Theatre.

The DVD includes songs from both performances interspersed with backstage moments and shots of the audience. Despite the occasionally jarring effect of switching back and forth between the two nights, the pristine sound and sharp visuals do capture the energy of the shows – especially when the crowd sings along to “Whale Song.”

No one who was there for either of those two nights in June 2012 is likely to forget it. At those shows and many more that followed over the next year, Meagan Grandall and Kendra Cox gave performances that layered impressive power and energy on top of the dreamy melodies from the album. Both played their instruments with intense physicality, and the two seemed to share a telepathic connection on stage.

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Latest comment by: Mark: "I've been following Lemolo since their early show @ the High Dive. I've thought their break up in August was a loss. Kendra gave so much power to the duo. Their live shows were waves of sound rushing over you. I couldn't give out Kaleidoscope, it lacked the same ...

Inside Llewyn Davis

{Inside Llewyn Davis opens in Seattle on Friday, 12/20 and is screening at Sundance Cinemas Seattle and The Harvard Exit}

Greenwich Village. 1961. Folk Music. These are things which I know little about, and also things in which I am only mildly interested. What I am interested in is the Coen Brothers and their ability to tell so many different kinds of stories so goddamn well.

Joel & Ethan made their own special brand of magic happen again with Inside Llewyn Davis (that’s Lew-N, in case you’re wondering); the story of a folk musician who’s trying REAL hard to make it on his own.

In the course of a week, Llewyn (Oscar Davis—man, this guy is good) has to deal with losing a generous friend’s cat, an unexpected pregnancy with near-constant verbal assault from the expectant mother, an unsympathetic agent, a lecherous club owner, a heroin-addicted jazz player, and a best friend whose success is imminent, because he’s clearly “selling out.”

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Celebrate 25 Years of Scarecrow Video this weekend {12/6-12/8}

My favorite Seattle institution, Scarecrow Video, is celebrating TWENTY-FIVE FREAKING YEARS this weekend with all kinds of specials and things and stuff and stuff and things.

Look, y’all, I can’t say this enough: Scarecrow is awesome. Scarecrow opened its doors on December 9, 1988 and started with an inventory of 600 titles. Now, it has something like 120,000 (blink blink). There is nothing like stepping into a video store and really LOOKING around, discovering new films, re-disovering old favorites, getting suggestions from the people who work there, and striking up conversations with fellow film-lovers. If there was ever a time for you to either go in for the first time, or return there after a long absence, THIS is it. This is the time. Now. 

Anyway. About the stuff and things: 

Friday, December 6 through Sunday, December 8, Scarecrow is going to have a ton of special things happening, including ONE FREE RENTAL per customer, and an ultra-cool amnesty on late fees (got an old late fee and haven't been in for awhile? update your account and rent something, and they will wip the slate clean -- unless you never returned the movie at all -- there are limits, people!), plus:

50% off all used titles
$1 VHS and Laserdiscs
$3 off Criterion titles (this is an ongoing sale)
Markdowns  on select box sets and out of print titles
Packs of 10 pre-paid rentals for only $25 (that's a $15 savings!) 
Raffles & giveaways
Favorite movies screening all weekend 
A scavenger hunt
You can also buy a copy of their amazing limited-edition 25th Anniversary poster by Marc Palm: $25 each (25" x36" - shown above) 

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