Tonight in Seattle:  


Recommended SIFF: Closing Night Gala {6/12}

Life in a Day

I always feel like the festival has gone by too fast, but this year's closing weekend snuck up on me! Holycrap, you guys. The 37th Seattle International Film Festival wraps up this Sunday night, with the Closing Night Gala, and a screening of Life in a Day at the Cinerama - which consists of clips from over 300 home videos all filmed on a single day: July 24, 2010. I know I'm psyched for this (and bringing a box of tissues!), and Embracey liked it, so you should get a ticket and go!

Your $40 admission price ($35 for SIFF members) also gets you in to the after-party at the Pan-Pacific Hotel, which is honestly the best way to close out the fest. There will be drinks (2 complementary), food, laughter, tons of nerdy cinephile conversation - and oh yes, there will be dancing. Come celebrate with other SIFF-goers, staff, and TIG!


SIFF Take: Holy Rollers - The True Story of Card Counting Christians

Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians

{Holy Rollers is screening at SIFF Saturday, 6/11, 6pm at the Admiral - which is on standby, so be prepared to wait in line if you don't have tix yet! - and again on Sunday, 6/12, 3:30pm at SIFF Cinema}

Thus far, I'd been blissfully unaware of this young, hipster group of Christians who do things like start their own churches so their band can play hymns, drink frothy microbrews and whiskey, and bankroll their lives by hooking up with two other hip young Christian dudes who started a card counting business. But - no more. After watching Holy Rollers, I sadly (SADLY) know way too much about these guys.

That photo above is of Ben, the co-founder of "Chuchteam" (the nickname given to their blackjack business since almost all the players are Christians), and I feel like it pretty accurately portrays what you're in for when you sit down to watch this film. But that's okay - you don't have to like these guys (in fact, if you're similar to me and Embracey, you'll loathe them), because watching them do what they do is still pretty damn fascinating.


Latest comment by: stephy: "Hell. Yes."

SIFF 2011: Closing Weekend Highlights

12 Angry Lebanese

Well, here we are in the final three days of SIFF 2011, and while I've kept you current on any hits, misses, and in-betweens I've been able to experience for myself, a few additional closing-weekend must-sees have come to my attention since my latest post. For the major procrastinators (you now have no excuse), for those who've been dutifully SIFFing all along (not a stinker in this bunch, pinkie-swear!), and for those somewhere in between, my thumbs are enthusiastically up on ten strong festival-ending offerings:

12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary
{screens June 12, 7pm at the Harvard Exit}
Heartfelt (and funny!) documentary about the infamous Roumeih penitentiary and Lebanon's first prison-based drama project there. Over a 1.5-year period, 45 inmates prepped and presented an awesome-looking variety show version of Reginald Rose's 12 Angry Men, with some added original dances, monologues and songs (created by the participants) highlighting the play's themes of forgiveness, stigma, and hope. Program director Zeina Daccache, a remarkable individual with seemingly boundless energy and patience, achieved something amazing with the project; 12 Angry Lebanese brings it to the world. One of the best documentaries I've seen all year.

{US Premiere. Screens June 10, 9:30pm and June 12, 3:30pm at Pacific Place}
Glittery, soapy, bi-lingual disco trash set in swingin' late-'70s Montréal. The adventures and misadventures of eight characters, all linked to a ridiculously hip nightclub called The Starlight, include some familiar Studio 54-ish elements, from sex (cheating TV star in a downward spiral, hot guy on the downlow before "on the downlow" was coined) to drugs (the shit was good back then) to general corruption (a dirty club owner moonlighting as a sleazy record producer pulls a high-camp Milli Vanilli).


Latest comment by: shimmy: "this is just exactly what I needed! thank you!"

SIFF Take: Roadie

Ron Eldard in Roadie

Holy trainwreck, Batman. Roadie introduces us to 40-something Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard, who acts his ass off here), who's spent the last 26 years of his life being a hardcore roadie for 70s rock group Blue Oyster Cult. Yes, you read that right. TWENTY SIX years of being a roadie. He claims he's doing "what he loves", but once he's fired and forced to return home to Queens, you get the sense that he's fading every time he has to say that out loud. To complicate things, he discovers his high school nemisis is now married to the (still completely gorgeous, DUH) girl he left behind to embark on his wild rock-and-roll life...or something - plus, his mom is old, alone, and clearly not doing so well all by herself.

With every lie Jimmy tells to convince himself that he escaped a mundane life being "stuck" in his old neighborhood for glory and fame (dude, you're a roadie), you can see him crumbling - and it's not long before he completely disintegrates. This might seem like a typical "grow the fuck up" film, but what elevates it beyond the ordinary are the performances. Eldard does some of his best work here, with Lois Smith as his mom, Bobby Cannavale as his annoying taunter (we all know that guy - the one who made your life miserable in high school, and now acts like you were BEST FRIENDS), and Jill Hennessy as the smoldering ex doing a more than fine job of supporting him. Overall, this is just a great, well-written character piece. I dig. Maybe you will too?

{Roadie screens at SIFF on Thursday, 6/9, 9:30pm, and again on Saturday, 6/11, 4pm at the Harvard Exit}



SIFF Take: The Intruder {TONIGHT!}

The Intruder

It's no secret that I'm a fan of all things blood & gore - and that coupled with the promise of "thousands and thousands of snakes" meant that I had to see the Thai horror-thriller The Intruder (Kheaw Aa-Kaard). If you're also a fan of cunning reptiles that not only spew venom, but appear to be fond of eating flesh, than I recommend you head over to The Neptune tonight at 9:30pm to see its final SIFF 2011 screening.

The plot is simple enough - a cast of characters get trapped in their low-rent apartment building when legions of King cobras descend upon the hallways, thirsty for blood. While the rest of the rag-tag band of survivors fight over one remaining vial of anti-venom, crazy-eyed Aunt Prai roams around performing rituals and trying to conceal a terrible secret. Just think of it as "Snakes in an Apartment Building" with a little more creativity , and you've got it. Naturally I had a whole lot of fun watching, but it might be a little too over-the-top for some (get ready to cover your eyes when one of the wanna-be rockers breaks out a giant pane of glass to "help" her boyfriend out. I'm just sayin'). Totally worth your time and money it if you're into - and craving - some massive amounts of splatter!

{The Intruder screens at SIFF one more time, tonight, Wednesday 6/8, 9:30pm at The Neptune}


Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "

heh. I'd LOVE that, Chris! That would be so much fun.


SIFF Double Take: 2 for the environment tonight - Sushi & Revenge {6/8}

Sushi: The Global Catch

It's been a great year for documentaries at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival. I just saw probably one of my favorites of the year, Errol Morris's Tabloid, which is a off the recent (brilliant) war train for the director, The Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure, to focus on a narcissistic, psychopathic sex worker who enlisted a bunch of dupes to dominate a missionary in the 70s and then, well, I'll let Embracey take it from there.

Meanwhile, the two SIFF documentaries that have made the most impression on me otherwise are both playing tonight {Wednesday, 6/8}: Sushi: The Global Catch (USA, 2011, directed by Mark Hall, 75 minutes), at the Admiral Theatre, 7pm (and then Friday 6/10, 4:30pm at the Harvard Exit); and Revenge of the Electric Car (USA, 2011, directed by Chris Paine, 99 minutes), premiering in Kirkland at 8:30pm (and then 6/10, 7pm at the Egyptian, and 6/12 at 4:30pm at the Harvard Exit).


SIFF Double Take: Tornado Alley and The Bengali Detective

Tornado Alley is pretty standard IMAX documentary fare: extremely well-produced, slightly slender on detail, and laden with breathtaking shots of its titular subject—in this case, tornadoes. Bill Paxton narrates. Besides showing a lot of 6-story shots of tornadoes and vertiginous views of roofless houses, the movie follows two teams of storm chasers, often aiming for the same storms but with radically different goals.

The first team is a government-funded research squad called Vortex 2, with a fleet of radar equipment and a bunch of adorable/awesome-looking standalone data gathering pods that they deploy in coordinated missions, like nerdy soldiers. Their goal is to surround the storm as completely as possible to gather as much data as possible, and ultimately better predict when tornadoes will form. The second is led by Sean Casey, the guy from Storm Chasers on Discovery. He’s built a tornado-chasing tank designed to hunker down so that they can get inside of a tornado.


Latest comment by: JJ: "Found Bengali Detective to be fun at times and liked the lead but was a shame because did not hold up as a feature length film and the dance competition scenes felt contrived as if were set up by the director."

Recommended SIFF: Damien Jurado and the Russian Avant-Garde {6/8}

Damien Jurado

Dearest Imaginaries - I can't tell you how excited I am that the SIFF event I have been waiting for is FINALLY almost here! Our beloved Damien Jurado is taking the stage at The Triple Door on Wednesday night (6/8) for a special peformance: he'll be providing a live musical soundtrack to Russian filmmaker Dimitri Kirsanof's avant-garde shorts!

The Damien Jurado and the Russian Avant-Garde show starts at 7pm and is all-ages. So to recap, you get to listen to Damien peform while watching gorgeous vintage short films made from the 20s-50s. At $15 a ticket, this qualifies as a total steal.

Latest comment by: imaginary liz: "This just in from our Facebook friend Jill: the 9:30pm show has been cancelled. Go grab your tickets for the 7pm show now!!! {thx for the tip Jill!!!}"

STIFF Take: The Sandman

{The Sandman screens as part of Seattle's True Independent Film Festival at The Jewelbox Theater (at the Rendezvous) on Tuesday 6/7 at 4pm}

Bright, beautiful, romantic, and incredibly bizarre The Sandman is a must see film. It would easily be one of my top films of SIFF 2011, except for the fact that it's playing at STIFF instead. The only reason that's really disappointing is it means a single screening at a somewhat inconvenient time for those on a 9-5 schedule. But it's worth the extra effort, and if you miss it, be sure to put a note down somewhere to catchup on this German language gem out of Switzerland.

Benno is an ultra-uptight neat freak who works in a stamp shop. When he's not ripping off the gullible he obsesses about his weight each morning, provides brutally critical feedback to friends about their life's work and gives untold grief to a young woman who works in the coffee shop below his apartment.  All in all a real mensch - or perhaps not. Then out of nowhere he develops and unusual affliction. He begins to leak sand. And not just regular sand, but magical instantaneous sleep inducing sand. Which similarly to normal sand tastes horrible in pasta.


SIFF Take: The Off Hours

The Off Hours

Pretty waitress Francine (doe-eyed Amy Seimetz) sleepwalks through diner shifts and time spent playing video games with her foster brother/roommate Corey (Scoot McNairy, Monsters), and an unfaithful boyfriend. Enter truck driver Oliver, whose ease, friendliness, and kindness spark an instant connection, and a desire for something that may be beyond her reach.

Two side-plots—one involving alcoholic diner owner Stu and heart-breaking exchanges between him, his ex-wife (played expertly by Lynn Shelton!), and teen daughter, and the other focusing on a second waitress: a widowed Russian mail-order bride—enhance the viewers' wish for Francine to break free of her static, lonely life.

Seattle-based director and writer Megan Griffiths' shooting style and script both command strong performances, complemented perfectly by cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke's Hopper-esque diner shots and dusk-colored landscapes. The Off Hours is a rich, emotionally charged slice of cinematic goodness that shouldn’t be missed.

{The Off Hours screens at SIFF June 6, 7pm and again June 7, 4:30pm at the Neptune Theatre}


Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "

Chris, I know, right??? Lynn absolutely rocked it - as well the rest of the actors. So perfectly cast, shot, and directed! A really nice job, and I can't wait to see what Griffiths does next.