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SIFF 2012: Week Three Highlights

Moonrise Kingdom

One week remains of this year's movie gorge-fest -- which means if you have access to Seattle (or Kirkland) screens and you haven't yet partaken in the cinematic gluttony, it's not too late. Here's the intel on six films to see, three to avoid, and five to consider, all screening during SIFF 2012's final full week (6/4 - 6/10):

DON'T MISS:

Guilty
{screens June 4 at 9:30pm at the Harvard Exit}
Devastating French bloodboiler based on the memoir of Alain Marécaux, who, along with his wife, was wrongfully accused of involvement in a child sex ring in 2001. This is certainly not a feel-good film -- we see Marécaux endure the effects of false testimonies, horrific legal blunders, and several years of incarceration before he gets a proper day in court -- but the first-person travails pack this account of one of France's greatest judicial scandals with a shattering punch.

Hello I Must Be Going
{screens June 8 at 6pm at Pacific Place, June 9 at 3pm at the Harvard Exit}
Thirtysomething sadsack Amy (Melanie Lynskey), newly jobless and husbandless, reluctantly moves in with her high-achieving parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubenstein); an unexpected guest arrives arrives in the adorable form of her dad's client's 19-year-old son (Christopher Abbott, aka Charlie of HBO's Girls), and what follows is alternately charming and squeamy. The cast is wonderful and the Laura Veirs soundtrack is perfect for the material. A few silly, shticky missteps in the final third threaten to knock the story of the rails, but in the end the film's many charms win.

Moonrise Kingdom
{screens June 5 at 7pm at the Harvard Exit}
Wes Anderson's new film -- about troubled twelve-year-olds Suzy and Sam, who conspire to run away from their respective homes, and accordingly turn a New England island community upside down -- has many of the auteur's trademarks: it's drolly deadpan, visually controlled, and frequently wonderful. Whenever and however you see it (the single SIFF screening or in general release beginning June 8), be sure to stick through the closing credits for a perfectly thematic tribute to composer Alexandre Desplat. Delightful.

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "I wanted to see THALE so bad! But I missed the screening. Hoping it gets picked up after SIFF and plays somewhere in Seattle. Also on my list: EVERYTHING on your must-sees. :) As usual, your wrap-ups rule, my friend. "

SIFF Take: The Crown Jewels (Kronjuverlerna)

{The Crown Jewels screens at SIFF June 2, 8:30pm at the Harvard Exit and June 10, 4:30pm at the Egyptian Theatre}

In a small Swedish town, two fathers wait in a hospital delivery room for news of their children’s birth. From that moment on, a boy and girl are linked despite the financial gap in their families. Frangancia Frenandez, whose father is a poor inventor convinced he can chemically recreate gold, and Richard Persson, whose father’s wealth and power rules the town.

As they grow up, Richard develops an obsession with Frangancia, who (sadly) does everything just a little bit better than he does, including playing hockey. Enter Peterson-Jonnson, who attracts attention on the ice—and wins Fragancia’s heart. As Mr. Persson ups his cruel behavior towards his son, Richard’s mind deteriorates further leading up to frightening mix of creepy, misguided behavior that includes the disappearance of Frangrancia’s little brother Jesus.

Told in flashback, The Crown Jewels is a twisted, modern fairy tale with lush imagery so gorgeous, it will take your breath away. Both Amanda Jenegren and Alicia Vikander rock the part of tomboy’ish Frangancia as a teenager and a young woman, and Jonathan Bokman and Bill Skarsgard (another genetically-perfect offspring of Stellan)’s expressions convey the million and one emotions Richard is feeling every minute.

Despite a few moments of extra cheese near the end, I really loved this film. Recommended for filmgoers who love dreamy romanticism mixed with murder mystery—and uh, gazing at beautiful Swedish people.

SIFF Take: The Glass Man

{The Glass Man screens at SIFF June 1, 9pm & June 3, 11am The Harvard Exit, and again June 5, 9:15pm at Pacific Place}

When this movie started playing, I was like “Hey! That’s Neve Campbell with a British accent! Weird.” And then I totally forgot about that, because The Glass Man starts out as a depressingly awkward thriller that nosedives into Crazytown.

Martin Pyrite (Andy Nyman) is REALLY into appearances, which means he can’t tell his beautiful wife (Neve) that he lost his job weeks ago, and he owes shit-tons of money to everybody. Nope. Martin prefers to just get dressed in the morning and drive to work anyway, because he promised to protect and take care of his wife when he married her, and bygod that means he can’t tell her the truth about them possibly losing their fancy house or having access to expensive jewelry and designer duds. So when a grizzled stranger shows up on his doorstep and offers him a way out, he takes it—even if it means driving the dude around on mysterious errands in the middle of the night.

The Glass Man is kind of a mess, but what sells it is Nyman’s panicked and sincere portrayal of Martin. You FEEL for this guy; you really do. As for the Crazytown part, I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m still processing how it happened and why. One further note: if I had to stick a genre on this movie it’d be “depressing thriller”, because it punches you in the gut at the end. Nicely done, but likely not for everybody.

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SIFF Take: Legends of Valhalla: Thor

{Legends of Valhalla: Thor screens at SIFF on June 2, 11am, at Pacific Place}

I’ll start by damning with faint praise: this is the sort of movie that makes you appreciate how truly spectacular the achievements of Pixar are, in case you were in the habit of taking them for granted. Legends of Valhalla: Thor is a perfectly fine kid movie. My 5-year-old loved it and my almost-3-year-old sat intently through the whole thing. They both felt strongly that I should tell you all how incredibly cool it is when the Guardian of the Gates of Valhalla sends forth a spectacular rainbow bridge to welcome the dead.

But it’s not a top-drawer film. The animation, even compared with the original Toy Story, is pretty clunky, despite the imaginative art and set direction. And the characters, for the most part, steer closer to collections of mannerisms than fully realized personalities. Thor is a Whiny but Promising and Ambitious Teenager. Odin (who looks a bit like Sean Connery, which, sure, why not?) is a Pompous, Out-Of-Touch Leader. Freyja, I think, was meant to be The Smartest One in the Room Even Though She’s A Woman (ahem), but I think the filmmakers weren’t always super clear on the difference between Powerful but Exasperated and, well, Bitchy.

I’m making it sound worse than it is, though. It really is both fun and watchable.

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Latest comment by: imaginary embracey: "

Nicely summed up. Fun to see the first Icelandic animated feature and all, but I have to side more with you than your son on this one. Thor comes off as an oblivous dummy who stumbles into his successes, but I did enjoy the ice-cold Cruella De ...

SIFF Take: 6 Points About Emma

{6 Point About Emma screens at SIFF June 1, 7pm and June 3, 1:30pm at Pacific Place, and again June 4, 6pm at Kirkland Performance Center.}

Emma is beautiful, blind, and stubbornly independent. She’s also sure of two things: she wants a baby more than anything, and she’s unable to fall in love with anyone. But after she joins a support group for people with disabilities, her steadfastness begins to shatter when she begins an affair with the group’s secretive counselor. Complicating matters even further, her neighbor’s little brother develops romantic feelings for Emma. With one man obsessed with using Emma for pleasure, and the other obsessed with protecting her, Emma's got quite the love triangle goin' on. 

While 6 Points About Emma suffers a little from its easy-to-figure out resolution, it’s packed with strong performances from Veronica Echegui as Emma, and a great ensemble cast—especially Mariam Hernandez as Lucia. Overall, it’s an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

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SIFF Double Take: Keyhole and Price Check

{Keyhole screens at SIFF May 30, 6:30pm and June 1, 4:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke is scheduled to attend both screenings}

I’ve been a fan of Guy Maddin since I saw Isabella Rossenlini outfitted with beer-filled glass legs in The Saddest Music in the World. La Rosselini is back for Maddin’s new feature, Keyhole, a trippy black and white reimagining of The Odyssey as a surreal film noir, starring Jason Patric as gangster Ulysses Pick and Isabella as his pissed-off wife, Hyacinth. Narrated by an old naked dude chained to Hyacinth’s bed (oh yeah, he’s also her father. what the what?) and featuring a bicycle-powered electric chair—for that extra special Maddin touch.

I’m not a huge lover of experimental film, but for some reason, Maddin’s view always thrills me, and Keyhole is no exception. It’s weird and wonderful and full of beauty and WTF, (and Udo Kier! With a mustache!) and … well. I liked it. Maybe you will too?

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Recommended SIFF Event + Ticket Giveaway: Emerald City Visions at The Triple Door {6/1}

You guys. This event is going to be AMAZING! I mentioned it in my Face the Music roundup, but I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it.  

DJ Larry Mizell Jr. has curated a kick-ass crew of hip hop musicians to re-imagine The Wiz at Emerald City Visions (A Hip Hop Reinterpreation of The Wiz)!!! OC Notes reinterprets the classic music, live performances of Don’t Talk to the Cops and Metal Chocolates, and video mixing by DJ DV-One. I love these one-of-kind events at SIFF. So even though it’s the same night as our Rockstar New Wave Karaoke bash, I’m recommending it! (psst: if you go to the 7pm show, you can still make it to Chop Suey to sing with us < / shameless plug >!!!)

AND! We’ve got a pair of tickets to giveaway!!! Just send a note to tig {at} threeimaginarygirls {dot} com with the subject line "Ease on Down the Road". We'll pick a winner on Monday, 5/28, so be sure to get your email in to us before then for a chance to win.

{Emerald City Visions (A Hip Hop Reinterpretation of The Wiz) | Friday, June 1 | The Triple Door | 7pm All Ages| 9:30pm 21+| $15, $13 SIFF Members}

SIFF Take: Robot and Frank

Robot and Frank

{Robot and Frank screens May 20, 6:00 PM at Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center.}

The near future, as imagined by Jake Schrier in his feature film debut Robot and Frank, forgoes silver jumpsuits and flying cars in favor of a refreshingly plausible iteration, where the principal difference between now and then are that the adults are named Madison and Hunter and Ava and Jake, and helper robots are around to cook and clean for, say, crotchety ex-cat-burglars like Frank Langella’s Frank, whose declining memory and the legacy of his lousy parenting skills make him an ideal candidate for robotic assistance. No one, even his own children, could reasonably be expected to put up with him for long, but the robot, who’s programmed to be somewhat charmingly emotionally manipulative, teases out the best in him.

The movie makes a few tonal missteps (rookie mistakes, most likely) and has an entirely unnecessary and implausible twist towards the end, but otherwise it’s completely enjoyable.

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Five More Picks for the First Weekend of SIFF

Las Acacias

While I'm rapidly falling behind the prolific SIFF madman Imaginary Embracey in number of films viewed (yes, I'm jealous) I had a few picks to share for this weekend. As well as a counterpoint to offer on Sleepwalk With Me. ;-)

I'm sure there are a ton of other great things playing and I'm looking forward to checking out some of the recommends from Imaginary Embracey's list myself. This list is limited to films I can vouch for in advance. My full thoughts on everything I've seen, or at least written about can be found in other spots online if you're planning further in advance than this weekend.

In no particular order...

Las Acacias (Argentina) - A tired, grizzled truck driver's boss asks him to give a ride to a woman traveling to Argentina with her baby. He doesn't want her there. The baby is preternaturally cute. There's not a lot of talking, a lot of mate consumption, and in the end an understated super-compelling film. In keeping with the less is more ethos of the filmmaker I'm just going to say you should buy a ticket. I'll wait... Seriously, I loved this film which was one of the most beautiful surprises for me at Palm Springs 2012. And I only walked in by mistake because something else was booked. You on the other hand dear reader, have no such excuse. Add it to your schedule now!

Sleepwalk With Me - Comedian/director Mike Birbiglia takes us along for a thinly veiled autobiographical ride as he becomes an accomplished performer, plans his wedding, simultaneously contemplates whether he wants to get married and struggles with a remarkably dangerous sleepwalking problem. We're always hearing how great comedy comes from great personal pain. But it's rare for a film to demonstrate it so convincingly. This moving picture that has a lot of bits some of us may feel more than a little uncomfortable with due to self recognition. But it's hilarious and directly shows that process of turning real life trauma into hilarious stand-up.

My Sucky Teen Romance - With a bright pop look to it, some amusing dialog and earnest, likable (albeit not super slick) performances populating it I think it's hard not to enjoy My Sucky Teen Romance.  It's not a parody of vampire films, at least not a full on one.  Instead it feels more like a tragic romantic comedy that does get some of its laughs at the expense of Twilight and a trial and error process of figuring out which vampire lore applies in the kid's particular situation.  With many a nod towards the fact that it's hard out there for the teens...  If you're a mass consumer of vampire pop-culture I'd say My Sucky Teen Romance is definitely worth your time. There's a more comprehensive review lurking out there if you'd like to read more.

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Latest comment by: imaginary embracey: "

Las Acacias is a real gem, and I hope a lot of folks discover it at SIFF. I've thought about it frequently, and fondly, since I saw it a few weeks ago.

I was inclined to walk out of The Do-Deca Pentathlon by the end of the first half-hour, ...

SIFF 2012: Week One Highlights

The Imposter

A gritty South African noir, a gorgeous French-Canadian melodrama, and a cloying gay "message movie" from right here in the US of A are among the hits and misses on offer during SIFF 2012's first full week.  

Highlights for Monday-Sunday, 5/21 - 5/27:

DON'T MISS:

Elena

Elena{screens May 24 at 7pm at Pacific Place}
Gripping, stylish, gorgeously crafted Russian tale of a coveted bequest, pitiless class conflict, and the misdeeds of a tenuous marriage. He's rich, in poor health, and drawing up a will; her lazy son's trashy family needs dough. But noted filmmaker Andrei Zvyaginstev (The Return) doesn't allow their story to follow any prescribed path. Tension arrives in slight movements and subtle unravelings; it's a beautifully slow burn, and patience is rewarded manifold. Feast your eyes.

How to Survive a Plague
{screens May 21 at 9pm at Pacific Place}
Outsiders throughout history have been organizing to solve seemingly insurmountable problems; the dilemma du jour in mid-'80s NYC was the AIDS crisis. This marvelously thorough documentary focuses on organizations ACT-UP and TAG, their struggles with prevailing ideas of the day and their roles in the mid-'90s breakthrough of combination therapy. Via amazing archival footage we see the activists age and progress over the course of three presidential administrations and millions of deaths. A passionate and extraordinarily moving account of a hard-won turning point.

The Imposter
{screens May 23 at 8:30pm at the Uptown, May 29 at 9pm at the Harvard Exit}
Spellbinding, infuriating, beautifully executed documentary thriller about a French Algerian mystery-man who in 1997 passed himself off as a missing San Antonio teen, fooling international officials and (most astoundingly) the boy's actual family. Queasiness in the first half ends abruptly when an awesomely old-school local P.I. rolls in (complete with Johnny Cash fanfare) and gets the show on the road, leading the crazy-ass story to an edge-of-your-seat climax. The film satisfies, even if the real-life outcomes do not.

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