Tonight in Seattle:  

film

SIFF Review: Jump

Jump is an exhilirating time-running-out heist movie with meatheaded goons, a sadistic low-level crime boss, The Last Job, a crime that could save someone’s ass… all the stuff you'd look for from that genre. It’s also a girl’s-night-out comedy, with missed connections, shots lined up in a bar, flirting, escaping through a bathroom window, and some casual shoplifting. And there’s some meet-cute romance thrown in for good measure, although the meet cute is less standard: goons dangle the boy over the side of a bridge to dissuade him from searching for his brother, while the girl (who’s the goon’s boss’s daughter) is about to kill herself by jumping from the same bridge. Kismet! 

Jump puts all of these genres in a blender, throws in the chronology of the story, and presses puree. It’s as dense and layered and as out-of-order as the new season of Arrested Development, which means it only makes sense as you watch it, so I'll skip the plot summary. But as original and fresh as the pacing feels, there are two other, more striking things about it.

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SIFF Review: Short Stories

{Imaginary Embracey also wrote about Short Stories in his weekly SIFF wrap-up

WARNING: The preview video is NSFW, y'all.

Director Mikhail Segal stayed after the screening on Sunday to answer some questions, and he admitted that the device he uses to link the 4 stories in Short Stories is kinda lame, as devices go. But lame devices are easily forgiven when the result is so satisfying. The device in question is that a writer pitches his book of short stories to a publishing company, which passes because it’s not a novel. But the manuscript gets passed around the office, and each person who reads it becomes (not literally, just in a device-y sort of way) the main character in each story.

The film is only Segal’s second, but it’s confidently and beautifully shot, with a clear, distinctive point of view. Each story offers social commentary on the state of middle-class Russian life, ranging from bemused to scathing. I suspect my limited knowledge of Russian culture and history will rightfully subject my attempts at deciphering the messages to ridicule by those more informed, but here’s what I got. (Although I should preface these impressions bit by saying I was totally baffled by what was happening until well into each segment, so if you’d like to experience the revelations for yourself, just skip all this and go see it. In other words, SPOILERS.)

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SIFF Take: Short Term 12

Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield in Short Term 12 at SIFF 2013

Last year I was taken with a little film called I Am Not a Hipster, in particular the authenticity of it -- the feeling that these characters were real and tangible, and that they were just people trying to do the best they could with what they had. 

This year, Director Destin Daniel Cretton is back with Short Term 12, an expanded version of the same-named short (that I also saw at SIFF 2009, and which won the Grand Jury prize for short films) about a counselor at a foster-care group home for troubled teenagers. And the authentic feel he brought to last year's film is present in this one too. 

The feature focuses on Grace (Brie Larson; my love for you grows with every single role you play!), a counselor who oversees the staff and kids at the group home, which houses a diverse range of kids suffering for a variety of reasons; most of them having no where else to go. When Grace is asked to take in a new charge, her personal past starts leaking into the present blurring the lines between what is and what is not her responsibility. And as she steps outside the boundaries and rules, she withdraws further and further form her own life and relationship with fellow counselor Mason (John Gallagher Jr.; my favorite person on The Newsroom), and risks -- to sound a little cliche -- losing it all. 

It might sound typical, but I'm attracted to films that feel REAL, and Short Term 12 definitely definitely does. In no small part to the acting ... and not just from Larson and Gallagher -- the kids in this are nothing less than fantastic (especially newcomer Keith Stanfield as Marcus). I got sucked right into it, and was more than happy with the way it resolved at the end. 

Another solid film from Cretton, which makes me super interested in his next project. 

{Short Term 12 screens at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Sunday, 6/2, 6:30pm, and again on Monday, 6/3, 4:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Director Destin Daniel Cretton is scheduled to attend both showings} 

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SIFF Archival Presentation: Safety Last!

Let Safety Last! remind us of two important things: one, that SIFF also screens magnificent archival films like this one, as well as contemporary works; and two, that just because something is iconic doesn’t mean you’ve actually, well, seen it. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t recognize the indelible image of Harold Lloyd hanging perilously from that clock tower, but I hadn’t even seen that one scene until a few years ago, and this weekend was my first time seeing the whole film start to finish. Janus Films has done a brilliant job restoring it—it’s stunningly clear—so even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth another, much clearer viewing.

The film strings together an inexhaustible supply of brilliant sight-gags and bits. My kids especially liked one where Lloyd and his roommate hide from their landlady by climbing inside their coats and hanging themselves on a coat rack, while my favorite involved dealing with a ravenous pack of old ladies at a sale counter. But there is in fact a plot, as well. Lloyd goes to The Big City to Make it Big, and keeps involving himself in ever escalating shenanigans to try and front that he’s successful. The breathtaking final ascent up the building is in pursuit of a reward that’ll save him from admitting to his girl that he can’t even pay for lunch. I really hope they reuse the print after the festival wraps up to let another crowd enjoy it.

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Recommended SIFF + Ticket Giveaway: I Used to Be Darker {6/4 & 6/5}

I can barely watch the trailer for I Used to Be Darker without breaking down in tears, but since I haven't had a chance to see the film yet, I can't tell you whether or not the whole thing is a devastating chronicle of depression, or whether there's some hope at the end. 

What I can tell you is that it looks like it's beautifully-shot, elegantly-acted, and packed with gorgeously-composed music by Kim Taylor and Ned Oldham (who also star as the leads), and that it's probably going to break your heart in a million good ways. And if you're like me, you enjoy sitting through an hour and a half of something raw and real -- something that lets you have a good cry, embrace what you identified with, and then leave the theater and move on to your own, happier real life.

Anyway -- we've got two tickets for EACH SHOWING to giveaway, so pack up your tissues … and maybe a flask*, if that's your thing, and email us for a chance to win 'em. The film screens on Tuesday, 6/4, 6:30pm and Wednesday, 6/5, 3:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown (Director Matthew Porterfield is scheduled to attend both). Shoot us an email at tig {at} threeimaginarygirls {dot} com with the subject line "heartbreak" anytime between now and 7am Tuesday, 6/4. And make sure you tell us which screening you want tickets to! We'll notify the winners shortly after we pull the names. 

*TIG is not endorsing drinking in theaters. But we're not *not* endorsing it either. Take that as you will. 

SIFF Review: Ludwig II

King Ludwig II was so outlandish, so brazen in his flamboyance, that over time even his myths have developed myths. From the little I know about his life, I’ll speculate that the directors of his latest biopic, Marie Noelle and Peter Sehr, weren’t necessarily as concerned with historical fidelity or dispelling myths as they were with telling a particular story about him: that he was a romantic idealist, so sure that art could overcome the horrors of the real world that when his plans failed he was driven irreversibly into despair and delusion.

It’s a good story. I’m into it. But a great movie it is not. Somewhere after the midpoint, after a spectacularly dramatic climax (overdramatic, but it’s Ludwig, so go for it) and dénouement, the film tries for yet another act and runs right off the rails.

Its biggest crime, by a country mile, is jettisoning Sabin Tambrea, who plays Ludwig as a young man, in favor of a more age-appropriate Sebastian Schipper when the character ages. Huge mistake. If the story is great, it pales in comparison to how great Tambrea’s performance is. He’s like Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia, or Viggo Mortenson in GI Jane, just acting his fucking socks of while the rest of the movie teeters tenuously around him, threatening to collapse from all the Drama. It’s the role of a lifetime, and he knocks it out of the park.

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SIFF Take: Teddy Bears

Melanie Lynskey and David Krumholtz in Teddy Bears

Reading the description of Teddy Bears made me think that maybe I didn't want to see it. A movie about a guy trying to convince his friends to sleep with him so he can cure his depression over the death of his mother? I mean, what. This sounds like one of my ex-boyfriend's brilliant ideas (jk! kind of). COME ON.

But! The cast. Ohman the cast. The amazing Melanie Lynskey (I still obsess over her guest spot on The Shield ... among other things), instantly likable David Krumholtz (Mr. Universe!), hilarious Gillian Jacobs, wide-eyed cutie Jason Ritter, the only good thing about Flashforward: Zachary Knighton, and Ahna O'Reilly?!?!? Whoa. And I also took note that it's co-directed by Thomas Beatty and Rebecca Fishman. A male/female team, sharing directing duty? That pushed me over the edge from "maybe" to "YES." 

And boy am I glad I said YES. 

Krumholtz plays Andrew, the aforementioned guy who just can't seem to shake the depression that's settled on him after this mom's long, painful death. Focused on the idea that only a "wave of love" all at once will heal him, he invites his best friends out to a house in the middle of the desert and proposes that the three women (his girlfriend, Hannah, played by Lynskey -- and his other friends' girlfriends) have sex with him. Everyone laughs it off initially, but as the evenings and days go on and Andrew doesn't let up, it starts to affect the group in unexpected ways. 

And this is where having a kick-ass cast makes the difference between a forgettable dark comedy and a great one: every single person in Teddy Bears is acting the hell out of every scene. You can see each emotion play out clearly, and yeah: you really, really, really, get to love these characters -- and in some cases, hate them. Even the small parts are awesome (French Stewart! Dale Dickey!). 

I also love that the proposal never becomes a "will they or won't they" thing; instead, the film moves from character to character, exploring how the it affects each one and their relationships with the others. It's equal parts funny and sad, and it's beautifully done. Nice job, guys. 

{Teddy Bears screens at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Saturday, 6/1, 9:30pm, and again on Sunday, 6/2, 3:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Directors Thomas Beatty & Rebecca Fishman, and actors Gillian Jacobs, Zachary Knighton, David Krumholtz & Melanie Lynskey (!!!) are scheduled to attend both showings} 

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SIFF Take: Computer Chess

(n.b. Very little in this trailer is actually in the final cut of the film...)

It’s well-travelled territory to discuss how hip it is to call one’s self a nerd, meaning “I like superheroes or sci-fi,” “I wasn’t explicitly popular,” or “I like one thing a lot more than other people I know personally,” but pure nerds—socially inept people blissfully immersed in some sort of technical pursuit, with questionable grooming skills—remain decidedly unhip. Computer Chess is about those kind of nerds. I love those kind of nerds.

I think the director, Mumblecore-originator Andrew Bojalski, does too. He shot the whole thing on vintage equipment with mostly non-actors, and although there is plenty of chatting in rooms in a Mumblecore sort of way, the film also builds some interesting tension along the way. The film follows, Office-documentary-style, two conventions overlapping at the same crappy hotel over one 1980 weekend: a chess tournament between computer programs run by their developers and a Couple’s Encounter Group.

The movie isn’t especially brilliant or moving, but it’s funny. And it gets at some interesting ideas. The hero is so incredibly nerdy he’s all but inert, but he’s the only one with enough acuity to recognize that the computer he’s working on may be developing something like a personality. Meanwhile, the Encounter Group participants go around spreading their inner harmony and good will and socially inappropriateness all over everything like lawn sprinklers. Bojalski treads a wee bit closely to making fun of his ragtag group at times, but mostly he stays on the affectionate side.

{Computer Chess screens at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on Friday, 5/31, 4:30pm at the Harvard Exit. Actor Myles Paige is scheduled to attend.} 

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SIFF 2013: Week Three Highlights

The Wall

Two speculative-fiction films (one good, one terrible), a buzzy doc about backup singers, and a purgatory-set Amélie are among the highs, lows, and in-betweens of SIFF 2013 week 3 (May 31 - June 6).

DON'T MISS:

The Wall
{screens June 1 at 6:30pm and June 2 at 12:45pm at the Harvard Exit}
I had mixed emotions viewing this odd, slow, science-fictiony film, but it's stayed with me and my appreciation has grown. The premise is clearly metaphorical -- a woman visiting a remote Alpine homestead finds herself trapped and alone behind a mysterious invisible wall -- and if you're ok with that you're in for a beautifully contemplative experience. The landscape photography is stunning, and the German actress Martina Gedeck amazes in the lead role; her character's narrative voiceover is filled with eloquent ruminations on solitude, connectedness, and the natural world.

TAKE OR LEAVE:

Fatal
{screens June 5 at 4pm at the Uptown and June 6 at 9:45pm at Pacific Place}
A kind of revenge drama from South Korea centering on a very uncomplicated young man who is bullied into participating in a despicable act of violence against a classmate. Attempting to atone ten years later, he forms a relationship with the victim, who is oblivious to his role in the crime. The film is engaging throughout, with the exception of a few clumsily-executed dream sequences, and it doesn't seem micro-budget at all (it was reportedly made for $3000). I just had a really difficult time connecting with this protagonist.

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SIFF Take: Mutual Friends

Mutual Friends SIFF 2013

Ensemble romantic comedies aren't really my favorite, but there's something about Mutual Friends that makes the genre feel fresh. 

I think that's mostly due to Caitlin Fitzgerald, who plays the confused Liv with equal parts frazzle and adorableness. Liv is engaged to Christoph (Cheyenne Jackson, who I guess used to be on Glee, but I mainly know him from 30 Rock), but she had a fling with her tousled hair-BFF Nate (Peter Scanavino), whom she may or may not sorta kina be in love with. Determined to forget about Nate and his flaky-non-commitment ways, she decides to throw Christoph the best birthday ever -- but there are some complications (aren't there always?).  

Christoph's ex, Annie, is in town and trying to get him back; friends Sammy & Adele are going through some rough times (mainly due to Adele getting naked in the woods with another man), Paul & Beatrice are having a baby -- but Paul might not be quite ready for that; Liv's drifter brother Thomas decides to "help", and ends up decorating the party with a mish-mash of kindergarden games and terrible snacks, AND hires a stripper to bartend (OOPS); and Liv's strange ex, Cody, shows up at the last minute. Oh, and all of them are dispensed pretty solid relationship and life advice by the happiest, most together couple: the constantly pot-smoking, ultra laid-back Chernus & Lucy. 

Even though the resolution for each couple is mostly predictable, there are a few surprisingly good jokes sprinkled within that don't regurgitate the same old-same old. It's a nice, light evening at the cinema that'll still provide you with room to think. 

{Mutual Friends screens at the 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival on Friday, 5/31, 6:30pm, and again on Saturday, 6/1, 3pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown}

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