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SIFF

SIFF Take: A Brilliant Young Mind

“If beauty is truth and truth beauty, then maths must be the most beautiful thing in the world.”

A pastiche of gorgeous, even sumptuous color and pattern nevertheless maintains a slight emotional buffer, a thin and transparent but ever-present barrier between beauty and the sensation of experiencing that beauty. Drops of red, red blood—redder than a stop light or the red lorry that runs it—retain a rare, fragile beauty, even as it’s clear what they represent. The camera often settles just shy of the expected distance, or just a little too close or too far too the side, and we see things, maybe, perhaps at least a bit, the way Nathan does. Nathan’s a math genius, and on the spectrum. But A Brilliant Young Mindis not a triumph-of-the-savant film, and it’s not about colors. Plot-wise, in fact, it’s pleasantly familiar. Nathan (Asa Butterfield, best known from Hugo) convenes with a veritable nerd convention—musical, mathematical, acerbic, semi-cool, insufferable, autistic, and garden-variety—to pursue a slot at the Internationals Math Olympics. They, and the adults around them, go through their sometimes routine, sometimes extraordinary days trying to figure out how to navigate relationships when relationships are far more inscrutable than the math problems they’re bent on solving.

{A Brilliant Young Mind screens at SIFF 5/28, at 4pm at The Harvard Exit.} 

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SIFF Take: Circle

Circle is a Sci-Fi social experiment where a group of people fleeing an alien invasion awaken to find themselves locked inside a room with a giant circular dial in the middle. It takes them a little bit of time to realize that each of them are “voting” to pick who will die. After discussing their options (of which there aren’t many; you choose who dies or you might be next), good and bad traits are revealed and cliques form in a battle for survival.

I wasn’t sure what to think about this film when it first began—spending 87 minutes in one room with the same people seemed like it might be a bit much, but I gotta give props to the filmmakers; it actually seemed just right. The cast is diverse and not entirely unrecognizable (hi Julie Benz!); something which suits the mood of the movie really well. All in all, I thought Circle was a good, suspenseful way to spend my viewing time.

{Circle screens at SIFF 5/28, 9pm—screening on standby—and again 5/29, 1:15pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Directors Aaron Hann & Mario Miscione are scheduled to attend both screenings} 

SIFF 2015 Recommendation: ALL THE KEVIN BACON THINGS

Footloose 1984

In case it’s not obvious, I am a huge fan of Kevin Bacon. A large part of this is because of Footloose, sure, because that movie came out right when I discovered dancing was the thing I loved to do the most—and HELLO: Ren McCormack was/is a stone cold fox. Plus: BEST SOUNDTRACK EVER. So good that I wore out my cassette tape in 1984… not once, but twice. But nevermind my Ren-obsession: Bacon is straight-up one of the best actors out there, and I never miss a chance to see him do his thing on screen. 

If you feel the same way I do, you can’t miss the double-feature of 80's classics screening this Tuesday, May 26 at SIFF Cinema Egyptian: Diner & Footloose. The next night (Weds May 27) is An Evening with Kevin Bacon, including a screening of his latest film: Cop Car.

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SIFF Take: The Games Maker

Here's a super quickie review in case you’re deciding whether or not to take the kiddos to see The Games Maker today at Lincoln Square at 1:00. My kids (5 and 8) loved it enthusiastically and were shocked, shocked! that I didn't give it a 5. Me, I thought it was a terrific premise solidly in need of a tighter script and better editing. But look, I'm being a spoil-sport. We get to follow our hero Ivan Drago (no evident relation to Rocky's nemesis) to an entire town built entirely by game designers (let's all move there immediately!). When he's sent to an oppressive boarding school that maintains strict, grey-tinted discipline despite having quite literally sunk a story or two underground over the decades, he meets a girl with an extraordinary talent for going unnoticed and a clever array of gadgets and schemata. Fascist game designer Morodian (Joseph Fiennes, who steals the show) wears satin pants and rolls with Evil Genius classics (shark tank!). Director Juan Pablo Buscarini's obvious love for the book it's based on infuses everything with a bit of extra brightness. Though (spoil-sport alert!) I have a suspicion, having never read the book, that some of the movie's less successful parts may stem from excessive fidelity to the source material. It's evidently a massively popular book in Argentina, but it hasn't been translated into English yet. And I am now realizing that I am so much That Guy that I speculate the book is better than the movie even though I not only haven't I read it, I can't read it. Dear readers, any Spanish speakers who can confirm or deny my theory?

In summary. Kids: 5. Me: not 5 but totally worth it.

{The Games Maker screens at SIFF 5/25, 1:00 pm at Lincoln Square Cinemas. Director Daniel Juan Pablo Buscarini is scheduled to attend.}

SIFF Take: Being Evel

I wasn’t quite born yet when daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel did his most famous jumps, but I do remember watching them on reruns of Wide World of Sports and learning later that he inspired Fonzie’s “shark jump” on Happy Days (worst decision ever), so I went into this documentary with very little knowledge about the man inside the white leather jumpsuit.

Being Evel is the portrait of a man who built himself up into an American Hero by sheer ambition. One of my favorite moments in the film is how he convinced the owner of Caesar’s Palace to book his own jump over the fountain by impersonating several different people in the press and creating hype—a jump, by the way, that he didn’t make, and that you get to see replayed over and over in the (literally) bone-crushing TV footage.

After that, he kept concocting crazier and crazier stunts that earned him more and more money; money which he spent on cars, flashy jewelry, women, and some of the most fantastic 70s-era suits I’ve ever seen. As you can imagine, suddenly having millions of dollars and fame can warp a person’s perspective and by the time he made his Snake River Canyon rocket jump, he had morphed into kind of a monster.

I don’t want to spoil what, exactly, caused him to completely fall out of favor with the public—but man oh man. It’s quite a story.

{Being Evel screens at SIFF 5/28, 6:30pm at SIFF Cinema Egyptian, and again 5/30, 2:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown; Director Daniel Junge scheduled to attend both screenings}

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SIFF Take: Valley of the Sasquatch

Valley of the Sasquatch

Forced out of their home and with very little savings left, Roger and his son Michael end up trying to make a home in a rustic—and completely trashed by some kind of wild animal—family cabin. But what’s supposed to be the beginning of a new life turns into a weekend of partying when dad’s abrasive BFF Sergio shows up, along with Michael’s Uncle Will.

After Sergio swears he sees something “huge and hairy” lumbering in the woods, tales swirl around the campfire about Bigfoot … and it’s not long before he makes an appearance again and tries to reclaim his land from the human interlopers.

Valley of the Sasquatch is pretty much exactly what I expected: a retro-feeling-stuck-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere monster flick that could run on SyFY—except instead of CGI’ing the heck out of everything, it relies on some pretty boss practical effects. Just a note: it takes a really, really, really, REALLY long time to get where it’s going, but at least you get to take in some gorgeous WA forest scenery while it’s getting there.

{Valley of the Sasquatch screens 5/24, 8pm & 5/26, 4pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Director John Portanova & Producers Jeremy Berg & Matt Medisch scheduled to attend both screenings}

SIFF 2015 Preview: NW Connections

You know I always have to run through the Northwest Connections program for SIFF! This year’s offerings include a lot of documentaries and a fair amount of my favorite movie genre: HORROR.  

First up: I’m stupidly excited for The Primary Instinct because Stephen Tobolowsky is THE BEST EVER and I love listening to The Tobolowsky Files on NPR more than anything else—and I’ve never gotten to see any of his live shows. {Screens 5/29, 9:45pm & 5/30, 12pm at SIFF Cinema Egyptian; Director David Chen & subject Stephen Tobolowsky scheduled to attend both screenings}

I’m not sure I even understand what’s happening in the preview of The Hollow One, but my splatter-loving heart was all-in the second they panned to a close-up of the girl with blood dripping off of her face. Plus, setting the action out in the middle of nowhere on an abandoned farm means I’ll be genuinely scared. This one looks like (creepy, horrific) fun! {Screens 5/27, 9pm & 5/28, 3:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown; Director Nathan Hendrickson & Producer Sherry Floyd scheduled to attend both screenings} 

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SIFF Take: Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy

Two angelic 9-year-old twin boys arrive home to find their mother in the hallway with a face all wrapped up in plastic surgery bandages. Mommy needs her rest in order to recover—never mind that she lurks around in her bedroom poking at her bloodshot eyes or pretends to be sleeping when she’s really having a snack.

After awhile, mommy’s strange behavior convinces the boys that maybe she’s not their mommy at all and that’s when the games begin. Don’t worry! They’re just little boys … who keep an entire glass aquarium filled with cockroaches in their room. Totally normal, right?

I’ve seen too many horror movies with twins to be surprised at the ending of this one, but it was still pretty horrifying. Here’s a hint: you’ll never be able to look a tube of superglue quite the same way again.

{Goodnight Mommy screens one more time 5/18, 9pm at SIFF Cinema Egyptian} 

SIFF 2015 Preview: Face the Music

Forgive me for chiming in a little late on ALL THE SIFF THINGS, but [I could insert many, many excuses here – but let’s just chalk it up to go old procrastination] better late than never, right?! This year’s Seattle International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night and I wanted make sure y’all had a chance to mark your calendars up with some choice Face the Music programming.

First up: The much-anticipated Marco Collins documentary The Glamour & the Squalor is finally getting its release at SIFF! I remember making mixed tapes solely from Marco’s 107.7 shows when I was a teen, trying desperately to catch his eye when THE END did broadcasts from my community college parking lot a few years later, and then just trying to keep it cool when I met him not too long ago at a friend’s birthday party. Needless to say, I’m a fan and I’m super excited to see this.

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Beyond the Fest: SIFF films that will (hopefully) open soon

The Babadook

With over 400 films playing the 40th Seattle International Film Festival, there was NO WAY I was going to be able to watch and write about what got me into those theater seats before the festival was over—or, more importantly, before they screened for the last time during it.

Here’s a quick list of films that I recommend tracking down for viewing. Fingers crossed they will ALL show up at Seattle theaters soon! 

The Babadook {tentative release date: October 2014}
Holycrap, you guys. HOLYCRAP. I was not prepared for how awesome this Australian horror film would be. I mean, how scary can another spin on The Boogeyman actually be, right? The answer, though, is REALLY F’ING SCARY. The basics: grieving mom, out-of-control son, creepy book, unleashed creature, possession, and some really amazing imagery. The Babadook is a non-stop ball of tension from beginning to end, the acting is freaking amazing, the creature F/X are great. I can’t even express how surprised I was by this movie, and how utterly terrified I was while watching it. Bonus: The Babadook pop-up book featured in the film is so goddamn cool! I hear the filmmakers are considering a kickstarter to produce it for real, and I am prepared to throw my money at them as soon as they do.

Fight Church
Bryan Storkel brings us another tale of the secret lives of Christians, but instead of showing us pastors who gamble, this film dives into pastors who moonlight on the mixed martial arts/cage fighting circuit. Wait, what? Let’s just say it’s a lot scary than Holy Rollers—particularly when you realize these guys are teaching their beliefs about beating the crap out of other guys being a “spiritual” thing to their kids, and even moreso when it extends beyond the arena to the gun range.

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