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SIFF

SIFF Take: Putzel

Walter Himmelstein, aka "Putzel" (Jack Carpenter, who could not be MORE perfect for this role), has grown up in a small section of the Upper West Side his entire life and has never left it. Waiting to take over his family's smoked fish deli, Putzel seems like he's constantly on the verge of a breakdown; exhibiting nervous scratching ticks, second-guessing everything he does, and in serious denial about the cumbling state of his marriage. But he's still determined to take hold of the business and make it a success. 

And then two things happen that throw a wrench into Putzel's carefully composed "40-year plan": his Uncle Sid (John Pankow, who I love watching on Episodes), decides to sell the deli and move to Arizona, and an enchanting bartender/dancer named Sally (Melanie Lynskey, please just marry me already) waltzes into the deli one day, managing to capture the heart of both Sid and Putzel. 

There's plenty of hilarious moments in this film, including the most-awkward dirty talk-sex scene I've ever seen, and the best cameo from Fran Kranz EVER (Hello, my name is Salmon). It's an adorable romantic comedy with adorable leads set in an adorable part of New York, and yes, even Director Jason Chaet is adorable (and very, very funny). It's a great film to laugh yourself silly through. 

{Putzel screens at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival one more time on Friday, 6/7, 1pm at AMC Pacific Place} 

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SIFF Take: 9 Full Moons

In 9 Full Moons, Frankie (Amy Seimetz, I sure do like seeing you in everything!) is so broken, that she drinks herself into oblivion hourly and even brushes off getting raped with a vague indifference and an admission that it was probably her fault for not fighting back. And Lev (Bret Roberts) is so broken that he barely registers any emotions and is so closed off that it would be impossible to ever know who he is. Hell, he probably doesn't even know.  

Frankie wants to be a traveling gypsy. Lev wants to break into the music biz ... and neither one of them know how to be happy. It's a match made in heaven, right? I'm being snarky, but it's kind of true. These broken people are so broken that only they could even begin to understand how broken the other one is. And you really, really want them to make it -- but you know they're probably just going to end up even more broken in the end. 

This film is gritty and dark and depressing as hell. But the screenplay is solid, the acting is fucking brilliant, and Donal Logue and Dale Dickey (again! man, I love that woman) are in it too. Definitely one you shouldn't pass up. 

{9 Full Moons is premiering at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Thursday, 6/6, 7pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. There will be a red carpet arrival with cast & crew, and a Q&A afterwards! It's also screening again on Saturday, 6/8, 1:45pm at The Harvard Exit. Director Tomer Almagor is scheduled to attend both screenings} 

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SIFF Take: The Girl with Nine Wigs

The Girl with Nine Wigs is a German drama about the real life of Sophie van der Stap, who found out she had a rare form of cancer when she was 21 years old, blogged through the entire process of treatment, and then wrote a book about it. 

But it's not just about the daily chemo drips and stark white hospital rooms and radiation treatments -- altho there is plenty of that (which is really, really hard to watch). It's about how she reclaimed her identity and continued to explore life by buying a bunch of awesome wigs and embracing them as different characters, which helped her get through even the roughest times.  

Of course there are moments of levity, as there would HAVE to be. Because otherwise, ow my heart. Lead actress Lisa Tomaschesky does a fantastic job expressing every complex emotion Sophie goes through, and Director Mac Rothemund grounds the whole story in beautiful reality. It definitely feels like an actual true-life story, as opposed to an adaptation of that story. 

It's really an important film to watch in terms of understanding what people who have cancer have to go through -- how their life is both different and the same as everyone else's. I just have to warn you that even though the outcome isn't as tragic as it could have been (don't feel like I'm spoiling anything here, but I apologize if you think I am), it's still a tough film to get through. It's worth it though, for sure. 

{The Girl with Nine Wigs is screening at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival on Wednesday, 6/5, 6:30pm at AMC Pacific Place, and again on Friday, 6/7, 3:30pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Actor Lisa Tomaschewsky and subject Sophie van der Stap are scheduled to attend both screenings} 

Photo Essay: SIFF hip-hop documentary The Otherside Premiere

Imaginary Rich hit the SIFF red carpet once again for the premiere of The Otherside last Friday night, and got some great photos of everyone who showed up to support the film, including Macklemore! Below are a some highlights, and you can see the whole set on Flickr here

TJ Santos and Macklemore

{More photos after the jump}

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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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