Thursday, May 24, 2012

SIFF 2012 - Week 1 Review

The 38th Seattle International Film Festival kicked off May 18 (techinally May 17 was the opening gala, but I never attend those), and so far it's turning out to be one of the best festivals I've been to in years. I encourage anyone in Seattle to

Here's a look at what I've seen over the past 8 days -

A Polish costume drama set in the 18th century about the famous religious leader Jacob Frank? It sounded right up my alley, but boy was it convoluted. The two lead actors try their best with a rather annoying script, and it was beautifully shot, but again disappointing.

The Intouchables
This touching, amazing film based on a true story, has become the third highest grossing film in France, almost outgunning Titanic. If the SIFF crowd on Friday night was any indication, I can see why. The theater was packed to the rafters with everyone from the mayor to the random Seattle granny to the young, poor hipster barista in attendance, all laughing and crying their asses off. I fully expect this film to have buzz carry it all the way to the 2013 Oscars.

The Sex of the Angels
A steamy tale of a complicated love triangle, involving 3 young Barcelonians. This film continues my almost annual SIFF tradition of seeing a Spanish film that tackles the subject of ménage a trois. I will say that “Angels” approached the theme in a fresh way; and the sex scenes were HOT. The three leads, especially Alvaro Cervantes, were maddeningly attractive.

Take This Waltz
As I tweeted last Saturday after I saw this, actor turned director Sarah Polley has done the impossible – she somehow made me not only like Seth Rogen, but actively root for him in a film. Rogen as Lou, husband to the lead character Margot, played subtlety by Michelle Williams, was a revelation. He was quiet, and unassuming, and sympathetic in ways that really showed off his acting skills. Yes! Seth Rogen, believe it or not, has acting skills. Sarah Silverman as Rogen’s alcoholic sister Gerry was also great. That said, the two lead characters played my Williams and Luke Kirby weren’t sympathetic at all. I think we were supposed to understand why they’re committing infidelity and be forgiving, but instead I just found them, Williams especially, incredibly selfish and annoying. This movie got a ton of great buzz at Sundance…last year, and then couldn’t find distribution so has kind of floundered. Which is surprising because it deserves to be seen and discussed.

So far, in my top 5 list of films that I’ve seen in the last 12 months. Amazingly directed, written, and produced by of all people, actor Matthew Lillard, this locally filmed and crewed Seattle-based labor of love was the definition of heartwarming. Newcomer Jacob Wysocki as the lead Troy was outstanding and Billy Campbell, playing Troy’s dad, continues to always knock it out of the park with whatever role he’s given. All of the cast and crew attended the packed screening that I was at, and the movie got a standing ovation at the end. GO SEE THIS!

In one word – DEPRESSING. I knew going into it that it was a modern adaptation of Hardy’s Tess of the D’ubervilles, and I read that book back in highschool so I know that it’s not an uplifting story. But DAMN, was this a downer of a film. Freida Pinto was freaking gorgeous however.

You guys? This movie was so annoying. And so FRENCH. Which is funny because while it takes place in Paris, it was made by a Polish director/writer. Anyway, this confusing as hell film revolves around Ethan Hawke’s character Tom, an American writer who gained fame and respect with his first novel, then subsequently lost both along with his French wife and their daughter when he did “something” that resulted in him being in a prison mental hospital for an indeterminate amount of time. He arrives in Paris at the start of the film, looking to reconcile with his ex and start seeing his daughter again, when she refuses and calls the police on him, he wanders the streets of Paris on a public bus and ends up being robbed of everything but his passport. And then the film begins in earnest with a confusing story involving Kristin Scott Thomas’ character Margit who may or may not be a ghost and/or a figment of Tom’s imagination? I wanted to punch someone after this thing was over.

Short Life

Good thing I had this amazingly shot documentary about Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet company to cleanse my palette after the disaster that was “The Woman in The Fifth”. An unflinching, honest look at the life of a dancer at PNB; shot almost 4 years ago. It was great seeing familiar faces. And the dancing was incredible as usual.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon
A nice, sweet, film. But overall just sort of mediocre. I’d recommend watching it on Netflix on a Sunday afternoon while folding laundry.

Growing up in the DC hardcore scene, Bad Brains was a group very close to my heart. This wonderful documentary provided an insightful, and unapologetically honest look at the band from their start in the late 70s to the present. The animation used in parts of the film was inspired!

Self-indulgent and ridiculous. Beautifully shot, but with the dialogue so poorly written, and acting so wooden, it was a disappointment from start to finish. But James Preston looks so much like James Dean it’s uncanny.

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