Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life after SIFF


SIFF ended on Sunday, and TVOR, after spending almost a month reveling in an excessive number of films, is coming down from her cinematic high. Apparently movies have continued to be released while she was in film festival land, and she has some catching up to do. But in the meantime, here a few films she's seen and can recommend:

Directed by Duncan Jones

This nicely done science fiction film is all about character and ideas, and not about technology. If you want intergalactic battles, you can go elsewhere. Sam Rockwell plays a corporate employee finishing up a three-year stint operating mines on the moon. It's a one-man operation, and his only companion is a computer with the voice of Kevin Spacey. Interesting stuff happens, but TVOR doesn't want to reveal much because it's fun watching it unfold.

Summer Hours
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas

TVOR wrote a bit about this in earlier posts. She won't rehash things, but it's a wonderful film and you should go see it.

Directed by Yojira Takita

This year's foreign film Oscar winner is a sweet story, guaranteed to please crowds. TVOR has talked about this one previously as well, and recommends it.

Food, Inc.
Directed by Robert Kenner

This comprehensive documentary explores the many ways that multinational corporations determine what we eat. It just ain't pretty, and it's mighty scary. If you're fairly well informed, there won't be much new in it, but it's a well-presented summary that'll get your dander up, if not more.

And for those of us in Seattle, SIFF is having a series of screenings this weekend called "The Best of SIFF '09". The best? Depends on your point of view. But the weekend is full of movies that people enjoyed and/or responded to. Here's TVOR's take on the ones she's seen:

Directed by Lynn Shelton
A hoot, definitely one to see. Old friends decide to enter an amateur porn contest. And no, they're not that kind of friends.

Black Dynamite
Directed by Scott Sanders
This year's Golden Space Needle award-winner for best film, voted on by the audience. It's an hilarious parody of '70's blaxploitation films.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
And speaking of parodies, here's a French take on the spy parody genre, set in the '60. Maxwell Smart and Austin Powers' Gallic counterpart is just plain stupid and appalling in every way, but the movie is pretty darn funny.

Morris: A Life With Bells On
Directed by Lucy Akhurst
OK, here's an original concept--a mockumentary about Morris dancing. TVOR was only dimly aware of actual Morris dancing, and she's not too sure how different the real thing is from the mock thing. In spite of her lack of background knowledge, she had a good time watching this movie. It's also fun to watch wonderful English actors participate in a film of supreme silliness, and do it well.

Directed by Barbara Schroeder Sherman
This true crime documentary about cyber-romance gone bad is fascinating, sad, and a little bit creepy. Who knew people lied about themselves on the internet? (FYI, TVOR, a past winner of both the MacArthur genius grant and the Nobel Peace Prize, is stunningly beautiful and sings opera at La Scala in her spare time.)

Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle
Directed by David Russo
TVOR won't even try to describe the plot of this one, but it's pretty wild and pretty interesting. There's a little animation thrown in (although it's not an animated film), and it's fun to look at and listen to. The soundtrack is by "Awesome", TVOR's favorite Seattle band.

The Cove
Directed by Louie Psihoyos
This documentary on the dolphin trade in Japan is very tough to watch (TVOR had to avert her eyes) but powerful and well put together.

There are more films playing at SIFF this weekend--TVOR is planning to catch the Georgian (the country, not the state) jury prize winner The Other Bank and Peter Greenaway's Rembrandt's J'accuse. And of course, she's very intrigued by Swimsuit Issue. Who can resist a Swedish film about a male synchronized swimming team?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quick SIFF Update--#5


Mid-August Lunch--TVOR loved this Italian film about a sixty-ish guy living with his ancient and demanding mother, who finds himself dealing with and caring for several other old ladies as well. It's delightful and charming and you will be smiling as you leave the theater.

Rain--this movie is mostly interesting because it was made in the Bahamas and shows us lives being lived there that we would never get to see in person. Unfortunately the story and the acting don't really measure up to the look of the film.

The Market - A Tale of Trade--This is theoretically a British film, but it takes place in Turkey, is in Turkish, and looks and sounds like a Turkish film. It's about a guy who is trying to get himself set up in the cellphone business, and is wheeling and dealing any way he can to raise the money he needs. A nice look at a community, a road movie, and a film about capitalism as it works its way into poor communities. TVOR liked it a lot.

Buick Riviera--a Bosnian and a Serb meet up in the U.S. in this Croatian movie. Yes, really. And parts of the film do take place in a Buick Riviera. It's interesting but not as engaging as TVOR would have liked. Not bad, not great.

In Your Absence--this Spanish film looks great, and starts off interestingly, but then there are some developments that could make you groan and roll your eyes. This happened to TVOR and she cannot recommend the movie. Really stupid plots are hard to overcome.

Now in theaters, plus SIFF part four


At last Summer Hours, one of TVOR's favorite recent films, is in wider release. This French film about a family dealing with a house full of possessions has real humans in it, who act like humans. It's wonderful.

TVOR also liked Departures, from Japan, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film earlier this year. It's not the best, but it's still worth seeing. It's a real crowd-pleaser, and somewhat emotionally manipulative, but TVOR went along with it and didn't mind being manipulated. It's also a film that's very audience friendly, even if some in the the audience are dubious about subtitles and foreign films in general.

And if you're in Seattle, Sita Sings the Blues is still playing! This is amazing and wonderful news, and anybody who can make it to the theater should do so.

And now for some brief blurbs on films coming up at SIFF:

Patrik Age 1.5--nice entertaining Swedish film about a gay adoption that does not go as expected.

Passing Strange--Spike Lee's film of the musical. Very nicely done, on beautiful HD video. It sounds great too.

Welcome--TVOR liked this French film about illegal immigrants trying to get across the channel to England very much.

Fear Me Not--TVOR also really liked this Danish film about a man participating in a drug trial.

Kabei--Our Mother--another nice Japanese film, a family saga.

Tahaan--A Boy With a Grenade--don't bother.

Black Dynamite--very silly, very funny parody of a 70's blaxploitation movie.

What's On Your Plate--good documentary targeted at kids about a couple of kids investigating what's in food, and where it comes from.

Il Divo--an Italian film about Prime Minister Andreotti, with wonderful visuals and sound.

Mommy is at the Hairdresser's
--very good French Canadian film about a family under a lot of stress.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies--a French parody of spy movies, free and outside at a park. What could be better?

Hooked--tough Romanian film about a couple and a prostitute who insinuates herself into their relationship.

Gotta Dance--a documentary about a group of senior dancers who do hip-hop at New Jersey Nets games. What's not to like about that?

With a Little Help from Myself--a portrait of an immigrant from Africa trying to survive in Paris and keep her family going. Very good.