Friday, June 14, 2013

The Best of SIFF--and more


Whew.  After 25 days of maniacal movie-going, TVOR is taking a break for a few days to reintroduce herself into the real world.  Which is very nice, actually, although she does miss those dark movie theaters.

Fortunately, although SIFF is over, Best of SIFF is just beginning.  A number of jury award winners and audience favorites will be playing at SIFF’s Uptown Theater.  Some of these films will be distributed and show up at various theaters around the country in the coming months, but some will be harder to find.  Seattleites might want to take advantage of the opportunity to see them while they can.  Here’s TVOR’s take on the offerings--

Fanie Fourie’s Lobola:  This romantic comedy from South Africa won the Golden Space Needle audience award for Best Film, and that’s no surprise.  The film is a delight, and we root for this couple to overcome the genre-required obstacles and get together.  And since he’s an Afrikaans boy and she’s a Zulu girl, there are quite a few obstacles.  Distribution has not been firmed up on this film yet, so see it while you can.

Our Nixon:  It turns out that Richard Nixon’s top aides Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Chapin were making home movies of their time in the White House.  They were having a great time--or more accurately, they were having a great time until they started having a very bad time.  Our Nixon consists entirely of found footage, including the Super 8 footage shot by the three aides, news coverage, and subsequent interviews, with extra audio supplied by the Nixon tapes.  This is by no means a full account of the man or the presidency, but it’s an eye-opener, and very entertaining.  TVOR assumes the film will be available for viewing at some point, but doesn’t know when or where.  It’s another one you should grab the opportunity to see while you can.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks:  Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning documentarian (for Taxi to the Dark Side--he also made Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, among others) has done it again with this fascinating story about Wikileaks, and the people involved with it.  Neither Julian Assange nor Bradley Manning were interviewed for the film (Gibney and Assange could not agree on terms, and Bradley Manning is locked up) but the portraits that emerge from their writings, already existing film, and interviews with those that know them, are complex and may challenge any opinions you already have about them.  The film also gives a number of people the chance to speak their minds on the subjects of secrecy, leaking, and the consequences of both.  TVOR found much of what they have to say troubling if not downright appalling.  This is one to see, and you’ll have opportunities, as the film is in distribution now.

20 Feet From Stardom:  This documentary about backup singers will please anybody who loves the music these talented but largely unheralded artists help create.  There are interviews with ex-Raylettes, Ikettes, and singers who have worked with the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and others, along with the artists they supported.  And there’s lots of music.  This is another film that is being distributed, so see it in a theater with a good sound system!

7 Boxes:  A low-budget, fast-paced Paraguayan film about a young delivery boy who is tasked with delivering seven boxes from point A to point B in a busy public market. This film has great chase scenes involving hand carts.

Populaire:  A silly but entertaining French romantic comedy set in the late 50’s, with great costumes and art direction, and a plot revolving around a typing competition.  TVOR hasn’t heard anything about distribution on this one, so this could be your last chance...

Key of Life:  A Japanese comedy in which a total loser of a guy gets mistaken for a sophisticated assassin.  TVOR was less enamored than most with this film.  She really got to like the assassin and found the loser quite irritating.

C.O.G.:  This film, which many enjoyed, is based on an essay by David Sedaris.  It’s a well put-together film, with good acting, but TVOR would have preferred to have spent her time reading Mr. Sedaris’ work.

Decoding Annie Parker:  This film tells about the discovery of the BRCA “breast cancer” gene, and one woman who had it.  The film is certainly timely, but TVOR can’t really recommend it.  There is some wonderful acting, especially by Samantha Morton, as the woman battling both cancer and a medical establishment which refuses to believe that there could be a genetic aspect to it, but the film doesn’t really hold together--at least in TVOR’s opinion.  Many disagreed.

Fortunately, there are some other interesting movies that are opening around the country, films that can provide an alternative to the big summer blockbusters, or act as a palate cleanser between those mega-movies.

What Maisie Knew:  One of the best films TVOR has seen recently, this film, based on the Henry James novel, tells a modern-day story of a little girl who is the pawn of her divorcing parents.  Excellent performances all around, especially Onata Aprile as the little girl, and Julianne Moore as her mother.

Kings of Summer:  A wonderful coming-of-age film about three teenagers who decide to build a house in the woods and live it in over the summer.  Very nicely done, and Nick Offerman is wonderful as one of the parents.

Stories We Tell:  Actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley has done it again with this fascinating and very entertaining documentary about her own family (and her own parentage).  Fortunately for us, it’s about much more than that, and there’s something for all of us in it.

Much Ado About Nothing:  Joss Whedon adapted Shakespeare’s comedy, set it in modern times, and shot the whole thing in twelve days in his own home, using actors from his previous projects.  It’s a delight, even for suspicious Shakespeare fans, who don’t like their man to be messed with.  This film could generate a whole new group of Whedonites.

Wish You Were Here:  A gripping Australian film about the aftermath of a vacation gone horribly wrong.  Two couples go to a Cambodian beach town, and only three people come home.  Yikes!

Frances Ha:  Directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Greta Gerwig, this story of a lost twenty-something trying to find her way in New York is so much better than it could have been.  It’s not one of TVOR’s favorite genres, but this is a well-done example.

Dirty Wars:  Journalist Jeremy Scahill takes us on a voyage through U.S. covert military operations, things many of us find appalling, and which are occurring in secrecy.  TVOR thinks this should be required viewing for informed citizens.

The Bling Ring:  Sophia Coppola’s new film is a beautifully made film about an appalling group of teenagers who steal from celebrities--but not celebrities who are famous for having done impressive things.  No, they steal from celebrities who, for the most part, are famous for being famous.  TVOR doesn’t watch reality shows, has stayed relatively ignorant of this world, and didn’t enjoy the film.  And if there was a point, she missed it. Others, however, disagreed.

So that's what TVOR knows about summer movies at this point. Do go play outside, but when you come inside and want to see a movie, you now have some non-mainstream options.

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