Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Breakfast On Pluto

16plut.2.650.jpg

Breakfast On Pluto has been getting so-so reviews. The film, which opens Friday at the Varsity, currently has a 51% rating on the Tomatometer. The common complaint seems to be that it's a superficial, insufficiently political piece of fluff with a shallow, unchanging character at its center. True, and yet these very qualities make it fairly enjoyable. The film is invariably compared to The Crying Game, but has more in common with The Velvet Goldmine. As in Goldmine, Pluto builds its framework from a 70's glam aesthetic, but Jordan does a far better job of investing his fondness for that period in his characters. Patrick 'Kitten' Braden is not a riff on Bowie or Bolan, but on the common sources they shared, namely rock 'n roll and Hollywood glamour and, like both of those wellsprings, the charm of the character resides in the faith that he shall never die. Kitten is indeed an unchanging, un-ageing, indestructible figure who weathers fire, explosions and assaults, both physical and emotional, virtually unscathed. In that regard he shares more in common with Candy than Candide, though foregoing either's satirical purpose. Like Candy, Kitten is a love magnet, winning if not warming the heart of every potential adversary whether they be bikers, rockers, IRA members, cops or clergy. Whereas in real life such a person would come to a dozen ignoble ends, Kitten nimbly traverses through a cat's worth of lives. Although the film skits upon the Troubles of Ireland and has a note to say about intolerance, it is really more a fantasy of survival and acceptance, which is, when you really come down to it, what the romance of the movies is all about. Like James Bond, the allure of Kitten is that he can't be killed or rejected. Breakfast On Pluto, then, is a feel good film, a Disney movie for grownups, complete with talking robins. It's true that Cillian Murphy's unique performance [which, at turns, reminds one of Sissy Spacek and Miranda July] has a frilly, solipsistic quality that would become grating if encountered for more than, say, the 135 minutes of the film, but then, would you really want to date Holly Golightly? Breakfast On Pluto also has the virtue of sporting a fine supporting cast and perhaps the best damned soundtrack of the year, featuring three songs by Harry Nilsson, two by Van Morrison, a brace of tunes by Slade, T-Rex and Dusty Springfield and one by Britain's greatest furry band, The Wombles.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Potter blindness


Yesterday due to an unexpected block of free time totaling over an hour, I went to the first film I've been able to attend in, what, six months? My car was in the shop getting a new clutch, making the film (or the commute) one of the most expensive in living memory, for me.


It was a screening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at Pacific Place, and I enjoyed the film. At this point I think the franchise has more-or-less figured out how to deal with the overly-formulaic books and barring a sudden change in plumerie from Ms. Rowling, expect the films to deliver a richer experience than the written precursors.


However, it's three months too late for a review of this film, so what I'm really interested in reporting is that in theater, um, 3 (?) last night, for whatever reason, a) there were no previews whatsoever for any filum, and furthermore, the interminable ad reel portion of our evening was presented, radically, entirely sans image. In my excitement, I failed to note if the good patrons were storming the gates in search of animated polarbears and the like, but that failure in and of itself constitutes reportage - there was certainly no hub-bub of complaint.



Monday, December 12, 2005

Evaluations: Quick And Expensive Comments on The Talent In The Room

The Writer has noticed that, like an ill-fated space launch, Seattle films have a tendency to be shot into the cosmos, never to be heard from again. Indeed, many fail to even complete a sub-orbital flight, bouncing back upon the stratosphere, disintegrating upon re-entry. The Writer thinks that, perhaps, there should be an Ansari X Prize for the first locally made film to achieve full orbit [i.e. a significant number of people not related to, personally acquainted with or employed by the filmmakers, paying money to see the film in at least 100 theaters not located in Seattle]. Is there such a project waiting in the wings? Let's review the line-up.

Given Guy Maddin's status, The Brand Upon The Brain! would have to be considered the most favorable contender. If the film is half as good as Cowards Bend The Knee it will be a lovely masterpiece. Although the film, still in post-production, has missed the trajectory for Sundance it will, without doubt, land at a festival of choice and receive a healthy measure of notice. However, Maddin, being a Canadian, cannot be considered a local, so one must sadly disqualify him. The film, nevertheless, should be a gilded feather in the Film Company's cap.

Activist, Lovecraft fanatic and Belltown Messenger columnist Grant Cogswell might have a winner with Cthulhu. The Writer has heard fairly favorable things about this production, a first-time effort for director Dan Gildark, and many warm wishes are to be sent their way as they endeavor to wrap principle shooting.

The NWFF is in discussion with a distribution company for the Charles Mudede, Robinson Devor film, Police Beat, but word has yet to emerge of when a deal might be expected. Mudede and Devor also have a promising project on their hands with Minotaur, a political thriller to be shot in Vancouver and Seattle, but word has is that the production is in the cooler. However, they appear to be plunging forward with their documentary In The Forest There Is Every Kind of Bird, a philosophical rumination on the universality of desire and the intersection between man and animal; mainly in the guise of the guy who got fucked to death by a horse in Enumclaw. Though not many people enjoy philosophy, many people love animals, so the film has the potential to be a classic along the lines of March of the Penguins or Barnyard Playmates 6.

Admirable productions all! And yet, The Writer, if he were a betting man, would feel quite confident on placing a sum on David Russo's #2. The Writer has long felt favorably towards Russo, even though he has only recently seen his films. The Writer first became aware of Russo at a NWFF membership meeting where Russo contentiously called into question the NWFF's selection process for the Start to Finish films. The Writer felt that for a filmmaker, Russo was stupendously brash and impolitic in questioning the Film Forum's method in choosing their projects and became an admirer of his from that moment on. Since then The Writer's admiration has grown with every outrage Russo has thrown at the complacency of the local scene. His use of the Fly Film program to critique the Fly Film program; his use of his Stranger Genius Award acceptance speech to critique The Stranger. One could dismiss these hand-bitings as the gestures of a well-tolerated crank if it were not for the fact that if he wasn't always right, he was always deliciously funny. If one can forgive an artist for being a bit of a grouch one can do so more easily if the artist lightens one's spirit with amusement. In this regard Russo bares a faint resemblance to Vincent Gallo, but without the horrendous politics. In any case, The Writer has always found Russo's candor to be refreshing. Now with his very own Start to Finish project [the irony!] Russo finds himself within the bosom of the machine and has been given the opportunity to ask himself if he measures up to his contentions.

Several weeks ago, The NWFF held a gathering to formally announce #2 as their new project. The Writer was not feeling well, but attended with the conviction that something satisfying would be witnessed. The gathering was small, no doubt due to the fact that Werner Herzog was in town. Russo's producer, Jennifer Roth, suggested that the meeting be postponed and that a decampment to Herzog's screening might be in order. Russo considered this notion but concluded that even if only three people showed, he owed them the courtesy of his presence and since Werner Herzog had never attended any of his screenings he didn't see the need to attend one of his. The decision was sound as numerous people began to arrive. Refreshments were made available. One table held snacks of various order, but The Writer was in no mood to eat. Another table offered drinks of an alcoholic and non-alcoholic nature. Given The Writer's struggle to stave off a cold, the imbibing of alcohol was out of the question, but water was very much in order. The Writer consumed several glasses, which he poured from a plastic bottle. The participants, some of which The Writer knew, some of which The Writer recognized, made small talk. The Writer mostly listened. The meeting was called to order. Seats were taken. Announcements were made.

Michael Seiwerath spoke briefly, introducing #2 as the NWFF's latest project. Then Jennifer Roth spoke quickly and modestly, but with the evident satisfaction of one who has taken on a pleasing task. Then came the main attraction. Bounding out in front of the assembly, Russo capered about, introducing himself with the humor, joy and enthusiasm of a student let loose on the last day of school. He gave precious few details of the film, other than to say it was about janitors, but as he spoke visions of Gondry danced in The Writer's head.

The Writer spoke briefly with Russo afterwards. Russo expressed the desire to craft a tight, but generous film. He had rehearsed the script with a group of actors and had videotaped the rehearsals. He learned much from the actors, what lines would work and what wouldn't and drew inspiration from their improvisations, often incorporating them into the work. The Writer might be over interpreting, but sensed Russo's concern about his directorial leap from shorts to a feature film. Russo has spent years making films, some of which he would barely show. His furtiveness reveals a canny hand, a cool desire to build his craft in secret, only revealing his talents when they became too strong to conceal. Russo spoke with a notion of responsibility, but a sense of liberty. He was aware of the necessity to deliver, but would be damned if he would be constrained by it. If Russo has any first feature jitters he can rest easy. As far as the logistics of production go he couldn't be in better hands. Jennifer Roth is as seasoned a producer as one could hope for. Having worked for over ten years as a production coordinator, line producer, co-producer and producer, her credits include The Squid and The Whale, Dead Man, Bad Lieutenant, Smoke, Black and White, Blue in The Face, Chinese Coffee and The Crow. Having dealt with Al Pacino, Abel Ferrara, Harvey Keitel and James Toback one can assume Ms. Roth will have little trouble managing the fractious Mr. Russo. The minute he gets out of line, she'll pick him up by his ears like a pup. As for whatever concerns Russo may have over the artistic aspects of #2, The Writer can only observe that Russo has a quality which cannot be acquired at the Sundance Institute or bought off the shelf at B&H Photo. Namely, a distinct sensibility. The primary flaw of most first features is not any technical shortcoming, but the sense that there was no particular reason the film needed to be made and that the director could just as easily been spending his day making oatmeal. If Russo has one quality it is that he is, as W.C. Fields would say, a definite personality. This might not be enough to carry him to the stars, but it may well be sufficient to get him to the offices of IFC Films.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Michael & Michael

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Visiting Filmmaker Michael Almereyda converses with Michael Seiwerath.

Michael & Michael

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Visiting Filmmaker Michael Almereyda converses with Michael Seiwerath.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Upcoming Music Docs

New York Doll & Be Here to Love Me

beheretoloveme1.jpg

I'm glad siffblog is back as I wanted to mention a couple of notable music documentaries coming to town this fall.

First up is New York Doll, which plays at the Northwest Film Forum from 11/18-12/1 (no show on 11/24). I haven't seen it yet, but it arrives with good buzz from the festival circuit and the local response so far has been quite enthusiastic. A friend who attended last week's press screening found it "quite touching." According to the latest NWFF newsletter, "Director Greg Whitely and producers Seth Gordon and Ed Cunningham will all be here for the Seattle premiere of their Park City favorite, about the depressed, suicidal former rock star Arthur "Killer" Kane (of the influential New York Dolls) who found his own humble salvation in...the Mormon Church." They'll be at the 7 and 9pm screenings on Fri., 11/18.

Incidentally, director Michael Almereyda was at last week's premiere of William Eggleston in the Real World, a leisurely home movie-style look at the great color photographer. It raised a lot of questions in my mind; so much so that I wish the Q&A had gone on longer. Kudos to the NWFF for bringing all these interesting filmmakers, producers, and such to town.

I also wanted to spread the word about Margaret Brown's fine solo documentary debut, Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (following an unreleased doc made with her father Milton, who penned the title track to Clint Eastwood's Every Which Way But Loose, about singing cowboys). It plays at the NWFF from 12/2-14. For my money, it was one of the best music docs at this year's SIFF--if not the best. Highly recommended, even if you don't know much about the late Texas singer/songwriter. Features appearances from Joe Eli, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, Guy Clark, and many others. And guns. And booze. And more guns. And more booze. A friend (yep, the same guy) who caught this week's press screening described it as "Sad sad sad." He's right...but don't let that scare you away! It may be sad, but it's enlightening, too.

For more info: The Northwest Film Forum and Townes Van Zandt

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The return of SIFFBlog


My apologies, everyone, for not having posted a warning here about this outage. I host SIFFblog on a computer in my home, and my wife and I are in the process of moving. I called Qwest to get the phone and data lines moved on October 26, and they cut off the service to our apartment the next day. Since then, I have been whacking my way through dense layers of ISP undershrubbery to get things rolling again.


While I'm not out of the woods yet, the server appears to be firing on all cylinders. Post away!



Sunday, October 23, 2005

Duelling Capotes

Speaking of giving films a chance, I'd like to note that there is another Truman Capote film in the works, Have You Heard [or possibly, Every Word Is True]. Given the success of Capote and the rave reviews Philip Seymour Hoffman has gotten, one can only hope this other Capote film gets a fair shake at distribution. Although it doesn't have nearly as well known an actor playing the lead role, it's got some heavy starpower of its own with performances by Sandra Bullock, Daniel 007 Craig, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Isabella Rossellini and Hope Davis. I have no idea if Have You Heard will be a better, worse or as good a film as the current release, but I look forward to seeing it, if and when it comes to Seattle.

Domino

The other night at the Capote preview Kathy Fennessy told me how much fun Domino was. I was skeptical, given the terrible reviews the film had gotten, but then she began reeling off the names of the people in the film. Mickey Rourke, Delroy Lindo, Dabney Coleman, Lucy Liu, Jacqueline Bisset, Christopher Walken and Tom Waits. I was like, holy shit, that has to be good! And, indeed it was. I saw it last night at a virtually empty theater in the Meridian and I gotta say, it's one fucking entertaining movie. Why didn't the critics like it? I mean, c'mon, it's got explosions, carnage and a nunchuck wielding Kiera Knightley, sporting a far skimpier outfit than the one she wore in Pride & Prejudice. Plus, it's got very smart and funny script by the guy who wrote Donnie Darko. Given its relative failure at the box office, I have no idea how much longer it'll be playing. So, do yourself a favor. Get your ass over to the theater and see it tonight.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Shopgirl, or Lunch at Saks

SHOPGIRL
(Anand Tucker, US, rated R, 104 mins.)


shopgirl2.jpg

I was at the same screening of Shopgirl as my colleague. Initially, I was just going
to leave a comment stating that I felt the same way about it. Then I realized there were a few things I wanted to add-even if my conclusion is pretty much the same.

First of all, I thought Claire Danes was miscast. She does a good job, but seems
far too sturdy for the role of Mirabelle, at least as suggested by the script. And I'm not using "sturdy" as a pseudonym for "heavy"-Danes has never looked thinner.

I was reminded of Jessica Lange in the HBO revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.
While she gives a fine performance, she looks far too healthy for the role of the fragile Blanche DuBois, unlike Vivien Leigh in the Elia Kazan classic, who looks as
if she's been kicked around a little by life (much like the actress who played her).
Then again, Shopgirl seeks to recreate the charm of Breakfast at Tiffanys (1961), so
I may have been projecting the dainty image of Audrey Hepburn onto Danes, a different physical type. After all, Mirabelle comes from a small town, has a shabby chic-meets-couture style of dressing, and is torn between a wealthy older man (Steve Martin) and a more age-appropriate working class model (Jason Schwartzman).
[And speaking of her Vermont hometown, could Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under)
and Sam Bottoms (That's My Bush!), as her silent parents, have been more wasted?
I wonder if some of their footage ended up on the cutting room floor.]
Then there's Martin, author of the original novella, as Ray. It was really hard for
me to see what Mirabelle would find so appealing about this creep-and I don't
mean Martin the actor, but the walking stiff he plays in the film (he gives a similar performance in David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner,* but to much better effect).
Maybe it's a form of anti-vanity on Martin's part, i.e. he didn't want to seem too eager to be liked, in which case, he succeeds spectacularly. I didn't like him. And
nor did I buy him as a great lover, but then that might be where Martin chose to concentrate his vanity (ironically, Shopgirl was preceded by a trailer for Casanova...).
shopgirl.jpg
Last but not least is Schwartzman's Jeremy, who looks as if he got lost on the
way to the set of another film-a sequel to Rushmore, perhaps. Fortunately,
that very incongruity helps to salvage this one. Arguably, he overdoes the
whole slacker-doofus thing, but he's genuinely funny and even a little touching.
I also liked the ending, in which the fate of the central trio is revealed. I was less enamored by the mystical mumbo-jumbo that transpires immediately afterwards.
That's why, to quote Ebert and Roeper, I'm giving Shopgirl "a marginal thumbs-up," although I agree that the conclusion feels borrowed from Woody Allen's ouvre.
That hadn't occured to me at the time, but now that I think about it, I suspect
Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie) also had Annie Hall in mind while making it.
But back to my quibbles... I hated the soundtrack, which isn't horrible in and of itself, but plays as incongruously portentous in a film aiming for elegance and restraint.
Worst of all is the omniscent narration, a device that elevates Amelie and Y Tu Mam/* Tambien, but is deployed with great clumsiness here. It's provided, of course, by Martin. Hence, I thought Ray was speaking at first, although he couldn't possibly know the things this God-like creature does. Further, some of the lines, like "That's life," are just plain flat-footed. If the film is ever re-cut, I hope they get rid of the narration altogether. It sounds tacked-on, and does more harm than good.
On the plus side, Peter Suschitzky's crisp cinematography is an asset. If I'm not mistaken, he also shot David Cronenberg's Crash, and he makes LA look much like Toronto, i.e. way cleaner than it really is (even if Shopgirl was shot on location).
I guess I should condemn such glamorization, but I liked the way it brought me
right back to Blake Edwards' lovely looking Breakfast at Tiffanys, a far superior
effort. But at least this one isn't marred by Mickey Rooney and his prodigiously unfunny Japanese impression. Instead you get Bridgette Wilson-Sampras
playing yet another bitchy blonde-although she sure does it well.
shopgirl3.jpg
Postscript: Shopgirl is currently available on DVD.
* Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, has a cameo in the film.

More Shopgirl, or Lunch at Saks

SHOPGIRL
(Anand Tucker, US, rated R, 104 mins.)


shopgirl2.jpg

I was at the same screening of Shopgirl as my colleague. Initially, I was just going
to leave a comment stating that I felt the same way about it. Then I realized there were a few things I wanted to add -- even if my conclusion is pretty much the same.

First of all, I thought Claire Danes was miscast. She does a good job, but seems
far too sturdy for the role of Mirabelle, at least as suggested by the script. And I'm not using "sturdy" as a pseudonym for "heavy" -- Danes has never looked thinner.

I was reminded of Jessica Lange in the HBO revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.
While she gives a fine performance, she looks far too healthy for the role of the fragile Blanche DuBois, unlike Vivien Leigh in the Elia Kazan classic, who looks as
if she's been kicked around a little by life (much like the actress who played her).
Then again, Shopgirl seeks to recreate the charm of Breakfast at Tiffanys (1961), so
I may have been projecting the dainty image of Audrey Hepburn onto Danes, a different physical type. After all, Mirabelle comes from a small town, has a shabby chic-meets-couture style of dressing, and is torn between a wealthy older man (Steve Martin) and a more age-appropriate working class model (Jason Schwartzman).
[And speaking of her Vermont hometown, could Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under)
and Sam Bottoms (That's My Bush!), as her silent parents, have been more wasted?
I wonder if some of their footage ended up on the cutting room floor.]
Then there's Martin, author of the original novella, as Ray. It was really hard for
me to see what Mirabelle would find so appealing about this creep -- and I don't
mean Martin the actor, but the walking stiff he plays in the film (he gives a similar performance in David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner,* but to much better effect).
Maybe it's a form of anti-vanity on Martin's part, i.e. he didn't want to seem too eager to be liked, in which case, he succeeds spectacularly. I didn't like him. And
nor did I buy him as a great lover, but then that might be where Martin chose to concentrate his vanity (ironically, Shopgirl was preceded by a trailer for Casanova...).
shopgirl.jpg
Last but not least is Schwartzman's Jeremy, who looks as if he got lost on the
way to the set of another film -- a sequel to Rushmore, perhaps. Fortunately,
that very incongruity helps to salvage this one. Arguably, he overdoes the
whole slacker-doofus thing, but he's genuinely funny and even a little touching.
I also liked the ending, in which the fate of the central trio is revealed. I was less enamored by the mystical mumbo-jumbo that transpires immediately afterwards.
That's why, to quote Ebert and Roeper, I'm giving Shopgirl "a marginal thumbs-up," although I agree that the conclusion feels borrowed from Woody Allen's ouvre.
That hadn't occured to me at the time, but now that I think about it, I suspect
Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie) also had Annie Hall in mind while making it.
But back to my quibbles... I hated the soundtrack, which isn't horrible in and of itself, but plays as incongruously portentous in a film aiming for elegance and restraint.
Worst of all is the omniscent narration, a device that elevates Amélie and Y Tu Mamá También, but is deployed with great clumsiness here. It's provided, of course, by Martin. Hence, I thought Ray was speaking at first, although he couldn't possibly know the things this God-like creature does. Further, some of the lines, like "That's life," are just plain flat-footed. If the film is ever re-cut, I hope they get rid of the narration altogether. It sounds tacked-on, and does more harm than good.
On the plus side, Peter Suschitzky's crisp cinematography is an asset. If I'm not mistaken, he also shot David Cronenberg's Crash, and he makes LA look much like Toronto, i.e. way cleaner than it really is (even if Shopgirl was shot on location).
I guess I should condemn such glamorization, but I liked the way it brought me
right back to Blake Edwards' lovely looking Breakfast at Tiffanys, a far superior
effort. But at least this one isn't marred by Mickey Rooney and his prodigiously unfunny Japanese impression. Instead you get Bridgette Wilson-Sampras
playing yet another bitchy blonde -- although she sure does it well.
shopgirl3.jpg
Postscript: Shopgirl is currently available on DVD.
* Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, has a cameo in the film.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Herzog, Trumbull...& Reptile Rock

November is shaping up to be a great film (& music) month in Seattle.
Here are a few events, from the latest SIFF newsletter, that caught my eye.

48m.jpg

HERZOG FILM SERIES
November 2005
Featuring the filmmaker in person
Discounts for SIFF Members
More details to come

SIFF SPOTLIGHT SERIES
Works of David Cronenberg
November 11-13
Seattle Art Museum
More info: www.seattlefilm.org

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS FILM SERIES
Presented by the Sci-Fi Museum and Hall of Fame
All films hosted by Seattle film critics

11/13: Silent Running - Hosted by Academy Award-winning director Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey)
11/27: Dark Star
12/4: Alien
12/11: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

All screenings: 4:00 pm at the JBL Theater inside EMP
Tickets: $6
Series Tickets: $30 general public, $24 for SFM/SIFF Members
SFM/EMP Box Office: 206-770-2702

****
While I'm at it, I wanted to mention a couple of music events:

THE DEADLY SNAKES
November 1
The Funhouse
9:30pm, $7
More info: http://www.thefunhouseseattle.com

THE DETROIT COBRAS
With the Reining Sound
November 8
Chop Suey
8:00pm doors, $10
More info: http://www.chopsuey.com/

The Deadly Snakes' Porcella (In the Red) and the Detroit Cobras' Baby (Bloodshot) are two of my favorite records of the year...just as Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Herzog's Grizzly Man are two of my favorite films. Local film critic Sean Axmaker, who'll be introducing Steven Soderbergh's Solaris at the Sci-Fi Museum on 10/16, also gives Baby his highest praise.

Herzog, Trumbull...& Reptile Rock

November is shaping up to be a great film (& music) month in Seattle.
Here are a few events, from the latest SIFF newsletter, that caught my eye.

48m.jpg

HERZOG FILM SERIES
November 2005
Featuring the filmmaker in person
Discounts for SIFF Members
More details to come

SIFF SPOTLIGHT SERIES
Works of David Cronenberg
November 11-13
Seattle Art Museum
More info: www.seattlefilm.org

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS FILM SERIES
Presented by the Sci-Fi Museum and Hall of Fame
All films hosted by Seattle film critics

11/13: Silent Running - Hosted by Academy Award-winning director Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey)
11/27: Dark Star
12/4: Alien
12/11: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

All screenings: 4:00 pm at the JBL Theater inside EMP
Tickets: $6
Series Tickets: $30 general public, $24 for SFM/SIFF Members
SFM/EMP Box Office: 206-770-2702

****
While I'm at it, I wanted to mention a couple of music events:

THE DEADLY SNAKES
November 1
The Funhouse
9:30pm, $7
More info: http://www.thefunhouseseattle.com

THE DETROIT COBRAS
With the Reining Sound
November 8
Chop Suey
8:00pm doors, $10
More info: http://www.chopsuey.com/

The Deadly Snakes' Porcella (In the Red) and the Detroit Cobras' Baby (Bloodshot) are two of my favorite records of the year...just as Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Herzog's Grizzly Man are two of my favorite films. Local film critic Sean Axmaker, who'll be introducing Steven Soderbergh's Solaris at the Sci-Fi Museum on 10/16, also gives Baby his highest praise.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

SIFF 2006 Dates Change

For those who like to plan way in advance, the Seattle International Film Festival has announced new dates for next year's SIFF. Due to scheduling conflicts with the Cannes Film Festival, the festival will now take place from May 25 - June 18. If you're a SIFF member, you should receive your Early Bird form by the end of the month (included with the next issue of Reel News).

For more info about SIFF: www.seattlefilm.org

SIFF 2006 Dates Change

For those who like to plan way in advance, the Seattle International Film Festival has announced new dates for next year's SIFF. Due to scheduling conflicts with the Cannes Film Festival, the festival will now take place from May 25 - June 18. If you're a SIFF member, you should receive your Early Bird form by the end of the month (included with the next issue of Reel News).

For more info about SIFF: www.seattlefilm.org

Monday, October 3, 2005

Eat The Document

With the release of No Direction Home Dylan fans have a further opportunity to glimpse some of the most sought after footage of his career. Although the film elides a few key characters [Carolyn Hester, Edie Sedgwick, Sara Lowndes], it delivers a well presented, if official, bio of Dylan's early years and has comments from many of the main players, including the man himself. Most effectively, it builds the tension between the divergence of electric Bob from folkie Bob, the former being represented by his infamous '66 tour. Most of the clips from that period are presented for the first time and give a fairly good taste of just how on fire he was when he let loose with The Band.

For those with a hunger for this stuff, an even rarer opportunity is being presented by the EMP when it screens the largely unseen film Eat The Document, this Friday at 8:00 at the JBL theater. The film derives from the same footage seen in No Direction Home and was shot by D.A. Pennebaker with the intention that it would be completed by Dylan for an TV special to be broadcast by ABC. The network passed on it and it was shown only once, in 1972 at the Academy of Music in New York before disappearing from circulation; only to re-appear at a one-time screening in 1998 to promote the release of the Live 1966 recording. The film has had a second life as a not too terribly hard to get bootleg of which I own a rather excellent copy [sorry, I won't tell you where I got it].

For fans of Pennebaker's portrait of the '65 tour, Dont Look Back, this latter film will be a shock. Pennebaker employed a similar shooting style, but the editing was done by Dylan, along with Howard Alk, who had worked as a cameraman on the '65 and '66 tours and who appears in the film as the man in black hat and beard. Unlike Dont Look Back, which employs verite' documentation with some improvised staging to create a linear narrative of Dylan's experiences in London, Eat The Document cuts the footage into a Godardian stew, often confusing and denying the expectations of the viewer. The movie opens with Bob collapsed over a table, laughing hysterically and gets woollier from there. Musical segments are abruptly cut, people and places are shuffled like cards and chronology is thrown out the window. In addition, the image of Dylan as a wisecracking upstart is replaced largely with that of a weary, brittle, dandified ghost; one of the few times he gets talkative is when receiving a backstage visit from Steve Winwood and Spencer Davis. Ironically, the very thing that facilitated this mode was Pennebaker's development of a style beautifully suited to catching the spontaneous, intimate and oddly surreal moments that occurred. As usual, the question arises, what was Bob thinking? There are two schools of thought on this. One is that Dylan was artfully trying to reproduce the sense of disorientation he felt on the tour; the other is that he had no idea of how to edit a fucking movie. As tempting as it might be to ascribe it to the latter [especially in light of Renaldo and Clara] there is a third possibility that, faced with the prospect of having to cut innumerable hours of footage into a 52 minute piece, he had no alternative but to cram everything into a dense, overstuffed package. Viewed in this light, one can view the results as an interesting, but butchered curiosity. However, if one is willing to set documentary expectations aside, the film exerts a hypnotic vibe and fairly entertains with its odd associations and daft moments [a particular favorite is when a sliver of food gets passed along a long table in a manner that resembles more of a last snack than supper].

The EMP is to be truly commended for making this rare treat available and yet, there is an even holier grail which, to my knowledge, has never been screened, due to the fact that it seems to have vanished as completely as the lost reels of The Magnificent Ambersons. Although Pennebaker served only as a cameraman on Eat The Document, he reputedly kept a working print of the footage and cut his own two-hour version, entitled You Know Something Is Happening. In a 2002 interview by Chris Hollow, Pennebaker has this to say about the movie, "That's kind of like a lost jewel. I feel like I've got a piece of string with chewing gum on it trying to get a nickel out of the grading when I think about that film." The film has no IMDb listing, doesn't appear on Pennebaker's resume and isn't credited as a source for No Direction Home. Needless to say, you can forget about finding a bootleg version.

Regardless, many of the '66 tour sequences which appear in No Direction Home do not appear in Eat The Document and some of the ones that do appear use footage from a different camera. The evidence would suggest that, whether they were culled from the long lost Pennebaker film or the original footage, much of the material still exists in pristine condition. Indeed, the clips in No Direction Home are beautifully restored with rich and full sound [a testament, really, to Pennebaker's talent]. It is a pity, then, that such stuff should be parceled out like caviar. The DVD includes a few full-length performances as extras, but largely presents those sequences as truncated clips. It would be nice if, someday, a fuller document would be released, whether it be the Dylan edit or the Pennebaker edit or a newly edited film or possibly, best of all, all three. But I suppose that's about as likely to happen as Brian Wilson finishing the Smile album.

Eat The Document

With the release of No Direction Home Dylan fans have a further opportunity to glimpse some of the most sought after footage of his career. Although the film elides a few key characters [Carolyn Hester, Edie Sedgwick, Sara Lowndes], it delivers a well presented, if official, bio of Dylan's early years and has comments from many of the main players, including the man himself. Most effectively, it builds the tension between the divergence of electric Bob from folkie Bob, the former being represented by his infamous '66 tour. Most of the clips from that period are presented for the first time and give a fairly good taste of just how on fire he was when he let loose with The Band.

For those with a hunger for this stuff, an even rarer opportunity is being presented by the EMP when it screens the largely unseen film Eat The Document, this Friday at 8:00 at the JBL theater. The film derives from the same footage seen in No Direction Home and was shot by D.A. Pennebaker with the intention that it would be completed by Dylan for an TV special to be broadcast by ABC. The network passed on it and it was shown only once, in 1972 at the Academy of Music in New York before disappearing from circulation; only to re-appear at a one-time screening in 1998 to promote the release of the Live 1966 recording. The film has had a second life as a not too terribly hard to get bootleg of which I own a rather excellent copy [sorry, I won't tell you where I got it].

For fans of Pennebaker's portrait of the '65 tour, Dont Look Back, this latter film will be a shock. Pennebaker employed a similar shooting style, but the editing was done by Dylan, along with Howard Alk, who had worked as a cameraman on the '65 and '66 tours and who appears in the film as the man in black hat and beard. Unlike Dont Look Back, which employs verite' documentation with some improvised staging to create a linear narrative of Dylan's experiences in London, Eat The Document cuts the footage into a Godardian stew, often confusing and denying the expectations of the viewer. The movie opens with Bob collapsed over a table, laughing hysterically and gets woollier from there. Musical segments are abruptly cut, people and places are shuffled like cards and chronology is thrown out the window. In addition, the image of Dylan as a wisecracking upstart is replaced largely with that of a weary, brittle, dandified ghost; one of the few times he gets talkative is when receiving a backstage visit from Steve Winwood and Spencer Davis. Ironically, the very thing that facilitated this mode was Pennebaker's development of a style beautifully suited to catching the spontaneous, intimate and oddly surreal moments that occurred. As usual, the question arises, what was Bob thinking? There are two schools of thought on this. One is that Dylan was artfully trying to reproduce the sense of disorientation he felt on the tour; the other is that he had no idea of how to edit a fucking movie. As tempting as it might be to ascribe it to the latter [especially in light of Renaldo and Clara] there is a third possibility that, faced with the prospect of having to cut innumerable hours of footage into a 52 minute piece, he had no alternative but to cram everything into a dense, overstuffed package. Viewed in this light, one can view the results as an interesting, but butchered curiosity. However, if one is willing to set documentary expectations aside, the film exerts a hypnotic vibe and fairly entertains with its odd associations and daft moments [a particular favorite is when a sliver of food gets passed along a long table in a manner that resembles more of a last snack than supper].

The EMP is to be truly commended for making this rare treat available and yet, there is an even holier grail which, to my knowledge, has never been screened, due to the fact that it seems to have vanished as completely as the lost reels of The Magnificent Ambersons. Although Pennebaker served only as a cameraman on Eat The Document, he reputedly kept a working print of the footage and cut his own two-hour version, entitled You Know Something Is Happening. In a 2002 interview by Chris Hollow, Pennebaker has this to say about the movie, "That's kind of like a lost jewel. I feel like I've got a piece of string with chewing gum on it trying to get a nickel out of the grading when I think about that film." The film has no IMDb listing, doesn't appear on Pennebaker's resume and isn't credited as a source for No Direction Home. Needless to say, you can forget about finding a bootleg version.

Regardless, many of the '66 tour sequences which appear in No Direction Home do not appear in Eat The Document and some of the ones that do appear use footage from a different camera. The evidence would suggest that, whether they were culled from the long lost Pennebaker film or the original footage, much of the material still exists in pristine condition. Indeed, the clips in No Direction Home are beautifully restored with rich and full sound [a testament, really, to Pennebaker's talent]. It is a pity, then, that such stuff should be parceled out like caviar. The DVD includes a few full-length performances as extras, but largely presents those sequences as truncated clips. It would be nice if, someday, a fuller document would be released, whether it be the Dylan edit or the Pennebaker edit or a newly edited film or possibly, best of all, all three. But I suppose that's about as likely to happen as Brian Wilson finishing the Smile album.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

New Thing!


Struck by a desire to avoid housework this morning, I hacked up a current-listings set of updating film showtimes for a selected set of Seattle-area theaters. It's drawn, circuitously, from the customizable movie times listings to be found via My Yahoo, which is why the film links point at Yahoo, and there's no direct ticket-buying link. I may experiment with getting the data from the Google Movie Times page, but that does not yet allow one to exclude by theater.


You can see the list in the sidebar. Hopefully I can figure out how to do something like this for SIFF next year, too.



Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Jamie Hook's Leap of Faith

NWFF founder, Jamie Hook, gave a rousing speech at the 10th anniversary party in which he made the dramatic gesture of leaping from the balustrade into the audience. Well, no actually, he kinda just leapt onto the adjoining windowsill. Nevertheless, it was a thrilling moment, captured for your enjoyment here in full color.

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Jamie Hook's Leap of Faith

NWFF founder, Jamie Hook, gave a rousing speech at the 10th anniversary party in which he made the dramatic gesture of leaping from the balustrade into the audience. Well, no actually, he kinda just leapt onto the adjoining windowsill. Nevertheless, it was a thrilling moment, captured for your enjoyment here in full color.

399048119203_0_ALB.jpg

323758119203_0_ALB.jpg

999958119203_0_ALB.jpg

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Big Bosoms and Square Jaws

"I don't pretend to be some kind of sensitive artist. Give me a movie where a car crashes into a building, and the driver gets stabbed by a bosomy blond, who gets carried away by a dwarf musician. Films should run like express trains!"


If you grew up sometime between the 1940's and the 1970's there were certain types of women you'd see in men's magazines. Women with curves like a mountain road. In the 40's they wore tight sweaters that strained against howitzer-shell protuberances. By the early 50's some of the buttons on those sweaters would be open and by the 60's there wouldn't be any sweaters. Men of that generation liked those women. They put them on billboards, in advertisements, in photographs, comics and in movies. Men like Billy Wilder, Frank Tashlin, Hugh Hefner, Helmut Newton, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, R. Crumb, Federico Fellini and, yes, even Stanley Kubrick. Of all these men, the one who most single-mindedly, bombastically, obsessively and comically lavished attention on those women was Russ Meyer. Meyer's universe was a burlesque of an already parodic culture. He pushed his vision as far as he could go before the culture overran him. Unlike many of the sex comedies directed by his Hollywood contemporaries, his films hold up remarkably well. Unlike them, he didn't seek to reassure anyone's sexual longings with doses of humor. His characters aren't amiable dolts or ditzy women. They're mean, stupid, vicious, cynical, violent and just plain nasty. In other words, they're utterly refreshing.

Visually obsessive directors keep their fetishes on a leash, sublimating them to a narrative and yet, certain images keep popping up. Hitchcock had his icy blondes, Kubrick had his immaculate bathrooms and Tarantino has something going on with feet. With more unleashed filmmakers like Jean Rollin, Radley Metzger and, to some extent, Jess Franco, the narrative structures are often a mere pretext for airing fetishistic imagery. Meyer swung both ways, his films filling or collapsing narratives into four basic categories. Films about naked chicks; films about chicks who aren't naked, but are really violent; films about chicks who aren't violent, but are really naked and films about really violent, naked chicks. To see a Meyer film is to see someone who spent an unbelievable amount of talent and energy bringing to life the sorts of ideas most filmmakers would only entertain for brief moments of private reverie. They are brilliantly shot, blindingly edited, wildly adolescent and about as good for you as a bag of heroin. The truly remarkable thing about these movies is not that they were made, but that they were made as well as they were. The story of how Russ Meyer got away with it is told in Jimmy McDonough's book Big Bosoms and Square Jaws : The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film.

In Shakey McDonough did an amazing job chronicling the life of Neil Young. He got some heat for interjecting his own opinions but, more often than not, he was right and when he was wrong he was wrong in the way a fan would be who loved the artist as much as you, but didn't necessarily rank the albums in the same way [American Stars 'N Bars is way better than Zuma, Jimmy] In Big Bosoms McDonough has the same tendency to interject, but here he gets a little shakier in his assessment of how Meyer conducted his affairs. Nevertheless, McDonough did his research, interviewing the women and men who knew him best; though he never had the chance to interview the man himself. What ensues is a engaging portrait of a truly independent filmmaker. McDonough is on less sure footing when delineating Meyer's role within the culture and at his weakest when psychologizing his life and relationships.

McDonough lays well the foundations of Meyer's craft. I've sometimes wondered if his stint in WWII was anything like Samuel Fuller's and, indeed, the 166th Signal Photographic Company was like the Big Red One of combat photography, seeing action all over the European theater. Meyer didn't participate in battle, but he got the kind of shots generations of filmmakers would try to re-create. In fact, his footage was often re-used in war pictures of the 60's and 70's, Patton being the most notable. Ninety-five percent of the critiques Meyer received from the Office of Army Pictorial were good. Meyer often captured warfare with an eye towards a finished product. A cinematography instructor impressed upon him the importance of coverage and he followed this advice to the letter, shooting material that could be used as inserts and cutaways to make better montage sequences. He would always insist on optimal camera placement, even if it meant setting up in clear line of fire. Meyer was unflappable, loading his Eyemo as bullets whizzed past him. On more than one occasion, a shell exploded moments after he left a setup, leaving a smoking crater where he had just been. Werner Herzog should build a shrine to this man. Meyer wasn't a guts and glory type, but he did seem to be fascinated by the spectacle he was capturing and, in his own memoirs, A Clean Breast, he often reflects on the war as if it were a movie. The war was quite liberating for him. He loved the excitement and adventure of living his life in such a headlong manner and it was during this time that he lost his virginity. The two experiences became inextricably linked and he would forever pursue their thrills in his personal/professional life.

After the war Meyer made the rounds of Hollywood looking for work as a cameraman, but found it a closed shop. He moved back home with his mother and began doing free publicity photos of strippers for burlesque houses. In the 1940's nobody of any repute was interested in this work, so the bar of entry was low. Remarkably so. Meyer later told a journalist, "I went at it in a very precise manner. Not any broad, just specific broads. And I went through mountains of shit just trying to find those broads... nothing would stop me." Whatever impediments he encountered, McDonough indicates he had a ridiculously enjoyable time earning the trust and company of these women. In A Clean Breast Meyer recounts many an escapade with not only strippers, but the women he met while traveling for his job. In order to make a living, Meyer worked for an industrial film company and spent eight years acquiring a more comprehensive education on film production and post-production. He married his first wife in 1949 and moved to from Oakland to San Francisco.

On the advice of a friend, he got into the exploding girlie mag business and signed up with an agency, shooting layouts for Gent, Fling, Escapade and Frolic. He met the Queen of Strippers, Tempest Storm, in 1950 and shot a short film of her in addition to numerous stills. He got the film processed by having the negative delivered by a girl who personally persuaded the lab tech to develop it. The film traveled the burlesque circuit for years. He began spending more time with Tempest and ditched his wife to be with her, though it turned out to be an unfulfilled fling.

Soon after, Meyer met Eve Turner, a tall, blonde, Southern, raspy voiced, financially shrewd woman who, upon first laying eyes on him, told him to shave off his moustache. He complied. She was his first significant model and became his wife and business partner. He photographed her repeatedly from 1952-1958, her image appearing in many publications, most notably Playboy where she was one of the first playmates. In addition, he did 8mm films of her frolicking nude, which they sold through magazine advertisements. Though she would ultimately get tired of being a subject, it was a fiery association; photographer and model, artist and muse, husband and wife, business partners. He'd shoot her, they'd get all excited and go at it with wild abandon. By the mid-50's Meyer quit industrial films to concentrate fully on girlie photos, a craft at which he excelled. Along with Bunny Yeager, he was considered one of the best cheesecake photographers of the 50's and had a way of bringing out the fullest in his models. As he would pedagogically state, "I stress the bosom department in all of my photographs because I believe that this more than anything else says to me 'This is Woman.'" He also did straight glamour work, shooting portraits of Liz Taylor, Tina Louise, Joan Collins, Barbara Eden, Gina Lollobrigida, Jill St. John, Jayne Mansfield, Anita Ekberg and James Dean. His method was fierce and fast. No standing around waiting for the perfect moment. He'd shoot loads of film, cajoling the women into posing, moving and talking; keeping them engaged so as to keep a sense of spontaneity. In a word, he was directing. Even though he was in constant contact with all these models and actresses he remained focused on his wife and, by his own account, didn't cheat on her until eight years into the marriage.

By the late 50's he was hankering to get into motion pictures. The Meyers had moved to Hollywood and he got his first break in 1959 when a friend in the burlesque business agreed to put up half the budget for The Immoral Mr. Teas. Slightly more wicked than a Benny Hill episode it was initially considered too hot to handle in many cities, but the film's distribution would be saved by a friend who was a member of the Seattle censor board. He convened a special screening, complemented with lashings of wine and Italian cuisine and the board passed the film. Mr. Teas had it's first significant theatrical run at the Guild 45th where it played for nine months. One would like to think the theater was as appropriately seedy then as it is now.

Eve helped with the distribution of the picture, often doing a more conscientious job of obtaining returns than Meyer's business partner and the film flourished, doing outrageous business. Russ and Eve began producing pictures at a healthy clip and made a handsome living at it. However, by 1964, their marriage was on the rocks. A host of factors played into this, but as their professional lives developed their personal lives diverged. When Russ came back from shooting Fanny Hill in Europe with Rena Horten in tow, his marriage was effectively over. They didn't finalize the divorce until 1968 and Eve continued to work as his co-producer and distributor until 1971. She died in an air disaster in 1977.

The Sexual Revolution is usually described as something that was brought about by the youth of the 60's and 70's, but it's roots were with the generations that came of age in the 40's and 50's. You could hardly go through a depression, a world war and a whole lotta nuclear anxiety without feeling that maybe people should let you live your life as you please. The culture reflected this and responded to it. In a sense, the whole relation between what people did or wanted to do in their private lives and how the culture responded to it was a pushmepullyou of What You Could Get Away With. This game, of course, had been going on for some time. Since the Civil War, I believe. But in the 40's, aspects of it began creeping from the margins into the center. The subterranean, burlesque house, grindhouse, men's magazine, stag film, hootchie-koo, carnival culture was beginning to burgeon. As consumption increased so did acceptance. By the mid 1950's things were busting loose. It wasn't just teenagers swinging it to Elvis. It was 49 year-old Billy Wilder showing you Marilyn Monroe getting hot air blown up her dress in The Seven Year Itch and 29 year-old Hugh Hefner showing her without a dress in Playboy. A year later Jayne Mansfield was sashaying down the street with her milk bottles in The Girl Can't Help It and a whole era of lust and lechery followed. James Bond, Matt Helm, Honey Ryder and Lovey Kravezit. One need only look at films like A Guide for The Married Man, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying or The Silencers (whose theme song proclaimed, "Oh, a gun can be a .22 or a .38 and it can silence you. Dear Sir, that is a silencer. But if you should see a lady who, that has the kind of waist that measures 22 and she's 38 where it's great to measure 38. Dear Sir, she is a silencer") to see how awash the culture was in the desire for heavenly bodies; the most cantilevered of which belonged to Kurtzman and Elder's cartoon cutie, Annie Fanny. If all this stuff seems ridiculous now, when teenagers act like spent Eurotrash, one must appreciate that all those middle-aged people bopping like teenagers were fumbling towards a new frontier. In a sense, the culture went backwards. Compared to those smart, stylish films of the 40's where everyone acted sharp and you knew what Bogie and Baby were about, even if they didn't spell it out, things boiled to the surface in ludicrous displays of horniness.

As the 60's progressed the sexual pushmepullyou grew more heads, each interacting with the other. Exploitation, Underground and Foreign films pushed the boundaries and Hollywood responded by opening its envelope a little further. McDonough alludes to this dynamic and celebrates Meyer as a boundary pusher of the first-rank, but he doesn't seem to recognize the extent to which Meyer fit into this system. He was as inspired by Exploitation, Foreign and Hollywood product as his own fantasies and, to a large extent, those pictures formed the road map of what he could pursue. Hollywood might show you Stella Stevens in a low-cut dress and Dino De Laurentiis might show you Sofia Loren in a bodice you could practically see through, but would they show you a topless blonde doing the Watusi on top of an oil rig? That's where Meyer fit in. In turn, by the late 60's, Meyer got so successful at this game that he was hired by an actual studio to direct a parody of one of their own pictures.

It was about this time, however, that the wave began breaking in front of him. The exploitation racket played it's trump card with Deep Throat and the mainstream film market was opening up to films like Last Tango In Paris. Meyer clearly felt the pressure from porn and from the new explicitness of Bertolucci's picture of which he said, "What is there left? I mean, the idea a few years back of Brando, an Oscar winner, putting butter up some broad's ass and jumping her... it's hard to compete with that."

Meyer was probably as well positioned as any to break into either the the mainstream or the hardcore scene, but he wasn't interested. Even though Beneath The Valley of the Dolls was made largely on his terms, he did have to clean it up a bit and his subsequent experience with Fox was far less enjoyable. He claimed not to be against porn per se, he just didn't find it cinematically engaging and after having spent years building his distribution network to a level of commercial respectability, he didn't want to go back to the shady underground of the adult theater circuit. His films increasingly wound up in a perceptual limbo. Because of his reputation, the MPAA began slapping his movies with an X, thus limiting their distribution, but they weren't explicit or violent enough to satisfy an audience demanding harder fare. By the late 70's his films were anachronisms.

Had it been made, his last great feature would have been Who Killed Bambi, a film about a decadent, Jaggeresque rock star who gets his kicks from shooting deer from his limo and having the carcasses dumped on the porches of unsuspecting families. The film was to star the Sex Pistols and Johnny Rotten was initially receptive to the idea, having liked Beyond The Valley of The Dolls because it was 'so true to life.' However, the romance between the snotty punk and the crusty war vet didn't last besides which, Malcolm McLaren was about as competent a film producer as he was a music impresario and the whole shebang fell apart after one day of photography.

By the 80's, largely due to John Waters and Re/Search Magazine, Meyer was once again riding high as an admired cultural icon; a cult director as lauded and feted as any auteur. However, none of this helped him to continue making films. Thanks to VHS, the consumption of porn went from a public embarrassment to a private indulgence and the adult entertainment industry flourished into a relatively accessible, semi-underground culture with all the efficiencies of any other sector of the entertainment industry. In this atmosphere the va-va-voom era became a nostalgia act, Meyer became a curiosity and Playboy published its last Annie Fanny strip. Indeed, the voluptuous ideal of yesteryear seemed again to be absorbed into the subculture of porno and hipster fandom.

One could argue that these changes could have allowed Meyer to remain an active player on his own terms and, indeed, he did make a nice chunk of change re"ssuing his films on video, but the man who had always been sui generis, felt truly at odds with the culture he helped create and, to the extent he continued working, did so largely on a private basis.

McDonough thinks Meyer's hard-headed self-sufficiency ultimately robbed him of greater opportunities. To some small extent this is true. He never really fit into the Hollywood game, but then, he didn't care to. However, near the end of his life, his insistence on handling all domestic distribution through his own, small company ensured that he would cheat himself of the profits that could have been gained through a good licensing deal.

More damagingly, McDonough thinks Meyer was case of arrested-development who was eaten alive by his obsessions. He points to three failed marriages and numerous affairs and relationships, the last few of which were quite bad. McDonough goes so far as speculate that Meyer was sexually compulsive, because he didn't know what real sexual satisfaction was and implies repeatedly that he was lousy in the hay. Raven De La Croix claims, "He doesn't know how to make love to a woman, from any woman I've ever talked to that's ever been with him." From his own account he apparently had little use for foreplay and no interest in any other form of sex other than two or three variations of what he tenderly referred to as 'pelvic to pelvic impactions'. De La Croix delivers the coup de grace to his carnality stating, "He has no clue of what to do with these breasts he's so fascinated with. None at all." McDonough presents this all with the hair-tearing exasperation of a oenophile witnessing a wealthy slob guzzling a bottle of priceless vintage. True, Meyer might not have enjoyed the women the way he or any reasonably sane man would have, but that was Meyer's privilege. Besides, not all the ladies cast such aspersions on his libido. Kitten Natividad claimed he was an insatiable sex maniac who kept her busy morning, noon and night and in A Clean Breast Meyer recounts a years-long affair with a woman of insatiable appetite.

McDonough makes the more substantial claim that he was needlessly hostile to many of the women who did bed him. Meyer claimed he liked complex women, but the way McDonough portrays him, the more they challenged him the more he resented them. One might assume that he had to be a bastard to deal with the types of fast-living dames he associated with, but when you read Big Bosoms you realize he was as well liked by the ladies as any lucky bastard could be. However, this too gives his story short shrift. From his mid-twenties on he spent his life in the company of beautiful women who knocked themselves out to satisfy him professionally and personally. However, they weren't the easiest creatures to deal with and neither was he. Indeed, Meyer wouldn't have it any other way. He felt most alive when pursuing his obsessions and considered the attendant difficulties as part of the game. Yes, he could be a shit, but he could also be terrifically generous when his friends and lovers needed him to be. His obsessions did tend to burn out his relationships. Ultimately nobody, no matter how tolerant, could deal with a guy so single minded. True, there have been equally kinked artists, who managed to maintain long-term relationships; Helmut Newton being an exemplary example. But despite his divorce with Eve they remained friends and business partners until her death and he maintained long-term friendships with Haji, Uschi, Kitten and many other women. Meyer often painted himself as a man's man, but as much as he loved his army buddies, women ran his company, co-produced his films, managed his distribution and accounting and, it is safe to say, spent a lot more quality time with him than any of the boys from the 166th.

As a director, though, he could be a motherfucker. When asked to be in Cherry, Harry and Raquel Charles Napier thought, "It sounded like fun, man - get a buncha chicks with big tits and run around the desert." But going to the locations Meyer preferred was anything but a holiday. The director preferred remote, inclement places and expected everyone to hunker down like they were liberating Europe. According to a crew member, "Meyer felt that if a shoot went well, without problems, the movie would not be a hit. But those movies that were ridden with strife, misery, and all sorts of disasters happening, those were the hits." Another crew member who later worked with Orson Welles found the two directors to be very similar in terms of their personality. "They both wanted to control absolutely everything and everyone around them."

McDonough wonders at the end if Meyer was truly a happy man. He makes a similar observation about Hugh Hefner, wondering if the semi-embalmed, soon to be octogenarian, hasn't misspent his life. Is Hef happy? I can see McDonough's point. Once you take away the media empire, the mansion and all the women what do you really have? Both men lost their virginity at 22 and one could argue they created their respective empires out of a need to compensate for their sexual anxieties. However, aside from a stack of old Playboys, Hefner doesn't have much of a legacy, whereas Meyer's films will be watched, studied, appreciated and emulated for quite some time. It's possible Meyer had his moments where he wondered if he should spent his life as a more legitimate lenser, but I'm sure that occurred to him about as often as Rocco Siffredi wondering whether he should have stayed in soap operas.

McDonough ultimately concedes that Meyer had the life he wanted. After all, the man made 23 feature films, nearly all of which were profitable and a few of which made him millions. At one point he had four films in Variety's 100 all-time top grossers. In the end, a lot of unpleasant things did happen to him. His last few relationships were with really unsavory characters, he lost his marbles, he lost his health and his caretakers began cutting him off from his friends. Basically, he wound up a senile, old man with little control over his bowels or social life. But there by the grace go lesser mortals. At least, the few brain cells he still had contained good memories. As Lux Interior so memorably sang in 'Bikini Girls With Machine Guns':

Now, they say virtue is it's own reward,
but when that surf comes in I'm gonna get my board.
Got my own ideas about the righteous kick.
You can keep the reward... I'd just as soon stay sick.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The NWFF Presents Super Hits, Vol. 10

To celebrate their 10th anniversary, the Northwest Film Forum will be throwing a two-week long party, starting on Wednesday, September 21st. The actual party begins at 8pm and then they'll be screening their greatest hits from Friday, September 23rd through Sunday, October 2nd. From shorts, by the likes of Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know) and Mike Mills (Thumbsucker), to documentaries, like Nina Simone: Love Sorceress, to films for kids (of all ages), like The Point, there's something for pretty much everyone. If you're a member, you can get a full series pass for only $19.95.

Other highlights include Steven Soderbergh's loopy Schizopolis (they'll be screening his personal print), Hou Hsiao-Hsien's gorgeous Flowers of Shanghai (with the great Tony Leung), Aki Kaurism/Ski's pitch-black comedy Match Factory Girl (with the equally great Kati Outinen), and Mel Stuart's funky Wattstax (with the late Isaac Hayes at his cape-and-gold-chain-vest peak).

For the press launch, they screened a couple of "super hits" (followed by programmer Jamie Keeling's homemade cake): Olivier Assayas's Cold Water (1994) and local filmmaker Serge Gregory's B&W short Foster Island (2004), featuring a score by Jeff Greinke. Amazingly, I had never seen Cold Water before, although I've seen most of Assayas's other features, including Clean, which played at this year's SIFF. Over the years, I've also caught many of Virginie Ledoyen's films, which are always worthwhile (with the possible exception of The Beach). The adventurous Irma Vep remains my favorite, but Cold Water, with Ledoyen as a troubled teen in 1970s France, is Assayas at the top of his game. I liked Foster Island, too, which plays like the last few minutes of Michelangelo Antonioni's L'eclisse (a series of images haunted by absence).

Both films play on Friday, September 30th: Foster Island with Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up at 7pm and Cold Water at 9:15pm.

The Northwest Film Forum is located at 1515 12th Avenue (at E. Pike). For more information, please see www.nwfilmforum.org.

The NWFF Presents Super Hits, Vol. 10

To celebrate their 10th anniversary, the Northwest Film Forum will be throwing a two-week long party, starting on Wednesday, September 21st. The actual party begins at 8pm and then they'll be screening their greatest hits from Friday, September 23rd through Sunday, October 2nd. From shorts, by the likes of Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know) and Mike Mills (Thumbsucker), to documentaries, like Nina Simone: Love Sorceress, to films for kids (of all ages), like The Point, there's something for pretty much everyone. If you're a member, you can get a full series pass for only $19.95.

Other highlights include Steven Soderbergh's loopy Schizopolis (they'll be screening his personal print), Hou Hsiao-Hsien's gorgeous Flowers of Shanghai (with the great Tony Leung), Aki Kaurismäki's pitch-black comedy Match Factory Girl (with the equally great Kati Outinen), and Mel Stuart's funky Wattstax (with the late Isaac Hayes at his cape-and-gold-chain-vest peak).

For the press launch, they screened a couple of "super hits" (followed by programmer Jamie Keeling's homemade cake): Olivier Assayas's Cold Water (1994) and local filmmaker Serge Gregory's B&W short Foster Island (2004), featuring a score by Jeff Greinke. Amazingly, I had never seen Cold Water before, although I've seen most of Assayas's other features, including Clean, which played at this year's SIFF. Over the years, I've also caught many of Virginie Ledoyen's films, which are always worthwhile (with the possible exception of The Beach). The adventurous Irma Vep remains my favorite, but Cold Water, with Ledoyen as a troubled teen in 1970s France, is Assayas at the top of his game. I liked Foster Island, too, which plays like the last few minutes of Michelangelo Antonioni's L'eclisse (a series of images haunted by absence).

Both films play on Friday, September 30th: Foster Island with Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up at 7pm and Cold Water at 9:15pm.

The Northwest Film Forum is located at 1515 12th Avenue (at E. Pike). For more information, please see www.nwfilmforum.org.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Advance Notice: Cronenberg Tribute

If you're into David Cronenberg, mark your calendars now as SIFF has just announced they'll be doing a Spotlight Series dedicated to his work at "select Seattle venues" from November 18-20. I promise to post more details as they become available. Cronenberg's latest, A History of Violence (with Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris), has been garnering some of the best reviews of his career. J. Hoberman, in The Village Voice, describes it as "droll and ruthless" and goes on to declare Cronenberg "the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world." According to the IMDb, it's set to open on September 23rd in limited release (expanding on the 30th).

Advance Notice: Cronenberg Tribute

If you're into David Cronenberg, mark your calendars now as SIFF has just announced they'll be doing a Spotlight Series dedicated to his work at "select Seattle venues" from November 18-20. I promise to post more details as they become available. Cronenberg's latest, A History of Violence (with Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris), has been garnering some of the best reviews of his career. J. Hoberman, in The Village Voice, describes it as "droll and ruthless" and goes on to declare Cronenberg "the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world." According to the IMDb, it's set to open on September 23rd in limited release (expanding on the 30th).

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Down By Law Benefit Screening

This comes straight from the latest Northwest Film Forum newsletter:

Northwest Film Forum and New Yorker Films have partnered up for a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We're showing Jim Jarmusch's classic Down by Law in our cinemas Friday, Sept 16 - Sunday, Sept 18 at 7 & 9:15 daily. Tickets are $10 minimum, but please pay as much as you can ($30? $15? $10.25?) as 100% of the proceeds go to the Red Cross. Advance tickets will be available starting tomorrow, through our website and by calling our ticketing line at 1.800.838.3006. As always, tickets can also be purchased at the door 30 min before showtime. Starring Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni, Law follows three down-on-their-luck losers who meet up in a Louisiana prison and features stunning cinematography from Robby Muller, a great lounge-jazz score from Lurie and Jarmusch's signature deadpan sense of humor. Bring as many people as you can to a great, great film that hasn't played Seattle in years--what Jarmusch calls a "neo-noir beat comedy"--and help those who truly need it. $10 times several hundred people can go a long way, so let's pack the cinemas and help Louisiana when it needs us the most.

Down By Law Benefit Screening

This comes straight from the latest Northwest Film Forum newsletter:

Northwest Film Forum and New Yorker Films have partnered up for a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We're showing Jim Jarmusch's classic Down by Law in our cinemas Friday, Sept 16 -- Sunday, Sept 18 at 7 & 9:15 daily. Tickets are $10 minimum, but please pay as much as you can ($30? $15? $10.25?) as 100% of the proceeds go to the Red Cross. Advance tickets will be available starting tomorrow, through our website and by calling our ticketing line at 1.800.838.3006. As always, tickets can also be purchased at the door 30 min before showtime. Starring Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni, Law follows three down-on-their-luck losers who meet up in a Louisiana prison and features stunning cinematography from Robby Muller, a great lounge-jazz score from Lurie and Jarmusch's signature deadpan sense of humor. Bring as many people as you can to a great, great film that hasn't played Seattle in years--what Jarmusch calls a "neo-noir beat comedy"--and help those who truly need it. $10 times several hundred people can go a long way, so let's pack the cinemas and help Louisiana when it needs us the most.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Not Dead Yet


A few folks have corresponded with me via email about this, but I feel like I should address it here as well.


Tablet has announced that the current issue, #103, will be the final edition of the magazine. While Siffblog has been affiliated with Tablet, I have used only my own resources to create and host the blog; therefore, I see no reason that Siffblog should cease operations.


However, I have been thinking about what the best route forward for the blog is. An informal relationship with one or more paper-based local publications would be mutually beneficial to all parties, I believe, publishers, publicists, film freaks, and film writers included.


I also would like to strengthen or formalize this blog's ties to existing local film arts organizations. In an ideal world, this site would publish updated schedules and times for all of these organizations at no cost to them in order to expand online information resources about small-audience film.


In short, I have some thinking to do, which will produce some work for me. Sometime in the next month, I probably will do a site redesign - as simple as possible, mind you, as we're currently househunting and that is really time consuming. After that, I will probably have a decent plan in place for the blog. For now, though, dear contributors, please do not fret: the Siffblog abides, man, the Siffblog abides.


Please continue doing what you've done to the place. It really helps to pull it all together.


P. S. Perhaps now it's time to have a Siffblog party - slash - wake for Tablet?



Friday, August 19, 2005

Reelin' in the Years...at Bumbershoot

This year, Bumbershoot is celebrating its 35th anniversary and they've put together one heck of a line-up, including such legendary performers as Iggy Pop & the Stooges, the New York Dolls and Elvis Costello. In addition, the 1 Reel Film Festival is celebrating its 10th. In recognition of this achievement, curator Warren Etheridge, who is celebrating his seventh, will be screening greatest hits throughout the weekend. All will be shown at the Intiman Theater. On Thursday, August 18th, he presented some of the highlights at Ballard's Tractor Tavern.

Etheridge and crew watched 1,500 shorts to put together this year's program of 140 films. Thirty are from the Northwest, 15 are from high school students. He noted that there was a preponderance of "brooding" and "introspective" films with a "serious undertone." He also mentioned that shorts these days are "becoming more of a political playground for filmmakers" and that there's "no financial gain in shorts," so most are made "purely for the love of the art." That said, over 70 of the filmmakers who've been involved with the 1 Reel Film Festival have gone on to make feature films. This includes Ivan Reitman's son, Jason, who agreed to take part in this year's 1 Reel Challenge, despite the fact that he's scrambling to complete his Christopher Buckley adaptation, Thank You For Smoking, in time for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Etheridge screened the following films: Son of Satan (a profane Charles Bukowski-based animation), Dimmer (a B&W doc about blind teenagers), 9 (a surrealistic animation), Milton is a Shitbag (a comic animation), The Double (with Eric Roberts), and The Big Empty (with Selma Blair and the always-watchable Elias Koteas). I liked all of them, but my favorites were Milton and The Big Empty. Due to technical problems, we only got to watch the first half of Milton, which is five minutes long. That said, what we saw was pretty hilarious (simply put, Milton the cat really is a shitbag). Etheridge described the star-studded Empty, which was produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, as a "vaginal Being John Malkovich." That about sums it up. I was also reminded of the B&W short in the middle of Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her-"magine if that sequence was set in the present and filmed in color. Okay, Empty is a lot more discreet, but you get the idea.

As usual, the schedule is divided into themed blocks. Each is one hour long and there's a half hour break every three hours. As in years past, Etheridge will be giving out the "Iron Ass" award, so if you've got the stamina, this prestigious prize could be yours! Plus, Labor Day weekend in Seattle is usually pretty hot, so spending a little time in a cool, dark space is sure to do you good.

Friday, 9/2

Hollywood High (12-1pm), Hollywood High: Honor Roll (1-2pm), Problem Child (2-3pm), Help Wanted (3:30-4:30pm), Distance Learning (4:30-5:30pm), Memento (5:30-6:30pm), David Russo's World Premiere (7-8pm) and The Best of the Best of the Fest (8-10pm).

Saturday, 9/3

Saturday Morning Cartoons* (12-1pm), Crumbsnatchers (1-2pm), Wholly Quests (2-3pm), Role Models (3:30-4:30pm), Comedy Gold! (4:30-5:30pm), End of the Affair (5:30-6:30pm), Mating Rituals (7-8pm), Lady-Like** (8-9pm) and The Best Sex Ever!** (9-10pm).

*These are family friendly.
** These are not.


Sunday, 9/4

To the Extreme! (12-1pm), Gimme Shelter! (1-2pm), War Torn (2-3pm), Tainted Love (3:30-4:30pm), Undertow (4:30-5:30pm), Freak Your Melon! (5:30-6:30pm), Mother's Daze (7-8pm) and Curator's Classics (8-10pm).

Monday, 9/5

Homecoming (12-1pm), Pregnant Pause (1-2pm), Dearly Departed (2:30-3:30pm), The 1 Reel Challenge: Are You F**king Kidding Me!?! (3:30-5pm) and The Best of the Fest w/The Short Awards Ceremony (5:30-8pm).

For more information, see www.bumbershoot.org. For more on Etheridge, check out his site at www.thewarrenreport.com.

Reelin' in the Years...at Bumbershoot

This year, Bumbershoot is celebrating its 35th anniversary and they've put together one heck of a line-up, including such legendary performers as Iggy Pop & the Stooges, the New York Dolls and Elvis Costello. In addition, the 1 Reel Film Festival is celebrating its 10th. In recognition of this achievement, curator Warren Etheridge, who is celebrating his seventh, will be screening greatest hits throughout the weekend. All will be shown at the Intiman Theater. On Thursday, August 18th, he presented some of the highlights at Ballard's Tractor Tavern.

Etheridge and crew watched 1,500 shorts to put together this year's program of 140 films. Thirty are from the Northwest, 15 are from high school students. He noted that there was a preponderance of "brooding" and "introspective" films with a "serious undertone." He also mentioned that shorts these days are "becoming more of a political playground for filmmakers" and that there's "no financial gain in shorts," so most are made "purely for the love of the art." That said, over 70 of the filmmakers who've been involved with the 1 Reel Film Festival have gone on to make feature films. This includes Ivan Reitman's son, Jason, who agreed to take part in this year's 1 Reel Challenge, despite the fact that he's scrambling to complete his Christopher Buckley adaptation, Thank You For Smoking, in time for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Etheridge screened the following films: Son of Satan (a profane Charles Bukowski-based animation), Dimmer (a B&W doc about blind teenagers), 9 (a surrealistic animation), Milton is a Shitbag (a comic animation), The Double (with Eric Roberts), and The Big Empty (with Selma Blair and the always-watchable Elias Koteas). I liked all of them, but my favorites were Milton and The Big Empty. Due to technical problems, we only got to watch the first half of Milton, which is five minutes long. That said, what we saw was pretty hilarious (simply put, Milton the cat really is a shitbag). Etheridge described the star-studded Empty, which was produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, as a "vaginal Being John Malkovich." That about sums it up. I was also reminded of the B&W short in the middle of Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her--imagine if that sequence was set in the present and filmed in color. Okay, Empty is a lot more discreet, but you get the idea.

As usual, the schedule is divided into themed blocks. Each is one hour long and there's a half hour break every three hours. As in years past, Etheridge will be giving out the "Iron Ass" award, so if you've got the stamina, this prestigious prize could be yours! Plus, Labor Day weekend in Seattle is usually pretty hot, so spending a little time in a cool, dark space is sure to do you good.

Friday, 9/2

Hollywood High (12-1pm), Hollywood High: Honor Roll (1-2pm), Problem Child (2-3pm), Help Wanted (3:30-4:30pm), Distance Learning (4:30-5:30pm), Memento (5:30-6:30pm), David Russo's World Premiere (7-8pm) and The Best of the Best of the Fest (8-10pm).

Saturday, 9/3

Saturday Morning Cartoons* (12-1pm), Crumbsnatchers (1-2pm), Wholly Quests (2-3pm), Role Models (3:30-4:30pm), Comedy Gold! (4:30-5:30pm), End of the Affair (5:30-6:30pm), Mating Rituals (7-8pm), Lady-Like** (8-9pm) and The Best Sex Ever!** (9-10pm).

*These are family friendly.
** These are not.


Sunday, 9/4

To the Extreme! (12-1pm), Gimme Shelter! (1-2pm), War Torn (2-3pm), Tainted Love (3:30-4:30pm), Undertow (4:30-5:30pm), Freak Your Melon! (5:30-6:30pm), Mother's Daze (7-8pm) and Curator's Classics (8-10pm).

Monday, 9/5

Homecoming (12-1pm), Pregnant Pause (1-2pm), Dearly Departed (2:30-3:30pm), The 1 Reel Challenge: Are You F**king Kidding Me!?! (3:30-5pm) and The Best of the Fest w/The Short Awards Ceremony (5:30-8pm).

For more information, see www.bumbershoot.org. For more on Etheridge, check out his site at www.thewarrenreport.com.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Kaspar's Kouch Film Festival

Years ago a woman I knew, who lived in a hotel her family owned, was notified that a piece of hers was going to be shown at a film festival she had never heard of. It turned out to be a small, student-run event at a college. Upon discovering this information, she figured she could run her own festival and do it right at the hotel. She was going to call it the Schmegegge Film Festival.

The Schmegegge Film Festival never happened, but Dustin Kaspar has just completed the 1st Kaspar's Kouch Film Festival, held in the living-room of his Lake City apartment. Over a series of six nights he showed eighteen films, mostly DVDs from his personal collection. True, most of the films are easily available from Blockbuster or Scarecrow, but they were accompanied by an assortment of snacks, a pasta dinner, a frosty mug of beer and homemade ice cream. Oh, and the air conditioning was neither too high nor too low. Needless to say, you won't find these amenities at the Harvard Exit or the Egyptian.

However, in true festival fashion, Kaspar's Kouch featured a program, a poster, a t-shirt and, most importantly, an opening night event at 911 Media Arts Center that featured screenings of locally made films by Wes Kim, Thom Harp and 33 Fainting Spells.

Kaspar, a choral music educator and tenor vocalist [who can be currently heard performing in the chorus of Gotterdammerung at The Seattle Opera], initially conceived of the festival as a way to gather friends from out of town to see films at his place, but quickly decided to take the idea public. A friend suggested he have an opening night party and Kaspar began selecting the films by going through the Spawned in Seattle section of this year's SIFF program and contacting the filmmakers directly.

On the night I attended the films were the 1949 Gun Crazy, The Taking of Pelham 123 and Battle Royale. True to the name of the festival there was a couch, indeed, a matching pair in black velveteen. The attendees were Kaspar, Kaspar's sister, her boyfriend Dan, who designed the festival logo, and other assorted friends and guests of the festival director. The film introductions were brisk, the popcorn was fresh and the featured ice cream flavor was avocado, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Kaspar has ordered a video projection system and plans on holding non-festival screenings throughout the year. It may be some time before he gives Cinema Seattle any serious competition, but I look forward to attending the 2nd Annual KKF.

Kaspar's Kouch Film Festival

Years ago a woman I knew, who lived in a hotel her family owned, was notified that a piece of hers was going to be shown at a film festival she had never heard of. It turned out to be a small, student-run event at a college. Upon discovering this information, she figured she could run her own festival and do it right at the hotel. She was going to call it the Schmegegge Film Festival.

The Schmegegge Film Festival never happened, but Dustin Kaspar has just completed the 1st Kaspar's Kouch Film Festival, held in the living-room of his Lake City apartment. Over a series of six nights he showed eighteen films, mostly DVDs from his personal collection. True, most of the films are easily available from Blockbuster or Scarecrow, but they were accompanied by an assortment of snacks, a pasta dinner, a frosty mug of beer and homemade ice cream. Oh, and the air conditioning was neither too high nor too low. Needless to say, you won't find these amenities at the Harvard Exit or the Egyptian.

However, in true festival fashion, Kaspar's Kouch featured a program, a poster, a t-shirt and, most importantly, an opening night event at 911 Media Arts Center that featured screenings of locally made films by Wes Kim, Thom Harp and 33 Fainting Spells.

Kaspar, a choral music educator and tenor vocalist [who can be currently heard performing in the chorus of Gotterdammerung at The Seattle Opera], initially conceived of the festival as a way to gather friends from out of town to see films at his place, but quickly decided to take the idea public. A friend suggested he have an opening night party and Kaspar began selecting the films by going through the Spawned in Seattle section of this year's SIFF program and contacting the filmmakers directly.

On the night I attended the films were the 1949 Gun Crazy, The Taking of Pelham 123 and Battle Royale. True to the name of the festival there was a couch, indeed, a matching pair in black velveteen. The attendees were Kaspar, Kaspar's sister, her boyfriend Dan, who designed the festival logo, and other assorted friends and guests of the festival director. The film introductions were brisk, the popcorn was fresh and the featured ice cream flavor was avocado, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Kaspar has ordered a video projection system and plans on holding non-festival screenings throughout the year. It may be some time before he gives Cinema Seattle any serious competition, but I look forward to attending the 2nd Annual KKF.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Bio

I began reading SIFFBLOG during this past SIFF. I attended 33 films, a few of them with Kathy Fennessy and Gillian Gaar, who mentioned me several times in her reviews. After some reflection, I figured, if my name was going to appear on the site, I might as well be writing for it. And so, here I am.

The first film I can remember seeing was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The first film I can remember being impressed with was 2001, which I saw in 1969 at the Park Lane Theater in Palisades Park, NJ (a town also known for its famous amusement park). Both the theater and the amusement park have long since vanished.

The first film I made was a Super 8 piece documenting my Christmas dinner in 1973. A copy exists on VHS, but is not available for screening.

The last film I made was 3.5 minute short with the wicked and beautiful Dame Darcy. Julianne Shepherd called it a 'small gem of a movie.' It's the only review I have ever gotten.

In between, I attended high school with Brooke Shields, studied art history at Columbia and studied film production, screenwriting and film criticism at UT Austin, during which time I also worked on quite possibly the very first Renee Zellweger film.

The last critical writing I did, that was published, was a handful of CD reviews for Ear magazine. This was during the prior Bush administration. Hopefully, my critical faculties have improved since then, though I quite liked all 5 Cremaster pictures so, who knows? In any case, my goal here is to write my honest opinion without a shred of earnestness and, in the process, hopefully not engender any fistfights or spillage of blood, though I'm willing to fence anyone for points [I once beat the NJ varsity left-handed foil champion].

More Nyback info

Faithful correspondant Alice Dee passes along the Grand Illusion's email-only schedule for the second week of the Nyback series:

Cinema Patrons,
This week is Week Two of our special visit from the illustrious Dennis Nyback and his collection of rare and forgotten cinema. Prepare yourself*=*for DENNIS NYBACK'S SILENT & SOUND SLAPSTICK FESTIVAL!

FRIDAY AUGUST 5th

TOUGH BABES OF THE SILENT FILM
Shows at 7pm

WACKY WOMEN IN 1930's COMEDY
Shows at 9pm

Two sets of short features that showcase the forgotten ladies of early film comedy!

SATURDAY AUGUST 6th

OUR GANG WAS GREAT!
A lovely set of Little Rascals shorts
Shows at 3pm & 5pm

FUNNY FUNNY FORGOTTEN MEN
See some incredibly rare slapstick shorts from stars you've never heard of!
Shows at 7pm

SILENT STARS KNOCKABOUT IN SOUND SHORTS
A whole lotta silliness in an easy-to-digest format
Shows at 9pm

SUNDAY AUGUST 7th

THREE STOOGES FUN!
The laws of physics and biology are suspended for our favorite goofballs
Shows at 3pm & 5pm

BUSTER AT HIS BEST
More mayhem from the Great Stone Face
Shows at 7pm

FUNNY FUNNY FATTY
Come discover the comic genius of Fatty Arbuckle
Shows at 9pm

MONDAY AUGUST 8th

FUNNY FILMS AT ORPHAN STUDIOS
A wonderful series of slapstick shorts from production studios that never made it into the modern era
Shows at 7pm

MACK SENNETT: THE KING OF SLAPSTICK
Sennett was the uncrowned king of slapstick, producing and directing with all the greats. Come down and see some of his greatest bits!
Shows at 9pm


TUESDAY AUGUST 9th

HAL ROACH: PRINCE OF SLAPSTICK
The man behind the Little Rascals had a long career in slapstick, and we feature 88 minutes of his best
Shows at 7pm

THE GREAT CHAPLIN
A series of shorts Chaplin filmed for Mutual Pictures
Shows at 9pm


WEDNESDAY AUGUST 10th

THE STRONG MAN
A hilarious feature starring Harry Langdon and directed by Frank Capra!
Shows at 7pm

WHEN EDUCATIONAL FILMS MEANT SLAPSTICK
A slapstick film factory with a great misleading name, Educational Films
produced some of the best short films of the 1930's with such stars as Shirley Temple and Bing Crosby
Shows at 9pm

THURSDAY AUGUST 11th

LAUREL & HARDY!
Four short films with our favorite screen couple
Shows at 7pm

HAROLD LLOYD in GRANDMA'S BOY
Lloyd stars as a cowardly youngster who discovers an unlikely source of
courage
Shows at 9pm

Our website currently doesn't have a schedule on it! Call the theater if you really want to double check showtimes; but I promise that I got the times right here! If you become a member of the Grand Illusion, you can receive a calendar in the mail every month! And we'd love you that much more!

Thanks,
The Grand Illusion Cinema
1403 NE 50th ST
Seattle, WA
98105

(206)523.3935
www.grandillusioncinema.org