Another Year, Another Seattle International Film Fest

Because films travel from festival to festival before landing a theatrical or DVD distribution deal (if it's lucky), I think it's good to publish reactions to as many festival films by title. Not only could it help the casual festival attendee pick and choose, but it can help a festival programmer gauge critical reaction to a film and might give a filmmaker useful feedback or marketing angles. Of course one review can't do any of that, but one review can add to a consensus and be valuable down the line.

The list I'm about to present to you is a continuation of THIS LIST (scroll down) and THIS LIST (scroll down). Before I go any farther, I want to throw out a link to Ken Rudolph's website. He is a tireless lover of film who saw somewhere around 140 of the feature films from this year's SIFF and lived to write about them. He also rated them, which is something I may end up doing next year. Ken is a full series pass holder, and I should note that he's not the craziest or most movie-mad of those folks. I heard of one guy who saw 175 films, which breaks down to seeing a film in every potential screening slot, upwards of six or seven films per day. You can debate the sanity of that all you want, but that's the kind of film fans that are drawn to SIFF.

In an effort to make the list easier to read I divided my listings up into two different categories, the movies I liked and the movies I didn't like as much. I tried to be picky when I chose the films to begin with, so don't be surprised if the "liked" category turns out to be bigger.

MOVIES I LIKED:

Angels in the Dust could have been another depressing doc about AIDS in Africa, but Louise Hogarth found a bright and positive center with Marion Cloete and her husband and how they sold everything they had to open an orphanage to help children dealing with AIDS. Very inspirational.

The Boss of It All is a Lars von Trier comedy about a pretentious actor hired to play the made-up boss of a company that is in negotiations to be sold offshore to Iceland. The script is fun, though the jump-cut style is a little distracting.

Zoe Cassavetes' Broken English follows Parker Posey as she navigates the dating world as a woman in her late 30s, ending with an impulsive trip to Paris to meet up with a guy she met at a party in Manhattan. What's refreshing is that it's a romance where the final hook up is not a sure thing and becomes less and less important by the end. In other words, this is more real than a Hollywood romance.

I worked on Cthulhu as the Script Supervisor, and am proud to say the whole movie cuts together nicely. The main drawback is that it doesn't always know if it wants to be a thriller, a monster movie, a family reunion film, a story of lost love, or a political tale about the apocalypse, but it's nice to see a movie that tries to do too much rather than too little.

I went into Day Watch without having seen its predecessor Night Watch, and I wasn't confused at all by this crazy-ass, action-packed, supernatural thriller all the way up until the very last shot which, friends told me, is a callback to the very first scene of the first movie.

Interview is indie icon Steve Buscemi's remake of a film by murdered Dutch director Theo van Gogh. Buscemi directs and stars as a political journalist demoted to a job interviewing a popular Hollywood starlet (Sienna Miller). Their dynamic is fun, the script is tight, and the ending is satisfying.

The Life of Reilly captures Charles Nelson Reilly's autobiographical stage show, from youth to Broadway to being mistaken for being dead (he has since passed away). He is very funny, and there was a lot more to his life than his stint on the TV game show Match Game.

For Made in China, Seattle director John Helde researches his dad's youth growing up as the son of missionaries in China. This was a very personal and heartfelt film.

The Memory Thief starts out like a typical slacker drama about a bored young man working at a toll booth, but when he's tossed a copy of Mein Kampf and then reproached for reading it by a Holocaust survivor, he becomes so obsessed with the Holocaust that he absorbs the info as though he lived through it. The story is as twisted as it is fascinating.

One Day Like Rain is a very visual film that is very well directed. The story of a teenage girl and the end of the world, it captures the same suburban malaise and ambiguities that Donnie Darko and Ghost World did, but I'm not sure I "got it." I did like it though.

When Out of Time won the jury award at this year's SIFF I was very happy, because this was a title I fought to bring into competition. Patient and cinematic, this humanistic portrait of four old-world shops and the people who run them wins you over just as soon as you realize director Harald Friedl has completely won the trust of the shopkeepers. The title is appropriate, not because the shops are coming to the end of their lives as much as they seem to exist in an alternate, old-world universe.

Red Without Blue is a crowd-pleasing doc about what happens when one of two identical twins decides to switch genders. The subject matter is fascinating, though I thought the structure borrowed a little too much from The Real World and other reality TV shows.

Trail of the Screaming Forehead is an over-the-top, campy, '60s-inspired B-movie about an alien invasion, and it works because it never backs down from its enthusiastic and deadpan roots.

Trainwreck: My Life as an Idoit is based on the true story of an unlucky dyslexic who is also a recovering alcoholic and who wants to be a stand up comedian. Seann William Scott (American Pie) brings an engaging charm to the title character and sets a nice tone for the film.

MOVIES I DIDN'T LIKE SO MUCH

KINSKI Performs Berlin: Symphony of a City with a score by Seattle rock band Kinski mixes a great silent film and an engaging local band, but to me it seemed like the two things were playing at the same time and often didn't have any relation to one another.

Delirious stars Steve Buscemi as a paparazzi photographer, sort of similar to his character in Interview, but this movie is more of a caricature of celebrity where the other movie actually examines it.

Falkenberg Farewell is an aimless look at five Swedish slackers and their love-hate relationship with their home town, but it was a bit too aimless and, worse than that, the amateur camerawork was very off-putting.

Goya's Ghosts is Milos Forman trying to elevate another old artist, a painter instead of a composer this time, but there is too much soap opera and not enough context and so it never feels true.

I Really Hate My Job and I really hate plays that should never have been turned into movies in the first place.

Joshua has an interesting premise, a boy so jealous of the new baby in the family that he takes revenge, but the movie lost me in the third act when… Well, I won't spoil that disappointment for you, but I never felt like this was the boy from The Omen like I think I was supposed to.

Mushishi is another live action film from the director of the classic anime film Akira, but it's long and boring and an intriguing premise gets sidetracked by poetic tangents and a loss of focus.

Sex and Death 101 gives a guy who's about to be married a mystical list of everyone he ever slept with and ever will sleep with, and lets him loose on a whole series of "sure things" after his wedding is canceled. It's written and directed by the writer of Heathers and Winona Ryder co-stars. It was an audience favorite, but the premise didn't quite work for me.

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Andy Spletzer ended up seeing 61 movies at this year's SIFF, and went to a total of nine industry panel discussions.