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Greetings from the Future!!

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Hello there, Media Babe here!

For those just coming to visit for the first time, welcome! My name is Mimi, but over the years I have garnered the nickname "Media Babe" for my savvy knowledge of movies, good taste, entertaining re-enactments of movie scenes, and colorful summations. For years I've been told that I should write reviews and that the reviews I write are really good, so here I am ... ummm, writing reviews! My 'credentials' are that I've loved movies of all kinds ever since I was child during the advent of the VCR, I've been working at Scarecrow Video (the coolest video store on the planet!!) for over eleven years, and 2011 marks my ninth year working for the Seattle International Film Festival! Needless to say, I love movies and if you're here, then you probably do too!

My current website needs a DRAMATIC (insert hand to forehead here) makeover, so in the meanwhile I'm directing everyone here which is, quite honestly, where all the current stuff is going on anyways! Sadly I'm a little random in my review writing habits. I go totally crazy every year for SIFF and then I just lose my mojo or the impetus or the inspiration or something like that. But I keep on hoping to get better and write reviews for everything that I see both in the theater and on DVD! I try to keep my reviews as spoiler free as much as possible, though if there is something 'spoilerish' that I just MUST rant/rave about, I will put it behind a cut-tag so as not to ruin anything for you purists out there. :-) Please bear in mind that I try to write reviews as soon as possible after seeing a movie and I don't always catch little grammatical errors due to lack of sleep or lack of time. It's not that I don't care, it's just my brain being full of movie still, or the tap running a bit too fast and messy in my eagerness to get it out on the 'page' as it were. ;-) Feel free to point out any mistakes that I make, but please do so kindly. :-)

Thanks for visiting! I hope that you find my reviews helpful, informative and, most of all, enjoyable to read.

Happy movie watching to you all!!

The Guard

lom armed
If you like movies like In Bruges, Perrier's Bounty, and Snatch then I cannot recommend highly enough that you go out ASAP and see The Guard.

I just saw it tonight and it was awesome! Funny, snarky, clever, well-written, intelligent, and oh so very wrong in all the right ways. :D No surprise that lead actor Brendan Gleeson, one of the main reasons In Bruges is so great, is what makes The Guard (in part) so great. :D

It's currently playing at The Egyptian and it nearly broke my heart to see such a great film in such an empty theater on a Friday night. It deserves better! Go see!!

Catching up is hard to do...

siff 2011
And I'm being exceedingly slow about it this year. I managed to write 47 reviews (or pico reviews) out of the 70 some odd movies that I managed to see this festival. I hope to finish up, catch up and have reviews for everything this coming week or so, though obviously that won't be of much use to most people now. ;) Still, there are some movies that will be getting a big screen release or least a local one, so it might be somewhat useful to you. ;)

Movies yet to get reviews include:

Backyard
Beginners - This is in theaters now. Definitely go see it! It's a great movie! One of the best of the fest!
Bibliotheque Pascal
Black Bread
Burke & Hare
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff
A Cat in Paris
Copacabana
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Ex
The First Grader
Four More Years
Gainsbourg
Hayfever
Karate-Robo Zaborgar
Kung Fu Panda 2
Life in a Day
My Afternoons with Margueritte
Our Home
Revenge of the Electric Car
Simple Simon
Sound of Noise
Third Star
Toast
The Trip
Young Goethe in Love

I'll probably concentrate on stuff that is out now, is coming out soon, playing at the Best of SIFF, or that we have available at Scarecrow Video. :)

Best of SIFF??

siff 2011
Well, I have to say that I'm extremely disappointed in the Best of SIFF lineup for next weekend. Most of the films are ones that I either saw (and those are good choices) or had little to zero interest in seeing. There were definitely far better films that could have been picked than were picked, alas. There are, of course, a few exceptions, but in the end virtually nothing has been slated that I didn't see and hoped to catch. For those who are curious, you can see what was picked here.

Of the ones chosen, I can personally recommend Simple Simon, Paper Birds, How to Die in Oregon, and Life in a Day. I will definitely go see Best of SIFF shorts, because that is always guaranteed to be pretty great. I've also heard from many people that Being Elmo (will probably go see, despite hating the Elmo character) is quite excellent as well as To Be Heard (not my thing). Sadly, though, none of the films that I missed, heard high praise of, and hoped to see were put on the schedule. Siiiiiiigh.

To say that I am very disappointed is quite the understatement. :(

SIFF - The Final Day

siff 2011
Well, it's been a weird SIFF for me this year. Not sure why writing reviews has been more of a chore than a pleasure, but such is life I suppose.

Here are some quick recommendations for the final day. They're barely even pico reviews, but there ya go.

Poupoupidou - Definitely one of my favorite films of the festival. The trailer is amazing and won me over in a heartbeat. I feared that the movie would not live up to its promise, but it did. An author unexpectedly discovers inspiration in the most unlikely of places when a local celebrity turns up dead, an apparent suicide but with mysterious overtones. As he delves into her life, which runs a surreal parallel to that of Marilyn Monroe, he finds himself falling for a woman he never even met. A fanciful, charming, funny, tragic, and quirky sort of thriller, a story told in reverse, a mystery to be unfolded, all in a brutally cold and snowy part of France. I loved it.

Today - Neptune - 1:30

The Poll Diaries - his has been brought back for one of the TBA slots and I HIGHLY recommend it. Set during the eve of WWI on the border of Germany, Russia and Estonia, a young girl returns home with her mother’s corpse and a two-headed fetus in a jar for her father. That right there sets the stage for the strange, bizarre, and dysfunctional story that is to follow. The cinematography and setting is astonishing and stunning, the story dark and strange, and the whole film from start to finish is fascinating, suspenseful, and captivating. One of the best films of the festival, hands down.

Today - Pacific Place - 9:30

SIFF DAY 21

siff 2011
Yesterday I lamed out for the most part. Didn't feel like dragging myself out for press screenings, and nothing I really felt like going out to that evening either. It was really quite nice, actually, to just have a relaxing day at home doing nothing to cleaning and reading and napping. Ahhhhhh!

Today I awoke refreshed and ready to seize the day. Saw two press screenings and now I'm at work (la!) at the Neptune. Come by and say hi! ;)

Holy Rollers - The True Story of Card Counting Christians - The first half of this movie is quite simply AWESOME. Fast and funny, well-edited, stylish and clever, this film whisks you along on a gambling adventure that is part Rainman and part Ocean's 11. In fact they intersperse scenes from Rainman, along with other famous movies, to compare the Hollywood 'vision' of gambling with their reality. The film deals with the story of how this group of Christians came together and made a business out of blackjack and how they justify the means to themselves, their families, and their communities. Unfortunately the film simply goes on too long and makes some crucial errors by not following up on what is clearly an important interview, which makes me wonder if the director was perhaps a fellow Christian and friend of this group and, as such, biased in his choice of what to show and, more importantly what, not to show. Questions of greed, suspicion, discrimination, religious fervor, and morality begin to raise their ugly heads like a hydra; interesting and provocative but in the end something of a buzz-kill to the initial exuberance of the first half.

What I found surprising is that the SIFF write-up for the film is inaccurate. It claims that these people are using blackjack in order to fund their churches and communities. This is not the case, according to the film. It is, quite clearly, a business; there are investors, there are managers, and there are players (employees) and as far as the film depicts, they are all in this to make money for themselves. Basically, they "work" 40 hours a month playing blackjack to make a living rather than 40 hours a week in a regular job and "supposedly" put the rest of their time into their Christian faith. This is the only way their "work" gives back to the Christian community; their claim that they do it in order to have more time to dedicate to pastoring, their church, and their community. But this is something we are told in non-explicit terms and do not see. This movie clearly pushed some hot buttons in the people around me, as several individuals walked out during the press screening. Even though it was overlong and could have used some editing, overall it was entertaining and certainly very interesting. No matter what your stance or opinion on either gambling or Christianity might be, there's something of interest to take away from this film. I think any film that posits such controversial ideas and conversations is a film worth seeing.

USA, 2011 (93 minutes)
Director: Bryan Storkel

Director Bryan Storkel, producer Jason Connell, cinematographer Brian Liepe, and other cast and crew members are scheduled to attend

Festival Screenings
6:00 PM Sat, June 11 Admiral Theatre (Screening on STANDBY - advance tickets not available)
3:30 AM Sun, June 12 SIFF Cinema

Funkytown - Based on true stories, this Canadian film does an excellent job of capturing the changing of the times at the end of the 70s, from when Disco ruled to the point where Punk and New Wave start to make their move. Following a number of different characters - a highly successful radio DJ and TV celebrity, an up-and-coming model/starlet, a corrupt music manager, an aging singer whose career is on the rocks thanks to disco and poor management, a sexually conflicted young Italian dancer and restauranteur, a gay TV host and celebrity on his way down from success - we watch as their lives become intertwined, mostly for the worst, through the Starlight club, which boasts to be the first Disco dance club in North America. The music really makes the film, and it's not all disco, capturing not only the times but a suffusing the movie with a vivacious energy. Although the film is long, and you can feel its length, it's never boring or uninteresting. It's a fascinating look at how times change, music changes, and people change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Some people shoulder adversity and manage to rise to the top; others are crushed and crumble beneath it. Even though only a few characters in the film are really likeable or deserve your respect, they're all interesting and engaging, whether they're rising like a phoenix or crashing like a burning car. Way more enjoyable and entertaining that I had expected. A really good film that I highly recommend checking out.

Canada (Quebec), 2011 (133 minutes)
Director: Daniel Roby
Cast: Patrick Huard, Justin Chatwin, Sarah Mutch, Raymond Bouchard, Paul Doucet

Director Daniel Roby scheduled to attend

Festival Screenings
9:30 PM Fri, June 10 AMC Pacific Place
3:30 AM Sun, June 12 AMC Pacific Place

SIFF DAY 19

siff 2011
Well, Wednesday was all kinds of disappointing. We were supposed to have a press screening of Norwegian Wood (which was really the main reason I went to the press screenings in the first place), but the copy they showed didn't have subtitles. Gee. Thanks. Second movie was okay, but the third movie (which was supposed to be Spud got replaced by a movie I wasn't really interested in seeing. So instead of seeing 5 movies that day, I only saw 3. Most vexing.

Lys - This movie is crazy short! It was preceded by a short film called Roman's Ark which I found vaguely interesting visually, but not particularly interesting (or even exactly clear) as a film, short or not. Siiiigh. Lys likewise felt a bit incomplete and lacked a great deal of explanation. A new power plant, using a supposedly clean and renewable energy source called Anima, suddenly starts having catastrophic failures resulting in massive blackouts at the same time that a mysterious girl is found in the reactor chamber. Quickly it becomes clear that they do not have control over this energy source, which may be far more volatile than they initially realized, and for better or for worse it appears that the strange girl, Lys, might be the either the key to understanding this new mystery, or a weapon to bring about their destruction.

I think this the first time I've ever felt that a movie at the festival should have been longer, but this one really needed a little more beef along with its bun. Too many questions left unanswered, too little actual plot or character development. It needed more and, honestly, I think there could have easily been more to it. Characters were dreadfully two-dimensional, some utterly arbitrary, and as a result it was difficult to feel engaged in the film. Told in a series of flashbacks, there is also a distinct lack of a clear timeline, which really would have added to the clarity and possibly even the tension of the story. Rumor has it that this is the director's thesis project and, despite all of my complaints, it was still interesting and well made. In the end, however, I was more interested in what it could have been with some more time and more money, rather than in what it was.

Germany, 2011 (52 minutes, 76 minutes total)
Director: Krystof Zlatnik
Cast: Hanna Schwamborn, Horst-Günter Marx, Marc Hosemann, Catherine Bode Ecki Hoffmann

Director Krystof Zlatnik scheduled to attend.

Festival Screenings
9:30 PM Fri, June 10 Neptune Theatre
11:00 AM Sat, June 11 Neptune Theatre

My Afternoons With Margueritte - One of Gerard Depardieu's better roles in a long time, but the film still felt very inconsistent. A hard working, simple man, struggles against the abuse of his past and his present, against the fact that nearly everyone takes him for a simpleton and an idiot. Everyone, that is, except Margueritte, a charming, friendly and erudite woman he meets in the park and becomes friends with, bonding over literature. Okay, okay, it's not fair to say that everybody picks on him - he has a surprisingly lovely and loving girlfriend. It's a charming little film about the value of a person and how worth is made up of so much more than simply the intelligence that one possesses. It wasn't quite as delightful and wonderful as I had hoped it would be, but it was perfectly pleasant, with moments of true grace and beauty from time to time.

Fuck My Life - Wheeeeee, this was fun! This film fully embraces the technology of our time, with texting, Facebook, and cell phones being one of the primary forms of communication between individuals, whether it be calling out for help or asking for dating advice. Interestingly enough the actual title of the film is Fuck Your Life, which embodies more clearly the attitude of many of the characters who feel that their friends and lovers have done them wrong. The lead character realizes what he has lost after he dumps his girlfriend and spends the rest of the movie trying to win her back, despite everyone's advice that he move on and forget her. It's very much a "he said, she said" sort of movie, where characters are "interviewed" and often give very differing accounts of the various actions of our protagonist. In the end, though, every character feel very real and believable, even when the situations are ludicrous or highly coincidental. It's a playful, silly, wry, clever, and yet also utterly spot on about people and relationships.

SIFF DAY 17!

siff 2011
Love Crime - A smartly wicked retelling of All About Eve, this film is a strong proponent of the saying, "All is fair in love and war". This time the war is in the business arena, the battlefield the office, and the order of the day is take no prisoners. In a style that faintly recalls the conflict in a far fluffier movie, Working Girl, a demanding and ladder-climbing executive uses the skills of her assistant, taking credit for her ideas, in order to achieve her desires. When the assistant decides to take matters into her own hands and follow suit, she finds herself up against a vicious and ruthless adversary. But two can play at that game.

The two lead actresses really carry the weight of the film, and they are both pitch perfect in their performances. For the beginning of the film and their talents alone it is worth the price of admission. Alas, there are some very obvious and awkward flaws in the writing and the logic of the story. Contradicting pieces of information, overlooked or forgotten clues, some obvious plot points, and simply illogical conclusions mar what could have been a deliciously perfect mystery. Additionally in what I can only assume was an attempt by the filmmakers to stretch out the mystery of the film served in the end only to stretch it too far, bypassing suspense and straying into tedium. The soundtrack unfortunately exacerbates this problem; the lazy laid back jazz reduces the tension rather than increasing it as the music should have. Still, an interesting and enjoyable film, it just should have been much tighter and more gripping.

SIFF DAY 16!

siff 2011
Saturday was Day 16! Only one movie for me. I had work and then was completely exhausted and needed SLEEP! ;)

Boy - The trailer for this film would lead you to believe that it is silly and playful, with flights of fantasy and foolishness. And while it does embody these aspects, it's also a much more serious and at times sad film about what happens when a child's hero proves to be a disappointment. Eleven year old "Boy" lives with his aunt, his brother and five other children where he often is the eldest and most responsible member of the household, taking care of the cooking, cleaning, and feeding of the other children. His two heroes are his dad, who is absent for a myriad of possible reasons, and Michael Jackson. Everything changes, however, when his father suddenly returns. The reunion is exciting and joyous, but Boy quickly learns what happens when your childhood hero turns out to be nothing more than a flawed human being. Boy's daydreams, where his father and Michael Jackson become one, are probably one of my favorite parts of the film! But even when the story takes a turn for the serious, it is still a good film, balancing the playful nature of a parent connecting with his children and the struggle when the needs of each cannot be satisfied by the other. All of the performances are excellent, especially those of the children. Definitely a film worth seeing, just be prepared for some serious tones as well as cheerful ones. Make sure you sit through the credits for a hilarious extra and, if you're a complete-ist about such things, there is a tiny little extra right at the very end as well. ;)

SIFF DAY 15

siff 2011
Yesterday was Day 15 at SIFF in my estimation (Day 16 in theirs - bah!) and was a mixed sort of day. Two meh films and two really fun and excellent films!

EDIT: Whoops! I totally forgot that I saw a press screening today - the closing night film! Review to come soon. Yeah, yeah, I know, I say that all the time! :P

Life in a Day -

Juan - A modernized version of Mozart's Don Giovanni where a dashing womanizer accidentally kills the father of his latest conquest, but doesn't have the good sense to get out of town while he still can, leading himself deeper and deeper into disaster. The trailer for this film looked very exciting and dynamic and I had high hopes for it. Alas, while I was watching it I found I kept just thinking of ways that I would have made the film that would have been (IMHO) an improvement. For myself, I wished that this film was more dynamic both visually and cinematically. The music of opera lends itself toward the dramatic, and though I enjoyed the idea of modernization, which does take away from the traditional dramatic presentation of fancy costumes and sets, I felt they could have emulated these effects through distinctive lighting, camera angles, brilliant color (or the opposite, stark and striking B&W) and stylish costuming. There are certain moments that captured these aspects and my interest briefly, but so much more could have been done. Additionally, I did not agree with the choice of changing the language from Italian to English. There were English subtitles anyways, and the English language just really didn't fit the music and it made some of the modernized translations sound rather foolish.

Our Home - If one is a fan or a reader of the works of spiritualist medium Chico Xavier, then this film will most likely appeal to you. I, alas, found the film both rather annoyingly preachy and, by turns, slightly cheesy. The lessons shown here I have certainly seen in other films, but done with a much more subtle and deft handling. A man who lead a somewhat selfish and self-absorbed life, finds himself struggling after his death with the choices that he made and the prejudices he held during his life on earth. Though the production values are certainly quite elegant, I found it a rather boring and overly familiar rendition of 'heaven', where everyone wears flowing loose outfits of white and pale colors and sit about on perfectly manicured lawns, listening to elegant and demure classical music. Though there is a tip of the hat toward an inclusivity of all religions, there is very little shown to express the diversity of individuals. As with Juan I found myself watching and picking out all of the things that I would have done differently to make this a more interesting and inclusive film. But, seeing that it's based on a specific work of a specific author, I suppose there was not much room for alteration or exploration on the theme. My biggest problem with the film is that it all felt just a little too obvious. Familiar themes on hell/purgatory, familiar themes on letting go of control and opening yourself up to God and having faith, familiar themes on learning from your past and becoming a better person. Though many people have raved about this film, neither I nor most of the people sitting around me during the screening were particularly enamoured of the film.

Detention - If you want a high-octane, wicked fast and funny, whiplash dialog movie then this is the film to see! Students at a high school are tossed into turmoil when one of their own is murdered by a character from a popular horror movie, all of them wondering who will be struck next. This is the ultimate teenager/highschool horror flick, with a bizarre twist. Harkening to such films as The Breakfast Club, Heathers, Real Genius, and Scream this movie makes a mockery of them all and then some. The peculiar choice of the director is to move the film past the obvious horror parody and into the realm of mocking multiple genres, tropes, and culture. The movie is bursting at the seams with references to films, pop culture, and music, at a pace that is so dizzyingly fast that you probably need to see it several times just to catch them all. Personally I think it would have been more successful if it had reined itself in a bit more and dropped a few of the film and genre references as some of them quite simply do not serve either the film or the story as a whole and, in fact, detract from the perfection of the rest of it. That said, its an utterly hilarious and wild romp, with clever uses of text and fonts throughout, witty dialog, and excellent cinematography and editing used to capture that crazy and traumatic time and place that we call "high school".

The Whisperer in the Darkness - For those of you who saw and enjoyed The Call of Chuthulu (SIFF 2006), prepare yourself to be similarly dazzled and delighted by the second film of this talented team of filmmakers! Based on yet another work by H.P. Lovecraft, this time they give us a full-length feature done in the style of a 1930 horror/mystery film. A professor of folklore finds the original documents of a infamous writer of "folklore" depicting a strange and disturbing cult and creatures at the same time that massive flooding in Vermont brings to the surface reports of strange and unnatural remains. Invited to come and examine new and shocking evidence, the professor soon finds himself embroiled in the dastardly plans of monsters beyond human comprehension and the possible end of the world. Lovingly filmed in a film-noir style, this movie manages to beautifully capture the look, style, and performance of a period film. From the absolutely perfectly written musical score, to opening credits, to the spot-on performances of the actors, to the creative props, this film is a treat for the eyes and a charming and entertaining homage to the films and serials of the 1930s.

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