I suppose it's indicative of just how much of a total dork I am that I've been waiting
patiently anxiously for well over a month for today's announcement of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) lineup. Even more pathetic: I must confess that, every day this week, I've visited the SIFF website, on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, they'd be ahead of the curve and sneak it up early. Now that the blessed day has come, I've spent the better part of an hour perusing every inch of the festival lineup with the kind of love and attention I usually reserve for eyeing the menu at my fave Indian restaurant. I've been making lists of "must sees" and "wanna sees" -- films I missed during the craziness of Sundance, films I've heard about and not caught yet, even a few I hadn't heard of yet. It's always dicey culling down a list of films the size of the SIFF lineup into an amount that can be reasonably digested over a three-week period, but hey, that's all part of the fun! Here are seven films (from my initial list of 60+ gotta-see-'em films) I'm all hopped up about catching during SIFF.
1. The Illusionist - This film was one of the films I really wanted to see at Sundance, but missed. Directed by Neil Burger, the film is a romantic thriller about a magician (Edward Norton) in 1900 Vienna who gets into a kerfuffle with the Chief Inspector (Paul Giamatti) when he falls for the king's fiancee (Jessica Biel). This is the Opening Gala film for the fest; I'm interested to see how the Seattle film crowd reacts to it, compared to the mostly-positive, yet limited buzz the film generated at Sundance.
2. Urban Scarecrow - I've been wanting to see this film for almost a year -- ever since I interviewed director Andrew McAllister during last year's SIFF, when he was one of four Fly Filmmaking Challenge directors. I loved Mcallister's filmmaking style in Fly Films, and when he told me about Urban Scarecrow, I wanted to see it. Now, finally, I'll get to. The film, shot here in Seattle, is about a teenager who lives in a seedy motel with his dad after his mother dies. I'm hoping to interview Andy as well, so keep your eyes open for that.
3. Shanghai Dreams - Part of the Emerging Masters Series, Shanghai Dreams is directed by Wang Xioushuai (The Days, Frozen), who is one of the "Sixth Generation" Chinese filmmakers (along with the lofty likes of Zhang Yuan, Jia Zhangke and others). Film is about a young girl who wants to stay in the poor province she has grown up in, while her father dreams of the "good life" in Shanghai.
4. Al Franken: God Spoke - This documentary looks promising, if you like Franken -- which I do. Also features Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Medved and Michael Moore, so it should be entertaining, if Franken has his usual wit sharpened and at the ready. I expect this film to play well to liberal Seattle, and plan to catch this one at a regular screening, so as to fully immerse myself in the audience response to the film.
5. Conversations with Other Women - This one stars Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking) and Helena Bonham-Carter as a man and woman (guess who plays which part) who meet at a wedding. The gimmick is that the screen is split, providing a different kind of take on "he said, she said" during the one night the film's storyline follows. Sounds interesting; if it's not, well, I can just admire Eckhart for 83 minutes.
6. Frostbite - It's a vampire movie! Set in Sweden! What more do you want? Here's the basic plot: Mother and daughter move north to escape the big city, only to find themselves trapped -- with vampires!!! -- with a whole month of night to go before there's any sunlight again. This is part of the Midnight Adrenaline series, and although I am admittedly not the biggest horror buff out there, for Swedish vampires? Oh, I think I can make an exception.
7. Madeinusa - Every time I heard someone raving about this film on the endless round of shuttle rides around Park City, I regretted missing this Sundance gem. Now I get another shot, here at SIFF, and I'm not missing it this time around. The plot of this Peruvian film revolves around the concept that in this remote Peruvian village, between Good Friday, when God dies, and Easter Sunday, when he rises, there is no sin -- so the villagers are free to go wild. During this bizarre time, a Westerner happens across the village, and young Madeinusa falls for him, against her father's wishes.