Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Chocolate Milk and Cell Phone Pranks: A SIFF 2006 Wrap-up

My annual almost month-long celebration called SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival to those of you not in the know) has, once again, ended. This year was a little bittersweet, as I "only" saw 19 films (the lowest total in several years). Blame the fact that the first week I had to work tons of overtime at my "real" (paying the bills) job, including all through Memorial Weekend, and had to miss a large handful of screenings that I already had tickets for. Drat! And then I had the gumption to actually take a week's vacation towards the end of the fest. (At least I got to see a bear on that vacation, which is better than a movie... it's real life!) So, alas, SIFF '06 was more meager than most. But still, much fun was to be had! Here's my wrap-up:

My favorite SIFF movies of 2006:

Gypo - A quirky, sometimes funny, sometimes enraging and disturbing, and occasionally (surprisingly!) sexy Dogma 95 film, the first from the UK. The same tale is told from the perspective of three characters: A harried but kind wife and mother (and grandmother), her working-class, bitter and racist husband, and a young, pretty Roma refugee who comes into their lives.

C.R.A.Z.Y. - This Canadian 70s coming-of-age film swept the Genies recently, and I can see why. Zac is one of 5 brothers in a wonderfully rich cinematic family. He struggles with his dad, his brothers, and his sexuality. Audience laughs and cries with him.

49 Up - The latest installment of Michael Apted's every-7-years interviews with real-life Brits that were first interviewed in 1964 at the age of 7. Now square into middle age, the folks that still talk with Apted (of 14 original kids, 12 still participate) are mainly happy, forgoeing dreams for reality. Such an amazing "big picture" of humanity's life cycle, it makes you want to burst into tears.

Best promotional tie-in:

After the movie Expiration Date, a locally-made flick about a guy who fears he will be killed on his 25th birthday by a milk truck, we all had a treat waiting for us as we left the theater. Smith Brothers Dairy (who were the good sports to feature their "menacing" trucks in the film) gave everyone a little carton of chocolate milk to enjoy as we filed out! Nice touch, by the way, with the milkmen wearing traditional white outfits (which I never before thought of as creepy, but now I don't know...).

Best Q&A following a film:

Paul Dinello, who directed and starred in Strangers With Candy, was treated like a rock star by the audience. He gamefully answered questions from the crowd, until someone asked an Amy Sedaris question. He suddenly brightened and said, "I don't know... why don't we call her?" He whipped out his cell phone and said, "I know she is up... she's writing her book..." He put the phone on speaker as it rang, and when she answered, the audience freaked out. It was very charming. Someone asked if she was planning on auctioning off her "fatty" suits from the movie on Ebay, and she said she had five of them hanging in her closet, and that they were all stained (audience screams with delight). After that call, someone yelled, "Call Steven!" Paul said, "Oh, he's on vacation with his family in Charlotte... but let's try!" Steven Colbert did not answer his phone, but after the beep, he'll have a very surprising message I'm sure of a sold-out audience of 700 screaming in his ear from three time zones away.

Comments to the fest itself:

* Be more daring on Opening Night, like with last year's Me and You and Everyone We Know. This year's The Illusionist was back to good old crap-tastic Hollywood stinkiness.

* Cute T-shirts and schwag this year (especially the lunch box, and wrap-around t-shirt design). However, tread carefully on another such cartoony theme for next year... The marketing is starting to look a little repetitious, especially with Bumbershoot often having similar themes. I'm just sayin'.

* The new ticket system was AWESOME, despite occasional printer trouble at various venues. I was able to pick up my tickets for the whole week at the first box office I went to. VERY cool.

* Is the Egyptian's sound system muddy, or is it just me?

* Expanding screenings to the Eastside (but still showing the flicks in Seattle as well) was a great idea! I have several friends who live/work on the Eastside who took advantage of these screenings, and thanked the heavens that they didn't have to sit in traffic to attend a few SIFF flicks.

* The live-music events were kind of pricey... Specifically $20 for The Unknown with Portastatic. The whole thing was about an hour. How about $12 or $15 bucks if you know it will run short? Especially since us regular folks are already priced-out of the mega-expensive Opening and Closing Night events.

* Overall, maybe it was my choices, but I saw very few stinkers or disappointing movies this year... good job! I can't wait until next year!