Monday, June 18, 2007

SIFF #14 - Going out with a bang (and a hangover)

Damn those librarian archivists and their home-brews! I took Saturday off from SIFF'n, because frankly, I was exhausted. In fact, I ended up taking no less than THREE naps on Saturday before partying with the friendly library school kids. For me, good conversation with beer at hand can easily equate to simply too much beer. This morning I felt all puffy and blechy, and unfortunately it could not be attributed to FPE or any other fest-related ailment.

So I say "Thank God!" for the elixir that is espresso... the nectar of the gods that is a double-tall iced latte... the glorious drug that is the blessing and bane of my existence. On my way to my first event, I got myself said cuppa, and from the first swig through the straw, I could feel the cotton in my head slowly dissipating and the dull thud in my brain beginning to quiet.

I had rearranged my last day of SIFF once, twice, three times... Finally I settled on a 1:00 and 4:00 film, with room for flexibility afterwards. My first film of the final day of SIFF was Introducing the Dwights (6/8) from Australia. Formerly the film was called Clubland, and though the new title isn't much better, Clubland certainly would be misleading for anyone expecting a hip disco rave-athon type movie (which it is not). This dysfunctional family comedy/drama stars Brenda Blethyn as Jane, a comedy nightclub act who is popular among retirees hanging out in casinos, but is otherwise past her prime. She has two adult sons at home: Tim (Khan Chittenden, in the straight man role) who has just found himself with his first real girlfriend, and Mark (the scene-stealing Richard Wilson), the older brother who is developmentally disabled and is basically quarantined at home. Jane is smotheringly overprotective, lashing out at her son Tim as he takes his first steps towards independence, and making his girlfriend's life miserable. The film has some of the same tone as another Aussie comedy, Muriel's Wedding, with laughter mixed with tears. Blethyn is unsurprisingly fantastic. Her Jane is fierce and funny, but worst of all is incredibly cruel when she is cornered. Though it ends on a high note, the film made me all weepy and melancholy. I had to go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood to clear my head before sitting down for the next flick.

Note to filmmakers: When introducing your feature, don't tell the audience to go home and "spread the blog love" about your movie because "there's been a lot of blog hate". Hm. Are you intentionally forewarning the audience of your film's suckage? In the case of Cthulhu (2/8), the answer is unfortunately yes. The theater was packed, probably because this film had local roots, so everyone involved in the film was probably there, along with their friends, spouses, and maybe even some rollergirls. They also had impressive guerilla marketing, pasting Cthulhu stickers all over town, on stop signs, windows, parking meters, etc. So, yes, we were all curious and excited. Then the movie started. Hm. I hate to cut the film down, but there is a major problem when your lead character (Jason Cottle as Russ) answers a phone in the first scene, and it is immediately evident that he is not the strongest of actors. Eeep. Then you notice, as other characters are introduced, that none of the people are particularly strong. Part of it is the writing. And, oh, the directing. Russ, a professor in Seattle, goes home to Astoria... I mean Rivermouth, Oregon when he hears of his mother's death. We meet his family, and they are all freaky. We meet his old best friend, the hunky Mike (Scott Green) to throw in some gay tension. We follow Russ around town with awkward transitions as he investigates an old fisherman's pier with cult tracings on the floor, and chases a spooky kid through a labyrinth basement, and sees a bunch of weird alien babies in stacks against the wall. When Tori Spelling shows up to rape (!) Russ, it is strangely welcome, because at least she has the skills to bring on the camp. I'm afraid I can only give Cthulhu two slices: One for Tori Spelling (the audience almost seemed relieved when she showed up), and one for the cinematography, which was really quite good. But otherwise, sorry, thumbs down.

I had to admit, I was checking my watch for other reasons. As soon as the closing credits started, I lept from my seat and fled the theater, ran to my car, and darted over to the Harvard Exit to see the audience-award-winning documentary For the Bible Tells Me So (5/8). I had heard good buzz throughout the fest about this film, so wasn't really surprised that it won the Golden Space Needle, plus turned out to be the most-liked doc by the Fool Serious passholders. The doc is about how the religious right in America (of both Christian and Jewish denominations) have used the Bible to condemn homosexuality as immoral ("it's in the book!" they holler). Several families with gay members are portrayed, including, impressively, politician Dick Gephardt and his lesbian daughter, and as expected, you will be shedding some tears at their stories. Part of me felt that the focus strayed to general issues (like an cutesy animation about whether homosexuality was natural, etc.) to get its point across, rather than sticking specifically to the topic of religion. The movie was good, but I've seen many docs about gayness and families that I felt like I'd seen it before.

The doc let out around 8:15 pm, and I made a rash, last-minute decision. Heck, why not one more? Blinking wildly, and with trembling hands, I bought a ticket at the Egyptian for a 9:30 screening of the just-announced Golden Space Needle winner Outsourced (7/8). The theater was almost full (on short notice!), and both the audience and the award-winning director John Jeffcoat were delighted to be there in each other's presence for one last hurrah on the last night of SIFF. As soon as the film got rolling, with its opening shots of Seattle's skyline gloriously on the big screen, I could see why it won over SIFF's audiences. Outsourced is a charming fish-out-of-water film about a Seattle call-center manager whose department is laid off, and he is sent to the new, cheaper call center in India to train the new employees. Josh Hamilton is charming in a winning performance as Todd (called "Mr. Toad" by the locals in the Indian town)... when he first arrives in India and is suffering from the travel, time change, and gastronomical issues, he was noticeably green and sickly looking. He has the usual culture clash issues, with hilarious but never cruel results. The Indian cast is equally fabulous, and Ayesha Dharker is a fine, smart romantic foil as Asha, his star call-center employee. The film is warm and funny, and won over the hearts of Seattleites, despite the fact that so many of us have been laid off due to outsourcing.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

I saw Outsourced at TIFF and thought it was great. So glad to hear it won an award!

As for your two-slicer, prepare yourself for anti-hating hate mail from the filmmakers friends and family. (See: Loving Annabelle.)

;-)