Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


My SIFF 2007 experience

We got a late start on the SIFF this year but I made an effort to get out there and catch a few movies in the last couple of weeks of the festival. Apparently, I also managed to miss all the GOOD movies. Of the award winners I only saw the Jury pick for Best Documentary (Out of Time, directed by Harald Friedl (Austria)).

My thoughts on my picks for this festival:

WHITE PALMS: Ultimately, while I was entertained by this film (and certainly didn't mind watching actual gymnasts strut their stuff for a while) it didn't have enough to stick with me for even two weeks afterward. I had to remind myself that I saw this film when I went to start this write-up. Not a good sign, really.

ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES: In retrospect, it was suitable as a g-rated film I could watch with Kate but that's about it. It wasn't quite a thrilling action-adventure, wasn't quite campy (despite some of the anachronisms and dated attitudes). I wouldn't recommend anyone go out of their way to catch it.

RETRIBUTION: Billed as "a supreme psycho-thriller" I think "thriller" is overstating by quite a lot. I found the plot muddled, the pacing terrible and the resolution worse, especially one of the final scenes that seemed to be tacked on as if they found some additional money in their effects budget. A disappointment even though it stars the excellent Kôji Yakusho.

TEKKONKINKREET: Anime. Aimed at adults this is no Miyazaki film. We took Kate with us to see this one (as we have fairly permissive standards and it was flagged as suitable for teens) and while not inappropriate it wasn't all that enjoyable for her. Like Princess Mononoke, the end gets all weird and dark and psychedelic. Enjoyable enough but I felt it was pretty inferior to the qulity of anime films offered at SIFF in years past (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle certainly).

IT DOESN'T HURT: I liked this film for the most part, even when the characters were acting in ways that the movie provided no context for. The actors were really good and engaging even when the screenplay let them down a bit. Being a Russian film it is infused with sadness and loss but it's about the most light-hearted sadness and loss infused Russian film I can recall seeing. Not exceptional but okay.

OUT OF TIME: The best of the matinees I caught this year, hands down. After last year's spate of downer (though excellent) documentaries I tried to confine myself to less dreary films. The story of four shops catering to "old school" clientèle and getting crushed. An old school butcher shop, a leather working shop, a high-end button shop, and a turn of the century drug store are all followed and eventually close (or continue to teeter on the very brink). The owner of the drug store in particular was quite engaging, roaming his empty store and exhorting non-existent customers to come buy the last of his ancient soap stock ("Can't get this anymore, this is the last bar!") in between stories of how he was a Russian prisoner of war. I was glad to see this won the Jury prize in its category.

STEALTH: Another film packed with excellent actors but a screenplay that holds them back. Written, directed by and starring Lionel Baier, this is a semi-autobiographical comedy about a young, gay Swiss man who becomes obsessed with his newly-discovered Polish ancestry. I chuckled at several points and found the main characters (the brother and sister) compelling but other times I was left wondering what kind of idiots made incomprehensible decisions and why. Close to being "pretty good" it ends up in retrospect as merely adequate.

YELLA: It turns out I would have much rather seen a story that was about Yella and Philipp roaming the countryside and working their business dealings than what the movie actually ended up being about. Interestingly, IMDB's description of the movie is "A woman's near-death experience causes her to relive another person's final moments in life," which is very different than how SIFF promoted it. Had I been thinking of the IMDB tag when I went to see it, I might have enjoyed it more. As it happened, I found the story veered to either confused or predictable with far too little time at any enjoyable in between places. Excellent cast, though.

BLOOD ON THE FLAT TRACK: THE RISE OF THE RAT CITY ROLLERGIRLS: We were on hand for the world premier of this one. Saw a few people we knew in the crowd as well (including the back of one Mr. Mona's head). This was probably my favorite film of the festival. It helped that we were there with the Rollergirls themselves in attendance (dressed to the nines, befitting their VIP status) and the theater occasionally erupted with cheers and applause from various fans and friends of the teams and factions. I laughed my ass off in several parts. Holy crap, Basket Casey stole the show! Loved it, just loved it. We were at the Bumberbout last year, which was included in the film, so that also heightened our enjoyment. Took Kate to this one (and she saw the mom of one of her school friends while we waited in line) and will be taking her to next weekend's Big Gay Bout as well. Unlike Miss Fortune and Hot Flash, Kate and I will not be the next mother-daughter derby pair as we both agree we're pussies who don't want to get hurt.

SCARAMOUCHE: Unlike Ali Baba, Scaramouche was unqualified awesome! Twists, turns, smartass scoundrels and sassy sirens, swashbuckling excitement and laughs, lots of laughs. Loved this archival presentation and was very happy that we got to see it. After two satisfying films in a row I was feeling a little better about the SIFF overall at this point, too.

LITTLE BOOK OF REVENGE: Our last film of SIFF 2007. With a title like this, I had to see it. A black comedy from Quebec, this one actually lived up to its press (There was actual comedy! Yay!) and we laughed a bunch. The character actors were all excellent and the pacing and screenplay seemed particularly good after slogging through some of our earlier choices. The director was on hand for a Q&A but we couldn't stay for it. A satisfying end to our festival experience, we gave this one a thumbs up.

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The Fatigue

I've had a couple of brushes with illness in recent weeks. The most striking thing about my illnesses hasn't been the symptoms of sickness (sore throat, headaches, cough or sniffles, what have you) but the crushing fatigue I've experienced. It's the fatigue that's knocking me on my ass. I don't remember fatigue being so present in my bouts with illness when I was younger. I'm not sure whether I'm just more run down in general (making it easier for me to dip beneath the fatigue line at the slightest thing), if this is something that goes with getting older, or if the fatigue is a symptom of whatever illness I'm fighting. What I do know is I'm sick of it!

Today was a complete waste. I pushed myself to walk as usual this morning but went back to bed almost immediately and tried to nap through the phone ringing several times. Today was grand central station on the phones for some reason. Then I slunk off to the back row of the SIFF theater at Pacific Place and watched three movies, tickets for which I'd bought a while ago and wasn't going to give up. Unfortunately, I'm too fatigued to write up my thoughts. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight I'm sticking to my plan of downing a couple of Tylenol PM and getting another night of good, hard, uninterrupted sleep in. Kate is at a special 5th grade class sleep over tonight so in theory I don't even have to wake up early tomorrow morning. Here's hoping I feel better and more like myself by Friday. Chris and I are booked to celebrate his birthday dinner at The Herbfarm (my first visit after ten years of being in Seattle) and I'm not going to let any lingering plague or irritating fatigue spoil that plan.

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Operation Half-Birthday: Success

Cake close up
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Because Kate's actual birthday fell during the Great Windpocalypse of '06, causing days of power outages across the city and so on, it's fair to say her birthday was kind of a bust. I promised her that we'd do a "make up" party and yesterday was the day.

We started by getting up early to try to go get passport stuff sorted, only to find me tearing the house apart looking for her passport and my certified copies of the divorce decree and parenting plan. To my immense frustration, I did something "smart" with my paperwork (putting it in some "safe" place I've still not uncovered) and while I eventually turned up the birth certificate, I'm just going to go buy a second certified set of copies at the courthouse tomorrow because I have NO idea where I "safely" put my others. I'm a dumbass.

Chris went off to play in his bi-weekly-ish Spirit of the Century game and Kate and I took the bus up to the SIFF Cinema where we watched Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. A little surreal to hear them talk about Baghdad and Basra (and how the people of Baghdad suffer under cruel invaders who need to be forced out) under the current conditions. Kate declared it was "better than that other one" (referring to our excursion to see Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast at the SIFF theater back in March).

On the way to and from the theater we listened to the last bit of the audio book of The Amulet of Samarkand (which we'd been listening to in the car on the way to Vancouver until Kate was no longer allowed to travel). We finished it up and I must say it was a very enjoyable book. Reader Simon Jones absolutely MAKES the audio book. He's great. I've become a big fan of certain readers in the audio book circles and I'm adding Simon Jones to my list of favorites immediately. He reads the next two books in the series as well, so I'm definitely going to be listening to the whole trilogy.

We got home just in time to pick up the Flexcar and the cake and dash off to the Family Fun Center. Kate picked out a Pirates of the Caribbean cake. Funny that the character of Will Turner was such a non-entity to her that she kept referring to the figures on the cake as "Jack Sparrow and Orlando Bloom." I have an unbelievably large amount of cake left. I may ask Chris to bring it to Flying Lab to get it out of the house!

The kids had a great time at the Fun Center, playing laser tag, dousing each other on the bumper boats (once it stopped raining), riding virtual roller coasters and eventually conning some of the parents who attended into paying for tokens so they could win tickets for a large amount of cheap plastic crap at the prize counter. Multiple kids told me the party was "awesome" and thanked us repeatedly for inviting them on their way out the door. Kate thanked me profusely as well. I warned her that I don't intend to do another big party like this before she turns 16 and for now, she's satisfied.

Today we're SIFFing it again. This afternoon Chris and I catch "Japanese psycho-thriller" Retribution and tonight the whole family is going to go TEKKONKINKREET.

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Kung Fu Jackson

Tonight was the performance of Kung Fu Jackson by Orca school's resident playwright and Star Wars-loving teacher Donte Felder. Donte is currently teaching 5th graders (as is my daughter's main classroom teacher, the outstanding Katherine Law) and both he and Katherine will be moving up along with the fifth grade students when Orca adds its sixth grade curriculum next year.

Kung Fu Jackson was an ambitious undertaking for a grade school play. The kids learned mock fighting and real martial arts moves. There were several dance numbers that involved large groups of students. There were ten acts and an intermission. I was not sure what to expect from the kids but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were plenty of jokes for the parents (though at times I swear I was the only one laughing, I was laughing genuinely and out loud) and unabashed episodes of bathroom humor for the kids. The performers were hilarious, both during scripted humor and unscripted moments.

This year's Orca performances have thoroughly erased the psychological trauma of the infamous "Cranes over Hiroshima" holiday performance from Kate's Kindergarten year. I'm actually looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the us next year and am very glad Donte will be joining Ms. Katherine to team-teach the new sixth grade program.

I realized the other day that the SIFF has less than 10 days left and I hadn't seen a single movie so this afternoon I snuck out and caught my first, a sparsely attended matinee showing of While Palms, an introspective but enjoyable enough film about a Hungarian gymnast-turned-coach. The Seattle Weekly reviews it here and was absolutely correct about it. If nothing else (and truly, there's much more to the film, no worries) it was worth it just to see real-life athlete Zoltán Miklós Hadju strutting his stuff and flexing his impressive muscles time and again during the many scenes of competition and training. Tomorrow Kate and I are catching Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves at SIFF and then it's off to the Family Fun Center for her make-up birthday party (just in time for her half-birthday). She couldn't be more excited and a lot of very nice kids are joining us. This school year is shaping up to end very nicely. I'm so pleased.

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Seattle Saturday

Mark came down and took Kate out for a few hours so Chris and I grabbed the change to go wander the Seattle Cheese Festival down at the Pike Place Market. I'd been to the first such festival a couple of years ago with Christine and it was crowded and disappointing but I was willing to give it a try again this year. After fighting our way to 2/3 of the stands we did try some decent cheeses but only once was it not so obscenely crowded that we even felt we had a chance to learn anything about the cheeses or (gasp) buy some. Usually I felt like a jerk for merely trying to squeeze in between people to spear a single cheese cube sample (or lingering overly long where vendors were serving up single samples from the more expensive cheeses). We'd started out by lining up with what appeared to be an orderly line of people waiting their turns only to have a guy from the festival chide us for doing so. He said flat out "there is no line," and that we were just wasting our time standing there, we should just "go up to" stands that interested us. I said to Chris, "They really want us to just muscle our way through the crowd? I want to do it in an orderly manner!" As we were leaving the "line" we heard another group falling into "line" behind us, saying "Let's approach this in an orderly manner..." I stopped to tell them what the festival worker had told us.

I think I'm going to stick to cheese shopping at cheese shops and the farmer's markets in the future. This "festival" is anything but festive.

We took a break, grabbed a couple falafel sandwiches from Falafel King (verdict: way, WAY too much garlic; they're no Zaina, whose 3rd Ave location we continue to mourn. I should have walked to Cherry St. for my falafel fix, though...). We carried out our sandwiches and ate at tables down by the water, keeping an eye on a gaggle of agitated junkies over one shoulder. We thought about trying to see a Kate-unfriendly movie but nothing playing at Pacific Place really called out to be seen so we got a SIFF schedule (SIFF starts next week!) and browsed it over coffee instead. A brief stop at the hell that is Old Navy later, and back towards the market so I could pick up some Copper River Salmon with is IN NOW! Ah, spring in Seattle. I love it.

Made the salmon in a soy-maple glaze, with asparagus and mashed purple potatoes from my CSA box. Good Saturday!

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