Seattle Film Fest recos

For once, I actually know quite a few of the movies screening at SIFF this year. Unfortunately, I'm out of town for most of the festival and had to give away nearly all of my tickets. It's killing me! SIFF lacks in movie star wattage (as compared to Cannes or Sundance), and it's not an acquisition hotbed that premieres a ton of movies (as compared to Sundance or Toronto). But SIFF makes up for it in sheer quantity. It's a movie lover's movie fest, and I'm smarting at missing most of what is likely my last SIFF.
If I were around for it this year, I'd either recommend or want to see the following:

  • The Twilight Samurai - I have the DVD but haven't watched it yet. Early reviews are quite positive. A samurai movie for the more thoughtful crowd that can't stomach the bloody violence of Kitano's Zatoichi (see below).

  • The Saddest Music in the World - already out in theaters in some cities, so those who only try to see movies they can't see in theaters soon (or ever) might want to pass on the latest strange creation from Guy Maddin.

  • Doppelganger - by SIFF favorite Kiyoshi Kurosawa and starring Japan's Robert De Niro Koji Yakusho. One of my favorite SIFF movies ever was Kurosawa's Cure.

  • The Corporation - A documentary about that selfish, ruthless entity known as the corporation.

  • Open Water - Based on a true story, and every scuba diver's worst nightmare. A tour boat leaves two divers behind in the middle of the ocean, and soon the sharks and barracudas begin circling. To film the movie, the director threw two rookie actors into the ocean and used bait to attract real sharks to circle them. Talk about method acting.

  • The Girl on the Bridge - I wanted to catch this back when it was in theaters and have meant to watch it on DVD. Patrice Leconte is the featured director this year, so here's another chance to see this black and white love story on the big screen. A knife-thrower (Daniel Auteuil) who needs a partner finds her in the form of despairing beauty (Vanessa Paradis) whom he rescues just before she throws herself off a bridge. Why can't I ever meet hot babes on the brink of suicide?

  • Primer - Won a Grand Jury prize at Sundance, but the word of mouth on this has been that it's incomprehensible. Still, the premise, about some guys who invent a time-travel machine, and the fact that this is Shane Carruth's directorial debut, shot on 16mm, is enough for me to give it a chance.

  • Donnie Darko (The Director's Cut) - Many of you have probably already seen this cult classic, but my guess is this Director's Cut may not make it to DVD, so catch it while you can. Great soundtrack.

  • A Tale of Two Sisters - Korean horror flick. Creepy Flash website. Is there any doubt Asia is the new capital of horror movies?

  • Natural City - I haven't been all that impressed with Korean sci-fi movies of the last several years, but for some reason I've been forgiving enough to always see the next one.

  • Cinematography Master Class with Christopher Doyle - long-time collaborator of Wong Kar-Wai, Doyle's cinematography is legend. His work on Hero and In the Mood for Love is just a sample of his brilliance. I'm going to this event, and I am jazzed beyond belief.

  • The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi - saw this on DVD. Didn't adore it since Kitano plays Zatoichi as almost completely devoid of humanity and humor, those aspects of his persona that made him such an interesting character in the past. Still, Kitano sees the character as I do, as patently absurd (a blind master swordsman, ronin, masseuse, master gambler all in one?!?) and finds a new and less reverent take on the character that is refreshing. Cartoonish violence: lots of digital blood spewing like geysers from wounds opened by Zatoichi's flashing sword.

  • Infernal Affairs 1, 2, and 3 - Perhaps my favorite Hong Kong movie trilogy of all-time. Really, what other HK trilogy maintained its quality through all three chapters the way this one did? Excellent, though the back to back to back showings at Cinerama would rival the LOTR trilogy as a butt number. Still, that might be the best way to see them as the sheer number of characters and plot twists forced me to watch them each twice to remember all the characters and plot developments, especially as Andy Lau and Tony Leung's characters are played by other actors in the middle chapter. There's talk that Martin Scorsese wants to remake the trilogy with Leonardo Dicaprio, a serious endorsement in my book.

  • Hero - I couldn't wait for this movie to come out back in2002: Zhang Yimou directing truly a Hall of Fame lineup (Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi). Perhaps my expectations were too high, and it underwhelmed me. But it's worth seeing on a big screen as some of the cinematography is gorgeous. I'm more excited about Yimou's next wuxia pic, House of Flying Daggers. starring Takeshi Kaneshire, Andy Lau, and hottie Zhang Ziyi.

  • Before Sunrise/Before Sunset - The original is a classic, and the sequel arrives nine years later and is set, well, nine years after the original.

  • Goodbye Dragon Inn - I enjoyed King Hu's original Dragon Inn and the remake, so it stands to reason I should see this homage. Ming Liang Tsai is one of the more interesting and cutting-edge directors working today. I don't always love his movies, but he's brave and daring.

  • Riding Giants - Missed it at Sundance, will miss it at SIFF. Too bad, because who knows when Sony Classics will get around to putting it in theaters. This surfing documentary is by Stacey Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys) and stars insanely stoked surfers like Laird Hamilton.

  • Garden State - Whoo-hoo, Natalie Portman is single again! If I were a first-time director, I'd definitely pull the "I'll star in the movie myself and cast some hottie to be my romantic interest." I missed this at Sundance, I'll miss it at SIFF. Someday I'll see it. Someday Natalie and I will be together.

  • Undead - It's something of an annual tradition for me to attend the midnight horror movie showing at the Egyptian at SIFF. It might just be the most fun night of the fest, what with the rowdy fans screaming their lungs out until the wee hours of the morning in the acoustic nightmare that is the Egyptian. I don't even know what Undead is about (some Aussie zombie movie?) and I'd still see it just to be social. Bring that squeamish date you've been meaning to cuddle with.

  • Criminal - Let's see what Soderbergh disciple and director of this movie Gregory Jacobs can whip up. I'm a sucker for con-game flicks.

  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - If I could see just one movie at SIFF this year, it would be this single screening at Cinerama.

  • Sky Blue - Originally titled Wonderful Days, this movie set in the future combines miniatures, hand-drawn animation, and computer-generated animation. I know little about the story, but the visuals look gorgeous.

One thing you might note is that because Seattle doesn't premier a lot of movies, many of these are available on DVD already. Still, seeing a movie on a massive screen in the company of others just can't be beat, if you can stomach waiting in long lines with the occasional passhole (i.e., obnoxious SIFF all-series passholder who hasn't showered in seven days of sweaty sprinting from one theater to the next in an attempt to see as many movies as possible).