November 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Again, another fast and quick week. You don’t need me to tell you you have to see CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, especially since we’ve got a new 35mm print.
Let me just tell you a little story about when I saw this director’s cut as a young boy: it was scary. Remember, the blockbuster film that put Spielberg on the map right before this film? JAWS. He doesn’t lose it with this film, and I still remember his 2005 WAR OF THE WORLDS as being pretty damn good (as far as I was concerned, minus a little too much screeching from Miss Fanning). Spielberg has long been giving us incredible sci-fi, and it all started here. Can’t have those incredible dramatic tensions in WORLDS without the lights outside and the whole house shaking in ENCOUNTERS. And it was just plain weird, making the Devil’s Tower in mashed potatoes. That was something a kid could relate to!
I think JAWS is incredible (and the little seen DUEL even better), but ENCOUNTERS is the film where Spielberg really starts to show himself as an auteur and preludes his criminally underappreciated sci-fi films of the last decade (A.I., WAR OF THE WORLDS, MINORITY REPORT). Yes, his immediate sci-fi success following ENCOUNTERS is E.T., and his sci-fi legacy is undoubted, but there is something very compelling about ENCOUNTERS. I need to see it again…guess I will, I’m slinging reels tomorrow night!
—ready for Malick, dan
November 15th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I don’t have to really say much here, do I? We had some John Waters flicks a couple years back on 35mm, and that’s when I discovered the magic of Divine. Talk about a truly magnetic screen personality! There’s lots to love and enjoy here, this superb doc having just won here in town at SLGFF. If you didn’t catch it, please do!
I’m sorry, been a bit ill of late and don’t have the energy to go crazy here. Luckily Divine is all the crazy you need and deserve, and we got it at the GI this week. Plus, FEMALE TROUBLE in 35mm! Wonderful!
—I’ve divined your future, it’s got Divine, dan
November 9th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Goddamn what a beautiful movie! This film transcends what could be a very typical little indie film. Two brothers looking out for each other against the world. A hit and run that leaves a young boy dead, and our protagonists are on the lam. Heard this story before? Sure, I have too. But the Polsky brothers have wrought such an exquisite little rendering of the tale that this indie gem deserves to be treasured. Two reasons this film not only breaks away from the pack but laps them: 1) Mike Smith’s extraordinary charcoal style rendering of Emile’s made up stories, 2) the performances so masterfully subdued and subtle, they stand out for all these actors.
First, the animation. Mike Smith has wrought some of the best animation I have seen in recent years, and its nestled inside a longer live action film where I’m sure it is rarely the focal point. Getting Smith on board turned out to be a coup for the Polsky brothers, because I can see the animated sequences being very jarring and distracting in the wrong hands. The charcoal style perfectly encapsulates the feeling of all the grey, grey skies filmed in this movie. And part of the time those grey skies are filtering through the curtains of the titular motels, furthering the thematic and chromatic similarities between the two.
Second, the performances. Hirsch and Dorff are so damn good I was tearing up by the end of the film. The archetypical response is to liken them to Lennie and George from OF MICE AND MEN, but I have to mention them because the comparison rings very true to me as I sit here reflecting on the film. I first really noticed Dorff as star of Sofia Coppola’s SOMEWHERE, and I wasn’t impressed with that film or that performance. A complete 180 here for me with Dorff! We already know Hirsch is a great actor, but his chemistry with the entire ensemble is crazy. Dakota Fanning as an adult here (Dorff was her younger’s sis Elle’s dad in SOMEWHERE) has come back around to being a great actress again, turning the acting dial back down from where it was set a few years back when she was in her tweens (the Amy Poehler SNL skit days) and coming into her own. And throw in a great few minutes from Kris Kristofferson and you’ve got yourself a helluva flick!
THE VISITOR continues for more craziness unearthed by our friends at Drafthouse films.
—getting ready for more Divine, dan
November 1st, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We seem to have music documentaries coming out of left field so often perhaps we should just shift the whole field. I don’t know if that visual metaphor worked for anyone, I’m still working through the ramifications myself. What we the new left of field be? And why is nothing every right of field?
Anywho, another film about someone you’ve probably never heard of (and I hadn’t heard of) but you need to know about. I’m sure anyone with half a brain realizes that popular music is often not written by those performing it, but it is often hard to know who is the person behind the music. And when you think about some of the biggest hits of the 50s and 60s being sung by a whole slew of different performers you’d probably not make the jump that the same person wrote “This Magic Moment,” “Teenager In Love,” and “Save The Last Dance For Me.” Well, he did. Him being the eponymous Doc Pomus nee Jerome Felder.
The bigger and more human story the film tells is about all the musicians’ lives he touched and songwriters he mentored (including the recently departed Lou Reed, who appears in the film). It’s obvious that everyone interviewed in the film loved the man, and where documentary credit sequences usually feature something funny, this film opts to tug at your heartstrings with little bits of everyone singing their favorite songs he wrote. It’s hard to get through the story of who “Save The Last Dance For Me” came about without getting a little misty eyed. What a romantic!
Speaking of left field, there’s another moldy goldie that Drafthouse Films has dusted off and is giving the ol’ restoration and distribution treatment: THE VISITOR. This is a strange film, but it’s not the laugh-out-loud-so-bad-it’s-good of MIAMI CONNECTION. It’s a bizarre hodgepodge of creepy children with mystical powers and destinies (think THE OMEN) and aliens among us who look human and have secret agendas (think THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH). The strangest thing is, it’s not a empirically bad film: just really, really odd. It’s like the filmmakers just wanted to combine all their favorite types of movies and, not stopping at that, put their favorite directors in it as well (John Huston and Sam Peckinpah). A film that truly has to be seen to be believed.
—stay the course faithful film geeks, dan
October 25th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Oh boy oh boy, Goblin was a hell of a good show. I saw GI folks, Scarecrow folks, SIFF folks, all breeds of the Seattle cinephile cognoscenti. And we were there to witness as the greatest of Italian synth proggers visited Seattle for the first time ever. But it was not the first time Goblin’s blend of the beautiful and the eerie graced the eardrums of the rabid horror and film buffs present one week ago, and it won’t be the last.
How do I mean? Why at the very least we have not one but two nights of 35mm Goblin and Argento goodness with DEEP RED, playing Mon the 28th and Tue the 29th here at the GI. More fortuitous timing I can’t imagine, and all y’all who were there with me at Neumos last Friday best come in and keep the Goblin goodness pelting your ears while Argento’s crimson pelts your eyes.
But of course, it’s not all roses. The egg that got cracked to make this omelet was the loss of MANIAC COP 1 + 2, and a sorrowful loss it is. I’m considering drowning my sorrow in Bruce this evening at the Cinerama.
What else is playing this week(end)? Only one of my favorite horror movies of all time, with my favorite resurrection scene of all time. If you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, my god see HELLRAISER now! 35mm, whatever better time to try. And if you enjoy, watch NIGHTBREED, another film by Clive Barker from around the same time that I am also quite fond of. It stars David Cronenberg for goodness sake!
Enough about NIGHTBREED, more about HELLRAISER. This film belongs in a very particular canon of incredible 80s horror, looking to other horror fiction written by British writers (particularly in comic books). I would place HELLRAISER among the Swamp Thing run of Alan Moore and Sandman by Neil Gaiman as touching something just outside of the normal everyday modern world. In fact, Alan Moore’s John Constantine (first appearing in Swamp Thing) character’s long-running HELLBLAZER serious shares not a dissimilar title, no?
Anyway, we’ve got two incredible prints to show you this week. And you’ve got two days a piece to watch them. So do it now! These are two of the greats.
If you need something more comedic, THE VCR THAT DRIPPED BLOOD II on Wed the 30th promises to great time. I loved it last year. The Monster Show, The Monster Show!
—playing The Walking Dead game series, great way to spend October, dan
October 14th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m gonna hit up about the first two weeks of AMA in this blog post, so try to keep up. I had a hell of a good GI fundraiser last night, hope you could join us. Now, on to the spooks:
MON the 14th
Damn, this film deserves to be on a list of under-appreciated movies to be sure. KILLER KLOWNS simultaneously celebrates the clown as an object of fear while subverting horror flick expectations. The clowns themselves end up being primarily a source of laughs, and the mundane objects one associates with carnivals (balloon animals, cotton candy, popcorn) all take on the more deadly and sinister roles. I enjoyed watching this movie again, and I can think of very few horror films that play for laughs while maintaining such an undercurrent of creepiness.
We’re starting AMA off with a special event, being this rare 35mm screening is part of Robert K. Elder’s book tour and will feature a post-film Skype Q&A with KILLER KLOWNS director Stephen Chiodo. Chiodo’s work has been primarily in puppeteering and special effects (including a certain cat that can eat a whole watermelon), which shows in KLOWNS as the top-notch special effects and clown costumes pre-date the horror film CGI nightmare of the 1990s and 2000s.
I don’t want to say much more about KILLER KLOWNS because the movie (while following the framework of your standard horror movie) is really a serious of gags (which one would expect from clowns) and should be seen to be enjoyed. And be sure to ask Stephen for me about the upcoming announced sequel!
TUE the 15th
I haven’t seen CRONOS recently, though I own the handsome Criterion Collection Bluray with artwork by Mike Mignola. Speaking of Mike Mignola, 1993 was the year Hellboy was first published, and CRONOS director Guillermo del Toro would go on to director both Hellboy features. Coincidence? Perhaps not, as these two have become very important to me as genre creators. What a great year for me and all fans of gothic and mythic horror.
Even if you just know del Toro from PAN’S LABYRINTH (though you would have missed the best big-screen film of the summer, PACIFIC RIM), you will like CRONOS. Though made with a much smaller budget and tells a much smaller story, the attention to the details of the Cronos device foreshadow the lavish production design and prop work that has come to be the hallmark of del Toro’s films.
WED and THU the 16th and 17th
Though I don’t know if any of us will love any of Fulci’s films like ZOMBI 2, THE BEYOND is certainly better than your average horror film. With an almost Lovecraftian premise, THE BEYOND whisks past its prologue to its modern setting of a haunted hotel. The movie is complete with the horrifying prophecies of a murdered madman, strange paintings of the damned, undead that would be right at home in ZOMBI 2, and perhaps too many shots of people being dissolved by acid and lime.
FRI thru THU, the 18th thru 24th
I’m going to fold both NOTLD and BOTLD in together here. For one, I’ve blogged about NOTLD before, and we show it here at the GI on a pretty regular basis. Hey, we own a print, and it’s not under copyright! Want to know why it’s not under copyright? Watch BOTLD and find out!
I was pleasantly surprised to find that BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD spends so much of its running time actually talking about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD specifically. Having watched the stiff and lifeless SIFF 2013 doc DEAD MEAT WALKING (ha! a zombie doc that’s stiff and lifeless), I was pleased that this film recognizes so many aspects of the zombie phenomenon sparked by NOTLD, but mostly spends its time talking about how the movie actually got made in the first place and its mirroring of the societal upheavals with the race riots and Vietnam war plaguing the late 60s. Even when I saw NOTLD the first time as a young teenager in the early 2000s I realized how weird it was for a black man to be the hero of the movie, and for him to just be a normal guy and not a swaggering blaxploitation figure as seen to follow in the 70s. The other normal black guy I had seen in 60s movies is Sydney Poitier, and the film fully explores that as well.
I’m glad that someone had the smarts and cultural foresight to make this documentary so fully formed and well rounded. It’s a documentary about NOTLD and its place in the culture of its time. The fact that zombies are bigger than ever with The Walking Dead being the most watched thing on TV yesterday (beating out football!) is of course all owed to Romero and his guerrilla NOTLD team, but BOTLD takes a much more focused approach. Were this documentary made 10 years ago before the 2004 DOTD remake heralded the pop culture zombie obsession, it wouldn’t seem so strange for the film to stay on track. A lesser filmmaker would have been too distracted with the current phenomenon, and so I give a big tip of the hat to Rob Kuhns for keeping it all together.
—watching MANIAC COP 2, priming for blog Part II, dan
September 27th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
He’s not my Nixon. But he is OUR NIXON. I defy you to not feel some warming in the cockles of your heart if you watch the trailer and listen to the election campaign theme song. The catchiest damn song! When I heard it pre-SIFF 2013 I would go around singing it out loud. Yes, it is that damn catchy. I don’t mean the trailer we have on our main page, I mean the original teaser trailer:
That’s the trailer that made we want to watch the movie, and I defy you to not want to watch after hearing that song (or at least hum it out loud). Best song in a trailer that makes me want to see the movie since MIAMI CONNECTION.
OUR NIXON, winner of best documentary at the aforementioned SIFF 2013, is great not only because it’s made entirely of old footage and no brand new voice over or talking heads, but because it has hitherto unseen or heard video and audio recordings from the men closest to the Nixon presidency. The level of candidness in this film is almost surreal.
Look, the film’s great. I say so, the SIFF audiences say so, and The Stranger even Suggests you check it out on Monday. Any day’ll do, we have it all week.
Now, back to my Breaking Bad marathon. Gotta catch up by Sunday!
—Nixon, he broke real bad, dan
September 6th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The Grand Illusion continues to be Seattle’s preeminent purveyor of documentary goodness, especially dealing with all matters musical. So is it surprising that we rocking not one but TWO documentaries for the price of one (a double feature if you will, or two half features equals one)? Of course not, you know how we do.
The first thing that struck me about the John Fahey documentary is that he sounds exactly like Joel Hodgson when he talks (you know, of MST3K fame), and looks like old, overweight Jon Benjamin (you know, of alternative comedy fame). Call me crazy, but if you are familiar with either of these gentlemen, watch the film and tell me I’m not right (picture below, though he doesn’t look that Jon Benjamin-y, maybe I am crazy). Fahey speaks with the calm surety of an artist in his element, no wonder he identified with turtles so much. You get the feeling that’s the speed and tempo at which he lived life. By the end of the film, you see that he was not exactly still at the forefront of guitar innovation nearer the end of his life. The moment in which he finds out the music he’s doing has already been invented, and there’s already a term to describe it (“gothic industrial ambient,” or something like that), is perhaps my favorite moment in the film. He didn’t care he wasn’t doing anything different or new, he just wanted to make the music he wanted to make and so he does it. A true artist for art’s sake; doesn’t care if he’s in or out of step with the times.
The accompanying short film is about Nels Cline, lead guitarist for Wilco. That’s really just a footnote, as they don’t talk about Wilco really at all. Instead, it’s more of a studio concert film as Nels jams with different musicians in a highly experimental, avant-garde fashion. If you’re a big fan of the weirder guitar settings and drones in some of Wilco’s jammier songs (I sure am), there’s some great stuff to be found here. Don’t expect major illumination on Wilco; if you are, I highly recommend the film ASHES OF AMERICAN FLAGS, a perfect tour documentary and one of my favorite rock docs.
I’m forging right on ahead to next week, cause I’ll be out of town and I wanted to touch on this truly important and first rate comedy documentary. And we have filmmakers again (thanks again to Josh Johnson of REWIND THIS!), so be polite Seattleites and come say hello!
The film feels personal in all the right ways, as Negin and Dean are both the subjects and directors of this film. As accessible a documentary as I’ve ever seen, the movie plays like one big reality TV episode. With confessional style reactions, “man on the street” interludes, and of course on stage footage from the actual stand up sets, Negin and Dean weave a remarkable cross section of modern Muslim life in America. And they boast one of the most impressive “who’s who” of mainstream comedians and media personalities I’ve ever seen in a little indie documentary, weighing in on the aggressive marginalization of Muslims by some media outlets and fringes of the far right. A pitch perfect balancing act of the tropes of reality TV and news magazine and live comedy. Come show our Muslim brothers what they already know: Seattle loves comedy and Seattle loves Muslims! Hell, I was eating me some Mr. Gyros while I finished watching the doc! Perfect!
My one regret going on vacation this coming week: I’m going to miss Bleeding Skull night. A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER and BOARDINGHOUSE look like my two favorite cult movies I’ve never seen before, and I’ll have to find a way to get my hot little paws on them at some point! That’s September 14 for those paying attention!
And don’t forget THE REP, a documentary about repertory theatres (that’s what the GI is, if you never knew really what to call the little theatre that plays old movies). Lots going on here, and with summer movie season wound down, why would you go anywhere else in town? It’s been thunderstorming for Godssakes! Stay inside and watch movies!
—Bumber and thunder, dan
August 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I haven’t seen director Andrew Bujalksi’s earlier films, but as far as I can tell, this singular film cannot be considered similar to any film I’ve ever seen, and surely that includes Bujalski’s own oeuvre as well.
COMPUTER CHESS is the perfect lead in to our celebration of dead video formats (lots of great VHS docs and VHS film rarity presentations just on the horizon, if you hadn’t noticed). Shot entirely on vintage B&W analog video equipment, this film achieves a look that no other film has ever done. Of course, much of that has to do with the immaculate production design and costuming that makes you believe 100% that you’re looking at home video quality footage circa 1980.
What also lends the film incredible atmosphere is the superbly subtle and underacted characters that populate this world of chess masters and computer programmers. Combining two of the perhaps geekiest hobbies/professions, Bujalski still manages to craft performances that dance around the tropes that your average director would throw at you (D&D, pit stains, speech impediments, etc). The humor is delicate, dry, and, with few exceptions, almost imperceptible. Throw in a sub plot that may or may not involve the birth of artificial intelligence, and you have a master class film.
This film was one of the most unique films I saw at SIFF 2013, and it was lost in a wash of Baumbachs and Gordon Greens in among the New American Cinema films. This film won the Alfred P. Sloan award at Sundance; if you’re feeling adventurous, give this film a try. You’ll never see anything quite like it.
—computer chess, as on the nose as a title gets, dan
August 9th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’ve seen ‘em before, and I saw ‘em again.
These were the JURASSIC PARK and INDIANA JONES of the day. I know I would have been lining up for matinees of these fantastic flicks were I a kid in the 50s or 60s, instead my Ray Harryhausen was Stan Winston.
But I know where it started and I know the score. You don’t get to Winston and Spielberg without Harryhausen, and I will make the pilgrimage from time to time. The pure artistry of Harryhausen’s models and practical effects put even some 21st century technicians and CG modelers to shame. The skeletons, oh the skeletons! In traditional Hollywood fashion, you have to up the ante. Thus the single skeleton from the end of 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD becomes seven skeletons at the end of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.
There’s a sense in Harryhausen films of the truly wondrous. He had a true respect for mythology and fantasy and fairy tales that came through in the films, and his stop motion models had the spark of life and personality about them.
And I gotta say, it’s nice to tribute a real Hollywood auteur with 35mm print presentations. Only at the GI.
—cyclops, rocs, and hydras, oh my, dan