Seattle’s Film Lovers Returning to the Uptown

(Photo: MvB)

We have been documenting the Uptown’s revival as a SIFF property for some time (before, before, and after), but this weekend I had the chance to visit not for any special event, but because I wanted to see a movie or two, and they happened to be showing at the Uptown.

In the lobby a group of a half-dozen 50-somethings had just met en route between theatres (the Uptown has three salles), and were comparing notes. It seemed half had come from Elite Squad 2 and were headed into London Boulevard, and half were headed the other way. “Have you seen Le Havre?” someone asked, and there was a discreet pause. It developed that some people had loved it, but not the speaker.

On the box office window, a paper sign with showtimes was taped up that listed a Le Harve, and I felt keenly the lack of a French version of Harvey. Next door at the Uptown Espresso, a trio were catching up before their film started. The Uptown Espresso is home of the Velvet Foam, which they will scoop onto your hot chocolate without asking, even if you think that overly steamed milk has little to recommend it over whipped cream.

The threesome were going to see Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, two assuring the third that you didn’t need to have see the first installment–chronicling Captain Roberto Nascimento’s mounting pressures in an elite Brazilian anti-drug unit, and his rookie protegé André Matias’s struggle to remain a law-abiding officer in the face of his unit’s torture and killing of drug suspects. (Here I refer you to the BOPE Tumblr.)

The second Elite Squad, like the first, makes a point of emphasizing that any similarity to reality is purely coincidental. (In the first, Nascimento is clearing favelas in preparation for a papal visit; these days, Rio is gearing up for the Olympics.)

It plays a bit like a Brazilian take on The Wire: After a prison riot debacle, Nascimento is demoted upward, to running surveillance, and begins to understand that there are political realities behind the directives he used to execute in BOPE. A cabal of corrupt militia, a Rush Limbaugh-esque TV politico, a law-and-order candidate, and a governor who never stops campaigning for reelection conspire to complicate Nascimento’s life yet again.

With Nascimento, director José Padilha pursues an only-Nixon-could-go-to-China strategy, in that the captain is the kind of guy who believes wholeheartedly in torturing scumbags if that’s what’s needed, but grudgingly comes around to see that unchecked police power brings its own drawbacks. But where Elite Squad 1 was a blow-the-covers off, first-person exposé, trading on cops-and-robbers charisma, The Enemy Within feels like any number of movies about upright men discovering there are crooked pols, and lacks some of the lived-in authenticity of the first.

It’s still a better film in its way than London Boulevard, an idiosyncratic mash-up of Sunset Boulevard and one of those ultraviolent-Cockney movies from Guy Ritchie. Colin Farrell is Harry Mitchel, a “made man” of sorts just released from prison, who stumbles into a Someone to Watch Over Me gig with a model-actress-painter who’s been hounded to housebound-ism by paparazzi. Farrell is engaging enough–he gives good rageaholic–but the film becomes such a stringing together of unlikely events that by the time Keira Knightley falls for Farrell, you realize you’ve missed it, and have had to have it mentioned to you via exposition. Ray Winstone and David Thewlis deliver fine performances, but screenwriter-turned-director William Monahan’s overstuffed neo-noir gradually flies off in all directions.

This is the kind of thing you talk about later, in the lobby, as if it were old times in the Uptown, only everything now is sparkling, and the films look great on screen (SIFF insists on creating trailer collages that almost never display at the right resolution, all jaggy and pixellated, but the films themselves show well.) It’s early, but the move to the Uptown seems likely to pay off  in attracting the social film-goer, the kind of people who go to films because it’s fun for them, and who have made SIFF-the-Festival such an attendance colossus.

The antisocial film-goer can be found, apparently, at the Majestic Bay, but I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s the choker or choked.

That leaves just one problem, as I mentioned in an earlier post, which is parking in the area:

While SIFF‘s new digs at the Uptown Theater offer tons of seats inside, they didn’t come with any on-street spots. Parking in Lower Queen Anne is a bear even when the weather’s nice–just assume that you’re going to pay for parking in a lot (here are Seattle Center-run locations), or take public transit (the Monorail is nice this time of year).

I’ve been nosing around looking for parking spots of note, and so far the best I can come up with is the parking garage at the Market at 1st and Mercer. If you buy something–Raisinets? Licorice?–at the Market, you can get two hours’ parking for free, and it’s open until midnight seven days a week.