Support Your Local Indie Movie Houses This Valentine’s Weekend

Moulin-Rouge-0004Sure, Valentine’s Day is just a memorial to a few brutally-executed Catholic martyrs that’s morphed into a cash-grab by candy makers, florists, and retailers of all stripes over the last century. And the pressure of having to invest as much money as possible for the sake of A Romantic Night or Weekend can be overwhelming.

But you can still find a through-line between thoughtful sentiment and fiscal sensibility this weekend. A trip to a movie theater provides an inexpensive-yet-satisfying (and yes, oft-romantic) entertainment experience. Skip the multiplexes and treat your date to a film in a local independent theater, dammit: Indie theaters usually run cheaper, they’ve got a helluva lot more character and charm, they tend to attract more discerning and polite patrons, and you’ll see something way more interesting than your standard corporate-excreted product. Enclosed, please find our recommendations for the most apropos (and in some cases, strangest) films hitting local indie theaters this Valentine’s Weekend.

Harold and Maude (6:45 p.m. tonight, Saturday, and Sunday)—SIFF Cinema Uptown, $12 general admission, $7 for SIFF members: Hal Ashby’s 1971 romantic comedy definitely shows its seams in some places—ancillary characters are almost cartoonishly underdeveloped, and some of its attempts at black humor fall a little flat—but there’s no denying the magical chemistry that imbues the odd couple at its center. Baby-faced proto-goth Bud Cort and seventy-something spitfire Ruth Gordon both deliver career-best performances, and Ashby and screenwriter Colin Higgins develop these characters so sharply that they effectively extinguish any quibbles. Cat Stevens’ plainspoken and sweet soundtrack songs never fail to tug at the heartstrings (not surprisingly, SIFF’s organizing pre-screening Cat Stevens sing-alongs).

Moulin Rouge (various times tonight, Saturday, and Sunday), True Romance (9:00 p.m. tonight, Saturday, and Sunday)—Central Cinema, $7 general admission for each: Do not, we repeat, do not lame out and watch Moulin Rouge on Netflix or On Demand this weekend. Catch Baz Luhrmann’s still-ravishing pastiche of MGM musicals, MTV flash, Bollywood splashiness, and swoon-worthy romance on a big screen as God (and Luhrmann) intended. And speaking of swoon-worthy romance, don’t discount the Tony Scott-directed/Quentin Tarantino-scripted True Romance. Beneath its violence, nerd-centric references, profanity, and stoned Brad Pitt-isms resides a resonant story of two damaged lovers (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) finding redemption and mutual strength in each other’s arms. As is customary, Central Cinema sports a full meal menu for all screenings.

Gone with the Wind (11:00 a.m. Saturday), Guys and Dolls (4:15 p.m Saturday), Some Like It Hot (8:00 p.m. Saturday)—Cinerama, $15 each plus service fees: It romanticizes the antebellum South to an absurdly wrongheaded degree, but damned if the 1939 Best Picture Oscar winner Gone with the Wind isn’t the most breathlessly-paced and absorbing four-hour film you’ll ever see, replete with two of Golden Age Hollywood’s most luminous stars (Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable) and scenes of epic splendor sure to make full use the Cinerama’s massive screen. Later that afternoon, hear Frank Sinatra clean Marlon Brando’s clock vocally in the 1955 film adaptation of Guys and Dolls, and wind up the evening with a screening of Billy Wilder’s howlingly funny 1959 gangster/drag opus, Some Like it Hot. Bonus: The Cinerama’s upgraded its snack, food, and drink repertoire.

R100 (various times tonight, Saturday, and Sunday), VHSex 3 (9:00 p.m. Saturday February 14)—Grand Illusion Cinema, $9 general admission each/$5 each for Grand Illusion members: Forget the antiseptic diet-BDSM being relentlessly flogged at local multiplexes. If you want some real cinematic sexual subversion this weekend, get thee to the Grand Illusion for both of these presentations. The former is a warped Japanese comedy about an S&M-addicted milquetoast facing a succession of extremely angry dominatrices. Critics have definitely smiled on it much more than the aforementioned BDSM-lite product, for what it’s worth. VHSex 3, meantime, throws two hours worth of truly demented sexually-explicit and just plain batshit-crazy clips (lovingly collected from vintage VHS tapes) at the unsuspecting audience. Much cheesy Casio synth music, bare flesh, and mulletude shall hold sway, and if the last two VHSex compilations are any indication, this third entry should be the perfect weirdo antidote to all of the hearts-and-flowers sentiment in the air tomorrow.

My Bloody Valentine (10:00 p.m. tonight)—Blue Mouse Theatre, $5: If you’re the kind of person who prefers their Valentine’s Day hearts ripped from screaming teenagers, rejoice. There aren’t any new horror films hitting local screens this weekend (studios traditionally bust out at least one new shocker on Friday the 13th), but Tacoma’s oldest independent movie theater (92 years young and counting) has your back with tonight’s addition to their Friday Night Frights series. This evening, they present the original uncut and uncensored version of one of the most fondly-remembered chillers of the early 1980’s. My Bloody Valentine pretty much skews to the slasher formula, but it’s also packed with extremely effective scares and maintains a genuinely foreboding atmosphere. Seeing the movie at this venerable theater is well worth the trek south if you’re in Seattle. See it with someone you love.



A Superb Reprise of ‘Don Quixote’ at PNB

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For those who saw Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performances of Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote three years ago, it is a welcome return. For those who missed it then it’s a chance now to see—and as of now the only place in the U.S. that you are able to see—this colorful, sparkling production.

Actually, Ratmansky is not the only choreographer and stager of this wonderful version of the old story. It was first produced for the Bolshoi by the great Marius Petipa 145 years ago, and later updated by Alexander Gorsky in 1900.

Actors Tom Skerritt as the Don and Allen Galli as his peasant sidekick, Sancho Panza, reprise their roles of three years ago. They’ve added to their interpretations: Skerritt’s confused old aristocrat is even more vulnerable and Galli’s Sancho has a noticeable bumbling tenderness in looking after him. Their travel adventures and the Don’s visions are the center of the story, tying together the disparate venues and giving the choreographers full rein to their imaginations.

Opening night saw the company’s finest ballerina, Carla Körbes, in the role of peasant girl Kitri, while Batkhurel Bold danced her lover (check the rest of the performance casting here). Retired character dancer Uko Gorter returned as Kitri’s dad, bent on forcing her to marry a fop, Gamache, full of airs and graces, performed by Jonathan Porretta. The vicissitudes of the couple are the other thread of the story.

Körbes, who retires at the end of the season, danced at a peak of artistry, as superbly as I’ve ever seen her. It’s a long, difficult, demanding role through which she sailed as fun-loving, feisty girl, defiant daughter and vision for the Don, achieving dazzling fouettés and holding herself, twice, in a long lift over Bold’s head. In the last act when she had been on for well over two and a half hours, she floated through a slow pas de deux with Bold, requiring extraordinary strength, balance and flow. There was yet more after, not as difficult but needing quick timing and spirit. She slipped in what might have been a large drop of sweat on the floor but recovered fast.

Bold danced at his best likewise. An excellent partner, he danced virtuosic solos, including splits in mid-air and multiple fast turns, always with solid balance.

Porretta reprised his role as Gamache, a non-dancing part in which he excelled as the comic element, never going out of character even in the bows. Karel Cruz made an imposing toreador with Lindsi Dec as his girlfriend, but most enchanting was the capework of the toreros, their huge deep pink, gold-lined capes flashing in great circles.

The cast is large, with villagers, toreros, wandering players, and in the Don’s dream, monsters and moving cacti and an expressive moon, then later dryads and Cupid in his vision where Kitri becomes his Dulcinea. There’s more: gypsies in the mountains who hide the lovers when her father and Gamache come in hot pursuit, followed by the Don and Sancho on their nag and donkey; the dryads’ bamboo bower where Cupid hangs out.

This is a show to delight all ages. Jerome Kaplan’s scenery and costumes and James F. Ingalls’ lighting conjuring sunny Spain enhance the dancing, while the PNB orchestra, playing its best under Emil de Cou, supported the dancers throughout. Conducting for ballet is an art in itself.

The production continues until February 8 at McCaw Hall.

Curious Georges in a conversation with Seattle