All posts by Audrey

Managing Arts Editor, Film & TV [email] Audrey is kinda a big deal. She was Chicago-born and –raised, but doesn't miss the weather one bit (the people and the politics are another story). She spends a great deal of time eating oysters and drinking wine, watching movies and going to shows, reading Videogum and The Awl, and quoting Arrested Development (yes, still). Her favorite stuff on television includes 30 Rock, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Community, Parks and Rec, and pretty much any VH1/Bravo reality trashvaganza. In terms of movies, she tends to agree with Glenn Kenny. Fun Fact: She always tries to keep on hand at least two pounds of Tillamook extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Bumbershoot 2013 Day 2: Music and Comedy

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The Redwood Plan (Photo: MvB)

The Mowgli's (Photo: MvB)

View from beer garden up top of the Fisher Pavilion (Photo: MvB)

"detritus we value" artwork by Jonathan Schipper (Photo: MvB)

"detritus we value" artwork by Jonathan Schipper (Photo: MvB)

From the "Enigma Machine" installation: a web of sorts is spun. (Photo: MvB)

From the "Enigma Machine" installation: colors generated by heat and electricity (Photo: MvB)

David Bazan (Photo: MvB)

Katie Kate (Photo: MvB)

The Comettes (Photo: MvB)

The Breeders (Photo: MvB)

The Zombies (Photo: MvB)

Creepy visuals overlooking the Crystal Castles crowd (Photo: Audrey)

The rules for media are a little different this year around. (Photo: Audrey)

Be prepared! (Photo: Audrey)

Washed Out warming up, Seattle Center fountain cooling down (Photo: Audrey)

Clouds hover above Crystal Castles. (Photo: Audrey)

Crystal Castles from afar, hula hoops from a-near (Photo: Audrey)

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At Bumbershoot 2013, some wily musical vets have stolen the show. Who knew that Gary Numan had other songs and an awesome set still in him, up to and including “Cars”? Or that Eric Burdon would turn in a hoodie-clad performance with The Animals?

The ladies of The Breeders hit it as hard as ever, and thundered through Last Splash like it’s 1993. And of course The Zombies would have to play a couple of their jazzy new songs, but if you stepped away from the Starbucks stage and took a hot lap around the Seattle Center grounds, you could have been back just in time to hear them blow the non-roof off with their finale, “She’s Not There.”

Among Bumbershoot’s young turks, Kris Orlowski played a golden-hour set Saturday under the Space Needle and in the shadow of the EMP. Far too often, Kris Orlowski is lumped in with the sensitive Seattle singer-songwriter crowd, which is unfair, since a) he’s not a solo act — it’s a four-piece band that dabbles with the occasional orchestra — and b) Orlowski is not another boring, whiny nice guy. Just a handsome bastard with a great ear and a charismatic frontman to boot. #TeamDREAMBOAT

Over at the Sub Pop stage, Washed Out had to contend with technical difficulties that delayed their set by sixteen minutes, and the resulting audience of big spoiled babies just looking for an excuse to boo. Once the Bumbershoot A/V club got all the loops up and running, the mix was off for the first couple songs, but the chillwave set quickly found its groove. With new album Paracosm, Washed Out has moved into more disco and reggae territory, but don’t worry, they definitely played the Portlandia theme.

The night ended with the atmospheric sounds and sometimes hard-to-look-at visuals of Crystal Castles, while Sunday night involved going from The Zombies to fleeing from Bumbershoot-goers lurching around as zombies. Can we call it a Sunset of The Dead already?

Marc Maron had been on my Bumbershoot to-do list for Sunday, but I ended up seeing him with Patton Oswalt the day prior. I figured he would just use Sunday’s WTF session to further expound upon his anxieties about an impending third marriage and worries about the potential for becoming a father for the first time, but correct me if I’m wrong. Besides, twenty minutes of Marc Maron is pretty much the perfect amount of Maron.

So the only comedy must on the Sunday Bumbershoot schedule was the roundtable discussion with the writers of Parks and Recreation. The Stranger’s Paul Constant introduced the panel for what he calls the best-written show on television, thanks to the individual voices of all the characters, born of a strong writing staff. The team includes old-timers like Alan Yang and Aisha Muharrar, and relative newbies Joe Mande and Megan Amram (both Twitter-famous) who joined the writing team for P&R‘s fourth season.

We got a sneak peek at the fifth season of Parks and Rec: The gang goes to London (Andy thinks it’s Hogwarts), Tom Haverford and Rent-A-Swag faces some new competition, and Leslie Knope wins a women-in-leadership award (complete with Heidi Klum cameo).

Facing the prospects of having to write off Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe, the writers felt that they had crafted satisfying departures for Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger in taking the characters to the end of their arcs. With regards to pacing the comedy, Yang pointed to the importance of clarity and simplicity and the continued need to tell the emotional story. And when in doubt, cast the funniest person possible for the part.

What then followed was an occasionally cringeworthy Q&A with Paul Constant, who twice lost his place in the novella of notes in his hands, and humblebragged “I know some people who work in government.” Constant’s question about gender ratio on typical television writing staffs was a good one, but awkwardly delivered and eventually trailed off. Luckily, the P&R writers have amazing chemistry, which carried the rest of the conversation, including a shout-out to the Bechdel test, the usefulness of Jerry as a punching bag, and the fun fact that Nick Offerman smells like mahogany.

Day 1 Comedy: Bumbershoot 2013

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Waiting for Patton.

Almost had to MacGyver my press pass, but fortunately @lavid had an extra safety pin.

Big fan of platters of meat and cheese in the press room.

RIP, Fructis tent.

Can't choose between UW Huskies and Bumbershoot? Don't worry, they've got the game on.

The woman running this booth was very suspicious as to what exactly I would want to take a photo of. Told her I didn't think many people came to Bumbershoot to buy high-threadcount sheet sets.

See if you can guess which environmentally-themed suggestion is mine.

New this year: rental lockers!

Locker rates: $15/day; $10/night; $30/all 3 days.

Clean scalp just for Bumbershoot. You're welcome, Seattle Center.

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Day One of Bumbershoot is always about getting your bearings. It’s sensory overload, especially this year, when clouds of marijuana smoke hang over every stage. Bumbershoot has always been a smoke-friendly environment, but now it’s at a whole new level. Attention, Seattle parents: Your children are going to Bumbershoot to WEAR the SHORT-SHORTS and SMOKE the LEGAL MARIJUANA.

(But let’s not be dicks and use anything, blatantly, right in front of police. No need to put the so-far friendly cops in a position where forced to be the bad guy.)

Let’s talk comedy. No matter where you end up in line for the Bagley Wright stage, a pro-tip for the venue: Everyone in a line plods along and takes the first entrance from the lobby. Don’t. Instead, keep walking through to the far aisle — that side of the theatre fills up last. Or if you can’t resist your cattle inclinations, walk down towards the stage and then over to the left. Whatever you do, DO NOT suddenly stop walking and hold up the entire line behind you or change seats four times. The selection of seats at Bumbershoot comedy shows is not like being gay — it doesn’t get any better. So just sit down.

(THIS is how you hack life, people: by keeping your eyes and ears open. At this point, I’m on my way outta Seattle, and I don’t mind sharing all my knowledge accrued — twelve years of pro-tips that have allowed me to beat the rest of the general public in nearly every way — with you, the hoi polloi. So START WRITING this down.)

Anyways, my main goal for Saturday was to see Patton Oswalt & Friends, so by making that the priority, and by living a life of pro-tips, I was able to secure a third-row seat, so I could see the funny man work himself up into a sweat talking about how a pessimistic customer service rep at Alaska Airlines under-promised and over-delivered on finding his daughter’s stroller, and how now he needs to protect the eyes of that four-year-old from Bumbershoot hippie dick.

To warm up the crowd was Fancypants comedienne Natasha Leggero. Her selfish princess persona briefly touched a nerve in the audience when joking about motherhood (as a concept). But Natasha won the crowd back with the cogent point that catching a boyfriend engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation is preferable to seeing him doff a Call of Duty headset. She knew her audience, accusing the majority of having a Master’s in something they don’t do, mocking Pacific Northwest style (“JEAN SHORTS”) and white tourists going on gangland tours in L.A., and soliciting a quick headcount of those who think they’re gluten-sensitive versus those who are actually gluten-allergic (i.e., celiac). TOTALLY DIFFERENT CONDITIONS, PEOPLE.

Next up was Upright Citizens Brigade vet Brian Huskey, in the guise of Nascar poet Louis Harkin, who comes pre-loaded with a deliciously deft backstory. The former septic-cleaning business owner in Shelby, North Carolina, inspired by Def Poetry Jam, moved to San Francisco, where he now performs in Bohemian cafes, unpaid. This is a complicated, tightly drawn character, and Huskey walks all those lines well, telling poems of weedwhackers and Billy Joel and “onset diabetes,” combines the slogans “Just Do It” and “Never Forget,” all with liberal sprinkles throughout of “namaste, motherfuckers.”

Marc Maron then took the stage with a “surprise” appearance, as comedy acts are wont to mix and match at Bumbershoot. Turns out Marc has an ex-wife from Seattle, so don’t worry, he has something to complain about. His impression of our fair city has always been “Fuck Seattle.” Of course he has his typical existential crisis over traffic, but he’s also having a crisis now, at age 49, when he’s engaged again, set for what will be his third marriage, and scared that this might be the time he has a kid, and then he’ll be The Old Dad. He’s at least scared that his fiancee wants to get pregnant enough to be wary of a “fingerbaby.”

And whaddya know? Marc Maron has a couple impersonations too:

  1. a one-word Dave Attell: “What?”
  2. a one-gesture David Cross (the rocking on his heels he does when a joke hasn’t landed well) with the optional follow-up gesture to awkwardly take a drink of beer
  3. all sound (Peanuts-style) version of Eugene Mirman
  4. he has a Louis C.K. impression, but it necessarily involves ice cream

Then there was Patton. In his nearly half-hour set, he announced his fitness goals: to lose his bulletproof vest torso, to not be in a Rascal scooter at his daughter’s high school graduation, and to keep his original knees. That discussion inevitably led to the Swab My Folds porn series (“it doesn’t really get good until Swab My Folds 4“), shame-eating (“fuck you, me”), the modern fears of having a #racistbaby or being a #klandad, and being forced to deal with so many “hipster trustfund douchebags — SORRY.”

Patton Oswalt requires clothing that hides his man boobs and hips. When even going near the John Varvatos counter at Macy’s makes him feel like a hobbit, his only option is to start a fashion line with the guy from Smashmouth and name it Fireplug.

So when the comedy lineup is BY FAR the most successful and consistent programming of the festival, tell me again why Bumbershoot doesn’t sell a comedy pass? And why OneReel doesn’t turn over some of the will-call/credentials production and logistical duties to Starbucks as part of their sponsorship? Especially when a festival is run by a non-profit, it’s important to find ways to have others contribute and get work done for you. These PEARLS OF WISDOM are FREE, y’all.

Bumbershoot 2013 Pro-Tips

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We here at The SunBreak endeavor to live A Life of Pro-Tips. To that end, here are The SunBreak’s collective hivemind’s tips and tricks for how to best get around the festival, cultivated over our combined decades of Bumbershoot experience and bequeathed unto you.

MvB: The Bumbershoot 2013 app. If you plan to go, I recommend downloading for the schedule alone.

Audrey: With what seems to be a vast improvement to the app, let’s hope that the accessibility of data networks on the Seattle Center campus is also vastly improved. Josh, you have more experience with the previous incarnations of the app.

Josh: I do think that the app is an improvement over last year, but my festival brain requires a grid. I pretty much always find myself clinging to a sheet of paper with the whole schedule blocked out in timeline form. One bright side of the app: it doesn’t require an internet connection. Treasure the pockets of internet that you find hiding at Bumbershoot, for usually as the crowds increase there’s less of it to go around. Maybe this will be the hear that they bring in some extra towers?

MvB: Just bring a refillable water bottle (or two) and save on buying anything at all.

Audrey: Yes, FREE WATER is a pro-tip. Don’t be a chump!

Shawn: However, the mainstage and most of the indoor venues DO check bags and DON’T allow outside water, so keep that in mind. If you are hungry/thirsty, sneak out to QFC or Met Market for a reasonably priced sandwich and drink. Or plan ahead and grab stuff before you head into Seattle Center.

Josh: Be aware: Skateboards are allowed at Bumbershoot but can not be brought into Key Arena. This is just one of the many quirks of the Bumbershoot rules. In general, expect Key Arena to be its own fortress with its own rules and more expensive catering.

Aside from the the “Mainstage,” it looks like almost all of the music is outside, so capacity won’t really be an issue. That said, if there are comedy shows that you absolutely need to see or arena performances that will make-or-break your Bumbershoot, show up early. Comedy passes are Bumbershoot’s hottest commodity — they’re distributed first thing each day and guarantee entry into a given show. Key Arena might not max out capacity-wise, but late arrivals might find the choices of seating vs. standing areas limited particularly for evening shows or if it starts to rain.

Katelyn: Stay hydrated, don’t eat pot brownies made by strangers, and know where the nearest restroom is at all times.

Audrey: My biggest Bumber Pro-Tip is MONORAIL to get you to and from Seattle Center in two minutes flat. Labor Day is the only time all year I take that accursed mode of transportation, so I’m glad it’s running late this weekend (till 11:30 p.m.).

Josh: If you insist on taking the bus, you’ll probably have more luck getting a seat if you pick it up in Queen Anne instead of downstream on Denny.

And if you’re not rolling through the festival with shiny gold or platinum passes around your neck and care deeply about the comedy lineup, be sure to show up early to get a Comedy Pass. The main stage, now in Key Arena though, doesn’t require a special token as all shows are first-come (up to 90 minutes ahead), first-served.

Dana: The comedy shows are a great way to escape the constant crush of people at the music venues and on the grounds. You get to sit on a comfy chair in an air-conditioned room and laugh your ass off! Be sure to arrive early, as there is always a long line.

Josh: When you are tired, you can leave the festival and return. Or check out a movie at the (tiny?) SIFF film center. Don’t forget: Art shows are a nice change of pace and as well as a healthy break from the elements.

MvB: Best bathrooms? I think there are some that end up less “used.” If you get my drift. Generally, those in specific venues, rather than the ones on the main floor of the Center House. There be monsters.

Shawn: Also, the bathrooms in the NW Rooms are usually the least used of the ones you don’t have to wait in a long comedy line to get to.

MvB: Avoid any path lined with food if you’re in a hurry, because you will either wear yourself out playing Red Rover with multiple food lines or end up with a plate of yakisoba on your shirt.

Josh: You’ll want to get a hundred posters at Flatstock; time your purchases so you’re not hauling your merch around all day and starting accidental tube fights during particularly boisterous sets on the Fountain Lawn.

MvB: It’s still summer, so don’t forget some kind of hat and SPF159. If you forget, it would be worth running across the street to Met Market or QFC. You may want to consider buying extra sunscreen and selling it at a huge markup to people turning lobster.

Josh: On the Be Prepared front, get ready for your phone’s battery to fade. Keep a printout of the schedule handy and pick a meeting time and place to find your friends when you inevitably get split up over funnel cakes vs. elephant ears or Key Arena vs. anywhere other than Key Arena.

MvB: Comfy shoes. Ear plugs.

Josh: I find it mentally healthiest to pick 2 to 4 must-see things per day, get there with time to spare, and then just browse around in between. Sprinting through crowds and zombies to stick to a rigorous schedule of seeing absolutely everything gets exhausting too fast and robs the festival of surprise discoveries.

Post-SIFF 2013 Reflections, or Suggestions for SIFF 2014

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Catch up with all The SunBreak’s festival coverage on our SIFF 2013 page.

MvB: As I said before, SIFF served me well in the film department this year — if I were doing stars, a lot of 3.5 and 4s out of 5. Documentaries, as nearly always, were a strong group…

Tony: SIFF’s documentary menu is frequently world-class. Of the 35 movies I saw for the fest, almost one-third were docs and most of those were really, really strong. One weird aside/question: How do paying SIFF patrons feel about the influx of extremely short docs presented as full-fledged features? I counted at least three standalone docs that were under an hour long….

From a consumer standpoint, SIFF 2013’s consistency was a great thing. But that consistency almost became numbing sometimes. Very few of the films disappointed, but conversely that meant fewer surprises, pleasant or otherwise, for me.

MvB: I also liked what I thought of as the “Nordic Crimewave” pathway. Am I right that there was only one Icelandic feature, though? Shame!

Audrey: One Icelandic feature, one Canadian documentary about Iceland’s penis museum.

Tony: Iceland wasn’t the only corner of the globe that felt underrepresented this year. There coulda been a lot more Asian cinema: Hong Kong Action cinema, in particular, usually draws a devoted contingent, so its relative dearth was a bit of a headscratcher (not enough good stuff coming from that corner of the globe right now?).

It should be stated that the Midnight programming (from my perspective, at least) was pretty top-notch this year. And there was a real variety and breadth to the African cinema selection during SIFF 2013 — the socially-aware dramas and documentaries were to be expected, but it was really cool to see several examples of the continent’s pulp entertainment on display. I’d never want to bother with the empty calories of a Fanie Fourie’s Lobola again, but I was glad to see what a populist Chick Flick from half-a-world away looks like.

MvB: Not to beat a dead iPhone app, but SIFF’s decision to kill off its much-praised app in favor of a “mobile-optimized” site was befuddling. You lost key capabilities, like the ability to favorite films you wanted to see (rather than just track films you bought tickets to — a “feature” that also happened to leave passholders out in the cold), and the new site’s UI (by Ingeniux) didn’t come close to the ease and speed of the app. Initially, movies were sorted by day alphabetically, which got changed to chronologically about a week in. Choosing a film gave you show times, but to see the synopsis you had to open a whole new page, every single time. The site also tended to drain the battery of my iPhone in about an hour if I left it “up” in my browser. I give Ingeniux 1.5 stars out of 5, here.

Audrey: Let’s not forget that the mobile site initially featured a “synposis” for each festival film. Miss you, SIFF app!

Tony: Yeah, the absence of the app really stood out. Without it, I found myself frequently squatting at one venue and just watching what was there throughout the day, instead of really exploring.

MvB: SIFF also killed the Back-to-Back pass — I’m not sure why, and neither was the volunteer I asked. It’s not often a problem, but you’re penalized by going to see longer movies, since by the time you exit and circle around to get in line for the next show, it can be all the way down the block.

Audrey: Members and passholders were PISSED about the lack of back-to-back. To quote @maynardpark: “Major FAIL @SIFFnews w/no “back-to-back” option. Had to leave Egyptian and go to END of VERY LONG LINE. Way to treat your members.”

MvB: On the media coverage side, SIFF again insisted on holding “press screenings” during the day — a time many, many people find themselves at work. I didn’t make it to a single one. Are there any full-time film critics in Seattle anymore? The few times I went last year, the press were severely outnumbered by Platinum passholders, for whom the nominal press screenings are a benefit. Might be time to either change the name, or change the screening times. Thank god, in any event, for digital screeners.

Tony: I take vacation time from my day job for much of SIFF’s duration to cover it each year (miraculously, it is sometimes necessary for writers to supplement their princely writing income with non-writing work). This year especially, it seemed like there was almost no press in attendance at the “press screenings.”  At more than one, I was (near as I could tell) literally the only press member. SIFF’s crackdown on press admissions to the actual Gala Screenings made those press screenings the only avenue for the local media to see The Bling Ring (SIFF’s closing night film) prior to its Closing Night Gala screening. I missed the screening at noon on a weekday the previous week, so I didn’t see it.

Audrey: SIFF’s communications (both to media and to the general public) have grown increasingly convoluted over the past few years. If anything there are too many communications coming from too many people within SIFF, some of which later require corrections, and all of which contribute to the diminishing returns from continual email newsblasts. And then on the other hand, when you send an email to SIFF, it often goes into the void without response. Once again, we beseech SIFF to maintain a strong PR presence (and pay good PR professionals what they’re worth) for the whole year, ramping up and adding staff as necessary for the festival. Continuity is priceless.

Tony: SIFF wouldn’t be the first non-profit to shoot itself in the foot by laboring under the hope that technology can compensate for a lack of staffing. Then again, bracing for that Brave New World would’ve entailed more of an investment in that technology in the first place. Like, say, a dedicated app (my turn to beat the dead iPhone app horse, MvB…), or (Dead Horse #2, officially noted) a credit card/advance-ordering server that could withstand the onslaught of thousands of denizens of the Whedonverse for the Opening Night Gala.

SIFF What We Saw (The End)

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Catch up with all The SunBreak’s festival coverage over on our SIFF 2013 page.

Audrey: As always with film festivals, it’s safe to err on the side of documentaries. At the very least, you should learn a little something. So it was with Terms and Conditions May Apply, which provided plenty of information on the digital rights we willingly sign away online without much by way of suggestion as to what consumers can do to change that status quo. The director’s inevitable “confrontation” with Mark Zuckerberg is more than a little forced and lacks any real impact.

Similarly, the filmmakers behind Remote Area Medical draw attention to the plight of the uninsured in America by focusing on the biannual pop-up free clinic provided by the titular non-profit volunteer group. The film successfully puts a face on the crisis by showing the desperate folk who make the trip to Virginia’s Bristol Motor Speedway in an attempt to get long-delayed care, but doesn’t dig deeper than that to the causes both social and individual that contribute to the health disparities.

Digging way deeper is Mussels in Love (L’Amour des moules) and its subject, the Netherlands’ Zeeland mussel. Like the fest’s honeybee doc More Than Honey, the cinematography on display here is striking and beautiful, especially the closeups of mussels at their most intimate, with gametes in the water. Because you just haven’t really gotten to know shellfish until you see their fertilization. But Mussels goes beyond that to the Belgian and French restaurant patrons who order them off the menu and the top chefs that take care in preparing them; the fishermen who wish things could go back to the old ways and those who think the new ones are destructive in a different way. Besides, who says mussels are meant for mass consumption in the first place? According to one old-timer, we should leave ‘em alone and let them have a full life before shucking.

Lots of shucking also going on in Interior.Leather Bar., James Franco’s re-imagining of the 40 minutes cut from William Friedkin’s provocative Cruising in order to get an R rating. Franco’s got a guess as to what was edited out of the gritty undercover gay Al Pacino film — scenes with explicit sexual content depicting the action in ’70s NYC S&M clubs — and this 60-minute doc is not the recreated footage so much as the creative and moral conflicts borne from undertaking such a task. Why is a gay coupling treated (by individuals as well as the MPAA) as somehow more offensive than a straight act? Should a married straight actor be more uncomfortable with a sex scene if it features a man and a man? Once again, James Franco defies all expectations with the breadth and depth of interests in his avant art projects.

Tony: I agree that when SIFFting, documentaries are a good bet. Comrade President illustrated that for me. It follows the life and impact of Mozambique leader Samora Moises Machel, a subject of which I possessed no knowledge, and it transcends a dry history lesson with a refreshingly three-dimensional, warts-and-all portrait of a man idolized and martyred by his people, yet not completely innocent of the brutalities that he fought so hard to overcome. 4/5

Even better (I thought) was The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Bill Siegel’s incredibly engaging chronicle on the legendary fighter’s gauntlet of legal woes during the 1960s and ’70s. Like the awesome When We Were Kings, this doc benefits by focusing on a very specific aspect of Ali’s life — in this case, the hornets’ nests he kicked by his association with the Nation of Islam and conscientious objection to the Vietnam draft. That laser focus, coupled with an entire gallery of great, sometimes larger-than-life supporting characters, makes this unmissable. 5/5

MvB: Okay, I’ll get on the documentary train. The Last Ocean, about the intrusion of commercial fishing into Antarctic’s Ross Sea, first draws you in with plenty of shots of penguins, seals, and Orcas before becoming an activist-procedural, following penguin biologist Dave Ainley as he tries to enlist support for making the Ross Sea a protected area. Ainley sees it as a simple expansion of the agreement to leave the Antarctic unspoiled for research, but that boat may have sailed: Scientists are already having trouble finding Antarctic toothfish to tag, despite the catch being declared sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and Monterey Bay Aquarium. (It’s ironic to hear the word “sustainable” trumpeted by an industry that’s had to venture to the shores of Antarctica in search of fishing stock.) Lastocean.org has more, and you can watch the film at home on iTunes.

The odd thing about the documentary Out of Print was that, even as it built a case for the “book experience” — immersive, extensive, durational — it presented all these benefits in the language of interview soundbites and snappy docu-graphics. I think the interview that lasted longest was with the author of a self-published e-book that became a best-seller, eventually landing her a home at a traditional publishing house.

Audrey: I got my fix for light dystopia in The Cleaner (El Limpiador), in which a near-future Peru has been hit hard by a respiratory epidemic killing off all it infects. Our simple, humble, noble protagonist, Eusebio (Victor Prada), cleans out the houses of the recently deceased, finding in one an orphaned eight-year-old boy. What follows is a slow, sustained rumination on creating a family where one can and maintaining a sense of humanity among the inhumane. Prada gives an understated performance with great tenderness, as when lacking any children’s books for a bedtime story, he reads to his charge from the television manual.

La Playa D.C. was less affecting, because the fates of the three young Afro-Colombian brothers at the core of the story were even bleaker. Bogotá is a rough terrain to roam alone after being kicked out by their mother’s new boyfriend. Tomas learns to cut elaborately detailed hairstyles, but it’s hard to hold a good job when your elementary school-aged brother often disappears to smoke crack. The handheld camera moves things along, reflecting Bogota’s energy. Another foreign film, Morocco’s Horses of God (Les chevaux de Dieu, God’s Horses) also has the feel of verité.

Josh: I appreciate why so many people seemed to have really loved that chronicle of how to grow a pack of terrorists in the slums of Casablanca, but is it weird to say that a movie about turning skeptics and goofballs to fundamentalist fighters and suicide bombers really started to feel preachy? Perhaps some of this reflects the limits of an entirely nonprofessional cast, who never really sold the conversion. It’s obviously an important story, but the jumps through time from kids to adults and the lack of explanation for some familial roles and tradition left some gaps for me. (3/5)

MvB: Yeah, Horses of God is a case where you really see the pluses and minuses of non-professional actors. They give the movie that verité varnish, as Audrey says, but they struggle when they leave the realm of their lived experience to become suicide bombers. One of the most powerful moments is a repeated shot: first, a group of little kids is chased from a soccer field after the game dissolves into a fracas, then years later, as teens, they flee another soccer match exactly the same way. They’re taller, but nothing has changed.

Audrey: That sums up my experience of the film: even using “real” people and basing the story on a “real” spate of bombings, Horses of God still didn’t add any depth to a story I feel I’ve seen umpteen times already.

Josh: For my true-life tales, I much prefer capable young actors turning in spot-on portrayals of vapid criminal teens, as was the case for excellent closing night feature The Bling Ring. Without ever making the criminals sympathetic, Sofia Coppola nevertheless captures the way that the heady romance of new friendship, hunger for thrills among the entitled rich (but not super-rich), and a lack of impulse control combine to almost make their actions understandable. Even though it’s based on a true story and is told in interviews and flashbacks, The Bling Ring still held plenty of suspense, particularly as the clique of Hollywood strivers get more and more brazen with their string of celebrity robberies. I always love spending time in the worlds that Sofia Coppola creates even when they leave flatly accented valley voices stuck in my head. (4.5/5)

Audrey: Leave it to a Dane to want a truly modern city to also have a sense of humanity and even intimacy. The Human Scale considers the long-reaching ramifications of urban planning, from cross-city pathways all the way up to the level of overall community cohesion. Considering pedestrian traffic as much as that of vehicles seems obvious for obvious reasons, but somehow building walking-friendly areas creates much more than just pedestrians — it creates more life lived publicly.

MvB: I liked the central idea behind Human Scale, but I’m not sure who the film is for. Maybe it’s to inspire immigration to Copenhagen? Here in Seattle we can’t even keep sidewalks open during construction — pedestrians are forced out into the street all over the city. The way they approached the “human scale” felt a little haphazard, too. Crosswalks and pedicabs are one thing, but the argument about limiting building heights to six or seven floors is a huge difference when you’re talking about modern urban cores. I’m sympathetic to challenges to vertical density, but they only gave the topic a talking-points gloss.

Audrey: DON’T even GET ME STARTED on construction sites, but I left the film thinking about Seattle too. Would Seattleites be a happier people now if the city had undertaken proactive urban planning measures (cough public transit cough) two decades ago that allowed for more face-to-face human interactions? And what are the best metrics to measure as we try to anticipate a city’s future needs?

MvB: Josh and I were talking about Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and how predictable, yet loose-ended this tale of a junior Bonnie & Clyde-style duo was. Partly, you often can’t make out what people are saying, which can make events inscrutable, but the film also isn’t that interested in filling you in. The laconic characters know what they’re talking about, you’re just an eavesdropper, straining for clues. The Malick-esque, Southern Gothic cinematography lends a fuzzy sense of import, but it’s really (shootings aside) a small, poignant story about the way a dream dies.

Josh: I think that I went into the screening prepared for this to be just insanely dull, but hoping that the pretty images would carry it through. So I was pleasantly surprised with how well Lowery’s structuring of the plot and the timing of certain reveals made the dreamy-looking (mumbly) outlaw on the run meditation fairly engaging. Sure, I may have missed some plotpoints via drawl and might argue with the lack of cleverness on the part of the cops or robbers, but the look of the film and the quality of the performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, and a box full of kittens sold me. (4/5)

Tony: The trailer for Lil Bub and Friendz began surfacing at SIFF screenings early last week, and I think everyone within spitting distance was either wigged out or utterly charmed: There was no middle ground. At least two dozen viewers involuntarily went “Awwww…” during one showing of the trailer, then two nights later, there were groans of revulsion. Really. Where did you lie on that scale, Josh?

Josh: In something of an odd move, I went to see Lil Bub & Friendz as someone who was aware of the existence of this bizarrely cute kitty, but by no means an aficionado or partisan on any of the current era’s most famous meme-cats. In the 65-minute documentary, Vice occasionally gets a little bit silly — casting the genetically complicated kitten in a few bizarre videos — and dives down the rabbit hole, at one point featuring a scene with an Internet cat watching a cat video at a catvidfest amongst her biggest fans. It’s all fully ridiculous, but mostly I was charmed that, in contrast to some of the stranger humans in the film, Bub’s owner miraculously comes across as just a really chill dude who genuinely cares about the weird little cat that turned his life around. (4/5)

Tony: With its semi-sniggering premise, Unhung Hero gave off wafts of Jackass at first. But this doc about a guy traveling the ends of the earth in search of a way to increase the size of his, um, tackle equipment made me laugh harder than anything I saw all SIFF. Subject Patrick Moote makes for a schlubbily-charming comic presence, and somewhere amidst the goofiness of his quest lies a kernel or two of insight about how men are now enduring as much insecurity about their bodies as women, thanks to an increasingly pornified culture. 4/5

I was convinced that Here Comes the Devil was just plain shitty at first. But as it continued, the wildly-gesticulating performances (even the demon-possessed killer kids are outrageously hammy), Grand-Canyon-sized logic and plotting gaps, spastic zooms and rack pulls, and utterly gratuitous opening lesbian sex scene felt more like veiled satire. In other words, maybe it’s the Black Dynamite or Young Frankenstein of violently sleazy Mexican devil-possessed killer kid grindhouse movies. Then again, maybe it was just entertainingly shitty. 2.5/5

Fly Filmmaking Shorts: It’s always fun to see talented people create art on the fly, and happily the four directors of these shorts — Ben Andrews, Amy Enser, Lulu Gargiulo, and Curtis Taylor — came through the challenge with flying colors. Their work was uniformly more accomplished than a fair handful of the features I saw this year. 4/5

Sadourni’s Butterflies takes a few surrealist detours for coloring and shading. Mostly, though, it’s an expressionistic fable about a circus dwarf who kills his lover in a fit of passion, goes to jail, serves his time, then seeks the love of a woman whom he meets while dubbing fetish porn. Its dark beauty worked darn well on me. 4/5

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do inspirational fact-based biopics. The Girl with 9 Wigs, fortunately, largely does it right. Kudos to ex-model Lisa Tomaschewsky, who manages to be totally genuine as a vivacious college student who uses a closetful of wigs to stare down a rare form of cancer. 3.5/5

One minute, Wish You Were Here is a quietly riveting account of relationships collapsing under the weight of a friend’s disappearance. Next minute, it’s a quietly riveting account of how that friend disappeared. The two threads don’t always interweave smoothly, but the acting (particularly that of Zero Dark Thirty/Gatsby rising star Joel Edgerton) remains top-notch throughout. 3.5/5

Josh: I indulged in a sudsier take on friend drama with Drinking Buddies. Graduating from his usual microscopic scale and improvised plots, Joe Swanberg goes slightly bigger budget and more outlined with this microbrew-soaked will-they-or-won’t-they dramedy among beermaking mostly platonic pals. (3.5/5)

TonyEvergreen: The Road to Legalization in Washington is an efficient, very watchable play-by-play doc about this state’s historic pro-pot Initiative 502. The central opponents to the Initiative (pot growers and medical marijuana users, ironically) get so worked up, you wish they’d just pass around a bong and chill already. 3.5/5

Equal parts kung fu swashbuckler and introspective period drama without committing firmly to either, Ripples of Desire is the first period-set drama to come from Taiwan in over a decade. Too bad it’s not a little better. There’s no faulting the handsomeness of the production, but it never really gels or engages a viewer in any substantive way. 2.5/5

I came away from the Korean drama Fatal in awe of its impressive look for next to no money (the Korean equivalent of $3000), and I respected its tastefulness considering the subject matter. It displays considerable artistry, but damned if it’s not one joyless, harrowing pill to swallow. Four high school boys gang-rape a drugged fellow student, then ten years later one of the now-grown-up men searches for redemption, a quest which ends badly. Fatal proved more painful to watch than any of the geriatric coupling, disembowelment, gut munching, or chopped-off fingers I saw during other SIFF 2013 features. 3/5

It’s always fun to see entrenched film genres (and their accompanying cliches) re-imagined by other cultures, so I enjoyed Last Flight to Abuja for exactly what it was — a Nigerian riff on the Airport movies from the 1970s. It’s total piffle, but it zips by at a brisk 78 minutes and vigorously trots out every trope with a pinch of Nollywood exoticism. 3/5

Hey! Did you know that modern mobsters lack the honor and panache of the old guys? And that old mobsters have a tough time dealing with cell phones and their recently-out lesbian daughters? If those revelations surprise you, you’ll probably enjoy Last I Heard. This mess of Scorsese-lite and goomba-gangster cliches tells the story of an old mobster (Paul Sorvino), respected and loved by the folks in his neighborhood but incapable of changing with the times when he’s released from a 20-year prison stint. Sorvino’s one great character actor, and I was rooting for this rare lead to be worthy of him, but eh…not so much. 2/5

Excuse my grousing, but what is it with Fanie Fourie’s Lobola? This multi-culti rom-com with a white Dutch South African and a poor-but-scrappy Zulu woman is harmless enough, but it winning the SIFF Audience Favorite Award for Best Picture just stymies me. The emperor ain’t wearing a lot of clothes here, but even I’m hard-pressed to deny that leading lady Zethu Dhlomo is luminously beautiful and charismatic in the lead. 2.5/5

Audrey: Never underestimate an audience’s willingness to pat themselves on the back with some liberal-minded pablum.

Tony: You really had to look to the last two Midnight Adrenaline features for some of SIFF 2013’s most robust genre-juggling. Cockneys vs Zombies delivers on the comic ridiculousness of its title, then adds two engaging ensembles — a group of young adults attempting to rob a bank when the zombie apocalypse drops, and a retirement home full of grizzled old cockneys — to the mix. It proves that it’s still possible to have fun with a sub-genre as narrow as the zombie horror spoof. 4.5/5

Cheap Thrills is even better. In it, a rich stranger in a bar offers two desperate old high-school buddies successively greater sums of money in an effort to see how far they’re willing to go for a fistful of dollars. First-time director E.L. Katz works the situation with the merciless assurance of a master, and the tiny cast of familiar character faces gives uniformly perfect performances. This first-rate blend of sick comedy and seedy neo-noir will receive limited distribution next February, and if your stomach can take it, you need to seek it out. 5/5

Last but not least, the final movie I saw for SIFF 2013 was the restored print of 1974’s Phase IV, an ecological horror/sci-fi flick about a pair of scientists investigating why ants in a small corner of Arizona are organizing and exhibiting strange behavior. This combination of The Andromeda Strain and Empire of the Ants remains the only movie directed by Saul Bass, king of the Main Titles Sequences. It’s definitely a fascinating relic of its time, with the added bonus of some truly amazing footage of the ants at work. The much-vaunted restored original ending basically creates a more subtly-symbolic delivery method for the movie’s closing sentiments than the more literal theatrical climax. 3.5/5

MvB: Part of the fun of SIFF each year is making up your own miniseries. My personal “Austerity Europe” pathway included the stillborn Yesterday Never Ends (mentioned here), and the more compelling I Kori (The Girl) and La Plaga (The Plague). The girl in question is 14-year-old Myrto (Savina Alimani), who suspects her father’s business partner for his disappearance, and precociously kidnaps said partner’s son from school. The film is true to her snoopy viewpoint, and Alimani is tremendously, effectively mercurial (toying with her captive, mothering him), but the film dawdles a bit too long in reaching its metaphoric “burn it down” conclusion.

Tiny white flies provide the plague of the title in the docudrama from writer-director Neus Ballus. The subjects are a group of real-life Spaniards barely gettin’ by: a Moldavian immigrant working in the fields and wrestling by night, an organic farmer who can only wait the flies out, what may be the world’s least successful prostitute, and elderly heart-stealer Maria Ros feuding with her Filipino nurse. Ros, who has since passed away, was not tall to begin with, but was shortened further by what may have been scoliosis or kyphosis, making her movements an extra struggle. Without her as a central figure, the film would simply be disparate down-on-their-luck episodes, but she comes to epitomize a refusal to surrender to fate, and you feel lucky to have, albeit indirectly, witnessed a part of her life.

Josh: Not quite a mini-series, but I had two very different “Not the European Parent of the Year” entries. In You Will Be My Son, an overbearing father tries to upset the natural order of family wineries when he schemes to set aside nepotism and steal an heir with a refined palate to inherit the estate, rather than handing it over to his own over-eager but admittedly less competent son. High, and compelling, drama ensues in the vineyards. (4.5/5) On the surface, the woman at the center Two Lives appears to be a pretty spectacular wife, mother, and daughter, given that she was one of the Norwegian children with a Nazi father sent away to an East German orphanage after the war. Like the Berlin Wall, her identity begins to crumble when geopolitical changes embolden a well-meaning war crimes lawyer to re-open the case to secure national apologies. As everything begins to unravel, this deep-cover spy thriller becomes a deeply affecting family collapse. (5/5)

SIFF 2013: What We Saw (Part 3)

SIFF-2013-TSB

Keep track of all The SunBreak’s festival coverage on our SIFF 2013 page.

MvB: For sheer cinema, Laurence Anyways from Xavier Dolan takes the SIFF 2013 cake, so far as I’m concerned. At 160-some minutes, it’s a grand opera of a film, replete with arias from leads Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clément, enacting an amour fou. Dolan tells a gripping, affecting story about the costs of being true to thine ownself — if a quirk of nature has mismatched your gender identity with secondary sexual characteristics — but he also tries his hand at motion portraiture: There are regal court dinners, scenes streaked with Klimt-ian rays, and chiaroscuro nights of the soul, as Laurence’s transition to womanhood threatens bonds with family and lover Frédérique.

Audrey: Coming on the heels of Dolan’s previous two rapturous SIFF entries, I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways continues the young auteur’s hot streak and only fans the flames of excitement for whenever he deigns to make his English language debut. Will SIFF 2014 show his next film, an adaptation of Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s psychological thriller Tom à la Ferme? One can only hope.

MvB: Also from up nord was Camion, that rare thing: an arthouse film for guys. (Interview with director Rafael Ouellet coming, so stay tuned for that.) When a Québecois trucker dad is involved in a fatal accident, his two estranged sons reunite to see if they can’t help roust their father from his survivor’s depression. They take him hunting, get some work done around the house, and drink beer and watch TV, all without ever talking it out. It may sound comical in synopsis, but there’s rarely been a clearer expression of the way certain men show love by simply hanging around and doing things together, and Ouellet’s guided tour of his real-life birthplace is affectionate, but clear-eyed.

More grittily poetic in its way and more northern, Naked Harbour is from Finnish director Aku Louhimies and set in the frigid working-class East Helsinki suburb of Vuosaari. It’s a series of parallel stories that have kinds of love as their theme: one thread involves a Santa-masked gang’s hold-up attempt; in another, an underage girl who wants to be famous ends up at a porn shoot; in a third, a young mother tries to find a way to explain to her daughter that her cancer may be terminal.

A gang of thieving Santas would fit right in in Fuck Up, sort of a Norwegian Stand by Me, but years later when the kids have become adulterers, drug dealers, and drug takers (okay, one has become a doctor). It’s a bleakly funny caper — the gang’s lead fuck-up gets in over his head with a real gangster — and a meditation on how far people will go to preserve the bonds of friendship.

Josh: My last week also included a forays into Scandinavia with a couple different flavors of something rotten in the state of Denmark. In Northwest (Nordvest) Danish brothers find something of a substitute father figure in a small time crime boss and consequently incite a little gang war by breaking from their former, arab-immigrant stolen goods taskmaster. The performances are strong and the filmmaking is stylish, making the evident escalation into violence and worsening situations surprisingly easy to watch. Who knew Copenhagen had an underbelly, let alone one this seedy (final screening: June 9, 11 a.m., Harvard Exit)! Meanwhile, a slightly quieter but even more devastating slide occurs in The Hunt (Jagten), in which a child’s false allegation spirals into Notes On [how not to handle] A Scandal. The life of a kindergarten teacher’s assistant (played by a very sympathetic Bond villain) is completely ravaged when a well-meaning overcautious teacher mishandles a brilliantly-portrayed young girl’s tall tale about her neighbor and his private parts. With a coda that speaks to the bounds of Nordic emotional compartmentalization. Again, the unpleasantness of the story is redeemed by the engaging production (final screening: June 6, 4 p.m., Uptown).

MvB: The Summit is about a real-life, tragic fuck-up — the deadliest day on K2. Climbers reenact how it went down, and went downhill, from the very beginning of that last push to the summit (it’s sometimes hard to tell the staged versions from actual footage taken that day). The you-are-there immersion leaves you frost-bitten, afraid of heights and tiny tents, oxygen-starved, and stranded overnight. An attempt to clear the name of one climber in particular is frustrated by the evident toll that being in the death zone had taken on everyone’s mental faculties.

Audrey: Tito on Ice is exactly the kind of out-there film that festivals are made for. Partially animated with stop-motion garbage art, it’s a documentary in which a couple comic book artists (with local Fantagraphics ties) travel throughout the former Yugoslavia with their self-made mummy/effigy of “President for Life” Marshal Tito. As a film, it’s uneven at best, but it’s exactly the kind of independent cinema I expect from SIFF.

Josh: With its use of vintage equipment and nonprofessional actors, Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess also felt compiled for the festival circuit. Things get really weird when a pack of computer programmers and new age encounter group wind up sharing an otherwise bland cat-infested hotel for a very long weekend. As with his other films, it’s a mostly talky affair, but infused with a sense of paranoia and mystery. In the thick of a film festival, I was won over by its strange retro video world rendered in dreamy monochrome, though I don’t that a multiplex would be as forgiving.

MvB: I saw Computer Chess and I don’t think I got it. Everyone looks very right for the part — the ’80s were a terrible, terrible time — but the conflicts felt ginned up and then mostly dismissed: you know, the concerns about Gubmint funding of chess war games (or something) and the grad student going off the rails (or something). An interesting ride, but in the end not very satisfying.

SIFF has been good to me this year, but I have walked into a few just-average movies: The Way Way Back (written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) boasts a movie-stealing turn from a #nofilter Allison Janney (and strong performances from Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, and Maya Rudolph) but its constant wish fulfillment undercuts any impact from the trials of its 13-year-old protagonist, who comes to seem like an entitled sourpuss. The Spectacular Now features an easy-talkin’ Southern charmer as an alcoholic teen, who sobers up in a rush once he realizes that Coach Taylor is his reprobate dad. It suffers from that thing where teenagers sound like peevish 30-something screenwriters trying to be clever. Augustine: a period drama about a young French woman diagnosed with “hysteria” by Charcot, a mentor to Freud, and their *yawn* mutual attraction and manipulation.

I could not make it through the incredibly talky Spanish film Yesterday Never Ends, which never succeeds in becoming a film, rather than a restaging of the seemingly action-less play it’s based on. The idea is that it’s 2017 and Spain is still austerity-ridden. There’s EU symbolism in the fact that the husband has been fattening up in Germany, while his radicalized, activist ex-wife (Candela Peña, in full-Julianne-Moore-style freakout mode) lives in her car. It’s one of those movies that annoyingly keeps you in the dark about what’s going on so that it can make dramatic “reveals.” Also, there are B/W cutaways for interior monologues.

Josh: For the opposite of talky, see It’s All So Quiet (Boven is het stil). For a father and son on a Dutch dairy farm, a chilly staring contest between repressed longings and death. And for lighter family relations, Putzel was a charming little Upper West Side story of various permutations of family, geography, romance, and fish (final screening: June 7, 1 p.m., Pacific Place).

Tony: I’ve already covered Alive and Well and Scrapper elsewhere, and liked ‘em both. Cliffs Notes: The former is a solid doc about Parkinson’s Disease, directed with heart by music video/commercial vet Josh Taft, and the latter (which Josh already gave a thumbs-up to, earlier in our SIFF 2013 journey) continues to be my favorite movie of this Fest, a low-key gem that just hit all the right notes for me.

A Lady in Paris isn’t the piece of cinematic durian fruit that Just Like a Woman was, thank God, but it’s just as formulaic. Laine Maigl plays a weary Estonian woman who becomes caretaker to a cantankerous old Frenchwoman (Jeanne Moreau), and you can predict every turn of plot, every calculated nuance, from about 27 miles away. The performances make it worth the effort: Maigl’s alternately beautiful and lived-in face speaks with an eloquence the script lacks, and Moreau takes a late-career victory lap with a bravura star turn (I could listen to that glorious Gallic rasp of hers recite Eiffel Tower tour schedules).

Again, I covered Shadowed elsewhere. It’s a locally-shot thriller about a camping trip gone way awry that’s pretty damned silly in places, but also tautly directed by first-timer Joey Johnson. I’ve seen suspense flicks way worse than this net some major attention, and this one definitely delivers the jump-outta-your-seat goods with frequency.

A spoonful of high-gloss, elegantly-directed sugar helps the socio-political medicine go down. So it goes with Redemption Street, a sleek and involving Serbian thriller about a young lawyer in post-war Belgrade who naively kicks up a hornets’ nest of trouble in his search for possible war criminals. It’s not quite as incredible as The Lives of Others (one of its obvious models), but director Miroslav Terzic manages to wrap the rough-hewn distinctiveness of his homeland in a package as ravishing as any Hollywood product.

Josh: Along these lines, although more sugary than political,  Jump was so slick that a New Year’s Eve in Northern Ireland’s second-largest city still felt small-town enough to accommodate all of the coincidences required to make this de-chronological crime caper with a twist of love story click (final screening: June 5, 8:45 p.m., Kirkland).

Tony: I am an utter sap for documentaries about the film industries in exotic lands, so Finding Hillywood and Celluloid Man both stroked my movie-nerd pleasure nodes with very different approaches. Hillywood is a compact hour-long chronicle of the birth of the Rwandan film industry. It follows a troupe of scrappy filmmakers and volunteers with a loving eye as they drag portable projectors and inflatable screens to the most remote villages, screening their locally-shot wares. In some cases, it’s the first time many Rwandans have seen a movie, and it’s undeniably moving seeing a crowd standing in torrential rain, being emotionally touched by films crafted by one of their own.

Celluloid Man, meantime, is a long (2.5 hours), leisurely profile of P.K. Nair, India’s legendary film preservationist. It shouldn’t work for an outsider (and with my relative ignorance about Indian cinema, I surely fit in that category), but it does. Nair–curmudgeonly and quietly passionate–makes for as captivating a subject as the movie’s he’s worked so hard to preserve. You’d also have to be blind not to be enchanted by the glimpses of the salvaged Indian films (some dating back to 1913) on display.

Two musical docs found their way to my stuffed SIFF 2013 buffet plate. Twenty Feet from Stardom is a pretty irresistible profile of some of the greatest backup singers to ever hit a high note on a classic pop song (see more about it here).

The Otherside, meantime, serves up a little bit more of a mixed bag. Anyone who’s going to shine a light on Seattle hip-hop deserves major props, and director Daniel Torok’s put some great live footage into one fast-moving package. He’s also gotten a really compelling birds-eye view of the meteoric rise of homegrown superstar Macklemore. The footage that’s there is so absorbing, it makes you wish–hard–that the movie was longer than 47 minutes: Reminiscences by Seattle’s elder-statesmen MCs and DJs, and some valuable voices in this town’s new guard, get truncated or go unheard as a result. Has anyone else here seen this? I’d love someone else’s take.

JoshBlackfish: this CNN Films documentary sometimes feels like an extended edition of a television special report and leans heavily on interviews with former SeaWorld employees who reveal that, contrary to childhood opinion, working at an aquatic theme park doesn’t actually require advanced training in marine biology. Still, there’s enough emotional impact in the facts to carry the film: from the despicable history of kidnapping infant whales from the Puget Sound to a slate of deaths at the parks, the true monsters are shown to be the executives who put trainers at risk and keep orcas in repulsive captivity.

My other documentary was And SOMM tracks a pack of bros training to pass the world’s hardest test of fermented grape juice in the sportiest wine movie ever.

Tony: Damned if I haven’t broken my perfect streak of not seeing any of the movies the rest of you guys have by viewing SOMM, and I got a helluva kick out of it. You’ve hit the nail on the head by calling it “sporty,” Josh. For me at least, it walks a great balance between generating true excitement with its competitive sports-movie structure, and finding common-sense humor in its hyper-obsessive Men Who Would Be Master Sommeliers. As one character says, it’s only fermented grape juice….

Last but not least, I caught the midnight showing of All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. This 2006 horror flick got lost in legal limbo back in the day, and is receiving a long-overdue U.S. theatrical run this summer. It sports sharp direction by Jonathan Levine, a tour-de-force opening, a wry sense of humor that (unlike the last 57 Scream movies) doesn’t nullify the shocks, and a wonderfully skewed sensibility that undercuts (no pun intended) slasher-movie cliches with Giallo-style twisted artistry and a streak of grindhouse mercilessness. Is it a stone classic? I’m ready for another viewing, just to be sure.