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Sure, 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.
Band in Seattle recently began shooting for its second season, and the scrappy locally-produced show’s become an engaging regional music sampler in the year-plus of its existence.
There are plenty of ways to see quality video footage of local bands playing live, but Band in Seattle offers up its wares in charmingly old-school fashion on CW network affiliate Channel 11 every Saturday night at 11:00 p.m. Whether by accident or design, the show’s programmers have demonstrated a knack for cherry-picking a wide cross-section of Seattle musicians nicely uninformed by trends: A durable blue-collar rock band (Gunn) or a sharp old-school soul ensemble (Funky 2 Death) may not hold much flavor-of-the-month cache, but it’s great to see them getting exposure in the same venue as hip-hop futurists Kingdom Crumbs. In another nice touch, all of the bands showcased weigh in on their music—and on balancing the mundane necessity of day jobs with their art—in mini-documentary wraparound segments.
Season 2 started strong with a great showing by noir-pop chanteuse Prom Queen, and last Friday Band in Seattle taped a segment featuring The Gods Themselves and THE FAME RIOT (their caps, not mine) at the show’s usual haunts, Victory Studios. The performance space sported great acoustics and a comfy retro layout that made it feel like a party at your cool uncle’s bachelor pad, replete with free beer courtesy show sponsors Naked City Brewery.
I never miss a chance to see The Gods Themselves play live if I can help it, and their Band in Seattle session cemented that resolve. The band’s debut record was, simply put, my favorite local rock release of 2014, a beyond-cool amalgam of post-punk starkness, caveman rock throb, and thick psychedelic funk wrought from a deceptively minimalist three-piece lineup. Live, TGT delivered a no-bull yet elastic sound that thrived on unlikely synergy: They hefted some serious rock muscle behind B-52’s-style new wave on “Last Chance for Love,” primal garage-rock stomp behind epic goth (the towering “Thunderbird”), and an unexpected vein of soul amidst the serpentine snarl of “I Am the President.” Thanks to the sharp sound mix, the call-and-response interplay between lead singer Astra Elaine’s versatile purr and Damion Heitnschel’s Joey-Ramone-style bark came through loud and clear.
Speaking of loud, Tacoma outfit THE FAME RIOT came fully-equipped with plumage so gloriously garish it woulda made the most shameless hair-metal band blush, and that’s a significant part of their charm. Frontmen Shazam “Tea Time” Watkins and Liz Scarlett ladled on plenty of showmanship to go with their teased hair, sequins, and circulation-constricting stretch pants, playing their rock-star roles to the hilt and lending an extra layer of humor and flash to their slick and catchy pop. Contrasting electro-disco with smeared-lipstick decadence isn’t a new concept, of course—British bands like Dead or Alive and Sigue Sigue Sputnik ruled dance clubs back in the ancient analog days of the 1980s—but damned if these T-Town imps don’t work that combination like conquering heroes. If the seemingly spring-loaded audience reaction at their Band in Seattle session was any indication, there’s potential for some serious mass-appeal method to THE FAME RIOT’s madness.
The Gods Themselves/FAME RIOT episode of Band in Seattle should air sometime in the spring, and the show continues to film new episodes throughout March and April, with plenty of worthwhile local bands in tow. Tickets and more info are available here.