SIFF Diary 2011

OK, so the reason I started this blog is to post commentary about every single movie I see at the Seattle International Film Festival. It starts next week. I did this last year on Facebook, and came to fundamentally dislike, as well as never quite understand, Facebook.

Just to begin, here is a re-post of the review I did of SIFF itself toward the emd of the festival last year. It is kind of mean spirited to mention flaws when SIFF fundamentally enriches the planet. But here goes.

USA. As SIFF winds down I thought I would do a review of SIFF itself. And this one time I will do the traditional reviewers job of talking smack about the subject. So let me first say that SIFF is amazing. There are not many things for which I will give up all of my free time and most of my sanity for 3 weeks a year. SIFF manages that. Three completely non-ironic cheers for SIFF! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Great, Great movies. I actually do not go to many non SIFF movies. Most movies do not measure up.

OK thats done.

I like to watch Mad Men and Breaking Bad and The killing on AMC. I have evil Comcast and can time shift my viewing. Watching the on demand episodes, they do have commercials (and let me here say that the remote control Comcast hands out is made of dung) and the commercials include ads for the show that is being watched. “Hey, person watching Mad Men, you should see how great Mad Men is.” What are they thinking. Really, does anyone know? Do they know? SIFF does the same thing. Before the movie begins they play 4 or five trailers for SIFF. I have seen these trailers 45 times now, and they have become torture to me, in addition to the pointlessness making me crazy.

And then before the movie one of the programmers gets up and makes a little speech. Necessary announcements. Off with cell phones and their kin, the director will/will not be here, applause for the donors (blessed be the donors, by the way). The end time for the movie. The majority of the people who do this, though, feel the need to inject a bit of personality into the proceedings, with uniformly lame results. These people know movies, they pick the movies and do it well. Like most movie lovers (me included) they are probably frustrated performers. But, it must be said, frustrated because they are not good at it. Thats fine too, but I just sat through 5 pointless trailers I’ve seen 40 times, can I please not listen to any more of you than I need to and please watch a movie? Please?

I am convinced that many of the blurbs on the SIFF website are written by people who have not seen the movie. I understand. There are so many movies, so little time. They describe a movie like the movie being blurbed, but different. The most egregious of many examples is calling “Burke and Hare” a comedy about grave robbers. Burke and Hare were real people and were not grave robbers, they murdered people and sold the bodies, and the movie shows the funny ways people can be murdered for their bodies. So, SIFF, no, it was not like “Garden State”, it was like a comedy about the Boston Strangler. (By the way, let me say here in case I forgot: Fuck you, John Landis.)

In order to do the wonderful things SIFF does they need to have a lot of volunteers. A lot of them. And they are polite and helpful and enthusiastic. Again, all non-ironic praise for the volunteers. But. They hand out ballots for the movies with the exact amount of assertiveness I would use for smallpox vaccine, its hard to get in the door. They congregate around the entrance/exits so getting out of the theater (to get to your next movie that starts in ½ hour someplace else) is like going through airport security  with your shoes on. On a movie that is going to fill the theater 1/4 full, tops, they treat Back to Back passes like letters of transit on the Lisbon plane. To a line of, say, 8 series pass holders they will call out “Platinum Passholders may enter!” as if they worry maybe they should have brought their plastic shields to hold back the hoards of non-platinum pass holders who may appear from hyperspace and rush the door. One year at the now lamented Uptown, they had closed off one of the entries to the theater. I asked why and the volunteer explained that they had figured out a better way for people to enter the theater. This to people who go to movies all the time and really do know how to find a seat in a movie theater. Volunteers! This is fun! Be loose! Its going to be OK!