Archive for December, 2008


December 28, 2008

What an amazing year for film!  Since I have been privileged to see this organization up close and personal as I started blogging for them in the middle of the year, I  appreciate even more how vital NWFF is to the film community in the Northwest. I encourage one and all to contribute what they can to keep it running smoothly, in effect, to become partners with the organization that creates film history with their outstanding programming. I know monetarily it’s tough for all of us right now, and here are some low-budget  alternatives you can do to show your support.  Consider volunteering (it is SOOO WORTH IT–TRUST ME! & this blog needs YOUR opinions!) esp. as it gets you into wonderful films and events for free (in exchange for hours worked).  One time donations or loans of time/equipment/or misc. items filmmakers need (consider becoming an extra for a day, perhaps?) are always appreciated–you can subscribe to the NWFF Callboard, which is constantly updated, to see how you can become involved in the making of a film–& lemme tell ya, the first time you see your name on a screen it’s a trip! Or you can simply set reminders for those films you want to come and see and COME–we are always happy to see you!

Ahem. So here we go,

1GEORGE MELIESIMPOSSIBLE VOYAGER:    This program WAS film history, &  actually inspired me to volunteer.  A collaboration between THE SPROCKET SOCIETY and NWFF, it presented us with film history mixed with live performance, as we saw 100 year-old images, narrated  in the original words written by one of the founders of the art of film (his most iconoclastic image is the rocket that hits the moon in the eye), and accompanied by music made on the instruments of the time.  It was the ultimate “You Are There” experience.  I STILL have goose bumps!

2SILENCE BEFORE BACH:  A film that can only be seen in a theater (at the filmmaker’s instruction), it literally changed my life with it’s elegant juxtaposition of music and images.  I will love it ’til the day I die.

3HARDCORESCREWBALL COMEDY: The class of all classes to take if you can’t get enough of the funniest films ever made.  (Remember, YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU!)  (Good news–the rumor is–MORE TO COME!)

4LA FRANCE:  The exception that proves the rule.  Can you create a masterpiece by combining one subject and one art form that have nothing in common (like say, war and beautiful French love songs) ?  Ce Magnifique!  And it would not have played in the U.S. at all if NWFF hadn’t brought it in.

5TAKING OFF:  I just adore Milos Forman, and the fact NWFF managed to snag a copy of this rarely screened gem just shows how truly cool they are.  I first saw this at SIFF at the Secret Festival many years past, and ever since I wrote that in my review acoupla months ago I’ve become concerned that the Secret Festival Police are after me (does blogging about a film after you signed a secrecy oath in your own blood constitute a violation of said oath?)

6MR. LONELY:  If only the world could live in such Harmony.

7LOCAL SIGHTINGS FESTIVAL   2008:  The saying is (approximately) that a prophet is never honored in his own land.  L.S.F. 2008 is proof that that is complete bullshit!  I saw many sophisticated and professional films (such as ARID LANDS), this year as part of the Festival. Remember how local boys (& I’ll name but 2) Matthew Barney and David Lynch had to start somewhere?  That’s why I’ve found it’s important to attend this Festival, as well as support 911 Media Arts Center and other independent organizations who let local independent filmmakers voices be heard.

8) MOMMAS MAN:  This semi-autobiographical work by Azazel Jacobs is beautifully shot in black and white, and tells the tale of one man and his relationship with his parents, wife and new baby.  It’s easy to relate to as it’s the same way we all feel at times, overwhelmed by our adult responsibilities, and looking to escape them, if only for a little while.  It’s both haunting and humorous at the same time, and a lovely valentine to childhood nostalgia.

9THE ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON:  The film that made me fall in love with ERIC ROHMER.  It’s beauty, it’s innocence, it’s discussion of lofty ideals, put together as only an experienced Frenchman knows how.  Sigh.

10SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE (FROM THE QUEER THURSDAYS PROGRAM, IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE FABU THREE DOLLAR BILL CINEMA):  OK, so this may not exactly NWFF program, but ya gotta cut me some slack on this one–it was my BIRFDAY!  And the large auditorium was filled to the rafters with people who tortured themselves by watching one of the WORST gay films ever made–and the director LIKED gays!  So we all rushed out the minute the credits (?!) were finished in search of mind numbing substances to try and save some brain cells, to no avail.  Funnier than hell, though.

Neener, neener Miz Ryan!


This is Why I Go To Rotterdam

December 24, 2008

Size Matters in the upcoming International Film Festival Rotterdam. One of its programming segments focuses on the difference that screen size can bring to the film-watching experience.

The thematic programme focuses on both the ubiquitous presence and the content of audiovisual screens in this post-cinema age. The electronic screen is making a major breakthrough in both the private and public spaces. Within ‘Size Matters’, the IFFR realizes the group exhibition ‘Aspect Ratio’, brought together by festival programmer Edwin Carels and a project for the public space, entitled ‘Urban Screens’, curated by festival director Rutger Wolfson.

By projecting three commissioned films on high-rise office buildings in Rotterdam, ‘Urban Screens’, poses the question of what the language and tradition of cinema may contribute to the function and software of these screens. This section commissions  films to be projected on the outsides of the biggest office complexes in the center of Rotterdam. The festival has just announced who the directors are:

-Nanouk Leopold (“Iles Flottantes”, “Guernsey”, “Wolfsbergen”)

-Carlos Reygadas (“Japón”, “Battle in Heaven”, Cannes Jury prize winner for “Still Light”)

-Guy Maddin (“Brand upon the Brain”, “My Winnipeg”)
The screen locations are impressive too. The largest of them will be on the “Delftse Poort” building (see picture), the front of which is a sheer slab more than 150 mtr (roughly 450 ft) in height. One of the more interesting aspect ratios in the history of cinema.

Speaking of Aspect Ratio, there’s an entire section entitled ‘Aspect Ratio’ , which confronts media art and art installations with a focus on the human factor in a progressively expanding technological universe. The exhibition will include works by Ken Jacobs, Simon Starling, Roy Arden, Louise Decordier, Carlo Zanni, Morgan Fisher, Joachim Koester and JODI. The referential work will be Ray and Charles Eams’ short documentary film POWERS OF TEN (1977).


December 23, 2008

Here’s my list of the best experiences I had from the perspective of the projection booth. I tried to narrow it down to ten, but just couldn’t do it. So here they are in no particular order:

Shotgun Stories

This film (and a few others on this list) is an excellent example of why it matters to support American independent cinema. Also, I hope that Michael Shannon garners a deservedly rich and successful career from his performance as Son Hayes, but I worry that he will forever be typecast as a creepy Southerner.


Every screening of this that I projected, I went into the theater for the opening just to witness the audience reaction to the first close-up of Zidane accompanied by  the deafening roar of a full football stadium. Some of the best sound design I’ve ever heard.

Miyazaki Series

Beautiful and weird.


Dore Mann’s performance just plain freaked me out.

La France

Who knew WWI would be such a lovely setting for modern pop songs?

Momma’s Man

By far, the Jacobs’ Manhattan loft is the best shooting location of the year.

Hal Ashby Series

Some of my favorite audiences of the year, especially the people who had never seen many of the films (I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the possibility that there are people out there who have never seen Harold & Maude).

Decibel Fest: Optical Showcase #2

Occasionally our space gets transformed in some pretty odd ways for a cinema, and this night was perhaps my favorite (and most challenging). Carole Kim’s piece required two digital projectors, the curtains closed, and a giant translucent scrim hung eight feet in front of the curtains to provide a very cool layered effect. It’s one of those things that needs to be seen to be understood…

Kamran Sadeghi of Seattle provided plenty of mind-bending visuals and sound, all (like each performance of the night) mixed live in the cinema. If the db Fest does this again next year, I highly recommend checking it out.

War of The Worlds 70th Anniversary

Another great transformation of the space, this time nice and simple: Curtains closed, lights down except for a dim spotlight on an antique Philco tube radio while the original radio broadcast played in its entirety.

Sweet Dreams

From the Slovenian Series, a nice, sweet coming of age story, but I am guilty of loving any film that features a projection booth in the story arc. Reminiscent of Cinema Paradiso, but not nearly as schmaltzy…

Note By Note

This was a great portrait of the beauty of craftsmanship, from woodwork to exacting mechanical details, but the best part was having a concert grand Steinway in our cinema. The bonus: watching professional piano movers at work on closing night.


December 22, 2008



“I don’t like working with prima donna’s.  I work with faces and types.  I don’t care if they’re famous or not, beautiful or ugly.  I chose people because of their type and their eyes.”—C.T.D., as quoted by lead actress Lisbeth Movin in the Special Features of the Criterion Collections DAY OF WRATH.

Having just watched it again, I experienced how much a true masterpiece simply gets richer and more complex on multiple viewings.  All those things just waiting for you that you didn’t pick up, the 1st, 2nd or 12th time around.  All of his films I’ve seen so far (MICHAEL, VAMPYR, THE PARSONS WIFE, and D.O.W.) make me KNOW I will want to watch them again after seeing the first 5 minutes of the movie.  This film is all about the eyes, perception vs. reality, of  truth and of  power.  To create this atmosphere, he wisely chose an actress with some of the most expressive eyes that have ever been filmed.  (Lisbeth Movin,  think Simone Signoret.)  Different family members project onto the young housewife’s eyes what they see her as, her elderly husband (a minister) sees beauty and purity, his mother sees burning demonic intensity, her lover (and son-in-law!) sees mystery and is threatened by it.  Using the analogy of  the Church during the time of witch hunts to cloak the theme of the abuse of power due to the Nazi’s occupation of Denmark in 1943, he creates a paranoid world of torture and self-righteousness, romantic love and delusion, with some of the BEST cinematography created on this planet.  What that man could do with a candle and some shadows!  To me all of the frames from this picture could be turned into stills and hung in museums like Rembrandts.  (And his entire body of work is like this!  Doesn’t the uber talent of others get downright depressing at times?!  Wait ’til you see THE FEATURE!)  (I really envy those of you who get to see this film for the first time with this amazing print–C.T.D. is a visual artist extraordinaire, and it will be just stunning!)

The plot goes something like this:  An old woman is accused of witchcraft.  (And like being called a Jew in 1943,  the accusation alone is usually a death sentence.)  She runs to find safety at the house of the village’s minister.  As the minister’s young wife had a mother who was accused of being a witch, but was miraculously set free.  (Because the minister lusted after her daughter perhaps?)  The old woman helped the minister’s wife’s mother escape the flames of the damned in some unspecified way.  The young wife agrees to help her and hides her in the rectory.  Where she is found, (the screams from the attic of the old woman are horrific, just as the screams of Anne Frank and her family must have been when they were discovered at last), taken and tortured.  She asks to speak to the minister alone and threatens to tell his secret, the Satanic bargain that was struck to allow his wife’s mother to live.  In the meantime the minister’s son from his first marriage comes home, and, as youth calls to youth, he and his father’s wife fall in love.  As the young wife comes to fully realize what her mother was accused of being, she comes to wonder if she has the same powers.  Does the secret of the minister’s vanity of thinking HE could override God’s law because he felt he deserved a young, beautiful girl for himself, (while he condemned all others to a horrible death), come out?  Does the young wife have her mother’s powers running in her veins? What did the filmmakers do to dull the Nazi’s perception of this film, so they allowed it to be shown without noticing that it condemned their racism and totalitarianism? See how this master visualist solved all of these dilemmas as a response to the Nazi Occupation of his homeland.

December 22, 2008


My personal highlights from the past year include some things I got to and some things I got around to.

“Deep-Holes,” a short story by Alice Munro that I have thought about since I first read it  in the June 30 New Yorker. The story is simple and puzzling: a young boy falls into a hole in the woods while his family is on a picnic. His father saves him, he passes a happy adolescence with nothing but a small limp, then enters adulthood in a disconnected state that finds him falling over and over again.

“How Fiction Works,” by James Wood, lays out how writers use words, sentences, details and other elements of style to make worlds persuasively grained with reality. Simply and elegantly written, it includes much considered but unpolemical opinions about books, how they are put together and what makes them tick.

“Unpacking the Boxes,” by Donald Hall. A memoire from the great poet.

Classic Muhammed Ali fights were in heavy rotation this year on ESPN Classic, a channel that also sometimes (weirdly) broadcasts sports-related movies. I ran across many Ali fights this year, each of which hooked me. Ali’s quick feet and hands, his aura, his bright, animal daring are as electric in these reruns as they ever were. Most of Ali’s fights end with knock-outs, and they often come with jarring speed.  And each time the nimble and witty Ali towers over his opponents with a wild, regal and non-human countenance for a moment before he metamorphoses back to a merely beautiful and perfect athlete.

“Bleak House.” The multi-part Masterpiece Theater version starring, among others, Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. The story is pre-Modern and specific ally pre-Kafka in its tangle of plots involving a trial, the riddle of inheritance, sex, money, identity. Chilling and despairing. 

“Wall-E.” The mis-en-scene of despair for our time, with beautifully deployed – and rare, now – negative space.

“The Dark Knight.” Not easy to follow or care about except for Heath Ledger’s Joker, which is grand and magnetizing, and begs comparisons to Brando. “I’m going to make this pencil disappear” is his bold, crazy, central line. 

“Synecdoche, NY.” Under-admired and not well-enough honored, this film is the closest film has come to Tchilitchew’s painting, Hide and Seek: a mesmerizing hall of mirrors about the branching ways life and art feed on each other.

“Our Summary in Sequence” was an ambitious, locally made three-part play mounted in mid-summer by the local company Implied Violence. “Barley Girl,” the first, was the best, and it was as good as any theater I’ve seen in years: the audience sat indoors on sod drinking double portions of cheap whiskey, watching a non-sequential play about the Civil War, love and desire that included inverted dunking, blood and singing. 

White People Like Film Festivals

December 22, 2008

It’s true.

Top 10 Picks from the ’60’s

December 22, 2008

Night of the Living Dead

Our upcoming series exploring the films of 1969 brought to mind some other past favorites…

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The Birds (1963)

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Help! (1965)

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

The Graduate (1967)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Withnail and I (ok, this film was released in ‘86 but captures 1969 beautifully!)

Top 10 Obama YouTube Videos of 2008

December 22, 2008

[Posted on behalf of our children’s programs director, and resident Obama fanatic, Ms. Liz Shepherd]


A top-ten list, really? Only one thing happened in 2008, and that was that stupid finally went out of style on November 4 when we elected Barack Obama to be the 44th President of the United States of America.

Yes we did.

But what a journey! It was a nail-biter, a cliffhanger, a grand opera and one very long Google search to get there.
It was a year of hope and change and YouTube. Could any of us have survived without these clips?

1. Barack roll

2. Barack gets that dirt off his shoulders

3. The Great Schlep

4. The one that started it all

5. Stephen Colbert made us laugh

6. Barry Manilow made us cry

7. Coco Tea made us dance

8. Sarah Palin made us wonder why we were ever born

9. But the future was foretold by Stevie Wonder, caught in 2007 on a church shaky cam

10. And it came true. The tide, at last, is turning

A special bonus – my favorite of all really, even though no one ever seems to love it as much as I do!


December 21, 2008

Brought to you by:

The Lithuanian Baking Company
Our Motto: “I Bake, Therefore I Am”

Yes, this is YOUR opportunity to win a White Russian Cake (Kahlua, Vodka and Cream), baked by an actual White Russian!

The rules are these:

Most Creative Top 10 Film List for 2008 wins!
(I must say Dave has the edge so far–a film stock list?!! Awesome!)
All entries must be submitted by December 31st, 2008.
You can enter as often as you like.
Bribes are not only accepted, they are encouraged.
(If you prefer something other than a White Russian Cake, we are happy to oblige.)
(Only employees/volunteers of NWFF can enter.)
(Only employees of the Lithuanian Baking Company can be judges.) (IE, Me!)
(“The Lithuanian Baking Company” and it’s motto are copyrighted. Use of them by someone other than NormaBates666 will result in serious legal action that will be taken by a team of vicious and humorless attorneys.)  Void where prohibited by law.


Seattle snow ingenuity

December 21, 2008

Seattle may be ill-prepared for lots of snow, but here’s my impressively practical neighbor using his dustpan to clear the driveway.