Archive for May, 2009

Natasha Lyonne & Marshall Allman brave the Seattle press

May 26, 2009

This weekend NWFF was thrilled to welcome “Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle” stars Natasha Lyonne and Marshall Allman to Seattle, to present the film Sunday night to a sold out crowd at the Egyptian.

A lucky few of Seattle’s press were able to sit down with the vivacious pair before the Sunday show. Read the results:

Don’t miss this while you are SIFFing

May 26, 2009

This Thursday and Sunday we are pleased to show the new documentary about the black metal music scene, Until the Light Takes Us, with the directors in attendance!

You don’t even have to miss a SIFF movie, since the film plays both nights at 11:30pm.

And tickets are SELLING, so get yours soon.

Since pretty much all I know about black metal I gleaned from watching this movie, I’ll let the experts at Dissonant Plane music in Ballard do some more explaining:

Late next Thursday night is a screening the black metal documentary “Until the Light Takes Us“. It’s only playing Thursday the 28th and Saturday the 30 at 11:30 PM and the directors will be there. The film features Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell, Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes, Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg, Kjetil “Frost” Haraldstad, Olve “Abbath” Eikemo, Harald “Demonaz” Nævdal, Harmony Korine, Bjarne Melgaard, Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg, and Bård “Faust” Eithun. Plus it has music by Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, Ulver, Thorns, Gorgoroth, Enslaved, Boards of Canada, Black Dice, Sunn 0))), Múm and Lesser. Don’t miss your chance to see it on the big screen! Details about these screenings can be found here:
and details about the movie are here:

That Other Film Festival

May 25, 2009

For those Seattlites who care to know what the results were of the recently completed Cannes, here’s a report from IFC Daily’s David Hudson. Hopefully some of the award winners will make there way stateside in the next 12 months.

And the Palme d’Or goes to Michael Haneke‘s “The White Ribbon.”

The Jury, presided over by Isabelle Huppert (other members: Asia Argento, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, James Gray, Hanif Kureishi, Lee Chang-dong, Shu Qi, Sharmila Tagore and Robin Wright Penn) have also presented the following awards:

A Special Jury Prize to Alain Resnais (“Wild Grass“).

The Grand Prix (basically the runner-up award): “A Prophet” (Jacques Audiard).

Prix de la Mise en Scene (best director): Brillante Mendoza for “Kinatay.”

Prix du Scenario (best screenplay): Feng Mei for Lou Ye‘s “Spring Fever.”

Camera d’Or (best first feature): Warwick Thornton for “Samson and Delilah.” Special mention: Scandar Copti for “Ajami.”

Prix du Jury: “Fish Tank” (Andrea Arnold) andThirst” (Park Chan-wook).

Prix d’interpretation feminine (best actress): Charlotte Gainsbourg for her performance in “Antichrist.”

Prix d’interpretation masculine (best actor): Christoph Waltz for his performance in “Inglourious Basterds.”

Palme d’Or (short film): Joao Salaviza‘s “Arena.”

As John Hopewell reports for Variety, FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics, has bestowed awards on one film from each of three sections (well, four, but just three awards). From the Competition: Michael Haneke‘s “The White Ribbon“; from Un Certain Regard: Corneliu Porumboiu‘s “Police, Adjective“; and from Directors’ Fortnight / Critics’ Week: Cherien Dabis‘s “Amreeka.”

More awards: Un Certain Regard; awards and final roundups: Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week.

Come Hang Out In A Swedish Backyard

May 22, 2009


I want to say watching the Swedish film Light Year, screening next week at NWFF as part of an Alternate Cinema series in partnership with SIFF, is like meditation. Then I wonder if it actually is meditation. During the 100-minute running time of this beautifully shot nature film that takes place solely in filmmaker Mikael Kristersson’s backyard, my eyes never left the screen but my mind wandered away repeatedly. Each time, some meticulously recorded onscreen action – a spider weaving its web, a baby bird emerging from a shell, a child climbing onto a roof, a drop of water rolling off a melting icicle – brought me back to the act of watching. And listening: to birds, rain, cars, cats, children, the wind. I felt like I was being trained to live in the here and now. I appreciate the lesson, and the reminder that nature films don’t need exotic animals or Philip Glass soundtracks to maintain interest. You can have your own Light Year experience next Monday the 25th at 9:00 or Thursday the 28th at 9:30.

SIFF guides!

May 21, 2009

Since there was a problem in our weekly newsletter with the link to our previous posts about SIFF, I thought I’d repost links to them right here:

Adam Sekuler’s Helpful Guide to SIFF

Films coming to NWFF for a longer run after they play SIFF

Secret Sunday Matinee goes out with a bang!

May 21, 2009

This Sunday at the Northwest Film Forum, we end the Sunday Secret Matinee series with a bang.  And bring your wide eyes, because it’s all in glorious 16mm Cinemascope.

Man, your Memorial Day barbecue will taste WAY better after you partake of…

SKIDOO (1968)

Otto Preminger’s gangster-musical-comedy ode to acid, with original songs and music by Harry Nilsson.
Jackie Gleason doses, Groucho Marx tokes, and Carol Channing is definitely on something. 
Also with: Frankie Avalon, Mickey Rooney, Frank Gorshin, Peter Lawford, George Raft, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Kirk Douglas, and John Phillip Law as “Stash.” 

Insanely rare print!  Never released to home video!  Withdrawn from circulation!  The movie event of the season!  Makes SIFF, like, a total bummer, man!

PLUS: the hilarious Roger Rabbit theatrical cartoon, TRAIL MIX-UP (1993), and a British Invasion-era musical snippet by Freddie and The Dreamers…whoever they are.

(Sorry, no Zorro.  That concluded last week.)

Hope you can make it…

At the Northwest Film Forum
1515 12th Ave. (between Pike & Pine)

Spencer Sundell
The Sprocket Society (Seattle, WA)


Taking of Pelham One Two Three Original Trailer

May 20, 2009

We at Northwest Film Forum often find ourselves complaining about the onslaught of remakes of classic films that has been more intense in the past decade. However, if one looks for the positive effect on this phenomenon it is that a bad remake can still call attention to a good classic film that may have been highly influential but is more or less forgotten by the culture at large. Case in point: Joseph Sargent’s heist caper The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (see trailer above), whose remake is opening in June directed by Tony Scott starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta and James Gandolfini. It does give us at Northwest Film Forum as good an excuse as any to screen the original starring Walter Mathau next week, never mind that the film celebrates this year its 35th anniversary.

Thrillers don’t get much more thrilling than The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Based on a popular but now mostly forgotten novel by John Godey, the film takes a novel situation and presents it with a sense of style and a dash of humor. Naturalistic performances by such actors as Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw only add to the tension. It was nominated for a Writer’s Guild award and has surprised viewers for years who weren’t expecting anything more than a routine crime drama.

Like any good thriller, the story of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is direct and to the point. Four identically clothed men get aboard the subway leaving the Pelham station at 1:23 (thus the film’s title). Soon they’ve taken control of one car with its assortment of riders while demanding that the city of New York give them $1 million or they’ll start killing hostages. Transit officer Walter Matthau must deal with their clever, ruthless leader (Robert Shaw). The hijackers are all named after colors (Mr. Brown, Mr. Green, etc.) which apparently inspired Quentin Tarantino’s similar plot device in Reservoir Dogs (1992).

New York’s Transit Authority initially wouldn’t allow the film to be made on actual subways because of the fear of copycat crimes. Mayor Lindsay got involved and the Authority finally gave permission but still required the studio to buy anti-hijacking insurance though there were never any attempts. The credits have a disclaimer that the Transit Authority didn’t give advice or information for use in the film. (A 1998 TV remake was filmed in a poorly disguised Toronto, which obviously looked quite strange to people familiar with the real NYC subway, we’ll see how the Tony Scott film looks.) One story has it that the film was originally advertised with splashy posters in actual subway stations until riders complained.

When The Taking of Pelham One Two Three appeared, Walter Matthau was in the midst of an action film spree (he’d seen real action during World War II while serving in the Army Air Corps); Matthau played a criminal mastermind in Charley Varrick and a harassed detective in The Laughing Policeman (both 1973), then a drunk at the wrong place at the wrong time in Earthquake (1974). Heart bypass surgery in 1976 probably stopped any further plans for physically demanding action roles. Co-star Robert Shaw (as the devious Mr. Blue) was at the top of his popularity. A former Shakespearean actor, Shaw made an impression in the enormous hit The Sting (1973) and would shortly play the unforgettable Captain Quint in Jaws (1975).

A couple of trivia notes: Making a small appearance in the film as a college student is Lucy Saroyan, daughter of playwright and novelist William Saroyan. Lucy was also Matthau’s stepdaughter since her mother was Matthau’s wife from 1959 to his death. But there’s an even odder connection. Another small part – a receptionist this time – is played by Michelle Matthow. According to Matthau’s son Charles, “Matthow” was Walter’s real last name (the “Matuschanskayasky” that’s sometimes listed in film reference works as the actor’s real last name was actually a Matthau prank that found its way into print). Michelle Matthow’s only other film credit is another Matthau film The Odd Couple II (1998). So are Matthow and Matthau any relation? Turns out that they are: Michelle is Matthau’s niece, the daughter of Matthau’s brother Henry who never changed his name and ran a supply store in Manhattan for 46 years.

Inglourious Basterds Clips

May 20, 2009

After premiering at Cannes today, The Weinstein Company has unleashed three new clips from Quentin Tarantino’s Brad Pitt-huntin’-Nazis movie Inglourious Basterds today. Here they are. 1, 2, 3.

David Russo interviewed in Seattle Weekly

May 20, 2009

SIFF: Off the Indie Radar
After his first feature, maverick local director David Russo may be done with movies.

By Sean Axmaker
Published on May 19, 2009 at 9:48pm

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle SIFF Cinema: 4 p.m. Sat., May 23. Egyptian: 9:30 p.m. Sun., May 24.

“Film has always been a personal medium for me. Some people write with journals. I have always made little films that shoot right out of my soul. And I’m making them with my hands.”

For more than 15 years, David Russo has been making films, short films, funded out-of-pocket or by arts grants, rarely seen by a general audience. Until recently, they have been the creation of a solitary artist carving personal visions out of the world around him. His animated shorts typically combine painting, sculpture, photography, music, poetry, and soundscapes on unique moving canvases. In Pan With Us (2003), he takes the cel off the studio animation stand and makes it a canvas floating freely through space. As his paintings are photographed frame by frame on 35mm film, then transformed into a flowing, flying image, the surrounding throngs of people become pixilated, jittery, impermanent things.

I Am (Not) Van Gogh (2005) uses the same stop-motion and animation techniques to produce a visual stream of consciousness, set to a soundtrack of Russo explaining his idea for a project that an arts organization doesn’t understand. To date, his short films have been entirely non-narrative, works of wonder and grace, chaotic and visionary, unlike those of any other artist in Seattle.

Which is why you’ve probably never heard of him. Until now.

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle represents a major leap for Russo: his first feature, his first narrative, and in many ways his first collaborative endeavor. Certainly it’s his first picture with actors (including troubled former starlet Natasha Lyonne), a substantial budget, and the pressures and compromises that inevitably come with indie filmmaking. “It is extremely distracting at first,” says Russo of his 19-day Seattle shoot last year, “especially being the kind of filmmaker I was—that always worked by myself. It was a nightmare.”

I first met David Russo a few months after his 2002 short Populi premiered at Sundance. Over a couple of beers at a Greenlake cantina with his wife, Celia, he proceeded to explain to me why film critics were irrelevant at best and parasitic at worst. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had. It was the beginning of, if perhaps not a friendship, then at least a respectful acquaintanceship. At least on my part. I would sometimes run into Russo at a reception or a film event and catch up on his projects. And it was always fun to follow the career of the outspoken artist.

In 2004, he won The Stranger’s Genius Award and proceeded to rip that paper in his acceptance speech. In 2005, he was awarded a Start to Finish grant by Northwest Film Forum to make a film of his choice. It didn’t stop his criticism of the insularity of local arts organizations that bestow grants. But it did start him on the road to Dizzle.

Russo had written the script in 2001, right before the invasion of Iraq. He recalls, “I knew we were going to war again, and it was an interesting time to write a script about marginalized people.”

Those people being the late-night janitors of Dizzle, who are being used by a market-research firm as unwitting guinea pigs for a highly-addictive “self-heating cookie.” The side effects of these enhanced snacks are unusual, to say the least, especially for the men: cramps, cravings, and finally giving birth to a living…something.

As with his handmade shorts, Russo creates almost all the Dizzle effects himself: animation for his characters’ hallucinations and visionary flights, and a hyper-real little blue creature that flops about like a fish out of water—the immaculately conceived Dizzle. And while there’s plenty of humor throughout the film, there’s nothing comic about this helpless mutant creature’s struggle to survive, or the dilemma of a confused father who instinctively tries to protect this unexpected progeny.

While the film has fantastic elements, Russo says its inspirations are autobiographical: “I was a janitor for 11 years. One night I found a miscarriage in one of the women’s-room toilets.Soon I got to thinking: What if something like that happened to men?” The film also explores religion and the contamination of our food supplies, he tells me: “[Dizzle] wants to be a conceptual think-y piece, but it also wants to be a legitimate story. I do love movies. And I wanted to give people a movie experience. [But] it has to be a little bit about the artist.”

Of one Dizzle character, this is literally true: One of the janitors, the exuberant OC (Vince Vieluf), spends his off hours applying for grants for his artistic endeavors. “OC is the artist that I’ve always wanted to be,” confesses Russo, “the one that really believed in what he was saying. Maybe not that talented, but it didn’t really matter.”

Ironically, despite having secured the indie grail of getting his first feature into Sundance, with SIFF the cherry on that cake, Russo is ambivalent about making another movie.

“I made every single little project that I ever wanted to, and Dizzle was the last one [I wanted to make],” he tells me over breakfast earlier this month. “What’s beyond it, I don’t know. I was ready to change my life after Dizzle.” The film was acquired for distribution at Sundance, and Vista Films is currently selling it at Cannes. No Seattle release date is yet determined.

Yet Russo’s passion for the project is as manic as his personality. “I feel like a fuck-up and failure and loser,” he says. “I see this movie, and it’s not as good as I want it to be. And I don’t know that I deserve another chance at narrative.”

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle SIFF Cinema: 4 p.m. Sat., May 23. Egyptian: 9:30 p.m. Sun., May 24.
Follow all our coverage of SIFF, including daily updates with news, reviews, and gossip on our special SIFF page.

As he bounces around conversationally—one minute down on his failures, the next lasering in on a well-crafted effect or an emotionally delicate moment that he’s particularly proud of—it’s hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm. Small, wiry, with a wound-up energy expressed with his busy hands, Russo talks about art and filmmaking with a conviction bordering on devotion. Surely this guy can’t be done with movies.

He tells me about his new project, an IMAX 3-D film with the Blue Man Group (“They’re basically looking for a fourth Blue Man who is a filmmaker”), and his excitement is palpable. “The Blue Man thing is a continuation of film school, a continuation of my art,” he enthuses. “I realized that my whole life I’ve been fighting two dimensions.”

It’s still a project in development, and Russo is deep into the process. “The Blue Man thing dropped into my field of vision, and the more I looked into it, the more interesting it became. I like the fact that it’s so hopeless, it’s so crazy, it’s so outlandish. But they’re also accomplished people. I didn’t look for it, but I’m taking it.”

Whatever his own feelings, I hope Russo does eventually take another shot at narrative. Dizzle is as passionate and eccentric a movie as has ever emerged from the local film scene. He stumbles through the narrative and fumbles for focus, but Russo’s “misfit film,” as he calls it, is a sincere and personal expression swirling with ideas and bubbling with imagery.

There are dozens of Blue Men in Vegas and on other stages throughout the world. But David Russo is, like his new film, utterly unique.

Actors Natasha Lyonne, Marshall Allman and others to attend “Little Dizzle”

May 20, 2009

Prepare to be Dizzled!!!!

After standing ovations at Sundance and SXSW, David Russo’s Seattle-made The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle premieres at SIFF with stars Natasha Lyonne, Marshall Allman, Vince Vieluf and Tygh Runyan in attendance

Congenital Engine is delighted to announce that the stars of filmmaker David Russo’s dark, stylish comedy The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle will be on hand as the film makes its hometown premiere in front of a discerning SIFF audience. Dizzle has been generating “crazy buzz” at festivals around the country with its irresistibly weird story and characters. As one Park City reviewer put it, “You have to see this!”

Little Dizzle is an edgy, character-driven fable with a unique Seattle flavor. Familiar Northwest icons (the Space Needle, the Viaduct, the waterfront, the skyline, the ferries) haunt the background of Russo’s strange world.

Natasha Lyonne (Slums of Beverly Hills, American Pie) is excellent in her return to the screen after a recent hiatus, giving a low-key, quietly funny performance as an overzealous market researcher who uses human subjects as guinea pigs in the quest for a top-selling, addictively scrumptious product. Lyonne has racked up a string of recent credits; she also appears in the 2010 thriller 13 with Mickey Rourke and Ray Liotta, and starred in Mike Leigh’s 2008 play Two Thousand Years.

Marshall Allman (a fast-rising young star know for his role on Prison Break) plays the spiritually hungry Dory, who winds up as a night shift janitor after losing a high-paying tech job. Dory forges an unexpected bond with his ragtag group of outcast cleaning colleagues. When strange things start to happen to his mind and body, Dory discovers that he and his co-workers are the subjects of a cynical (but delicious!) experiment.

Vince Vieluf is irresistibly brash and quirky as the artist-janitor O.C. who is always playing the angles.

Tygh Runyan (Normal) gives a hilariously poignant performance as one of Dory’s toilet-cleaning associates.

Little Dizzle will screen twice at SIFF:
Saturday, May 23 — 4:00 pm, SIFF Cinema
Sunday, May 24 — 9:30 pm, Egyptian Theatre

Seattle Cast:
Cookie Company CEO – LANCE ROSEN
Crooked Stream – JOHN OSEBOLD
Hospital Receptionist – BETH ANDRISEVIC
Drug-Addled Art Patron – TONY DRISCOLL
Wean-Naun – TOAN LE

Seattle Production Credits:
Produced by Peggy Case (Zoo, We Go Way Back), Edited by Billy McMillin (Iraq in Fragments). Music by Awesome. Production Design by Christopher Swenson. Costume Designer: Rebecca Luke. Director of Photography: Neil Holcomb. Additional Cinematography: Benjamin F. Kasulke. Animation, Art and Additional Cinematography: David Russo. Sound Mixer: Steven Bechtold. Key Hair and Make-up Artist: Dawn Tunnell. Music Supervisor: Van Riker. Story Editor: Celia Day Russo. Unit Production Manager: Mischa Jakupcak. First Assistant Director: Megan Griffiths. Production Coordinator: Caroline Colon. Gaffer: Steve Colgrove. Animation Lead Man: Courtland Premo. Locations Manager: Carey Christie. Locations Associate: Stacia Beer. Extras Coordinator: Denise Gibbs. Post Production Coordinators: David Jones Morgan, Brit Exworthy, Leone Fogle. Stills photographer: Bob Fink. Payroll Services provided by: Talent Services. Finance Manager: Elizabeth Heile. Legal Services: Rosen Lewis, PLLC. Film Processing: Alpha Cine Forde Film Lab. Camera equipment: Oppenheimer Cine Rental. Additional Visual Effects and Digital Intermediate by: Modern Digital/Seattle.

Executive Producer: Michael Seiwerath. Co-Producers: Alan Pruzan and Lance Rosen. Co-Executive Producers: Garr Godfrey, Menno van Wyk, Malayka Gormally, May L. McCarthy, David P. Glickman, A. Joel Eisenberg.