Archive for December, 2009

Western double feature for the last weekend of “69”

December 10, 2009

As 2009 comes to a close, so does our year-long series exploring the films of 1969.

We began with new prints of two outlaw odysseys Easy Rider and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We close the series with two icons of cinema, John Wayne in True Grit (Wayne won his only Academy award for his leading role), and Henry Fonda in Sergio Leone’s ever popular Once Upon a Time in the West. Both are operatic, impressive Westerns in their own right, but more importantly for the 69 series, these are films that highlight the outlaw spirit that dominated the year.

Join us for the final screenings in this historic series this weekend, December 12-13.

Reflect on everything you’ve seen by looking through our blog archives here, and looking at the entire year’s programming schedule here.

And here’s a guide to everything you need to know about Sergio Leone, courtesy of Richard Jameson and Parallax View:

Space is a constant adventure in Once Upon a Time in the West. The film’s baroque vastnesses resonate with the promise of a detonation that will at once supply energy for the winning of the West and shatter its aesthetic sublimity. Four bodies crash down around an acre of plank flooring, followed almost immediately by a full-screen shot of sun-creased skin and one blue eye returning to life. To watch Leone’s film is to realize how few truly widescreen movies there have been. Three, maybe four men die under the creaking wheel of the windmill, and in the next scene Brett McBain (Frank Wolff) pans the circuit of his Sweetwater claim when the constant life-sound of the cicadas stops of a sudden. His survey reveals nothing. After a moment he turns his attention to getting water from the well; the wind raises a swell of dust, the cicadas cease again, and he and his family are wiped out, their assassins metamorphosing out of the very color of the land. His new widow similarly checks the same dooryard after a night-long vigil in the home she never had; yet a moment later Cheyenne (Jason Robards) is there at the door when she opens it, and his men sit beyond on their horses, and moments/hours later they are still sitting there when Cheyenne has done talking with her.

Read the whole thing here.


Top Ten NWFF Gags, Pranks and High Jinks of the Decade

December 9, 2009

Any stereotypes of NWFF as a place mired in humorless, art-house sophistication can be dispelled here and now. In fact, any respect you may have had for us at all may be dispelled. Underneath the Japanese auteur retrospectives and slow Hungarian tone poems is a staff that harbors a very low-brow sense of humor. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) of our office pranks, media gags and otherwise zany antics (written with help from NWFF’s Michael My-Favorite-Movie-Of-All-Time-Is-Jackass Seiwerath).

In no particular order:

Man vs Pig Eating Contest – 2003

“Zack Carlson knows what it takes to win. Grade school spelling prowess took him to the Western United States Spelling Bee Championship in the mid-80s.  Now he is planning to take that winner’s attitude to the Little Theatre on Sunday, December 15, where he will challenge a real live pig to a Whopper®-eating contest as part of the Northwest Film Forum’s Ultra: The High Noon of Consumer Culture series. Carlson, programmer for the Grand Illusion Cinema, will gorge himself in an attempt to down ten burgers in ten minutes or less, while his swine competitor attempts the same. Will ten USDA inspected ground beef burgers prove to be too much for Carlson? In this dramatic final salute to the era of consumer culture that pits man against a pig and beef, Carlson will strive to hold his own (and hold it down). ‘I do like the burgers,’ he contends.”

In a close battle of appetite and wits, Zack narrowly defeated his opponent.

Throw The Stranger a Whip – 2008

A DHL delivery mix-up began an afternoon repartee with The Stranger’s (then) film editor, Bradley Steinbacher. Paramount intended to send him promo schwag for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but it arrived at NWFF instead. A leather whip was included in the envelope.  A NWFF intern was sent to hand-deliver the package to Brad, but with the whip and promo material removed and a pile of sand in its place. Adam Sekuler sends Brad a cryptic email, “Throw me the idol and I’ll throw you the whip.”  After a few rounds of quoting Indiana Jones dialogue to each other, Bradley finally deduces what has happened, but not until after NWFF enshrines the whip in our concession display case.

deco dawson’s parade – 2003

In February 2003, NWFF hosted a month long residency of Canadian filmmaker, playwright and Guy Maddin collaborator, deco dawson. To honor his arrival, we staged a parade. With costumes, noise-makers, skittish children and a royal crown aloft deco’s head, we thoroughly confused the residents of Capitol Hill with a parade that began at the Little Theatre and (appropriately) ended at a wine shop.

Unintentional Prank: Guest Programmer Asks Press For Beer Money – 2002

A one-time, guest programmer (name withheld) made an appearance before Seattle’s film press corps, and in a drunken stupor, belligerently demanded that before he begins the screening, someone must give him $5 so he could go buy himself a beer. The good-humored press giggled at the joke. The guest programmer didn’t budge (although he may have swooned from drunkness). The silence turned to awkward discomfort. Someone gave him his $5, the show resumed, and the guest programmer got himself a beer (and did not return to program any more events at NWFF).

Ivan Reitman and Ghostbusters 3 Announced as Start to Finish Recipient – 2004

NWFF’s official email digest from April 1, 2004 included this headlining story:

“Northwest Film Forum is proud to announce a ground-breaking partnership with Hollywood Director Ivan Reitman as Ivan’s latest film, “GHOSTBUSTERS 3: THE SEARCH FOR SLIMER,” is given the NWFF’s prestigious Start-to-Finish Award.

In a press conference held outside a liquor store a block from the Chinese Mann’s Theater in Los Angeles, Ivan said, “I’m really glad to have the institutional support of Northwest Film Festival behind me. With the reputation of the NWFF, we’re sure to make a strong appearance at the Berlin Film Festival next year and we’ll be virtually guaranteed to snag a distribution deal with Netflix.”

Michael Seiwerath, executive director for NWFF, although visibly drunk, concurred with Ivan’s enthusiasm. “We chose Ivan’s treatment for GHOSTBUSTERS 3 because we really liked the thoughtful subtext between Bill Murray’s character, Dr. Peter Venkman, and the symbiotic relationship he shares with the time-travelling, ectomorph belly-dancer, Zorpphaxx The Incomparable….”

Only a few years later, NWFF would announce a Start-to-Finish film about blue fish birthed from men’s butts.

Mauled—Scenes from Northlake Mall – 2003

NWFF produced its own candid camera event on Black Friday of 2003. All in one day, three camera crews showed up at malls across Seattle to document the madness of consumer culture. The footage was edited and screened for free that evening to honor Buy Nothing Day. Not entirely with journalistic integrity however, as staff members staged pranks to get the goat of our discount hungry prey. Santa Clause is accosted, a man enters a GAP wearing no pants, and panic inducing measures are added to the year’s most popular toy, Chicken Dance Elmo. Karma strikes however, as retribution for our pranks causes one of the crew to vomit at the sight of people fighting for toys at 6AM.

Point Break Live! – 2003

Creative fireworks exploded when Jaime and Jamie debuted Point Break Live! at the Little Theatre. The formula for raucous fun envisioned by the creators included adding a dash of confusion to the play, by selecting a willing participant from the audience each night to be the lead performer (on one occasion, seriously frightening the audience momentarily as the drunken participant jumped from a tall stage believing he was secured by wires). Confusion inevitably tipped toward chaos, however, as every night the same resident of the Park apartments would call the police on account of the gunfire and screaming. The cops were videotaped and incorporated into each night’s performance.

The Hanna Montana Keyboard – 2009

During Spring 2009, Peter Lucas found the smiling face of Hannah Montana appearing in unexpected locations (above his desk, outside his apartment). The appearances made their climax on April 1 when Peter comes into the office and sits at his computer. Still weary from a slow morning routine, he starts typing at his keyboard and jibberish appears on his screen. Confused why his fingers aren’t typing the letters he meant to write, he discovers that the keyboard letters are all mixed up. Missing the fact that the middle row of his keyboard spells out “mylie cyrus”, he begins to remove the letters and discovers the smiling face of Hanna Montana underneath the keys.

Mustache Contest: Men’s and Women’s – 2000/2003

On January 1, 2000 a number of men in the NWFF community started growing mustaches.  On Valentine’s day, there was a contest before a screening of O Amour Natural.  Spencer Hoyt won all around best mustache, while Michael Seiwerath won “Best Groomed.”  Jamie Hook, with some weak peach fuzz, made a desperate move and ran backstage, cut off his pube hair, and tried to glue it to his lip. He lost.

Two years later, in the interest of gender equality, Jaime Keeling tried to find contestants for an all ladies mustache contest.  Desperate to find candidates, she started running up to women on the street, complementing them on their modest ‘stache and asked them to grow it out for the contest.  It did not go over well.

Party High Jinks – All Year, Every Year

If there’s one thing NWFF will be known for during the decade of the oughts, it’s got to be the parties. A few highlights from the past 10 years of galas, auctions and fundraisers:

The secret prize at the third NWFF auction is a bouncy castle.  Some of the ladies laugh so hard, they pee their underpants. Some confess they were not wearing underpants.

In the final hours of 2005’s auction, Rachel Kessler and Anne Bradfield are lying on the floor of the Scottish Rite temple, locked in the most intense match of arm wrestling in history, while the clean-up crew casually steps over them.

At the 12th Ave Grand Opening, one of the debutantes sucker punches an annoying armless mime, getting both blood and white grease paint on her evening glove.

To teach the gathered audience at our Grand Opening a lesson in Leaps-of-Faith, Jamie Hook announces he will launch himself from the top of our grand staircase, expecting the NWFF supporters to catch his fall. Those who know Jamie best, fully expected him to follow through. But he demurred.

What was the highlight of a fundraising party for Matt Wilkin’s Start-To-Finish film? What else—pillow fights.

Required Viewing: Film History Classes at the Film Forum

December 9, 2009

Northwest Film Forum is pleased to expand its commitment to film education with the launch of “Required Viewing,” a new series of classes that explore the history of cinema. This winter’s schedule includes the seminars, “New Hollywood Cinema” and “French History in the 90s,” which will combine lectures with film viewing and discussion, in six weekly sessions.

Northwest Film Forum has offered workshops and classes for almost ten years.  While many of the regularly scheduled classes focus on hands-on filmmaking technique, the organization has a history of also presenting seminars and discussions that contextualize films for audiences. Past classes include “Introduction to Film History: Griffith to Kiarostami, Full Stop,” a survey of the major movements and defining directors from around the world, “Hardcore: The Screwball Comedy,” which explored Hollywood comedies of remarriage, “Introduction to Canadian Cinema,” “Intro to Film Theory,” and “The Importance of Cinema History to the Filmmaker.”

The two classes in “Required Viewing” demonstrate the Film Forum’s renewed commitment to lecture and discussion oriented seminars for film lovers.  “New Hollywood Cinema” (meeting Mondays, Jan 18 – Feb 22, at 7pm) will explore the themes and styles of the New Hollywood movement that lasted from 1967 to 1980, the year of Raging Bull. Key films will be screened, studied for their cinematic power and discussed for how they reflect the wider culture, in which gender roles were changing along with sexuality and views of class and race. This class will be taught by Dennis West, Professor of Hispanic Film and Culture at the University of Idaho. He is a contributing editor of Cineaste magazine who has served on numerous festival juries.

“French Films in the 90s” (meeting Tuesdays, Jan 19 – Feb 23, at 7pm) will be taught by Joan West, Professor of French and Women’s Studies at the University of Idaho. This class is an introduction to the films of the decade, withdiscussion of French culture woven in. Films studied will represent highlights from a decade significant for its artistic and economic transition into the 21st century, when the “cinema du look” was waning, heritage epics held strong, women directors were becoming visible and a new generation of young filmmakers began to rise.

Both classes cost $80 for Northwest Film Forum members and $100 for non-members. Interested participants can enroll or find out more about these classes, as well as the Film Forum’s filmmaking specific workshops, at

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Movie Theaters During the Last Decade Membership Services

December 8, 2009

A Top Ten List by NWFF’s Membership Service’s volunteer:
(A word of Warning: This blog post contains language one might regard as, shall we say, PG-13?)

Since 2000, I’ve both worked in multiplexes and volunteered at NWFF:

here are the top ten things of my decade that I won’t miss about working in a big commercial movie theater.

1. My Big Fat Greek Diaper

One afternoon during the 40 week run of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, an elderly woman came out of the theater to profusely thank my manager for screening such a wonderful movie, but that she was “sorry, but the movie was too good to miss!”  Sorry for what? my manager asked.  The woman abruptly left and my manager went into the theater to find a runny puddle of still warm urine leaking out of a makeshift diaper made out of concession napkins.  The thing I don’t miss is projecting and therefore having to watch several minutes of that movie.  The pee bothered me much less.

2. Comic Book Movies

Boy Howdy, am I glad to not be working in a big theater during the releases of movies like Iron Man, Wanted, and the 3 hour long commercial for male masturbation and electric guitars, Watchmen (brilliant American satirist Harry Knowles says, “I WATCHED THE FUCKING WATCHMEN AND FUCKING LOVED IT!”).  Why do so many people packed into these movies wear tshirts with the names and marketing logos of the things they like?  Hey, I like comics just as much as the next person with corrective lenses, and I know comic books can be unabashedly literal sometimes, but going to the Spiderman movie while wearing a Spiderman shirt and rubber face mask seems a little… obvious.

3. Commercial Theater Resources

I’m not one to back down from even the dumbest dare, and I don’t miss guzzling dixie cups of liquid butter flavor mixed with frozen Cherry Coke, or watching our 37 year old floor manager wear a large popcorn bucket as a hat because our Down’s Syndrome ticket taker “daaaaared him!”  Yeah, that happened.  Deal with it.

4. Playing the Enforcer

The worst part of working the theater floor in a big operation was playing small-town TSA agent.  Many of my co-workers, under the hawk-like eyes of management, would grab outside coffee cups from the clutches of movie goers; some bootlickers started unilaterally searching large purses and asking to inspect the contents of shopping bags.  Me?  I figured if you just paid money to see the latest Adam Sandler vehicle, you can bring in whatever salve you want.  Plus the smells of the dreaded “outside food and beverages” helped to mask the stench of months-old urine that I never cleaned up.

5. Free Pass to Mediocrity

Have you ever had a free pass to see any and every movie in wide release?  Forget about discriminating tastes, I saw everything from Deep Blue Sea to All About the Benjamins to Insomnia to Maid in Manhattan over the course of a few years. After watching movies trying to teach me about Life and Love and ToughTimes and Winning Not In The Literal Sense But In The Bigger Sense,the only lesson I learned is that even my most wasteful time (say, staring at the carpet in silence) is more valuable than a free shittymovie.

6. Fancy Pants

Why do movie theater uniforms only come in Xtra Large?  Over the years, I’ve worn stiff polo shirts and starchy vests tailored to snugly fit Suge Knight.  Uh, clip-on bowties.

7. Sharing Bathrooms

I think the thing I miss the very least is sharing a bathroom with the customers.  Can you imagine working eight hours a day, several days a week feeding popcorn (which is just hot fiber and roughage) and liters of super fizzy fountain soda to people who love to sit down for hours at a time?  Shudder.

8. The Neighborhood

Chain movie theaters tend to either be inside malls or the anchor of a strip mall.  I hated working in those buildings because of the fluorescent lighting, constant brain-hating sneaker on linoleum squeaks, emotional shoppers with blond highlights and unrealistically high levels of self-esteem (“I’m worth it!!”), and the vomit bag smells of the food court.  My manager hated it because she thought that malls were obvious terrorist targets in a post 9/11 world.  God, if only, Vicky.  If only.

9. Tag-alongs

Once word gets out that you have free passes to all the commercial theaters in town, friends start coming out of the woodwork.  People like your roommate’s ponytailed boyfriend who wants tickets to Cradle 2 tha’ Grave, or that frizzy haired theater art major who absolutely must see the employee’s preview of the latest installment of the Harry Potter saga.  Uh, hey Michelle, did you ever think that I want to go see it a-l-o-n-e??

10. “Programming”

When management sat down to pick the coming attractions, they looked at the numbers and ultimately, scheduled soft-core zombie movies or rom-coms starring young people with big teeth.  I suspect the workplace problems listed above stem from the nature of big business movie theaters: profit over art, sedentary entertainment over intellectual engagement, market trends over empowering filmmakers.  I feel so much better about donating my time to support an organization like NWFF because our programming and classes and presence in the the Northwest support the cinematic community and further the art form.  I can tell you that I’ll never wear another XXL polo shirt ever again just so Will Smith can shit out another inspirational cross-marketing blitz at $12 a head.

Fortunately, NWFF avoids most of these pitfalls AND there are often openings to volunteer your precious time all over the building: scooping non-fake-butter-soaked popcorn and selling our concessions (which aren’t marked up the usual 800%), projecting our thoughtfully picked movies, working in our office doing the admin bidding of the super cool staff (uh, we’re cool, right?), and pitching in with facilities.  And instead of hazarding a run-in with an agitated gastrointestinal bomb, maybe you’ll meet a fellow cineast who gets excited about reading subtitles.  Please support NWFF by coming to see a movie, volunteering your time, or making a financial gift to help further our mission!

“La Danse” held over through December 16

December 8, 2009

We are pleased to announce that we are able to hold over Frederick Wiseman’s documentary La Danse: Le Ballet de l’Opera de Paris through December 16, playing daily at 7pm.  The film has been drawing huge crowds all weekend, and now you’ll have six additional nights to catch the highly-praised film.

Says Moira MacDonald of the Seattle Times, “Four stars: captures the fleeting beauty of ballet in dozens of miniature portraits, each quietly soaring…It’s magical.”  And A.O. Scott of the New York Times hailed it as “one of the finest dance films ever made, but there’s more to it than that.”

To accommodate this, we’ve had to reshuffle our calendar a bit.  Please note the following updated showtimes:
True Grit and Once Upon a Time in the West will now play December 12-13 (Sat-Sun) ONLY!

True Grit screens at 6pm and Once Upon a Time in the West is at 8:30pm.

See you in the cinemas!

Soul Nite! Poster

December 7, 2009

Designed by Peter Lucas, of course.

And here’s more:

That’s right folks. Wake the town and tell the people that SOUL NITE is back!
Our winter soul celebration at Northwest Film Forum NEXT THURSDAY December 10th (8pm, doors open at 7:30) will warm the heart, ward off the flu, and usher in the spirit of the season: Peace, Love, and… You got it. We’re showing great vintage soul performances up on the big screen, we’ll have djs spinning records, and beer will be available in the cinema. This installment of Soul Nite is going to get funky, as we focus on stuff from the late 60s and early 70s. That means we’ll see live performances from the likes of Sly & The Family Stone, Ike & Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Stevie Wonder. David James (of DUG) will be our guest DJ, spinning funky slabs for your listening and dancing pleasure. 9 out of 10 dentists agree that you should come, and bring fun people. See you there!

Thursday, December 10 (8pm, doors open at 7:30)
Northwest Film Forum  –  1515 12th Avenue (between Pike & Pine)

PS. Also, check out DUG at the Lo-Fi tomorrow- Friday night. If you don’t already know, it’s the city’s best danceparty. Tail feathers will shake, and a funky good time will be had by all. Now you know.

Ten Best

December 7, 2009

Here’s a Ten Best at NWFF list from our friend and regular, Glenn Fox:


From: Glenn Fox

Thanks for another year of great programming at your two cinemas.  Special thanks for bringing Lisandro Alonso and his films to Seattle; he’s a great talent and a genuinely nice guy, and it was long overdue that his films finally make their way to a Seattle movie screen.  Having Lisandro and his films in town was definitely the film event of the year for Seattle.

The richness of the 1969 series was often astounding.  The series was packed with the well known and the obscure (special thanks for that Susan Sontag film – and it was worth every penny it cost to bring it to town).

I’m sending you a top ten list that is pretty much limited to the ‘new’ films that were shown in your cinemas, usually for a full week.  Seattle movie-goers were very lucky not to miss out on these ten films (some of them are truly extraordinary).  Glaringly missing from the list is  Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light – a film just about everyone but me thought was a masterpiece.  I’m still glad I got to see it on a movie screen this year.

While these aren’t in the top ten, two of the most memorable films I saw at NWFF in 2009 were shown as part of SIFF’s Alternate Cinema.  Shu was an unforgettable 12 minute one shot short – dusk falling on a high security prison in the Mojave Desert.  And it always amazes me when this happens, but a rich and visually stunning documentary set in and around the garden of a Swedish home came and went unnoticed (except by me?) as one of the great movies of the year.  Has this film played anywhere else?  I will never forget it!  Here’s my top ten (with four films directed by women if anyone is counting):

Glenn’s 2009 NWFF Top Ten:

1. Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina)

2. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, France)

3. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina)

4. Import Export (Ulrich Seidl, Austria)

5. La Danse (Frederick Wiseman, France)

6. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA)

7. Lake Tahoe (Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico)

8. Ballast (Lance Hammer, USA)

9. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, USA)

10. Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim, South Korea)

SIFF Alternate Cinema standouts:

* Shu (Philipp Lachenmann)

* Light Year (Mikael Kristersson, Sweden)

La Danse: Get your tickets now

December 4, 2009

Thanks to some glorious reviews of La Danse, there are sure to be some full houses this weekend.  I recommend getting your tickets now!  La Danse plays Northwest Film Forum December 4-10 at 7pm daily.

“Four stars: captures the fleeting beauty of ballet in dozens of miniature portraits, each quietly soaring…It’s magical.” –Seattle Times

“The documentary is a pleasure to watch because the dancers, even when practicing, when repeating moves and gestures, never lose that aura of body-magic.” –The Stranger

“SW Pick: Magnificent…shot in deeply satisfying long takes of gorgeous young men and women starting, stopping, listening, questioning, repeating, perfecting.” –Seattle Weekly

“To say that the film, sumptuous in its length and graceful in its rhythm, is a feast for ballet lovers is to state the obvious and also sell Mr. Wiseman’s achievement a bit short. Yes, this is one of the finest dance films ever made, but there’s more to it than that.” -A. O. Scott NY Times

The 2nd Annual Audience Favorites Top 10 List Contest

December 3, 2009

Last year we welcomed your top ten favorites of the year.  Movies would be appropriate, of course, but let us know what you loved best this year in any category!

We’ll be giving free tickets to movies at Northwest Film Forum to our favorites.

Extra points for top ten lists for the DECADE.

Congrats to Linas Philips

December 3, 2009

His BASS ACKWARDS, in which he takes a cross country journey in this van, was just accepted into Sundance’s NEXT, a new section composed of eight American films selected for their innovative and original work in low-and no-budget filmmaking.