Author Archive

Best Conversations About Film (And Films) of 2011

December 19, 2011

These are the most interesting conversations I had or overheard this year about film

1. Listening to Denis Cote talk about making a film a year for six years now after absorbing all of cinema for the 31 before that. “I had no life,” he said cheerily, implying just the opposite now.

2. Talking with Oliver Laxe about his film, You All Are Captains, as well as Kiarostami, semiology, and what it is to give back to the world from which his images come. (And how he can see the day when it may no longer be necessary to take images at all.)

3. Talking about Uncle Boonmee, Who Can Recall His Past Lives, that magical realist documentary account of a few strange Thai dreams, with so many people.  

4, Discussing The Tree of Life, with everyone who saw it — a great film disliked by many. Malick had me at the first voiceover.

5. Listening intently to Thom Andersen, whose black duster and habit of elegant chain-smoking gave him badass points that none of his otherwise utterly thought-quieted politeness could alter. 

6. Jane Goodall, who came to talk about her film, Jane’s Journey, and afterwards gave monkey hugs to everyone. In doing so she seemed to prove that our names sometimes become us.

7. The Illusionist. One of the handful of films out there I’m envious we didn’t play in our theaters. All this year’s praise for Hugo should be reserved for this small, perfect movie about the remote reaches of the world and imagination a certain kind of shabby, down-at-heels excellence can take you to.

8. Talking to Nicolas Pereda, another pioneer of the creative non-fiction fiction film, whose enigmatic work, made mostly in Mexico (and partly funded with Canadian grant money), extends the project begun by Antonioni.

9. Listening to Harry Shearer, who stood at the door to Cinema 1 waiting for the applause to fade and casually eviscerated a TV baron  in a few whispered asides. 

10. The Descendants. Our Cary Grant now is George Clooney, and where he goes is, especially when he goes with the Ethan and Joel Coen or, as here, with Alexander Payne, where serious/popular American cinema goes. The second-best mainstream film I saw this year.

11. The conversation in my class about David Lynch and Gus Van Sant, whose films about crimes – Mulholland Drive and Elephant – brought out some of the best talk about cinema I heard this year.

Melissa Hines

April 11, 2011

At the 2006 Mayor's Arts Awards.

We were saddened to learn of the passing of a good friend of the Film Forum, Melissa Hines. The Mayor’s Office has released a full statement about her life and work that I encourage you to read. A couple of paragraphs:

For the past seven years, Melissa directed the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs’ funding programs and led our arts education initiative. Previously, she dedicated 23 years of her career to The Empty Space Theatre.

Melissa passed away April 8 from leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She was 63.

In all, she gave over three decades of her life to the arts in Seattle. She will be missed.

Seattle Filmmaker Makes Sale at SXSW

March 14, 2011

T.J. Martin, the Seattle filmmaker who, along with Brian Quist, made A Day in the Hype of America, just sold his film, Undefeated, to The Weinstein Company at SXSW. The documentary follows a Memphis football team, the Manassas Tigers, whose new coach decided to change the team after years when they were “so woefully underfunded that the school made money by hiring the team out to serve as the punching bag that traveled to the home stadiums of wealthy Tennessee teams for their homecoming games.”

Press here for the full story.

Pulling Focus Begins

March 2, 2011

Washington Film Works’s Pulling Focus, a quarterly series of discussions about film and the film industry, kicks off tomorrow night with a panel on the importance of casting, which is, depending on your point of view, either 65% or 101% of what makes a film good. The conversation, presided over by Warren Etheredge, includes these film insiders:

Matthew Lillard (Hackers, Scream, SLC Punk)
Darrien Gibson (Director, SAG INDIE)
Nike Imoru (Founder, Act with Inspiration / NxNW Casting Directors

Tickets are $10, but since the Film Forum is a co-sponsor members receive a discount: type the word renewal in the line provided to get yours. Tickets include a glass of wine or two after the discussion.

Thursday, March 3
Sorrento Hotel
Top of the Town
900 Madison

Doors: 6:30
Discussion: 7:00
Drinks: 8:00

Press here for more information.

2010 Top Ten

December 17, 2010

In 2010, the films I thought about most seemed to take part in the real/fake discourse, and for that it was a boom year. These are the films and clumps of films (and events) I thought about most:

I’m Still Here. The one film on my list that didn’t play the Film Forum. Playing himself as the actor Joaquin Phoenix, who is leaving filmmaking for a career in hiphop, Joaquin Phoenix commits and gives the best performance of his life.

La Danse / The Red Shoes. We played both early on in the year: Frederick Wiseman’s narrationless documentary this time works with an art form that doesn’t need narration: ballet – in this case a company in Paris that is old and venerable and working hard to keep rethinking itself and la danse. And about ten seconds later we played The Red Shoes, an actually terrifying drama-filled Powell and Pressberger classic that is no doubt topped only by Black Swan.

The Sun. Alexander Sokurov’s film about Hirohito’s checked-out rein in Japan at the end of World War II. All about formalities and politeness amid chaos, Hirohito’s world, if this film is true, was triple weird and gripping in its embrace of unreality — maybe no more so than when Douglas MacArthur enters, has a smoke with the emperor, and speaks.

Two Live evenings: When Stewart Stern talked for an hour after Rebel Without a Cause about saving young men in World War II and, among other things, sleeping in James Deans’ bed after the actor’s death you could have heard a pin drop (had there been pins dropping). And this fall The French Project added funny dialogue to a bad movie and brought the Sultan of Swing together with some Germans. It wasn’t the deepest evening, but does that matter when it’s so fun?

They’re Still Out There: Miguel Gomes’ Our Beloved Month of August, Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers, and Amie Siegel’s Empathy. No links among these films – Gomes’ is long and slow-moving and asks us to help him make the film; Korine’s is shocking and crude until you see what a beautiful tap-in he’s made of his own dreamworld; and Siegel’s carefully details the mirages of consciousness, especially in conversations around psychology — but all represent everything that is interesting and excellent about films that push the envelope. I think Trash Humpers, along with I’m Still Here, are the most fascinating films of 2010.

Wheedle’s Groove. The best local film of the year took up a forgotten soul scene in North America’s whitest city. The film deserved all the attention it got, and it should have gotten more.

October Country. Pretty and unsettling.

Visual Acoustics. About the great photographer of architecture, Julius Shulberg, who gave us some of the most iconic images we have of modern houses and spaces, especially of Hopper-esque buildings in and around L.A.

Daddy Long Legs. Joshua and Benny Safdie’s Cassavettes-esque (and autobiographical) story of a man figuring out how to be a father to his sons.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child. Unseen footage of Basquiat is reason enough to put this film into the top ten. In its center are amazing scenes of the speed of Basquiat’s brush, which shows a mind hurrying to set down the images crowding his mind, and having little time for self-doubt.

Howl. A good year for James Franco, and in this film he makes natural all the oddball verbal tics of the late, spiritual, self-promoting poet, Allen Ginsberg.

New: FilmPAC

July 24, 2010

Our friends at Washington Film Works invite the whole film community to attend this event, which is intended to draw attention to the need for legislative support for filmmaking in this state.

Members of the film community have come together to form FilmPAC, a political action committee designed to honor elected leaders who have a strong record of supporting film. With competitive election campaigns for House and Senate members in the fall, FilmPAC will be hosting an event in Seattle this August to show our support both philosophically and financially. This event will give our community the unique opportunity to show these elected officials how strong and committed the film community is here, and how much we appreciate what they do for us.

The event has a suggested contribution on the invitation, however your presence, and that of your 50 closest friends, is just as important. If you can’t afford $50 – come anyway and give what you can! It is critical that this event is packed with film industry members and supporters who can speak to the vibrancy and depth of the industry. Your presence is a reminder to our elected officials that their legislative support is noticed and appreciated.

Monday, August 2nd from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
2219 Fourth Avenue
(between Blanchard and Bell)

Kudos, Paul Allen

July 15, 2010

Paul Allen, who has been generous to all the arts for the past two decades, is planning to give even more in the next few years. The story in The Seattle Times starts this way:

“Billionaire Paul Allen has taken his friend Bill Gates up on his challenge to publicly pledge the majority of his wealth to philanthropy. Allen, who is 57, said today that he plans to leave the majority of his $13 billion estate to philanthropy to continue the work of his foundation and to fund scientific research.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Slate agrees: Go see Breathless.

June 9, 2010

An article in this week’s Slate, written by Nathan Heller, opens: “Jean-Luc Godard, the New Wave doyen whose movies are distributed today in every theater where Milk Duds and Mike and Ike are not, learned to make films the way some people learn to paint: by studying the masterworks on someone else’s wall and trying to replicate them in the light of his own studio. For Godard, though, a number of the most inspiring models came not from the Old World but from mainstream filmmakers across the pond. ‘The Americans, who are much more stupid when it comes to analysis, instinctively bring off very complex scripts,’ Godard observed in 1962.”

Breathless is 50 years old now, though it is probably never going to seem 50 years old the way The Lonedale Operator must have seemed in 1961. (Note to D.W. Griffith fans; I like The Lonedale Operator. I’m just saying.) The article continues here.

Money For Documentary Filmmakers

May 24, 2010

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is offering filmmakaers money for documentary projects that examine international and transnational themes in the humanities. To ready about it, and to apply, go to the NEH site. The deadline is July 28.

Thanks To Everyone Who Attended Our Gala

May 11, 2010

This is a shot from the Film Forum gala last Thursday, which we held at the Georgetown Ballroom. It was oversold, the tables were close together, the bidding for items got fierce a couple of times, and the place, with the high ceilings, the crazy props (“Jolly Roger”?) and sun streaming in the skylights, seemed to make people feel as good as the wine (thanks again, Chateau Ste. Michelle).

Thank you, everyone who came, volunteered, bought, donated, took coats, entertained, and raised the paddle. And an especial thanks to Stewart Stern, our great local screenwriter and teacher, who brought us a talk to remember.