The Wolfpack

Doc about a shut-in family starting to explore the world. Notable because they didn't go outside, talk to strangers, or use the internet, but they had weirdly unrestricted access to movies. So they obsessively re-enact scenes from Tarantino films and have a homemade batman costume created from cardboard and yoga mats. I don't know if I enjoyed it. Interesting, yes. but I'm not much for the freakshow.

7 Chinese Brothers

Jason Schwartzman, Olympia Dukakis, pointless, plotless, walkout.

Cartel Land

Documentary: parallel narrative of a vigilante group in the US and a vigilante group in Mexico, both responding to the drug trade. the access and the cinematography were quite remarkable. i was glad that i stayed for the director Q&A afterward; he was dealing with some weird partisan vibes in the questioning, and repeatedly stated how it was important to him that he document rather than attempt to prove a thesis.* i loved the style, but i'm afraid that people will remember that the Mexican leader is flawed and not remember that he was responding to entire families being murdered, or notice that the US vigilantes catch illegal immigrants rather than drug mules. anyway, great film, did well at Sundance, has theatrical distribution this summer and then will be on A&E. (it would be better in the theater, the language is too salty for tv.)

*this was a film where i felt like the people asking questions didn't actually watch the film. at least three different times. an example... Q: do they work with the Border Patrol? A: well, that scene with the truck that said 'Border Patrol' on it was from the Border Patrol. me: *sigh*


Backstage doc about the 2013 production of Aida in Verona. (It's the world's largest outdoor opera, held in a Roman amphitheater.) I enjoyed it, but it's of the show don't tell school and is very light on explanation of what is going on. I'm still trying to figure out if they actually get away with using a loudspeaker backstage during performances. Everything about the production is huge - life-sized mechanical elephant, chariots, set pieces coming in by crane.* I left humming the famous bits of Aida and considering a trip to Verona.

*First bad q&a of the festival: some woman held forth on the elaborate nature of the production and how this was ruining opera. Never did ask a question, audience was audibly complaining. I think she actually said she had sung Aida at Verona. If this is true, either she's delusional or opera people don't study theater history. I'm going with delusional.

Fourth Man Out

I was pleasantly surprised at this comedy about a blue-collar guy in upstate New York coming out. It was relatable and true, especially in the interactions of the friends group. It's 2015, and it’s great to see a coming out story that doesn't feature exploding parents or firing or gay-bashing. Awkwardness, curiousity, concern, adjustments, yes. Apparently I was at the premiere. Did I mention that it's funny? I hope it catches on. Two more showings, recommended.

Racing Extinction

Call to action doc about mass extinction. It will be on Discovery soon. I was not as enthusiastic as the rest of the, I don't consider tourism a viable economic replacement for fishing, especially considering the carbon cost of getting rich people to a coastal village in Indonesia. Lots to think about around China; in this as in many things they are becoming who we were to the world 40 years ago. Not the tear-jerker I expected. I didn't learn anything new. But I don't think I'm their audience. It's slick, well-made, and full of info.

Primary Instinct

Concert film of Steven Tobolowsky telling stories. I was captivated. This weekend is the premiere, and he was here for the q&a. I also got a lovely visit with scarlettina. Great start to the day. Highly recommended.

Kurmanjan Datka, Queen of the Mountains

Kyrgyz historical epic! it's a little slow, and a little homemade. But who cares, because I knew next-to-nothing about their history and culture, so I was fascinated by their material culture and the landscape and had no idea what would happen next. THEY ARE IN CENTRAL ASIA AND THEY WRITE WITH RUNES. They're Muslims but there are sacred carved stone figures?!? Kurmanjan is badass because she's a survivor and a politician, not a warrior. I would recommend this for the textiles and the mountains alone; the story is okay and the acting is passable, but it's just so anthropologically interesting.

Meet the Patels

What a delight! It's a documentary story of an Indian - American guy who agrees to try arranging a marriage through his parents. The film is aimed at an American audience who may not be familiar with the culture and customs of the subject. The cinematography is shit, but they make a virtue of the home-movie feel by pairing it with animation and relevant clips from Indian and American media. The director is the guy's sister and roommate, so the level of access is exceptional. The family relationships and struggles are universal: I think my parents would enjoy this as much as I did. Did I mention it's funny in a laughing - with way? Yeah.

Cartoonists: Footsoldiers of Democracy

French doc about political cartoonists from around the world. It started out a bit dull and disjointed,  but became more interesting and coherent as themes started to emerge. I especially enjoyed the bits with Willis from Tunis (a woman, "Willis" is the name of her cat character, rhymes with Tunis) and a Russian artist who started under the Soviets. Other great stuff included the significance of cartoons in a country with low literacy. Glad to have seen it.

Related: pac place AMC has a secret stairway connecting the upstairs and downstairs concession stands.

things that are making me happy this week

i visited knitta D on Sunday, and there was a marathon on BBCA of the miniseries and the first season of Battlestar Galactica. i got warm fuzzies about how great the show was then, how full of promise. there were so many details i had never noticed, or forgotten: Baltar's Six only wears clothes that he saw her wear on Caprica. (look, i get to use the GIF userpic that i labored over lo these many years ago.)

i just finished reading Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. it was such a delight. if you love both The Lies of Locke Lamora and Kung Fu Hustle, you will love this. (man, i want to see Stephen Chow adapt it for film. i don't think anyone else could do it justice.)

Mad Max: Fury Road is the gift that keeps on giving: Feminist Mad Max

Paco de Lucía: A Journey

this seems to be my year for choosing high-context documentaries. Paco de Lucía was a Spanish flamenco guitarist. the performance footage in this is great (if you dig flamenco guitar, and i do). unfortunately, i had missed the part in the description about how this was made by his son.* so, it's in Spanish (sure, fine) and it spends an inordinate amount of time showing the guy playing and saying repeatedly that he pissed off traditional flamenco artists. unfortunately, i have no idea what he did that was so revolutionary because i guess i am supposed to know exactly what is and is not traditional flamenco. (i'm a fan of a dude from Toronto, what do i know?) also, there was this footage of him on tv being asked which hand is more important when you play the guitar. and his answer was a big deal...took me a few minutes to realize that this was coded political speech during the Franco dictatorship. (would have loved a discussion of his ability to travel on tour so extensively when the country was so isolated.) there's also an assumption that we know the songs and the bands that he was known for. i am so not the audience for this film. on the other hand, i am listening to him on Rhapsody right now.

*yet oddly, stuff about the family is missing. we see his brother was his singer and then at some point he disappears, never explained. and there seem to be children, including one that is under 10, but there is no mention of a first or second wife or girlfriend.

Being Evel

Biopic of Evel Knievel that appears to be produced by an arm of the History Channel. Great production values and use of archival footage. They do some nice stuff with projections to liven up the talking heads portions. i couldn't help but feel that the film was made just in time as everyone who was there is aging and did some hard living. The film is clearly aimed at people who don't remember the seventies, and maybe don't know more than his name. it succeeds admirably at maintaining a level of suspense about how each milestone stunt would go. cool both as a sports doc and as a window into a world where everyone "rushed home from church to turn on Wide World of Sports". watch for it on tv or your favorite streaming service.

The Cut

Because I go to SIFF,  I have a favorite Turkish - German director. Therefore  The Cut was required viewing. A man loses his family during the Armenian genocide, then goes on a global adventure to find them. The whole thing is complicated by the titular cut that robs him of his voice. (Of course it's all a metaphor too, but the story at surface level is compelling enough.) Lots of stuff to chew on. I went home and read more about the history while I medicated with pizza and cuddles. I dug it. Extra points for having kind and unkind people in every culture.


Documentary about the Roland 808 drum machine. Great interstitial graphics, tons of music and talking head musicians, a bit overlong. But oh, it's so sweet to see a pair of Beastie Boys telling a story together and bickering like an old married couple. If you enjoy those docs where musicians get all excited about that thing they did in the studio one time, you'll dig this.

Handmade with Love in France

Charming portrait of the world of artisans who work for the great couture houses of France. I enjoyed learning more about how fabric is pleated and hat molds made. The subjects call themselves dinosaurs, and they are. (As an aside,  the women who buy couture are creepy. They all had collagen lips and ironed hair and impossible shoes.)

One Million Dubliners
Documentary about a huge cemetery in Dublin. At this point there are more people buried there than there are people living in the city. It didn't quite work for me; I would have liked a film focused on the social history of the place (all religions are allowed and it includes luminaries from both sides of their civil war, it fell into disrepair for a while) or the occupational present (it's supported by tourism, but is still a working cemetery with multiple interments and chapel services every day) but it's a rambling thing that includes a long sequence with some French woman who has a crush on Michael Collins (also including her Vietnamese best friend's beliefs about mortality and the afterlife). So we saw that, but we never saw a before picture of the disrepair they talked about. Here's a bit about the area of unhallowed ground for unbaptized babies and practices around disposing of children's bodies; here's a much longer sequence where an employee talks about her stillbirth. The film I wanted to see is probably lying on the cutting room floor. Maybe it's super-cool if you're immersed in Irish history and culture. Meh.

A North African windsurfer tries to windsurf to Europe. Loved the slice of life stuff in his village, loved the ocean and the windsurfing, loved his problem solving, loved the sequences of him fighting with the environment. BUT I spent the entire film trying to figure out what his familial relationship was to this one little girl in town that he clearly loves, and if he really was going to Europe because he had a crush on his windsurfing buddy's girlfriend. I have no idea if he lived or died or made it to Europe because the film just ends.

I could have asked the director at the Q&A afterward, but instead i went to Folklife and met up with C and mimerki. I got to eat fair food, and people watch, and sing along with sea shanties.

Then I continued on to the first home Sounders game in forever. i had a great time* except for the disgusting can of cider i bought. Johnny Appleseed cider involves apple concentrate, added sugar (twice), and caramel coloring. and it tastes like that. gross.

*you know you are a sportsball fan when you don't get bored with a scoreless tie.

Mad Max: Fury Road

I didn't want to see anything that was playing in Seattle at SIFF this afternoon, so C and I saw Fury Road.



The Farewell Party

An Israeli comedy/drama about a euthanasia machine. Almost all the good parts were in the trailer. The acting is quite good, and I delighted in the cultural milieu. I didn't delight in the drama, about a woman sinking into dementia. (This is one of my automatic nopes when I'm scheduling my festival - no Alzheimer's, no mentally challenged family members, nothing described as "hypnotic".) As a whole it didn't quite hang together. Bummer, since the character writing was great and I loved the cast.


Doc about the Cliburn competition, where the best young pianists in the world compete for prizes including three seasons of tours, a recording contact, and cash.
It's a fine example of the competition narrative, and both the people and the performances are great. It was made for PBS, looking forward to my parents being able to see it.


Queen of the Surface Streets
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