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Five Things to Look Forward to at the 2011 Seattle Film Festival

Five Things to Look Forward to at the 2011 Seattle Film Festival (photo)

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It would be easy to call the Seattle Film Festival a “best of fest,” a collection of the world’s most impressive films culled from nearly every festival that happened since the 36th edition of the festival ended last June. In purely relative terms, Seattle doesn’t boast a ton of world premieres amongst the 441 films they’ll show during the next 25 days, though SIFF definitely has more than most other festivals half their size. Instead, they bring the world to their doorstep with an unparalleled array of international and regional cinema that makes it a rare and precious event unto itself. Unfortunately, I have just a weekend in Pacific Northwest, where I’ll be reporting from over the next week, but given the amount of films we’ve already seen at other festivals, we can certainly make some recommendations for the fest, which kicks off tonight with a premiere of the drama “The First Grader” and continues through June 12th. (A full schedule can be found here.)

– The festival will pay tribute to Ewan McGregor on May 22nd with the “Trainspotting” actor onhand to discuss his career following a screening of his latest film “Beginners,” which will also bring out writer/director Mike Mills. The honor couldn’t come at a more appropriate time since McGregor’s on a roll and not only will the festival show oldies but goodies “The Pillow Book” in advance of his arrival on May 20th and “Moulin Rouge!” on May 22nd, they’re also screening “Perfect Sense,” his latest collaboration with “Young Adam” director David Mackenzie straight from Sundance that’s a romance set against the onset of a worldwide outbreak of a mysterious virus that robs people of their senses. Unfortunately, the festival itself was robbed of its planned tribute to Al Pacino when he was nominated for a Tony Award, so the McGregor tribute will be an even more exclusive opportunity to hear an actor talk about his craft at the fest.

ToyStoryHawaiianVacation_05182011.jpg-The sheer size of the Seattle Film Festival allows for experiences well beyond the average movie. Angelenos already know about the wonders of Shadoe Stevens’ remixes of film soundtracks from his frequent stops at the Cinefamily, but he’ll be treating folks up north to his E.L.O.-scored version of Douglas Fairbanks’ “The Thief of Baghdad” on May 26th. Meanwhile, cinephiles will appreciate the May 28th screening of all 270 minutes of Portuguese director Raul Ruiz’s historical epic “Mysteries of Lisbon” while families will surely crowd the AMC Pacific Place on May 22nd when the festival will have representatives from Pixar onhand to present the American premiere of a new “Toy Story” short “Hawaiian Vacation” as well as footage from “Cars 2.”

However, the two films that I can vouch for as films to catch on the big screen – or in one case, the really big screen – are Sean Casey’s doc “Tornado Alley” (June 4th and 6th), which sees the “Storm Chasers” star take his act to IMAX as he captures the wonder and devastation of being inside the eye of the storm, and Will Eubank’s “Love” (May 21st, 22nd and June 11th), a sci-fi epic scored by Angels & Airwaves that toggles between the grandeur of outer space and the grit of a Civil War battlefield when an astronaut staves off loneliness by reading the journal of a soldier. Both have incredible stories behind them, as interviews I did with Casey and Eubank attest, and are well worth checking out in the special setting only a festival can provide.

Submarine_05182011.jpg– Two films that would’ve made my top 10 list last year if they had opened in the three months after they premiered at the Toronto Film Festival will just have to wait for this year’s list, though audiences in Seattle won’t have to be as patient to see them. This weekend, “IT Crowd” star Richard Ayoade is scheduled to accompany his beautiful and brilliant directorial debut “Submarine” to the festival before it opens in limited release on June 3rd. Of the proud British tradition of “Angry Young Men” films, except for the fact its protagonist is but a mere 15 years old, “Submarine” is a rare coming-of-age story that feels completely original even as it burrows deep into one’s nostalgia for the recounting of Oliver Tate’s first love, which corresponds to the marriage of his parents (Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine) falling apart. The film screens May 20th and 22nd.

And while we’re on the subject of sharply funny and expertly observed films, Seattle will also host Spanish madman Alex de la Iglesia’s latest, “The Last Circus,” which follows the story of a man deigned from his youth to be a sad clown under the big top and seeks revenge for his lowly role as the sidekick to the happy (but evil) clown who keeps the acrobat that the sad clown covets under his thumb. For whatever reason, de la Iglesia hasn’t found the same international acclaim as his compatriot Pedro Almodovar, but he’s quite worthy of comparison both in terms of his skill as a filmmaker and his wild tendencies. “The Last Circus” screens on May 28th and 31st.

Without hesitation, we can also suggest Tom Twyker’s highbrow but slightly sleazy love triangle drama “3 (Drei)” (May 20th and 21st), Mike Ott’s modest fish-out-of-water tale “Littlerock” (May 27th and 28th), Rachid Bouchareb’s Oscar-nominated gangster flick “Outside the Law” (May 20th and 28th), Evan Glodell’s epic breakup thriller “Bellflower” (June 1st and 2nd), Dave Boyle’s lovely, delicate road trip comedy “Surrogate Valentine” (May 29th and 30th), and the Swedish black comedy “The Sound of Noise” (June 5th and 9th) about musical terrorists. In the days ahead, expect many more.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.