Friday, May 23, 2008

SIFF opens with a whimper

First, some good news: Michael's latest Idolator piece in which he exposes his family to the Billboard Top 10 is absolutely wonderful.

Now for the not-so-good news: This year's SIFF Opening Gala was easily the worst in my Seattle experience (my first opener was in 2003). The movie, Battle in Seattle, was expectedly bad: simplistic, melodramatic, manipulative to the point of being propagandist, and predictable to the point of being kind of boring (and stuffed with embarrassingly obvious speechifying, some of it righteous in content but all of it self-righteous in tone). The party, on the other hand, was bad in ways that weren't as expected: There was no free booze (not that I had any, free or not, but I was outraged on behalf of my peeps who did), the whole thing was not very well attended, the music on the dance floor was noticeably stale, the films-projected-on-the-walls choices were uninspired, the venue was kind of depressing (partly because it was the subterranean Exhibition Hall, partly because its size made apparent how few people were there), and the food was either in short supply and almost entirely meat-based (the savory stuff) or disgustingly overabundant (the cake, which admittedly was pretty good -- but isn't the thing you want in overabundance). The VIP folks in their gated party community got to indulge in sushi and other healthy goodies, while we plebes waited an eternity for soggy egg rolls and, again, more cake than any human should consume at a single event. In accordance with the movie's theme of rebellion against the capitalist overclass, I proposed that we link arms and chant "The people united will never be divided!" until they let us into the VIP area, but alas, no one else was willing.

One highlight of the event: Watching my movie-star crush, Michelle Rodriguez, answer Serious Questions ("Did your involvement in Battle in Seattle inspire you to change your lifestyle?") with a combination of vacuousness ("I drive a Prius now!") and quasi-maniacal laughter. On the other hand, if André Benjamin had been any more awesome, his awesomeness might have caused the space-time continuum to telescope and dissolve. It's always nice to see André. He was wearing a large-brimmed hat and a denim sport jacket, plus jeans with deep cuffs. He's my kind of movie star.

The film did include a bunch of Seattle locations, which was gratifying (Cinerama! The Paramount! Zeek's!), and one scene with Charlize Theron was actually quite intense, but overall the movie was ugly to look at and dramatically amateurish (the writing was more at fault than the acting, but then again the cinematography was pretty poor, too). Its Afterschool Special-style earnestness was sweet, though, and it did make me want to do something unequivocally good for the world, like go down to New Orleans and help rebuild the city.

I'm not counting SIFF out just yet, though. Either tomorrow or Sunday I hope to see The Fall, which Geoff tells me is visually sumptuous, as I'd hoped it would be. And while I'm enjoying the flexible hours and fringe benefits of unemployment, I might as well pan for a bit more movie gold. After all, once I'm on the road (or whatever it is I'm doing next), there'll be no more Egyptian, no more Harvard Exit, no more -- sigh -- SIFF Cinema. Gotta log the popcorn hours while I can.

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