The Best Movies on Seattle Screens in 2016 (So Far)

Since it is the halfway point of the year, I ran a quick poll of the primary contributors to Seattle Screens Scene to find out their picks for the best movies to play theatrically (or at SIFF) for the first time in the city this year. These are the results:

Mountains-May-Depart-4

Mike Strenski:

  1. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
  2. My Golden Days (Arnold Desplechin)
  3. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)
  4. Three (Johnnie To)
  5. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)
  6. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  7. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan)
  8. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)

homepage_Sunset-Song-2016

Melissa Tamminga:

  1. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
  2. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  3. Love and Friendship (Whit Stillman)
  4. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  5. Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Koreeda)
  6. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)
  7. Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen)
  8. Long Way North (Remi Chaye)
  9. I Am Belfast (Mark Cousins)
  10. Under the Sun (Vitaliy Manskiy)

SPL 2 Simon Yam and Wu Jing

Jhon Hernandez:

  1. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  2. Everybody Wants Some!!! (Richard Linklater)
  3. Fan (Maneesh Sharma)
  4. Three (Johnnie To)
  5. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)

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Sean Gilman:

  1. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)
  2. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
  3. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  4. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  5. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan)
  6. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  7. Three (Johnnie To)
  8. Everybody Wants Some!!! (Richard Linklater)
  9. Hail, Caesar! (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  10. The Mermaid (Stephen Chow)

Out 1

Seema Pai:

  1. Out 1: Noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette)
  2. No Home Movie (Chantal Ackerman)
  3. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  4. The Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
  5. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  6. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  7. Three (Johnnie To)
  8. Fan (Mannish Sharma)
  9. Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
  10. My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin)
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Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, 2016)

hank and manny on beach

(NOTE: I also reviewed this film with Adam Kempenaar on the Filmspotting podcast, when I was a guest host for the show. You can take a listen here.) 

It isn’t a new idea, the idea that mental health and happiness are related to accepting yourself as you are. We could reference Free To Be You and Me, that album of the 70’s that challenged gender norms and promoted a celebration of individuality –

Come with me, take my hand, and we’ll run
To a land where the river runs free
To a land through the green country
 . . .
 To a land where the children are free
 And you and me are free to be

Don’t be afraid, the song encourages children. There’s no shame in anything that you are. Just be yourself. Celebrate that.

It’s a message that you can find everywhere now.  Children’s movies, in particular, often contain some version of this idea. If you have short term memory loss like Dory in Finding Dory, if you’re a bunny like Judy Hopps in Zootopia, you are still just as important, just as valuable as anybody else.

In Swiss Army Man, the debut feature film from Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, we have a return to this essential kind of story and these themes. It centers on a man called Hank (Paul Dano), who can’t live with himself anymore. He’s alone, literally and figuratively. He feels bad about life, he feels bad about himself. He feels like “broken,” “dirty,” “trash.” He lacks the courage to seek out a relationship with the woman he admires. He’s ashamed of his desires and his own corporeal reality. And that’s his basic problem. He can’t stand himself and his disgusting body and “weird,” disgusting self.  The film’s journey is, then, about the way he struggles with coming to terms with himself and all of the weird, gross, socially unacceptable bits.

So far, so good.  And so far, a lot like something we’ve seen or heard before.

The film has received attention though for the conceit it employs to tell its story. You’ve probably heard about it already: it’s the farting corpse movie.  The story isolates Hank in the wilderness and gives him a dead body for a companion (Daniel Radcliffe), a companion whose most socially uncomfortable bodily functions take center stage. It is through his interactions with this embarrassing corpse, whose name is Manny, and a very literal dealing with bodily functions, that Hank has to face himself. In Manny, he sees his corporeal, death-fated human reality, and ultimately, must decide, whether or not he will reject it or embrace it. Continue reading Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, 2016)”

Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)

 women in underwear

“You ever have a girl screw you out of a job?”
“Yes.”
“What did you do?”
“I ate her.”

Early in Nicholas Winding Refn’s new film, Neon Demon, Jesse (Elle Fanning), a pretty young hopeful from the Midwest and a new arrival to L.A, walks back to her room, down the long balcony corridor of the seedy Pasadena motel where she’s staying. The lighting is lurid, the corridor horribly dark, and when Jesse arrives at her door and the grungy looking lock sticks, an initial feeling of unease rises to panic. Finally force opening the door, she feels for the light, switches it on. Only it doesn’t switch on, and we sense Something is waiting for her in her room. It thuds and moves, and Jesse screams and flees, back down the dark passage. She arrives at a hotel manager’s metal-mesh screen door and cries out for help. A dark, indiscernible figure appears behind the screen, and instead of the relief of the presence of another human being, here, it seems, is another threat. Even when the manager’s figure shifts into the light and we see his face, the menace does not lessen. Hank (Keanu Reeves) leers at Jesse, and when he finally yells for a friend, and the two men escort Jesse back to her room, we fear for her. The men hem her in as they walk, one going before her, one behind. The one in front casually rips away what looks like “Police Do Not Cross” tape. There’s a creeping horror, as we think, Jesse, this naïve innocent, must get out, must get away – and yet she walks on.

Jesse’s room, the three discover when they arrive, has been ransacked by a mountain lion; as the men beat the door open, breaking that sticking lock, the cat looms out of the darkness, a prowling lithe presence. Hank, infuriated, blames Jesse for the destruction of her room. She, he insists, brought the thing into the room. It’s a charge that is horribly unfair; Jesse, surely obviously, didn’t bring the cat into her room. She’s simply an unsophisticated Midwest girl who didn’t realize wild animals roam the hills around L.A., sometimes eating house cats or small pets left outside for the night. Maybe they even enter one’s home at times if a screen door is left open.  Poor Jesse. She doesn’t get it. Continue reading Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)”

Three (Johnnie To, 2016)

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This guest review comes courtesy of critic Jaime Grijalba.

I’m not an expert on Johnnie To, nor do I pretend to be one. Not because I don’t find him interesting, and I will end up watching his entire filmography before too long. I’m wary of clogging the feed of the many people who are unaware of his talents with my half-assed thoughts, especially when there are so many critics and fans that have spent way more time than I’d ever spend examining and studying the style and everything that surrounds the films of To and his Milkyway Image studio. So, with all that I’ve said, what lead me to write about the latest film from one of the most well-regarded Asian directors of the past two decades?

Continue reading Three (Johnnie To, 2016)”

The Frances Farmer Show #10: Three and Shock Corridor

This week Mike and Sean, for the third time, trek out to downtown Seattle to catch the opening night of the new Johnnie To film, the hospital-set thriller Three, with Louis Koo, Zhao Wei and Wallace Chung. Paired with it is another thriller set in a hospital, Samuel Fuller’s 1963 Shock Corridor, about a journalist who goes undercover in a mental institution and comes unglued.

You can listen to the show by downloading it directly, or by subscribing on iTunes or the podcast player of your choice.

A Correction:

Philip Ahn, who played Dr. Hong in Shock Corridor, was Korean-American, not Chinese American.

Friday June 24 – Thursday June 30

Featured Film:

Everything, I guess

Each week in this space I pick a movie or series to highlight one of the necessary film events of the week on Seattle Screens, but this week it’s simply impossible to choose. There is an embarrassment of greatness in theatres this week, more than I’ve seen in the year and a half history of this website. The Northwest Film Forum not only has Kaili Blues, one of the very best films of 2015, an audacious debt from Chinese director Bi Gan, and Touki Bouki, a classic of African cinema, but also a 35mm print of John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. SIFF not only has a mini-retrospective of some of Brian De Palma’s greatest films to accompany their presentation of the new documentary about him, but they’re also playing the greatest Shakespeare film ever made, Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight. The Grand Illusion is bringing back Belladonna of Sadness, The Grand has a two nights only show of King Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn, the Central Cinema is playing ET and Aliens and, oh yeah, the Pacific Place has the premiere of Johnnie To’s latest Three. And there’s more: from Raman Raghav 2.0 to Willy Wonka to last year’s Palme d’Or winning Dheepan to continuing runs of The Lobster and Love & Friendship. My best advice to you is to take the week off work and just watch some movies.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Proof of Innocence (Kwon Jong-kwan) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) Fri-Mon
Aliens (James Cameron, 1986) Fri-Mon

Century Federal Way:

Udta Punjab (Abhishek Chaubey) Fri-Thurs
Sardaarji 2 (Rohit Jugraj Chauhan) Fri-Thurs
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Dark Horse (Louise Osmond) Fri-Thurs
Dragon Gate Inn (King Hu, 1967) Fri & Sat Only Our Review 
Hockney (Randall Wright) Tues Only
We the People 2.0 (Leila Conners) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Lady Battle Cop (Akihisa Okamoto, 1990) Sat Only VHS
Convergence and Cacophony: Experimental Documents from Dustin Zemel Tues Only
Re-Sounding: Imagining Within and Beyond the Sonic Sphere Weds Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Dheepan (Jacques Audiard) Fri-Thurs
Weiner (Josh Kriegman) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Oka Manasu (Ramaraju Gottimukkala) Fri-Thurs
Raman Raghav 2.0 (Anurag Kashyap) Fri-Thurs
Te3n (Ribhu Dasgupta) Fri-Thurs
Udta Punjab (Abhishek Chaubey) Fri-Thurs
Gentleman (Mohan Krishna Indraganti) Fri-Thurs
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Genius (Michael Grandage) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Touki Bouki (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1973) Fri-Sun
Kaili Blues (Bi Gan) Fri-Sun
School’s Out Screening of Best of Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2016 Sun Only
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976) Weds Only 35mm
And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead (Billy Woodberry) Starts Weds
Eurovision: Iconic Song Performances Thurs Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Three (Johnnie To) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Paramount Theatre:

Why Be Good? (William A. Seiter, 1929) Mon Only

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs

Landmark Seven Gables:

Genius (Michael Grandage) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Obsessions: Classic De Palma Fri-Thurs Full Program Discounted Admission

Sundance Cinemas:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
The Duel (Kieran Darcy-Smith) Fri-Thurs
The Idol (Hany Abu-Assad) Fri-Thurs
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, 1965) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
De Palma (Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Music of Strangers (Morgan Neville) Fri-Thurs
The Dog Film Festival Sun Only

Varsity Theatre:

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Weds Only

De Palma (Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow, 2015)

Brian-De-Palma-in-De-Palma-Documentary

Coinciding with the release of a new documentary about the director from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, the SIFF Film Center is playing a mini-retrospective of Brian De Palma’s films this weekend, June 24-26. Certified Classics Phantom of the Paradise, Carrie, Obsession, Blow Out, Body Double, Scarface and Carlito’s Way present a neat cross-section of some of his Best Work, and they’re all playing digitally at a discounted ticket price (and free for members).

Continue reading De Palma (Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow, 2015)”

Friday June 17 – Thursday June 23

Featured Film:

Sunset Song at the SIFF Uptown

After helping launch the Seattle International Film Festival a mere four weeks ago, Terence Davies adaptation of the classic Scots novel is back for a week-long run at the Uptown. It’s a gorgeous inversion of Hollywood women’s melodrama. Sure, his heroine Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) suffers considerably, but where the Golden Age classics trafficked in schadenfreude at the sufferings of their independent women, Davies finds absolution in Chris’s determined resistance to the patriarchal psychoses that possess first her father then her husband. An Old World rebuke to American solipsism: tomorrow is not another day–only the land endures. Our full review.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Wailing (Na Hong-jin) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Bound (The Wachowskis, 1996) Fri-Mon
Xanadu (Robert Greenwald, 1980) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Twist of Pride Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program
Out & In: Pride Comedy Showcase with Nico Santos Tues Only
Peaches Christ’s “Whatever Happened to Bianca Del Rio?” Thurs Only

Century Federal Way:

Udta Punjab (Abhishek Chaubey) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Dark Horse (Louise Osmond) Fri-Thurs
I am Thalente (Natalie Johns) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Other Side (Roberto Minervi) Fri-Thurs

Landmark Guild 45th:

Dark Horse (Louise Osmond) Fri-Thurs
Weiner (Josh Kriegman) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
A…Aa (Trivikram Srinivas) Fri-Thurs
Te3n (Ribhu Dasgupta) Fri-Thurs
Udta Punjab (Abhishek Chaubey) Fri-Thurs
Gentleman (Mohan Krishna Indraganti) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Genius (Michael Grandage) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Jeremy Coon & Tim Skousen, 2015/Eric Zala, 1989) Fri-Sun Double Feature
The Long Haul (Amy Enser) Sat Only Live, Interactive Performance
Touki Bouki
 (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1973) Starts Weds
Kaili Blues (Bi Gan) Starts Thurs
Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959) Thurs Only

AMC Oak Tree:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review

AMC Pacific Place:

Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs

Paramount Theatre:

The Flapper (Alan Crosland, 1920) Mon Only

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Housefull 3 (Sajid-Farhad) Fri-Thurs
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs

Landmark Seven Gables:

Genius (Michael Grandage) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Honeyglue (James Bird, 2014) Fri-Thurs Filmmakers in Attendance Fri & Sat

Sundance Cinemas:

Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs
Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller) Fri-Thurs
Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari) Fri-Thurs
Clown (Jon Watts) Fri-Thurs
Gurukulam (Jillian Elizabeth & Neil Dalal) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Sunset Song (Terence Davies) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
The Last King (Nils Gaup) Fri-Thurs
Best of SIFF 2016 Fri-Thurs Full Program

SIFF 2016: Sunset Song (Terence Davies, 2015)

Chris's wedding song

I’ve heard the liltin at oor yowe-milkin,
Lassies a-liltin before break o day
Now there’s a moanin on ilka green loanin –
The Flooers o the Forest are a’ wede awa
 . . .
We hear nae mair liltin at oor yowe-milkin
Women and bairnies are heartless and wae
Sighin and moanin on ilka green loanin –
The Flooers of the Forest are a’ wede awa
            From “The Flooers of the Forest” (read in full and/or listen to the song here.)

At the center of Terence Davies’s new film, Sunset Song, adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 book of the same title, is a wedding. It is a modest affair, a barn for its stage, humble farming folk its participants. It is a celebration of love, a communal joyful gathering, a candle-bright warm pocket in the middle of a dark, snowy New Year’s Eve. And when the bride, Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), sees the barn, prepared by her friends, she says, delighted, “It is like a picture book.” And it is.

In the midst of the merriment, the company calls for a song from the bride, and she sits at their center and sings. It is a sunset song, glowing in the deep colors of grief for the day that has gone, a song for the dead, a song of mourners. It is “Flooers of the Forest,” traditionally a tune played by pipers to commemorate those Scots lost in battle.  A strange choice, it might seem at first, for a wedding, but a choice that gets at the heart of this story, this place, this people, and at the heart of Chris herself. A mournful song is itself a thing of intrinsic paradox: the beauty of its words or music sit, impossibly, within the grief. The song might seem, to a strictly literal mind, to devalue the grief by the very beauty, and yet it is not a devaluation. The grief itself is more grievous, the deeper the beauty of the song. And so such a song defies the intellect, bowing to mystery. Continue reading “SIFF 2016: Sunset Song (Terence Davies, 2015)”