Friday December 30 – Thursday January 5

Featured Film:

Elle at the Seven Gables

I can’t think of any better way to say farewell to 2016 than with Isabelle Huppert and Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, a singular film and the narrow winner in this year’s Seattle Film Poll, a good riddance to this disaster of a year if ever there was one. It’s not exactly a dark comedy, but neither is it a brutish nightmare of a rape-revenge film. I think it’s about the struggle to maintain control over one’s life, about not letting anything that happens to you define you. It leaves open the question of whether that striving for independence is ultimately dehumanizing or, paradoxically, what makes us human in the first place. No more challenging or upsetting film has been released this year.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964) Fri Only Sing-along
Titanic (James Cameron, 1991) Mon & Tues Only

SIFF Egyptian:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
The Eyes of My Mother (Nicolas Pesce) Fri-Sat Only
Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (Lonny Price) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

By Sidney Lumet (Nancy Buirski) Fri-Thurs
Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975) Sun & Thurs Only 35mm

Landmark Guild 45th:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Intlo Deyyam Nakem Bhayam (G. Nageswara Reddy) Fri-Thurs
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs
Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs
The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs

Seven Gables:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Fri, Sun, Mon Quote-along
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Fri-Mon In Smell-O-Vision

Sundance Cinemas:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) Sat Only New Year’s Eve Party

In Wide Release:

Fences (Denzel Washington) Our Review
La La Land (Damien Chazelle) Our Review
Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel) Our Review
Moonlight 
(Barry Jenkins)  Our Review
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

2016 Year in Review: Part 4

elaine-love-witch

And here we are, the end of the end. Only two brave writers left standing, willing to take on my weakest questions. It’s all a bit deflating but so was this year. If you missed the past three days of erudite discussion, please head here.

Q: We’ve talked about the disappointment of blockbusters but what about genre pictures with more meager budgets? La La Land is playing now and receiving fairly positive praise despite the burden foisted upon it by the media to singlehandedly revive the Hollywood musical. This year saw its usual share of modest westerns and the occasional horror surprise. For my money, Green Room was a solid siege picture that I’m eager to revisit now that I think it presciently captured my emotional state on election night. And the Coens’ wonderful Hail, Caesar! was a great genre picture because it was a picture about genres. What do you think, which genre was best served in 2016?

Continue reading “2016 Year in Review: Part 4”

2016 Year in Review: Part 3

cemeteryofsplendor_trailer1

Our autopsy on the still-living body of 2016 continues with a discussion about the year’s best performances. Our previous entries tackled themes and surprises.

Q: As a rank-and-file auteurist, I often fail to adequately acknowledge onscreen work when writing about film. There are exceptions of course. I was quick to acknowledge Zhao Tao’s generous performance as one of the great strengths of Mountains May Depart. I am thankful that wonderful film saw a belated release in Seattle because I can include it in my year-end write-ups (especially since I am woefully behind in the bumper crop of Oscar bait currently invading theatres). Which 2016 performances stood out to you?

Continue reading “2016 Year in Review: Part 3”

2016 Year in Review: Part 2

the-fits

All week long we are taking a look back at the year in film. Yesterday’s discussion of cinematic trends can be found here.

Q: Going into a new year, we all have the films we are eagerly anticipating, but when we look back twelve months later it’s often the surprises that stick with us, the films we knew nothing about or didn’t expect much from that end up making the biggest impact. What film(s) snuck up on you this year, be they works by first-time directors or someone you wrote off long ago, that you will cherish in the years to come?

Continue reading “2016 Year in Review: Part 2”

2016 Year in Review: Part 1

love-and-friendship-06

To wrap 2016 up in a neat little bow before drowning it in the river, we decided to convene a virtual round table with several Seattle Screen Scene contributors. As expected, everyone wrote way too much so this discussion will be parceled out over the course of the week.

Q: Film nerds are often looking for patterns in the chaos and the end of the year always brings out the think pieces on the cinematic themes of the last 12 months. This year was no different. Dispatches from VIFF highlighted a preponderance of poetry in film, with Paterson, Neruda, and others. Recently I liked connecting the quest for love in Knight of Cups and The Love Witch through Tarot cards. What other patterns or significant trends did you notice this year? Anything flying under the radar of the hive mind? 

Continue reading “2016 Year in Review: Part 1”

Fences (Denzel Washington, 2016)

fences

Fences is, quite understandably, inextricable from the acclaimed play by August Wilson that it was adapted from. Though it was only published in 1983, it has been continually lauded and produced over the past thirty years, earning Wilson both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award and being placed in high school English classes across the country (including one attended by yours truly). So, it is both wise and unwise of director and star Denzel Washington (who also won a Tony for the same role in 2010) to stick as closely to the content of the play for his adaptation. Aside from a few montages in between the acts of the play (though of course this delineation isn’t explicitly stated), restagings of scenes, and one brief scene without dialogue, Washington stays doggedly faithful, producing a film that manages to both feel like its own work while feeling a certain absence.

The greatest asset that Fences possesses is its lead, Troy Maxson (Washington), a garbageman living in Pittsburgh with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo). It revolves around him; virtually every character mentioned or seen is first met through him. This isn’t to say that the characters don’t have their own aspirations or defining traits, but he is the anchor, almost literally in some cases, that grounds and strengthens the film. Washington takes to this role with almost too much vigor, infusing him with both an overflowing braggadocio and a more intriguing brand of tenderness, prone to anger and pride but also clearly caring in his own gruff manner. As a result, the movie is nearly thrown off balance in its struggle to keep up with his tremendously dynamic performance, often racing through various moods and modes in the same scene.

Continue reading Fences (Denzel Washington, 2016)”

Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel, 2016)

assassin's creed

Assassin’s Creed‘s principal visual motif, that of the same eagle seemingly flying all over the world in multiple different time periods, feels as head-slappingly obvious yet needlessly convoluted as the film it stitches together. Said film, of course, is in the long-standing tradition of movies based on video games that almost invariably fail to attract critical support (the only probable exceptions are the Resident Evil films by Paul W.S. Anderson and Takashi Miike’s Ace Attorney), but this particular incarnation’s failure is more puzzling than usual. Directed by Justin Kurzel, who helmed last year’s lurid but tedious adaptation of Macbeth, and featuring many returning collaborators from cinematographer Adam Arkapaw to lead actors Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, Assassin’s Creed possesses the talent to become a dynamic and thrilling movie. But it feels hampered by many aspects, neither embracing its video game origins nor providing any sort of compelling reason to exist.

Though the movie essentially takes place two timelines, and most of the physical action is set in 1492, it primarily follows the story of Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a convicted criminal sentenced to death, in present-day Spain. After undergoing a fake execution, he is brought to an organization known as Abstergo Industries and, under the supervision of Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Cotillard) and her father and CEO Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons), is connected to a device called the Animus. The contraption allows Callum to relive the memories of his ancestor Aguilar, a member of a group of assassins that has continually opposed the Templar Order, so that he may help Abstergo find the Apple of Eden, an ancient artifact that purportedly would allow the owner to control the free will of the entire human race.

Continue reading Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel, 2016)”

Friday December 23 – Thursday December 29

Featured Film:

Elle at the Seven Gables

It’s Isabelle Huppert’s year and I can’t think of any better way to spend this holiday weekend than with her and Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, a singular film and the narrow winner in this year’s Seattle Film Poll, it’s sure to give you and the family something to talk about over Christmas dinner. It’s not exactly a dark comedy, but neither is it a brutish nightmare of a rape-revenge film. I think it’s about the struggle to maintain control over one’s life, about not letting anything that happens to you define you. It leaves open the question of whether that striving for independence is ultimately dehumanizing or, paradoxically, what makes us human in the first place. No more challenging or upsetting film has been released this year. Go ahead and pair it with Huppert’s more elegantly sublime performance in Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come, which plays for two more days this week, on Friday and Saturday at the Sundance Cinemas.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964) Mon-Fri Sing-along

SIFF Egyptian:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Sat Only
Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979) Mon Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Fri-Thurs 35mm

Landmark Guild 45th:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs
Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs
The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

The Wasted Times (Cheng Er) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs
Befikre (Aditya Chopra) Fri-Thurs
The Super Parental Guardians (Joyce E. Bernal) Fri-Thurs

Seven Gables:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Mon-Thurs Quote-along
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Fri, Sat, Mon-Thurs In Smell-O-Vision
White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954) Fri-Sat Only Sing-along

Sundance Cinemas:

Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve) Fri-Sat Only Our Review Our Other Review
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Sat Only
Fiddler On the Roof (Norman Jewison, 1971) Sun Only With Chinese Takeout and Live Klezmer Music

In Wide Release:

La La Land (Damien Chazelle) Our Review
Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel) Our Review
Moonlight 
(Barry Jenkins)  Our Review
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

The 2016 Seattle Film Poll

4b7f857ba784b61fe0a2cf55a99ce0bf

Once again this year, we here at Seattle Screen Scene asked a selection of local critics, programmers, and filmmakers to send us their Top Ten lists for the year and in an extremely close race, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle just edged out Barry Jenkins’s MoonlightMountains May Depart, from Chinese director Jia Zhangke tied with Whit Stillman’s Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship for third place, while Kirsten Johnson’s documentary Cameraperson took fifth.

Here is our Top Ten:

cannes-2016-elle-de-paul-verhoeven-isabelle-huppert-au-sommet-de-l-ambiguite-veneneusem337768

1. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

moonlight-barry-jenkins-film-roundtable

2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

love-and-friendship-06

3. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)

image-mountains-may

3. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)

cameraperson-1-620x349

5. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)

cemeteryofsplendor04_0

6. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

virj2gbwug2xvs_3_hd

6. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)

screen_shot_2016-04-04_at_7-10-05_pm_large

8. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (aka Kill Zone 2) (Soi Cheang)

the-love-witch-is-the-camp-murderous-horror-anna-billers-body-image-1478862594

9. The Love Witch (Anna Biller)

hell-or-high-water-featuredpng-720x340

10. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)

rightnow

10. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo)

Full results are listed after the break, along with each voter’s individual ballot.

Continue reading “The 2016 Seattle Film Poll”

The Wasted Times (Cheng Er, 2016)

thewastedtimes_trailer1

The Wasted Times was originally slated to be released in October of 2015. The film’s trailer has been playing before presentations of Chinese-language films here in North America for at least that long, but the film kept getting pushed back. There was speculation it might make the rounds of the fall film festivals (Vancouver, Toronto, etc) but when that didn’t happen, the film simply dropped off my radar. Then, when putting together the listings for this week, there it was, playing on a single screen, at the AMC Pacific Place, distributed by the good people at China Lion Film. And the movie provides exactly what that trailer promised: a ravishingly odd tale of 1930s Shanghai, interwoven stories of gangsters, actresses and the Japanese military, with superstars Zhang Ziyi and Tadanobu Asano looking impossibly cool and fashionable, all tinged with a self-conscious meta-humor. That last element is provided by an exchange in the middle of the film, reproduced in full in the trailer, when one of the actresses is describing the movie she’s working on to a friend:

Friend: I don’t get it.
Actress: Neither do I. The Director never wants us to get it. This is an art film, made for the 21st Century.
Friend: We’ll all be dead by then. It has nothing to do with us.
Actress: You’re right.

We’ll, fool that I am, I’m going to try to make sense of it anyway. Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading The Wasted Times (Cheng Er, 2016)”