The Frances Farmer Show #17: 2017 Year in Review

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Sean, Evan and Ryan get together to talk about some of their favorite movies of 2017. Titles include: Baahubali: The ConclusionThe WorkOn the Beach at Night AloneSleep Has Her HouseGood TimeMother!, Phantom ThreadResident Evil: The Final Chapter, and Lucky.

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

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Friday December 29 – Thursday January 4

Featured Film:

The Road Warrior at the Grand Cinema

If it felt to you like 2017 was some kind of apocalypse, then have I got the chilling vision of things to come in 2018 for you. George Miller’s second movie about Mad Max comes after the end, with Mel Gibson at his most Australian, a lone driver how helps a community escape from the gasoline bandits that have them circling their big rigs. Leaner, more brutish than Miller’s celebrated Fury Road, you can catch it Saturday night only in Tacoma. Just be careful if you’re driving there and back again.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Fri & Sat Only Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings

Century Federal Way:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

The Road Warrior (George Miller, 1981) Sat Only
Song of Granite (Pat Collins) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Permanent (Colette Burson) Fri-Thurs
Wayfinding: Films by Pam Minty Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Velaikkaran (Mohan Raja) Fri-Thurs
Okka Kshanam (VI Anand) Fri-Thurs
Hello (Vikram Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Middle Class Abbayi (Venu Sree Raam) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
The Liquidator (Xu Jizhou) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Bugs (Andreas Johnsen) Weds-Sun
Félicité (Alain Gomis) Thurs-Sun

AMC Pacific Place:

Youth (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs
Ex Files 3 (Tian Yusheng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Other Side of Hope (Aki Kaurismäki) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) Sun Only

In Wide Release:

The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
Downsizing (Alexander Payne) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
The Disaster Artist (James Franco) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

Princess Cyd (2017, Stephen Cone)

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Chicago-based director Stephen Cone has quietly crafted, over the past decade, some of the loveliest films about queerness, faith, and queerness of faith in recent memory. His careful synthesis of exquisitely balanced ensemble casts and a straight-on, vaguely dreamy style makes for films that feel immensely attuned to both their main protagonists and the peripheral characters that fill out their existences. The two films that established his reputation on the American festival circuit, The Wise Kids and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, notably both took place in the distinct milieus of churches and never resorted to one-dimensional or dogmatic views of believers or nonbelievers.

In this regard, Princess Cyd represents something of a departure for Cone. It follows the stories of Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) and her aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence) as the former, a vivacious teen about to enter her high school senior year, visits the latter, a professor and author of some renown, in Chicago for a few weeks. Their relationship is, from the start, playful and dynamic, as the two push and poke at the difference in years, views, and experiences between them. During her short stay, Cyd attends parties – her aunt’s “soirées,” a turn of phrase that does not go unnoticed – explores the city, and embarks upon a tentative relationship with an androgynous barista, Katie (Malic White).

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The Frances Farmer Show #16: The Last Jedi

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We tracked him down and thawed Mike out of his carbonite prison for this special episode all about Star Wars and The Last Jedi. Topics include but are not limited to: Porgs, Galactic capitalism and the flaws inherent in the Republic, Ron Howard, wipes, and Mike’s dog.

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

Downsizing (Alexander Payne, 2017)

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Downsizing begins as a premise: what if the technology existed to shrink people down to five inches tall, while retaining everything else about them? Scarcity would not exactly cease to be a problem, but resources would instantly become vastly more available, as it would require far less in terms of material to feed, clothe, or house a human being. The result is a vast increase in wealth for the shrunken: the middle class instantly transformed into the idle rich. The first third of Alexander Payne’s film follows just such a middle class couple, Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, as they decide to undergo the downsizing process. There are informational meetings with sales reps, goodbye parties with friends and loved ones, and the clinical downsizing process itself, right down to where the shrunken people are gently scooped out of their now-oversized hospital beds with spatulas. Damon’s dream of post-capital luxury however, is crudely broken when he learns that he wife has backed out of the procedure. The resulting divorce leaves him not happily retired in a palatial mansion, but doomed to work as telephone support for Land’s End.

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Friday December 22 – Thursday December 28

Featured Film:

Youth at the Regal Meridian

It’s a Wonderful Life continues this week on 35mm at the Grand Illusion, and one of the year’s finest films, Call Me By Your Name opens this week in limited release, but if, like me, you’re burnt out on end-of-the-year awards contenders and you’ve already seen all the half-dozen Christmas movies that have been rotating from theatre to theatre around town for the past month, then you should check out Feng Xiaogang’s Youth, now playing in its second week exclusively at the Meridian. It’s set in a military arts troupe at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, centering on a pair of performers: a young dancer from unfortunate circumstances who gets bullied by the other women in the group and a generous young man who goes on to active military service. More of a traditional melodrama than other Cultural Revolution stories like Jia Zhangke’s Platform or Jiang Wen’s In the Heat of the Sun, it’s got some impressive performance sequences (stirring patriotic marches and ballet dancers slinging AK-47s) that at its best recalls Amy Sherman-Palladino’s great and much-missed TV series Bunheads.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Fri & Sat Only
Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Tues & Weds Only Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings

Century Federal Way:

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (Kim Yong-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Die Hard (John McTeirnan, 1988) Sat Only
Oddball and the Penguins (Stuart McDonald) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

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

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Hello (Vikram Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Middle Class Abbayi (Venu Sree Raam) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Sat Only
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Youth (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Tiger Zinda Hai (Ali Abbas Zafar) Fri-Thurs
Unexpectedly Yours (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun Only

AMC Seattle:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Bleeding Steel (Leo Zhang) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Rare Exports (Jalmari Helander, 2010) Fri-Sun
White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954) Fri-Sun Sing-Along

Regal Thornton Place:

Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Sat Only
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun Only

SIFF Uptown:

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Fiddler on the Roof (Norman Jewison, 1971) Mon Only

In Wide Release:

The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review
Downsizing (Alexander Payne) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
The Disaster Artist (James Franco) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review
Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie, 2017)

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The latest installment in the Pitch Perfect franchise, about an all-female competitive a cappella group, is as delightfully unpretentious a comedy as one is likely to find these days coming out of Hollywood. Gone are the obnoxious and dull men who cluttered up the fun of the first two films with bland romantic subplots. Missing as well is the undercurrent of loneliness and failure that made the first film (about the unnatural drive to fit in with a group) and the second (about the power of female friendship) surprisingly emotionally resonant. Instead, this time around the young women (college students no longer) find themselves whisked away from their dull entry-level jobs and into a globe-trotting USO show, which offers a chance at international intrigue that, weirdly enough, turns a goofy comedy about singing into the best Fast and the Furious movie of 2017.

Much funnier than the previous two films, the comedy in Pitch Perfect 3 is almost entirely verbal, disregarding the gross-out jokes of prior films. Much of it is in the form of call-backs, but not simply references to earlier, funnier jokes (as in Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons), but in knowing, muttered asides building on our knowledge of the various characters and the films’ structures. (Missing as well is the questionable characterization of the group’s lone Hispanic member, an immigrant from Guatemala. The film’s one reference to her home country is merely a setup for one of the year’s finest puns). The Bellas classic riff-off game is turned in on itself when they challenge their fellow musicians on the tour, the bizarre rituals of competitive a cappella increasingly absurd in a real world where people can make music with things that aren’t their mouths. Anna Kendrick again leads the way, deadpanning her way through what amounts to the film’s emotional crisis: whether to take an opportunity at solo stardom or remain with the group. While Rebel Wilson finds herself in the middle of an action movie plot, with her estranged father, John Lithgow (the anti-music dad from Footloose) as antagonist. Her series of fights at the climax successfully, I kid you not, calls back to some of Michael Hui’s finest work. The music is much the same as always, though the Bellas are at least this time blissfully free of internal or musical conflict: they function as a team and through years of experience are not lacking in confidence, merely opportunity. No performance has yet matched Kendrick’s chilling “When I’m Gone” from the first film, but the finales have gotten better with every movie, and this one’s choice of song couldn’t be more, well, perfect.

The Shape of Water (2017, Guillermo del Toro)

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Evaluating a film based upon the awards it has won or is expected to win is, by its very nature, a dubious endeavor. The tastes of a particular organization or festival (especially one whose jury is reconfigured every year) are fickle and often unreliable in selecting the very best films in competition. But the case of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water presents a curious case. As the winner of the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and an unabashedly romantic fantasy, it represents a sharp break with the winners of the past few years. The previous recipient of the prestigious award was a typically protracted, ascetic effort from Lav Diaz, and in general the tastes of the festival juries have tended towards the more extreme ends of the arthouse.

The Shape of Water, by contrast, lies as close to the mainstream as a film dedicated to an interspecies romance can. Set in early Cold War-era Baltimore, it follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a woman who works the cleaning night shift at a governmental research facility. Rendered mute as a child, her existence is simple but fulfilling, with companionship found in her fellow janitor Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her neighbor Giles (Richard Spencer), a closeted advertising artist. Into this cozy existence comes two distinctly separate, equally emblematic forces: an amphibian creature (Doug Jones) revered in the South American jungle as a god, with whom Elisa quickly develops a longing rapport and attraction born out of common loneliness, and Strickland (Michael Shannon), the authoritarian agent who discovered him.

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Friday December 15 – Thursday December 21

Featured Film:

On the Beach at Night Alone at the Northwest Film Forum

Yes, there’s a new Star Wars movie out, and it is great, truly the movie we obsessives have been waiting for, the Reddest corporate franchise movie there’s ever been. There are also two highly anticipated Chinese films opening this week: Feng Xiaogang’s Cultural Revolution-set Youth and Yuen Woo-ping and Tsui Hark’s remake of The Miracle FightersThe Thousand Faces of Dunjia. But I’ll been writing about both of those at Mubi later this month. No, the Featured Film this week has to be Hong Sangsoo’s On the Beach at Night Alone, the first of his three 2016 movies to be released in Seattle (the other two are scheduled for 2018, by which time Hong will likely have completed another movie or two). Evan wrote about it for us here way back in March, not long after it picked up the Best Actress prize in Berlin (alas, my campaigning did not earn Kim Minhee a Seattle Film Critics Award nomination). His review is much better than my letterboxd response, which for reasons I can’t entirely fathom but which nonetheless still seems to explain the movie to me, contrasts a cosmically expansive passage from the Walt Whitman poem referenced in the film’s title to the self-critiquing and celebratory chorus of Kanye West’s “Runaway”. Anyway, The Last Jedi will be out for awhile, but you can only see On the Beach at Night Alone through Sunday at the Film Forum.

Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Female Trouble (John Waters, 1974) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Fri-Tues
Love Actually (Richard Curtis, 2003) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Sat Shri Akaal England (Vikram Pradhan) Fri-Thurs
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Square (Ruben Östlund) Fri-Thurs
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1990) Sat Only Free Screening
Rare Exports (Jalmari Helander, 2010) Sat Only
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Sat Only Our Review
White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954) Mon & Thurs Only
Window Horses (Ann Marie Fleming) Tues Only
Desk Set (Walter Lang, 1957) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Fri-Thurs 35mm
Elves (Jeffrey Mandel, 1989) Sat Only VHS

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Fri-Thurs
Love Ni Bhavai (Saandeep Patel) Fri-Thurs
Aruvi (Arun Prabhu) Fri-Thurs
Maayavan (C.V. Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Fukrey Returns (Mrigdeep Singh Lamba) Fri-Thurs
Malli Raava (Gowtam Tinnanuri) Fri-Thurs
It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (Yuen Woo-ping) Fri-Thurs
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
My Friend Dahmer (Marc Meyers) Fri-Thurs
Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Sat Only

Northwest Film Forum:

On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sangsoo) Fri-Sun Only Our Review
Porto (Gabe Klinger) Fri-Sun Only 35mm
Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975) Weds Only 35mm
Beggars of Life (William Wellman, 1928) Thurs Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Youth (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Jane (Brett Morgen) Fri-Thurs
Fukrey Returns (Mrigdeep Singh Lamba) Fri-Thurs
Unexpectedly Yours (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review

SIFF Film Center:

Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988) Fri-Sun
Die Hard (John McTeirnan, 1988) Fri-Sun
Rare Exports (Jalmari Helander, 2010) Starts Thurs
White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954) Starts Thurs Sing-Along

Regal Thornton Place:

Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Sat Only

Varsity Theatre:

The Square (Ruben Östlund) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
The Disaster Artist (James Franco) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review
Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

The Disaster Artist (James Franco, 2017)

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James Franco’s story of the making of the latest “Worst Movie of All-Time”, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (which plays monthly at the Central Cinema and other places around town) feels like all the cool kids got together to make fun of the freakiest, geekiest kid in school. I mean, the movie opens with an actual Disney princess talking about how terrible the guy’s movie is, kicking off a series of so-bad-it’s-hilarious proclamations by Hollywood successes. I haven’t seen The Room, bad movies just make me feel bad. And laughing at them only makes me feel worse. And from what I have seen, and from its depiction here in exacting recreations, seen side-by-side with the original over the closing credits, it is impossible not to laugh at The Room.

The obvious comparison is with Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, of course. But that was a film that really tried to understand its subject as an actual human being, rather than just an opaque manifestation of weirdness. We want Ed Wood to fulfill his dreams and we feel for him at every failure and (humble) triumph: it doesn’t matter that his art is terrible, at least he succeeded in making something that meant something to him. And Glen or Glenda, at least, is so personal and horrifying an object that it arguably qualifies as great art, despite the fact that the corporate video store I worked at in the 90s deemed it so bad we would rent it out free of charge.

Franco never bothers to look at Wiseau the same way: he’s too opaque a collections of quicks to have an actual personality to express, and he isn’t even allowed to be the center of his own story. This is a story about Greg, a wanna-be actor (played by Dave Franco) who met a weirdo and together they made a terrible movie that everybody laughed at. And in our degraded age that has somehow become the same thing as making something great.