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 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 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 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

The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)

pentagram-love-witch

An enigmatic woman descends upon a town, drifting in like a sultry, slinking fog. She moves into a room in a Victorian mansion, where she cooks up home brews of potions and soaps, some of which she sells at the local hippie enclaves. Other mixtures end up in the bodies of lustful men who fall madly in love–or just simply go mad–for this femme fatale in knee high boots and miniskirts. This is Elaine. She’s the heroine of Anna Biller’s latest feminist phantasm, The Love Witch. It’s groovy and gaudy. It’s the second film of the year to track the doomed pursuit of love through the Tarot, the first being Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups. A wallop of a double feature these two would make.

Continue reading

The Alchemist Cookbook (Joel Potrykus, 2016)

screenshot-2016-11-06-at-12-20-18-am

The Alchemist Cookbook is like The Martian if Matt Damon was living in a rusty trailer deep in the Michigan woods and he decided to pseudo-science the shit out of spare cleaning chemicals because he wasn’t smart, just insane. Call it The Michiganian. The Martian was a clarion call for humanity’s aspirational best. The Alchemist Cookbook is the sobering reality that 99% of us would quickly go nuts if left to our own devices.

Continue reading

Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience (Terrence Malick, 2016)

voyage-of-time-sun

Avowed acolytes of Terrence Malick have been practically foaming at the mouth since word got out that the revered filmmaker planned to release a movie capturing the birth of the universe. The idea stems from the most infamous sequence in Malick’s masterpiece, The Tree of Life, which audaciously inserted the Big Bang into the story of young boy growing up in Texas. Oh, and he’s going to release it in IMAX. Detractors argued that Malick has been making nature documentaries for the last decade already, as his narrative features have become more abstract and often appear to be more interested in their elemental shots of earth and sky. But regardless of one’s perceptions and expectations, nothing can truly prepare a viewer for the experience of drifting through the newborn cosmos on a six-story high screen as Bach comes booming out in 12,000 watts of surround sound.

Continue reading

TFF 2016: Women Who Kill (Ingrid Jungermann, 2016)

women-who-kill

Fear not America, with Women Who Kill the 21st century finally has the indie So I Married an Axe Murderer it has long been clamoring for. Writer/director Ingrid Jungermann stars as Morgan, an employee at a natural foods cooperative and co-host of a popular podcast about female murderers. The show unearths the gruesome details of different homicides and even includes interviews from prison with the women incarcerated for their crimes. Morgan’s podcast partner is Jean, played by Ann Carr, who also happens to be Morgan’s ex. When Morgan falls for a mysterious new arrival at the co-op, Jean sees signs that Simone–or is her real name Alison?–might be a killer herself.

Continue reading

SIFF 2016: Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson, 2016)

CAMERAPERSON+CRKirstenJohson.png

Weaving together footage from two dozen films she has shot over fifteen years, cinematographer Kirsten Johnson constructs a unique, impressionistic documentary that does not possess a comprehensive narrative logline but splinters off into many tantalizing tangents. The theme that rises to the top, however, is an examination and celebration of motherhood, both coming and going. We see babies being born and matriarchs disintegrating. A boxer’s mother consoles him after a bitter loss, a daughter curses her mother in the wake of her suicide. From Brooklyn to Bosnia, Johnson captures connections.

SIFF 2016: Alone (Park Hong-min, 2015)

Alone_Still01

The Korean psychological thriller Alone begins with an enticing update on Rear Window. On a rooftop across the street from his apartment, a photographer named Su-min witnesses a woman being attacked by three masked men. He snaps a few shots of the crime but betrays his presence to the perpetrators, who come rushing off the roof and toward his building. Su-min tries to hide but the men soon find him and just as they are about to bash in his head with a hammer, the camera cuts and he wakes up naked in the alleyways that surround his apartment.

At this point–and all the way to its conclusion an interminable 90 minutes later–these labyrinthine alleyways act as purgatory for Su-min. He bumps into his ex-girlfriend and they get into an argument, he finds a childhood facsimile of himself, who brandishes a kitchen knife which he literally uses to kill his father. Each time a scene reaches a traumatic crescendo, Su-min wakes up again, back at the beginning of the alley, before stumbling off into another dream. Or is it memory?

Continue reading