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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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SIFF 2011: Second Week

Posted by gck Friday, June 10, 2011 0 comments

Seattle Stories

Seattle Stories (USA, 2010) – Part of Shortsfest weekend, this included 10 short films by local filmmakers featuring the Seattle area. Not the most technically impressive, but it’s great seeing the city get this treatment. A few of the shorts focused on local artists and musicians, including a few practically permanent fixtures in Pike Place Market and Belltown. The 3 Minute Masterpieces contest winner filmed around ACT Theatre, and I recognized it right away. Sitting behind me, I had a guy making priceless comments after each short and his wife kept trying to hush him. He stated that "he “didn’t come here to hear about about Ivan,” the guy who does the laser shows at Seattle Center and was the focus of one of the shorts. After Woman Seeks Man For Date On Friday, he announced that he was giving it a 2 (rating) and that he didn’t think she would ever get a date. When his wife told him to shut up, he added that she should try looking in the “women seeking women” section. Nice! Hopefully, that was his last SIFF screening.

Cherdonna & Lou & Me

After seeing both Cherdonna and Lou in separate shows at the ACT, I became a fan. They’re such great performers – beautiful dancers when that’s what they want to do and silly, hilarious characters when performing as the Cherdonna & Lou Show. Their short was the one in the bunch I was looking forward to the most, and I was not disappointed. And to make things better, they were there! And I got a picture!

Young Goethe In Love

Young Goethe in Love (Germany, 2010) – I have to refrain from calling this “Young Goat in Love.” Now we’ve got the German version of Shakespeare in Love! This film shows Goethe and his first love, which provides the inspiration for The Sorrows of Young Werther, a book that made Goethe famous and caused lots of European teens to kill themselves. The theater wasn’t even half full for Lope (the Spanish film about the writer Lope de Vega I saw earlier), but for this one… I got to the Neptune (same theater!) an hour before the film started, and there were already about 20 people in line. By half an hour before, the line went down most of the block. People like their German films! I liked this one better than Lope – cinematography was prettier and not as gritty, and Goethe’s love story was better than Lope’s lusty relationships with every pretty woman he saw.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan (USA, 2010) – The subject of this documentary was extremely interesting. In a time where experimental teaching was encouraged, new teacher Ron Jones responded to a question about why people decided to follow Hitler by implementing his own fascist regime in the classroom, which ended up being more successful than he expected. Unfortunately, this experiment was very short in duration, and there was very little documentation on it at the time – only a few pictures. So the documentary focuses on testimonies of Jones and the students 40 years later, which is not completely reliable and only somewhat effective. Still, the conclusion is a good one – we are convinced that we are rational creatures, but we are in fact rationalizing ones. And it’s quite scary what evils people will justify, especially when in group situations.

Wednesday night I decided not to see anything and volunteer instead. I picked up a short shift at the Harvard Exit because I heard good things about volunteering there. It was fun, but definitely all the travel time wasn’t worth it for only 2 hours of work. I liked working Uptown last year because there would always be a 5-9 or 6-10 shift. This year, almost all of the shifts were something like 3-7 and 8-10, with exceptions at the Admiral (too far) and Kirkland (worked there a lot), and I got one 4 hour night shift at the Egyptian. The film that exited at the beginning of my shift was Marrow, which seriously got the most split reactions I’ve ever seen from a SIFF film. I heard some people left early, and the people who left before the Q&A were saying very unhappy things to us as they left. One guy even said that he’d been going to SIFF since the 70’s and it was the absolute worst film he had ever seen. But many people who came out later said they loved it, and not all of them were affiliated with the film! Some of also had fun chatting about Finisterrae because the poster was hanging at the theater. Seriously, a whole film about two “ghosts” (guys with bedsheets over their heads with two eye holes cut out) wandering around with a horse. The trailer is awesome. Another awesome trailer? Shut Up Little Man! I love SIFF. :)

The White Meadows

The White Meadows (Iran, 2009) – I wasn’t sure about this one, but I’m so glad I ended up going. It’s an otherworldy, allegorical film that’s starkly beautiful in its cinematography and hard-hitting in its message. A man rows a boat around a salt lake, stopping at places of tragedy to collect people’s tears. The tragedies make the filmmaker’s points very clear – there’s a girl who died (was murdered?) because the men found her too alluring, the most beautiful girl in a village is sacrificed as a bride to the sea to appease the gods, and an artist is tortured and imprisoned for painting the sea as red and refusing to say it was blue. The Iranian government was less than amused and threw the director and co-director in prison.

Film count: 14, Volunteer vouchers: 9

SIFF 2011: Second Weekend

Posted by gck Thursday, June 9, 2011 0 comments

In real time, SIFF is almost over, just four days left to go. I’m getting a bit filmed out so I’m finding myself working more shifts and seeing fewer films. And I sure have a lot of catching up to do with my blog entries…


I look at the SIFF Flickr page every once in awhile. It’s usually the same old pics of people having fun at galas and directors answering questions at screenings. But the other day, I was looking at the set icons on the side and went, “OMG! I think that’s me and Alexis!” It’s actually, me, Alexis, and David, but David wasn’t visible in the icon crop. It’s us walking into the theater to see Littlerock and me looking like a doofus. I know photographers took pictures of me and David while waiting in line for another screening, so maybe that one will end up there, too. I feel somewhat important, since all the other photos in that set are of an actor answering questions. :)


Littlerock (USA, 2010) – Could be considered slow or boring to some people, but I love this sort of film. Quiet, subtle, and beautiful, Littlerock explores small town America through the eyes of a Japanese girl who doesn’t speak any English. The film does a fantastic job of putting you in her shoes, seeing how things we normally don’t think twice about in America can be weird or amazing to someone from a different culture. The characters are also great, especially the American character Cory who appoints himself the personal guardian of Atsuko and her brother because he’s decided he’s in love with her. You get to see both sides of communication without a common language: the amazing potential for humans to understand each other and the incredible frustration when the most important communication doesn’t translate. At the end, Atsuko and her brother end up at Manzanar, a memorial at the site of a Japanese internment camp. The actor (who played a minor character) mentioned during the Q&A that he never knew about those camps before, despite having grown up in the Pacific Northwest. Good thing it was mentioned in this film, I guess?

Mysteries Of Lisbon

Mysteries of Lisbon (Portugal, 2010) – It’s 270 minutes long. And despite the announcement that there would be an intermission, the “Part 2” screen came up only a few moments after the “End of Part 1” screen. Oops. My butt was ready to be out of that seat by the end! I knew from the length and description that there would be lots of interwoven stories told in this period piece. It starts out being about a little orphan boy living in a church and a priest who seems to know everyone’s secrets. From there, you end up meeting many characters and getting a lot of information. By the third hour or so, the pattern started getting a little repetitive. A character would say, “Let me tell you a story,” the audience would snicker, and we’d see a mildly interesting flashback that involved one or more other characters. Some of the stories were interesting and drew you in – for me, I liked the plotlines about the boy and his parents the most – and others just felt like pieces of information. The love stories tended to be pretty lame and obviously written by a man – if there was more of an emotional connection, it would have gotten me more interested.

Pajaros de Papel

Paper Birds (Spain, 2010) – Craziness is attending a 270 minute film and then rushing (because the film started and finished late) over to see a 125 minute film. I didn’t really pay attention to this film when I made my original list, but when I saw that it was selling quickly and getting good reviews, I got a ticket. Keeping my schedule flexible definitely paid off with this one, it was one of my favorites of the festival. It’s one of those heartwarming and heartbreaking stories with a lot of similarities to Life is Beautiful. Set in Franco’s Spain after the Spanish Civil War (a handful of SIFF films were set during this exact time period this year, I was surprised), we follow a vaudeville troupe attempting to survive and entertain. Loss due to the war pushes three of the main characters into an unlikely family: an older gay man, a man turned reckless by the loss of his wife and son, and a spunky child who lost both of his parents in the war (played by a very talented boy who is a real life orphan). The director (Emilio Aragon) gave some interesting information during the Q&A… he comes from generations of clowns and performers, so many of the stories were true. His father was in the film (at the end). And he composed all of the music for the film himself. Pretty amazing.

I volunteered at SIFF Cinema Sunday morning. It was Shortsfest weekend, but the ones during my shift weren’t very popular. Sadly, they were enforcing the official policy of not letting us see films during our shift, so we just sat around during the first one, This Woman’s Work. I left to pick up some food at the Folklife Festival (my shift was early enough that parking was easy, thank goodness). The second set of shorts, In Extremis, was a little busier but still pretty slow. Our shift finished at this point so we were allowed to watch, but if you take a look at the photo on the film page, you’ll see clearly why I was not interested.

Late Autumn 

Late Autumn (South Korea, 2010) – Another one I picked up both because Alexis was interested in it and it was selling out quickly. I think both of the screenings ended up being on standby. It got hyped up a lot because it was a Korean film set in Seattle with a lot of Seattle-y shots. I also realized afterwards that I had seen the lead actress (Tang Wei) in last year’s Crossing Hennessy. Overall, I thought the film was okay. I liked it enough to be interested, but I wasn’t engaged the whole time. It got slow and the girl was overly mopey and silent. The producer told us it was a remake of an old, famous Korean film by the same name. Some great scenes, and I did feel the actress’s pain pretty well. I probably would have left with a more favorable impression if I didn’t go in with expectations.

Film count: 10, Volunteer vouchers: 8

SIFF 2011: First Week

Posted by gck Friday, June 3, 2011 0 comments

Way behind! It takes me so many days to write these posts because I’ve been getting home late… 10:30 if I’m lucky. Doesn’t leave a ton of time to do anything else. Tonight I miraculously caught a 9pm bus back from Seattle, but I still got home after 10 because I had to go grocery shopping.


Lope (Spain, 2010) – I don’t have time to go through descriptions for 400+ films, so I tend to narrow down by things like genre, country, and theater location and only look at the filtered films. What is this I see? “Period piece” as a genre? Mwahaha… I’m definitely getting my fill of period pieces this festival. Lope was the first one of these. The Spanish people were rolling their eyes at everyone pronouncing it just “lope” (as opposed to “loh-pay”). Very small crowd at the Neptune, so I got seats in a great location. Not great seats, though, since they’re in the middle of a remodel and only had folding chairs on the ground floor. People complained SO much about the chairs and the sound at the Neptune that SIFF had chairs expedited from Sundance for the second week of the festival. Anyway, the film was pretty good. I’d call it “Grubby Spanish Shakespeare in Lust.” Lovely scenes in Madrid, Lisbon, and the Spanish countryside. Nice poetry.


Page One: Inside the New York Times

Page One: Inside the New York Times (USA, 2011) – A good percentage of my picks this time were documentaries or films based on true events. I guess it’s a good sign that I’m having the desire to be more aware of things that are going on in the world. Page One was an entertaining documentary, particularly due to David Carr being such a character. It’s cool to get a small glimpse at how things work inside the New York Times, and the film is also a good wake up call to the fact that investigative journalism requires money. We’re very much in a “I want it free” time period, which means groups who are producing the journalism we want either need to find a different way to fund themselves or go out of business. There are a lot of ideas, but so far there isn’t a guaranteed solution. Brian Stetler of the New York Times was delayed by weather leaving Chicago (he was there for Oprah’s farewell) and missed my screening, so they had a panel of journalism-related people there instead. I was in a back-to-back film with the next screening of the film, so I asked to go inside just for the Q&A. It was a completely full house and they started the film late, so he only answered about three questions (including one woman who didn’t ask anything and just gave him a weird “thank you” from “all of Seattle”).


Bibliotheque Pascal

Bibliotheque Pascal (Hungary, 2010) – I knew this one was going to be weird, and it was weird. But it was also wonderfully creative, full of beautiful imagery, and not like anything I’d ever seen before. Mona is tricked by her father to go overseas, where she ends up being sold into a brothel called the Bibliotheque Pascal, where the workers have to play the part of literary characters. But all is not as it seems… This film probably has no shot of succeeding outside the festival circuit, so I’m glad I caught it. Only one drawback: pity the projectionist either fell asleep or left in the middle of the film because the sound totally went out during one of the few segments where the film was in English (so no subtitles to read) and it took five minutes for someone in the audience to get fed up and leave to tell them to fix the problem. SIFF and the Neptune Theatre were not looking too good… (On the other hand, I think at the same time, there was a bomb scare at the Harvard Exit during the screening of a documentary about the Earth Liberation Front, and they all had to evacuate)

Film count: 6, Volunteer vouchers: 5

SIFF 2011: First Weekend

Posted by gck Thursday, June 2, 2011 0 comments

I had such a great SIFF last year, and I really wanted to note down all of my impressions, but then life kept moving and I never got around to finishing it. It’s probably going to be the same this year, but it doesn’t mean I can’t give it a shot. :)

Me and Kung Fu PandaI volunteered two shifts for SIFF before I started seeing films. The first one was a special events shift, working the opening gala in Renton. SE is a nice change of pace from ushering… there’s a lot more to do, but it’s much harder work for the number of vouchers you get. I was clearing trash from tables, changing the coffee dispenser, and stuff like that. On the plus side, I got to eat the gala food, sampling some yummy stuff from Renton restaurants like Tea Palace, Naan-n-Curry, and Papaya and chatting with the restaurant people. Miss Washington was at the gala, too, but I didn’t talk to her. :) And… the owners of the venue offered me a job, in case I wanted to pick up some extra server shifts on weekends! (My mom laughed for a full minute after I told her this)

Second shift was a pretty busy one at Pacific Place. We were running pretty late for the first film, so it was really hectic getting everyone in, but I got to see a giant panda. =) Still not quite sure why Kung Fu Panda 2 was screening at SIFF, but oh well. They let us run off for an hour in between films, so I rushed down to Pike Place Market to stand in the Piroshky Piroshky line (potato onion cheese FTW). After the shift, I bummed around Seattle for a little while before seeing my first film.

Cairo 678

Cairo 678 (Egypt, 2010) – I really liked this film. I really did not like the circumstances under which I got to see this film. Apparently, Pacific Place had technical issues in the second film of my volunteer shift (I’d left by then) and they took a lot of time to try to resolve the issues afterwards, resulting in this film starting at least 20 minutes late. And they didn’t seem to resolve it because we saw green bars and screen flickering a number of times through the film. Several people walked out. What a pity. Then I had to haul ass over to Seattle Center to catch an opera, and I would have had plenty of time if things had been on schedule. Annnnyway, this film followed three women and their responses to sexual harassment, which apparently is common (but not commonly spoken of) in Cairo. A wealthy woman goes with her husband to a soccer game, and she gets pulled away in the crowd and men sexually assault her. Afterwards, her husband says the pain is too much for HIM to deal with. Right. So they separate and the wife starts these courses on how to deal with sexual harassment and advertises on TV. The second character is a well-behaved Muslim wife who tries to take cabs to work instead of buses because she’s groped every day on the bus. She attends some of these classes, and eventually she gets so pissed off that she starts stabbing the gropers in the groin (audience cheers!!!). The third woman, against advice from her relatives, files the first sexual harassment case in Egypt. And of course, people put the blame on her. Men suck.


Apart Together

Apart Together (China, 2010) – Made the journey down to Renton to see this one. Nice that the IKEA Performing Arts Center has a huge parking lot! Not a ton of dining options in that part of Renton that were open for Sunday lunch, but I happened to stumble upon a hole-in-the-wall called Geri’s Casual Dining and picked up a catfish sandwich that brought back some Louisiana memories. Okay, the movie. While I was watching it, I didn’t love it. The acting was good, but it was slow. Even being Chinese-American, I think there were a lot of subtleties that went right past me. The background is one that would resonate with a lot of Chinese people. There’s a couple with a baby on the way, and they’re really in love. Unfortunately, they’re separated when all the KMT soldiers have to quickly flee to Taiwan, and they’re unable to reunite until many years later, when they allow people to return from Taiwan to visit their relatives. By that time, both have remarried. The woman’s family is closeknit and gathers at their house in an old neighborhood  where everyone knows everyone. The man’s wife has died, and his visit has a mission – to bring his old love with him back to Taiwan. The woman’s new husband is a well-developed, fantastically-acted charactor, definitely my favorite part of the film. The other characters seemed not very well developed – or did I miss the little nuances in their speech and behavior? Afterwards, I thought more about the film, and there was more to think over, ideas about sacrifice, the closeness of family, and differences between “old Asia” and “new Asia.”



How to Die in Oregon (USA, 2011) – Everyone talking about this film kept saying that it was a hard sell to get people to see a documentary about doctor-assisted suicide. Maybe I’m just morbid or something, but I didn’t need any convincing. It’s compelling subject matter, and I knew it would be a high quality documentary because it won the top documentary award at Sundance. Since I do live in one of the few states that already has a Death with Dignity law, that aspect of the film didn’t really affect me significantly. What did stand out to me was the how devastating a terminal illness diagnosis is to the person and his or her family. There were very different viewpoints about end-of-life treatment. One guy really wanted to die. One guy was extremely offended that Death with Dignity was an option offered to him. Then there were the in-betweeners, mostly people who would prefer a natural death unless it got to the point of extreme suffering, for themselves or their families. It was heart-warming to see the love in the families, but an important observation was that this love sometimes didn’t show itself when people didn’t understand or agree with the end-of-life decisions. I think it’s an important topic to be knowledgeable about and to discuss with your loved ones beforehand. This documentary has now been shown on HBO (not sure about the future schedule).

Wow, this post took way too long. I am never going to finish this series. :)

Film count: 3, Volunteer vouchers: 5