SIFF 2008: Cramming on the last day…

Our Rating

Whooeee! I do always get that last-day panic at SIFF, don’t you? You know, the monster fest is coming to an end, and heck, what if you missed what turned out to be your favorite movie, because you decided to call it a night early?

Let’s just say that my favorite movie was most definitely not Bottle Shock (4/8), one of those lazy, typical, pleasant-but dull American movies that SIFF often uses as an opening or closing film. But apparently there is an audience for these films, because SIFF’s Closing Night (on Saturday for the first time!) audience voted Alan Rickman Best Actor for his role as a Brit expatriate wine merchant in Paris who invites over the scrappy vintners from Napa in California in the 1970s to compete in a taste test with–yes–the French. Based on a true story, the scrappy kids took almost all (if not all) the major awards, including Chateau Montelena, run by Jim (Bill Pullman, as usual, pleasant but bland) and his son Bo (Chris Pine, with the most gawd-awful 70s shag wig I’ve ever seen). There is a token girl that only shows up to sleep with the two young men in the story (for no reason at all)… except that the OTHER one is Freddy Rodriguez, who is the film’s only saving grace. Alas, his earnest performance as a 2nd generation Mexican-American who wants to be a master vintner isn’t enough to recommend this flick.

I knew that I would have better luck with Alexander Nevsky (6/8), Sergei Eisenstein’s “lost” film from 1938, depicting a fantastic battle between the Russians (led by Prince Alexander) and the German Teutonic invaders in the 13th century. Alexander, play by blond pretty-boy Nikolai Cherkasov, pulls together a ragtag army of peasants to defend Novgorod, with the fantastic culminating battle taking place on a frozen lake. The special presentation took place at the Seattle Symphony’s home of Benaroya Hall, with the symphony performing Sergei Prokofiev’s original score live, accompanied by a choir and soprano! I wasn’t the only one surprised that it wasn’t actually a silent film. During dialogue, the musicians would sit patiently, then be pulled in to create the impressive, sweeping soundtrack mainly for montage scenes of Russian majesty, with the regular folks banding together to fight the enemy. The soundtrack was BIG to say the least. The film was very good, but the live soundtrack experience was fabulous and memorable.

I didn’t have tickets for the rest of the final afternoon, so decided to wing it. Last year I took the opportunity to catch the announced award winners when they filled the remaining TBA slots. I had already seen one of the films (see next entry, with list of winners), so instead caught, rather spontaneously, the Spanish sci-fi thriller Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes) (6/8). It is a tight, fun little time-travel film, which treats the accidental jumping back of a couple hours as just a scientific accident that this unsuspecting fellow Hector falls into. I don’t want to give anything away, because getting there is all the fun (and you have to pay close attention, like in Memento). And, unsurprisingly, apparently Timecrimes has already been optioned for an American remake. Go figure.

So, what does one do when it is 9:00 on the last night of the fest? Why, race across town to SIFF Cinema for just… one… more. My last film of the fest was the charming documentary The Wrecking Crew (6/8), which profiled a group of session musicians in the 1960s Los Angeles pop music scene who created the studio recordings for a stupendous amount of hit songs. For instance, did you know that the Beach Boys did not play on the majority of their records? Song after song is revealed (the Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” etc.)–and all were performed by the same go-to studio musicians. Crazy! The film includes interviews with many of the musicians (the most famous of these studio guys was Glen Campbell, before he went solo), as well as big names like Cher, Herb Albert, Dick Clark, and Nancy Sinatra. The film is warm and friendly, as it was made by Denny Tedesco, whose late father Tommy Tedesco was one of the Crew. This doc ended up winning the Golden Space Needle for documentary, and was a nice, foot-tappin’ film for the end of my festing.


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