SIFF 2013: Week Three, Part One

Monday, June 3

First up, press screenings.  Today’s were Horses of God, The Forgotten Kingdom, and The Plague.  You’ll be hearing more about Horses of God in my next post, for my coworker raved so much about it that I had my manager grab a screener for me (I could have seen it during its festival run, had I known that another show I wanted to see on Friday was going to sell out).

Another film I heard good buzz about was Short Term 12.  The film takes place at a foster care facility for troubled youth.  We start with Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) telling a funny story to his fellow staffers about what happened to him one time he followed a kid who had escaped from the facility.  The staff includes Nate (Rami Malek), a new staff member who is learning the difference between studying about working in this type of facility and actually working there.  Also on staff is Grace (Brie Larson), who Mason is dating, though they are trying to keep it a secret from the foster children.  Among the foster kids, there is Marcus (Keith Stanfield), who is about to age out of the program, and Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a troubled youth who has been taken in as a favor to her father.

What is remarkable about this movie is how observant and honest it is about its characters.  What could have come across as character clichés in a lesser movie sprout organically from the characters in this one.  Particularly noteworthy are the two leads, Larson and Dever, though one shouldn’t overlook Gallagher, Jr., whose character must be the anchor for Grace, even when her past experiences make her want to retreat from Mason.  Their relationship is dealt with honestly, as it is neither perfect nor a complete disaster, but somewhere in between — much like real relationships are.  And then we have a rap that Marcus composes as he’s about to leave foster care, which gives another human moment to a film that’s filled with them.  In this and in other ways, this film is an unexpected delight.

52. Clinton with SHORT TERM 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton and actress Kaitlyn Dever

Once the credits began rolling, the house lights came up and SIFF Cinema Programmer Clinton McClung began a Q & A session with director Destin Cretton and actress Kaitlyn Dever.  Cretton actually worked in a facility similar to the one shown in the film and assured us that he said more stupid things there than Nate did.

This film is based on Cretton’s thesis project (also called Short Term 12, but with a run time of 22-minutes).  Up to that point, his films had always been rejected by Sundance.  Not only was his thesis project accepted, it went on to win the Jury Prize in Short Fillmmaking in 2009.   According to Cretton, the part of Jayden was the most difficult role to cast.  The actresses who auditioned for the role had to freak out by themselves in a chair.  For Dever, this was her first role doing drama.  Previously, she had done work in comedies, most recently in the TV show Last Man Standing.

Two questions from the audience are worth mentioning here.  One asked who wrote the rap that Marcus reads.  Cretton said he wrote the first draft, then Stanfield “made it cool.”  The second one was asked by a member of the audience who was pointed out by Cretton as being Andrew Bowser, the director of Worm, which had its world premiere during the festival (and, I was told, is an amazing film).  His question was how much rehearsal did the actors do.  Cretton answered that he had a counselor come in and teach the actors what kinds of restraints to use when dealing with troubled youth.  For Larson, they did read-throughs of Grace’s scenes, which only took one day.  The shoot itself took twenty days, and in an effort to have the cast bond more, everyone stayed in rooms, instead of in trailers.  They also bonded offset, acting more like a family around each other than actors working on a film.

The film has already had its regular run in Seattle, but if the film is playing near where you live, it’s worth checking out:

53. The reserved signs for An Evening with Kyle MacLachlan

The second event of the night was An Evening with Kyle MacLachlan.  I had bought my ticket for that event the first day of the festival, as it sold out, and — unlike with most films showing at SIFF — I could not use my badge to get in.  Because I was already at the theater, I just had to grab some dinner after Short Term 12 and then jump in line for the main event.  As a result, I scored an excellent seat.

Carl Spence, SIFF’s Artistic Director, introduced MacLachlan, mentioning that he is a native of Yakima County, went to Eisenhower High School, graduated from the University of Washington, and got his first role (the lead in Lynch’s adaptation of Dune) while living in Seattle.  Besides Dune, he has starred in Blue Velvet, The Hidden, Twin Peaks (for which he won a Golden Globe and received 2 Emmy nominations), The Doors, The Flintstones, and Showgirls.  He also directed an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

Then MacLachlan walked down the aisle and got onstage, where friend Eric Dunham gave him the Seattle International Film Festival Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting.

56. Kyle admires his Golden Space Needle Award

The Q & A followed, moderated by David Poland.  Even though the Q & A was nearly as long as the one I attended with Edward Norton, it seemed shorter, as Poland kept the pace moving and the clips coming.  It also helped having it before the Twin Peaks series premiere, as we hadn’t already been sitting for two hours before the interview began, like we had when Leaves of Grass played before Norton’s Q & A.

First, Poland asked about MacLachlan’s student days.  MacLachlan admitted that while UW was a good school, “I was not a good student.”  Luckily, UW is where he took his first acting class, then another.  Eventually, he decided that’s what he wanted to do and joined an acting program with 13 other students.  The first year, he played Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Ashland.

It was while living at his campus apartment at 42nd and Brooklyn that he got a call that David Lynch was looking for someone to play Paul in Dune.  He knew of the director, having watched a midnight showing of Eraserhead at the Neptune Theatre.  After getting the role, and during dinner with Lynch, he was pitched the idea for Blue Velvet.  His mother didn’t like it, but he told her, “Mom, it’ll be okay.”

In both that film, and later in Twin Peaks, he performed a version of David Lynch.  Watch for whenever he clasps his hands and says “Sandy” in Blue Velvet, or when he does the same thing while saying “Sheriff” in Twin Peaks.  Lynch is a Midwesterner (from Montana, to be exact), so there is a folksy quality about him.  When he was directing MacLachlan in Blue Velvet and Jeffrey’s lines contained swears in them (which Lynch had written), Lynch wouldn’t say the swears out loud.  Also, unlike Lynch’s awesome hair, MacLachlan says his hair never works in his films.  The closest it came to working was in Twin Peaks.

Blue Velvet has the distinction of getting the worst cards from critics, back when all movies were screened for them before being released in theaters.  But then Pauline Kael gave it a good review, which helped it attain its eventual cult status.  MacLachlan wasn’t so lucky with some of his other films.  He said that New Line Cinema didn’t know how to sell The Hidden, which is why the movie has remained hidden from most people’s watch lists.

57. Talk with David Poland

Some other interesting tidbits:

  • MacLachlan wanted to be Tom Cruise, but he always got pegged as the odd guy, even though he tried not to be.
  • He tried out for the Charlie Sheen role in Platoon, but he didn’t like what the character does at the end of the film.  At an awards event, he gave Stone an award for the film.  While accepting the award, Stone leaned over and said to him, “And you turned it down.”
  • Ray Manzarek (who MacLachlan played in The Doors) was very kind to him during the making of that movie.  The lights weren’t so kind.  In one scene, they were so hot that they began melting the piano keys, and Val Kilmer was floating up toward them, saying, “Get me down.”
  • MacLachlan was cast in Some Kind of Wonderful, but John Hughes fired everyone but the two leads when he decided to make the script darker.
  • Paul Verhoeven and Joel Eszterhas thought they were making a hard-hitting exposé of Las Vegas when they made Showgirls.  When MacLachlan saw the first screening, however, he kept thinking, “Oh my God.”  Even before he appeared onscreen, he kept thinking, “Oh my God.”  Then he saw the pool screen — “Oh my God.”  Though all the stars were supposed to show up for a Q & A session afterwards, he gave some excuse and blew it off.
  • The “famous pool sex scene” was exhausting to shoot.  MacLachlan had to spend 12 hours in the water and held on to Elizabeth Berkeley super tight so that she wouldn’t fly off his lap (he was sitting on a ladder).
  • David Lynch decided to do network TV because you “have to do this, it’s anarchy.”  Originally, Twin Peaks was a mid-season replacement on ABC.
  • MacLachlan was 29-30 years old when he did the show, with the pilot being shot like an indie film (23-24 day shoot).  Though he was immensely popular as Dale Cooper, he never had to worry about hordes of fans surrounding him — except in Poland.

58. Kyle takes a question from a fan

After Poland finished his talk with MacLachlan, they took questions from the audience.  Here are some interesting tidbits gleaned from those exchanges.

  • Rob Schneider and David Spade wrote the Twin Peaks spoof on SNL, which was performed on Chris Rock and Chris Farley’s debut show.
  • Cast members knew Twin Peaks was in trouble when the cast credits went on for half the show.
  • During the second season, Lynch and Mark Frost wanted to do other projects, and the writers who were brought in during that time didn’t really understand the mood of the show.  Whenever Lynch came back to direct an episode, he would rearrange scenes, tear up parts of the script, and the cast would cheer, saying, “Yeah!  We’re taking it back.”  But then he would leave, and the show’s quality would suffer again.
  • Diane Lane uses sing-song words when directing.  In that sense, she is a bit like Lynch as a director.
  • One person asked how the TV show of Twin Peaks and the movie are different.  “Well, we had David Bowie [for the movie],” MacLachlan answered.
  • MacLachlan is honored to have fan groups, though the person who asked him that question reminded me that the word “fan” is “fanatic.”

Also, the manager who I work with for the press screenings found out where MacLachlan was heading after the tribute and told her friends about it.  They ended up getting their pictures taken with him.

As for the Twin Peaks pilot, it still holds up.  Of course, the really strange, creepy stuff happens later in the series.  In the first episode, the show looked fairly normal, though how they got away with showing Dr. Jacoby fingering his hulu girl doll while talking about Laura Palmer is one mystery the show never solved.

Tuesday, June 4

Press screenings today were Wish You Were Here, Ali, and Evergreen: The Road to Legalization in Washington.  I would end up seeing Wish You Were Here later in the week, but did not see the others.

Tonight I saw my most anticipated film of the festival, which I had first read about on my friend Seongyong Cho’s blogThe Hunt stars Mads Mikkelsen as a man falsely accused of molesting a child.  Because we in the audience knows he is not guilty, the film is a study of the paranoia that can occur when well-meaning people condemn the innocent before they are proven guilty.  Unfortunately, this was the only film in which I had to take a bathroom break during its run-time.  I also had to shush an older man whispering a little too loudly next to me.  I thought I heard him respond by saying, “Fuck you.”  No, I thought, I must have misheard him.  But then he raised his voice again, and I shushed him again, and twice more he said, “Fuck you,” under his breath.  So now, I’m sitting in the theater, my concentration is only half on the movie, and the other half is daring this guy to swear at me again, so that I can show him my staff badge and escort him out of the theater.  Luckily for both of us, he remained silent for the rest of the film, but I was fuming for several minutes afterwards.  Still, the movie is great, and Mikkelsen gives an excellent performance as the persecuted man, as does Annika Wedderkopp as his accuser, who instantly regrets her lie, but finds herself unable to take back the damage it has caused.  A difficult film to watch, as it shows the worst in us, but a cautionary tale we would all do well to heed.

Wednesday, June 5

Again, I did not watch any of the press screenings today, which were Clutter, Comrade President, and Last I Heard.  I did watch one of the more interesting movies at night, which was also the first Japanese film I’ve attended where someone from Japan showed up — in this case, the director, Ryota Nakano.  Capturing Dad is his debut feature film, which was making its North American debut at the festival.  There is a story — that of two girls (Erisa Yanagi, Nanoka Matsubara) sent by their mother (Makiko Watanabe) to take a photo of their dying estranged father (Satoshi Nikaido) so that she can laugh in his face — yet the film is really more interested in its characters than its plot.  A humorous, touching, and altogether original film that I remember more for its gentle touch and unexpected humor than for anything else.  Nakano is certainly a director to watch.

The translator, Ryota Nakano, and Deborah Person

After the film, Deborah Person (outgoing Managing Director) conducted a Q & A with Nakano.  Concerning casting, the younger sister in the film (Nanoka Matsubara) acted in the first film Nakano made (a short), while the other two actresses auditioned for their parts.  Unlike her counterpart in the film, Matsubara actually hates tuna!  The film was shot in Shizuoka, and the title in Japanese (Chi chi o tori ni) is a bit of a play on words, as “chi chi” can mean both “dad” and the sound that a breast makes.  On a serious note, Nakano lost his father when he was six years old.  While the film was invited to the Berlin Film Festival, there are no other showings planned for North American, which is a shame.

62. Gay-La at the Q Lounge

Then it was time for another party, this one the Gay-La.  Last year it was held at The Lobby Bar.  This year, while still in Capitol Hill, it was held at the Q-Lounge, which was a larger space with an actual dance floor.  It also had an O-shaped (or Q-shaped?) bar.


Hors d’oeuvres were delicious, the music was pretty good, and several of my coworkers came to it.  I thought it an improvement over the year before, mainly due to the extra space and it having a dance floor.

Next up: the rest of Week Three, including the final weekend of SIFF!