SIFF 2014: Closing Night Gala, Final Thoughts, and Thanks

Closing Night Gala–Sunday, June 8

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The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

Like last year, the Closing Night Gala was held at the MOHAI.  Unlike last year, I had to work, but my shift ended early enough that I got to the museum in plenty of time.  It helped that I got a ride there from one of my friends (a different one from last year).

Just like last year, the food was great.  Since I got there early, I got to partake of the food before the crowds came, and even got some ice cream.  Also, I got to explore the MOHAI and realize just how many exhibits are in this thing.

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Plus, the DJ was actually good this year (even if he confused people by playing three crooner songs as the final three of the night, which might have just been his way of getting people off the dance floor so that they would go home).  The proof is in how many people came out to dance, and stayed out to dance, on the dance floor.

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Then it was off to the Super Secret Staff Party.  All I can say is I danced so hard there, one piece of my lanyard ripped out of the plastic sleeve it was attached to.  Still, I was more tired this year than in past years.  Maybe my years are catching up to me.  Or maybe I just worked too much.

 

Final Thoughts

On My First Year with a Press Pass

Though I was a bit overwhelmed with all the emails I received at the beginning of the festival, I eventually just did what I always do, which is to watch the movies, stay for the Q & A’s, take photos, take notes, and leave.  I was able to get into one screening that I wouldn’t have been able to get into (Lucky Them) because I had put in a request for a press ticket, and while I did request an interview with the director of that film, I understand how publicity agents might look at my blog and think that it wouldn’t give enough exposure to their client.  I probably would’ve had more luck with the new, untested directors.  Certainly the emails seemed to hint as much.  But then I would’ve had to find time to come up with questions for them.

On Working Press Screenings

This was the second year (and second year in a row) that I’ve done press screenings.  I didn’t get to see as many screenings this year as last year, partly because one of my coworkers wanted to see most of the ones I wanted to see, partly because a lot of the really good ones were at 2 pm, when I had to be on hand to help close concessions.

Occasionally, the newbie crew from the night before left some things undone (like cleaning the popcorn machine), which we then had to do.  In their defense, cleaning a popcorn machine beats cleaning poop off the floor of the men’s bathroom (though that was during the afternoon, during the first block of regular screenings).  And some days, we were the ones forgetting to do things, like grabbing ice or counting out concessions.  For the most part, however, everything went smoothly.

On Working Festival Screenings

Last year, we had plenty of people working festival, so we press screeners only had to work press screening shifts (plus Memorial Day Monday and the first block of shows after press screenings).  This year, due to the Egyptian being open, we were asked to help out on a few days that we would normally have had off.  It only ended up being three extra days of work, and it made my paycheck fatter, so I’m not complaining.  Plus, the shifts were the early shifts, which tend to be quieter than the evening shifts, and have fewer shows on standby.

And yet, all the exciting stuff  happened during that first block of shows after press screenings.  On the opposite end of the spectrum from the incident mentioned above, I served Lynn Shelton an iced tea.  Actually, we didn’t have iced tea, and she didn’t want Honest Tea, so I ended up getting her a hot tea and an 8 oz cup full of ice.  I also made her laugh.  A very nice person, and an experience that more than offset the men’s room incident.

On Films I Saw

As for the ones I went to, the final tally is: 28 feature films, 1 miniseries, and 6 shorts (4 of them part of the Chaplin Shorts that I saw with Sosin on Sunday for the silents).  4 of the features were archival (as were the 4 Chaplin shorts), 1 was a world premiere (as was one of the shorts), and 1 was a North American Premiere (Hard to Be a God).  Only two were prints (Last Year at Marienbad and The Whole Wide World).

As for awards, you can read who won the Golden Space Needles Awards, or you can read mine below.  Or both:

Best Film: Boyhood (Richard Linklater)

Here both the audience and I agree: the best movie of the festival was Linklater’s 13-year-in-the-making film about a boy (Ellar Coltrane) and his life from age 6 to 18.  Look for my full review of this great film next month, when it opens on July 11th.

Best Archival Film: The Pawnbroker (Sidney Lumet)

Not only did this DCP look pristine, the film itself is almost unbearably powerful, thanks to Lumet’s use of flashbacks, Quincy Jones’s score, and above all, Rod Steiger’s powerful performance as a New Yorker whose family was wiped out during the Holocaust.

Best Documentary: The Case Against 8 (Ben Cotner, Ryan White)

Keep On Keepin’ On was the audience favorite (and a really good film), but it didn’t pack the emotional wallop of this film, about the (successful) attempt to overturn Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex couples from marrying.

Best Animated Film: Patema Inverted (Yasuhiro Yoshiura)

Okay, so this was the only animated film I saw at the festival, meaning it also qualifies as the worst animated film….except that it was pretty good.  Some late reveals in this story about an underground world with an inverted gravitational field make it a solid animated effort, even if it is light years away from last year’s Wolf Children.

Best Foreign Film: Burning Bush (Agnieszka Holland)

Technically a three-part miniseries that ran on HBO Europe, this excellent film is primarily concerned with the repercussions following Jan Palach’s protest of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, in which he set himself on fire in January 1969 in the center of Prague.  A large portion of the miniseries involves the libel case brought by Jan’s mom against a communist official in the Czech government, a government which tried to discredit Palach’s actions as those of a madman.

Gem of the Festival: The Little House (Yoji Yamada)

My definition of a gem is a good film that catches you unawares at how good it is.  Gabrielle and The Whole Wide World could have easily been up here, but the former film was Canada’s Oscar nominee  in 2014 (it didn’t make the short list) and the latter film came out in 1996, so while both films were unknown to me, they were known entities coming into the festival.  And yes, The Little House did win the Silver Bear for Best Actress (Haru Kuroki) at the Berlin Film Festival, but that didn’t mean this film, about a woman writing about her time spent as a housekeeper in 1930s and 1940s Tokyo, would be any good.  It is, and is one of the most gentle and humane films I saw at the festival.

Other great films:  Gabrielle, Hate from a Distance (short), Keep On Keepin’ On, Last Year at Marienbad, Lucky Them, The Whole Wide World

Best Director (tie): Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Megan Griffiths (Lucky Them)

Linklater gets this award for the vision required to pull off a movie with a 12-year-shooting schedule, as well as the uniform excellence of the actors.  Griffiths wins for pulling some fantastic performances out of her entire cast, with the  help of an excellent script.

Best Screenplay: Lucky Them (Emily Wachtel, Huck Botko)

Seeing this film reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve seen a comedy this well-written, particularly the dialogue.  Kudos must go to the casting, as well, for Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church make these words live.

Best Actor (tie): Dawid Ogrodnik (Life Feels Good), Thomas Haden Church (Lucky Them)

How Ogrodnik was able to play someone with cerebral palsy, when he doesn’t have it himself, is the most amazing thing about Life Feels Good, while Church stole (almost) every scene he was in in Lucky Them.

Best Actress: Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars)

The commitment Woodley brings to her roles is incredible.  Since she just played a teenage girl last year (in The Spectacular Now), she could’ve played a slight variation of the role as Hazel Grace Lancaster.  Instead, she creates a whole new person, but I’m mainly giving this award to her for a eulogy she gives that would force tears from stone.

Miscellaneous

Usually, no one pays attention to my badge.  This year, I had two of them, but the one everyone noticed was my staff badge, due to the picture on the front.  Provided I’m working for SIFF next year, I may use the same photo.

Channeling Vivian Maier...and apparently old school Hollywood glamour

Channeling Vivian Maier…and apparently old school Hollywood glamour

Thanks

Individual Thanks

  • To Rachel Eggers: for being my main contact concerning press questions, press tickets, press interviews, and all things press.
  • To Beth Barrett: for helping me label the guests correctly in my photos when more than the advertised guests showed up (i.e. Lucky Them)
  • To Ben Mawhinney: for doing the same thing for DamNation.
  • To Ryan Davis: for sending me the link for Red Knot, even though I didn’t get to see the film until Best of SIFF.
  • To my parents: for getting me a new camera this year that doesn’t suck in low light.

Group Thanks

  • To the press screening crew: for being awesome a second year in a row.
  • To the passholders: for chatting with me during press screenings and saying, “I’m so glad you’re getting to see some films,” whenever you saw me watching movies during festival.
  • To the entire Publicity Department: for sending out all those emails to the press and answering all of our questions.
  • To all the programmers: for programming some awesome movies (and even the not-so-awesome ones were kinda cool).
  • To all the SIFF Cinema crew, new and old: way to rock during the festival! And at two venues (three if you count the panels at the Film Center)!
  • To all the Events crew: for bringing us great food and music during the Galas, and all those parties that I didn’t have time to go to.
  • To all the volunteers: for doing what you do, every festival.
  • To anyone I forgot to mention: sorry, and thanks!

I haven’t thought about what I’m going to do next year.  One of these festivals, I may just decide to binge on movies and to hell with writing about them.  It may be next festival; it may be the festival after.  All I know is, another Seattle International Film Festival has gone by, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. 😉

Until next time!

And if y0u want to start reading from the beginning of my posts for SIFF 2014, start here.

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