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Russia Trip: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Best of 2002: Movies, Books, Music.
Best of 2003: Movies.
Best of 2004: Movies, Books.
Best of 2005: Theater, Books.
Best of 2006: Theater, Books, Television.


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Saturday, May 31, 2003

SIFF, Day 8
It’s hard to believe that it was just one week ago that my vanpool was cutting folks off on 520 and dumping me into traffic so I could make the first “regular” movie of this year’s festival.

I was glad to have the chance to see Animatrix on the big screen. I liked it better than The Matrix Reloaded, but since I know absolutely nothing about anime (I think this is the first one I’ve seen in a theater!), I don’t feel qualified to rate it. I certainly enjoyed the experience, and some of the artwork and animation was stunning. "The Second Renaissance" Parts 1 and 2 gave me some good Matrix background (I made the big mistake of not rewatching The Matrix before going to see Reloaded), and My favorite segments were "Beyond" (very cool dithering effect) and "Kid’s Story." Overall, it was great to see such a variety of art and animation styles.

I loved The Sea, which is one of my favorites of the festival so far. It’s directed by Baltasar Kormákur, who also wrote and directed 101 Reykjavik back in 2001. The Sea has some similar themes to 101 Reykjavik (a pregnant foreign girlfriend figuring out Iceland, family drama, consensual incest), but where Kormákur’s first film was played for laughs, The Sea is more of a tragedy—though there are still some very funny scenes (I credit the Spanish half of Kormákur’s parentage for this—Spaniards are especially gifted at marrying tragedy and comedy). Set in an island fishing village (just like Respiro—is that this year’s secret festival theme?), Thordur, the family patriarch, summons his kids (one son works in the family business; another has fled to Paris where he’s a songwriter; the only daughter lives in the capital) for a gathering of the clan. When you include Thordur’s crazy mother, his second wife—his first wife’s sister—her daughter, and the siblings’ wives and kids—it’s a recipe for disaster. As well as the family saga, there’s a secondary but very much related plot about fishing quotas, immigration, and preserving local communities in the face of globalization. The music was fabulous; but I realized watching The Sea that I’d probably go to see just about any Icelandic movie just to hear the language.

Dirt, a made-for-Showtime, shot-on-video movie about the life of an undocumented Salvadoran who entered the United States with her family 12 years ago and now earns her living as a cleaning lady, was surprisingly good. Julieta Ortiz was great as Dolores—not too put upon and certainly no exploited angel. An interesting film that gave a pretty effective sense of the life of one particular “illegal” family living in New York.

A day of great movies was rounded out by Yossi & Jagger, the story of two officers in the Israeli army who fall in love. Jagger is one of those good-looking charming guys that everyone loves; Yossi, the company commander, is more uptight, and is unwilling to come out, even outside the context of the army. Although there was nothing particularly news in the gay love story, it was very nicely done, and I was fascinated by the scenes of life on a small Israeli army base (a 12-man post near the Lebanese border). A fascinating movie, despite some technical shortcomings.