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Best of 2002: Movies, Books, Music.
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Thursday, July 08, 2004

SIFF Highlights, Part 1
It’s now been three and a half weeks since the credits rolled on this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, and I’m just about adjusting to life after SIFF. I saw 57 films over the course of its three and a half weeks, a feat that sometimes required me to stay out past 7 p.m., something I usually hesitate to do. Of course, it didn’t hurt that there’s bugger all on television now. (Bloody hell, I’m blogging on the cutting edge, eh? On Tuesday I broke the news that Los Angeles isn’t designed for pedestrians; today I can reveal that TV sucks in summer. Tomorrow, who knows, something groundbreaking like “going to 57 movies in three weeks reveals you’re a total saddo.”)

I’m not going to work through all 57 films here (let’s face it, if I tried, I’d just get bored and fade out after a couple of weeks; and if I’m bored …), but it wouldn’t hurt to share the highlights, eh?

As always, I adored the Spanish films. We had six this year—Torremolinos 73, The Basque Ball, November, The Weakness of the Bolshevik, Your Next Life, and the magnificent Take My Eyes. (Pretension alert: I can’t tell you what a massive effort it was for me to offer those movie titles in English.) So, three Luis Tosars (in my case on consecutive nights), three Juan Diegos, and two Candela Peñas. These films were each so fabulous that I shall be raving about them at greater length soon, but some brief cameo rave-ettes, beginning tonight:

Off the Map (U.S.; drama; dir. Campbell Scott): A very quiet and unhurried movie that never seemed slow. The story of a precocious and confident young girl who lives with her hippy parents in Nowheresville, N.M. The start of the story is a little bit reminiscent of The Darling Buds of May, in that it involves a tax man landing, as if from another planet, in the middle of an unconventional, loving family, only to discover love and art and all the good things that come from not wearing a tie. Actor-directors often make movies that are a long string of climaxes full of the kind of speeches that play well at the Oscar ceremony, but Campbell Scott completely avoided that here. There are some marvelous performances from Joan Allen, Sam Elliott, and Valentina de Angelis as the young narrator (I saw a ton of great performances by children and young adults in festival movies). Jim True-Frost, who I’d only seen before as the idiot turned investigator savant in The Wire (the best show on HBO) was especially impressive. Quite a literary film (with themes and motifs and everything), but never pretentious. I could’ve lived without the voiceover from an adult Bo, which seemed like a flimsy excuse to give a role to Amy Brenneman (because every indie movie needs a bona fide TV star, right?), but that’s a minor quibble.