Thursday, July 23, 2009

59th Greenwood Seafair Parade (July 22)

I'm not a Greenwood Seafair Parade patriot. Last year, I watched it for about 12 minutes before leaving to see Mudhoney at a KEXP event. This year, as early as 10am, chairs sat on Greenwood. They were placeholders for attendees staking spots. By 2:30, much of Greenwood between 85th and 95th was chair-lined. Still, I wasn't enticed. At 6 when the parade began, however, I heard a marching band and ventured outside. The Navy group marched by. They kind of rocked--the drums, the horns, the cymbals, the symmetry of the white uniforms and the glinting of the sun off the patent shoes. (Didn't have my camera.)

The real patriots The most numerous participants were the drill teams. Had no idea the many that existed in the area. (And, why is the cowboy costume theme so popular?)

Many churches participated. Usually, it was a father-and-son team holding a sign detailing the virtues their church offered: A Connection with God. Be a Part of Something Greater Than Yourself.

The Greenwood Christian Church chose to go with flair. The crowd cheered the green and yellow.

Pray with Flair

You hear the bands long before you see them. The funkier the band, the more the liveliness generated on the sidelines.Marching Band

They display passion. I tried to find someone who looked like s/he was just going through the motions. It ain't easy. They're performing to an cheering audience. Is there a rush? The marching band gives back with their own brand of flair. (The theme of this year's parade was 'Greenwood Gets Active.' It could've been 'Gracing Greenwood with Flair for 59 Years.)

The Tappers and the Lone Clapper

The Latin cowboys on the trotting horses was a surprise. Horses on Greenwood? (The fact that it wasn't a drill team also helped.)


Not sure about the clowns. Regarding the cop clown..just whose side do you represent? The Bobbies probably won't like the profile. The non-cops won't associate with you. Then, there's Kirk and Spock. Unique--yes--but why? (Anything goes in a parade, especially if you are a clown or...a drill team.)



More marching bands...




All marching bands don't exhibit the same zeal. Considering the short attention span of the average American in the new millennium, the same ole, same ole needs to be special to grab and hold. Enter the creative capitalists at QFC giving Greenwood something different with their glittered-cart choreography.

QFC cart crew 

Drillin' w/ the QFC cart crew








This car touts an Eastern-looking (Hindi?) script. The music had a world beat. He was smiling and waving as the crowd watched with little reaction. (What does it say?)100_4244 

Local color

Pink Tow








The Vern Fonk walking head inciting hyperactivity

Stand Up and Fonk








The "real" Vern Fonk

Play your fonky music









The Seattle Public Library Book-Mobile. (Books rule.)


The drill teams dominated. Some are even recruiting.

The key to parade domination

In closing, I must add that for as many drill teams that love parades, they are cooking up fantastic choreography and dancing, themes and costumes. 

Next year, I will plan to be at the parade, sitting in my very own saved seat. Go Greenwood.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chop Shop (2007)

The child actors in Chop Shop act so well, you think you're watching a documentary. Ale (Alejandro Polanco) is the James Brown of Latino street kids.

The movie opens with Ale, just a kid, in a group of adult day laborers, hoping to get chosen. When overlooked, he defiantly sneaks into the back of the pick-up, hoping that if he can make it to the work site, the boss will put him to work. He's discovered and gets booted. The hazy New York skyline in the background sets the tone for the rest of the story. From there, Ale's with his buddy, Carlos, (Carlos Zapata) selling candy on the train (scene was shot in the subway with real New Yorkers, not actors). After dividing up their loot, Ale heads to his job at the chop shop--finding and directing customers, fetching parts, buffing and priming cars and cleaning up. He's on the search for Isi (Isamar Gonzales) his teenage sister, who's left the safe house where she was staying. She can't seem to stay on the path Ale desires for her, but he doesn't give up. He gets her a job at the taco truck by the chop shop. She's slow, bored and unmotivated. He's holding on to his dream of buying his own taco truck and working alongside Isi, but will she stay put long enough for this to happen?

Street-savvy Ale takes on the role of dad in the relationship his sister. Just a tween, he's possessed with swagger, discipline and drive. He's also vulnerable, playful and full of naive hope. His accent is delightful. His face, a smorgasbord for his myriad emotions. His goal--to forge a good life for his sister and him.

Filmed entirely in Queens and in actual chop shops, the cinematography is a crucial mood setter. The long shots provide the anonymity of survival-of-the-fittest and loneliness in a crowded city. The hand-held camera places you in his day-to-day existence--feeling his frustration, his joy, his anger. It's not a happy ending--it's authentic. Full of social commentary, the movie focuses more on the strength of youth, the power of dreams and the quest for stability.

Writer/director Ramin Bahrani is someone to watch. Chop Shop bursts with reality and hope and this combination creates a passion unrealized and ignored by many directors.

Writer/Director: Ramin Bahrani

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Run time: 81 minutes

Scale: 5

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shadows on Independence Day

Chicken or the egg


Monday, July 13, 2009

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Houston Dynamo (July 11) Qwest Field

Despite some bad calls, the Sounders couldn't be stopped. They stomped the Dynamo 2-1. With the sun shining and the fans full of pride, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful Seattle day for the green and blue.

In action










Seattle skyline from Qwest Field


Los aficionados




Mounting tension


Some whine


Green and blue representing


The beauty


Parting view

West Seattle Summer Fest 2009

Bad elves

The Crew



The fence incident begins...



Mark Arm of Mudhoney






The fans



Art-shot close up









Kiddie rock



The crowd



More fans





Fanboy 1







Fanboy 2






Sleepy kid rock

La mujer de mi hermano (My Brother's Wife) (2005)

La seducción empieza...Sometimes the key to enjoying a movie can be as simple as watching it with the right audience. LMDMH has so much going from the start, it's not to be missed, but when the nuts in the peanut gallery are the right mix, a 3+ movie becomes a 5. (Shout outs to Michelle and Brian.)

Zoe (Bárbara Mori) is married to attractive, but cranky-ass Ignacio (Christian Meier). Ignacio works a lot and only wants to engage in sex on Saturdays. This leaves lusty Zoe with no choice but to look for love elsewhere--unfortunately, lazy and not so creative, she chooses her husband's brother Gonzalo (Manolo Cardona). Artist Gonzalo is a player and has a strident relationship with Ignacio. Their mother thinks they can do no wrong. She isn't a fan of Zoe, who hasn't sired her a grandkid after 10 years of marriage to her first born. Of course, mama-in-law blames this on Zoe. Family issues play in LMDMH as part drama, part romantic thriller and part Spanish soap opera where everyone has a secret and an agenda.

There are captivating secondary characters in this movie. With so much happening, you don't know who can be trusted. Everyone is beautiful, the sexual tension is fierce and the twists--oy vey--they start immediately and don't let up. There's only one aspect/subplot that isn't resolved; otherwise, nice playing out of the befuddling switchbacks.

I suggest you see it with friends and spirits (to keep with the flavor, perhaps Latin-American wine or cocktails). Peanut gallery your way through and you won't regret it.

Director: Ricardo de Montreuil

Country: Colombia

Genre: Drama (telenovela style)

Run time: 89 minutes

Scale: 5

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Varjoja paratiisissa (Shadows in Paradise) (1986)

Nicotine-lovin' Fins Strangely captivating garbage man Nikander (Matti Pellonpää) has terrific hair, but not much stirring in his life. When his colleague decides to start his own business, he asks Nikander to join him. Nikander contemplates and decides it's an excellent idea. But, before he can take action, his pal dies. Nikander goes on a bender. He meets a grocery store cashier, Ilona (Kati Outinen). It's love at first sight. He asks her out, but their differences get in the way. They part. They reconnect and navigate their unlikely coupling. Their connection is powerful because they are stoic yet they convey their complex feelings to one another and the viewer.

The soundtrack includes blues, honky tonk and loads of singular songs. The characters are peculiar and their conversations are entertaining. You find yourself caring about their goals, desires. The shots are long and halting--many reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The smoking is constant. In almost every scene (maybe all), at least one character is smoking. If they aren't actively smoking, the scene contains a burning cigarette. Toward the end, the main characters take a smoke break. Ilona even cracks an elusive smile. Loved this oddball dram-com.

Part of Aki Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy, the next two movies (Ariel--1988 and Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö--Match Factory Girl--1990) are excellent. Each gets darker. Match Factory Girl is the darkest and most disturbing. Trilogy is part of the Eclipse offering from the Criterion Collection. "Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer."


Writer/Director: Aki Kaurismäki

Country: Finland

Genre: Drama/Dark Comedy/Romantic Comedy

Run time: 76 minutes

Scale: 5

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Perfect Witness / The Ungodly (2007)

What if you tracked down a serial killer and had him on film in the act of murder? Would you turn the evidence into the authorities? Or, would you, track him down, blackmail him into starring in your documentary and make him detail what made him into a serial killer? In this low-budget, not-bad movie, recovering addict Mickey Gravatski (Wes Bentley--of American Beauty fame) does the later. Living with his mother, he thinks this documentary could be the break he's been awaiting. He tells the killer, James Lemac (Mark Borkowski), that in exchange for his cooperation on the documentary, Mickey won't turn him in to the cops--not yet anyway. He'll give it to the cops only after Lemac's death. Thus, begins a peculiarly manipulative co-dependent relationship. Lemac turns out more 3-D than Mickey expects but he still has his thirst for blood and violence and just because Mickey is filming him doesn't mean he's going to stop doing what he's compelled to do.

This is a perplexing film. While the plot is outlandish, it straps you in and takes you on a what-if journey. As Mickey is dragged deeper into Lemac's world, he begins to unravel how Lemac ended up a killer. He doesn't like or respect him and even becomes disturbed from his reluctant collusion, but even at the end, as you witness Mickey's demise, you realize how badly his dreams have backfired and how poorly he's fared in his deal with Lemac. Overriding themes include mother-son relationships, co-dependency, addiction and the other side of a killer. While far-fetched, The Perfect Witness does a decent job with its particular plot.

Director: Thomas Dunn (co-wrote with Mark Borkowski, the actor who plays the serial killer)

Country: US

Genre: Thriller/Horror

Run time: 99 minutes

Scale: 3

Random Signs


Sign in North Seattle. Does this mean that pig varieties other than pot bellies are okay? What about goats and horses?



Sign on pedestrian only Beale Street in Memphis, TN. Seems important that reptiles is specifically mentioned. There must have been an incident requiring the calling out of not only animals, but also reptiles. I wonder if it's only a matter of time before the North Seattle sign is amended to No Animals Allowed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dot the I (2003)

How often do you watch a movie trailer and think, "I don't think so," then later watch it and enjoy it? Making a good trailer for difficult-to-classify movies must be be arduous. My memory of the Dot the I trailer was that it looked like a romantic comedy between a bride-to-be and hot, hot Gael García Bernal's character. I imagined the woman realizes she wants to be with this sexy stranger and not marry her intended groom. Not exactly.Turns out this is much more of a thriller with a twist.

Spanish flamenco dancer/burger joint employee Carmen (Natalia Verbeke) is proposed to by her wealthy and dry English boyfriend of five months, Barnaby (James D'Arcy). Carmen agrees but is uncertain due to how soon it is into their courtship. The eve of her 'hen night,' she shares a lusty kiss with a Brazilian stranger, Kit (Gael García Bernal). Kit wants more and pursues Carmen. He finds out where she works and asks her for a date. Confused Carmen is reluctantly interested and agrees. The love triangle begins. Barnaby's suspicions peak and tension intensifies, especially when we learn that Carmen has bolted from Spain to flee from a stalker.

Dot the I provides the viewer with sexual tension, scenes with characters running, meta-film, some violence and a murder-mystery. In the end, it breaks down like two movies. Before and after the twist. I kept watching wanting to know more, even when I wasn't sure I liked where the second part was heading. In the end, the plot is unique and unexpectedly odd. For more Gael García fix, see Levi's Ad.

Writer/Director: Matthew Parkhill

Country: US

Genre: Romantic thriller

Run time: 92 minutes

Scale: 4