Monday, October 31, 2011

Thread Show Seattle (10.23.2011)

Thread Show photographer Georgia EsporlasThe awaited Thread Show—a fashion extravaganza at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion—brought designers and trend-lovers together for a day of shopping, do-it-yourself activities and simply celebrate fashion.

The day kicked off cloudy and gray with the possibility of lingering gloom. Upon arriving early to the show as instructed to get VIP entry (and the coveted goodie bag), we were brusquely turned away due to it being “too early.” Okay, okay, take it easy.

When we asked what time the fashion show was to kick off, we were crushed to hear it wouldn’t happen and hadn’t happened for years now. But the initial intro to the Thread customer service mavens was underwhelming. We left to get some breakfast and upon return, the event moved along smoothly.

Aveda booth at Thread Show SeattleThe event was smaller than expected but having not previously attended, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Is it because Seattle is known as a poorly dressed city? Regardless, the show was vibrant and energetic. A DJ spun tunes just inside the entrance. Aveda offered complimentary hair straightening and curling as well as a hot pink extension for $10.

A zealous attendee posing with fantastic jewelry maker at Thread Show Seattle

Ladies showing off their hats at Thread Show SeattleJackets, paintings, cards, all types of jewelry, tiny hats à la Royal Wedding style, coats, t-shirts, stuffed toys, hats, bags, belts, gloves. You name it, they had it. It provided an excellent opportunity to support local, independent designers and view the goods they are creating to motivate others to get cracking or at the least keep their merchandise moving.

The clothing swap area was so-so initially and then the pieces exploded. Trading what you aren’t wearing and picking up new items is FUN. This area needs to be expanded for next year. The bar was intimate but provided atmosphere while taking a break.

What could be improved: Improve upon the goodie bag (don’t fill it up with chips and energy bars). Add a fashion show. Offer it twice a day. Allow the models to display items the vendors are selling. Give attendees seats to relax and take it in. Provide couches for the tired friends, husbands, partners.

I’ll be there next year. You’re next, LA. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

All-Star Tribute to the Replacements @ The Comet (10.21.2011)

Replacements tributeThe Replacements bring back fond memories. I consulted the ticket-stub collection (just for you, Andy). I saw them three times in quick succession during their Please to Meet Me tour on August 7, 1987, at the Riviera in Chicago; on Sept. 16, 1987, at the SIU Student Center Ballroom in Carbondale, IL; and on Sept. 17, 1987, at the Athletic Complex at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Favorite albums (yes, I said albums…I am old) by the Minneapolis band from most beloved to just beloved (FYI, there are seven plus a live recording that released only to tape):

  • Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash
  • Let It Be
  • Tim
  • Pleased to Meet Me

When I saw the City Arts Fest tribute show to The Replacements, featuring members of The Fastbacks, The Cops, Virgin Islands,Who is this? Kinski, Fort Union, Concourse d'Elegance, Cataldo, Kyle Bradford, Ben Fisher, Gabriel Mintz and John Roderick, I said, sign me up.

The crowded Comet Tavern teemed with fans. People danced, sang along and grooved to the hootenannies. The swinging door of musicians showed up with vigor. Few of the musicians were announced so regrettably, most are unidentified.

Who are they?

Kurt Bloch after 18 rounds

The worship of Kurt


Among the songs performed:

“Androgynous” (beautifully sung by a solo female artist with a lovely voice accompanying herself on keyboard)
“Favorite Thing”
“Don’t Ask Why”
“Waitress in the Sky”
“Here Comes a Regular”
Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson (RIP), Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars may have loved the ode to their lasting influence and the crowd was reminded of Westerberg’s song-writing prowess.

Adam Sekuler and Gorman BechardProps to the Northwest Film Forum for hosting filmmaker Gorman Bechard and his new film, the documentary Color Me Obsessed about The Replacements. According to Adam Sekuler, Program Director at the NWFF, the tribute show at the Comet was put together as a companion piece to Bechard’s film screening.

9 Songs (2004)

9 SongsThe concept here is unique: intersperse nine songs along the arc of a couple’s sexually charged year-long relationship. With explicit sex taking the helm from story, this is art-house porn.

Lisa (Margo Stilley) is a student in London and Mike (Kieran O'Brien) is her boyfriend. The couple engage in sex, they see live music and occasionally indulge in coke. There’s your storyline. The real story is that the two actors actually have sex with one another. Nothing is simulated—that includes oral and vaginal sex and masturbation (manual and with a vibrator).

Mike is now a glaciologist in Antarctica and he’s reminiscing about time spent with Lisa (mostly in bed). The following quote succinctly pinpoints theme:

Exploring the Antarctic is like exploring space. You enter a void, thousands of miles, with no people, no animals, no plants. You're isolated in a vast, empty continent. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia in the same place, like two people in a bed.

Here are the songs in the order they are performed:
  • "Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll" – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  • “C'mon, C'mon" – The Von Bondies
  • "Fallen Angel" – Elbow
  • "Movin' On Up" – Primal Scream
  • "You Were the Last High" – Dandy Warhols
  • "Slow Life" – Super Furry Animals
  • "Jacqueline" – Franz Ferdinand
  • "Debbie" – Michael Nyman
  • "Love Burns" – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC grace us with two songs. Lucky, lucky us!)

I recommend 9 Songs. It’s not the norm to see two actors in coitus, view semi-close-ups of their genitals and see them masturbating themselves AND be able to watch it in a non-porn variety movie house. 9 Songs suffers from a flimsy storyline and no character development. As a friend put it: “It has more story than porn where the repairman shows up and the naked woman answers the door.” I counter…we just didn’t see Mr. Man arrive.

I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t turn away.

Writer/Director: Michael Winterbottom

Country: UK

Genre: Drama

Run time: 66 minutes

Scale: 2

Das weiße Band (The White Ribbon) (2009)

The White Ribbon creepsThe black-and-white aesthetic of The White Ribbon adds an air of mystery and distance in this recounting of sinister events in a German village in the years before World War I.

The disturbing tale kicks off when a metal wire is rigged between two poles. The village doctor takes a life-threatening fall when his horse runs into said wire. The investigation grows cold—no witnesses, motives nor evidence. The next several incidents lead to the conclusion that someone is performing ritual punishments. Are the village children the perpetrators? The narrator has his own side story that allows for a bit of humor—a rare trait in a Michael Haneke film. It works juxtaposed against the intense main storyline. 

The White Ribbon has Haneke’s trademark theme—that we are all sadists. In fact, the events depicted are based on alleged incidents recorded in Germany and Austria in the 1920s and 1940s. The foreshadowing is clear—the German Reich lies ahead and many of these kids will end up in the Nazi movement. Is it coincidence that the white ribbon the Pastor makes his children wear when they are in need of moral cleansing is reminiscent of the bands the Jews were forced to wear during the Hitler regime?

The White Ribbon is engaging. Yet another Haneke ending without clarity is frustrating, especially after more than two hours.

Open letter to Michael Haneke:

Dear Mr. Haneke,

You are a master storyteller. I watch your movies with rapt interest. Despite their length, I don’t find myself clock watching which is different from how I behave at baseball games; they go too long and should end after the 7th inning. But, I digress.

My point is that unresolved endings mimic real life, but art offers us a break from that reality. Occasionally, I’d be delighted to see a decisive conclusion. That said, The Piano Teacher is a favorite with a reasonable ending. I refer instead to Caché, Funny Games and The White Ribbon. Your open-ended formula needs an overhaul. I don’t know if these children were culpable nor do I know if The School Teacher married Klara.

Despite my nitpicks, this movie was nominated for and won several prestigious awards. Check it out and see what you opine.

Writer/Director: Michael Haneke

Country: Austria

Genre: Drama

Run time: 144 minutes

Scale: 4

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jeffrey Eugenides Reads at Seattle Central Library (10.17.2011)

Jeffrey Eugenides is making the rounds promoting his third novel, The Marriage Plot—his first since his 2002 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel Middlesex. In a shiny-coated black jacket, he read to a packed auditorium at the Seattle Central Library. The excerpt detailed the relationship of two of his characters, Brown University students Madeleine and Leonard. Madeleine is falling for Leonard, while Leonard is starting to take distance. Leonard is stoic, yet unflinchingly observant. Madeleine is traditional and believes in love; Leonard is skeptic. However, the story has another angle. A third character weaves in with his sights set on Madeleine.

Jeffrey Eugenides signs his new novelEugenides’ even tone worked well in delivery of his descriptions and humor. The reading flowed and left those with their newly purchased copies of The Marriage Plot ready to get reading.

Eugenides fielded questions following the reading, including: How did he feel about the adaptation of his novel The Virgin Suicides by Sofia Coppola and his short story The Baster. He deemed that Coppola did a good job; whereas, The Baster, was a poor adaptation made into The Switch (staring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman). His story is about a single woman who wants a baby. She asks her good-looking male friends if they'd provide sperm samples. Her other friend, an ugly man, wants her to ask him to be the donor. When she doesn’t, he tries to find ways to convince her. Eugenides envisioned Paul Giamatti for the role (it went to Bateman). He was  puzzled “they” purchased rights to his story and then changed it. (Note: I liked the movie The Switch.)

He spoke of his own time as a student in the English Department at Brown when Semiotics sprung to life and created a schism. This topic plays a role in The Marriage Plot.

When asked how things were different in relationships now from when he was coming of age in the ‘80s, he said the situations and struggles are still basically the same.

Eldorado (2008)

Eldorado is the road trip movie that couldn’t find its destination.

When Yvan (Bouli Lanners) arrives home to find a burglar in the act, he threatens to call the cops. Instead, Ivan befriends him—sort of. Elie (Fabrice Adde)eldorado admits he was stealing Yvan’s huge jar of coins to supply his heroin habit. Yvan gives Elie a lift to the main road and bids him adieu. When their paths cross again, the two set off on a road trip to Elie’s parents’ home. Yvan will deliver him and Ellie will start over and quit the junk for good.

Anytime you confine characters in a space, such as a car, you usually create magic, but this drive proves long and mostly uneventful. Even with two empathetic main and a few quirky secondary characters, Eldorado lacks conflict and chemistry. Maybe it’s Ellie’s flattened affect and distance. Yvan and Elie’s mother share some a connection, but it’s a mere interlude before the story moves on to its bittersweet ending.

Eldorado is peculiar and has its entertaining moments. It’s missing that je ne sais quoi that would boost it above the 3-star mark. That said, Lanners is to be lauded for his impressive trifecta as writer, director and star.

Writer/Director: Bouli Lanners

Country: Belgium

Genre: Drama

Run time: 80 minutes

Scale: 3

Monday, October 17, 2011

Entre nos (Between Us) (2009)

Entre NosEntre nos is a character development film about immigration gone wrong. Based on a true story about a mother and her two children newly landed (presumably illegally) in New York from Colombia. They have reunited with husband and father Antonio (Andres Munar).

Mariana (Paola Mendoza) is devastated when Antonio abandons her and their children—10-year-old Gabriel (Sebastian Villada) and six-year-old Andrea (Laura Montana). Their lives downward spiral. They lose their apartment and must scavenge for food and money.

This uncomplicated story is poignant and positive. Despite not speaking English and despite the loss of stability, Mariana and her children navigate their impossible situation. They survive each crossroad with the help of several strangers. The movie postscript provides details on what happened to the real-live characters. (You don’t, however, learn what happened to Antonio and whether or not any of them ever saw him again.)

I loved the Colombian angle: the familiar accent, the Spanish lexicon and the food. In the bonus materials on the DVD, the directors detail the step-by-step instructions for on making empanadas. Yum-yum.

Co-writers/Co-directors: Gloria La Morte and Paola Mendoza

Country: USA

Genre: Drama

Run time: 80 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fish Tank (2009)

Fish TankFish Tank is celluloid rawness. Fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) busts onto the screen gulping alcohol from any bottle she can get her hands on, head-butting a former friend for no apparent reason and trying to liberate a neglected horse. The moment her party-girl mom’s one-night stand catches her dancing in her council estate kitchen, Mia’s life changes.

Mia lives in a den of hostility with her younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths) and their critical mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing). The three are foul-mouthed and rage-filled. When Joanne’s new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender) starts giving Mia the attention she’s starved for and encourages her dreams of being a hip-hop dancer, she puts her fury aside. She lessens her missions to chaos and destruction in lieu of the dancing, especially when a big audition comes her way. Just as it appears she’s getting on track a huge betrayal derails her. You don’t cross Mia Williams unless you are ready for her wrath. The dance scene shared by the three ladies at the end is priceless. A great movie without this scene but their connection utters the feeling they don’t state.

Brutal, cutting, unsanded—Mia is an animal I didn’t want to release. Get comfortable on the edge of your sofa for the maelstrom from which you won’t be able to turn. In the end, I was upset with Mia’s choice; I wanted her to return to school and expand upon her awakening. She’s a fighter but where will she end up? This is a genuine ending but I’m still mad at her for leaving.

Andrea Arnold also directed the brilliant Red Road (which was meant to be the first in a trilogy using the same actors).

Writer/Director: Andrea Arnold

Country: UK

Genre: Drama

Run time: 122 minutes

Scale: 5

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

The playersI’m surprised there aren’t more movies about kids looking up their sperm donors. The best part of watching The Kids Are All Right is that I avoided reading or hearing anything about it beforehand so everything—from the secondary actors to the plot points to the ending were a surprise.

In a nutshell, siblings 18-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and 15-year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) seek out and meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo)the man behind the sperm that created them. When their moms Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) find out, they are threatened by Paul and worried about the kids.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

It’s funny: Great use of humor—quips, one-liners and verbal sparring.

Insightful details and characterizations: Joni and Laser are confident. They have real teenage moments and through these we learn what drives them. Their relationship with one another is strong and they are self-assured. The relationship between their moms Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) is portrayed with its blemishes and struggles. Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is affected by his relationship with Joni and Laser and he grows up.

The ending: The way Paul is cut off from the Laser and Joni at the end was sloppy and offered no resolution. If this movie were longer, Laser and Paul would get likely be in touch again. They shared a connection but it would be difficult for the entire family to forgive Paul’s perceived “interloping.” I loved the idea of this blended family working out somehow.

Was Jules definitely gay? No way! I had difficulty believing that Jules was gay after her sex scenes with Paul. She was really into it MANY times over. At the very least, maybe she’s bisexual?

Co-writer/Director: Lisa Cholodenko

Country: USA

Genre: Dramedy

Run time: 106 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Savage Grace (2007)

Tony and his boyfriendSavage Grace is an uneven and slow slog. I’d go as far as calling it boring. It shocks you over and over but in between, the unsympathetic characters provoke anything but distaste, revulsion and confirmation that people with too much money are miserable wagons.

This disturbing mess tells the alleged true story of Barbara Daly Baekeland (Julianne Moore) and Brooks Baekeland (Stephen Dillane); the latter the heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. They have a son, Antony (Eddie Redmayne), who is doted on by his mother and ignored by his father. The family travel the world mingling with persons of high social caliber. Brooks is irritated while Barbara is in her element pushing Tony’s accomplishments onto the annoyed guests.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

Tony’s interest is mildly peaked when he meets hot Spaniard Blanca (Elena Anaya) but that doesn’t stop him from sexing it up with his male buddy (see picture). Barbara pushes Tony and Blanca to sleep together, but soon Brooks runs away with Blanca leaving wife and son behind never to look back. Tony is crushed by his dad’s abandonment and his “inheriting” his mother, her depression and her suicidal tendencies.

Many lurid events follow: Barbara takes up with a gay man. They  engage in a ménage à trois with Tony. Tony is numb as his mother’s keeper, confidante and sometimes lover. I wasn’t expecting the final scene where Barbara mounts her son, has sex with him and asks him if he came. When he says no, she gives him a hand job. Once done, they get up and contemplate what to order for dinner. Tony stabs and kills her. After nearly eight years in a psychiatric hospital, Tony is released and moves in with his maternal grandmother. Within a week, he stabs her. She survives but Tony goes to Rikers Island where within the year he’s dead by suffocation with a plastic bag (it was uncertain if it was a suicide or murder).

A fucking mess.

Director: Tom Kalin

Country: USA

Genre: Drama

Run time: 97 minutes

Scale: 2