Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seattle - Capital Hill / Broadway

We went up to the Broadway/Capital Hill area of Seattle to watch a movie that was part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).  It seems like every city now has its own film festival and they all have acronyms similar to Toronto's TIFF (Boston - BIFF, Calgary - CIFF, Dallas - DIFF ...).  Part of the attraction was to see the historic Egyptian Theatre, named after its current Egyptian-styled decor that was added in the 1980s when the building was converted into a theatre.   Built in 1915, it was originally the home of Freemasons and still bears masonic symbols throughout the interior and exterior.

Compared to TIFF, almost everything seemed about SIFF seemed smaller in scale including the number of venues, length of lineups for the movies and ticket prices.  We saw a matinee for only $8 per ticket!  However SIFF runs for a whole 25 days as opposed to TIFF's 11 days.  I found the standard "turn your cell phone off" video to be amusing.  The tag line was "Warning, objects may shift when using your cell phone", accompanied by a cartoon image of a guy getting hit in the head with a tossed bag of popcorn.

 The movie we watched was a comedy called Gayby about a straight woman named Jenn and her gay best friend Matt deciding to have a baby together (in the same vein as the movie "Friends With Kids" except in this case there is no chance of this couple suddenly realizing they were meant to be together).  This was a lighthearted movie with many funny moments including Jenn and Matt's attempts at conceiving "the old fashioned way", and their subsequent attempts at online dating with people of their own sexual orientation.  The director, Jonathan Lisecki who was also the writer and played one of the characters in the film, was on hand for the screening and participated in a quick Q&A after the screening.

The Capitol Hill area has some interesting murals and graffiti as well as a sculpture of Jimi Hendrix on Broadway Ave, but incongruously now sitting in front of a paint store. I wonder whether it used to be a record store when the statue was originally placed there.  And then to our surprise and delight, we stumbled across the new location of the Elliott Bay Book Company.  This was listed as one of the highlights of the Seattle's  Pioneer Square, so we were disappointed to find it was closed there and did not realize that it had been relocated.

As an additional unexpected treat, we found that an author's talk was being held at the book store that night.  The book was called "Rule of Thumb - Ebert at the Movies" by Todd Rendleman and deals with the influence of Roger Ebert's film critiques on the American movie industry.  Rendleman is a professor in communications specializing in film and criticism at the Seattle Pacific University.  As he read excerpts from his book, it was clear he had a passion for the movies even as a boy, as he persuaded his father to drive him across the border to neighbouring states so that he could watch more features.  He spoke with admiration and respect of Roger Ebert, who "views movies as friends you want to meet" and changed the way audiences watched films.  Ebert's perspective was that what was important about a movie was not just "what it is about, but how it is what it is about" - that style was just as important as content.

Rendleman told the anecdote of how Roger Ebert was disappointed with the ending of Fatal Attraction and suggested that the ultra violent sensationalist ending (which was demanded by audience focus groups including one from Seattle) compromised the film artistically.  He suggested a better scene for the film to end on, just to find out from Glenn Close that this was indeed the original ending before the predictable Hollywood ending got tacked on. 

One of the most interesting sections of the book is the one called "Misfires".  In this chapter, Rendleman gives examples of where he thought Ebert was wrong in his critique of a movie and then provides his own analysis as proof.  In the question and answer period, I asked whether Roger Ebert had read this book, and whether he changed his mind on any of his writeups based on Rendleman's misfire rebuttals.  As of right now, Ebert had not read or commented on the book (although he did write a forward for it).  Being minor film buffs ourselves, it was really interesting for us to hear Rendleman speak and read from his book.  I plan to read the rest of this book, and hopefully hear one day whether Rendleman's challenges of some of Ebert's critiques lead him to reconsider them.  We were thrilled to have this experience that was off the beaten path and not recommended by any guidebook.

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