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Monday, May 30, 2011


The prestigious National Film Registry is explained, praised and celebrated in the delightful documentary These Amazing Shadows.

Any film nerd will smile through all 88 minutes of love as a who's who of directors, actors, critics and preservationists gush over the importance of cinema as a national scrapbook.

Aside from being charming, the documentary actually teaches us something (who knew that we, the public, could have a say as to what gets nominated?). A greater respect for the meticulous work of the preservationists is also earned, plus, several goosebump-worthy clips are shown to remind us why we're all watching a movie about movies. I'm proud to announce that the whole audience reacted with claps and cheers to the Back to the Future montage.

There are mysteries uncovered, controversies dismantled and just enough humorous anecdotes (thank you, John Waters) to keep this flick from being solely for the geeks.

It made me want to rush home and pull Gone With the Wind off my shelf, then rent about a dozen classic films that I'm ashamed I haven't yet seen.

Three cheers for the Library of Congress, and for directors Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton, for making us aware of this great acknowledgement of art and history.

These Amazing Shadows screened at The 37th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.


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Sunday, May 29, 2011

SIFF Sighting: Summer Coda (Romance; Australia)

Heidi (Rachael Taylor) is like many other American girls—raised by a single mother with only a handful of memories from the days her father was still around.

Michael (Alex Dimitriades) is the operator of an Australian orange grove, who is trying to heal from his painful past.

Their meet-cute happens as Heidi is on her way to Australia to attend the funeral of her absent father and she hitchhikes into town. Michael, worried for her safety, picks her up and the two develop something that resembles friendship.

When Heidi is met with a less-than-pleasant reception from her stepmother, she leaves the family home and seek's refuge at Michael's house, becoming one of his orange pickers.

Feelings soon develop between the two, but they don't act on them because of the secrets they have yet to share with one another.

This all plays out with a quiet tension that's painfully real and also hopelessly romantic.

The actors and their situations are all believable, and the slow pace of the film can be easily forgiven since most of what we see throughout the narrative are beautiful places and beautiful people.

For a first feature film, director Richard Gray has done quite well.

I'm anxious to see his next project, which he is coincidentally filming in Washington state.

Summer Coda screened at The 37th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.


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SIFF Sighting: THE WHISTLEBLOWER (Thriller; Canada)

In the late 90s, U.S. cop Kathryn Bolkovac went to Bosnia to be a human rights investigator.

She uncovered a sex trafficking operation involving many of her peers, which the U.N. was covering up. She was fired for reporting the scandal.

The Whistleblower details this true story with a strong Rachel Weisz as Kathryn, accented with heartbreaking performances from the supporting cast.

It's a solid film, but it takes a while for the pace to gain momentum.

The Whistleblower screened at The 37th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Another Change of Plans

Sorry folks—Michael has decided the film we'll review for Cinebanter #104 will be MIDNIGHT IN PARIS; not THE HANGOVER II, as previously announced.

We regret the error and promise not to change our minds again.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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SIFF Sighting: HIT SO HARD (Documentary; USA)

"Patty will always be my drummer." –Courtney Love Cobain

Of course, Courtney's talking about Patty Schemel, the small-town Washington state musician that helped develop the band Hole's sound, and battled a terrible addiction to drugs and alcohol along the way.

It may sound cliché on paper, but the life Schemel entered into when she joined the band, and the resulting life she lives now—after rising above it so many years later—is nothing short of miraculous.

Raised in Marysville, Wash., Schemel always knew she was different, but wasn't comfortable being openly gay in her small home town. She channeled her energy into music and was a member of several bands before landing in Hole.

During her early years with the band, she lived with Courtney and her famous husband, Kurt Cobain. They became close, and as Courtney mentioned in the film, the couple discussed "sharing" Patty's talent between their two bands because they both liked her playing so much. But Nirvana never got the chance to use her.

She settled in to Hole, grieved the death of Cobain soon thereafter and then just two months later, endured the death of the Hole bassist, Kristen Pfaff.

Patty had scattered periods of sobriety, but most of the time, the aftermath of grief left her perpetually waiting until the next time she could get high.

The addition of replacement bassist, Melissa Auf der Maur helped somewhat, giving her a BFF within the band, but even the strength of Melissa's friendship wasn't enough to pull Patty out of her addiction.

This documentary, directed by P. David Ebersol, gives a candid portrait of her battle, featuring footage going as far back as the early 90s, spliced with present day reflections from her Hole bandmates, other musicians in the industry, her mother and her brother.

They all speak lovingly of Patty, who was thankfully able to turn her life around before it was too late.

It's an enjoyable, if not somewhat painful, glimpse into the world of a true survivor.

Hit So Hard screened at The 37th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Be sure to wear black if you're heading to this one—you'll feel as if you're attending a funeral.

Though The New York Times newspaper has so far survived the media rapture, there is constant speculation that its days are numbered.

This documentary, Page One: Inside The New York Times, takes you behind the curtain of the famous Gray Lady to take the temperature of those who live it, and ultimately love it. Not to be missed!

The Seattle International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the United States. Now in its 37th year, the event runs through June 12.

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Change of Plans: It's The Hangover Part II

Due to the limited availability of Meek's Cutoff in the Bay Area, and the rigorous film festival schedule Tassoula is now enveloped in, the May Cinebanter show has been canceled.

The June show, coming soon, will feature a review of The Hangover II and Tassoula's report from the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

In the meantime, look forward to written reviews from Tassoula as makes her way through dozens of films at SIFF.

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