Other 1998 SIFF  Reviews

This is a grab bag of reviews from various other folks:

Christopher Kerouack on Delivered (6/12/98):

A pizza delivery boy takes notes to himself on a portable tape recorder, jotting down notes about the usual work and life gripes. His life is turned upside down, however, when the tape recorder is stolen by a serial killer and the tapes’ messages taken literally…

A decent thriller shot right here in Seattle. The characters aren’t especially deep or engaging; their various musings come straight from college philosophy discussions (which meant the dialogue was painfully realistic to me..). What makes the movie really enjoyable are the production values: great choices of locations, with sumptuous, colorful cinematography and a strong (perhaps occasionally overbearing) musical score. It shows just how high quality a film one can produce on a small budget. Worth seeing once.

Christopher Kerouack (6/8/98):

I Married A Strange Person:

A man gains (via bizarre circumstances) the ability to impose his will and imagination on his environment. Saying anything else about it would take away from its ability to surprise and shock.

Just a little creepy, just a little gross, funny as all hell. You’ll never be impressed by contortionists again. =) And the songs were pretty cute. I didn’t get a chance to stay for Bill Plimpton’s talk afterwards, but someone who was there that I saw at the next film said he was hawking his merchandise pretty heavily…

Black Mask:

Squad 701 is an elite group of assassins surgically altered to have no emotions and to feel no pain. One of their number runs off into hiding, only to come back out again as The Black Mask when Squad 701 threatens to take over the world.

If you’ve needed a good wuxia (guys-on-wires) fix for a while, RUN, do not walk, to the midnight showing of Black Mask on Saturday at the Egyptian. Corny, silly, with only a couple gadgets and no pesky plot to get in the way. =) There’s even a couple chances for Jet Li to do some straightforward fighting as well as the obligatory wire fu. Directed by Tsui Hark ("Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain" and most of the "Once Upon A Time in China" series).

Christopher Kerouack (6/8/98):

Day of the Beast:

A theology professor discovers, through cabbalistic methods, the exact date that the Antichrist will be born. The only trouble is, he doesn’t know where it will be born any more specifically than "somewhere in Madrid". He then proceeds to find a way to sell his soul to the Devil and commit evil acts in order to act as a sort of compass to find the child before the apocalypse.

Fun, fast-paced and dark, with some interesting characters (the owner of a death metal record shop and a TV astrologer / evangelist / exorcist, among others). The main character’s determination and matter-of-factness about what he does makes his slapstick moments even funnier. Loses a little bit of steam towards the last third of the film, but still entertaining.

The Black Angel:

A young girl has the majority of her immediate family murdered by the yakuza. She herself is only saved by the Black Angel, a yakuza hitwoman. Years later, the girl takes on the identity of the Black Angel both to avenge her family’s death and to draw attention to herself to bring the real Black Angel out of retirement, or some damn thing like that.

Brutally tedious. About 15-20 minutes of plot at the beginning and end of the movie sandwich a very long, slow, violent, misogynistic story. There were a lot of walkouts on this one; I was almost one of them a couple times. Bleh. The only thing going for it was that it ended exactly the way I’d want a movie like that to end: dramatic confrontation, a sudden brief exchange of gunfire, and everyone dies. The end. Roll credits. =)

Henry Fool:

A drifter (Henry) moves into a basement apartment, carrying with him "Confessions", a lengthy novel years in the making that he says will revolutionize literature as we know it. Along the way he becomes a mentor to a young garbageman, Simon, who lives upstairs. Simon’s fairly pornographic work eventually receives critical praise, while Henry’s work is dismissed as amateurish and just plain bad.

Typically witty dialogue and great characterization that I’d expect in a Hal Hartley film. He was also willing to go on for about an extra 20 minutes past where one would expect a story like this to end. (Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’m still thinking about, which probably means it was good. =) ) Cruder in a couple of places than I expected. And Henry is a very broad, boorish character, so Hartley went over the top a few times with his dialogue. Still, even though I haven’t watched any Hartley movies for a while, I’d say this is at least as good as or better than Amateur or Flirt.

Juan Alvarado on Children of Heaven (6/3/98):

I saw this yesterday too. I had very little idea what to expect going into it, so I was very peasantly surprised. I really enjoyed this film, I wouldn't call it the best I have seen in this festival, but it is definately in the top 3. If you get a chance to see this I would recomend it. The 5k foot race had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The combination of the great emotion from the kids and the great story weaving from the director had me really feeling for the characters in the movie as if I knew them, or people just like them. This movie was well worth watching.

Christopher Keroack on Full Alert (6/3/98):

A script that goes out of its way to have characters who can't kill without there being emotional consequences later on, and surprisingly strong dialogue.

Unfortunately, that's all there is to it. The end is very predictable. The characters are fairly sketchy; some plot points, like one officer's gambling addiction, would have been more effective if we'd gotten to know him better. And the pace never cranks up that extra couple of notches.

This is definitely not an action flick; no hailstorms of bullets or stylized fighting or anything like that. One car chase and a couple shootouts. Still, as I said, the dialogue was good enough to let me change gears and appreciate it for what it was: an above-average crime melodrama.

Christopher Keroack on Pulp Friction (6/1/98):

Pulp Friction was a collection of 6 or 7 short films. Started out really poorly, with a couple of forgettable, badly acted films, but had some interesting ones in the middle. My favorites:

"Reducing Stanley"

Stanley is a boy whose father is obsessed with making him into a star pitcher, to the point of working on a homemade pitching machine for him. Stanley misinterprets the device as some sort of hideous replacement for his body.

Started out slow, but painted a reasonably complex picture of both Stanley and his father by the end. A couple of scenes of self-mutilation towards the end were shocking but tastefully done. Enough to make even a jaded late-night cable-tv-watcher like me squirm. =)


Easily the most polished one of the lot. An accountant is going through the receipts and paperwork of a recently deceased woman, so that her daughter can properly settle her estate. The accountant discovers notes on the receipts that suggest that the daughter murdered her mother, so he tries to blackmail her.

Excellent set, great pace, and (according to my wife) the accountant was played by the fellow who played the father in "Strictly Ballroom".

"Franz und Kafka"

Cute little bit with 2 fellows in 40's attire entering offices that share a wall. Franz's office is sparse and neat, Kafka's looks like a college dormitory. Franz sets straight to work while Kafka dances around to wild music. Franz types the first line of "Metamorphosis" ("Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to discover..."), then the carriage of his typewriter flies off and through the adjoining wall to Kafka's typewriter, where he gleefully finishes the sentence ("...that he'd been turned into a cockroach!"). Much bickering ensues.

It was refreshing to see an idea that for once, didn't get beaten to death. The concept holds for about 2 minutes, and that's about the length of the film. =)

Christopher Keroack on Conceiving Ada (5/27/98):

Ack. I was warned about this movie, hand-waved at about this movie, and I went anyway because I bought the &^!^&! ticket. YUCK. My consolation is that the rest of the festival couldn't be worse than this. Right? Right?

I won't start in on the use of computer graphics, because that's not entirely fair; it's not supposed to be some Hollywood effects fest. However:

Unengaging dialogue.

Flat, bad, or no acting.

Amateurish direction, including a lot of that earnest stare-right-into-the-camera stuff that I find a real turn-off.

No real connection with either the characters in the wrapping story or the characters in the fictionalized account of Ada Lovelace's life.

All in all, a mess. Wish I'd seen the first showing of it so I could warn people away too.


"Her uterus is destroyed. The mathematics.... was too much for her body." - an actual line from Conceiving Ada

Carrie Siegel on Buffalo 66 (5/26/98):  Yes, I saw it last night and I really enjoyed it, though I had a few problems with the premise. The performances were amazing, though, and I actually cared about the characters. Angelica Houston was so good as the protagonist's mother that I didn't even realize it was her till the closing credits.

Orson Hoeksema on The Life of Jesus (5/26/98)

Synopsis: A French version of the movie Kids by Larry Clark. The main character, Freddy, is an epileptic, apathetic, late teen who spends his time riding his moped with his like-minded ne'er do well friends, screwing his beautiful, but un-ambitious girlfriend, Marie. Ocasionally he goes to the hospital for treatments or plays in a humorously pathetic marching band. He prefers to stay on the dole rather than finding a job. Like in Kids there are relatively few adults around and the ones that are there including his mother are basically mentally and emotionally absent, preferring instead to watch TV Things take a somewhat nasty turn when an Arab teenager starts to show an interest in Marie.

Evaluation: If you liked Kids you may like this. It's been getting good reviews. If, like me you saw Kids and asked what was the point?, now you will ask Qu'est que le point? Hasn't this ground already been covered in Lord of the Flies? The director decided not to score this movie perhaps to show how tedious life in the French countryside can be for disaffected youth. He succeeded. After two hours of barely any dialogue and endless scenes of droning mopeds cruising around corners and down dirt paths I was ready to do wreak some havoc myself. Sometimes I wonder whether directors forget that their audience pays seven bucks or however many francs to sit in cramped seats in the dark for two hours. It's best not to try to make them any more uncomfortable.

Christopher Keroack on Memories (5/26/98)

Overall, not as good as I was expecting, but entertaining nonetheless.

"Magnetic Rose": Eh. Cliched and heavy-handed, especially at the end. As with "Cannon Fodder", I would've liked to have had more time with some of the other characters. And something that really isn't the writer's fault: the opening dialogue was so rapid that I was distracted by reading subtitles instead of enjoying the establishing shots of the ships.

[Anita Rowland] I liked this, as not being *all* about things blowing up. good use of opera references and music. the theme of a computer gone haywire has been done a zillion times. what a wretched little kid!

"Stink Bomb": Most memorable out of the 3, for its humor and pace. Very catchy music too, set the mood right away.

[Anita Rowland] This was my least favorite. once the protagonist hits the road, it's extremely repetitive. more like a video game than a store.

"Cannon Fodder": Straightforward concept, but fairly well executed. Gorgeous detail in the environment and somewhat unsettling character design. Sputters to a stop at the end, partially because I would've liked to have gotten to know the father a bit better, partially because the child's end sequence (trying not to give too much away) was way over the top.

[Anita Rowland] I loved the design, but the anti-war theme was pretty simplistic.

Christopher Keroack on Kiki's Delivery Service (5/26/98)

Fantastic story, very well-paced. It was refreshing to see ANY story that was a true adventure story rather than simple good vs. evil, doubly so in a children's story. It was also good to see such a variety of female characters, some stronger than others, some a bit kooky, all of them very unique and well-defined.

The telltale sign that this really worked as a children's film is that there were a fair amount of children in the audience and not one of them sounded distracted or bored. Whenever I overheard a child say something, it was always concern for one of the characters, or otherwise just being interested in the story. Very encouraging.

All the anime fans in the audience made sure to let the rep from Disney know that there's a market for subtitled films, given our wild applause when he mentioned the possibility before the show. =) That said, this is probably the best, most natural-sounding dub I've ever watched. I didn't even recognize Janeane Garofalo; Kirsten Dunst voiced Kiki just right; and Phil Hartman pretty much stole the show as the voice of Kiki's familiar.

Definitely on a par with "My Neighbor Totoro", and I'll definitely look for it when it comes out on video.

Eric Reel on The Opposite of Sex (5/26/98)

I HATED this film. I'd expected something along the lines of 'The Ice Storm' or 'Spanking the Monkey'. What I got was an extremely trite film that falls all over itself trying to be 'hip' & 'edgy'. The characters are all pretty two dimensional & their motivations are mostly either idiotic (ex: 'it's all about sex' ), unexplained ( Ricca's character ), or dull ( Lisa Kudrow as the ugly duckling ). The voice over is especially irritating.

On a more positive note, 'Post Coitum' was suprisingly good. Catch it if you get a chance.

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