The Seattle International Film Festival kicks off this weekend, celebrating its 41st year. The largest, most highly attended film festival in the U.S., this one is kind of an unwieldy monster. Boasting more than 400 movies, and clocking in at a massive 25 days, it’s a something of a cinematic marathon. It’s a total blast, but when it’s done you seriously need a nap.
Over the course of the fest, SIFF runs the gamut, screening titles that made a splash at earlier-in-the-year festivals, like Sundance and SXSW, but it also provides an outlet for films big and small from around the globe. There are dozens of world and North American premieres on the schedule, as well as an awesome slate of archival films, a subset of African pictures, and a tribute to Kevin Bacon that includes Footloose, Diner, and his latest thriller, Cop Car. There’s a ton to sift through, and in that spirit, we’ve compiled a list of ten films that you should make an effort to check out if you happen to be in Seattle between May 14 and June 7.
If nothing else, this should provide some counter programming for the encroaching wave of summer tentpoles and help you stave of blockbuster fatigue for at least a little while. A number of these films open over the course of the rest of the year, so don’t worry if you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll get your chance to check them out.
Inside OutSure, you’ll be able to see this one in damn near every metroplex in the country in just over a month, but if it’s as good as early buzz indicates, why wait? By most accounts, Inside Out is Pixar working at or at least near the top of their game, which as we all know is a considerable benchmark. With an incredible who’s who of comedic vocal talent, the story follows a young girl named Riley, who, after moving to San Francisco with her family, goes through a roller coaster of emotions. Here’s the rub, all of these emotions are personified and work in tandem, and sometimes come into conflict, inside of Riley, guiding her through her adjustment, but when some of the emotions wander of and become lost, problems arise.
Me And Earl And The Dying GirlEvery year a handful of films shoot out of Sundance like rockets, and in 2015 none was bigger than Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The kind of quirky comedic drama that fest adores like no other genre, this is the story of an awkward teenage boy named Greg who befriends a classmate named Rachel who is, you guessed it, dying of leukemia. Along with his best buddy Earl, Greg embarks on a quest to make her a movie, and all kinds of feelings ensue. Critics and audiences have been heaping acclaim on this one, singing the praises of its warm humor, strong emotion, and comparing if favorable to Harold and Maude. Even if this one doesn’t live up to the considerable hype (I’ve yet to hear a bad word about it), it should be worth checking out just to find out and coming to your own conclusion.
SpyWith movies like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and the upcoming female-fronted Ghostbusters, Paul Feig has apparently found something of a muse in the form of Melissa McCarthy. But before they prove they ain’t afraid of no ghosts together, the two are teaming up for Spy, which opens SIFF this year. Taking a stab at the spy genre, McCarthy plays desk jockey CIA agent Susan Cooper who is thrust into action in an unfamiliar undercover role in order to rescue her partner. With a supporting cast that includes Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin, and Jason Staham (who is reportedly hilarious playing his super spy role totally straight), Spy premiered at SXSW to strong reviews, and critics have praised this as one of McCarthy’s funniest roles, as well as her most badass. That alone will be something to witness.
Love & MercyWhen you think of the Beach Boys, your mind likely conjures up images of lighthearted fun in the sun, but behind the scenes, with creative mastermind Brian Wilson, played by Paul Dano in Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, the truth is much darker. This biopic delves into the intricate corners of Wilson’s story, which involves a history of mental illness, abuse, and a troubled relationship with artistry and fame, and presents a more complete picture of Wilson’s psyche and tormented musical genius. Biopics like this often fall into a similar structural pattern, but when Love & Mercy premiered at SXSW, our very own Eric Eisenberg saw it and said, "It’s a great movie with fascinating subject matter— regardless of whether or not you’re a big Beach Boys fan—and is, simply put, how to do a biopic right."
TangerineA movie shot entirely on an iPhone that follows a pair of young transgendered prostitutes throughout the course of their day? That’s not a common logline, and if that sounds like something that appeals to you, or at least like something you’ve never seen before, you’ll want to check out Sean Baker’s Tangerine. The raunchy comedy drama follows besties Sin-Dee and Alexandra on a wild Christmas Eve tear through the streets of Los Angeles, searching for the adulterous pimp who broke Sin-Dee’s heart. Down and dirty, the two leads have a great repartee, visually it’s gorgeous, especially considering how it was filmed, and presents a perspective on the world, both metaphorically and practically, that you aren’t likely to encounter anywhere else.
DeathgasmWhen you hear about a movie named Deathgasm, odds are that right away you know whether or not you have any interest in seeing it. But if that name automatically captures your attention, what we know if this New Zealand-born heavy metal adventure will only make you want to check it out all the more. When the new kid, Brodie, bonds with local bad boy, Zakk, over their shared love of loud ass music, the thrashing duo unwittingly summons malevolent forces, and they’ll have to deal with this before they become rock gods. Deathgasm has demons, blood, and shrieking metal music, what more do you need or want out of a horror movie? Deathgasm could very well be this year’s Zombeavers.
Turbo KidIn the post-apocalyptic future of 1997 depicted in Turbo Kid, water has become a precious commodity, ruled over by vicious warlords. Into this scenario walks a hero, the hero, an orphaned, BMX-riding kid named, you got it, The Kid. He scavenges for relics from the ‘80s and ‘90s, like comic books, and when he meets a girl named Apple, and comes across a supercharged weapon, be becomes the titular hero who endeavors to defeat a sadistic outlaw named Zeus (Michael Ironside). This sounds nuts, and like a total blast, a throwback to the exploitation style post-apocalyptic joints from a bygone era. And by all accounts, it’s as insane as this description makes it out to be. Full of action and "geysers of blood," Turbo Kid is definitely one to add to your viewing schedule.
7 Chinese BrothersAmong other things, Bob Byington’s 7 Chinese Brothers is notable because lead Jason Schwartzman appears with an unusual, scene-stealing co-star, Arrow the dog, who just so happens to be his very own real life pet. Schwartzman brings his trademark charm and deadpan sense of humor a character named Larry, an aimless slacker who flits his way, directionless, through a series of dead end jobs, terrible dates, and dive bars. Named after an R.E.M. song, Larry has to try to keep his shit together long enough to win over a girl (Eleanore Pienta), take care of his trusty companion Arrow, and not let his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) down.
End Of The TourDavid Foster Wallace exploded onto the literary scene with the 1996 publication of his massive postmodern tome Infinite Jest. The overnight celebrity never sat particularly well with the author, who had a troubled relationship with fame and took his own life in 2008. During the marketing blitz that accompanied Infinite Jest, journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) embarked on an epic five-day travelling interview with Wallace (Jason Segel), an experience chronicled in James Ponsoldt’s (The Spectacular Now) End of the Tour. There’s been some controversy since the film premiered at Sundance—Wallace’s estate did not sign off—but for a strange story that is basically about two people talking, it has won widespread acclaim, especially for Segel’s performance as the troubled writer, and shows their encounter with humor, compassion, and legitimate connection.
The ConnectionNot quite the flipside of William Friedkin’s 1971 hard-boiled action classic The French Connection, Cedric Jimenez’s The Connection (La French) approaches the same real life drug smuggling ring from the other end, telling the story of tough-as-nails French magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin, The Artist) battles gangsters, corrupt fellow cops, and the usual hurdles faced by earnest members of law enforcement in a crime film. Reception on this one has been mixed, but the combination of a sprawling crime saga, detailed period swagger, and a gritty outlaw narrative, is more than enough to bump this up our list a few notches. And the soundtrack contains tons of French-language covers of classic 1970s jams, and how can you go too wrong with that?