NFT Radar: The Knarr

X-Posted from Not For Tourists.

The Knarr is perhaps the most aptly named denotative dive bar in all of Seattle. I imagine the vibe is very similar to that of the Viking trade ships of yore: alcohol-infused, aggressive revelry, singing of songs, playing of games and generally getting into lots of trouble. The amnesia-inducing dirt-cheap drinks (emphasis on dirt) retrospectively make throwing sharp darts around seem like a bad idea. Feed the juke box (frozen in 1994) and utilize the power of grunge (or Jim Morrison) to aid you in defeating the pool table regulars. Grab a pile of quarters from the bar and be the Pinball Wizard of Medieval Madness all night. Challenge a pair of UW students who were brave enough to travel so far up the Ave to a game of Shuffleboard. It doesn’t so much matter how you decide to allocate your time at the Knarr. You’ll have a blast that you won’t likely remember.

Knarr Tavern
5633 University Way NE 98105
206-525-3323

Advertisements

Film Threat Review: Salim Baba

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

2008 SUNDANCE SHORT FILM COMPETITION!

Un-rated
15 minutes
Two and a half stars

 

“Salim Baba” tells the story of a 55-year-old Indian man who, following in his father’s footsteps, makes a living piecing together film scraps and playing them on a hand-cranked projector in a portable booth for the neighborhood children. And that’s…well, that’s the whole story. It’s kind of neat, but ultimately forgettable.

Salim talks about taking over the business from his father. He explains to the camera how the projector works in an excruciatingly lengthy segment that would be interesting to a fraction of filmgoers. The most interesting part is when Salim talks about collecting the film scraps from movie houses and, essentially, creating his own stories from them. There are many shots of him pushing his cart and many shots of children’s smiling faces. Don’t get me wrong, I like smiling children. But we get it. His films make poor kids happy which is why it’s tragic that he doesn’t know how much longer he can afford to run the business. We understood that at minute 5.

I’m not heartless. Really. And I’m not blaming Salim. He is truly an interesting character but his story, or at least this aspect of his story, could have been told in half the time. Salim says that he edits his film scraps in order to make a condensed, less boring version of the story. The filmmakers should have heeded the advice of their protagonist.

Film Threat Review: In Prison My Whole Life

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct). 

2008 SUNDANCE WORLD DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION FEATURE FILM!
Un-rated, 90 minutes
Three and a half stars

“Free Mumia.” Whether or not you know what it means, chances are you’ve heard or seen the slogan somewhere, be it on a concrete wall or in the lyrics to a Rage Against the Machine song. The Mumia in question is an African American man who was arrested for killing a police officer on December 9th, 1981. That was also the same day that William Francome was born. If you’ve never heard of William Francome, that’s hardly surprising. He’s just a guy who was born on the same day that Mumia’s life as he knew it ended. This coincidence of dates is part of what drives Francome’s interest in Mumia’s alleged wrongful arrest and conviction and what ultimately becomes the film “In Prison My Whole Life.” While that connection is, indeed a symbolic one, focusing on it so obstinately plays a part in leading the film astray.

Prior to his arrest, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a political journalist with ties to the Black Panthers. These affiliations, along with extreme examples of racist conspiracy in his hometown of Philadelphia, definitely cast more than just a shadow of a doubt on whether or not he was wrongfully sentenced to death row. In fact, Mumia claims that not only was he defending his brother from a brutal assault by the officer, but that he never even pulled the fatal trigger. The film presents an abundance of evidence suggesting both judicial conspiracy and a fourth man on the scene. By the film’s conclusion, any liberal-voting citizen is going to be convinced of Mumia’s innocence. Unfortunately, it’s effectively preaching to the choir.

William Francome is a twenty-something, politically charged student whose life has been profoundly affected by the Mumia case. He is also precisely the sort of person whom a Mike Huckabee or George Bush Jr., or your average conservative judge would dismiss as a bleeding heart. The same goes for the testimonies of artists like Mos Def and Snoop Dogg. Us card-carrying members of Amnesty International know that the system is broken. We know that racism is alive and well in the United States. We are the people who will watch this movie and shake our heads and maybe send some money to the NAACP. But the people whose minds need to be awakened will dismiss it as liberal propaganda and William Francome as naïve. I don’t know what, if anything, can be done about that. Technically, the film is mostly well done. It does get off topic from time to time (with the aforementioned interviews with musicians) and becomes redundant at other points. Still, it’s something you need to see if you don’t know anything about Mumia or if, somehow, you missed the notion that bigotry is rampant on the police force. Sadly, however, it’s not the sorely-needed red pill for right-wingers. I don’t know if such a thing is possible.

West to East

Jesus Christ. How many Twin Peaks alums did Dawson's Creek employ anyway? So far I count 3:

It's a Joke, Right?

Conjugal Harmony is internet dating for the ladies on the inside. Surely it's a joke. I mean, they website copy is so misogynistic and one of those ladies has her EYES closed in the photo. Regardless, it's as hilarious as it is horrifying.

Meet BrandiY:

Age: 20
State: California
Convictions: Drug deal went bad and it's just like that I'm up for killing a cop.
Favorite hobbies in prison: I play ping pong and dream I'm playing ping pong somewhere else not prison.
Why I deserve another chance: I try like hell to get the guards to cut me off a little something something but the never do because they'd lose they job if we got caught or pregnant. I am so lonely and I can't live if I know my whole life I'll never taste another man. Will you be the glass I drink from so deep?

This definitely beats 10K 4 a Wife. (By the way, I love checking in on that guy from time to time. When Sherwood first alerted me to that website's existence some years ago, he just looked like a corporate douchebag. Now he's poorly Photoshopping his wrinkles. Still no wife, eh? Do you think he might have unrealistic expectations? I bet some of those prison ladies might could use $10K.)

Cited for Jaywalking: The Aftermath

So I've just returned from the courthouse to content extenuating circumstances regarding my bullshit jaywalking ticket. Officer Wilford Brimley was not in attendance. The nice lady seemed to understand my points but said that “the best [she] could do is reduce the ticket to $35”. She also said that it wouldn't go on my license or anything so that's a plus, I suppose. When I told her that I've actually seen people jaywalk in FRONT of marked police cars and they haven't done anything, thus leading to my conclusion that I was singled out, she said that “it's up to the discretion of the officer whether or not they write tickets for this infraction”. In other words, Officer Brimley is a deeeeeick.

To add insult to the injury of my even being there, as I was waiting patiently at a stop light to cross the street away from the courthouse to head back to the office, a man with a limp (meaning, he couldn't run or even hurry) jaywalked across the street right in front of oncoming traffic.

Arg.

Encore:

(Thanks, Mark.)

Film Threat Review: A Raisin in the Sun

Originally posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

2007, Un-rated, 131 minutes
Three stars

First of all, a TV movie at Sundance? What the hell, ABC? I know that these days the festival is about as far from indie as one can get without actually being a Cineplex, but a TV MOVIE? Second, just because a person is a successful musician (with the notable exception of Mos Def) does not an actor make. Barring that, “A Raisin in the Sun” isn’t bad… for a TV MOVIE.

Based on the 1959 stage play by Lorraine Hansberry, “A Raisin in the Sun” tells the story of a poor African American family struggling to make ends meet in the South Side of Chicago. When the Lena Younger, the family’s widowed matriarch (played by Clair Huxtable herself, Phylicia Rashad) learns that she will be receiving a $10,000 insurance check from her husband’s estate, emotions come to a head. Lena’s son, Walter Lee (P. Diddy), wants to “invest” the money in a hair-brained business opportunity. Lena’s daughter, Beneatha, has hopes of being put through medical school. Walter Lee’s wife, Ruth, doesn’t feel any entitlement to the money, but she certainly feels the pangs of poverty. The youngest, er, Younger, Walter Lee and Ruth’s son Travis, would just like to stop sleeping on the couch.

Lena is faced with a tough decision about how to allocate the money whilst both honoring the memory of her late husband and keeping her surviving family happy. This complicated task is made more so when she controversially purchases a 3-bedroom house in a “white neighborhood”, the residents of whom send a nebbish John Stamos over to try and buy them out.

The film is shot with a hand-held camera and mostly close-ups. I assume that this was done to give more of a documentary-feel. However, dialog, unchanged from the stage script, feels like stage dialog. And there is very little restraint in the performances to change that. The performances also bring up some questions about intent for the characters. For instance, I don’t know if Walter Lee Younger is meant to come off as a whiney, immature, ungrateful cad, but P. Diddy certainly plays him as such. It’s hard for me to believe that a strong character like Lena have allowed such disrespect to breed in her home.

Contrarily it seems to be implied that the idealistic, atheistic aspiring doctor, Beneatha Younger’s outlook on life stems from inexperience and naiveté: an implication with which I took personal issue. However, this may have more to do with the tone of the text than with Sanaa Lathan’s performance.

The biggest element keeping “A Raisin in the Sun” from transcending the cheese of TV Movie Land was the stunt casting. Sean Combs may be an actor, but we all know it’s P. Diddy saying those lines. It may have been 13 years since Uncle Jesse asked people to “have mercy”, but unfortunately, a nebbish hairdo does not free John Stamos from that stigma. Phylicia Rashad may be the only actor who is able to lose herself in her role. Even then, I was mostly thinking “Damn. Clair Huxtable is a good crier”.

The opening monologue from the unmistakable timber of Morgan Freeman does lend the film a little credibility, as does the powerful dialog and a good number of the performances by lesser known TV personalities. However, there are no bones about it: “A Raisin in the Sun” is a made-for-TV-movie, which means that no matter how many inspired speeches about family and rising up from the ashes of oppression there are, there’s still a good chance that Mary Catherine Gallagher will someday be reciting those very lines before falling backwards into some chairs and exposing her underpants.

Superstar.