SIFF Review: The Pistol Shrimps

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It’s no secret that women’s sports are considered second tier if not downright illegitimate. Many Seattleites, for example, are still bitter about losing our SuperSonics to Oklahoma. But they’re not so hard up for basketball that they’d consider attending the games of our WNBA team, the Seattle Storm. Giving some long overdue and well-deserved attention to female athletes is just one of the great aspects of Brent Hodge’s latest documentary, The Pistol Shrimps.

Adult recreational sports leagues are all the rage, but usually they’re for more, well, recreational sports, such as dodge ball and mini golf. The Pistol Shrimps (named for a sea creature who uses one giant claw to paralyze its enemies with a super sonic snap) are part of a women’s recreational basketball league in L.A. Hodge’s (I Am Chris Farley) third film follows this steadfast team of underdogs, comprised of women from various sectors of the entertainment industry, as they, for the first time, face the very real possibility of winning the division. It outlines their origins, including their floundering early seasons, and profiles select team members, interspersing their background with the story of the team’s journey to the 2015 league championship…

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SIFF Review: Slash

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There is no shortage of coming-of-age films, but none that I’ve seen are quite as virtuous and laissez-faire as Clay Liford’s Slash, a feature-length remake of his 2012 short film. Julia (Hannah Marks, TVs Awkward) and Neil (Michael Johnson, TVs Teen Wolf) are social outcasts who bond over their mutual interest in writing Fan Fic – erotic stories featuring characters from popular culture (mostly films and books, but they do mention a subgenre involving real people). Both the characters and the film itself suggest that committing to a label isn’t necessary. Sexual fluidity is both natural and necessary in determining your predilections. Thanks to their hobby, neither character needs to practice sexuality in order to explore it. They are able to use their imaginations to work it all out. Neil chooses to write about Vanguard, a Star Trek-meets-Buck Rogers sci-fi novel series, while Julia prefers Fein, a series about warring elves. The result is a film that manages to remain light and endearing, whilst tackling the delicate subject of teenage sexuality…

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SIFF Event: An Afternoon w/ Molly Shannon

Molly Shannon is a Superstar. Maybe not in the same way that Beyonce or Lady Gaga are Superstars – she’s not an ethereal, looming presence, so much as an awesome person who also happens to be a tremendously gifted comedic and dramatic actor. She first gained notoriety in 1995 when she joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, where she remained for 6 seasons. During that time, she introduced the world to such indelible characters as Mary Catherine Gallagher (“When I get nervous, I stick my hands in my armpits and smell ‘em like this”) and Sally O’Malley (“I’M 50!”). Her characters were hilariously offbeat, but also oddly inspirational because of their unwavering drive and confidence.

On Sunday, May 22nd, the Seattle International Film Festival presented “An Afternoon with Molly Shannon.” After a brief retrospective of her work, (including clips from film and television comedies like SuperstarWet Hot American Summer and Seinfeld, and comedic dramas like Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl and Addicted to Fresno), Variety deputy awards and features editor Jenelle Riley introduced the effervescent actress, who revealed that she was fulfilling a childhood dream by sitting in front of a large audience, answering questions whilst sipping a hot beverage from a mug. “Sorry, your drink is cold,” Riley apologized. Even Molly Shannon can’t have everything…

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SIFF Review: Finding Kim

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There has been a recent surge in films about trans people, both narrative and documentary. And it’s about time. Trans rights have long been either lumped in with the rest of the LGBTQ issues, or ignored altogether. According to Kim, a trans man and the subject of Aaron Bear’s first feature documentary, Finding Kim, the Ls, Gs, Bs, and Qs have been some of the worst offenders for undermining trans equality. Trans women in particular have been excluded from women’s events as if they were devious cisgender men in disguise.

Fortunately for Kim, he lives in Seattle, where he has a supportive group of friends and can utilize his health insurance to cover his first surgical procedure, done by a sympathetic specialist. This has been a long time coming for Kim, who didn’t come to terms with being trans until his late 40s. Raised as a girl, Kim was often called a boy by peers, as if it were an insult. His classmates also barred him from using the bathroom at school – any bathroom. He never told his parents what he was going through, resulting in a very lonely existence. When he was older, he thought he might be a lesbian, but after spending time in that community, he still didn’t feel quite right. He finally had his life-altering breakthrough when he met a therapist who told him that all those masculine feelings he had were because he was a man. Within a couple of months, he was taking daily testosterone shots (called “T”) and finally starting to feel at home in his own body…

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SIFF Review: Another Evil

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There are things in this world more problematic and scary than being haunted by ghosts. One of those things is realizing you accidentally hired an unhinged person to provide a home service for you. Another Evil, a character-driven horror comedy written and directed by Carson Mell (writer for HBO’s Silicon ValleyEastbound & Down), has ghosts in it, but they mostly exist to set events in motion. The real meat of the film involves the man who has dedicated his life to exterminating them. Even in a universe in which ghosts unequivocally exist, it takes a special brand of nutcase to choose a career in ghost hunting…

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SIFF Review: The Lure

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Mermaid stories have never been the most feminist of folktales. They’re either presented as evil temptresses with the sole intent of luring men to their doom, or as lonely creatures who are themselves drawn to land by a strange man, never hesitating to give up everything to be with someone who barely registers their existence. Polish horror rock opera, The Lure, is a bit of both, but with some extremely creative motifs and appropriately alluring imagery to make the more misogynistic aspects of being a fish lady more palatable…

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Double SIFF Review: Frank & Lola; Microbe and Gasoline

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Matthew M. Ross wrote and directed his debut feature about two emotionally raw people (Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots) who fall hard before letting their troubled pasts erode their relationship. Despite the title, the script sticks with Frank’s point of view, shifting the tone mid-way from indie romance to psychosexual thriller as he seeks to learn the full story behind Lola’s trepidation. Shannon and Poots are so natural in their roles that some of the noir contrivances seem unbefitting. But viewed as a fable about the perils of male jealousy and having a sense of entitlement over the women they love, it works.

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Microbe & Gasoline

Michel Gondry’s most personal, reality-based film to date follows two teenage misfits who embark on a road trip through rural France to escape their troubled lives. Daniel, a.k.a. Microbe, is ridiculed for being small and feminine. He’s a loner who spends his days drawing wanking material. His life changes when he meets Theo, an older transfer student, dubbed Gasoline for his omnipresent odor, thanks to his mechanical tinkering. The boys disguise their car as a small house to remain “inconspicuous” on their journey, with mixed results. This time, Gondry leaves the creativity and whimsy to his characters, resulting in his best work in ages.

Originally published on Hammer to Nail.

SIFF Review: The Return

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Despite our founding principals, the United States is generally terrible at taking care of our own, especially if they suffer from mental illness or addiction. Newly released prisoners are just one of the many groups the system fails on a regular basis. Kelly Duane de La Vega and Katie Galloway’s vital documentary, The Return, details just one aspect of the myriad flaws in the American criminal justice system.

Following the voter-approved repealing of California’s Prop 184, also known as the Three Strikes Law, thousands of non-violent prisoners with life-sentences suddenly qualified for appeals. But you can’t strip someone of their humanity, as our prison system does, then dump them on the outside and expect them to thrive…

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SIFF Review: The Family Fang

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Jason Bateman is no stranger to the aggravation of selfish, irresponsible parents. On Arrested Development, he played arguably the most put-upon son in television history. Bateman returns to the well for his second directorial outing, adapting Kevin Wilson’s novel, The Family Fang. Bateman and Nicole Kidman play a pair of adult siblings who are developmentally arrested by their childhood spent being the unwitting participants in their parents’ surreptitious public art performances. Think the lesson pranks George Bluth paid J. Walter Weatherman to pull on his children. Only this time, the intent is a lot less explicit and the emotional consequences much less humorous…

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SIFF Review: The Joneses

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It shouldn’t be too much to ask of the world to let us live our truth. And yet, for Jheri Jones, and an estimated .3% of American adults identifying as transgender, it often seems an insurmountable request. It wasn’t until Jheri stopped waiting for permission that she could be truly happy. Moby Longinotto’s poignant, heartfelt, and often hilarious documentary, The Joneses, follows transgender matriarch Jheri and her family during another period of transition. Jheri struggles to find the right moment to tell her story to the grandchildren who’ve only ever known her as Grandma. Meanwhile, one of her sons, inspired by Jheri’s bravery, decides to stop hiding his true self. It’s a story filled with equal parts heartbreak and redemption, but, most importantly, it has something missing from far too many stories about transgender Americans: Hope…

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