April 30, 2009

The New Flesh

I love movies so much that only two people have ever managed to chase me away from the screen: David Cronenberg and Takashi Miike. But they meant to do that.

I am sure, in my heart of hearts, that Miike planned for me to split to the lobby when Asami’s ex-boyfriend finally crawled out of his burlap sack in Audition. Likewise, I’m certain Cronenberg really wanted me to pause the VCR that spring night in 1987, and go for a brisk walk around the park to shake Videodrome’s info-cancer monologue from out of my head.

Well played, sirs. You did for me what cinema seldom does — made me afraid of the virus I might catch from your images, and of my complicity in your shocking acts. You surprised me, in short, and like the rush of a first cigarette, it’s a thrill I’ve sought over and over again.

Yonder stands Bill Chambers, waving me toward a fresh carton of Luckys. I contacted Bill late last year with a proposal to cover the Seattle International Film Festival, taking place May 21 to June 14. I had two reasons: I love to be surprised by movies, and I love Film Freak Central. Those reasons, I suspect, are the same ones that brought you here to read this now. Welcome, accomplice.

I’ve never been a film critic before, except in the way that everyone is. “That sucked,” I’ve said innumerable times, walking from theater to car. “That rocked,” I’ve said far less frequently. But it’s not the thumbs up or thumbs down that’s important— it’s the internal and interpersonal debates that bring us to those conclusions. The reasons I walked away from Audition (but quickly returned) are the same reasons you stayed nailed to your seat, or ran for the toilet, or leaped for joy in the parking lot. What matters is that we talk about what happened to us back there, while the projector ran.

That’s not done anymore in most media. But FFC is on another plane altogether, with its fervent embrace of the filmgoing experience. Whether that embrace yielded a love affair or a wrenching blast of halitosis, Walter, Bill, et al haven’t been afraid to disclose, nor to analyze, nor even to quote Transcendentalist poetry. When I discovered the site in 2003, on a Web fouled by metric tons of FUCK YOU and YOU SUCK FAG, it was like someone had dropped me an oxygen mask and an inflatable shelter.

There’s a lot to see on SIFF’s slate of 200-plus feature films. Francis Ford Coppola shows off Tetro, his first writer-director effort in decades. Humpday, by Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, gets a Seattle debut after drawing acclaim at Sundance. Spike Lee picks up the awkwardly named Golden Space Needle Award for lifetime achievement. And they’ll premiere Lassë Hallstrom’s tear-extorter remake Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, which is what Marley & Me would have looked like if they’d spared the dog and killed Owen Wilson.

You can track this junkie’s progress toward the next fix via Twitter, through occasional updates at this blog, and of course, in reviews and possibly features at the mothersite. In my civilian identity, I cover arts and performance here. Aside from a very reasonable fear that Bill will edit my prose into Canadian English (“colour” just looks like it should be pronounced differently, doesn’t it?), I’m excited and enthusiastic about this project.

If you’re a Seattle reader attending the fest, look for me there. I’ll be the novice critic with the shaven head, pacing the lobby during the freaky parts and dying to go back into the dark.


slars said...

Looking forward to your capsules (reviews?), fellow junkie.

Jefferson said...

Thanks. Here's a capsule:

I'm so glad Marvel and DC were able to collaborate on Wolverine, lending him Batman's murdered father AND Superman's adoptive parents!

Bill C said...

Preaching to the choir at this point, but felt compelled to add that WOLVERINE made me miss Brett Ratner, who raped the franchise comparatively gently.

Can somebody tell me why Wolverine and Schriebertooth stop aging at the age they do? They're little kids at the beginning of the movie, then 35 for eternity; are they vampires?

Anonymous said...


Their regenerative powers slow down -- not stop -- the aging process, so even though they're over 100 years old they only look 35 or so. I know that because I'm a lapsed comic-book geek.

And I can sum up how much I hate this movie with only three words: Magic. Amnesia. Bullets.


Andrei said...

Wolverine was a totally incompetent and stupid movie, but X3 was at times reprehensible.

The workprint with the Nintendo 64 special effects is actually a pretty hilarious thing.

john mirabella said...

just so you know, bill, the reason ratner didn't totally destroy the X-MEN franchise was because that film (LAST STAND) was completely written, designed, storyboarded and scheduled before he came on board. he basically walked on set, called action and went home. he wasn't given nearly enough creative latitude to mess anything up (more than it already was anyway).

supposedly the fact that the studio was just looking for someone to 'ghost direct' what had already been well prepped was the reason that matthew vaughan quit the movie after a month or so.

Andrew Wahl said...

Your taste in music is questionable (Elvis? Really?) and your comics judgment is hit and miss (still can't believe Y: The Last Man earned an ignominious meh from you), but you've rarely led me wrong on the film front. I look forward to watching this project unfold. Good luck in the dark.

Jay said...

Hi Jefferson-
So excited to see you on this project! Are you in Seattle for the duration? Give me a call, we drinkum beers. Also, say hi to the WenWorld crew for me.
J. Elvis Rolling Thunder
P.S. Hi Andy... what's wrong with Elvis?

Andrew Wahl said...

Hey, Jay. I'm just not a big fan of Elvis, personally. And I didn't find out about Jefferson's affection for the King until I was stuck in his car on a road trip to the Poynter Workshop in Portland. (That's the same workshop were Jefferson led the crowd in a chant of "BURN THE GODDAMN EDITORS!" Or at least that's how I remember it : )