Music films, including the Funhouse documentary Razing the Bar, take center stage at SIFF

Lucky Them

It may not be the most accurate portrayal of reality, but rising Seattle director Megan Griffiths does make the Seattle's music scene seem beautiful in her biggest film yet, Lucky Them. Toni Collette stars as Ellie, an ageing rock journalist who seems to be trying her hardest to lose her job while simultaneously sleeping her way through the scene (including a new singer-songwriter beau she discovered while he was busking). Things get more complicated for Ellie when her boss lays down an ultimatum: Either write a feature on Matthew Smith—an iconic singer-songwriter and Ellie's old flame who disappeared 10 years ago—or she'll be fired. Her attempted journey to track down what happened to Smith is aided by her weird rich friend Charlie (played by a consistently stilted, funny, and scene-stealing Thomas Haden Church), who agrees to help only if he can shoot a documentary about the process. Griffiths shots of Capitol Hill at night are serene (or at least as serene as Capitol Hill gets at night) and she's able to weave in Seattle music in the film through the soundtrack (hello Pickwick), on screen performances (hola the Head and the Heart), and even with cameos (what up Sean Nelson?). Ultimately, the film is an examination of how we can keep replaying our memories of old relationships in our heads like our favorite songs; putting them on repeat as a way of not letting go, moving on, and finding something new.

Screening: May 22 at 7 (Renton Opening Night Film and Party at Renton IKEA Perfroming Arts Center), $25; May 23 at 9:15 (Egyptian Theatre), $12

Razing the Bar

The Funhouse was "Cheers for punk rock" in Seattle. That apt description is thrown out about halfway through Razing the Bar, the documentary chronicling the now-defunct clown-adorned punk venue that used to sit in the shadow of the Space Needle. The film captures the extensive, dingy history of the bar (which was older than the Space Needle itself) and the mayhem that took place inside its walls (loud and fast music, dancing eyeballs, the formation of the Rat City Rollergirls, urine spitting, etc.). More than anything, Razing the Bar serves as a love letter to the Funhouse booker and co-owner Brian Foss, the man behind the music and the community it fostered. The movie also explores the conflict of urbanism expansion pushing out establishments that give a city its culture just for more boxy apartment buildings. While the doc glosses over certain parts of the building's history and has a bit of a tense confusion (as the result of interviews taking place both before and after it was announced the Funhouse would close), it doesn't detract too much from the story about the people that breathed life into that crazy place.

Screening: May 20 at 9 (World Premiere at SIFF Cinema Uptown), $12; May 27 at 9 (SIFF Cinema Uptown), $12

A Brony Tale

Few subcultures have garnered as much pop cultural curiosity in recent years as bronies. For those unfamiliar, brony is the term for an adult male fan of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon. They've grown into an extensive community with a strong online presence and their own conventions, while providing joke fodder for Stephen Colbert, Bob's Burgers, and more. A Brony Tale dives into the brony world through the perspective of Ashleigh Ball, one of the show's voice actors. While it looks to be a little light and fluffy (like it'll probably skirt around some of the darker sides of bronies that exist online), the doc should provide a colorful and fun sociological look at this atypical masculine contingent.

Screening: May 22 at 9:30 (SIFF Cinema Uptown), $12; May 24 at 11am (Egyptian Theatre), $12

20,000 Days on Earth

Nick Cave seethes intensity. The Australian singer and writer creates mysterious and twisted worlds of violence, power, and love, that have earned him an rabidly devoted fan base (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' July concert at the Paramount has long been sold out). 20,000 Days on Earth captures a single highly stylized day in the life of the post-punk icon, attempting to deconstruct the core of the artist and understand what makes him tick.

Screening: May 21 at 9:30 (SIFF Cinema Uptown), $12

Fish and Cat

Let's get this out of the way: Fish and Cat isn't a good film, but its an undeniably interesting one. The main draw of the time-bending Iranian thriller is how it was created. The entire 134-minute film was shot in one single take. No cuts. No cheats. And that camera moves, traveling all around a murky gray forest and seamlessly switching between characters. The cinematic choreography and the precision of the camera work (there's only one minor jerking mistake in over two hours) on display is staggering. Unfortunately, the surreal plot about a group of young campers, the creepy and potentially dangerous old men that live on the land, and one-armed twins feels muddled at best, insufferable at worst. If you're a hardcore cinephile who can appreciate the process as much (or more so than) the result, then, and only then, might Fish and Cat be worth your time.

Screening: May 22 at 8:30 (SIFF Cinema Uptown), $12

SIFF 2014
Masy 15–June 8, Various Venues

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