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Meet the La Femme Magnifique regional contestants
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Seattle's Pride Idol: Round Three
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SGN gets inside SIFF - Carl Spence, artistic director
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A candid interview with the stars of Candide
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Music of Remembrance's Vedem a waltz with pain
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Silverstein an interesting evening for adults
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A Dyke About Town: Great poetry and fun political music
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Kurt & Warhol exhibits are thought-provoking at SAM
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VIDEO - Jon Stewart - GAY MARRIAGE - The progress of Gay Marriage, from Massachusetts to Iowa to Washington D.C,
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Frightened Rabbit matures into a solid folk-rock act
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Shrek Forever After marred by lazy writing
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Tips for getting to and around Germany
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Robin Hood a lifeless adventure = tedium
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A Queer primer for SIFF 2010
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Where It's At: COMING TO SEATTLE - Sedaris, Eagles, Lady Antebellum
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Charley's Aunt a 112-year-old drag farce
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Summer jazz festivals in the French Riviera post big names
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Letters
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Deep Inside Hollywood
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RAIN's Beatles tribute the soundtrack of our lives
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Film fest 'the heart and soul' of Trans culture
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Rise n' Shine documentary premieres at SIFF
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Vaudevillians must-see neo-burlesque
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Shrek Forever After marred by lazy writing
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Shrek Forever After
Opening May 21


Take one part It's a Wonderful Life, add a dash of pop culture references, a little Wizard of Oz, a touch of Faustian deal-making, a bevy of stars, and a dollop of Brothers Grimm, and you get Shrek Forever After.

On the positive side, the production values are great. The movie looks good. The animation is fascinating, the 3-D turned out nicely, and the perspective tricks are fun without being corny. This is the first Shrek film in 3-D, and they've been made before - three times before, in fact.

The actors know what they're doing, even if they seem a tad bored. Cameron Diaz, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas are vets with mega star power who are sleepwalking through this one, and I get the feeling the only thing that will jolt them from their slumber is the sound of money falling through the air. But you can't blame them; they've all been here before - three times, in fact.

The new villain, Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), is mean and greedy and vaguely effeminate, as usual. There are witches and dragons and scads of familiar characters tossed together who don't traditionally go together, just like before - three times, in fact.

It's all been done before but that's not the ultimate sin of Shrek Forever After. The ultimate sin is the lazy writing. The fourth Shrek flick finds the ogre bored with married life and losing his identity to his relationship (it's tough to be a father AND an ogre). Like a '70s-era car lot owner with white patent leather loafers and a matching belt, Shrek wants out.

This rather abject, yet all too familiar scenario is not the typical fairy tale horror show that usually falls upon our fairy tale protagonists. I have a feeling these scenes will ring way too true for many kids in the audience. As Shrek began to draw his discontent, a young girl behind me let out an involuntary groan and said quite loudly, "I don't want to watch this." It was heartbreaking.

The rest of the story is a rehash and hodgepodge of familiar plot turns and standard fairy tale devices. I won't worry about ruining the ending for you since the movie's title already does that.

If you're over 8 years old and you absolutely must have a Shrek fix, rent the original and save yourself some cash and be reminded that even an ogre can find true love. If you've got kids under 8 years old, make sure to take them to see it in IMAX, because the 3-D visuals are the best thing about Shrek Forever After.


Robin Hood a lifeless adventure = tedium
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Robin Hood
Now Playing


An archer fighting under King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) on the trek home from the crusades, Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) and some of his fellow soldiers are done with the bloodshed. After their leader falls outside a French castle, he and his men make their way back to England, crossing paths with dying knight Sir Robert of Loxley (Douglas Hodge) who has been charged with taking the royal crown back to London.

One things leads to another, and next thing Robin knows, he and his fellow archers are wearing the garb of the fallen knights. After returning the crown and witnessing the crowning of King John (Oscar Isaac) by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eileen Atkins), they head for the township of Nottingham. There they meet the lovely Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett), and what at first was only intended to be a quick stopover instead becomes an extended impersonation after Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow) urges the soldier to continue his impersonation of his son.

There's more, lots more, going on inside director Ridley Scott's (Alien, Body of Lies) newfangled (if historically semi-accurate) Robin Hood. In fact, there is so much going on with writer Brian Helgeland's (Green Zone, L.A. Confidential) screenplay that the overall effect is a muddled and confused mess. One part British lore, two parts Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven-style medieval warmongering, and three parts The Tudors-type melodrama, all with a dash of The Lord of the Rings and Peter Pan thrown in for good measure - the movie is a bizarre, disconnected disaster.

My greatest wish watching it was that the movie would at least come to a quick conclusion. Sadly, as the film stretched to 140 minutes, that was one wish that did not come to pass. Others that also failed to materialize: More detail in the glorious subplot revolving around von Sydow, less of Mark Strong's forgettable duplicitous lead villain Godfrey, some more depth revolving around Robin and Marion's budding romance, and a heck of a lot more of the political wheeling and dealing going on between the newly crowned King John and his brother's one-time trusted advisor William Marshall (William Hurt).

But wait, there's more! Mentioning everything that this new Robin Hood is not (yet still manages to infuriatingly hint at) would force me to not talk about everything this disastrous epic does poorly. What I will say is that there are tons of potential here, so much that I silently sit here while I type and fantasize about the movie that might have been.

Granted, fantasizing about the Robin Hood that might have been is like wondering what would have happened had the American Idol judges not lost their collective minds and given Michael Lynch their save when other contestants (i.e. Siobhan Magnus) clearly deserved it more. All I can talk about is the picture that was delivered and not the one I wanted, and even if said delivery was a waste of time and effort, at the very least it did give me plenty to think about as the curtain finally closed.

Seriously, I came out of this wondering what in the heck the filmmakers were thinking. An origin story that has no clue as to the best way to focus its narrative, a historical epic that wouldn't know excitement if it came up and bit it in the butt, Scott and company so thoroughly dropped the ball this could quite possibly be the biggest mistake of the legendary Oscar-nominated director's entire career. The pacing is turgid, the narrative is nonsensical, and the best bits feel cribbed from other sources. This film has no idea what it is or who it has been made for, and unlike previous Scott misfires like A Good Year, White Squall, or Black Rain, there's not a single redeeming moment that makes the dullness of the rest even slightly worthwhile.

Pity, because Crowe was born to play the title character and Blanchett equally so to portray his lady love. Had this been a bit more focused I could see the two of them soaring as Robin and Marion, as their delicate give and take is a ferociously engaging balancing act that insinuates wonderments never to be told. I also think Isaac is fantastic as the Machiavellian British monarch, and if Scott and company had chosen to tell a story solely about him and his reign, we potentially could have had something grand to talk about.

But that's another might-have-been and thus not really worth the effort to talk about. The bottom line is that this Robin Hood is thudding in its pacing, disjointed in its storytelling, and muddled in just about every other way. It is a long, joyless exercise in tedium that defies imagination. This new journey to Sherwood Forest is an arrow to the jugular that's as lifeless as it is disappointing.


A Queer primer for SIFF 2010
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Each year, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) includes a number of LGBT-themed films and events. The 2010 festival includes nearly 30 films with specific relevance to the Queer community along with a number of others with supporting Queer characters.

The SIFF website (www.siff.net) has a feature that allows you to sift out films according to a number of criteria, allowing you to quickly find just the movies you're looking for - considering that SIFF 2010 will present 406 films in 25 days, I suggest you learn to use it.

Go to the SIFF homepage and find the tab labeled SIFFTER. Click it and you'll find a collage of stills from every SIFF film with a column of tabs on the left marked: GENRE, COUNTRY, VENUE, DAY, TIME.

To find specific types of films, click on GENRE and you can include or exclude any number of genres. When you're finished, the stills from the films included in your search light up - ingenious, and fairly user-friendly. What will they think of next?

If you use this feature to search exclusively for Gay/Lesbian content (once again, our Trans siblings get short shrift on the SIFF site), you'll find 29 little pictures lit up. Run your curser over them and you'll get a title balloon. Click on the picture and a box pops up with more information and a media viewer with a preview clip ready to go. Just push play. Sweet.

This year's "Gay-La" screening of Violet Tendencies begins at 7 p.m. on June 9, at the Egyptian Theatre, with an afterparty at Re-Bar immediately following. Tickets to the film and Gay-La party are $25 ($23 for SIFF members) and include admission to the film and party, hors d'oeuvres, and two complimentary cocktails. For the anti-social types, tickets for the film alone are $13 ($11 for SIFF members).

Violet Tendencies stars Mindy Cohn (yes, that Mindy Cohn) as a - wait. Let me stop right here. If you need another reason to see this film, you don't deserve to see this film. If you don't know who Mindy Cohn is, look it up and I wager you'll pop for a ticket faster than I can say, "You take the good, you take the bad&."

The other big Queer party lands at Pony following the June 3 screening of Undertow, a Peruvian film from director Javier Fuentes-Leon about a couple, Miguel and Mariela, who are expecting their first child. The problem is that Miguel is in love with Santiago. According to the SIFF press notes, it "starts off as something of a seaside Brokeback Mountain." The screening starts at 7 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre, and the party starts at 9 p.m. at Pony.

I'm also excited to see Howl, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, the team responsible for The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet. Howl stars soap opera star James Franco as Beat generation stalwart and Howl (the poem) author Allen Ginsberg. In the interest of full disclosure, I have a huge crush on James Franco, and if he starred in a frame-for-frame remake of Gigli, I'd probably go. Be forewarned, my greatest crush playing one of my literary heroes could lead to spontaneous ejaculation during the show.

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls is getting lots of pre-fest buzz. The award-winning documentary from New Zealand has become a film fest darling around the world and stars Jools and Lynda Topp, the world's only yodeling Lesbian twins. The music is said to be amazing (they also sing two-part harmonies on acoustic country tunes) and laughs are said to come fast and furious. I can't wait.

I must also mention a film that isn't listed under the Gay/Lesbian genre in the SIFF sifter (I love to say that out loud), but has a wonderfully drawn Lesbian character. I Am Love stars the incomparable Tilda Swinton as a Russian trophy wife of an Italian industrial magnate who falls in love with her son's best friend. In one of the loveliest coming-out scenes in all of cinema, Swinton's character's daughter (played by Alba Rohrwacher) comes out to her mom. The scene is absolutely real and touching without being a bit maudlin. There are many reasons to see I Am Love and this coming-out scene is just one of them.

So there you have it, a Queer primer for SIFF 2010. Gird your loins, boys and girls - and everyone else - because SIFF is upon us. Twenty-five days, 406 films, and immeasurable movie magic is coming your way. Do your homework and find your favorites, because it will be over before you know it.


Film fest 'the heart and soul' of Trans culture
by Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writer

Translations: The Seattle
Transgender Film Festival
May 13-16
Various Seattle Venues


Three Dollar Bill Cinema is currently holding Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival brings an eclectic mix of short films, documentaries, comedy, and compelling drama to movie screens throughout Seattle. Local film expert and Seattle Gay News writer Sara Michelle Fetters spoke with us about her involvement in the festival and the importance of spreading the message of the Trans movement through cinema.

Nick Ardizzone: Tell me a little about Three Dollar Bill Cinema's Translations film festival.

Sara Michelle Fetters: The Translations film festival is a short, weekend-long festival celebrating Transgender filmmakers and films, as well as Trans-related images in film in general. It's a chance to spotlight a vital part of the LGBT community that, sadly, tends to get overlooked. By grabbing films from all over the world, viewers get an amazing spectrum of ideas and concepts related to the Transgender community.

People tend to think the spectrum as it relates to Trans issues is rather small - that it's a relatively simple to describe the journey between genders, either male to female or vice-versa. But that's not the case at all, as the gender spectrum is broader than the rainbow itself.

Ardizzone: Why is a Trans film fest so important to the LGBT community? Aren't there enough Queer movie festivals already?

Fetters: As a film critic, I totally understand where that question comes from. There are so many different festivals spotlighting so many communities that it can quickly become a chore to deal with them all. Jewish Film Festivals. Scandinavian Film Festivals. Natural World Film Festivals. African American Film Festivals. Lesbian & Gay Film Festivals. A film festival about microbes dancing polka on Hollywood movie star toothbrushes. While I obviously made that last one up, I think you get what I'm going at. But the thing we forget is that each of these communities offers up something vital and different that we don't normally get the opportunity to fully explore in your normal, all-encompassing film festival. Why do we need a Jewish Film Festival when so many Jewish films get screened during the Seattle International Film Festival? Why do we need a Transgender Film Festival when Trans-related films are certainly going to be screened during the Lesbian & Gay Film Festival? I think the answers to these questions are relatively simple. In a festival like SIFF or SLGFF, you get only a taste of what films about those cultures and communities can offer. They are the appetizer to what these shorter, more focused festivals can deliver. In other words, a festival like Translations is the full meal. It is the heart and the soul. It is an exploration into a culture and a community you just don't get the chance to experience in a broader setting. So do I think a festival like Translations is important? You bet I do.

Ardizzone: This is the fifth annual festival. How has it changed over the last five years? Have you noticed that the movies in the festival are progressing or changing at all?

Fetters: Having been involved as programmer three of the five years of the festival, including the inaugural festival back in 2006, I definitely think things have changed over the years. Not only have submissions to Translations increased, personally I think the quality of the films - whether they be shorts, documentaries, or narrative features - has also risen as well. While I sadly did not have the time to program this year's festival, I have seen a handful of the films submitted for potential inclusions. I was struck by how the quality level has risen in so many of them, in how the subjects they chose to broach and the way they chose to explore them was more original and inspiring than in years past.

Ardizzone: The film festival will include a panel discussion about Trans imagery in film. What kinds of things will the panel discuss? Will it be particularly important for the LGBT community to hear?

Fetters: [Laughs.] Of course it will be important for the LGBT community to hear! How could it not be? Imagine all of the Trans images we have been bombarded with on reality television over the decades. From Donahue to Jerry Springer to America's Next Top Model to RuPaul's Drag Race to TRANSform Me, things have evolved in a way that is beyond extraordinary. Just think about how far Trans images on television have come. Can you imagine a world where a show like Friends would openly and honestly talk about what it is like to be the child of a Transsexual father? Can you imagine a time when a network station like ABC would allow a show like Ugly Betty to feature a major Transgender character and not present her as a comedic stereotype? It is an evolving and changing world, and reality television has explored Transgender issues in ways many of us could never have imagined 10, maybe even five years ago. The Transgender community has been the butt of jokes, the fodder for talk-show shock and awe for so long that for it to be suddenly taken seriously in a way that is empowering and educational is something we should be looking at. While these images can be construed in a multitude of ways - good, bad, and in-between - there have been major strides made the likes of which kind of boggle my mind. I'm hoping that in this panel we really get the chance to talk about them, get to discuss the positives and the negatives and what all this exposure means for those contemplating the exploration of their own gender identity. So will it be important? I certainly hope so, these issues and themes are ones just about everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity, can - and should - be able to relate to.

Ardizzone: For you, personally, what has been the most fulfilling part of being involved in the Trans film fest?

Fetters: The best part has just been watching it mature and expand over these past five years. Having been involved one way or another since its birth, seeing Translations come into its own has really filled my heart with joy. I tend not to talk about my own gender transition when I write. As a film critic, I tend to think it doesn't have any bearing as to whether I think something like Iron Man 2 or Letters to Juliet or Twilight is worth a viewer's time. But who I am does have influence, and to be able to see a festival explode in popularity and quality that is so close to my heart means far more to me than I would ever normally express. To even be able to play as small a part in the festival as I am this year is hugely important to me, and anytime Three Dollar Bill Cinema wants my assistance or support for Translations, I can pretty much guarantee they're going to get it, no matter how many mountains I have to move to give it to them.

Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival 2010 continues through May 16. Visit www.threedollarbillcinema.org for more information and festival passes.



 
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