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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 8, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 10
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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The 24th Seattle Jewish Film Festival brings 36 films, 180 emotions, thousands of friends
by Ryan Davis - Seattle Jewish Film Festival

SEATTLE JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
AMC PACIFIC PLACE
SIFF UPTOWN CINEMA
STROUM JCC
AEGIS LIVING OF QUEEN ANNE
REGAL CINEBARRE ISSAQUAH
March 23-31 & April 6-7
seattlejewishfilmfestival.org


In its 24th year, the 2019 Seattle Jewish Film Festival is the largest Jewish event in the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest and longest-running film festivals in the Puget Sound region, attracting over 7,000 attendees annually. SJFF is an eleven-day exploration and celebration of Israeli life and Jewish culture, history, and filmmaking, where everyone can take a global Jewish journey through cinema.

This year, SJFF celebrates a number of films and events about music. In celebration of Leonard Bernstein's Centennial, we welcome daughter, author and filmmaker Jamie Bernstein (in attendance) to discuss her new memoir, Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein, followed by the documentary film LEONARD BERNSTEIN: LARGER THAN LIFE, in which she also appears. A book signing and reception will follow the screening.

BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTES takes us on a complicated musical odyssey about the unlikely partnerships behind the legendary jazz label founded by German-Jewish refugees as told by jazz greats and some of the brightest stars of hip-hop. A live performance by the Garfield High School Jazz Combo kicks off the screening.

Opening weekend, enjoy the annual Sunday Klezmer Brunch & Sports Film. This special event features a delicious Jewish comfort-food spread catered by Mangia Bene Catering and music from The Klez Katz! before the all-ages screening of the baseball documentary HEADING HOME: THE TALE OF TEAM ISRAEL, which the The Atlanta Jewish Times called 'A Grand Slam.'

Other confirmed guests include, first-time filmmaker Paula Eiselt (in attendance) with her documentary 93QUEEN about a group of tenacious Orthodox Hasidic women who are smashing the patriarchy by creating the first all-female volunteer ambulance service in Brooklyn, and Joseph Lovett, an award-winning filmmaker and former ABC News '20/20' director/producer, with his documentary film CHILDREN OF THE INQUISITION for our Sephardic Spotlight, featuring University of Washington Professor Devin Naar (both in attendance). Check the schedule for additional guests.

The 2019 Festival runs March 23-31 at venues in Seattle and on Mercer Island and continues April 6-7 for our second Eastside edition. Tickets for SJFF's full lineup are on sale now at seattejewishfilmfestival.org or via phone at (206) 388-0832. SJFF is a vital cornerstone of the Stroum Jewish Community Center's Arts+Ideas season, featuring 40 performing and visual arts programs year-round, and is central to SJCC's community-building mission, showcasing the vibrancy and diversity of global Jewish and Israeli life, art and culture. For more information and the complete schedule of films and events, visit www.seattlejewishfilmfestival.org or look for the printed program guide at public spaces around town.

Tickets
General admission tickets: $12-$15 | Special events: $20-$25. Full Festival passes: $200-$225 | 8-Packs of discount tickets: $100-$125.

Discounts apply to SJCC members, students, and seniors 65+. SJFF also accepts TeenTix. SJCC also works with many partner nonprofits and agencies to provide free and low-cost tickets.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.seattlejewishfilmfestival.org. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at (206) 388-0832 and day-of at the box office, if available.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

Opening Night Film & Tom Douglas Dessert Party
THE UNORTHODOX
Saturday, March 23 | 7:30pm Happy Hour | 9pm Screening | Dessert Party follows | AMC Pacific Place

Shuli Rand (in his first role since USHPIZIN) dazzles in this spirited, suspenseful story about Israel's first ultraorthodox, Sephardi political party, proving that one man can create powerful social change.

Sunday Brunch & Film
HEADING HOME: THE TALE OF TEAM ISRAEL
Sunday, March 24 | 9:30am Brunch followed by the film | AMC Pacific Place

Thanks to the World Baseball Classic's rules on eligibility, Team Israel consists of a number of Jewish-American Major League Baseball players, most of whom haven't had much exposure to Judaism, let alone been to Israel. This stirring story of sports, patriotism, and personal growth chronicles the exhilarating run of this underdog baseball team on the world stage. Matinees
LOVE, GILDA
Wednesday, March 27 | 1pm | Aegis of Queen Anne at Rogers Park

Friday, March 29 | 12:30pm | SJCC Mercer Island A special $8 matinee for film fans 65 and better. Served with delicious desserts and small bites! LOVE, GILDA opens a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of beloved performer Gilda Radner, whose greatest role was sharing her story.

Guest Directors
SUSTAINABLE NATION - Guest Director: Micah Smith
Wednesday, March 27 | 6:30pm | SIFF Uptown

1.2 billion people live without access to clean drinking water. Meet Israeli innovators working with partners across the globe to create sustainable solutions in water-scarce communities In the US, Uganda, and India in this eye-opening documentary with a social and ecological conscience. 93QUEEN - Guest Director: Paula Eiselt
Thursday, March 28 | 6:30pm | SIFF Uptown

A group of tenacious ultraorthodox women are shattering the glass ceiling in their Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood by creating the first all-female volunteer EMS corps in Brooklyn. Israeli Film Night & Happy Hour Film
THE OTHER STORY
Saturday, March 30 | 8:45pm | SJCC Mercer Island

Two rebellious young women, one fleeing the chaos of secular hedonism for the disciplined comforts of faith, the other desperate to transcend her oppressive religious upbringing for sexual and spiritual freedom, cross paths unexpectedly in Jerusalem-with startling consequences. Centerpiece - Author Talk & Film Film
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: LARGER THAN LIFE
Featured Guest: Jamie Bernstein
Sunday, March 31 | 4:45pm | SJCC Mercer Island

Leonard Bernstein, one of the most influential classical musicians of the 20th century, was a complex and colorful genius whose creative gifts knew no limits. Illuminating interviews complement family photos and archival clips to tell his life story in celebration of the centennial of his birth. Special guest, daughter Jamie Bernstein, discuss the film and her new memoir, Famous Father Girl.

SJCC Closing Night Film, Happy Hour & Reception
HOLY LANDS
Sunday, March 31 | 6:30pm | SJCC Mercer Island Oscar-nominee

James Caan, Rosanna Arquette, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers star in this heartwarming and comic portrayal of an American Jewish family of colorful eccentrics in the Holy Land.

For the complete schedule of films, visit www.seattlejewishfilmfestival.org or pick up a Seattle Jewish Film Festival program at various locations around town.

Seattle Jewish Film Festival (SJFF) is the largest Jewish event in the Pacific Northwest, one of the largest and longest-running film festivals in the Puget Sound region, and a vital cornerstone of the Stroum Jewish Community Center's Arts+Ideas season programs. Central to the SJCC's community-building mission, SJFF brings people together to showcase the vibrancy and diversity of global Jewish and Israeli life through cinema.

www.seattlejewishfilmfestival.org

Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC) creates outstanding programs, partnerships and spaces that welcome everyone to learn grow and celebrate Jewish life and culture. Each year the SJCC serves over 15,000 people around the Puget Sound through Early Childhood Education, summer camp, enrichment, fitness and aquatics programs, and a rich cultural and performing arts lineup. www.sjcc.org

Courtesy of Seattle Jewish Film Festival


Dynamic Captain Marvel doesn't ask permission to soar
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

CAPTAIN MARVEL
Now playing


I loved Captain Marvel. There were multiple moments in this latest adventure set inside the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) where I had to choke back a few tears. This is a movie I wish I could have watched as a child struggling with my identity, desperately eager to figure out who I was and where I fit in the world. This is a journey I would have eagerly gone on multiple times, heading back to the theatre again and again to watch events play themselves out to conclusion until I could recite large passages of dialogue verbatim with no trouble at all. While not altogether perfect, while far from the best overall entry into the MCU, none of that doesn't minimizes my immediate initial reaction to this latest superhero story one single bit. I loved Captain Marvel. More than that, I can't wait to see it again.

Vers (Brie Larson) can't sleep. A Kree officer under the command of crack Starforce operative Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), she is troubled by a variety of dreams and nightmares, fragments of a past life that she frustratingly cannot remember haunting her in a myriad of ways, many of which are visible to the other members of her unit. Nonetheless, emboldened by the words said to her by the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening), Vers is determined to do her job in the battle against the Skrulls, vindictive intergalactic marauders with shapeshifting abilities the Kree have made it their societal mission to defeat, doing her best to stamp down any lingering emotions connected to her mysterious past in the process.

On a mission to a remote planet, Yon-Rogg and his Starforce team are ambushed by a well-armed group of Skrulls. Vers is kidnapped, but before their leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) can extract any vital information she manages to escape and abscond with one of their scout ships, heading to the remote planet of Earth based on fragments of a memory that was buried deep within her subconscious uncovered during her interrogation. Once there, the interstellar traveler meets up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), revealing to him a fantastical story of warring alien species and the threat of invasion his planet is currently under if she isn't able to solve the ephemeral riddle trapped inside her head. But things are even more complicated than Vers realizes, and it soon becomes apparent to both her and Fury that she might not be a Kree warrior after all, but instead something - someone - far more human.

Through the course of Captain Marvel Vers learns who she really is and where she actually comes from. She discovers how she ended up working with the Kree and why the Supreme Intelligence takes on the visage of an average human woman (the entity appears as someone inherently personal to each different individual it appears to) whenever she is sent to speak with it. Most of all, though, she gets to find herself in the eyes of others, most notably Air Force test pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her wide-eyed loving daughter Monica (Akira Akbar). Primarily, thanks to them she is put on a path to learn, not just the type of person she was, but the potential hero she is destined to become.

All of this can be a bit messy and discombobulated at times, directors and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar), working with three additional writers on both the film's screenplay and story, not always able to juggle all of the balls they've tossed into the air with complete confidence. The opening section is notably fragmented and hurried, and while this is probably by design in order to emulate the future heroine's fragmented state of mind, it also undeniably produces a slight distancing element that takes a bit of work on the part of the viewer to sift through. But by the time the story reaches Earth this 1990s-set escapade kicks into effervescent high gear. The whole thing is so consistently entertaining it practically doesn't matter that not every piece makes as much logical sense as it probably should, the energetic joie de vivre of it all just too intoxicating to resist.

I really like the way this story progresses. It centralizes itself on Vers in ways that are intimately naturalistic, allowing the audience to discover truths about who she is at approximately the same rate she does. In doing things in this manner the film becomes both something of a minor mystery as well as a saga of a person discovering her unique power to be whatever she wants to be in life no matter what anyone else might think about that. It speaks truth to power in a manner that is amusingly silly but also in direct, emotionally complex terms that are forcefully personal. Vers is searching to know who she is, how she fits in and what role in the cosmic opera she wants to portray. Most of all, she gets to determine what form that person is going to be, ultimately deciding for herself what this final visage is going to be and unapologetically demanding acceptance once she has done so.

Larson is wonderful. She brings a level of warmth and kindness to her performance that transforms and evolves at the same rate as her Vers does. It's there even in her character's initial stages of trying to conform to the emotionless warrior state Yon-Rogg attempts to teach her to believe is best. It is there when she crash-lands on Earth and ends up making Fury's acquaintance. Because it is there during these passages, because Larson has allowed us this insight into Vers' emotional core even when she's trying to stamp it down into submission, once Maria and Monica enter the picture, I could feel all of the heartbreakingly euphoric effects this journey was having upon the young woman, in large parts thanks to the ways in which the Oscar-winning actress had, chosen to portray her. It's a subtly nimble performance that grows in power and significance as events progress, making Vers' decision to put down this false name for her real one, while at the same time assuming the mantle of protector of the innocent, all the more monumental in the process.

There's so much more to say, including the deft way in which Boden and Fleck incorporate so many signature '90s musical favorites into the proceedings as well as how they allow composer Pinar Toprak's uniquely vibrant score to augment most of the signature moments with breathless eccentricity. I also couldn't help but get a kick out of the retro buddy cop comedy vibe that exists whenever Larson and Jackson share the screen together, the two making as terrific a screen coupling as any I could have hoped for before the movie began. There's also something to be said about the clever ways in which the filmmakers tie their effort into the MCU at large, most notably in how it handles a McGuffin involving a certain blue cube as well as its utilization of two characters who will go on to battle the Guardians of the Galaxy twenty or so years in the future.

But none of that matters nearly as much as how Captain Marvel made me feel. There is a moment quite late in the picture where a certain male character makes a point to say this wannabe heroine should know her place, that she should know when to call it a day and stay down on the ground like a good girl. That she stands up isn't the surprise; the emotions and the memories that she utilizes in order to find the strength to do so undeniably is. In that moment this woman becomes who she was always meant to be, and in the process of doing so reminds us all that sometimes the greatest act of rebellion comes solely by being one's self and not asking anyone's permission to be so.


Explosively entertaining Furie a character-driven action spectacular
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

FURIE
Now playing


Living in a remote village, ex-gangster Hai Phuong (Veronica Ngo) left Saigon in a hurry, hoping to escape into anonymity after the birth of her daughter. Getting a job as a collection agent, she is known throughout the community as an angry, unyielding enforcer, rarely taking pity on those she has come to recover a debt from. This does not make her now 10-year-old child Mai (Cat Vy) popular with either her schoolmates or her teachers, and as much as Hai Phuong urges her daughter to commit to her studies the youngster would rather fish the local river instead of finishing her math homework.

Spending a sunny day at the local market, the relative happiness of the moment is shattered when the two have an argument after Mai is wrongly accused of stealing a woman's wallet. When she wanders over to a secluded dock to shed a tear in relative quiet, the girl is forcibly abducted by a pair of men who steal her down the river in a stolen boat. Responding to her daughter's cries for help Hai Phuong springs into action, fighting off a bevy of assailants in her rescue attempt. But they have too much of a head start, the men escaping onto a bus to Saigon before the aggrieved mother can catch up with them. Yet Hai Phuong will not relent and she will not stop. She will return to Saigon and do whatever it takes to ensure Mai is freed, and woe to anyone, anyone at all, who stands in this former gangster's way in her mission to be reunited with her beloved daughter.

Vietnamese action-thriller Furie is very, very good. Writer/director Le Van Kiet's confident, dynamically paced film hits the ground running and subsequently refuses to let up for any second of its 98-minute running time. But as violently compelling as events prove to be, the filmmaker still remembers to craft a complex, multi-dimensional lead character worthy of the audience's emotional investment. Hai Phuong is a dangerous woman with a disquieting past who is plagued by the choices she has made in her life. More, she is saddled with almost crippling shame as it pertains to the example she feels she has set for her daughter. Yet Hai Phuong's selfless, unyielding love for Mai is equally never in doubt, and it is the very skills she is most ashamed of that will allow her to track down the child and potentially free her from a never-ending legion of lethally murderous abductors.

It is all slightly reminiscent of Taken. But whereas that movie was really nothing more than a live action cartoon given some semblance of legitimacy courtesy of its star Liam Neeson's grizzled, hard-boiled performance, for all its flamboyant, highly-energized action sequences Kiet's effort is grounded in both its culture and its characters in ways that 2008 hit (or its increasingly pathetic sequels) never was. It also helps that Ngo, likely best known for her brief appearance as heroic bomber pilot Paige Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is superb as Hai Phuong. She brings a level of haunted gravitas to events that are frequently heartbreaking. It also makes her believable, for while her character is an undeniably talented martial artist and fighter, she's hardly so gifted in her abilities that the outcome is forgone when the determined mother encounters any of those responsible for kidnapping her child. Instead, her strength comes from her tenacity and undying belief she will save Mai no matter what the cost, Ngo doing a magnificent job making these pugnaciously compelling emotions feel tangible and intimate.

A massive subplot involving a Saigon detective (Thanh Nhien Phan) trying to bust an international child abduction and organ harvesting ring isn't developed particularly well, while something concerning Hai Phuong and a mysterious arson that happened before she fled the city is so nondescript its almost as if it never happened at all. But there is a brief, undeniably terrific moment where the aggrieved mother searches out her estranged brother, the scene refusing to go the way convention dictates it should have and in doing so becomes far more heartbreakingly real. Additionally, the sequence where Mai is wrongly accused of stealing that wallet is also stellar, the look of regret-fueled anguish that washes over Ngo's face as Hai Phuong learns the truth positively devastating.

As for the action sequences, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume Kiet did his homework because there is an adrenaline-fueled insanity to the majority of them reminiscent of other internationally-flavored genre favorites like Gareth Evans' The Raid 2 or Byung-gil Jung's The Villainess. He allows scenes to play themselves out in long extended takes where the camera glides along observing the fisticuffs, eschews a lot of quick cuts or unnecessary edits that potentially could have reduced all that's happening to a nonsensical visual blur. It's continually impressive, and from the opening set piece inside that outdoor market to a climactic whirligig taking place in a secluded train warehouse there was never a moment where I wanted to turn my eyes away from the screen.

It all resolves itself pretty much as I expected it to, and there aren't a lot of surprises where it comes to any of the climactic events. But the last 15 minutes features a flurry of stunning sequences set on a speeding train, all of them staged with an energetic flair that's impressively hair-raising. As I've already stated, Furie is very, very good, and I think fans of character-driven action cinema owe it to themselves to give this monstrously entertaining Vietnamese entry into the genre an immediate look.






Great staging makes you jump with The Woman in Black
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She's back! Ms. Pak-Man returns to Re-bar March 14-30
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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The 24th Seattle Jewish Film Festival brings 36 films, 180 emotions, thousands of friends
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Dynamic Captain Marvel doesn't ask permission to soar
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Explosively entertaining Furie a character-driven action spectacular
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