Hits and Misses of SBIFF


{1} Thank You for Smoking: Closing night’s sophisticated, cynical, funny New-Yorker-cartoon-cleverly-disguised-as-a-movie was one of the best special screenings in recent fest memory.

{2} Paseo Nuevo opening night bash: Turning State Street’s ode to shopping into Moulin Rouge —  complete with free Imperia vodka, hot dogs from the Doghouse, and numerous other treats — was quite a welcome party, even if Salma Hayek hid upstairs the whole time.

{3} 1 Dance 2 Sea: The film fest’s first installation piece was set up at Anthropologie during the first weekend, giving film lovers, shoppers, and passers-by a chance to see film out of the theater.

{4} Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talking About Him)?: Two Indy critics even saw this film twice, both reporting that it was just as good the second time to hear “Spend Another Day Without Her” and “Step into the Fire.” It also begs the question: Did John Lennon unconsciously set out to ruin the greatest singing voice in the world?

{5} Half Empty: A sweet, no-budget musical parody of the self-help industry, all filmed for just $5,000 amid another film fest in Germany.

{6} Naked Voices: UCSB’s a capella group dazzled the closing night audience with amazingly crisp, complex vocals and flawless beat-box percussion, especially while doing Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “The Zephyr Song.”

{7} C.R.A.Z.Y.: The idiosyncratic, universal characters were outstanding in this film about a French-Canadian family’s lunacy and pain in the ’60s and ’70s.

{8} Turnout for The Shape of Water: The enthusiastic response for Kum-Kum Bhavani’s documentary about five women’s initiatives around the world included everyone from UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang to UCSB students. But 100 people were turned away.

{9} Dreaming in America: The band under focus (Lucero) is less remarkable than the film, which is a thorough look at what it’s like to be a mid-level band trying to make it.

{10} Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: Chan-Wook Park is The Auteur in your future.

{11} Queen of Trees: Although only about two dozen people saw the world premiere and Q&A with the husband-and-wife directing team, this wildlife film about the mysteries of an African sycamore fig tree was marvelously compelling and astoundingly shot.

{12} The West Wittering Affair: The most hilarious, touching, satisfying, successful home movie ever made.

{13} Joyeux Noël: When opposing soldiers in World War I put down their rifles and pick up a soccer ball on Christmas Eve, humanity reins supreme.

{14} Rain in a Dry Land: A fine documentary that affirms the hope and opportunity that America offers without whitewashing its flaws.

{15} Believe in Me: A film about girls’ basketball in Oklahoma in the ’60s that could have been as foreign as the most foreign film in the festival. But for one of our critics, it felt like a film about her.


{1} Film Fest trailer length: Must we watch this in its entirety before each and every film? Can’t we have a shorter version for regular screenings and a longer one for special events?

{2} March of the Penguins: Why show a film that was on broadcast television the same night?

{3} D: Why was this Japanese drifter story complicated with bogus resolution? We blame David Lynch.

{4} Free Firestone beer: How’s a critic on a small budget supposed to endure the moral quandary of choosing between drinking free beer or supporting environmentalists who oppose the county supervisor of the same name?

{5} Red carpet traffic: Perhaps it’s a film fest universal, but there were more grumblings about access troubles than ever before.

{6} Extreme sports show times: Why show extreme sports movies in the middle of the afternoon when most sports enthusiasts are still outside trying to catch the last bit of sun?

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