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

{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

{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

{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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