Splice Him to the Greek (Weekly Links)

Guess which twin has the mutated gene? Delphine Chaneac, Sarah Polley: Splice

Reviews I wrote for the Herald this week.

Get Him to the Greek. “Ham-handed.”

Splice. “A couple of mildly kicky twists.”

The Living Wake. “Credit for sheer chutzpah.”

And a batch of capsules for the Seattle International Film Festival’s upcoming week. (Dead link; article below)

Recommendations for the upcoming week at the Seattle International Film Festival.

“Blessed.” A heavy-going Australian drama that divides in half: the first part looks at lost youths getting into trouble; the second follows their mothers, who have their own problems. Watchable mostly as an acting showcase for powerful talents: Frances O’Connor, Deborra-Lee Furness, and Miranda Otto. Today, 6:30 p.m., Pacific Place; Saturday, 4 p.m., Pacific Place.

“A Tribute to Edward Norton.” SIFF’s big career tribute goes in the direction of this widely-admired actor, whose debut in “Primal Fear” in 1996 brought him instant acclaim. Tonight Norton sits for a Q&A and also introduces his new film “Leaves of Grass,” in which he plays twin brothers. Today, 7 p.m., Egyptian.

“Imani.” A film from Uganda that threads together three storylines, all of which will end with a terrible bargain being made. This rigorously-plotted scenario doesn’t flinch from presenting the difficult systems of life in Uganda today (director Caroline Kamya is scheduled to attend). Today, 7 p.m., Harvard Exit; Sunday, 4:30 p.m., Harvard Exit.

“Agora.” Rachel Weisz takes the lead role in a peculiar but effective historical drama set in 4th-century Alexandria: she plays the celebrated ancient scholar Hypatia, who ran afoul of religious authorities while pursuing science. Thanks in part to Weisz’s performance, the film shakes off its initial toga-clad stiffness and turns into something passionate. Today, 7 p.m., Neptune; Sunday, 4 p.m., Neptune.

“Fight Club.” As part of the Edward Norton tribute, one of his most notorious films gets a late-night slot: David Fincher’s clever 1999 movie about men who prowl the nocturnal world looking to experience something, even if it means beating each other up. Today, midnight, Egyptian.

“Garbo: The Spy.” A heckuva true story: how a Spanish double-agent fed the Nazis misleading information and single-handedly affected the outcome of WWII (among other things, “Garbo” convinced the Germans that the D-Day invasion was merely a diversionary tactic and the real attack would come elsewhere). This documentary lays out the facts in somewhat distracting fashion. Saturday, 11 a.m., Pacific Place.

“The River.” A great and beautiful film, shot on location in India by the legendary director Jean Renoir (“Grand Illusion”). It’s based on a novel by Rumer Godden, and aside from being about the adolescence of an English girl, it’s also about the rhythms of life, death and experience—all of which inevitably emulate the flow suggested by the title. A restored print is promised. Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Harvard Exit.

“Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel.” This documentary take on the notorious publisher is a bald attempt to re-configure Hef’s reputation away from smut and toward his history as a First Amendment and Civil Rights proponent. And mostly it succeeds, although you can’t escape the feeling that it’s very much an authorized bio (despite the presence of a couple of critical voices). Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian; Sunday 1:30 p.m., Egyptian; Wednesday 9:30 p.m., Egyptian.

“25th Hour.”

“West Side Story.” The great Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical makes for a memorable movie, if badly miscast in its lead roles. At the very least, the chance to see the dance numbers in widescreen is a treat. Sunday, 1:15 p.m., Harvard Exit.

“First of All, Felicia.” A sleeper from Romania, a slow and patient study of an ordinary situation (a woman visiting her parents in Bucharest misses her flight and must figure out an alternative). It might not sound promising, but the dry humor and keen observations are right on the money. Sunday, 11 a.m., Harvard Exit.

“American: The Bill Hicks Story.” Unusual approach for this documentary look at comedian Hicks: no experts or talking heads, just friends and family members narrating the life story of a rule-breaking comic who had to chase away his own demons before really breaking through to his best stuff. Thursday, 6:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema.

“The Sentimental Engine Slayer.” Decidedly strange directing and acting debut for Omar Rodriguez Lopez, the musician behind Mars Volta; the story goes along various tracks in El Paso, which looks pretty surreal here. It might not add up, but at least an interesting attempt is made in this largely experimental work. Thursday, 9:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema.

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk to Steve Scher about the monster-movie aspects of the BP oil spill, and other things: here. The “Cultural Moment” bit starts around 14 minutes in.

And the Magic Lantern program at the Frye Art Museum gets a name-check in the Travel Channel’s anointing the Frye as one of the Top Ten free museums in the U.S.: here.

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