It’s that special time of year at Northwest Film Forum when our staff shares their “Top 10 Lists” from the past sun-round. Some are styled on the more traditional Top 10 Best Films lists we see regularly in the media at this time of year. And some push the boundaries of the Top 10 format. From our film loving hearts to yours: happy holidays, and here’s to a film-filled 2015.
TOP 10, BY PROGRAM DIRECTOR COURTNEY SHEEHAN
Yesterday, legendary underground painter and comix artist Robert Williams gave an amazing Q&A at the Film Forum. He spoke about feeling more at home with hot rodders and bikers than the art world crowd, debated the definition of pop surrealism, and inspired the audience with sundry quips and pearls of wisdom. When I look back over my first year at Northwest Film Forum, I realized that these are the kinds of outstanding moments that I’d most like to share: memories made with people and inspired by cinema.
Lou Reed tribute night: fans packed the place in remembrance of Lou. Chris Estey’s dynamite rendition of “The Greatest Album Ever Made” by Lester Bangs, and Ma’Chell Duma LaVassar’s funny and heartfelt piece from the staircase transformed the lobby, and KINSKI practically burst the seams of the cinema walls (not to mention great performances by Robert deeble, The Jesus Rehab, and Robert Roth). Bourbon flowed and the night would spawn future projects: it’s when I met Barbara Mitchell, unparalleled in her abilities as arts connector and vigilante raccoon.
Above and Beyonce: marrying pop culture content with critical discussion, an all-star line-up of speakers debated Beyonce’s feminist politics (or lack thereof). As moderator, Sandra Jackson-Dumont seamlessly wove together the panelists’ points with contributions from the audience. I will never forget how Christa Bell illustrated her point by having all the white folks in the theater stand up, fists raised in the air, and repeat after her: “I am a black revolutionary.”
“See?” she said. “Just because you say you’re something doesn’t mean you are.”
Winter in the Blood: for this Indigenous Showcase event and US theatrical premiere, Longhouse Media brought in directors Andrew and Alex Smith, star Chaske Spencer, and executive producer Sherman Alexie, along with other cast and crew. The film went on to be one of our biggest box office hits of the year before it was acquired by a distributor, demonstrating how the traditional release model starting with New York/LA is giving way to new strategies.
Harry Smith: Early Abstractions and the Animation of Bodily Rhythm. The Society for Cinema and Media Studies held their annual conference in Seattle this year, and we partnered with them to present a program of short films dedicated to “painter, filmmaker, musicologist, anthropologist, linguist, translator, collector, occultist and eccentric genius of the 20th-century underground,” Harry Smith (curated by Alla Gadassik and Rani Singh). Lori Goldston’s accompaniment for “Early Abstractions” was so powerful, as soon as the film ended the head of SCMS unleashed a resoundingly joyous expletive from the front row a split second before the sold out theater erupted in thunderous applause.
A couple of Francophile favorites: full houses for rare 35mm screenings of Alain Resnais’ Je t’aime je t’aime, not long after the great auteur’s passing, and Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day for Valentine’s Day
Color Field by Salt Horse: Salt Horse activated the entire venue, revealing hidden performance sites and forever altering my sense of what is possible in our hallways, staircases, projection booths, lobby and cinemas.
Videoasis: This platform for new PNW music videos is now gearing up for its fourth edition. The Q&A after the first edition evolved into a beautiful meeting of musicians and filmmakers across genres and scenes. Onstage conversation brought together the likes of Geo, Kithkin, Reel Girls, Hightek Lowlives, Low Hums, Childbirth and more.
Lucky Them: we have local director Megan Griffiths to thank for our biggest box office hit of the year. Audiences came in droves for her latest feature, which brought together Seattle’s film and music communities, and movie lovers eager for excellent films by local filmmakers! (We are excited for two more local films coming up in early 2015: My Last Year with the Nuns and Big in Japan)
Stewart-Sekuler Send-Off: If you know either Shannon or Adam, you know why.
The Bike-In: Joseph Gordon Levitt’s face plastered across Cal Anderson for the delectable Premium Rush, which deserves a cult following for its high octane bike chase sequences with sleek sweaty bodies delivering one-liners like, “That’s the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on!” Plus, unexpected pails of free Thai food and a brief interruption from a merry band of anarchists.
Capturing Violence: This community discussion we hosted in response to the photos and video Alex Garland took of a mall cop macing Raymond Wilford outside the Westlake Center was tough and challenging and thought-provoking and hopefully action-inspiring. Alex’s video marks a new entry in the canon of citizen journalism, a topic he’ll be teaching a class on in January (what a stimulating way for a filmmaker, journalist or photographer to start a new year!).
Local Sightings: I had a blast with my first Local Sightings and there are too many memorable moments to list here, but a few: the Q&A after closing film In Country with a group of the film’s subjects, many of them veterans, was intimate and moving. Monihan’s juror video intro. Introducing Seattle to Bubble Bubble Meows and the Meteor Stomachache. Beholding the influential movie scenes filmmakers selected to share on opening night. My first experience getting booed off stage (ask me to hear the tale, it’s a good one). And so many more.
Thanks to the Seattle Polish Film Festival, Krzysztof Zanussi came to give a very personal, characteristically eloquent introduction Q&A for his film The Illumination. Afterward, an audience member gushed that it was his best experience at Northwest Film Forum—“and I’ve had a lot of good ones”.
Puget Soundtrack: Cabana and Microcosmos. The psych shoegaze outfit Cabana nailed it with an unforgettable performance that included playfully cracking open beers during an impeccable interlude to the Price is Right theme and inspiring the audience to burst in applause in the middle of film after their perfectly comedic handling of the famous dung beetle scene. With Microcosmos on 35mm, it was truly a one of a kind show. (Other standout live scores this year included Kingdom of the Holy Sun, Vox Mod, GRID)
Holiday party: all ages dance party on night with record booze sales, that’s how we do it
Favorite films I saw this year, in no particular order: Heaven Knows What, 9-Man, Force Majeure (look for a Ruben Ostlund retrospective in February), La Voz de los Silenciados, The Strange Little Cat, Heli, In Country, Snowpiercer, Exhibition, Stations of the Elevated.