by Mark Steiner
Scarecrow has built its reputation on having a broad, eclectic mix of videos – everything from big Hollywood blockbusters to small films from marginalized filmmakers and all that’s in between. While we add thousands of new titles each year, there are always some that are out of reach for one reason or another. Those are ones that end up on our wish list – ones we hope that someday we can acquire. Now, with the generous support of a long-time patron, we will be able to bring in films from this list. Each quarter we will select a certain number of items and showcase them in a special section called our Wish List Collection. To start things off, our new additions feature European imports, seminal avant-garde collections, and important missing pieces to our directors’ sections. Sometimes wishes do come true!
By the Seattle Jewish Film Festival staff
The 23rd annual Seattle Jewish Film Festival runs March 10th – 18th with an Eastside expansion April 14th – 15th. The eleven-day festival is a cinematic journey to kaleidoscopic worlds and colorful cultures, and showcases a diverse spectrum of international, independent “isREEL” and “REEL Jewish” films for everyone – 30 films from 12 countries, with 21 guests at fun events featuring local chefs and live music. All that’s missing is you!
SJFF is one of the longest-running and largest film festivals in the city, and showcases Jewish and Israeli cinema and filmmakers that inspire and unite us, broaden our horizons and perspectives on global Jewish life, history, and stories.
This year almost half the films are from Israel in celebration of that countries milestone. As chosen by the expert Seattle Jewish Film Festival staff, here are some great pairings of what’s in this year’s festival alongside what you can find in the deep vaults of Scarecrow Video.
Learn more and buy tickets at: www.SeattleJewishFilmFestival.org
Visiting Scarecrow? Rent: DEFIANCE (2008)
Coming to the festival? Don’t miss: MAKTUB, screening on Saturday, March 10, at 8:30pm at AMC Pacific Place, the Seattle Jewish Film Festival’s Opening Night film this year! In MAKTUB, two Jerusalem mob enforcers turn into unlikely secret angels after they survive a terrorist attack in this delightful, Quentin Tarantino-esque tough-Jews comedy-caper. The evening also includes a Tom Douglas Dessert Party!
Visiting Scarecrow? Rent: THE CONCERT (2010)
Coming to the festival? Don’t miss: ITZHAK, screening on Sunday, March 11, at 5:45pm at AMC Pacific Place. Itzhak Perlman’s mastery of the violin catapulted a child prodigy from Israel with polio and the son of survivors onto the world’s most prominent stages. The biopic is one of the best in the fest, and features cameos from Alan Alda and many of Perlman’s friends and collaborators. What a musician, what a mensch!
Visiting Scarecrow? Rent: WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL (2013)
Coming to the festival? Don’t miss: LAND OF MILK AND FUNNY, on Sunday, March 11, at a special Brunch Event happening at 9:30am followed by a Comedy Show and the film screening at 11am, at AMC Pacific Place. Standup comedians from diverse backgrounds (i.e., Gary Gulman, Craig Robinson, and Dwight Slade who will attend and do a short set) tour Israel with comic Avi Liberman and offer unique and unscripted takes on the holy land.
Visiting Scarecrow? Rent: WALK ON WATER (2004)
Coming to the festival? Don’t miss: SHELTER, on Wednesday, March 14, at 9:00pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Israeli director Eran Riklis (SYRIAN BRIDE, LEMON TREE) returns with a female-centered, neo-noir, psychological thriller. An uneasy bond develops between an Israeli informant and the Mossad agent sent to protect her.
Visiting Scarecrow? Rent: SYRIAN BRIDE (2004)
Coming to the festival? Don’t miss: SHALOM BOLLYWOOD, on Saturday, April 14, at 8:45pm, at Regal Cinebarre Issaquah 8 (a full-menu venue!), the Seattle Jewish Film Festival’s Eastside Opening Night film this year! Who knew that Indian-Jews dominated Bollywood for the first half of its 100-year history? This surprising and entertaining documentary profiles six legends of the Indian cinema that made Bollywood what it is today: the largest and one of the most progressive, cutting-edge film industries in the world. Tickets include free popcorn and a beverage!
Visiting Scarecrow? Rent: TURN LEFT AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2004)
by John S.
Movie Postmortems is a series that reviews certain films which showed promise but misfired, critically and/or commercially, upon release. Join us in our attempt to find out what the hell happened.
THE CASUALTY: Basic Instinct 2
THE CASE HISTORY: February 1992. A controversial erotic thriller titled Basic Instinct is gearing up for release. The film revolves around Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), a San Francisco homicide detective who finds himself drawn like a moth to the flame to the prime suspect in his latest murder case. She is Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone), a bisexual novelist whose latest mystery novel seems to predict the crime in question. In addition to the explicit sex scenes featured in the movie, Basic Instinct has been garnering controversy from LGBT community protests about its depiction of its bisexual characters are cold-blooded killers.
By Lyle Pearson
Every fall I have returned to Whatcom County from India to avoid the monsoon. The past three years I have returned more accurately to Blackberry Kush, an informal commune among the evergreens outside Bellingham, off the grid, with only a generator for electricity. (Most names are changed herein, with the exception of ‘Whatcom’ and ‘Bellingham,’ to protect anyone who needs protecting.) ‘Kush,’ according to the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary (1993, reprint 2013), is “a sacred grass used in brahmanical ceremonies,” but there is also a mountain range called the Hindu Kush, whose etymology is unclear—‘kush’ may come from ‘koh,’ Persian for ‘cold:’ the North African traveler Ibn Battuta (c.1300s) claimed it means “killer of Hindus,” that is, of Hindu slaves, by the cold, as they were transported by Muslim conquerors across the mountains back toward the Middle East. I’m calling the commune Blackberry Kush for another reason as well.
Blackberry Kush, according to my friend Bill Foster, is a commune for “damaged people, like us.” I don’t consider myself that damaged, but most people at Blackberry Kush have had it pretty rough. The owner, Chuck Wilhelm, suffers from hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver. Mike is autistic, John has Asperger’s Syndrome, Alice was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Ned was in an automobile accident that left him with epilepsy, Blue had an exorcism performed on him when he was a child, and Big Jim, Don Wolf, the aforementioned Mike and others spent some time in an island prison (shall we call it McCleans?) for minor crimes that some of them claim they did not commit. It is a pretty tough bunch, a true rainbow of worn-out, ambisextrous hippie-types.
The commune is close enough to the city, and its inhabitants obliging enough, so that I can get to the Bellingham library any day of the week. So on my first trip there, I checked out the one new American film, or TV production, that had made the most headlines in India in the past year, because of the startling deaths of its major subjects—Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens’ Bright Lights: With Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Both mother and daughter had died within days of each other.
But when I got back to the commune that evening, I found that a TV antenna was being installed. Big Jim had lost a leg in prison and with his large financial settlement was making some improvements around the three-story log house, including a deck on the shady side, and a carport to protect some cars and a motorbike from next winter’s killer cold and snow.
With the new antenna finally in place, Big Jim immediately asked, “Can we get ESPN on that thing?” My hopes were dashed at watching Bright Lights that evening—the guys might be watching football all evening, right up until time to turn off the generator. Chuck fiddled around with the antenna a little, came in from the shady deck (although it was now dark), and said, “No, we can’t.”
At that point, whispering, I reminded Chuck that I had Bright Lights in my tote bag, and reiterated an old Johnny Carson joke.
“When San Francisco baseball fans go to see the Giants in Candlestick Park,” Johnny had joked, “They do it a little differently than fans in other cities. They don’t throw beer bottles and the rule book at the umpire—they throw Perrier bottles and copies of Debbie Reynolds’ autobiography.”
Chuck was amused; I immediately sat down to watch Bright Lights by myself. I was unaware if anybody else was watching it or not until Debbie told a Las Vegas audience, “I look like a hooker,” and a guffaw rose from the dining table to my left. (We eat very well at Blackberry Kush, as Ned is an excellent chef—he just can’t work in a professional kitchen because of his epilepsy—and the ex-cons, old friends of Big Jim, had all worked in the prison kitchen. They were certainly innocent enough to be trusted with the other inmates’ food.)
Perhaps it was the next day, Alice drove me to the Bellingham Food Co-op, where we had breakfast together, and she told me she might be pregnant by Leo, our carpenter, the brother of Larry, who often drove up the hill to party heartily with his brother. Leo, considering himself as unstable as anybody at Blackberry Kush, wanted nothing to do with a child—he’d told Alice that she’d be better off, in that case, without him. Alice hadn’t minded driving me into the city because she was headed for Planned Parenthood anyway, for an all-important pregnancy test. She already had had three kids, scattered between Arizona and New Jersey, and one abortion.
Having had some success with Bright Lights, I immediately thought of another film, for Alice, Tony Richardson’s A Taste of Honey (1961), based on the play by Shelagh Delaney. In it, Jo (Rita Tushingham), a teenager, is impregnated by a black sailor, who leaves her, forever. Her mother, an alcoholic tart, before she learns of the pregnancy, marries not for the first time, and moves away. Jo meets a gay guy, Geoffrey (Murray Melvin) who offers to marry her, saying “You need somebody to love you while you’re finding somebody to love.” Alice, that evening, loved the film. She found out the next day that she wasn’t pregnant after all. I didn’t have to offer Alice solace anymore.
Then I then thought, what better film next for this crowd than Richardson’s later Tom Jones (1963), based on the Henry Fielding novel. Tom (Albert Finney) finds himself in any number of humorous sexual situations, most memorably a meal with a tart, as they both chew away at enormous hunks of meat in a very erotic fashion.
But the Bellingham Library didn’t have the Richardson Tom Jones, only the 1997 BBC mini-series, so I headed to the city’s best (perhaps only) video rental store, Film Is Truth.
Fortunately, FIT’s twentieth anniversary was coming up, with one free rental for everyone, so I waited for that day and then rented two extra titles. We had the three films for almost a week. Tom Jones was a big hit on Blackberry Kush, as it had been with general audiences when first released, winning four Oscars.
The second title was Jon Fitzgerald’s Apart From Hugh (1994), a film shot in and near Bellingham, partly in the old Melody Schoolhouse that had been turned into a giant antique barn, the owners living in the basement. Big Jim, who had been half-owner of the building, had never seen the film—by the time it was completed, he was already in prison.
In Apart From Hugh, Hugh (Steve Arnold) plans a first anniversary party for his lover Collin (David Merwin), not knowing that the beloved might run away with his former girlfriend Frieda (Jennifer Reed). Many sights in and around Bellingham, including the old downtown Greyhound station and Rumors cabaret are prominent. When Frieda treks her way out of to win to the old Melody Schoolhouse, she seems to trek over the better part of Whatcom County before reaching it. Jim pointed out several things about the schoolhouse while watching the film. Chuck had done all the wiring in the building. My friend Randy Allred had done all the technical work on the film. But, before Jim got out of prison, the building had mysteriously burned to the ground.
Big Jim was very happy to finally see the film and a few days later had me sign a birthday card for an acquaintance of his still in prison. I signed it, “Yes, yes, yes”—an affirmative line from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Later, Chuck told me that the birthday boy was Big Jim’s boyfriend.
The third film, Chuck’ request, was Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 Barry Lyndon, based on the William Thackeray novel, more refined than Richardson’s Tom Jones, but not as much fun. It’s noted for its candle-lit cinematography, and would have been wonderful to see in parallel candlelight from the candelabra on the old grand piano in the Blackberry Kush drawing room. But we never got around to it. By the end of the week, a little disorganized, but happy, I had to move on to the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival in Seattle.
And that’s the way things were for me on Blackberry Kush in 2017.