June 16, 1995 in Seven

Enough Is Enough, Even For A Veteran Movie Critic

Dan Webster Staff Writer
 

When the curtain dropped Sunday night on John Schlesinger’s comedy “Cold Comfort Farm,” the 21st Seattle International Film Festival finally ended.

And those of us who had seen as many of the festival’s 174 feature films as we could were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Considering the number of movies that played, plus 100 or so more short films, the 32 that I managed to sit through may not seem like a lot.

But bear in mind that I saw them over three of the festival’s four weekends. And that I was trying to keep up with the regular movie openings back in Spokane as well.

That’s some serious moviegoing.

Not that I expect any sympathy. For along with the few clunkers that festival director Darryl MacDonald and his staff included in this year’s lineup, there were a fair number of bonafide treats. That list included everything from the mainstream epic “Braveheart” that opened the festival to the several small features still in search of a distributor.

Following are one critic’s list of the best from the 1995 SIFF:

The awards

Being an audience-oriented festival, the SIFF annually honors the “most popular” films, directors and acting performances as voted on by festgoers.

Thus “The Kingdom,” a 279-minute Danish film about the struggles in a huge hospital, was the award winner for most popular movie - despite playing just a single time, on a Monday night.

Kevin Spacy, who was featured in two popular films (including the Hollywood parody “Swimming With Sharks”), was named top actor for Bryan Singer’s mystery-thriller “The Usual Suspects.” Singer, a 28-year-old producer-director, won the director’s award.

Nicole Kidman earned the top actress award for her role as a murderously ambitious TV weather reporter in Gus Van Sant’s wicked parody “To Die For.”

“Crumb,” Terry Zwigoff’s look at the life of underground cartoonist R. Crumb, won the top documentary award, while the German entry “Surprise,” directed by Veit Helmer, was named top short film.

Special juried prizes went to Norway’s Marius Holst, director of “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die,” as top new director, and a special prize was awarded to British director Nancy Meckler for her film “Sister, My Sister.”

Finally, writer-director Todd Haynes won the inaugural American Independent Awards for “Safe.”

Some 4,000 votes were cast in the competition.

Biggest disappointment

That I didn’t get to see such festival favorites as Tom DiCillo’s “Living in Oblivion,” the sneak preview of “Jeffrey,” the gay comedy starring Patrick Stewart and, of course, “The Kingdom.”

Another big disappointment

The final 10 minutes of writer-director Gregg Araki’s otherwise hilarious “The Doom Generation,” which ends up being graphic, bloody and ultimately pointless. This is what happens when a director oversteps his talent and attempts to make the Big Statement.

A mild irritant

That “Korea” director Cathal Black tried to stretch his moody study of 1950s Ireland into a feature film. At barely 87 minutes, the film is little more than a short.

Favorite film title

“Headless Body in Topless Bar.” James Bruce’s entertaining look at what happens when a robbery of a New York strip joint goes wrong is based on a real-life New York Post headline.

Most unfortunate quote

During a panel talk by independent filmmakers, “Living in Oblivion” director Tom DiCillo responded to a question about critics. Apparently still angry over the negative review of his film “Johnny Suede” written by Times critic Vincent Canby, DiCillo said, “I think Timothy McVeigh bombed the wrong place.” To his credit, DiCillo later apologized.

Favorite performances

Paul Williams as a wheelchair-bound multiple sclerosis victim in “Headless Body in Topless Bar”; Joaquin Phoenix (once known as Leaf) as a murderous high school kid in “To Die For”; Vanessa Redgrave as the dying mother of a Brooklyn hitman in “Little Odessa” and as a psychiatrist working with survivors of torture in “Down Came a Blackbird”; Dana Delany and Cynthia Stevenson in “Live Nude Girls” as two of five old friends attending a pre-wedding slumber party.

A few unforgettable moments

In “Crumb,” when Robert Crumb’s brother, Charles, explains about how horrible his high school years were. Director Terry Zwigoff dedicates his film to Charles, who later committed suicide.

Tim Roth pulling a gun on anyone who threatens him, including his father (Maximillian Schell) in “Little Odessa.”

In “Safe,” Julianne Moore, staring at herself in a mirror, struggling to say the words “I love you” in a desperate attempt to cure herself from a mysterious ailment.

Ian McKellan, cast as a fire-and-brimstone preacher in “Cold Comfort Farm,” turning to a family member and saying, “Seth, you drain the well. There’s a neighbor missing.”

, DataTimes

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