The Ups and Downs of Opening Night

If you can't get tickets to see SIFF's crappy festival opener, The Notebook, you'll soon have the chance to see last year's slightly less crappy opener, Valentín, which skulks into theaters Friday, May 21. Notice a pattern here? The SIFF–meisters are determined to have a notable world premiere for their gala opening-night screening each year, which leaves them digging through the discards from Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, and a bunch of other smaller but more luxe festivals in the Hamptons, Palm Springs, and elsewhere. As a result, SIFF has to roll out the red carpet for any dog willing to visit town. Luckily, a few of those opening-night dogs have turned out to be champions, as we chart below from a selected sample of SIFF data. But not this year. B.R.M. 1976:The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum Ah, those halcyon days of the '70s when a serious, German-language art film could open SIFF, when audiences knew Heinrich Böll from Volker Schlöndorff—and where to put the umlauts. 1979: A Little Romance Diane Lane is poised to become a star—in another 20 years. This film barely makes a splash. 1982: Mephisto Foreign language Oscar! Another German art film has SIFF riding high. 1983: The Fourth Man Paul Verhoeven's fun, nasty, perverse thriller signals a big career ahead—like RoboCop. No one could possibly foresee Showgirls. 1984: The Natural Redford. Baseball. Boring. But the popular film marks a SIFF turn toward the mainstream. 1986: Sweet Liberty Even blander, only this Alan Alda flop goes nowhere with critics or audiences. 1987: La Bamba Hit song, great soundtrack, a crowd-pleasing biopic. 1988: The Moderns Sometime–Bainbridge Island resident Alan Rudolph sells locals on Paris in the '20s. The rest of the country waits for the video. 1990: Chicago Joe and the Showgirl Chicago who? 1992: Le Bal des Casse-Pieds Le Bal what? 1993: Much Ado About Nothing Ken and Emma politely overlook Keanu's difficulties with Shakespearian verse. On the bright side: no subtitles. 1994: Little Buddha Bertolucci's snooze-athon makes little of Buddhism, Seattle locations, or Chris Isaak. 1995: Braveheart Oscar! Mel Gibson delivers a solid film that's also a solid hit after SIFF. 1996: The Whole Wild World SIFF co-founder Dan Ireland discovers Renée Zellweger. Another future video favorite that dies quickly at the box office. 1997: Addicted to Love Meg Ryan tries to change her image. Big mistake for her and SIFF. 1999: The Dinner Game Subtitles return, and this Francis Veber comedy actually enjoys a screen life after the fest. 2000: Love's Labour's Lost Kenneth Branagh politely overlooks the fact that Alicia Silverstone can't act, dance, or sing. 2001: The Anniversary Party Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Lee rope all their Hollywood pals into a DV gab-fest. Not bad, but still a soap opera. 2002: Igby Goes Down Sour, astringent preppies, and Amanda Peet shoots smack! A nice rebound. 2003: Valentín It's Argentine, it's got subtitles, yet this coming-of-age flick has been Miramaxed into a bland heartland heartstring puller. Could it be Cinema Paradiso Jr.? 2004: The Notebook See below.

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