THE EASY STUFF first: From the 70,000 ballots cast at SIFF, the retro French spy comedy OSS 117: Nest of Spies was top dog at the 32nd Seattle International Film Festival, while The Trials of Darryl Hunt was voted best documentary. I saw both, and the first is hilarious, Austin Powers–level funny, and definitely deserves U.S. distribution; poor Darryl, exonerated by DNA evidence after 20 years, is better suited for a one-night shot on public television. I didn't see best actress Fiona Gordon in The Iceberg, but best actor Ryan Gosling is great as a crack-addict schoolteacher in Half Nelson (probably in theaters after Labor Day). Then there are the official SIFF jury awards, where the honorees included the South Korean Host & Guest (which Seattle Weekly saw and praised last year); the indie crime comedy Live Free or Die; Man Push Cart (immigrant Pakistani on the mean streets of N.Y.C.); and the docs Gitmo: The New Rules of War (sadly still timely) and Walking to Werner, about a somewhat obsessive fan/filmmaker on a pilgrimage from Seattle to the Los Angeles home of Werner Herzog.
See SIFF's Web site (www.cinemaseattle.org) for the full results, which contrast with the list compiled by the "Fool Serious" folks (i.e., full-series-pass holders), who see way more movies than anyone else—including this writer, alas—and whose choices tend toward the more esoteric. Their top picks (www.foolserious.org) were the octogenarian Spanish love story Elsa & Fred and the neocon-bashing doc The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear.
My favorite feature was the English fake music documentary Brothers of the Head (here Aug. 11), and my partisan documentary choice had to be The Heart of the Game (already in theaters). Opening July 7, Michael Winterbottom's very important The Road to Guantánamo lies somewhere in between, being a hybrid doc and dramatization.
WHAT ABOUT the numbers? 160,000 (projected) moviegoers certainly sounds impressive, as does a 12 percent increase in ticket sales. And yet, since SIFF '05 showed 20 percent fewer titles than this year (348 versus 418 over the same 25-day span), it could hardly avoid the boost. And just who saw anything at Lincoln Square, anyway? Sure, it's a great facility, but it's on the wrong side of the lake for those attempting to shuttle among the other venues with minutes between screenings. The Cinerama and Uptown were missed. SIFF needs big halls, even if the Neptune, Egyptian, and Harvard Exit aren't exactly state-of-the-art. So my advice for SIFF next year is to kiss up to Cinerama owner Paul Allen and approach Pacific Place and the Meridian (now owned by the same merged company) about consolidating downtown. And on a personal note: More bike racks, please.