Not owning a television, it's a shame how many good shows I miss. One, The Thick of It , ran only a few seasons on


SIFF Galas--Worth the Price?


Not owning a television, it's a shame how many good shows I miss. One, The Thick of It, ran only a few seasons on the BBC. Its star, Peter Capaldi (at left) plays a foul-mouthed and thoroughly frightening Scotsman at a British government ministry. We've all heard of the Boss From Hell. Well, Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker is the boss to whom all the underling Bosses From Hell report.

But this scary fellow is also one big reason you should pony up your $50 for SIFF's opening night screening and gala....

The A to Z list of SIFF titles is out, but it'll require a little more time to scan. Regardless, you can't buy individual tickets until SIFF's schedule comes out on May 7. What we do know, however, are the three gala titles. I've seen two, and have very favorable reports about the third.

Opening Night (Thurs., May 21, Paramount, $50)

In the Loop is the big-screen adaptation of The Thick of It, with Capaldi and his terrified underlings preparing for war. Though Iraq is never mentioned by name, nor the U.S. President or British Prime Minister, we're back in the 2005 run-up to invasion. Intelligence is being doctored, shoddy sources are being cited, and careers are being made or ruined, depending on whether you're a hawk or dove. Opposite the British ensemble, an American cast has been added, including James Gandolfini as a U.S. general on the fence (call it the Colin Powell part) and a junior State Department staff member sitting on an explosive report (Anna Chlumsky, the girl from My Girl way back when). Amid the neocons and waffling bureaucrats, this fiercely funny farce makes office politics no less savage than the war being planned. The rat-a-tat dialogue is non-stop. It's a tart, talky picture that expects--nay, demands--your informed intelligence about world affairs. (It probably helps if you regularly read The Telegraph as well as The New York Times.) The verdict: Buy your ticket here.

Mid-Fest Gala (Sat., June 5, Egyptian, $25)

Humpday is a huge step forward for local director Lynn Shelton, whose My Effortless Brilliance, seen last year at SIFF, now appears to have been a rough draft for her new picture, which played at Sundance and will play at the Cannes Film Festival. As in My Effortless Brilliance, two old pals reunite and consider how their lives have taken different paths. Both are dissatisfied, through from different stations: one's a happily married Seattle Yuppie; the other's a wandering wastrel beginning to realize he's no Kerouac. They decide to kick-start their old artsy ambitions by making a film as part of The Stranger's amateur porn fest. The catch is that they're straight, but they think the project would, you know, say something important. So will they or won't they? Their mounting indecision parallels our curiosity about what Shelton will or won't show. It's a talky, talky picture with two likable leads (Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard). Just because it's Stranger-branded doesn't mean we have to hate it. The Verdict: Go.

Closing Night Gala (Sun., June 14, Cinerama, $40)

My favorite film at SIFF '06 was OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, which spoofed an old series of French spy novels I--like most SIFFgoers--had never heard of. The movie, about a dim-witted, self-regarding secret agent, returned to Seattle two years later (review). It was set in the early 007 era of Sean Connery and John F. Kennedy. But I got really excited when I read that the sequel would launch forward into what might be called the Roger Moore years--spies in polyester suits, driving AMC Hornets, and leering at hippie chicks. Thus the new OSS 117-Lost in Rio, again directed by Michel Hazanavicius (expected to appear at the fest) and again starring Jean Dujardin as the impossibly stupid yet handsome--or so he believes--secret agent. Variety likes the new film; I saw and loved the trailer--all in French, without subtitles--even though I don't speak a word of the language. To when your appetite, the first OSS 117 picture will be screened outdoors in Kirkland (date pending). As for the second, SIFF really ought to encourage a fashion show for fans to break out their parents' polyester. The Verdict: Allez!

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