As is always the case, gazing upon the list of 400 entires to the Seattle International Film Festival can be daunting for even the most knowledgable of cinephiles. Cutting through that list to cull a selection of desirables is an unwieldy task that demands more research than should be dedicated to a pleasure activity but to simplify the process for you dear reader, we’re trimmed that list of 400 down to a mere 8 films at SIFF ’17 (a clean 2% of their offerings) that we’re dying to see.
Before we get into the eight, let’s note those that have us intrigued, even if they didn’t make the list; Ireland’s A Bad Day for the Cut, a black comedy about a farmer on a trail of vengeance; Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize winner The Nile Hilton Incident about the investigation of a murder case in the weeks leading up to the Egyptian revolution. Baltasar Kormákur, whose English-language features including 2 Guns and Everest, returns with The Oath, a Taken-esque thriller starring Kormákur as a man who will do anything to save his daughter from her drug-dealing beau; and from the team behind Chasing Ice comes Chasing Coral, a powerful expose about disappearing reefs.
The Dardenne brother’s The Unknown Girl would probably be amongst our most anticipated were it not to have already received tepid reviews from its earlier festival showing and the same is true for Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World. Both Gillian Robespierre’s Landline, which reunites her with Obvious Child star Jenny Slate, and Dustin Guy Defa’s Person to Person, also saw mild response from their Sundance curtail call so didn’t make the final cut.
The horror offerings this year are frankly insulting with only a handful to their kind participating in SIFF ’17 including surprising Fantastic Fest audience winner Bad Black, a Ugandan micro-budget splatter fest, and Better Watch Out, a midnighter described as Home Alone meets Funny Games that takes place over the Christmas holiday. From Norway, Pyromaniac, based on the true story of a fire chief’s son taking a shine to burning down houses, looks promisingly bleak but has only seen mild praise from earlier outings. At The End of the Tunnel follows a wheelchair-bound man discovering his cordial neighbors are burrowing under his home to rob a bank and the premise of this Spanish/Argentine co-production has us intrigued if not fully won over.
I could drone on and on about this and that but let’s dispense with the hemming and hawing and get down to those that I’m really dying to see. But before we do, do be sure to note that we have a companion piece on the way so keep an eye peeled for follow-up article The 5 SIFF ’17 Good to Great Movies We’ve Already Seen. Down to business…
8. LADY MACBETH
William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth has been earning acclaim since its TIFF 2016 bow. The adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s novella stars Florence Pugh as a lady scorned by love and sold into a loveless marriage with a man twice her age. It has the trappings of a stuffy Victorian romantic drama but the invocation of the titular Shakespearean antagonist suggests vengeance and blood shed on a level that threatens to have me intrigued. Add that to the fact that its received high marks throughout an impressive festival run and you have me waiting in the wings.
7. BRIGSBY BEAR
One of the big surprises out of Sundance 2017 was Kyle Mooney’s Brigsby Bear, a tale of a man-baby who tries to recreate his favorite childhood show. With a cast that includes Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, and Greg Kinnear, Brisby Bear stole the heart of audiences when it quietly debuted earlier this year, earning praise for its tender emotional core and weird comedic style.
6. WIND RIVER
Taylor Sheridan may be Hollywood’s fastest rising star and after penning critical darlings Sicario and Hell or High Water, it’s no surprise why. In Wind River, Sheridan steps behind the camera to direct Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Jon Bernthal in this thriller about an FBI agent who must pair up with a game tracker to settle a murder that has occurred on indigenous lands. The response out of Sundance was overwhelmingly positive even if Wind River has falsely been accredited as Sheridan’s debut (he directed Vile in 2011) and we’re as excited to see what he can do behind the camera as we are to see anything else at SIFF ’17.
5. THE LITTLE HOURS
Period piece comedies are more often than not duds (look at Your Highness) but Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours, a weird melding between Bad Moms and The Beguiled, promises a nasty good time in the middle ages. With a cast that includes Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman and Dave Franco, The Little Hours is overflowing with hot comedic talent and the fact that Baena’s nuns being naughty R-rated outing has earned praise from critics but scorn from the religious community only amplifies our desire to see it.
4. ENDLESS POETRY
Alejandro Jodorowsky has earned his cult following over years of groundbreaking surrealist cinema and the fact that some have described his latest, Endless Poetry, as being his masterpiece is kind of amazing. Jodorowsky is 88 after all and been making films since the 50s. Endless Poetry is described as a fantasy biography (how essentially Jodorowsky) and in surreal autobiographical exploration of self, exhumes the auteur’s bohemian roots and self-described “liberation.” One way or another, we’re expecting something truly fascinating.
3. CITY OF GHOSTS
Perhaps our most anticipated documentary of the entire year, City of Ghosts sees guerrilla filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) join a crew of anonymous activists secretly documenting the takeover of Syria by ISIS. The doc has earned rave reviews for its eye-opening depiction of the chaotic horror of modern day Syria, offering a definitive picture of the atrocities occurring there. If Heineman is able to get as up close and personal as he did with the cartels, we’re expecting something truly wowing and culturally essential.
2. A GHOST STORY
Another hot Sundance get, A Ghost Story has crawled its way to many critics early Best of Year lists and SIFF earning a right to show it is no small feat. The drama from David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) has been met with thunderous applause and the fascinating trailer from this A24 feature solidified our interest in stone. Rooney Mara stars as a woman whose husband has just passed who is confronted by a ghost wearing a white sheet (Oscar winner Casey Affleck). I’ll leave the mystery there but just know that this, of all of SIFF’s selection, is probably the one that could be looking at an Oscar run.
1. THE TRIP TO SPAIN
Decadent food porn, sumptuous travel envy and pretty damn good celebrity impressions roll into one for this third entry in Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s oddball travelogue that I simply adore. Presuming the The Trip to Spain is on par with its predecessors, Michael Winterbottom’s wholly unique travel doc trilogy stands out from the pack in that it is just as much about its the crises of its mid-life vacationers as it is about the wowing destinations, packing a throaty emotional punch in with its breezy FOMO-induing luxuriating. Plus, The Trip films are by far the funniest (but likely least informative) movies about food you’ll ever see.