Humpday, Brilliance, Exiles… it’s all about Seattle

The Seattle independent film scene may not exactly be the buzz of the festival circuit but it is making itself heard. This week, it echoed through the DVD new release rack, thanks to the simultaneous release of Lynn Shelton’s two recent films. But on a more personal (and much more self-serving) note, another Seattle fixture made his DVD debut this week: ME. Yes, I made my long-awaited (at least by me) DVD commentary debut on the Milestone’s superb two-disc edition of Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles, a forgotten landmark of genuine American independent filmmaking at its most personal and authentic. All kidding aside, this is a remarkable film and a tremendous DVD release, and only my modest participation in the project prevented me from putting it on my upcoming “Best of 2009 DVD” list. More later. First, let me celebrate the home video invasion of Seattle director (and my friend) Lynn Shelton.

Before she hit Sundance with Humpday, Shelton explored the complications of male relationships, specifically the “break-up” of old friends and the desperation with which one man (played by Harvey Danger’s Sean Nelson) attempts to reconnect, with My Efforless Brilliance (IFC), a slyly funny and wryly discomforting portrait. His motivations are less out of affection than ego—dude, he was dumped!—and Shelton is there to watch this relationship spins its wheels on Nelson’s glib, needy presence in all its understated humor. There’s not much narrative shape to the film but a tremendously authentic texture to the relationship. Nelson is a natural in the role, subtly establishing the sense of ego and vulnerability and self-aggrandizement in the character with brave intimacy, and Basil Harris is just as good as the old friend he attempts to woo back, resigned to Nelson’s pushy sense of entitlement and slowly falling into old rhythms of offhanded joking. Features commentary by Shelton with the stars and key members of her production team, a featurettes and deleted scenes.

Continue reading “Humpday, Brilliance, Exiles… it’s all about Seattle”

Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday” chosen for Cannes 2009

My congratulation to local Seattle filmmaker (and Facebook buddy) Lynn Shelton. Her new film, “Humpday,” has been chosen to play in the exclusive Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

The third feature from director Lynn Shelton made its world premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, where it played in the Dramatic Competition and was the first film sale of the fest. Shelton also won the “Someone to Watch Award” at the 2009 Spirit Awards for her second feature, “My Effortless Brilliance.”

Seattle audiences will get a chance to see “Humpday” on Friday, June 5 at the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival, where it will play as a Centerpiece Gala for the Northwest Connections sidebar.

My report is running on the Seattle PostGlobe website here.

I will also begin reviewing films for the Seattle PostGlobe next week.

The Seattle/Sundance Connection

Three Seattle films will debut at Sundance this year. Lynn Shelton’s Humpday is in the prestigious Dramatic Competition (the most competitive and sought-after section) and David Russo’s feature debut The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle in the Spectrum Competition. The third is a quasi-Seattle production: Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad was shot in Seattle with a mix of local and out-of-town crew, and debuts out of competition.

I haven’t seen the films (did I mention they make their respective world premieres at Sundance?) and I won’t be at the festival, but I’ll do my best to follow their progress both here and at Parallax View, where I will run interviews with both Shelton and Russo.

Meanwhile, I profile the films and Seattle’s independent film scene in general in a feature for the Seattle P-I this week:

This isn’t Seattle’s first invitation to the Sundance, which runs this year through Jan. 25. In 2005, “Police Beat,” inspired by Charles Mudede’s column in The Stranger and directed by Robinson Devor, premiered in the Dramatic Competition, and “Iraq in Fragments” won three awards in the 2006 Documentary Competition before it was nominated for an Oscar.

But this year Seattle comes to Park City in force, and this arrival brings a message along with it: The local filmmaking community is both growing artistically and developing a base of resources, from technicians to post-production facilities. At least for this very specific kind of filmmaking model.

Officially, “Humpday,” which makes its premiere Friday, was made for “under $1 million.” Unofficially, it is surely the lowest-budget production in the Dramatic Competition and one of the very few without the draw of Hollywood actors. Mark Duplass (of “The Puffy Chair” and “Hannah Takes the Stairs”) and Joshua Leonard (co-star of the blockbuster “The Blair Witch Project”) have some indie cachet, to be sure, but are hardly name draws in an industry that banks on star power and prestige for selling films. Apart from Duplass and Leonard, the cast and crew are drawn from Seattle.

Read the complete feature here.