Thursday, June 9, 2011
Seattle's True Independent Film Festival runs through Sunday
By Tom Keogh
Special to The Seattle Times
In its sixth year, Seattle's True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) probably deserves a break from this perennial question: Why on Earth would anyone mount a 10-day, hugely ambitious movie-watching event in this town in the middle of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)?
The real question is, why not?
STIFF co-founder and recently departed director Clint Berquist said it best a few years ago when he likened his cinematic blowout to the Slamdance Film Festival, the Utah-based showcase for independent movies founded in 1995.
Slamdance was created by filmmakers disenchanted with what they considered a lack of real representation of independent work at the nearby, far more famous Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The fact that Slamdance's programs are deliberately scheduled at the same time is part of the organizers' cheeky strategy.
Similarly, STIFF has argued since 2005 that SIFF doesn't do enough for independents. However one feels about that position, STIFF 2011, which began Friday and ends Sunday, is bringing another 172 movies features and shorts to several Seattle screens. Many are worthwhile.
About a quarter of this year's crop, typically, are by local filmmakers. Among them are Koi Walker's documentary "Citizen Mayor" (which screened Monday), about Seattle's most recent mayoral race; "A Perfect Life," Chad Ruin's drama about a homeless man's past (shown Tuesday); and D.A. Sebasstian's retro-looking "Rat Rod Rockers!," a Northwest tale of moonshine runners and a Russian mob, which shows Wednesday.
One highlight so far has been the wonderful Swiss comedy "The Sandman," a Kafka-meets-Woody Allen story about an insufferable dandy whose body inexplicably begins shedding huge quantities of sand. The character's vile relationship with a coffee-bar waitress is the soul of the movie, though director Peter Luisi's mountains of sand are something to behold.
A fun film coming up is Thomas Michael's "Running Mates," about a former hell-raiser who returns to his tiny hometown a glossy politician, running for mayor against his rabble-rousing best friend, a tow-truck driver. Henry Winkler (who played Fonzie on the sitcom "Happy Days") is hilarious in a supporting role.
Several shorts command attention, including the funny "Tonight's Special," in which a comely blonde, awaiting her date at a restaurant, has a few too many drinks; Dustin Grella's "Prayer for Peace," an animated tribute to the director's brother, who died in Iraq; and actress-turned-director Ione Skye's "David Goldberg," a dark comedy about a boy who returns from a mysterious disappearance.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Volume 4 - Issue 52 04/09/2009
Street Rods and Hot Rods
D.A. Sebasstian to produce second hot rod B-movie, Rat Rod Rockers!
We recently bemoaned the lack of non-B-movie hot rod films, but it seems one man is determined to corner the market on B-movie hot rod films: D.A. Sebasstian already has his second hot rod film in the works.
His first, Hot Rod Girls Save the World, wasnt about to win any Oscars, but it at least brought the campiness of 1950s hot rod films back to the screen (along with aliens, zombies and rockabilly music). His next movie, tentatively slated for a 2010 release and called Rat Rod Rockers! takes place in the same fictional town of Anywhere, Washington, but promises to replace the aliens and zombies with mobsters and moonshine. And, of course, hot rod gangs still rule the town of Anywhere.
This one is gonna be much more streamlined with less dialogue, Sebasstian said. This isn't to say Rat Rod Rockers! will not have a sense of humor. I always felt that hot rods are in fact a kind of exaggerated automobile, almost cartoonish. But not in a Baby Huey kinda way. More like a Hellboy, Dark Knight or Sin City kinda way. Let other directors make The California Kid Part II I like my hot rod films campy.
To follow the films progress, visit www.ratrodrockers.com
- By Daniel Strohl
Rat Rod Rockers! (2010) - By Josh Samford
Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2011 @ 05:55:57 Mountain Daylight Time by Duane
I've always found the fascination with 1950's greaser culture to be a strange caveat of the American underground. What has truly been an interesting development is how in the past few years the punk rock community has taken to the image of the 1950's era greaser and amplified its rebellious nature. The love for hotrods, loose women and good ol' fashioned rock and roll might seem suitable for the punk rock lifestyle, but the attention to detail within the fashion certainly seems at odds with the grungier side of punk. Still, styles such as Rockabilly and Hellbilly have certainly created their own home within the world of Punk. Taking the old time rock and roll style and then speeding up the pace while infusing the lyrics with many modern references, these rockers have crafted a definable niche within popular culture. Writer and director D.A. Sebastian is a rock and roll artist who certainly seems to have an infatuation with this particular sect of musicians and artists. His film Rat Rod Rockers! looks to capitalize on this particular attitude while also trying to deliver a relatively deft thriller. The end result is mixed at times, but rarely falls into boredom.
Our story begins with old man Canker's death. The old man, who bootlegged moonshine for a living, was supposedly wealthy far beyond what any of his neighbors could have ever imagined. When he finally passes away, the local greaser gang known as the Mad Kats decide to do some investigating in order to locate the old man's missing cash. They run into a real problem however when the Mildue family move in to Canker's former home. The boss of the gang has demanded that whatever they do to get the money... they have to keep things quiet, because things have already been too disruptive as it is. The Mildue family is in the midst of their own strife and turmoil however, even without this new aggression from the locals. The oldest daughter, who is adopted, has severe issues with her parents. The mother is going stir-crazy moving out to the woods and fears for her children not having a normal life. Then there's dad, who hasn't really been the same since he suffered some unfortunate cranial damage. Dad is now attempting to become a writer and never leaves the house any more, which is proving to be a real inconvenience for the Mad Kats.
There are a lot of weak points that one could harp on when discussing Rat Rod Rockers! The acting is obviously not at what one would consider to be a professional level, the visual direction of the film is very bland and there are occasionally dips in character-logic that border on mental illness, but despite the bad qualities it is easy to find a heart and soul in Rat Rod Rockers! The filmmakers hide behind their "cheese", negating a lot of serious critical evaluation, but the movie overall turns out as a mixed bag. The heart, the soul and the campy fun that is to be found here does its best to overshadow some of the lesser qualities of the film but it will ultimately depend on the viewer as to whether or not it pans out. For me personally, I was able to get over the plain visuals and the camp acting so that I could discover an interesting little detour into a subculture that I am not terrible familiar with. A concept that is always personally engaging for me.
The film itself splits into a nearly infinite list of chapters without numbers. Ultimately every scene is bookended with a fade-to-black, followed by a chapter-title in bold white print. The little subtitle that pops up almost always ties into something that happens during the next scene or two, which generally works for the most part. The chapter-titles seem relatively cheap in appearance but are effective, as the subtitles that reference future events keep the audience tuned into what is happening on-screen. When we know what the subtitle is that came previously, we find ourselves searching for its meaning and intently listening to the dialogue in an attempt to keep one step ahead of the movie. Although I have spoke ill of it continually up until this point, some of the cast members do acquit themselves quite well. Cameron Black in the role of lead villain "Jimmy Knight", the head of the Mad Kats, is the most inspired of the cast without question. Taking things far over the top, he brings a great deal of charisma to his role and delivers the sort of zany villain that a movie such as this really needs.
Overall, the project is a bit hit and miss. It has its moments with some funny dialogue here and there, but there are also painful bits of exposition and clumsy storytelling throughout. I think this was a movie made with a lot of love however, and regardless of what you can say about it in a negative light there is enough of this culture represented in order for it to befit at least a small audience. If you want to read more about Rat Rod Rockers! or Go-Kustom Films, you can check them out: http://www.go-kustom.com/ratrodrockers.html
BIG T & CARLA'S 1956 T-BIRD WITH MODEL HOT ROD HEIDI (RUBY MILLDUE) FROM RAT RODS ROCKERS!