Ranking the SIFF 2015 Movies I Watched

The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) boasts that it’s the largest film festival, drawing in people in droves to watch the 450+ movies on display. I watched ten of those movies. Ten. Pretty damn pathetic, right?


But of the ten movies I watched, here’s my take on each of them, ranked in order. The good news: I watched very few stinkers. The bad news: I didn’t watch enough movies to see a few stinkers.

10. 7 Chinese Brothers

Jason Schwartzman stars as a loser of a man who drifts from job to job, staying around just long enough to be fired before moving onto the next.

7 Chinese Brothers plays like a wannabe Woody Allen pic. Schwartsman’s character isn’t particularly redeemable, but he does have a low-grade charm to him; he spouts out a bunch of words, hoping some of them will stick with whoever he’s talking to. The problem is that most of what he says doesn’t stick; his words are empty, his sentences clever-like without being clever.

9. Uncertain

The documentary Uncertain is about the people of a backwater town on the Louisiana/Texas border.

Unfortunately, Uncertain’s parts are better than its whole. On their own, each story is somewhat interesting, but combined, the ultimate outcome doesn’t amount to a whole lot. The film drags in parts and it feels much longer than its 82-minute running time.

8. Unexpected

Cobie Smulders stars as a pregnant high school teacher who bonds with one of her students who is also having an unplanned pregnancy.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Unexpected, which is directed and co-written by Kris Swanberg. The problem is: like so many other indie dramas, it lacks edge, a reason for its existence. Some things happen, none of them particularly noteworthy, and then the movie ends.

7. Vincent

The movie often runs the risk of being too low key for its own good, but at a breezy 78 minutes and thanks to the tight editing and methodical storytelling approach, Vincent is never boring. The action-packed climax, though hardly featuring true “action,” is entertaining and a natural result of the events pieced together earlier in the film.

6. License to Operate

License to Operate is a straightforward documentary about former gang members who have returned to their gang-plagued neighborhoods in South Los Angeles to eliminate violence from the streets.

The inspiring tale is well assembled by director James Lipetzky and his crew, who have developed a doc that is generally fast paced, sometimes intense and certainly fascinating to watch. Most importantly, the stories the documentary showcases are pretty amazing.

5. H.

After a meteor strike, several townsfolk begin to go mad or even vanish completely.

An intriguing sci-fi drama-thriller, H. makes the most of its small budget (and awful, awful title) by relying on dialogue, actors and character development. It’s hard to describe exactly what the movie is about or even why it’s good, but it’s consistently engrossing and perplexing.

4. Mr. Holmes

An aging Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellan) thinks back on his troubling final case as his memories begin to slip.

Mr. Holmes isn’t for everyone and certainly has some slow stretches, but strong direction by Bill Condon and an award-winning performance by Ian McKellan makes this drama worthy of an investigation.

3. Slow West

Michael Fassbender stars in this 19th century-set western as a mysterious wanderer who helps a Scotsman track down and rescue the young woman he loves from bounty hunters.

What Slow West is, and what it succeeds at being, is a well-acted, well-written western that, while far from outstanding, benefits from good chemistry between the two leads, several bursts of perfectly executed violence and a memorable ending.

2. People, Places, Things

Jermaine Clement stars in this quasi-romantic comedy about a graphic novelist and teacher attempting to balance raising two children with figuring out a way to move on from his ex-wife.

Funny in a cute, charming kind of way, People, Places, Things offers few if any laugh-out-loud situations and its romantic beats aren’t as in your face as mainstream audiences tend to expect. But thanks to a likable performance by Clement, a strong supporting cast and a solidly understated screenplay by director James C. Strouse, the movie is effectively entertaining.

1. Spy

Melissa McCarthy playing a nervous and awkward CIA analyst who is promoted to undercover agent after her colleague Bradley Fine (Jude Law) is killed by a dangerous arms dealer (Rose Byrne).

It may be cheating to select a big budget, Hollywood-financed action-comedy as the best movie I’ve watched at SIFF, but frankly, this funny, fun and entertaining flick is a blast, and the one film on this list I would without hesitation watch again.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Action Movies, Comedies, Documentaries, Drama Movies