SIFF Double Feature – Razing the Bar and Mirage Men

Razing the Bar: If you lived in Seattle and wanted to see a punk show in the 2000s, you eventually found yourself at The Funhouse, a bar located across the street from the Experience Music Project and the Space needle. A Seattle music institution, The Funhouse closed in 2012 after the property was targeted to become a mixed-use building. (Condos.) Razing the Bar, directed by local filmmaker Ryan Worsley, is a testament to co-owner Brian Foss’s philosophy that it is better to fail at something you love than to put all your efforts into jobs and projects you despise or don’t care anything about. The film features interviews with members of Glenn or Glennda, Wimps, The Bad Things, The Fastbacks, Loud Eyes, Warning: Danger!, Sicko, The Rickets, and many more. Not only did the bar serve as an incubator for local bands, the folks there supported the rise of the local cabaret scene and the creation of Seattle’s roller derby team, the Rat City Roller Girls. The film addresses the history of the bar, but mainly focuses on the personalities inside.

Brian Foss gets a lot of screen time, and deservedly so. It was his talent as a booker that helped the place build its reputation. But his fellow co-owners – wife Cyndi and Bobby Kuckelberg – did their part to create an atmosphere where bands were treated fairly and audience members became family. Ryan Worsley was a part of this scene, and you can see her affection for the bar shine through. The film also deals with gentrification, and how Seattle is slowing losing the institutions (and anti-institutions) that make it unique. People in every city feel this way, and to some extent they are right. I can go to a certain chain coffee shop in almost any large city in the world and not be able to tell I was away from home. Seattle is still learning how to increase housing while keeping each neighborhood distinct.

I really enjoyed watching this film. There were a few Seattle-specific references I felt could be explained for a wider audience, but I assume everyone can use the Internets to get more information if they wanted to. I suggest this go on your must-see list for SIFF 2014.

Razing the Bar plays May 20th and 27th at the SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Final Grade: B+

[vimeo 56704939 w=630&h=354]


Mirage Men: UFO folks – believers or deniers – always strike me as people willing to believe the most improbable nonsense. I say this as a life long science fiction and horror fan: I do not care enough about the idea of aliens coming to earth to even speculate about its possibility. If it happens it happens. (I’m this way about a lot of things; I have actual things happening in front of me I need to deal with.) But not everyone feels that way, including the makers the film Mirage Men: John Lundberg, Roland Denning, Kypros Kyprianou, and Mark Pilkington. Rather than just presenting the usual murky photographs of saucer-shaped objects, they explore the idea that much of what has become the American UFO myth is a disinformation campaign by the U.S. government to conceal secret installations and operations in New Mexico and other areas.

The centerpiece of the film is Richard Doty, a former special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He maintains it was his job to find people who were nosing around sensitive projects (the early development of drones perhaps) and convince them what they were really seeing was UFO activity. The film specifically mentions his campaigns against Paul Bennewitz – who saw strange things at the Kirtland Air Force Base, Linda Moulton Howe – an investigative journalist who was pursuing a cattle mutilation story, and William Moore – who wrote the first book about Roswell. Doty maintains he led all of three of these people down the garden path to distract them from what was really going on. But he also states that some of the information he gave them was true. And then there are those who believe his statements about a cover up are really trying to hide the truth that the government knows UFOs are real.

Is this film as interesting as it seems? Kinda. The trouble with Doty is that he is a liar and a fantasist, and as such there is no way to tell what is true and what isn’t. And honestly, all the UFO people seemed nuts to me, even when they appear totally rational. (That may be my personal failing and not theirs.) The filmmakers don’t take a strong point of view, so I felt bombarded by information from questionable sources without anyone to help lead me through the mess. It was a mildly interesting way to spend 85 minutes and presented some ideas that I might never otherwise have been exposed to. So if that’s what you are looking for, this might just hit the spot.

Mirage Men is playing May 20th at the AMC Pacific Place 11 and May 21st at the Egyptian Theatre.

Final Grade: C+


Adelaide enjoys watching all kinds of movies, but is never going to see Titanic unless there is a sizable amount of money involved.

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