Sherman Alexie is so charming, it gives me emotions. His manner in front of a crowd, the off-the-cuff ease with which funny, insightful, disarming, vulnerable things just tumble out of his great big charming head—it's a relief to be in the same room with the dude. I got a lovely chance to do that last weekend in the Volterra Drawing Room (feeling hella affluent, y'all!), where 45 or so SIFF supporters watched Smoke Signals, ate a Sherman Alexie–inspired feast, and listened to Alexie talk. Emotions.
It was the first installment of SIFF's third annual Dinner and a Movie series, in which local filmmakers team up with Volterra chef Don Curtiss to screen their films, eat food, and raise money for SIFF. Future Dinner and a Movie nights will feature Outsourced (April 11, with John Jeffcoat and George Wing), Humpday (July 11, with Lynn Shelton), and The Spy and the Sparrow (October 10, with Garrett Bennett). Tickets are $60, which is a lot, but it's also not a lot. Start saving up now. (Ideas: Lemonade stand. Bake sale. Sell your plasma. Sell your hair to a doll company. Cut off your sister's hair while she sleeps and sell it to a doll company. Start your own doll company and put the old doll company out of business, then sell all the out-of-work doll-company employees a refreshing glass of lemonade, or plasma.) You have some months. It's worth it.
We sat in neat, affluent rows and ate fry bread, pumpkin-seed-encrusted salmon, wild rice, and a venison potpie to which I would like to propose marriage (it's a slippery slope once the gays get the rights!). Alexie spoke for a moment ("I'm actually very nervous, which is weird for me because I'm usually jaded and bitter"), and then we watched the movie. I cried twice, for things having to do with fathers.
The night closed with an awkward/awesome Q&A, in which Alexie addressed Victor's egregious wig ("Almost everybody on set, below the line, knew the wig was fucked") and likened that vertical communication failure to the fucking stupidness of Avatar: "When I was watching Avatar, I was thinking that this is a director who will not be questioned and will film a first draft... Nobody tells James Cameron that the story is fucking stupid." He then delivered an Andy Rooney grandpa rant about the dangers of digital culture ("I kind of want to jump-start a Luddite revolution among teenagers"), which I did not buy in its entirety and can't quite believe that he buys in its entirety (the evolution of culture is not the same as the death of culture!). Then he said the best sentence of the night: "The absence of puzzlement is what mainstream movies are all about." Then I finished my beer and went home with my emotions.