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Good morning, my precious pickle-pies! Look around you! The crocuses are dying, the bears are out mauling again, the hobos are showing their midriffs, and all of this can mean only one thing: Spring has sprung. And when spring sprungs, as the saying goes, the Seattle International Film Festival is upon us.

SIFF can be overwhelming, but fear not. We are here to help. You hold in your hands (or your screens or whatever) the fruits of the Stranger staff’s collective toil—we’ve scoped fafillions of movies to find you the funniest, smartest, wittiest, prettiest, freakiest, sweatiest, pants-poopiest, drunkiest films possible. We’ll also be feeding you reviews and updates at thestranger.com/siff throughout the festival. Last year’s SIFF was all about donkeys and three-way sex; this year it’s prostitutes and clowns (upgrade!). The opening-night gala film is The First Grader, which defies its cloying premise (84-year-old Kenyan man enrolls in primary school, defies odds, jerks tears, etc.) to deliver a warm, dark lesson in humanity. Ewan McGregor will be in town to accept our fealty (scream!); he will also show his penis in several movies. Clowns appear in at least 50 percent of all films (don’t trust my math on that). There are even more screenings in Everett and Kirkland, and for the first time in Renton, too. And, as you’ll see in these pages, this might be the best-received SIFF lineup in the history of SIFF Notes. Almost everyone on staff liked almost everything they saw, and, as everyone is well aware, we are complete dicks! What I’m trying to say is that you’re in for a good SIFF. Watch out for bears. recommended