Fri August 31 - Mon Sept 3; all screenings at the Intiman Theatre. See www.bumbershoot.org for show times.
If you're anything like me (and be thankful you're not), there's almost no activity during which you wouldn't rather be at the movies. I'm not proud of this proclivity--I'd much rather prefer the company of humans to the reflected glow of projected light--but facts are facts: I'm doomed by inner weakness to opt for the respite of cinematic escapism over pretty much everything else (mountain hikes, dinner parties, sleep) any day of the goddamn week.
Needless to say this goes double for Bumbershoot, that roiling mire of crowds, bands, and late-summer sweat. Fortunately for me, the past several years of the megafestival have included a continuous festival of short films, projected in the air-conditioned comfort of a dark room.
I haven't had a chance to preview all the films at this year's festival, but the ones I have seen indicate that curator Warren Etheridge has put together a program every bit as impressive as the panoply of performance surrounding it. The shorts will have stiff competition; it's not likely that too many people will make the effort to see some 10-minute movie in between leaving midway through Kiki & Herb so they can catch the end of Cat Power before dashing across Seattle Center in time to see Spalding Gray take his first sip of water or whatever. But at the risk of assaulting you with even more recommendations, here are a few films that the truly intrepid might find worthy of the extra shoe leather.
...(Dot Dot Dot): A blithely surreal and happily sad comedy that tracks a budding relationship between two strangers who meet in a laundromat. Somewhere between romance and obsession lies the heart of this bizarre little movie, which gets started when the girl, Viv, surreptitiously turns inside out all the drying laundry of the boy, Seth. It achieves glory when Viv pretends to go to Europe and starts sending Seth letters on cassette describing her trip. She's a weirdo and he's a travel agent, and they're each too cool to let the other know how much they've been on one another's minds. The direction (by Anthony Ng) is crisp, concise, and endlessly inventive, and the actors are perfectly suited to the job, not to mention easy on the eyes. (Sun Sept 2 at 7:30 pm.)
Delusions in Modern Primitivism: One thing I truly love is when I can't tell whether or not a documentary is real. This one had me going the entire time (until I saw the heading "Stunts" in the credits). Delusions depicts a day in the life of a young neo-tribalist --which is to say, a dude with a bunch of tattoos and a line of pop philosophy a mile long--who has discovered a new body-modification boundary to push now that piercing no longer rings true to him: scarification... by gunshot. Most of the film consists of him talking to the camera about life in the modern age, and his rap is hilariously deadpan. By the time he gets to his buddy's warehouse, where the "procedure" will take place, the film has entered a zone of blurry greatness, in which you're mesmerized by a perfect performance and a thoroughly implausible situation to wonder if this can really be happening. (Sat Sept 1 at 5:00 pm.)
A Bullet in the Brain: For reasons artistic and economic, short films often like to skimp on words, but this exquisite little fever dream is all about language. Based on a short story by Tobias Wolff and starring the wonderful, underappreciated actor Tom Noonan, Bullet tells the story of a writing teacher who has become so entrenched in a life of letters that he has begun resenting his students for needing instructions. The first half of the movie shows him pillorying a class in a fashion that most professors only dream of. Then he goes to the bank, and by way of a linguistic encounter with a bank robber, gets shot in the head. As the bullet moves through his brain (moving 900 ft./second, "a glacial pace compared to the synaptic lightning surrounding it") it comes under the "mediation of brain time," and we see the teacher's final thought, a memory as self-critical and revelatory as the thick beard on Noonan's neck. A great little film. (Sat Sept 1 at 8:00 pm.)