I know this is a tough year and we're embroiled in Le Great Depression Part Deux and everybody needs money real bad, especially the arts. But there was something extra-annoying about this year's SIFF opening gala at the Paramount: Guests paid $50 to $200 per ticket to be held hostage for a million-hour-long sales pitch in which SIFF trumpeted its own cultural significance ("We have no idea how important the work we do here really is" was the message of an opening short film—more on that later) and then demanded an additional $35 from each patron, passing around little envelopes for sanctimonious tithing purposes. Managing director Deborah Person called $35 an "insignificant" amount. Speak for yourself, Person! (To be fair, I did not pay to get into this event, because The Stranger pays my salary in pencils, Craisins, and whatever homoerotic miscellanea rolls off of the boss's desk [losers weepers, Savage!], and the United States does not accept those items as currency at this time.)

You can't knock SIFF's dedication to a fun party, though (free beer! Free chickens!), and once the movie was over and we were all out in the open air, my jerky indignation dissipated. The only thing I'm genuinely still grumpy (enraged?) about is that opening Almost Live rerun short film—a grueling retread of every Seattle in-joke since Ivar Haglund made love to Chief Sealth and gave birth to Mt. St. Helens. Framed as an It's a Wonderful Life parody, the film explores the daaark possibility of a Seattle without SIFF, eliciting empty, Pavlovian laughs from anyone with the ability to recognize the facial features of Steve Pool (congrats!).

In this terrifying apocalyptic upsidedownworld, Dale Chihuly is a dirty pirate, Tom Douglas sells hot dogs, Steve Pool wears a tracksuit and hawks blingy watches, and one of those Hasselbecks throws garbage instead of footballs. My god, there is no fancy coffee ("grande!?!!??!"). Something something Bill Gates something something software blah blah. Hey, where can I get a newspaper around here? "The Times went out of business years ago—the only thing left is The Stranger."

When Tom Skerritt inevitably appeared on the screen (in a world with no SIFF, he owns a doughnut shop—can you imagine??), the woman behind me gasped, "OH MY GOD, NO WAY!" Really, ma'am? No way? Because yes way. OBVIOUS WAY. I can't fucking turn around in this town without tripping over that guy's mustache. Is it really that exciting, Seattle? Let the man live his life. LET ME LIVE MINE.

I have been sick of this cutesy chuckle-chuckle-Seattle-coffee-Microsoft-chuckle shit since the day my great-grandmammers was born. Before the gala film finally began (In the Loop, a British political satire), the stars of the movie got up onstage and said a few clearly unprepared words. "Thank you for the software," said one. "Let's have some coffee," said another. See? Can't we leave that shit to the outsiders, Seattle? Steve Pool deserves better. recommended