THOSE WHO MADE it to the piss-poor Kenneth Branagh film for the opening night of SIFF 2000 were treated to the gruesome spectacle of Alicia Silverstone taking the stage at the Paramount and bravely conquering her speech impediment--slow-wittedness--to brag about her vegan lunch at Cafe Flora. What better setup for 93 minutes of cinematic blithering? Fortunately, there was an antidote: liquor.

A new theory: SIFF deliberately programs bad films on opening night so that audiences will drink more at the after-film party, and their liquor sponsors (SKYY vodka, Friexenet, Labatt) will be impressed. The only problem with the vodka-sodden post-screening party (other than the sad lack of public vomiting) was the inexplicable mandate to have it shut down at midnight. Fact: Pacific Place is an awful little hovel, and the people most comfortable there are bad people. But just as the breast-implanted, steroid-addled crowd began to loosen up, setting the stage for a vicious class riot, the mall Mafia began their sweep. In abject anger, I stole a bottle of Bushmills from Gordon Biersch, stuck it up my ass, and yelled, "Nihilism!" until the lights went out.

The social philosophy of the festival has veered of late from its populist foundations, abandoning the poorly run but fuckin' great parties of years past in favor of well-suited, dull affairs. The festivities were decidedly more subdued than in years past, leaving the festival's greatest civic contribution--large-scale public inebriation--increasingly jeopardized.

Thankfully, there are some great films coming up to help us forget that the festival has watered down its primary mission. There's the feverish Russian collage Khroustaliov, My Car!; the insane and beautiful documents Just, Melvin and Benjamin Smoke; Adrienne Shelley's excellent I'll Take You There; Mobutu: King of Zaire; Ferocious Saint Lord of Gobi; Lies; Le Grand Blanc de Lambarene; Tree of Life; and, of course, Time Regained. Lastly, I will toot my own horn and admonish you to see Silence!, a film guaranteed to be like nothing you've ever seen, or WigglyWorld will give you your money back. Honest.