Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

Custom Search

© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Bombing out of the festival

Yes, it’s true. Even though I had in my possession a film festival pass (which I had paid good money for) that would have allowed me in to see any of the four various films from all over the world that were playing at the same time, many of which I may never have a chance to see in a cinema again, I opted to buy a ticket at a downtown multiplex and go see a three-hour Hollywood blockbuster that will undoubtedly be playing everywhere for the next six months.

Never mind the fact that I was passing up on movies that I had technically already paid for. With the wealth of film available at the fabulous Seattle International Film Festival, why would a die-hard film buff opt out of seeing something obscure, low-budget and potentially provocative, exciting and eye-opening? Just to see an over-hyped, formulaic production that could just as easily be seen after the festival was over?

I could plead insanity. But for people who know me, that would merely be stating the obvious and maybe even redundant.

The truth is: I’m doing things a bit differently at the festival this year. For one, I’m not trying to set a new personal record of the number of films seen. There are simply too many other things going in my personal life to even contemplate it. So, this year, there were no phone calls, emails or registered letters to friends, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues advising them that I would be incommunicado for a month, that I would not be attending their birthday party, their graduation ceremony, their wedding, their (God forbid) funeral, if it happened to fall before the 17th of June. Please do not call or write or drop by for a chat. Pretend that I have gone to Antarctica for three and a half weeks. This strategy worked amazingly well in the past, but there was no point in even trying it this year.

Meet the new, flexible Scott. I go to films when they are convenient. I might see three or four in one day, but more likely it will be one or two. Some days I might not see any. I was explaining this to one film buff friend the other night, and he looked at me as if to say, “Who are you? And what have you done with the real Scott?”

The other thing I have done differently this year is that on the second day of the festival I saw three press screenings and then wandered downtown to see Pearl Harbor. I thought it would be better than it was, but at least my curiosity was satisfied. You see, during every Seattle film festival there is one huge summer blockbuster that gets released to great hype and fanfare. For instance, two years ago it was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. In a case like that one, the real die-hards find someone to stand in line for them for the very first (Thursday at midnight) screening and then go after having seen a full day’s worth of films at the festival. There might have been a time when I would have attempted that, but it was a whole lifetime ago.

So, in the end, it bugs me for weeks until the festival is finally over that I haven’t seen this mega-movie that everyone (on TV and around the office water cooler; wait, do any offices actually have water coolers anymore?) keeps talking endlessly about. Even though my head knows that the flick is probably mediocre and we are all merely programmed to want to go see it, my heart wants badly to see it to see just what all the noise is about. So, this year I decided I would just go see the darn movie and be done with it. And I feel much better for it. I just keep trying to avoid looking at the film festival schedule to see what (quite possibly superior) films I missed in the process.

But there’s another reason I wanted to see Pearl Harbor. It’s a big, expensive movie about World War II, which means it is exactly the kind of movie that my father and I would have seen together. My dad didn’t care much for movies or any other kind of literature that told fictional stories. He liked newspapers and some magazines, particularly U.S News & World Report. But any time a WWII blockbuster came out, he would take me. You name it, we saw it: The Longest Day, The Battle of the Bulge, A Bridge Too Far, Tora! Tora! Tora!, etc. So Pearl Harbor would have been right up his alley. He would have been bored with the love story, but he would have had a great time pointing the historical inaccuracies, as well as the accuracies. And he would tell me just where he was during the timeframe covered with the film. Like the heroes in this picture, he was a pilot. His first mission was the raid on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania, in which a third of the Allied crews were lost. At the end of the war, he piloted the first Liberator over Berlin.

Dad passed away seven years ago, as fate would have it, right in the middle of the Seattle film festival. Anyway, seeing Pearl Harbor seemed like a good way to mark the upcoming anniversary of his passing as well as Memorial Day.

-S.L., 31 May 2001

If you would like to respond to this commentary or to anything else on this web site, please send a message to Messages sent to this address will be considered for publishing on the Feedback Page without attribution. (That means your name, email address or anything else that might identify you won’t be included.) Messages published will be at my discretion and subject to editing. But I promise not to leave something out just because it’s unflattering.

If you would like to send me a message but not have it considered for publishing, you can send it to

Commentaries Archive