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Digital Prospector: Seinfeld and Silverman, STIFFY-winning Beyond Naked, Msg from the Gyre

Critic Rustin Thompson unearths the best - and worst - in online video.

Beyond Naked
It’s fitting that a film called Beyond Naked should be honored with a Stiffy. That’s the name of the award for Best Documentary handed out by the 2013 Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) to local filmmakers Dan McComb and Lisa Cooper for their timely peek at the hundreds of naked, painted bike riders who show up every year for the Fremont Solstice Parade. Beautifully shot and edited, the movie portrays four first-timers gearing up for the ride and also backpedals through the history and controversy of the event (one woman calls the naked riders “idiots”).  While the filmmakers have captured the frisky boho appeal of the parade, their attempts to plumb the philosophical depths are only skin deep. The 91-minute movie begins to show its stretch marks about halfway through and by the end emits a whiff of that smug Seattle ‘tude. The movie made me feel lame for not wanting to streak through Fremont on my mountain bike.

Midway–Message From the Gyre
Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan’s contemplative trailer for this upcoming documentary is one of astonishing beauty and sadness. The renowned environmental artist is known for his damning pictures of reckless human consumption (see his titanic Unsinkable, a mosaic of 67,000 snapshots of mushroom clouds which, when zoomed out, resemble the sinking ocean liner).  In Midway, the horrors are not abstract composites. Captivating scenes of thousands of albatross hatching their young and gliding in the gentle breezes are intercut with shattering close-ups of their carcasses exploding with detritus, a result of ingesting the trash trapped by the circular currents (the “gyre” of the title) of this North Pacific atoll. The observant, tender caress of Jordan’s camera produces images both intimate and apocalyptic.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Any show that can make Sarah Silverman likeable must be doing something right. Season 2 of Jerry Seinfeld’s web series revs up with Jerry and Sarah tooling around in a classic luxury Jaguar, trading jokes and making a pit stop for an amiable breakfast chat. The simple gimmick of the show promises laughs and goofy encounters (see the Ricky Gervais episode from last season) but often results in mere casual conversations over eggs, bacon and many cups of coffee (the fetishistic montages of coffee being ground, dripped and poured are pretty, and pretty repetitive). Seinfeld’s DIY idea (supported by a large crew and an arsenal of Go Pro cameras) offers a front-seat glimpse of comics hanging out and occasionally goosing each other to belly laughs, but the show seems stuck in second gear.

Convos With My 2 Year Old
Matt Clarke adapted actual conversations with his two-year old daughter, Coco, into short sketches starring himself and a male friend (David Milchard) who recites Coco’s lines in a sober deadpan:  “I want a cookie.”  “I just think I need to read one more story.” In the first episode, Milchard-as-Coco, playing the unshaven slacker friend who has overstayed his welcome, prevents Clarke from talking to his own wife. “She’s not your wife, she’s a princess,” he says as a threatening bass throbs on the soundtrack. The ridiculously clever idea has so far yielded three episodes, one of which brings a queasy new twist to the age-old parental question, “Where are your pajamas?”

Lost Every Day
Filmmaker Michelle Coomber’s Lost Every Day, featured as part of the New York Times online Op Docs series of short documentaries, unfolds in the first-person voice of an unidentified woman afflicted with DTD, a strange neurological disorder that affects her sense of direction and navigation. As a young girl the woman’s mother told her to keep quiet about her affliction or she would be burned as a witch, a bizarre bit of motherly advice Coomber amplifies with disquieting shots of street corners, sidewalks, hallways and moody skies. Somehow the woman married, had kids and eventually learned to manage her condition with the help of a psychologist. Coomber’s film is a dreamy, poetic ode to her resilience. 


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