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Sunday, February 9, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Northwest Film Fest Is Back For Third Year

Seattle Times Movie Reviewer

Now in its third year, the Rainy States Film Festival kicks off Thursday night with its most enjoyable opener to date: Dan Zukovic's "The Last Big Thing," a frequently hilarious critique of pop culture and its millennium-oriented critics.

Writer-director Zudovic also plays the central role: Simon Geist, a celebrity-hating interviewer who courts rock bands, models and soap-opera hunks, insults them and pretends to write for a nonexistent publication he calls The Next Big Thing.

Simon's nonstop rants about the evils of the computer age actually attract people who are "deeply bored by everything," and he seems to inspire insecure actors and alienated people. Their idea of a good time is to attend a loud Hollywood comedy together and not laugh. Or mock a stand-up comic by laughing too much.

The movie's energy level dips in the final stretch and the script's twist ending seems a tad reactionary: a sour variation on the notion that "those who can't do, teach." But Zukovic, his cast and resourceful crew, several of them University of Washington graduates, have come up with one of the few truly original low-budget comedies of recent years. Much of the picture is a hoot.

"The Last Big Thing," which has already played the Vancouver and Hamptons festivals, makes its local debut at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Broadway Performance Hall. Also on the program is Matt Smith's "Hunting Earl," a bizarre sendup of "2001: A Space Odyssey" in which the apes are angry old men and the monolith is . . . well, you don't want to know.

The Rainy States festival, which showcases films from the Northwest, runs through next Sunday at the same location. A Friday late show has been added to accommodate the crowds. There were frequent sellouts in 1995 and 1996.

Here's the rest of the schedule:

"Short Shorts," 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday. Doug Aberle, whose "Fluffy" was the audience favorite last year, is back with the world premiere of "Wired for the Holidays," in which animated pipe cleaners celebrate Christmas the way Mr. Bill celebrates Christmas. Three more world premieres are on the program: Ken Westermann's "Mercy," Chris Lucas' "Contagious" and Patricia Mulcahy's "Over the Rainbow." In addition, Peggy Thompson's "Broken Images," Colleen Patrick's "Life As Art," William Azaroff's "Check Mating," James Oaks' "3" and Bishop Trout's "Nowheresville" will be shown.

"Blues for the Avatar," 2 p.m. Saturday. Port Townsend filmmaker Rick Schmidt, who was in Seattle last week to show his "American Orpheus" at the Grand Illusion, is back with another Port Townsend creation: a comedy about two people who are unwanted guests in the lives of others. Also on the program is a repeat of "Over the Rainbow."

"Cat Swallows Parakeet and Speaks!," 5 p.m. Saturday. British Columbia filmmaker Ileana Pietrobruno directed this strange tale of rape and embalming in a hospital occupied by a model named Scheherazade, her ballerina pal and a sadistic doctor. Also on the program are Karl Krogstad's "Fork on a Filling" and Thomas Moore's "Pangaea's Brood."

"Love/Hate Saturday at 8," 8 p.m. Saturday. A collection of shorts including the world premieres of Brian Tanke's "Quarry" and Ken Christenson's "Land of the Blind." Also on the program: Jay Koh's "The Kameleon" and Mike Dennert's "The Mortified Man."

"The Last Big Thing," 2 p.m. next Sunday. Repeat screening.

"Biker Dreams," 5 p.m. next Sunday. World premiere of Adam Berman's 70-minute documentary about a young couple who take a motorcycle trip from Seattle to the annual Harley Davidson rally in Sturgis, S.D. Also on the program: a repeat of "Contagious."

"Five `Choice' Films," 8 p.m. next Sunday. Among the highlights of this program are Craig Wallace's "The Principles of Karma," which plays like a high-school variation on "The Last Big Thing," and Rose Bond's gorgeously animated "Dierdre's Choice," a 23-minute version of an Irish folk tragedy. Also scheduled are Sue Corcoran's "Just What's Out There," Marilyn Freeman's "Meeting Magdalene" and the winner of an audience survey for the festival's best short.

Tickets for the festival are $6 per program, $25 for a series pass. Information: 448-7110.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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