For “Dinner at a Movie,” film critic Moira Macdonald and restaurant critic Bethany Jean Clement came together to review movie theaters that have real menus (note: Do not order a lobster roll at the cinema). Here, they are united by their love for something even better than the silver screen and eating: cats. In service to all like-minded humanity, they parked themselves on their respective couches to preview CatVideoFest 2020: a collection of home videos, animated films and shorts starring a diverse assortment of felines, curated by Seattle filmmaker Will Braden and screening in theaters nationwide as a fundraiser for cat charities. (It’ll screen in Seattle Feb. 22-23 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown; tickets are $14). Did they like it? Did their cats like it? Read on!

Dinner at a Movie

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GREAT CATSPECTATIONS?

Moira’s cat, Miranda, came from Seattle Humane almost eight years ago. After seeing “Cats,” Moira can’t unsee Miranda’s resemblance to Dame Judi Dench. (Moira Macdonald/ The Seattle Times)
Moira’s cat, Miranda, came from Seattle Humane almost eight years ago. After seeing “Cats,” Moira can’t unsee Miranda’s resemblance to Dame Judi Dench. (Moira Macdonald/ The Seattle Times)

Moira: Since we last wrote together, my friend, I have been to a dark place. I have seen things no one should see. I am no longer able to gaze at my cat without wondering whether she looks like Judi Dench. (She kind of does.) I have wished Idris Elba had more clothes on. Yes, I have seen “Cats.”

Bethany: Your review, though, was all beauty and light and hilarity! You suffer so that the rest of us may never, ever have to see cats wearing pants. I, seemingly alone in the world, actually detested the stage show, so I wasn’t in any danger …

Moira: You are wise. I’m still trying to figure out that pants thing. I felt like I had earned time lying around on the couch watching CatVideoFest 2020 and saying, “This is for WORK.”

Bethany: I love that our jobs involve watching, say, a cat being dressed up as a taco (perfectly acceptable! A taco costume is not pants). But is it wrong that I had trepidation about 70 minutes of internet-sourced cat videos? I’m no mathematician, but cat videos don’t last long, and at the rate of one video per minute, that’s 70 entire cats. And some videos feature more than one! Nor am I an internet-cat-video rabbit-hole-goer-downer — I tend to like my cat videos like I like my cats: one at a time. Unless it’s a basket of kittens! Prior to viewing CatVideoFest, I got my heart set on a basket of kittens. Surely in an hour-plus, multiple kitten baskets would occur.

Moira: Excuse me, do you KNOW how long “Cats” was? About 10,000 hours. Bring on the cat videos! (And the basket of kittens. Please.)

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THE BEST OF CATVIDEOFEST 2020

Cat or throw pillow? A relaxed feline poses in a CatVideoFest 2020 video.
Cat or throw pillow? A relaxed feline poses in a CatVideoFest 2020 video.

Moira: CatVideoFest 2020 contains no footage of my cat, Miranda, nor Bethany’s cat, TK, so it does not include the world’s greatest cats. But I did fall, badly, for a gray puffball kitten named Potato who kicks his hind legs like a rabbit, and who has met Nick Jonas.

Bethany: Potato! Paroxysms of cuteness! And also one of the longer segments in the fest, which come as a vast relief during an hour-plus of cat-vid action. And Potato’s story possesses a rags-to-riches plotline, even!

Moira: Potato is a local kitty adopted through Seattle Humane, whose staffer Bekah Sandy appears in the film. Seattle Humane is also where I got my cat! Please go there and adopt all the cats (and dogs).

Bethany: TK was a foundling, too: just a tiny little orange stripy thing abandoned by an apparently heartless monster out in the wintertime countryside. In the snow. People are the worst. Cats are the best!

Moira: I’m so glad she found you! Another longer and very sweet video in CatVideoFest was the story of Winston, a Brooklyn cat found on the sidewalk looking very sad and ill indeed. It was a joy to see him, once taken in and properly treated, looking clean and silky and happy.

Bethany: WINSTON. Winston deserves an Oscar. The incredibly nice person who rescued him, and whose video functions as a how-to for saving other down-on-their-luck kitties, deserves a Nobel Prize. I loved the human’s description of giving Winston a bath: “Let’s just say neither of us enjoyed it very much.” If this video doesn’t make you cry, well, that’s weird.

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Moira: I definitely teared up. The man’s name is Will Zweigart, and he is the founder of Flatbush Cats, a wonderful cat-rescue organization in Brooklyn.

Bethany: Zweigart said people around the neighborhood had seen Winston living on the street for weeks. No one tried to help until he did. Our hero! Now Winston lives a sleek, silky, handsome life with a lucky human. Adopt, don’t shop!

Moira: If you go to CatVideoFest, a portion of your ticket price will go to organizations that help cats, including PAWS. Other stars of the fest: the tiny black kitten who squeaked like a mouse, the cat who was a very good sport about shopping for Halloween costumes (ultimately emerging as a very dignified taco, sans pants), and Boris the Yoga Cat, who has a very good time jumping on his human friend when she does yoga.

Bethany: No spoilers here — and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already witnessed it on the internet — but the super-nerdy, deadpan engineers explaining the physics of felines are tremendously funny and so clearly full of love for their kitties. Science with heart!

Moira: I actually had not seen that one before! Loved it, especially the term “aspect ratio drift.”

Bethany: Did you catch the video with the cat shredding a newspaper, which happened to be The Seattle Times? Cat subscribers are real! They just can’t read.

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Moira: My previous cat, Myrna Loy (now making kitty heaven a more glamorous place), used to love The Seattle Times — she would come bursting through it when I was sitting reading the paper.

Bethany: Cats! They’re funny!!!

LESS IMPRESSIVE CAT-EGORIES

Bethany: (Sorry about that — we’re trying very hard not to go overboard on the cat puns. But a few are FINE!)

Moira: CatVideoFest, though delightful, gets a bit repetitive. (Why does everyone in those home videos seem to have the same couch?) Even I have my limits as to how many times I can watch a cat looking annoyed, or falling off something, or cutely emerging from a grocery bag. And while the video of Henri the Aloof French Cat Having an Existential Crisis is very funny, I feel like if you like cat videos, you’ve probably already seen it?

Bethany: Even I had. It’s still so good, though! All cats secretly speak French, I’m sure. But I’m very much with you on the surfeit of very brief, often blurry home videos here. Even as someone cursed with a long attention span, I required a break partway through. An intermission would be a good idea for the (PLEASE FORGIVE ME) the-CAT-rical release. People at the Uptown could have a glass of wine and some popcorn (a pairing we grew fond of during our less successful Dinner at a Movie outings) and show each other photos of their cats!

Moira: Agreed! Another complaint: Some of those blurry, short videos ended too abruptly. Why did we not find out what happened AFTER the kitty at the end knocked the TV over? Inquiring minds.

Bethany: And the internet is actually, literally made of these videos. Seek and ye shall instantaneously find a million of them!

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A PAWS (SORRY!) TO DISCUSS OUR OWN BEAUTIFUL AND PERFECT CATS

Bethany: You won’t be able to take your cat to the Uptown to see CatVideoFest, but if TK is any indicator, that’s completely fine. She snoozed impassively in loaf formation throughout the majority of my home screening, then departed the room for a while, only returning when the soundtrack included some loud meowings, which caused her to verrrrry cautiously look around the room, her eyes gigantic. I felt kind of terrible. “TK!” I said. “It’s OK!” She didn’t listen.

With CatVideoFest coming to Seattle later this month, our writers watched and reviewed with their own cats on hand. Meet TK, Bethany Jean Clement’s feline friend.

Moira: A couple of weeks ago, when I had to get up early and write about the Oscar nominations, Miranda got up with me and INSISTED on sitting in my lap while I wrote it, even though she was in the way. But when I wanted her input on CatVideoFest, she was having none of it and wouldn’t even enter the room. So Miranda has no thoughts on CatVideoFest. Perhaps she was miffed that she wasn’t included.

Bethany: She should have been, for she is a creature of surpassing gorgeousness.

Moira: As is TK! CatVideoFest doesn’t know what it’s missing. We may need to curate a very small cat video festival of our own: ExquisiteFemaleOrangeCatsOwnedBySeattleLadyWritersFest. Submissions welcome!

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Rover the cat takes a stroll in his cape in a CatVideoFest 2020 video.  (Courtesy of CatVideoFest)
Rover the cat takes a stroll in his cape in a CatVideoFest 2020 video. (Courtesy of CatVideoFest)

Bethany: (We ran out of cat puns and then Googled “cat puns”: Do not try this at home. Some of them are so terrible, Moira said she had to go lie down.)

Moira: While there are definitely advantages to watching cat videos at home, if you go to the Uptown you’ll meet curator Will Braden (who will introduce all screenings) and can enjoy a DIY cat-toy station, cat swag from All The Best Pet Care and (Saturday only, from noon to 3 p.m.) an appearance by local celebrity cat Klaus. And time spent in the company of fellow cat-lovers. 

Bethany: And so many big-screen cats. Maybe thousands! Once I sort of started letting all the cats just wash over me, the cumulative effect became strangely moving. The wonder of cats improves our lives immensely — I loved the glimpses into the messy rooms and cat-love of people all over the world (though regular cat-video-watchers are already doubtlessly highly appreciative of this). And the cat-kindness advocacy segments should make even a dog person have feelings. If you love cats, you should probably see CatVideoFest. Still, NEEDS MOAR KITTEN BASKET.

Moira: I just Googled “basket of kittens” and everyone should do this, every day. In closing, thank you, CatVideoFest, for helping me erase the memory of “Cats.” Wait, did I just say “memory”? Oh no …

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CatVideoFest: catvideofest.com; in Seattle Feb. 22-23, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily, $14, at SIFF Cinema Uptown (511 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle; 206-324-9996; siff.net)