Author: The JT LeRoy Story
It’s been called the greatest literary hoax of all time, but it wasn’t a hoax. It was a con. When Laura Albert, a thirtysomething San Francisco writer, adopted the identity of JT LeRoy, a young, queer, HIV-positive character from one of her books, she built a cult around a fictional person—taking phone calls as LeRoy, enlisting her partner’s half-sister to play him in public, and having “his” stories optioned by Gus Van Sant. The Loch Ness monster is a hoax. Parlaying a false identity into movie deals and face time with your favorite celebrities is a con. But you won’t hear that word in Author, a new documentary about Albert. Instead, Albert casts herself as a passive figure in a swirl of good fortune. It’s to Author’s extreme detriment that Albert’s version of this story is the only one we get. MEGAN BURBANK Fox Tower 10.
B-Movie Bingo: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Your monthly opportunity to literally check off a bingo card full of B-movie clichés. This month’s entry: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, the most flat-out disappointing entry in the long-running slasher series, and that's really fucking saying something. It's a good thing you'll be busy playing Bingo while watching, because this tepid, largely boat-bound exercise (they're in Manhattan, which is really Vancouver, B.C., for all of about 15 minutes) makes the case that the B in B-movie stands for boring-as-hell. Then again, this is the movie where Jason punches a dude's head all the way off, so there's that. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years
The world needs a new Beatles documentary like it needs another garbage gyre in the Pacific Ocean, but Eight Days a Week plays it smart by selecting a single lane of the Fab Four’s sprawling saga and following it from start to finish. Director Ron Howard’s slick but enjoyable movie focuses on the group solely as a touring and performing entity during the Beatlemania years of the early and mid-1960s. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Beauty and the Beast
With this live-action Beauty and the Beast, French director Christophe Gans (Silent Hill, Brotherhood of the Wolf) has orchestrated yet another feat of astonishing special effects. But instead of werewolves or monsters, these CGI visuals are flowers, flower-covered castles, and flowers on fucking everything. It’s like Rococo rose barf on the big screen. Vincent Cassel does such a great job playing the threatening, transformed prince that the film essentially skips the part of the story where Léa Seydoux could believably fall in love with him. This is not a feminist film, and with all the giants stomping on people, I’d say it isn’t for kids either. Rather, it’s for adults who know that romance has no relationship to reality, and who want to see something pretty anyway. SUZETTE SMITH Fox Tower 10.
Bending the Bard: Cinematic Twists on Shakespeare
A film series commemorating the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, featuring some of the most interestingly skewed adaptations of his work in cinema history, including films from directors Akira Kurosawa, Julie Taymor, Laurence Olivier, Gus Van Sant, and more. More at nwfilm.org. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Sure, there was nothing technically wrong with Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho, but it sure did lack a certain something. The shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic suffered from a slavish devotion to its source material—and Blair Witch, the sequel to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, suffers from the same flat-line syndrome. There’s nothing glaringly bad about it, but the magic has been recycled away. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Bridget Jones’ Baby
Bridget Jones is a figurehead for the romantic comedy genre—a genre oft-reviled for letting a plot device as simple as finding love carry a film. But come on: This is something that people, both men and women, want in our lives. Bridget Jones, as both a character and romcom juggernaut, shouldn’t be faulted for celebrating this pursuit. So why should we fault the (mostly female) public who will line up for this? And why should I deride this movie for being another unnecessary, unasked-for sequel, with subject matter like “love” and “babies” in this dark, apocalyptic 2016? I won’t. ELINOR JONES
Chills & Thrills: The Gimmick Series
The Hollywood’s latest throwback series firmly and lovingly embraces the art of the gimmick, spending the month of October resurrecting classic Hollywood hucksterism via awesome-yet-corny promotional stunts. Saturday, October 1 allows you to see and feel William Castle’s The Tingler in seat-shaking “Percepto.” Monday, October 10 features John Waters’ Polyester in its original “Odorama.” Friday, October 14 sees—in anaglyph red and blue 3D—a 35mm screening of the monster classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. Wednesday, October 19 is your opportunity to feel Irwin Allen’s legendary disaster flick Earthquake in real room-rumbling “Sensurround.” Hollywood Theatre.
An ongoing experimental film series dedicated to promoting awareness of avant-garde cinema from around the world. This month: Landscape of Intimate Portraits: The Films of Eva Marie Rødbro, examining the director’s career-long focus on the self-destructive invincibility of youth. NXT Industries.
Collective Eye: Circle of Poison
A documentary series from Collective Eye films. This month: Circle of Poison, about the dangerous practice of exporting pesticides outlawed in America to impoverished countries overseas. Narrated by Elizabeth Kucinich, featuring interviews with Noam Chomsky, Patrick Leahy, the Dalai Lama, and President Jimmy Carter. Hollywood Theatre.
Do the Right Thing
A special 35mm screening of Spike Lee’s summer classic in honor of the dearly departed Bill Nunn, who shared with us the compelling tale of how left-hand hate was K.O.’d by love. Raise a glass to Radio Raheem, and let the Hollywood turn that beatbox up real loud. Hollywood Theatre.
In a genre known for headbanging excess, it's often the subtler things—rhythm, geography, use of negative space—that can put a horror movie over the top. The new home invasion movie Don’t Breathe displays a remarkable sense of when to hold back and build tension, and when to go ferociously all-in. Throw in a terrifyingly committed performance by Stephen Lang and you've got the kind of thing that gets an entire audience giggling at their collective discomfort. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Don’t Think Twice
One member's overnight success upends an improv group, forcing its thirtysomething theater kids to reassess their careers, their futures, and their simmering resentment. What makes Mike Birbiglia's Don’t Think Twice such a smart, universal comedy is the core friendship of the group: You can feel the genuine waves of affection coming off Birbiglia & Co. They've got each other's backs, even as their relationships start to go sideways. It's beyond refreshing to see a comedy where friends aren't pitted against each other to manufacture conflict. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
The trailers make the case that this year-old Australian film starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth (that’s the Hunger Games Hemsworth, not the Thor one) will provide you with a To Wong Foo-esque good time. But the director of the film went on the record saying it was closer to “Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven with a sewing machine.” You’d think if someone had managed to make Unforgiven with a sewing machine, starring one of the single best actresses of the last 50 years, you’d have heard about it by now. But it wasn’t screened for Portland critics, so who the fuck knows. Good luck! Various Theaters.
Elevator to the Gallows
The term film noir was invented by the French to describe American movies, but they made a few nifty ones of their own, including this 1958 debut by then-24-year-old director Louis Malle (Atlantic City). A woman (Jeanne Moreau) conspires with her adulterous lover (Maurice Ronet) to kill her husband, but once he does the deed, just about everything that can go wrong does. With a classic, mournful score from Miles Davis and a black-and-white, proto-New-Wave tour of Paris, it’s a tightly wound thriller and a breakthrough role for Moreau. And the French title, “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud,” is even cooler than the American one. MARC MOHAN Cinema 21.
Hell or High Water
Leave it to a Scot to deliver the next great American western. It’s possible director David Mackenzie (Starred Up) had the distance and perspective to depict Hell or High Water’s depressed West Texas towns and dust-dry plains with unvarnished truth. Maybe he recognized, from across the pond, a universal struggle in the specific plight of brothers Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) as they try to hang on to their father’s ranch. Perhaps he sensed the timeliness of a story that depicts white American men running out of time, money, and land. More likely, Mackenzie had Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario) superb script to navigate a path around the obvious men-with-guns clichés that make up Hell or High Water’s western-noir milieu. Whatever the case may be, it’s resulted in an intelligent and incisive movie that’s painful and lovely to watch. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
His Girl Friday
This 1940 comedy written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur is still the gold standard for dialogue, with less than a handful of its thousand-plus imitators managing to achieve the sort of electrified-yet-effortless back-and-forth essayed by Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, as directed by Howard Hawks. Screens as part of the NW Film Center's Friday Film Club series. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
People recall Garden State’s sins more readily than its virtues, which strikes me as unfair: At the time, it was a stylishly crafted comedy-drama with a genuine interest in small emotional moments. The flip side, of course, is that white malaise is never as profound as white people seem to think it is, and also the whole manic pixie dream girl thing. So a mixed bag, certainly. I mention all this because when I tell you that The Hollars is Garden State: 2016 Edition, I don’t want you to think I’m dismissing it entirely. There’s simply no other way to describe a movie in which a big city sad boy returns to his hometown in the wake of a family tragedy only to discover—well, you know the drill. What’s changed in the intervening years is an emphasis on giving the female characters actual inner lives and stuff to do. Which is nice! But this is still a film where Anna Kendrick designs dog clothes and John Krasinski falls off a symbolic tire swing. All that’s missing is a Shins song. BEN COLEMAN Fox Tower 10.
Home Movie Day
Do you have 8mm, Super 8, or 16mm home movies you want to show everybody? Or are you a voyeuristic creep who wants to watch other peopleâ€™s 8mm, Super 8, or 16mm home movies? Today’s your day. Hollywood Theatre.
Looking, Really Looking! The Films of Chantal Akerman 1968-2015
The NW Film Center showcases a finely curated selection of works from the adventurous director's 40-plus films. More at nwfilm.org. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
The Magnificent Seven
If there’s a way to make a movie starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard, and Byung-hun Lee and not have it be super fun to watch, scientists have yet to discover it. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theateres.
A heist comedy stacked with a ton of amazing comic performers, including Zach Galifianakis, Kate McKinnon, Jason Sudeikis, Ken Marino, Leslie Jones, and more. Sounds good! Except it’s directed by Jared Hess, who hasn’t made anything worth a shit since Napoleon Dynamite. That’s bad! And it’s been done for over a year and is only just now getting a theatrical release! Yikes! And it wasn’t screened for critics. Hope you don’t feel like you just flushed $10 when you’re done! Good luck! Various Theaters.
As the titular Max, Jerry Lewis plays a one-hit wonder jazz pianist at the end of his life—though his wife and lifetime love died first. While going through her things, Max finds evidence of a possible secret lover, which puts him in a tailspin of regret and jealousy. Make no mistake: Lewis acts the shit out of this role. His watery eyes are filled with remorse, defeat, and rage over the passage of time. But there’s no getting around a script that’s a bunch of manipulative claptrap. From the morose soundtrack, to languishing shots of Lewis slowly walking down hallways (leading the viewer to expect a broken hip at any moment), to the utterly predictable script that attempts to drive tears from your eyes with a whip and a chair, all that’s left to enjoy are the performances. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Fox Tower 10.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
I haven't liked a Tim Burton film since Batman Returns, and I'm saying that now to illustrate how much I did like his latest, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Coming from an overly precious book series and an eccentric director, I don't know how MPHPC turned out so relatable, exciting, and heartwarming, but it's a friggin romp. It's like a good Harry Potter movie without the awkward mandate to follow the book's plot. MPHPC the film throws MPHPC the book out the window. (Polite opera claps.) Plus, Asa Butterfield is the perfect empty persona for the audience to latch onto, and Samuel L. Jackson actually has fun for once! But wait, my space is running out and I have to warn you about the messy time trav— SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
A found-footage mockumentary about two CIA agents who discover the moon landing was faked, and might get killed for learning the truth. This isn’t a comedy, by the way. Living Room Theaters.
Phantasm superfan J.J. Abrams (he named Gwendolyn Christie’s character in The Force Awakens after the film) marshaled the forces of his Bad Robot production company to produce this digital restoration of Don Coscarelli’s 1979 horror classic, about a tall old man who lives in a small Oregon town and keeps a really pissed off snitch as some sort of flying, murderous pet. So far as free-floating low-budget sweaty nightmares go, this is one of the most potent. Also see Angus Scrimm: The Antithesis of a Horror Monster [Film, Sept 21]. Hollywood Theatre.
Portland Latin American Film Festival: The Star Making Machine
A special screening of this computer animated children’s film about a little boy in an asteroid belt whose destiny it is to fix the machine that makes the stars light up at night. Hollywood Theatre.
Print the Legend
So there's this competition-style reality show on. It's the one that pits the bloviating, orange-haired pustule who spouts incoherent, racist free verse against a grandparent with the temerity to possess a vagina. The show asks America to make the agonizing decision: Which one’s worse? Well, according to several sources, this is no mere entertainment: In just a few short weeks, the results will be used to determine which striver will occupy the most important job in the country for the next four years (or until he gets bored and quits). As usual, one can turn to H.L. Mencken: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard." The fact that electioneering and entertainment have become so incestuously linked is the subject of the NW Film Center's fall series Print the Legend, which lines up 17 movies between now and Election Day that tackle the intersections of politics and mass media. Also see “Print the Legend: Cinema, and Politics, at the NW Film Center” [Film, Sept 7]. MARC MOHAN NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
You’d be correct to expect something bombastic out of Oliver Stone’s Snowden. It’s right in the JFK director’s wheelhouse, dealing in themes of power, corruption, and deeply conflicted American patriotism, with a vast government conspiracy perched on top of the sundae like a poisoned cherry. But surprisingly, Stone takes a calm, almost measured approach in telling the story of Edward Snowden, the defense contractor who blew the whistle on the American government’s theft of its citizens’ private information. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
A stork transports the first stork-delivered baby in a very long time because babies come from fucking, not from freaky-looking birds operating some baby-making contraption on a mountain somewhere. This animated kids’ flick was written and co-directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) so it could be pretty clever and funny, but we didn’t review it, so you’re on your own. Various Theaters.
The story of US Airways Flight 1549—which, in 2009, pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger famously landed on the Hudson River—was going to be made into a movie whether we wanted it or not. So the news that Clint Eastwood, nowadays a dimmed, decidedly disappointing figure, was going to direct was neither surprising nor exciting. But I’m a bit relieved, then, to tell you that Sully is a far more successful exercise in both dramatic storytelling and patriotism than Eastwood’s 2012 dialogue with a chair. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
John Carpenter’s 1982 classic, starring a very hairy Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and an exploding dog head. Well, it doesn’t so much explode as it peels back like a self-opening banana, revealing a glistening, snarling Lovecraftian horror full of snaking tubes and hissing malevolence. This is only the fourth- or fifth-most horrifying and unnerving thing in the film, which is a tidal wave of unrelenting paranoia so effective it took most people a good decade-plus to get over their initial revulsion to (correctly) rate it as one of the best horror films ever made. Academy Theater.
The Wicker Man (1973)
This is a screening of the 1973 original, meaning you will not be seeing Nicolas Cage in a bear suit socking up women and swallowing gallons of CGI bees. Instead, you will be immersed in the off-kilter world of this slow-burning British cult classic, starring Christopher Lee at his confidently creepiest, where the horror isn’t contained in loud orchestral stabs and brutal bursts of bloody gore, but in the careful peeling away of idyllic island life to reveal the placidly unnerving and profoundly disturbing wrongness underneath. Laurelhurst Theater.