The Animation Show of Shows
There’s a high number of stop-motion films in this year’s Animation Show of Shows. Scottish short Stems stands out for its documentary approach to found-object puppets—watching them assemble and take on movement contains real magic and ends on an inspiring, bittersweet note. In the realm of more traditional 2D animation, you may remember Mirror from This American Life: Mirror was a 2015 collaboration between Ira Glass, animator John Kuramoto, and regular New Yorker cover artist Chris Ware. Given that celebrity spread, you’ve probably already seen it. Also of note (and online) is Patrick Osbourne’s Pearl, which was created for virtual reality and can be watched in Google 360, which is pretty neat! The short’s narrative zips around fluidly, inside the same animated car over a period of decades. I’m pretty sure it’s also a 10 minute commercial for vintage Volvos. SUZETTE SMITH Cinema 21.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The big hook for Ang Lee’s latest film is that it’s shot in 3D at 120fps, for what is supposed to be an undeniably transformative experience. Except nobody in Portland is showing it that way, so you’ll have to focus on much more mundane things like storytelling, and whether Lee adapted Ben Fountain’s military satire faithfully, or if he made a mawkish, tear-stained jumble out of it like the trailers are selling. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
The City of Lost Children
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s creepy, beautiful fantasy. Academy Theater.
Cléo From 5 to 7
Whenever anyone asks that impossible question probably no one over the age of 12 should ask—What's your favorite movie?—Cléo From 5 to 7 is my go-to response. Directed by Agnès Varda, the only woman among the French New Wave cohort of filmmakers, Cléo follows a spoiled singer whose glamorous façade conceals deep-seated anxiety, as she wanders Paris killing time waiting for what may be a cancer diagnosis. That sounds bleak, and it is. But it's also beautiful—an existential study of a woman's life in real-time, a profoundly humanizing, feminist film that's remarkably hopeful despite (or perhaps because of) its unrestrained reckoning with death and uncertainty. I saw it for the first time in college, and I've involuntarily held everything I've seen since up to Cléo's gold standard and Varda's masterful, cumulatively powerful use of documentary and narrative cinema techniques. Unsurprisingly, few films even come close. MEGAN BURBANK NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
The Edge of Seventeen
Get ready for a classic take on high school where all the characters are wealthy in ways we can’t identify with (pools 4 everyone!) and played by 30-year-olds (not creepy to find them attractive, whew!). Edge of Seventeen proposes we accept well-timed, adorable stammering as signs that these characters as weird. None of us ever sounded this good. BUT this is produced by James L. Brooks, so even though a lot of it is sanitized and the ending is slapped on, I liked the jokes. The sins of John Hughes are passed down to first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig, who writes a smokin’ hot Korean-American guy (Hayden Szeto) as a runner-up love interest to a medium-for-Hollywood white dude (Alexander Calvert). PLEASE STOP DOING THAT SHIT. Otherwise I’m giving you a pass, Craig. Do better on the next one. SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
Grindhouse Film Festival: The Silent Partner
This month’s Grindhouse offering is a tribute to the late Curtis Hanson, best known for 8 Mile, Wonder Boys, and the noir classic L.A. Confidential—but who first secured his crime story bonafides with the mean-spirited screenplay for 1978’s The Silent Partner, pitting Christopher Plummer and Elliot Gould as a psychopathic bank robber and the devious teller who tries to get one over on him. Preceded by a 35mm trailer reel featuring old-school previews for ’70s crime movies. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer
Hey kids! You probably know Michael Rooker as one of “those guys,” a curly-haired character actor who pops up in your favorite movie, classes up the joint with his particular charm, and steals all the scenes on his way out the door, like in Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead, Mallrats, and Slither! But did you know: Michael Rooker first became famous in 1986, by playing a bugfuck insane serial killer in one of the single most psychologically disturbing horror films ever made? It’s true! Michael Rooker will haunt your goddamn dreams for a week after you watch this. You’ll never look at Yondu the same way again. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Sonic Cinema: The Last Waltz
The Last Waltz has been called one of the best music documentaries ever made. It’s not. Chronicling a very good—but not transcendent—concert that turned out to be the Band’s last performance with their original lineup, it’s most notable for the murderers’ row of guests who graced San Francisco’s Winterland stage that Thanksgiving night in 1976. Unlike most documentaries, The Last Waltz is not a look behind the scenes or an attempt to tell the backstory behind the music; it’s mythmaking, and it works very well as such. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
A Street Cat Named Bob
A Street Cat Named Bob is based on a true story, and its premise seems like a recipe for the warm and fuzzies: A wide-eyed orange tabby named Bob unexpectedly enters the life of an English street musician, James (Luke Treadaway), who’s recovering from a drug addiction. Bob’s clinginess is salve for James’ loneliness, so he lets the stray stick around (because he’s a stray too, get it?). The IRL Bob plays himself in the film, rendering all humans useless and irrelevant. Bob gives high-fives and looks cute in a tiny striped scarf. Most of Bob’s acting involves executing the aforementioned high-fives and being swaddled in the aforementioned scarf. There are too many cringe-worthy one-sided conversations between James and Bob, who cannot talk. James should know this, yet continuously tries to convince himself and others around him that Bob is fluent in English. A Street Cat Named Bob seems like a feel-good family-friendly movie highlighting the power of interspecies friendships. In reality, it’s a lackluster reminder that humans will never be as interesting as their cats. CIARA DOLAN Fox Tower 10.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, November 18-Thursday, November 24, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.