In the bright light of something shiny and new, it’s easy to declare that thing an outlier: to smile and point and proclaim that here, at last, is a thing that makes everything that follows a little bit different. I saw Arrival Monday night, which means it’s undoubtedly just a bit too soon to declare it a science-fiction classic. Given that we’re finally (finally, finally) coming to the end of 2016, though, it’s probably fair to declare it this: one of the bright points, and one of the greatest movies, of this horrible, awful year. It’s also likely the best film yet from Denis Villeneuve, the director behind the excellent Sicario and Prisoners—and who, with Arrival, offers something entirely different. Arrival is an ominous, thrumming, beautiful thing that starts out being about aliens who need a decoder ring. It ends up being about something quite different. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Bleed for This
A boxing movie that never dares to think outside the box. (It pulls its punches. Its bull never rages. Et cetera.) MARC MOHAN
Myanmar’s recent re-opening to outsiders made director Brian Perkins’ latest film possible, using local non-actors to tell the story of four young monks in an abandoned monastery in the middle of nowhere.
What is the best Christmas movie? Traditionalists swear by standards like It’s a Wonderful Life, the more irreverent might cite Scrooged, and many love to say it's Die Hard before indulging in their really bad Alan Rickman impersonations. But there's a case to be made for Joe Dante's 1984 blast of suburban mayhem, Gremlins: It's a film about family, about responsibility, about having empathy for others, and loving people despite their flaws—but it's also about rocketing angry old rich people through walls, finding new and disgusting uses for a microwave oven, and the pure joy to be found in fucking shit up with cackling glee, thus capturing the well-intentioned chaos that, for many, defines the holiday season. BOBBY ROBERTS
A dour, black-and-white film about a young convent girl on the brink of taking her vows. Sent to find her only living relative—an unhappy, hard-drinking, man-eating aunt—the two bond over their family’s mysterious tragedy in a listless story that doesn’t live up to its stunning visual arrangement. MARJORIE SKINNER
Les Blank: Cultural Rarities
This year, the Hollywood’s annual celebration of acclaimed documentarian Les Blank includes the Portland premiere of Thailand Moments, the rarely seen look into Serbian-American lives Ziveli: Medicine for the Heart, and the never-before-seen short Puamana, focused on Hawaiian art, music, and culture.
Moonlight is a movie about what it’s like to grow up male in America. Moonlight is also a movie about what it’s like to grow up gay in America. And Moonlight is, in addition, a movie about what it’s like to grow up black in America. That inevitably makes Barry Jenkins’ justly acclaimed film sound like it will appeal primarily to gay, black, and/or male audiences. And indeed, people who share some or all of its protagonist’s characteristics will be overjoyed at the belated depiction of lives like theirs on screen. But Moonlight, if I can swoon for a moment, does what all true art aspires to do. It shares something unique but universal about what it’s like to be human. MARC MOHAN
A joyless bastard could nitpick the hell out of The Muppets: The way Jason Segel & Co. reintroduce the Muppets is clunky. The pacing’s weird. And there’s not enough Gonzo. But then, there’s never enough Gonzo, and to focus on those complaints would be to ignore all that’s right here: Kermit has a couple of heartbreakingly great and melancholy songs. Fantastic one-liners zip through the air. Fozzie’s jokes are magnificently stupid. Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and cameoing celebrities all have a phenomenal time. And the tone that defines the Muppets’ best stuff—that blend of self-aware comedy, loveable characters, and bright-hearted optimism—is solidly in place. When it comes to the Muppets, that’s what matters. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Re-run Theater: Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time
This month’s celebration of retro TV is a classic Doctor Who serial from the late ’70s, with beloved weirdo Tom Baker’s Doctor going back home to Gallifrey with goofy R2-D2 ripoff K-9 and cheesecake cavegirl companion Leela, just in time to get caught up in some Time Lord bullshit that necessitates him becoming the president in order to save time itself from a potato-headed Sontaran invasion. All this low-budget BBC ridiculousness will be cut with vintage sci-fi toy ads between chapters. Bring a big scarf, a sense of fun, and a healthy suspension of disbelief. BOBBY ROBERTS
Sonic Cinema: We Are X
The Hollywood’s music documentary series presents We Are X, chronicling the 30-year history of Japan’s biggest rock band, from their beginnings in frontman Yoshiki X’s imagination to their reunion show at Madison Square Garden.
Juzo Itami’s 1985 film defies easy description. The director himself calls it a “ramen western,” due to the main story of a couple truckers helping a woman named Tampopo establish herself as master of noodles. But it’s also a comedy, a romance, a surreal gangster movie, and an erotic screwball farce. Its steaming collection of disparate ingredients gets pretty messy at times, but the result is one of the most sensual movies of the 20th century. There’s no guarantee every element will hit the spot, but you will leave this screening hungry as hell. BOBBY ROBERTS
Y Tu Mamá También
I don’t know how good your Spanish is, but the title of this movie totally just insulted you.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, November 25-Thursday, December 1, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.