As the world plunges into actual dystopia, film is keeping us sane. Cinema 21 and the Clinton Street Theater are both screening 1984, the film adaptation of George Orwell’s monumentally important novel. You heard the terms “Thought Police” and “Big Brother”? Yep, that’s from 1984. This movie version—starring John Hurt and released in the actual year 1984!—is required viewing to get us to 2020. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21, Clinton Street Theater.
B-Movie Bingo: Top Dog
Your monthly opportunity to literally check off a bingo card full of B-movie clichés! This month, walking expired meme and right-wing failure of a human Chuck Norris stars in his widely derided Turner and Hooch ripoff, Top Dog, a movie that must have been very tough on Norris—not only because he’s easily outclassed as an actor by an animal that has to be taught not to eat its own feces, but because the story of the movie necessitates that Norris has to fight white supremacy instead of subtly endorsing it. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Beauty and the Beast
It’s a tale as old as time—the kind of beautiful love story that subtly normalizes stuff like kidnapping and bestiality. CIARA DOLAN Various Theaters.
The Boss Baby
The Boss Baby, starring Alec Baldwin as the voice of a suit-wearing infant sent to an unsuspecting family to fulfill a secret mission on behalf of BabyCorp—that’s the Heaven-based company in charge of the world’s baby supply—sounds like a fictional bad movie in a Hollywood satire. But the movie is real, and it’s... good? Good enough, anyway? Written by Michael McCullers (Baby Mama) and directed by Tom McGrath (Madagascar), it’s an imaginative, unassuming take on fraternal bonding. Jealous seven-year-old Tim (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi) uncovers his new baby brother’s secret identity and tries unsuccessfully to expose him to their parents (the baby reverts to goo-goo gah-gah when they’re around), but the boys eventually work together and fall into brotherly love. Pleasantly non-snarky for a DreamWorks cartoon, it doesn’t overdo the sappy stuff, either, and offers enough easygoing laughs to sustain itself. ERIC D. SNIDER Various Theaters.
Oh my god! What a stupid, beautiful movie. I was having a rotten day before I watched CHIPS, but its explosion-heavy, progressive-bro comedy motored my frown upside down. That’s a dumb thing to say, but this is a dumb movie. SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
Cinema Classics: To Be or Not to Be
Ernst Lubistch’s 1942 farce about Carole Lombard and Jack Benny making Nazis look like dummies. Hollywood Theatre.
Constructing Identity: Black Cinema Then and Now
The NW Film Center’s retrospective on the varied voices of Black cinema, including key works by Julie Dash, Spencer Williams, and Spike Lee, all doing their part to show Black identity in ways not typically exhibited on American movie screens. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Allan Arkush’s 1983 follow-up to Rock ’n’ Roll High School tries to follow in the footsteps of comedy titans Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker. But instead of Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges, Arkush has Lee Ving, Lou Reed, and Clint Howard. Oh, and Fabian. Because you can’t have a punk rock comedy without... Fabian. Hollywood Theatre.
I Am Not Your Negro
Working off an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin, director Raoul Peck creates a brilliantly absorbing history of American racism, bolstered by Samuel L. Jackson’s impassioned narration. ANDREW WRIGHT Hollywood Theatre.
This documentary about Istanbul’s sizable stray cat population is so full of kindness and warmth that it’s like jumping into a pile of freshly-laundered bedding just pulled out of the dryer, or floating around in a slightly stoned bubble bath, or, I don’t know, being a kitten? The squee opportunities are abundant, but what doesn’t appear on-screen is as important as what does. To describe Kedi as an extended cat video is to ignore the sociopolitical context of the city where the cats live—context that’s only hinted at in statements from the locals, but that adds poignant sophistication and an ever-present emotional core to a documentary some will dismiss as lighthearted entertainment. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
Kong: Skull Island
There are so many monsters in Kong: Skull Island! Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (who I knew in my youth and who I interviewed for this very publication) has created a monster ecosystem for Skull Island that’s immersive, magical, and kind of silly. But it’s difficult to tell if Kong: Skull Island wants to be cool, campy, or horrifying—it succeeds at all those things, but never melds them together. Instead it sort of drags itself back and forth in a tone-shift tug-of-war. As predicted (by me), John C. Reilly steals every scene he’s in (because he fucking rules—he Dr. Steve Brules). And while the rest of Skull Island’s cast is also lovable, it’s one thing to accept a giant monkey with a baseball bat and another to believe Tom â€œMr. Dictionâ€ Hiddleston would be useful in a jungle. Also see “Beauty and Terror: Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts on Monsters, Vietnam, and Kong: Skull Island,” Film, March 8. SUZETTE SMITH Various Theaters.
Life cribs hard from the Alien playbook, so much so that I genuinely don’t know why they bothered making it. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Moving History: Portland Contemporary Dance Past and Present
Eric Nordstrom’s documentary charts the history of contemporary dance in Portland, using archival footage and interviews with dancers and members of Portland Dance Theater, Performance Works NW, White Bird, and more. Q&A with Nordstrom and featured dancers after the screening. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Olivier Assayas’ latest is a cinematic Frankenstein monster, stitched together from different genres into something that transcends its sources: Kristen Stewart plays a young American in Paris working as an assistant for a globe-trotting supermodel, buying high-end clothes but never getting to try them on. (It’s a metaphor.) She’s also trying to make psychic contact with a twin brother who died from a heart defect—a disease she also has. She’s also trying to maintain a long-distance Skype relationship with her boyfriend. Things get sinister when Stewart starts receiving anonymous, threatening text messages, and eventually there’s a murder. MARC MOHAN Cinema 21.
Portland Latin American Film Festival: El Tamaño Sí Importa
Monthly screenings from the Portland Latin American Film Festival. This month: Rafa Lara’s El Tamaño Sí Importa, a comedy about a woman trying to seduce her former boss. Director in attendance. Hollywood Theatre.
MY Power Rangers had to walk uphill both ways in nothing but tank tops to get to their juice bar! Now Power Rangers have iPhones. You think Zord battles in the ’90s had $100 million budgets? This generation is spoiled with good Power Rangers and they don’t even know it! BRI BREY Various Theaters.
Of all the things this Hitchcock classic is often championed for—its score, its cinematography, its fucking perfect sense of pacing—maybe the most notable achievement is how completely it manipulates an audience’s empathy. Steven Spielberg is often considered one of cinema’s master magicians, but even he wouldn’t be so bold as to hinge an entire movie’s success on his ability to not only put you in a matricidal, murdering peeper’s shoes, but convince you to put those shoes on yourself without even thinking twice about it. Hitchcock has made better films, but never any as sneaky as Psycho. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Queer Commons: BearCity 1 & 2
This month’s installment of the Hollywood’s queer-focused series is a BearCity double feature, presenting the first two parts of Doug Langway’s big gay trilogy following a quirky cast of bears, boys, and cubs—and Sister Act 2’s Kathy Najimy! Hollywood Theatre.
Queer Horror: Slumber Party Massacre
The bimonthly series, hosted by Carla Rossi, returns from its genre wanderings into noir and comedy, and is lovingly, bloodily going back to its slasher roots with Slumber Party Massacre, queer activist Rita Mae Brown’s subversive, inspirational, and satirical feminist revenge story about a party full of high school girls fighting off a homicidal maniac whose (Freudian) weapon of choice is a power drill. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The French make everything look delicious... including cannibalism, which happens to be the case in the wonderfully disgusting Raw. It’s a coming-of-cannibal tale by Julia Ducournau that’s as atmospheric as Let the Right One In, as dark as the 2007’s under-seen vagina dentata saga Teeth, and a Bildungsroman that makes The Hunger Games look like a tiptoe down the candy aisle. Bloody, stylish, and incredibly disturbing, Raw is a meaty piece of body horror about a virginal vegetarian who’s gagging for some sweet human flesh—figuratively and literally. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
The sci-fi western Firefly was something exceedingly rare, not only for TV, but for any medium: a strikingly imagined, perfectly executed example of both expression and entertainment. So, of course, it was canceled almost as soon as it began, with Fox broadcasting only 11 episodes. But following massive DVD sales and an unprecedentedly devoted fan base, Universal Pictures allowed Firefly its finale; in Serenity, the action is bigger and better; the scope is larger; the dialogue alternately crackles and sings; and the themes hit harder. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
What T2 does well, it does astonishingly well. More than a few scenes are hysterically funny, and more than a few escapades are white-knuckled fun. But what sticks with me are the things I never thought I’d get out of a Trainspotting movie—the smart, emotional things it has to say about friendship and the passage of time. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
There are more than a few theaters across the country screening 1984 in response to the continued tenure of our corrupt, racist, slumlord sex offender of a president. But while familiarizing yourself with Orwell is always a good idea, I believe John Carpenter’s last bonafide classic—the paranoid left-wing sci-fi satire They Live—is a much more appropriate film for the strange, bewildering times we occupy. And for as good as John Hurt was in 1984, if we’re heading into a debased apocalypse of a future, I’d rather have Rowdy Roddy Piper as my avatar, kicking ass, chewing bubblegum, and if he has to, literally beating some sense into you. Put the fuckin’ glasses on. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
The latest crotchety sage to amble across movie screens shaking his fist at human foibles is Wilson, the title character in director Craig Johnson’s adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ 2010 graphic novel. As played by a game Woody Harrelson, Wilson is a sour but secretly soulful middle-aged cynic who lives alone with his terrier Pepper, surrounded by stacks of paperback books. He spends his days trying (and failing) to be avuncular to strangers in coffee shops and railing against the isolating effects of computers and cell phones. MARC MOHAN Various Theaters.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, March 31-Thursday, April 6, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.