24th Reel Music Film Festival
The Northwest Film Center's fest continues this week, and runs until February 4. All films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
"The squeezebox receives a long overdue salute!" Uh huh. Right. Not screened for critics.
AIR GUITAR NATION
Air Guitar Nation smartly follows several US air guitar enthusiasts on their quests to win the Air Guitar Championships in Oulu, Finland. Much balls-out, spectacularly ridiculous air-shredding ensues! KATIE SHIMER
AWAKE, MY SOUL
A good short film laboriously stretched to the 75-minute mark, Awake, My Soul plays as dryly as its pious, PBS-friendly subject matter: the rural South's haunting, semi-obscure, religious singing known as Sacred Harp. The subject itself is eerily fascinating, but Awake's oppressively redundant testimonials make the film roughly 45 minutes too long—which is to say, roughly two-thirds of the movie. ZAC PENNINGTON
BEFORE THE MUSIC DIES
A critical look "at the homogenization of popular music," featuring interviews with Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt, and Branford Marsalis. Ha! Not screened for critics.
Peter Whitehead's 1973 film; preceded by Nothing to Do with Me, Anthony Stern's film about Whitehead. Not screened for critics.
DANIELSON: A FAMILY MOVIE
A fascinating primer on the works of the extended Danielson Famile—the most creatively (if not commercially) successful Christian indierock dynasty to ever emerge from South Jersey. Unlike the vast majority of Christian acts with the potential for secular crossover, Danielson scarcely mince words about their humbleness in Christ—in spite of the fact that their plentiful musical idiosyncrasies have had a hard time connecting with the profitable (and unsurprisingly myopic) Christian music industry. Added bonus: Any film that casts Sufjan Stevens as its unintentional antagonist is all right in my book. ZAC PENNINGTON
DERROLL ADAMS: BANJO MAN
This film opens with a funeral and a friend lamenting folky Derroll Adams, and it just rips into you. Now, you can steel yourself against a lot of things, but try to brace yourself for Adams' old pals talking about hearing the news that he was dying—just try. It got me. Chilled my blood. Portland native Adams died in 1990, and he isn't the biggest name in folk, but the man was in there, and this great film shows all of that. ADAM GNADE
Nearly 40 years since its production, Peter Whitehead's The Fall works well as a curious cultural artifact of the late '60s in America. But as a film that you'd want to spend time watching, it's considerably less successful. It's a quasi-psychedelic mishmash of footage from Vietnam War protests, coupled with self-indulgent footage of Whitehead and his not nearly naked enough girlfriend. Ain't enough pot in the city to make this entertaining, and only naïve film students will believe it's something worth taking seriously. SCOTT MOORE
A soporific doc about the jam sessions of jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Billy Higgins. Preceded by Jon Hendricks: The Freddie Sessions, a film about Hendricks, who adds lyrics to instrumental jazz classics. Hey, thanks a lot, Hendricks! Because Miles Davis' Kind of Blue really wasn't perfect to begin with. Thank god "Freddie Freeloader" has words now! ERIK HENRIKSEN
THE SOUND OF SOUL: THE FEZ FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC & FANDANGO: SEARCHING FOR THE WHITE MONKEY
Like so many music docs, I would have rather seen The Sound of Soul as a collection of performances, without much of the narration. Chronicling a mystic-themed music festival in the fascinating and exotic city of Fez, the film contains spiritual music from around the world—an intoxicating whirlwind tour that doesn't need to be distracted by pesky information. The hour-long Soul is followed by Fandango, a doc about an ailing Mexican music tradition known as Son Jarocho. Fandango is rife with interviews and anecdotes, but what is most appealing about the documentary is obvious: the live performances of an old, passionate, and beautiful type of music that make you want to turn off the movie, grab a guitar, and hitchhike across the border. MARJORIE SKINNER
RURAL ROCK AND ROLL
Unless you're from Humboldt County, California, or love shitty music, you'll be painfully bored during this documentary of the Humboldt music scene. Every band thinks they're awesome, but they actually all blow, and yet they can't quite understand why Capitol Records doesn't swoop into town and offer to put out their album. Boo hoo, who cares? KATIE SHIMER See Music, pg. 19.
15th Portland Jewish
The Northwest Film Center's Judaism-centric film fest kicks off Thursday, January 18, and continues through January 29. All films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium; for more info, see next week's Mercury.
An Argentinean dramedy about a Jewish father and son getting to know one another. Not screened for critics.
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Arthur and the Invisibles
A creepy-looking children's film from Luc Besson—featuring the voices of Madonna and Snoop Dogg. Weird. Not screened for critics. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Cave of the Yellow Dog
Ostensibly a feature film, Yellow Dog is more a moving-picture postcard. The plot (girl finds puppy) is simple and unimportant. The main attractions are the long, slow shots of the Mongolian countryside and its residents as they make cheese, herd animals, dismantle a yurt, etc. It also contains the following mother-daughter exchange: "Could you collect some dung for curing the meat?" "But I've never collected dung before!" "Well, you can try." BRENDAN KILEY Laurelhurst, Living Room Theaters.
Children of Men
Children of Men is the best film I've seen all year, and you should go see it. It's two decades from now, and women can no longer conceive children. The reason is unknown, and frankly, unimportant: Director Alfonso Cuarón is concerned with the aftermath of this development rather than impetus. What is evident is that humanity's days are numbered, and for humanity's aging remnants, the world has become a far uglier place: Nations rage through war as terrorists strike, governments clamp down with martial law, immigrants and refugees are feared and detained, and the upper classes recline in comfort while poverty and strife envelop everyone else. It's a dystopia that borrows as much from Orwell as it does the Bush administration—as rotting elementary schools lay eerily abandoned and suicide kits are sold over the counter, humanity accepts its end, though it refuses to do so peacefully. ERIK HENRIKSEN Regal Cinemas, etc.
Curse of the Golden Flower
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Hilary Swank stars in what appears at first glance to be a remake of 1995's Dangerous Minds. Freedom Writers is a far more intelligent film, however, that gives complex issues their due—the film doesn't shirk from depicting the institutionalized racism and segregation plaguing the California public school system (or society at large, for that matter). ALISON HALLETT Regal Cinemas, etc.
Happily N'Ever After
A hacky, Shrek-y, fractured fairy tale kind of thing—and winner of World's Most Unforgivable Apostrophe (IMDB.com tells me it's because the title Happily Never After was already taken... by a dirty dirty pornooooooo!). It couldn't be more thrown together: the characters are all plasticky and dead in the face; the pop culture references belabored beyond comprehension (remember that dance that David Brent does on the second season of The Office? That one you posted on your MySpace? Well what if... wait for it... an OGRE was doing that dance?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!). Also, why is it acceptable in a kids' movie to talk about a "lube job" and "happy endings" and to say that a guy has "Prince envy," which is quite obviously a joke referring to penises? LINDY WEST Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
James Brown: Live in Montreux
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 15.
A film about murderer Karla Homolka—starring that red-haired chick from That '70s Show. Not screened for critics. Hollywood Theatre.
King: A Filmed Record From Montgomery to Memphis
It's a day ON, not a day OFF, people! Check out this newsreel footage of Martin Luther King, Jr. Clinton Street Theater.
Late Night Shopping
2001's "quirky urban comedy set in Glasgow." Not screened for critics. Living Room Theaters.
Look Both Ways
The Australian Look Both Ways deals with matters of life and death in a thought-provoking way: The film charts a weekend in the life of a community affected by a tragic train crash, dealing with the role of artists and the media in interpreting such events, but also skewing things onto a deeper level through the eyes of one character who finds out he's dying of cancer. With this plot, the film could easily be melodramatic—but it's expertly done, so it's not. MATT DAVIS Living Room Theaters.
Meet the Feebles
One of Peter Jackson's earliest films, Feebles follows a group of puppets putting on a variety show. But Jackson infuses it with demented giddiness: The rabbit MC has VD. The walrus manager receives blowjobs from a pussycat. The knife-throwing frog is a 'Nam vet who needs a junk fix. Jackson's content to let this one joke—muppets doing things they aren't supposed to—serve as the backbone for the entire film, and there's a certain charm in the amoral humor. Then again, that charm wears out quickly, and the film begins to grate after about 10 minutes. ERIK HENRIKSEN Clinton Street Theater.
Notes on a Scandal
Looking as fine as I've ever seen her, Cate Blanchett nearly steals the show in Notes on a Scandal—a psycho-drama about naïve pottery teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett) who enters into a teacher-student affair at a working-class London high school. Said affair sure pisses off her newfound friend and coworker, old battleaxe history teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench)—not so much because of the whole impropriety thing, but because old wrinkly has a ginormous crush on the ethereal Sheba. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10.
The Painted Veil
They say that love can make you do stupid things. Indeed, The Painted Veil serves as an extraordinary demonstration of that adage. The third film incarnation of the novel of the same name by M. Somerset Maugham, it tells the story of Walter Fane (Edward Norton), a research scientist who specializes in bacteriology, and Kitty Fane (Naomi Watts), a spoiled, petulant society girl. Veil doesn't credibly explain why Walter would want to marry Kitty, or why, when he discovers her adulterous affair, he would want to remain lovelessly married to her (but only if she will follow him to a remote village in China that is being wracked with a cholera epidemic). And further, why neither one of them will condescend to being vaccinated against the illness, seemingly just to spite each other. Most of us have done some pretty wacky and dramatic things when we are having girl/boy problems, but I doubt many would attempt revenge in the form of self-exposure to a disease that makes you shit yourself to death. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), an 18th-century Parisian with a preternaturally developed sense of smell, believes that his mission in life is to learn how to preserve smells—in particular, the elusive scent of a beautiful young woman. To that end, he starts killing young women and distilling the essences of their smells. Perfume is undeniably beautiful and creepy, but the tone is confusingly inconsistent—ranging from near-farce to reverent allegory—and the sensationalist ending rings hollow. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
A movie about a killer crocodile—starring that dude from 7-Up commercials. Not screened for critics. Regal Cinemas, etc.
If you caught last year's The Exorcism of Emily Rose, you're familiar with the case of Annelise Michel—a young German woman who believed, along with her parents and local priests, that she was possessed by demons. Michel died while undergoing a series of Roman Catholic Church-authorized exorcisms, and both priests and parents were charged with manslaughter. While Rose is primarily focused on the court trial, the German Requiem tells a seemingly less sensationalized version of the events leading up to Annelise's (here she is called Michaela) death, revealing a gradual, human, and non-judgmental depiction of an epileptic girl from a small town, raised with strict parents and a devout faith, who tries and fails to lead a normal life at a university. She falters and unravels at an increasingly rapid pace, but her story here is a drama, not the quasi-horror film that American cinema commemorated her with. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
STOMP THE YARD
Stomp the Yard's previews will try to convince you that this movie is a dramatic portrayal of a heartbroken-on-the-inside-but-still-tough-as-fuck kid from the hood who's fighting one of life's ultimate battles (the death of a younger brother) while also trying to regain a sense of self after watching (and feeling responsible for) the death of said brother. But don't fall for that shit—Stomp the Yard is about motherfuckin' dancing. Not only is there a bitchin' soundtrack with the Roots, Public Enemy, and Ghostface Killah, but these Atlanta step crews with arms the size of my head have got some of the coolest fuckin' moves this side of Footloose. And don't worry, white people—there's plenty of dramatic slow motion during the really awesome parts so you can keep up. MEGAN SELING Regal Cinemas, etc.
Things To Do
You saw Garden State, right? Would you like to see a Canadian version with less interesting characters? Eh? That's what I thought. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
If you've ever been worried that the kid from your childhood that you trapped in an abandoned warehouse and left to die would come back and stalk you 15 years later, then Thr3e is your worst fear realized, with absolutely no cleverness or originality. Well, wait—I guess the whole "'3' looks like a backwards 'E'" thing is sort of clever. Plus, they blow up two cars, a bus, a garbage can, and a refrigerator! KAITLYN BURCH Bridgeport Village 18
Local film archivist Greg Hamilton's classic movie trailers—this time including previews for The Poseidon Adventure, Jaws, Smokey and the Bandit, The Amityville Horror, The Sting, and—yes!—Pinocchio in Outer Space! Clinton Street Theater.
From his arresting use of color, to the nuanced and exuberant performances he coaxes out of actors, to his use of music, to his engrossing scripts, with their dashes of magical realism and Spanish melodrama, Pedro Almodóvar's movies possess a distinct capacity to stimulate you aesthetically and intellectually without beating you over the head with their charms. So when he makes a film as funny, smart, and, well, "Almodóvar-ish" as Volver—one of the most enjoyable and intelligent movies of the year—there's a lot to be happy about. CHAS BOWIE Fox Tower 10.