A whole bunch of deadlines are rapidly approaching for upcoming film fests—so get your asses in gear! If you want to submit stuff to Portland's big new animation fest, June's Platform International Animation Festival, hit platformfestival.com—you have until February 1 for installations, and until March 1 for films. If you've got some short, bike-centric work you'd like shown at April's Filmed by Bike Festival (filmedbybike.org), you've got until March 1. And if you're of the female persuasion and have a film you'd like shown at November's Siren Nation Women's Music and Arts Festival, get to sirennation.com soon, since the deadline for submitting your work is January 31.
24th Reel Music Film Festival
Continues until February 4. All films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
THE COLE NOBODY KNOWS & 'TIS AUTUMN—THE SEARCH FOR JACKIE PARIS
It's a shame that most people my age won't give a red shit about Freddy Cole. Watching this great documentary and hearing the man's music, it's clearly evident that this one will get passed over for "hipper" music docs. Cole is a legendary (though unknown to mainstream music fans) performer of standards and ballads. The big thing that keeps the man down is his massively known older brother, Nat King Cole, a name I'm almost hesitant to mention in this write-up. So yeah, the guy's Nat King Cole's brother. He's an incredible singer and he's never really got his just desserts. Let's change that. Go see the man's story. It's also screening with the kickass 'Tis Autumn—The Search for Jackie Paris. 'Tis Autumn tells the story of one man's search for a jazz singer he heard once on the radio and became obsessed with. Through his research, Raymond de Filetta finds that Paris was the vocalist of choice for people like Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie, but that his own recordings were more or less impossible to find. All written evidence tells de Filetta that Paris died in 1977. But then, suddenly, he finds out Jackie Paris isn't dead—and that's where things get rolling, as Paris begins a late-in-life comeback. ADAM GNADE
EL MILAGRO DE CANDEAL
A "vibrant musical documentary" that follows Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes through Northern Brazil.
A doc on Madagascar's most popular musical group! You know! Maheleo! They're huge! In Madagascar! Right? Ah, never mind.
WHEN THE ROAD BENDS: TALES OF A GYPSY CARAVAN
When the Road Bends tracks gypsy (or, as they're known in more PC parlance, "Roma") musicians from four countries on a tour around America, showcasing the wide variety of music and culture found in the scattered gypsy nation. It follows a path similar to Buena Vista Social Club, with impoverished, aging, regionally popular musicians finding a wider audience in America. Concert footage is juxtaposed with footage from the musicians' homes, many of which are poor villages that get all their money from the musicians' tours. As a smorgasbord of Spanish, Eastern European, and Indian music, the film should make world music fans drool. SCOTT MOORE
ROLLING LIKE A STONE
Mick Jagger still looks like a rock star—but Swedish bands the Namelosers and Gonks, who played for the Rolling Stones in Malmö, Sweden, in 1965, plainly don't. They're fat, out of shape, some are even dead. Also in this worthy documentary, the woman that dead Stone Brian Jones fell for tells why she turned him down. Preceded by Let Me Have it All, a doc about the search for the elusive Sly Stone. MATT DAVIS
15th Portland Jewish Film Festival
Ends January 29. All films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
CLOSE TO HOME
A 2004 drama from Israel that "offers a unique window on the Israeli female military experience."
The absurdly well-reviewed Fateless is, for the most part, a surprisingly common entry into the gluttonously crowded Holocaust drama genre. Concerning the fate of a Hungarian Jewish teenager ripped from a comfortable life in Budapest, this strikingly shot, needlessly long-winded epic does occasionally hint at a potential to offer something unique to the familiar Holocaust narrative. Unfortunately, this comes only after the film has spent most of its duration nailing into the ground the familiar litany of concentration camp horrors. ZAC PENNINGTON
I ONLY WANTED TO LIVE
With testimonies gathered "by Steven Spielberg and the USC Shoah Foundation," I Only Wanted to Live documents the fate of Italy's Jews. Preceded by the short film A Shtetl That's No Longer There.
WHAT A WONDERFUL PLACE
A "multi-lingual ensemble work," and Israel's 2005 Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Preceded by The Tribe, "a witty look at 5,000 years of Jewish history"—starring Barbie.
Alone With Her
Directed and written by Eric Nicholas, Alone With Her is a stylish, if not terribly original, contribution to the thriller/stalker genre. Starring Colin Hanks (even doughier than his father Tom) as Doug the Stalker and Ana Claudia Talancón as Amy the Stalked, the film is almost totally shot through the digital spy cameras Doug has installed in Amy's apartment. We see Doug watching Amy as she drunkenly cuddles her dog, masturbates with a hairbrush, and sings in the bathroom. We also see Doug sabotaging Amy's life in order to draw her closer to him—and yes, there are only so many ways a story like this can go. While the plot is predictably predictable, and the performances are decent, the project as a whole still comes off like an experimental exercise. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Babel tells not one but four stories, across three continents, with each hinged precipitously on each other, and each collapsing under the weight of language. There's the story of Richard and Susan (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett), an American couple vacationing in Morocco, trying to reassemble their shattered marriage; there's the San Diego nanny (Adriana Barraza) who decides to bring her blonde-haired charges to a south-of-the-border wedding with her nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal); in Japan, a deaf-mute teenager wrestles with her sexuality; and in a tiny Moroccan village, two young brothers are given a rifle to protect their flock of sheep, in what quickly escalates into a tense, international conflict. These stories swirl into one another in ways both expected and surprising, each one picking up intensity until they collide in emotionally violent climax. But while each strand of Babel's complex structure is uncommonly tense and gorgeous, director Alejandro González Iñárritu ultimately fits each one into a too-tidy conclusion. CHAS BOWIE Regal Cinemas, etc.
Upon catching Steve Martin's soulless Pink Panther remake a couple weeks ago, I slammed down my drink, turned to my movie-watching companions and shouted "Blasphemous! Unclean! Drive the money changers out of the temple!" Which is to say, I talked rather quietly about how the first PP had the great Peter Sellers, which led to me monologing on his best role, Being There—the type of film that turns fools like (the old, obsolete) Steve Martin into pillars of fucking salt. Being There is a slow, long-panning (hilarious) social commentary that tells the story of a man named Chance (Sellers) raised outside of society, educated by television, then set out into the world when his benefactor dies. The people of Chance's Washington, DC are miserable, and they're looking for a savior, and they find one in Chance. As the world bends over backwards to do whatever they can for the guy—caring for him, kowtowing to him, heeding his foolish advice like wisdom, bringing him into POLITICS—we see an America that, although written about in 1979, isn't too different from ours. ADAM GNADE People's Co-Op.
Blood and Chocolate
It's a teenybopper horror flick that has something to do with really gay vampires/werewolves. Seriously. Like, gayer than Anne Rice gay. Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, January 26 for our review. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing.
Catch and Release
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
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.
Martin Scorsese's made a bunch of important movies. Movies that changed things, that define American cinema: Taxi Driver. Raging Bull. The Last Temptation of Christ. Goodfellas. That sweet music video for Michael Jackson's "Bad." So even though it's pretty goddamn great, Scorsese's latest, The Departed—an intense take on the cop thriller genre—can't live up to the expectations his IMDB page inspires. But while The Departed is nothing revolutionary, it is one hell of a genre film—smart and forceful and fun. ERIK HENRIKSEN Regal Cinemas, etc.
I like Beyoncé. I like musicals, too. So naturally, I was stoked to see Dreamgirls—I was already anticipating how great it would be to see Boo-yonce let loose on the big screen with the best voice in pop music. So you can imagine my immense disappointment when I wanted to bolt for the exit not a quarter of the way through Dreamgirls—and that's coming from someone who will contentedly sit through just about anything. Of course, I didn't leave the theater, and for the good of this review, subjected myself to crushing boredom and a musical score that equates "good singing" with "screaming as loud and as often as possible." MARJORIE SKINNER Regal Cinemas, etc.
The latest parody film in the vein of Scary Movie, Date Movie, etc. The film's publicist sent us an email that simply noted "Epic Movie will not be screened in advance anywhere." Yep. That's promising. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Like Aronofsky's exceptional films Pi and Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain is astounding, strange, and jarringly imaginative, and people will either love it or hate it. There's a loose story that ranges from 16th century Spain to an abstract, sci-fi future, one that follows variations on two characters (played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz) through a thousand years. But here, themes and emotions are more important than plot: Obsession, love, and death are all paired with Aronofsky's abstract creepiness and his stunning, bizarre, and lush visuals. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst.
The Good German
See review this issue.
College student Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton), and his girlfriend Grace (One Tree Hill's Sophia Bush) are on spring break, but their good times are soon spoiled when they help out stranded traveler John Ryder (the brilliant Sean Bean). Their good deed is rewarded with knife threats and attempted mutilation. Through some sort of sociopathic logic, Ryder proceeds to hunt them through the desert and endless highways, daring the youngsters to stop him. The strength of the original Hitcher was Rutger Hauer's deranged Ryder. There was never much of an explanation of why he was so fucked up—he just was, and that was scary as hell. But this remake doesn't have the confidence to let Sean Bean's Ryder scare the pants off us with his intensity, without resorting to "scary add-ons," like using Nine Inch Nails as the soundtrack to his stalking (ooooh, scary). COURTNEY FERGUSON Regal Cinemas, etc.
Admittedly, Inland Empire wasn't that much fun after the first viewing. The film is three hours long, and it's a long three hours. Plus it's shot on ugly digital video. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't see it—in fact, you should see it two or three times. Laura Dern plays Nikki Grace, an actress starring in a film that centers on an illicit affair between a rich Southern man (Justin Theroux) and his employee (Dern). But things are never what they seem in Lynchvania, and what follows is a metaphysical stew, spiced up with Lynch's trademark oddities like prostitutes dancing to Little Eva's "The Locomotion," mutant rabbit people in a laugh-tracked sitcom, and gypsy curses. The resulting mind-fuck will leave you a mental midget for days—if you thought Mulholland Drive left you in a thought-provoking fugue, you're about to be floored. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
Iraq in Fragments
A Sundance darling, Iraq in Fragments is a documentary wholly unlike the spate of Iraq documentaries that are piling up like so many war casualties. Instead of hyping up Bush's incompetent handling of the war with ham-fisted narration, Seattle filmmaker James Longley spent years getting to know his subjects, enabling him to tell very personal, intimate stories of Iraqis in distinct situations. The result is a powerful film that presents the effects of the US invasion on Iraqis in a way that makes all other attempts irrelevant. SCOTT MOORE Fox Tower 10.
Late Night Shopping
2001's "quirky urban comedy set in Glasgow." Not screened for critics. Living Room Theaters.
Letters From Iwo Jima
Clint Eastwood's smaller, subtitled, Japanese-centered companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers thankfully finds the filmmaker on much firmer ground. Although not without its share of warts—mainly due to an occasionally pokey flashback structure—there's an intimate, feverish immediacy to it that the previous film lacked. Respectful without being overly reverent, it provides the new perspective on WWII that the earlier film promised, with a look into another culture that goes far beyond mere outsider novelty or politically correct lip service. Here is a different take on the battlefield, one that provides a long-overdue illumination of the Greatest Generation's opposing image, as well as a compelling examination into the meaning of sacrifice and service when fighting an unwinnable war. Relevant in these times? Possibly. ANDREW WRIGHT Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinetopia, Fox Tower 10.
Little Children, based on Tom Perrotta's excellent 2004 novel, is one of those rare movies that probably won't piss off fans of the book: It's well cast and largely faithful to the novel's narrative, and Todd Field's direction captures the suburban landscape with as much perceptiveness and irony as Perrotta's prose—making the film an astute, well-made exploration of suburban dreams and delusions. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema.
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 psychodrama 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 Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinetopia, Fox Tower 10.
From IMDB.com: "A young girl's relationship with her imaginary friends resonates throughout her town in the Australian Outback." Okay, we've heard enough—the only Oz-centric movies we're even remotely interested in are Crocodile Dundee and The Rescuers Down Under. Well, those, and maybe some YouTube footage of the Crocodile Hunter dying. Hollywood Theatre.
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.
If raving reviews and a rapturous response at Cannes are to believed, Pan's Labyrinth is Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece. Set in post-civil war Spain, Labyrinth follows a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero); as post-war fascism dominates her life, she discovers an ancient forest presided over by a faun who's at once welcoming and sinister (Doug Jones). Descending into a world of myth, danger, and horror, Ofelia's story becomes twofold—roughly half of Labyrinth deals with historical drama, while the other explores the fantastic and symbolic. Largely, Labyrinth is breathtaking: Rich performances, stunning visuals, and an assured, original tone demonstrate how dear the material is to del Toro. ERIK HENRIKSEN Century Eastport 16, Cinema 21, Cinetopia.
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
The Brothers Quay—identical twins who direct incredible stop-motion animated films—are probably best known for their work on an animated segment of the biopic Frida. Or maybe you know them from their short film "Street of Crocodiles." Any which way, if you've heard of them then you most likely love their spooky, gloomy dark craft—and their new full-length feature, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, is chock-a-block with their signature style. The plot revolves around a female opera singer who's slain onstage, then abducted by an automaton-collecting madman who proceeds to animate her corpse. Meanwhile, a piano tuner is hired by the madman to tune a vast collection of automatons before a re-creation of the beautiful opera singer's abduction can be performed again. It's a bit convoluted, yes—but the plot is truly secondary to the beautiful dreamscapes and sense of dark foreboding. Don't miss it. COURTNEY FERGUSON Clinton Street Theater.
The Pursuit of Happyness
Happyness is the inevitable Christmas spirit-stirring tearjerker. Based on Chris Gardner's autobiography, it's a rags-to-riches tale of a homeless man and his young son in San Francisco during the early '80s. Destitute and desperate, Gardner (Will Smith) guilelessly enters a competitive, unpaid internship at a high-powered brokerage firm—eventually landing a job as a stockbroker, thereby embodying the ever-inspiring American Dream. I'll let you provide the quips about the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air crying because he has to sleep in a BART station bathroom. MARJORIE SKINNER Regal Cinemas, etc.
In this exploration of the queen's apparently heartless reaction during the week following Princess Diana's death in 1997, Mirren plays Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth II, with just enough respect without fawning the role to pieces. And she's surprisingly sexy. God save the queen! MATT DAVIS Regal Cinemas, etc.
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
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 Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Division Street.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
So who determines what ratings films receive—and thus decides what films get shown? The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) does, and it turns out they're dicks. With its stranglehold on Hollywood and theaters, the MPAA's process is so influential—yet so secretive—that it's the perfect subject for a documentary. Half of Not Yet Rated is great: Director Kirby Dick speaks with a fraction of the filmmakers who've been screwed by the system, deducing that the ratings system amounts to censorship. Alas, Dick insists on throwing himself—and his film—into the MPAA clusterfuck, even going so far as to hire a clueless "private eye" to track down the anonymous raters. Not Yet Rated will change the way you watch and think of films—unfortunately, it'll also make you wish it was a better movie. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
A bunch of C-level actors (Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Joe Pantoliano, that poor bastard from The Passion of the Christ) wake up in an abandoned warehouse, without their memories and with a whole lot of pouting and posturing. They try and figure out who's who, where they are, etc., all while ripping off Reservoir Dogs and about a billion other, better movies; it's all about as interesting and deep as one would imagine being stuck in an actual warehouse would be. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
In a role that may not be light years from reality, Peter O'Toole stars as Maurice, an aged actor whose former good looks, fame, and lady-killing ways have been replaced by emasculating medical exams and slow days exchanging witticisms and reminiscences with his fellow aged actor friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) over medication and whiskey. Upheaval arrives in the unlikable form of Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the sour, bratty young daughter of Ian's niece who has come to London from the country to live with him as an assistant. Maurice finds himself in love with her, an attraction that is at once revolting, sweet, sad, inappropriate, funny, and undeserving. The slow, moving Venus is a waltz between two people at opposite ends of life, neither of who are without reproach, but who are able to make the awkwardness of their present situations uniquely graceful. Venus' humor and tragedy come from an unvarnished look at the disconnect age demands of the body from the heart, a situation so sad you have to laugh. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
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 Century Eastport 16, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.