You don't have to watch an episode of The X-Files to know there're a lot of fishy things going on. As Dennis Nyback, the maestro of underground programming, tells it, there's an unspoken history of censorship within our supposedly free society. If you want proof of these claims, he's got it. His world-renowned program of banned Warner Bros. cartoons shows a past that Ted Turner and his money-counting cronies would rather you not know about. From anti-Japanese propaganda films to racist morality tales showing poor black folk the way to heavenly salvation, Bugs and his pals weren't always as enlightened as they were in Space Jam. So, whether you view this collection as a reminder of an America we'd like to forget or with a knee-jerk political correctness typical of this uptight town, you should all think twice next time before you shell out the dollars for boxer shorts with some cute corporate icon emblazoned on the crotch. You never know what kind of a scumbag rabbit your money may be buying carrots for. (Jamie S. Rich) Clinton Street Theatre
* Before Night Falls
The real life story of Cuban writer Reynaldo Arenas from his childhood in Cuba to joining Fidel Castro's revolutionaries to later being persecuted for homosexuality. A politcal film which centers on one man's loneliness. Koin Center
Boys Life 3
A collection of homo-riffic shorts revolving around the always fascinating topic of gayness, including Majorettes in Space, #30, and a film by Jason Gould (the son of Barbra Streisand!). Hollywood Theatre
* Charlie's Angels
I swore it could never be done, but somehow they've taken one of the worst shows in TV history, put in two of the worst actors in Hollywood (Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz), and come up with a comedic gem--and dare I say it?--one of the most hilarious films of the year. In this updated version of the TV show, director McG tips his hat to the classic T&A detective show of the '70s and then has a field day tearing each of its conventions down. The cast is uniformly terrific, especially Cameron Diaz, who plays her role like a giggly, girlish sociopath. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Kennedy School Theatre, Laurelhurst Theater
* The Charm Bracelet
The Charm Bracelet, that local, populist, roving microcinema, expands internationally this time around, while still carrying the flag for Portland filmmakers, both famous and totally unknown. Don't miss Thorsten Fleisch, a filmmaker from Germany whose work is purportedly mindblowing. Other entries from faraway: Susan Kim, Rebecca Meyers, David Phillips, and Scott Stark. Portland's respresented by members/organizers of Emulsion Trough, Tiny Picture Club, and more, including Micki Poklar, Laura Klein, Kevin T. Allen, and Ahren Lutz... Still not impressed? Christ! Then maybe you'll like installations from John Ryczek, V. Sulzer, the Mercury's own Pablo de Ocampo, Brad Adkins, MC Matson, and Mark Allen Rogers. Or a musical accompaniment to a new Mumbleboy Flash Animation piece by ADR/MGRN Superstars? I think they've covered all the bases, here. If you're still bored, check your pulse. Disjecta
Today I'm not weak. The film critic in me has control over my emotions; it can and will repress my wolflike desire to fill this review with hungry words that praise the celestial beauty of Juliette Binoche. That being said, the movie itself is unremarkable, and has absolutely nothing new to offer: Yes, organized religion is oppressive; yes, uncouth village drunks beat their wives; yes, Gypsies love to play Duke Ellington's "Caravan" on their guitars. As for South America, of course it has many mysteries, and Europe, senescent and dreary Europe, has no mysteries at all. Finally, women are more spirited, more earthy, than men. These are not new themes. We have seen them in one form or another in movies ranging from Like Water for Chocolate to Pleasantville. (Charles Mudede) Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Division Street, Fox Tower 10, Hilltop, Lake Twin Cinema, Lloyd Cinemas, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Tigard Cinemas
* Cinema Paradiso
If Fellini were to have directed Disney movies, we would have had this movie decades earlier. Director Giuseppe Tomatore spins his own cleaned up and emotionally skin-deep autobiography about life in post-WW II Italy. An endearing young boy constantly bothers a dottering old movie house projectionist until the elderly man relents and shows the young imp the trick of the trade. Laurelhurst Theater
* Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Legendary warrior Chow Yun Fat can never declare his love for fellow martial-arts expert Michelle Yeoh. Instead, he entrusts her with Green Destiny, his nearly magical sword. But in the dark of night a hooded thief steals it, which leads to a fight held mostly in midair. An attempt to wed emotionally reticent drama with the exhilarating freedom of Hong Kong-genre filmmaking, but director Ang Lee can't quite pull off the combination; for too long a time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's shifting gears only jam. The film finds its rhythm and earns the accolades it has received once it leaves the stars behind and gives its heart over to the young and engaging Zhang Ziyi, as the aristocratic daughter of privilege who opts instead for the dangerous yet thrilling occupation of thief. (Bruce Reid) Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema, Lloyd Cinemas, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Tigard Cinemas, Wilsonville
* Dancer in the Dark
Lars von Trier's new film may be an self-absorbed intellectual trainwreck, but Bjork is fucking awesome! Hollywood Theatre, Laurelhurst Theater
Down To Earth
Chris Rock finds his way into the body of a chubby, old white guy in this loose remake of Heaven Can Wait, which employs the Mercury's favorite cinematic phenomenon: the Ol' Switcheroo! Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99, Clackamas Town Center, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Tigard Cinemas, Vancouver Plaza , Wilsonville
* Film by Michael Annus
As part of the Porta-Party benefit for Dignity Village, a film made by Portland's own Michael Annus will be shown, along with musicians, fun, and admirable intentions. Stumptown Coffee Roasters
A kid from the Bronx excels at both basketball and composition, befriends a hermit writer, undergoes a crisis from which the writer must extract him, thereby helping the writer overcome his own reclusive blah blah blah. (Barley Blair) Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Koin Center, Lloyd Cinemas, Moreland Theater, Movies on TV, Tigard Cinemas, Vancouver Plaza , Wilsonville
The Gift is about a woman, Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett), who has a special and unusual gift: She's psychic. She uses this gift to help the community. Then! She starts seeing bad stuff. A murder occurs. She uses her gift to solve the murder. It's just plain weird that Blanchett took this role; she's a beautiful lead in any film, but she does not save films. And she especially can't save this one. (Paula Gilovich) 82nd Avenue, Kennedy School Theatre, Mission Theater, Washington Square Center
The joys of eating human flesh are again on parade in this sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. With Julianne Moore as a pot roast! Broadway Metroplex, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99, City Center 12, Clackamas Town Center, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Cinemas, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, St. John's Theater, Tigard Cinemas, Vancouver Plaza , Westgate, Wilsonville
Head Over Heels
Yet another Freddie Prinze Jr. movie. This time co-starring Monica Potter, the actress who got offed in Patch Adams (how's that for a claim to fame?). Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Mall, Washington Square Center
Director Giuseppe Tornatore spun childhood nostalgia into international box-office gold with Cinema Paradiso (1988). With Malena, he tries to repeat that success by making an art-house Porky's set in Sicily during World War II. Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro), not even a teenager but wanting to grow up quick, starts hanging out with the older kids who ogle Malena (Monica Bellucci), a beautiful woman whose husband is off at war. Actually, the whole town ogles Malena, to the point where she's been unfairly painted as the town slut. Renato thinks he's different from the townsfolk, but she's never more than his masturbatory fantasy; a fact made distastefully literal by the end of the film. Pretty cinematography and a pretty girl do not make up for the ugly, voyeuristic core of this film. (Andy Spletzer) Koin Center
If a movie about the F.B.I. infiltrating a beauty pageant stars Sandra Bullock and Michael Caine, but all anyone is looking forward to is William Shatner's hammy turn as a tacky host, isn't it time for Hollywood to rethink its priorities? On the upside, perhaps this role as a beauty pageant contestant will persuade Miss Bullock to finally invest in some mustache bleach. Evergreen Parkway, Lloyd Mall, Vancouver Plaza
* O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Set in Depression-era Mississippi, George Clooney stars as Everett Ulysses McGill, a suave and well-groomed petty criminal doing hard time on a chain gang. Shackled to Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), he convinces them to join him in escaping by promising to split a fortune in buried treasure with them. (Andy Spletzer) Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower 10, Tigard Cinemas
Sean Penn's third directorial effort stars Jack Nicholson as a retiring police detective obsessed with solving the rape-murder of a seven-year-old girl. I've always hated those people that obsess over a band's first album or an artist's early years, but I must admit, neither of Penn's recent works have been able to live up to his first film, The Indian Runner. Nicholson gives a better-than-average "Jack Nicholson" performance, but he has become so much of a caricature of himself that it's hard to enjoy his acting anymore. (Pablo de Ocampo) Cinema 99, Eastgate, Washington Square Center, Westgate
* The Prisoner
The Mission is spotlighting this terrific cult television series starring Patrick McGoohan as a retired spy who finds himself imprisoned in a very mysterious village. A guaranteed marijuana freakout! Mission Theater
Recess: School's Out
Supposedly, we are living in a Golden Age of Cartoons. This new film from Disney makes it look more like the plague years. Then again, perhaps it's brilliant! Please tell us if that's so. Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99, City Center 12, Clackamas Town Center, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Vancouver Plaza , Westgate, Wilsonville
Road to Redemption
A couple discover some stolen mob money, and do the logical thing: gamble it all away! Waitasecond...that's not logical! They're in big trouble! 82nd Avenue, Lloyd Mall, Milwaukie 3 Theater, Movies on TV, St. John's Theater
Save the Last Dance
Finally! A multi-racial Dirty Dancing! A midwestern honky moves to the big city, and hooks up with a smooth talking brutha from the South Side. Are we all clear on this? Great. EVERYBODY DANCE! Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99, Division Street, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Vancouver Plaza, Westgate
Jason Biggs is about to marry "the wrong girl," and his two rowdy buddies (Jack Black and Steve Zahn) will stop at nothzzzzzzzzzzzz. Trapped in a shamelessly derivative mess that retreads the nun-lovin' fun of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, they struggle to answer the question, "Women: Manipulative and emasculating, or vapid and pliable?" Judging by Silverman's sizable kitsch insurance policy, the accountant who approved this one knew it would take an omnipresent Neil Diamond to ensure the assloads of box office returns this film will undoubtedly make. You've seen this one before, sadly. (Jason Pagano) Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99, City Center 12, Clackamas Town Center, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Vancouver Plaza , Washington Square Center, Wilsonville
Shadow of the Vampire
John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe star as director F.W. Murnau and actor Max Schreck in this period piece about the filming of the classic silent horror flick Nosferatu. The plot is about as complicated as a Berenstein Bear book, and except for Dafoe's inspired and hilarious performance, you should probably wait to see it until it's at the cheap seats. (Julianne Shepherd) 82nd Avenue, Fox Tower 10
Guy Ritchie (a.k.a. Mr. Madonna) knows how to use a camera like nobody else. Too bad he doesn't know how to make a film. The technique is clear: heaps of colorful characters walking around in nicely lit areas doing nasty things, throw in a few twists, pile on a few more characters and a lot more nasty things, a couple more twists, and then you're done. (Jamie S. Rich) Broadway Metroplex, Century Eastport 16, City Center 12, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Cinemas, Movies on TV, Washington Square Center
Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation
The impressarios of independent animation return with "a whole shitload of new films" that, unfortunately, struggle to provide even a quarter-shitload of humor beyond the same old sex, drug, and grandparent gags that dominate this year's offerings. As always, if you're really, really high, it will undoubtedly be the funniest shit you've seen all night. (Jason Pagano) Cinema 21
* State and Main
Alec Baldwin, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and David Paymer descend on a small Vermont town to make a movie, bringing their sophisticated mores with them. The town end is held down by Charles Durning, Clark Gregg, Ricky Jay, Patti LuPone, Matt Malloy, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Julia Stiles... Do you begin to see a problem here? The cast is as fixedly big-city as a traffic jam. Though to tell you the truth, I was laughing too hard to worry about small inaccuracies. David Mamet has said that he was thinking of Preston Sturges when he put this film together, and it's a worthy successor to the Master. (Barley Blair) Koin Center
Sometimes the soiling of a film comes with one stroke, one inconsequential scene that because it was left unedited, the whole film is denied. I argue that Sweet November should be denied by all of you on this basis: Keanu Reeves, the workaholic ad exec, is trying to perform his American duty of reinventing the hot dog. In this scene, Keanu is running on his treadmill, sweating bullets in his modern apartment and thinking, like he always is, of hot dogs. He pops off his mill jerkily and bounds toward the microwave. Keanu pops it open and then hunts and spears the microwaved hot dog with a fork. And then, sweaty Keanu puts the sweaty hot dog in his mouth. That's when it was over for me. (Paula Gilovich) 82nd Avenue, Cinema 99, City Center 12, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Cinemas, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Tigard Cinemas, Vancouver Plaza, Wilsonville
Like a search engine laboring for information on "drug trade," "Mexican cartel," and "survival," Traffic pulls together three remotely connected stories about users and dealers, both in high and low places. What makes Traffic the most sophisticated narrative structure so far in this new genre of storytelling is that it does not bother to link stories with overlapping characters, or even around seminal events. Instead, the characters gravitate around keywords: greed, loyalty, self-preservation. The result is a nervous and jumpy, yet broad-based, essay on drugs in North America. (Phil Busse) 82nd Avenue, Division Street, Koin Center, Lloyd Cinemas, Milwaukie 3 Theater, Movies on TV, Tigard Cinemas, Vancouver Plaza
On the surface, this thriller about five friends suddenly victimized by someone they all spurned in high school seems to have it all. Unfortunately, director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) relies too much on horror film cliches (look for that inevitable silent hand on the shoulder, among other old standbys) and dissipates whatever meager suspense the movie might have held. The film also stars Marley Shelton and Jessica Capshaw (step-daughter of Steven Spielberg). (D.K. Holm) 82nd Avenue, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Westgate
The Wedding Planner
Mary Fiore (Jennifer Lopez) is the baddest-assest Wedding Planner that ever there was. The sad truth, though, is that poor gorgeous Mary can't seem to find a date! One day, outta nowhere, a runaway dumpster is just about to mow Mary down, and who's there to save her, but Matthew McCon! Before you know it they're dancing under the stars, then he vanishes, only to magically reappear as howdid you know? the groom-to-be of Mary's latest client! O. My. Gawd! Cinema 99, City Center 12, Clackamas Town Center, Division Street, Eastgate, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Cinemas, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Tigard Cinemas, Vancouver Plaza , Westgate, Wilsonville
* You Can Count on Me
This is the sort of well-crafted, nutritious drama that gets critics burned out on adrenalized hoopla all tied up in knots. It's fine work, featuring Laura Linney's best performance since Congo (or maybe even before) as a single mom in the quaint burg of Scottsville. Her pothead drifter of a brother, also well played by Mark Ruffalo, shows up, spurring an eventual, earnest realization of the importance of family. Matthew Broderick has an amusing role as Linney's new boss, who says things like "I like paperwork." The latest product of the Culkin Family Factory Farm for Cuteness, Rory, plays the precocious eight-year-old. Playwright Kenneth Lonergan has, for his first film, created a movie for grown-ups that hardly ever surprises, but somehow that's OK. (Marc Mohan) City Center 12, Koin Center
Adventures of Aligermaa
The story of 8-year-old Aligermaa, a Mongolian girl who loves riding horses.
A cinema-lover takes on South African gangsters who love Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
A poor corn farmer is forced into desperate measures to provide for his family.
This Russian mobster tale takes place in Moscow and Chicago, focusing on the underworlds of both.
Based on the true story of Mark "Chopper" Read, a con man who chops up his friends and lives to write a book about it.
Divided We Fall
A Czech couple harbor a concentration camp escapee from the Nazis.
Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler
Part two of the Fritz Lang classic; Dr. Mabuse uses mind control to build his eeeeevil empire.
The Last Resort
A woman from Moscow and her son find themselves trapped in England after claiming politcal asylum.
Sybille is a 30-year-old wallflower wooed by a no-good man, but she isn't as gullible as one may suspect...
Looking for Alibrandi
This average and somewhat simple coming-of-age story is well made enough, with a watertight script and a strong sense of place. Indeed, as a tourist trap, the film actually works exceptionally well, providing a breezy, widely accessible glimpse of Sydney, Australia's urban charms, including some lyrical shots of the spine-tingling Harbor Bridge. In fact, most of the direction is admirably well handled, from the superb casting--who can't adore Greta Scacchi?--to the universally strong acting (especially newcomer Pia Miranda), to the playful camera work. So what a shame it is that the MISERABLE FUCKING EVER-PRESENT POP-RADIO SCORE WITH U2 SONGS TO PROVIDE "DEPTH" ruins the film. (Jamie Hook)
Me, You, Them
Sexy hijinx ensue when a lusty wife cuckolds her older husband--thrice!
No Place to Go
Hannelore Elsner plays Hanna, a super liberal German writer who's also a babe. When the Berlin wall comes down she's devestated and her ideals are shattered. This is the story of Hanna trying to pick up the pieces.
A disturbed man's life is revealed irregularly, in flashbacks.
A Run for Money
An honest man is sorely tempted when he stumbles upon a bag of cash.
Seven Songs from the Tundra
Life is hard in Northern Russia--just ask the Nenet people, who figure prominently in the titular shorts which comprise this paean to pre-post Communist life.
Waiting for the Messiah
This story chronicles the life of two men from Buenos Aires who have to deal with financial hardship.
The Widow of St. Pierre
It's 1850 on the isle of St. Pierre, a French territory off of Newfouldand, where this love story takes place about a condemned murdered on death row and his sweety.
You're the One
A poor little rich girl from Madrid ventures to provinces to be among the "real people."
Mexico City is explored via three different perspectives and a car crash.
Angels of the Universe
Th story of a schizophrenic man who joins together with his other schizo friends and tries to conquer the world.
The Big Animal
A Polish comedy about the Sawicki family and their pet camel that gets them ostritized from the community.
Bride of Fire
Ahlah, a young student doctor, is the titular flaming bride, consumed not by literal fire (at least not initially), but by the friction caused by being torn between the man she loves-a doddering professor--and her appointed beau--an illiterate cousin. Which would you follow, your head or your heart? C'mon, which? Stop dodging the question!
In 18th century Korea, a governor's son falls in love with the daughter of a courtesan.
* The Gleaners and I
Director Agnes Varda, while somewhat underappreciated among her contemporaries, still stands as one of the great film artists to come out of the French New Wave. The Gleaners and I is a short, often humorous, and always intelligent meditation on the people in society that forage for their goods in others refuse. Varda, armed with a single video camera, travels throughout France interviewing trash-pickers, farmers, dumpster divers, and scavengers to tell the story of how an overly affluent, wasteful society and the resourceful ways in which people can live outside of that. All the while, she retains much of the spontaneity and and free-form thinking that was at the heart of the New Wave; much like her contemporary, Chris Marker, she uses the objective documentation of a topic to reflect in on her own life, giving the film a personal slant that sets it aside from what one is used to seeing in nonfiction film. The Gleaners and I is by far one of the most beautiful, intelligent, and finely crafted films, documentary or not, that PIFF has to offer. (Pablo de Ocampo)
Handful of Grass
A cab driver becomes mentor to a young Kurdish drug runner.
I Prefer the Sound of the Sea
Rosaria is a super religious teenager with no mother or father. He meets Luigi who's super-rich and the two teach each other a few things.
* In the Mood for Love
The most achingly beautiful film in years. Jilted spouses always find themselves circling one painful step away from seeking comfort in each other's arms. Every moment of this film snaps with perfection. See review this issue.
Life is a Fatally Transmitted Disease
This is about an aging physician, Tomasz, and the existensial crisis he finds himself in when he discovers he has an untreatable cancer. Krzysztof Zanussi's polish morality tale avoids becoming an overly dramatic and sentimental mess that it could have been; rather, it follows Tomasz through his mundane day to day life in the hospital, his relationship with his ex-wife, conversations with the local priest, and new friendship with a young medical student. While the acting (particularly Zbigniew Zapasiewicz as Tomasz), script, and direction are all quite good, the film misses the mark somewhere along the line. (Pablo de Ocampo)
Marshal Tito's Spirit
Tourists invade Croatia to find the ghost of former Yugoslavian leader, Marshal Tito.
Perhaps the most superlative Hong-Kong gangster film to date, The Mission pits art against bullet, directed with restrained elegance by the leathery Johnnie To. Overkill?
A Yugoslavian basketball player fixes up a basketball court while NATO bombs his town.
* When the Rain Lifts
The sword is a tool of little use outside war, a truism all too obviously true for one Ihei Misawa, unemployed Samurai, in this hopefully-titled posthumous Kurosawa epic. What he does with his sword, and what the director does with Kurosawa's script, comprise what can only be described as a finally finished work.