Here is something great that could only happen in Portland: Some DIY kids affiliated with Gracie's Birdcage came together over Memorial Day and made a two-day documentary about, as they explain it, "spaceships, German hit-men, TV-starved aliens, and wanna-be gods and goddesses." Then, for the next three months, they edited the movie, and gave it the very postmodern title, "the 2000-hour documentary: the Making of the 48-hour movie." They'll be showing it all over Portland for the next week or so.
We swear, it's not just for women. See review this issue.
Afghanistan Year 1830
This documentary is like watching a photo still stewing in a pan of developing solution: Filming started just one week after 9/11. Following two surgeons as they try to help set hospitals and care, this film helps fill in many of the blanks left by USA Today's rah-rah America coverage. It tells about the smoldering devastation and a chance to re-build a nation.
All About Lily Chou Chou
Disaffected Japanese youth take refuge from schoolyard tormentors, uncomfortable sexual awakenings, and the fear of death (i.e., life) in the super-flat chatroom dream world of pop star Lily Chou-Chou. The film is based on an "interactive Internet novel," which sounds like a "non-cleaning poisonous toothpaste," so let's hope the film transcends its origins. See review this issue.
All the Queen's Men
It's WWII Germany and American soldiers have been instructed to steal an enigma machine, a decoder that will help end the war. When they arrive at the factory where the decoders are made, they discover that the staff is entirely women... so what do they do, of course, dress up as women themselves. Starring Matt LeBlanc from Friends.
An Angel at My Table
A woman who grows up in a poor family is always considered abnormal. After she gets a teaching degree, she is locked up in a mental institution, but finds success when she starts writing books.
A propaganda-tinged drama, directed by Alexander Dovzhenko, about World War I strikes on the Russian homefront. Did we mention that Alias has its season debut tonight?
Ballistic: Ecks v. Sever
Seeing as how only ten people appear to have seen this flick opening weekend, this here review will be necessarily brief: Lucy Liu is, of course, hot. Antonio Banderas appears to be asleep throughout the film. And the director, "KAOS," appears to be harboring a substantial grudge against train boxcars, since at least 20 or incinerated during the film's finale. In short, yes, it's pretty bad. (Bradley Steinbacher)
The Banger Sisters
After her daughter's eye-catching turn as a young groupie in Almost Famous, Goldie Hawn plays an aging one in this cloying, aggravating piece of false, middlebrow claptrap. One thing in Hawn's favor is the accuracy of her portrayal: Her Suzette is a skanky, surgically enhanced, sub-hippie with no redeeming qualities except, in most circumstances, the willingness to fuck strangers. After being fired from her bartending job (for drinking on the job! Whatta buncha fascists!) she road trips to Phoenix, where her former partner in fashionably random sex with musicians Lavinia (Susan Sarandon, squandered), has sold out to become a rich, anal-retentive soccer mom. The main problem is the script's rank substitution of groupiedom for actual liberation, which makes any potential insights about friendship, growing old, or even sexual freedom, pale next to the unshakable image of writer/director Bob Dolman jerking off as he wrote.
Barbershop is about a young man (Ice Cube) who reluctantly runs a barbershop he inherited from his recently departed father. He has big ambitions and so does not recognize the social importance of the small business. The best parts of the movie take place in the barbershop--the locus of laughter and general idiocy. Cedric the Entertainer, who plays the patriarch of the barbershop, is the primary generator of this humor, which is often mixed with comments on the state of things in black America. None of his assessments of past or current events are thought through clearly; in fact, the most complete or sophisticated argument in the movie concerns the scientific difference between good booty and bad booty. (Charles Mudede)
Beauty and the Beast
A restored version of the 1946 classic film.
If National Geographic got together with the producers of This Old House and made a movie about BDSM (Bondage/Dominace/Sadism/Masochism) it would probably look something like this. Even though I'm a bit on the vanilla side, I was totally intrigued with the over 100 interviews and graphic demonstrations of such lovely pastimes as fisting, knife play, flogging, and breath control. The tone is fun, informational, and titillating, what more could you want late on a Saturday night, except maybe a fist up your rectum. (Brian Brait )
The Cedar Bar
This is a postmodernists wet dream: During the course of a night of hard drinking, angry artists confront an arrogant critic. Oh wait, it gets better. Throughout the film are woven snipets from porn movies, newsreels, and old TV shows. Some sort of social commentary about intellectualism and artistic temperament. Huh?
Crop Circles: Quest for Truth
Director Gazecki interviews specialists in various fields, including biophysics, mathematics, biology, and history. Rather than presenting an explanation of the origin of crop circles and then attempting to create a film that conforms to the original thesis, he selects the soundest factual evidence. At no point does the film claim to know who or what causes the formations. Aside from its educational aspects, Crop Circles includes spectacular footage of the circles. Mostly found in England, they provide striking, enormous patterns against lush, pastoral backdrops. The soundtrack is majestic and expansive, complimenting the awesomeness of the massive, geometrically perfect images. It also reflects the lack of fear with which the circles are approached. (Marjorie Skinner )
Daddy and Papa
See review this issue.
Fatty Arbuckle/Buster Keaton Shorts
Poor, poor Fatty Arbuckle. What a horrible name! And, oh yeah, that whole blacklisting thing. The OJ Simpson of the 1910s, Arbuckle (and he was a wee chubby) was one of the funniest sight-gag guys ever. Three short films are shown tonight. Arbuckle directs and stars in the 1920 "The Garage," which also stars a young Buster Keaton as bon-bon boy's sidekick. Live scoring!
Earth is set in 1947 Lahore, on the eve of India's independence. The story is told through the eyes of Shanta, the nanny for a wealthy family's 8-year-old daughter. Pursued by three different elves--er, suitors--Shanta finds love becoming increasingly dangerous when religious and political differences blow Lahore's peaceful world to hell. That's love for ya. This is the second in director Deepa Mehta's element-themed series (the first was Fire).
Flicker Super-8 & 16mm Film Festival
Calling all flim geeks! In its third year, the Flicker Film Club is a chance for teens to meet-and-greet filmmakers, and chat all geek-like about films.
The Four Feathers
After turning tail at the brink of war, a branded Brit coward goes deep undercover in the Sudan hoping to save his friends and regain his honor. Premises don't come much more crackerjack, but this initially ambitious version of an oft-told tale unfortunately seems to have undergone severe trimming late in the game, scattering both character motivation and important plot points to the desert winds. (As it stands, the only clear marker of time's passage lies in star Heath Ledger's amazing Chia hair.) An intermittently engaging study in derring-do, nudged along by director Shekhar (Elizabeth) Kapur's sense of grandiose scale and some indecently lovely camerawork. This may have not been a great movie at epic length, but it would surely have resonated better than this plucked, wandering concoction. Kate Hudson glows, as always. (Andrew Wright )
Gangster No. 1
See review this issue.
The Good Girl
Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) works at the Retail Rodeo. She has worked there for many many years, her husband and his buddy paint houses for a living and smoke a lot of pot. Justine is sad, bored, and unhappy, until... a weird young guy calling himself Holden (Jake Gyllenhall) befriends her. From there, it's all down hill. (Brian Brait)
The film shadows nine women in 21 weeks of queer- friendly therapy. The script is improvised, and actors include Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, Nomy Lamm, and others. The characters are very different--from a hypochondriac, a born-again Christian, a tramp, and a bigot.
Guardian of the Frontier
See review this issue.
Five people who all have the same birthday are also all in crisis. Ron is a preacher who is trying to help gay men become straight, yet secretly watches gay porn himself. Tracy is hiding her homosexuality from her conservative mother. Javed is on the verge of deportation to Pakistan and will have to leave his lover behind. Jim is an overweight gay man who is the top rep for a weight-loss telemarketing company, and Kelly is on the verge of a meltdown because of a recent breakup. All of them must face their issues as their birthday approaches.
Igby Goes Down
A melancholic comedy that captures the privileged heartbreak of Salinger far better than The Royal Tenenbaums ever could. Igby, a preppie with a punk streak, gets kicked out of his last boarding school, and takes to Manhattan, where he squats purposelessly, has sex with junkies and JAPs, and basically seethes, until life more or less insists that he make a move. A sharply-observed film down to the upturned collars and half-Windsor knots, Igby gets to the heart of its characters without either indicting or apologizing for its cultural framework. (Sean Nelson)
Independent Video Screening
Ray Daniels, Mike Paulus, Chris Larson, and the Brothers Goombah show their films while you guzzle beer.
The brilliant British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet), a woman who lives most decidedly in the world of ideas, succumbs to the dementia of Alzheimer's, "sailing into darkness" as she so rightly puts it. The story, as constructed by director Richard Eyre, flips back and forth between past and present, evidently mimicking the erratic thread that memory becomes in the hands of the disease. This film turns into something more suited to the small screen, however, because of the relentless sentimentalization and lack of ambition, in a story about an ambitious woman without a sentimental bone in her body. (Emily Hall)
Ke Kulana He Mahu
A documentary showing the negative influences of Western religion had in breeding intolerance and homophobia in Hawaii.
See review this issue.
Lost Souls: Four Stories From the Edge
Four short films including Saturn's Return about two boys (Barney and Dimi) in love who discover themselves on a trip to visit Barney's dying father. Touch is the story of a teenage boy held captive for a number of years, and about his resulting emotional problems of the existing problems of his captor. In Roberta Loved, a 350-pound secretary with a brain tumor falls for a hustler on the day she is supposed to be euthanized. Finally, Rory is about a high school pizza boy who faces his sexuality when he meets an older man in the midst of a nervous breakdown.
Lovely and Amazing
This follow-up to the similarly graceful Walking and Talking is a shrewdly respectful character study of a fractured family of women trying to ride herd on their raging neuroses. Fantastic acting and sensitive writing underscore the simple DV directorial approach. (Sean Nelson)
A relevant film about an Iranian teenager living in New Jersey who faces prejudice after American hostages are held in Iran.
When her sister dies, workaholic chef Martha must step out of the kitchen and into the real world to care for her surviving niece. She's a fish out of water with real family, but feels like she's swimming with sharks at the restaurant, where the chef that's been hired to help during this rough period has charmed her entire staff. Beautiful food shots, clever montages, and the sparks that fly between chefs counterbalance a hurried conclusion. (Sarah Sternau )
Mr. Smith Gets a Hustler
Bobby Blue is not only the darling of his psuedo-pimp, Mr. Lapp, he also becomes the object of the ominous travelling businessman, Mr. Smith. After several encounters between Blue and Smith, however, it becomes clear that Smith wants more than just some bootay.
An experimental film by Jeannie Paske, using animated paper cutouts, text, and minimal footage. Ambient score by M. Cooper.
No director in the universe (with the possible exception of John Waters) could save a bad novel like Possession, which was authored by A. S. Byatt. It's the one novel Hollywood should have left in its original condition: a bad book. Now it has a second life as a bad movie. (Charles Mudede)
A documentary that questions faith in the face of extreme circumstance. The director, Macky Alston, returns to his old seminary school after his close friend and former classmate dies. He then interviews people who have found faith despite tragedy (one girl who is inspired by Buddhism after her cousin is murdered and her father kills himself), and those whose hardships have left them shunned by their church (a mother whose son dies of AIDS).
Gregory Peck (again!) and Audrey Hepburn star in this breezy little trifle about a slumming princess and an undercover reporter in one of the world's most beautiful cities.
Chandler and Hugh Grant's girlfriend unite for a rollicking, Vicodin-fueled road adventure that has something to do with a million dollars, divorce papers, and purple cowboy hats. A warning: it sucks.
A comedy exploring that which unites all great nations, including ours, in this modern age: electoral fraud. This charmer from Iran features the traditional buddy-cop teaming of female voting official and male soldier-chauffeur as they travel to a distant island in order to rock the vote. Satirical targets include elections in general, Iranian elections specifically, and attitudes toward women most of all.
Sex and Lucia
After reading local writer Lorenzo Alvarez's novel, Lucia shows up at a bar where he drinks, pledges her love to him, and says that they should move in together immediately. He accepts, and so their intensely sexual and loving relationship begins. When complications arise, their relationship hits a breaking point and tragedy strikes. Lucia then flees in order to uncover Lorenzo's past. The scenery in the film is beautiful, the acting is great, and Lucia (played by Paz Vega) is reason enough to drop the six bucks, considering she's one of the most beautiful women ever. Ultimately, the film is motivating--it posits that destiny exists, but you have to go out and find it.
In M. Night Shyamalan's most recent masterpieces, his obsessions with Philadelphia and the presence of God shine through, making the movie not only a thriller about crop circles and ohhh aliens, but also an interesting meditation on some deep stuff.
some real heat
See review this issue.
Special Sneak Preview
A mystery film by a director who has recently relocated to Portland from New York and who has won awards at Sundance and Cannes.
Student Video & Animation Fest
The showcase from a film geek summer camp. More than 50 local kids between 5th and 12th grades made animated films. Now they want to show them.
Sweet Home Alabama
See review this issue.
A teenage Fatal Attraction, where doggy Erika Christenesen seduces cutie Jesse Bradford into humping her, even though he's got the best girlfriend in the whole world. When he doesn't want to hump anymore, she inexplicably sets out to kill him and everyone he knows.
An ex-Special Forces behemoth is hired to kidnap the daughter of a Chinese crime boss. Written by Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita) and Cory Yuen (Romeo Must Die) directs.
Jackie Chan, a chauffeur, becomes a secret agent after he puts on a special tuxedo. Even worse, it also stars Jennifer Love Hewitt.