While this plot easily falls into the "underdog comes from behind" genre, it's raised up a notch or two by the gritty, naturalistic direction of Curtis Hanson (L.A.Confidential) However, as an actor, Eminem is just not present. Even when he's in his element at the MC battles, his eyes barely flicker. And this is where the real problem with 8 Mile lies. Eminem is an amazing rapper, and we don't really get to see him strut his stuff until the climax of the film. By then, we're so uninterested in whether the character succeeds or not, we're robbed of the emotional high that comes with the ending of, say, The Karate Kid. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
This film, about the sordid mid-life of Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane, is about his exit from wholesome family life and entrance into a life of mad humping, videotaped sex orgies, boozing, and getting flabby--but sadly, it's not one bit exciting. The story has no arc and plays more like a plot summary for people who've heard the legend a hundred times--whoever that is? (Katie Shimer)
Bloody Sunday is a faux-documentary account of January 30, 1972, when British troops fired on Northern Irish civilians, killing 13 people and wounding 14 others. Propaganda, as a valid art form, can be wicked fun, but this film's determined drabness is no fun at all. With its gag-making handheld camera and its austerely non-acting Irish actors, Bloody Sunday tries to suggest that it's a serious moral inquiry. How can we tell it's not? Because one side is all good and the other is Eeee-vil (George W. Bush please take note). (Barley Blair)
Bowling for Columbine
A film about a huge subject, desperately grasping for a thesis. For a while, Moore seems on to something--a culture of fear endemic to our country--but in the end, he shortchanges the psychological complexity in favor of cheap shots. It's too bad, because the movie and the director have so much momentum; Moore, for all his pomposity, is the only man alive who could get a film like this made and seen. He clearly cares, and considering his influence with lockstep liberals, he had the opportunity to say something great here. He almost does, but ultimately doesn't. Can't, maybe. Because he isn't really a social critic, he's a demagogue. His art is being a self-righteous smartass, which makes it all the more frustrating when you agree with him. (Sean Nelson)
The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari
Like a dream that seems too real or a reality that seems too surreal, this 1920 film is an early study in surreal filmmaking. After a psychic predicts that a man will die before dawn--and he is murdered--the psychic becomes a prime suspect. Chase scenes, circus sideshows, unexplained coincidences, this film is one of the first attempts to put dreams on film.
The reason this documentary will stand as a work of greatness for decades to come is simple: it absolutely nails the psychology of the stand-up comic, the most narcissistic, petty, self-obsessed, hateful, and bitter breed of entertainer known to mankind. And though Jerry Seinfeld is the film's chief subject--Comedian documents his arduous quest to write and perform a brand new set of material for club audiences--he is not the prime example of the vile strain of comic mentioned above. That honor belongs to Orny Adams, a young up-and-comer whose ruthless self-absorption and sense of entitlement make a beautiful counterpoint to Seinfeld's more craft-driven professionalism.
Far From Heaven
From the lavish font of the main titles and the sweet sweeping strains of Elmer Bernstein, we are clued in that this is a major transport piece--one that will remind us of movies no longer produced. Homeboy Todd Haynes has reinvented the melodrama, yet infused it with a new life that is subtle, touching, and entertaining. Returning to the home-as-prison theme he mastered in Safe, our femme du jour, Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore), smiles her way through domestic disturbance, racial tension, and personal crisis. The home she inhabits becomes etched into our brains; as the film takes hold, we feel that we inhabit the space, know the floor plan, and can anticipate her movements. Each weighty subject--her husband's latent homosexuality, her taboo love for the gardener--is handled with care and finesse. Far From Heaven is breathtaking from start to finish, each frame imbued with the artist's own genuine love for cinema and story. See interview this issue. (Brian Brait)
De Palma's plot--about a high-crime chick who gets mistaken for somebody else and uses her new identity to cause all sorts of trouble--is so convoluted, it's downright boring. The frequent erotic interludes only drag it down more because they're so gross. (Justin Sanders)
Selma Hayek is traditionally gorg, and while her portrayal of Frida is bursting at the seams with joie-de-fricking-vivre, the film version shows her as relatively moustache-less, as you probably already know from Feminist Film Geek Monthly. (I have a subscription.) For the Kahlo purist, the lack of lip hair is one of the slight ways Frida Hollywood-izes Frida. Another is that her husband Diego's abuse is only portrayed through his obsessive womanizing. Frida's painful, painkiller-addicted death (a possible suicide) is merely alluded to; rather, she delicately croaks, saint-like, in Diego's arms, freed from her long life of physical suffering. Despite the flaws, this is Julie Taymor's film, all the way, and the images she paints across the screen are an enthusiastic, vivid homage to Frida's art and spirit. (Julianne Shepherd)
James Longley catalogued 75 hours of footage of Palastinians in the Gaza Strip during the violence that erupted after Ariel Sharon was elected Israeli Prime Minister. This is a reduced and poignant version of his time there.
Half Past Dead
At the bloated age of 51, tired Zen action hero Steven Seagal (a.k.a. "Last Ponytail Standing") plays an FBI agent on the hunt for a high-tech criminal genius (Morris Chestnut), planning to break into a maximum security prison and rough up Ja Rule.
Harry potter and the chamber of secrets see review this issue.
You can practically see visions of Oscars dancing in these people's heads. Heaven follows the story of a young woman who has attempted to bomb a man who she is certain heads the heroin ring that penetrates the school where she teaches. Cate Blanchett gives a polished performance, but her character lacks believability. Giovanni Ribisi plays a prison guard and translator who falls in love with her while she is undergoing questioning. There would be more chemistry involved if he humped a chunk of wood. Basically, this film is short on intrigue and long on carefully filmed, pretentiously slow-mo'd moments. They're filmed like they're intended to be highly significant, but the story lacks the grounding of a good foundation before getting into the ethereal shit. (Marjorie Skinner)
In the Time of Butterflies
A look at how the Mirabal sisters' commitment to economic justice motivated thousands of citizens to overthrow the regime of the Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo, who ruled from 1930-1961.
The Isle see review this issue.
Jackass: The Movie
Your girlfriend secretly wants to see this movie. Sure, she's comfortable with your six-figures and 401k, your Volvo, that IKEA couch--but don't delude yourself, pal. She may never admit it to your face, but she'd give it all up in a second for the slightest chance at a single night with one of these MTV knuckle-draggers. And no, I am not projecting. (Zac Pennington)
Jon Jost: Video and Film Shorts
Jon Jost, a radical independent filmmaker screens some of his meditative shorts.
Akira Kurosawa is one of the most famous and important filmmakers of our time, and he's also dead. See the first-ever documentary about his life, where his family members and colleagues discuss the importance of his work.
Language of the Senses
Part of the Enteractive Language Festival, a series of language-focused events in November orchestrated by 2 Gyrlz Performative Arts. This one is in memorandum of Sam Quicksilver, aka "msngr" (sic), who died barely a month ago. It features film and video work by Quicksilver, and also local artists Nine and TOI. Soundtracks will be performed live by Brainwarmer, Nequaquam Vacuum, and Nommo Ogo.
Nobody likes a murderer of children. Even worse for the criminals in a small German city is that because of a serial murderer, the cops are cracking down. To get the police off their backs, the criminals put together their forces and hunt down the murderer in Fritz Lang's 1931 classic.
Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Punch-Drunk Love is a confused story--not confusing to the audience, but confused within itself. Paul Thomas Anderson seems to have so much to say, so many bizarre scenarios to explore and see through to the end, that the film as a whole suffers. So much is happening that very little registers. Still, this doesn't mean Punch-Drunk Love is unworthy of your peepers; it's not. But if you expect to remain entranced once you've started your car after the show, you'll have to look elsewhere. (Bradley Steinbacher)
radical movie night
Films dedicated to direct action, such as footage from the ELF and ALF. Hosted by Josh Harper, an activist who was involved in the 1999 sabotage of the Makah Whale Hunt in Washington, and now is involved in the crusade to shut down Huntington Life Sciences because of their cruel animal testing.
Real Women Have Curves
A film addressing the gap between the traditional role of Mexican women and modern society. Said to have wonderful acting, but occasionally leans too closely towards the afterschool special.
The plot of The Ring has the dreamily simplistic hook of the best campfire stories or fever dreams: A Seattle-based single mother/ reporter (Mulholland Drive's Naomi Watts), begins investigating a quick-sprouting urban legend about a mysterious videotape reputed to kill its foolhardy watcher exactly seven days after viewing. Suffice it to say that the "Play" button soon gets a workout, with mountingly surreal, increasingly seat-moistening results. (Andrew Wright)
Roger Dodger see review this issue.
A Song for Martin
Fairytale that examines the "happily ever after" myth. A first-string violinist falls in love with a dashing, handsome conductor. They both leave their spouses and enjoy bliss until... the conductor comes down with a bad case of Alzheimer's. What's a woman to do? A harrowing (Swedish) story about love, loss and shambling fidelity.
Kurosawa's film about a rookie detective who loses his pistol, only to discover it's been used by a thief in a murder. He chases the killer through Tokyo during an intense heat wave, and as the chase continues, the thief and detective become more and more alike.
Throne of Blood
A dramatic, high energy interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth using a 16th Century warlord as the protagonist. Made by Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa.
The Truth about Charlie
This new film from Jonathan Demme is a remake of Stanley Donen's Charade, a wafer-thin '60s comedy that has only stood the test of time thanks to the presence of Cary Grant and crappy old Audrey Hepburn. Grant's rakish update is Marky Mark Wahlberg, a travesty, though the part (and the story) has been updated (and improved) to keep pace with Grant's absence. The film, like its predecessor, is a smart kind of dumb; a romp with a love of movies, faces, and all things Francophile at the center. (Sean Nelson)
NOrthwest Film Center Film & Video Fest
Be My Junkie Shadow/Complex
As alarming as real life footage of junkies and prostitutes can be, it's not something I want to watch. Be My Junkie Shadow shows a bunch of women junkies sitting on couches, mething out around their kitchens, sitting on street corners saying how crappy it is to be hooked on junk. I feel sorry for them, but not very interested. The cleverly titled Complex chronicles the low-income people who live in an apartment complex outside of Seattle. These people are not dynamic at all--in fact, most of the time they're completely incomprehensible--and fill their interviews by bitching about not being able to smoke in the elevator, stumbling around the halls drunk, and talking about being accused of pedophilia, but never ever having done it. (Katie Shimer)
FRUMP is about five soccer moms who decide they'd rather play punk rock than shop for groceries. Outdoorsmen is a documentary about the yearly campout of 16 booze-swilling jocks, at which they compete in a series of inane drinking games. It sounds funny and silly, but to Outdoorsmen it is anything but. They take the competition very seriously, and one of the great pleasures of the film is hearing the intricate strategies they devise for drinking more beer faster. And oh Lordy, is that beer consumed. It'd be interesting to find out for sure, but my gut tells me that this movie sets a record for largest number of cheap cans of beer consumed, and then horked back up, ever caught on film. It's downright inspiring. Spangled asks, 'Ever wanted to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" before the big game?' Local filmmaker Jason Blalock attends the Portland Trailblazer's auditions, and documents the attempts of 300 hopefuls to do just that. It's kind of like watching an episode of American Idol, except infinitely more painful--in a good way. Blalock also cannily spotlights two auditionees who you think are going to be great... but BOY! Do they SUCK! A sphincter-clenching joy.
Gerry, the latest feature from hometown director Gus Van Sant, is the story of two friends (Casey Affleck and Matt Damon) who go hiking out in the desert and get lost. And that's it. 110 minutes of barely any dialogue and long non-edited shots of the boys hoofing it through a barren wasteland. But let me make something perfectly clear: When I say "long non-edited shots," I mean shots that can last up to EIGHT minutes. And when that eight minutes are up, the angle is then switched to another walking shot lasting SIX minutes. In fact, I noticed someone from the audience getting up to go to the bathroom, doing their business and returning to their seat--AND IT WAS STILL THE SAME FREAKING SHOT!! Now, while some film snobby-snobs may try and convince you this is Van Sant's "cinematic homage to the work of Bela Tarr," just smile, nod, and know they're full of crap. In Gerry you cannot wait for these people to die. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Miranda July, Emma Hedditch
Film and recordings by Portland performance artist Miranda July. Joined by Emma Hedditch, who will show a film she makes on her flight from Britain to Portland. The two women will show work they've created, curated, or found.
Northeast Passage is largely a disappointment. The filmmakers essentially use one do-gooder woman as their vehicle for issues of gentrification and housing displacement. Although this woman and her young daughter are compelling and heroic, at the end of the day, her perspectives on these massive issues are just one person's slim vantage point of the neighborhood. Shown with Cultural Jam and Not For Sale. (Phil Busse)
Shorts of Endurance
Fourteen shorts including Blue Skies, which shows riveting close-up footage of a weeping musical actor as his costuming is prepared and he makes his entrance on stage. Also includes, Day Job, a sweet, gently sad, fly-on-the-wall dip into the working day of a robust, giggly door(wo)man.
Shorts of Passion
Twelve shorts exploring people who are passionate about something, including the 33-minute film Donor about a lesbian who asks her brother to donate a sample from the "fruit of his loins," so she and her lover can have a baby. A gay comedy that's both touching and laugh out loud hilarious. Strong character development and excellent acting make this cute-as-a-goddam-bug script a teriffic study of not only gay relationships, but learning to accept a family for who they are. Expect big things from directors Adele Wilson and Eve Whitaker! Shorter films include Hunter Dawson, a painfully cheesy spoof on a reality television audition tape and Taken, filmed like the insides of a video game, a beautifully done short, marred slightly by the slow and uncomfortable story. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
A Thing of Wonder
Local documentary makers (remember their short film on Lucky Buster?) train their unblinking camera eye on an 84-year-old magician, inventor, and dreamer. Like spending an evening with a very energetic and imaginative grandfather, the film balances sensations of awe and woe for the old man as he offers his tricks, opinions, and treaties on reality. (Phil Busse)
Young People's Film & Video Fest
The collection of works from June's young people's film and video fest, from grades K-12.