Since two airlines inexplicably plowed into the World Trade Center, we have ceaselessly been beat over the head with the proclamation that: The world is a different place now. But that assumption means different things to different people. The French producer Jacques Perrin (Winged Migration) asked 11 directors from around the world to say what it meant to them. Each was given 11 minutes, nine seconds and one frame to tell their story. From Iran to Bosnia, the results are perspectives that you won't see on Fox.
* American Splendor
The team of Jonze and Kaufman no longer own the meta-film genre. This Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner is an ingeniously structured biopic on the sublimely ordinary life of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar. As an examination of the self-loathing artist, it's arguably a better film than Adaptation, thanks to the auto-on-autobiographical nature of the material and the on-the-nose performances by Giamatti and Davis combined with disarmingly deadpan voice-overs and interview interstitials with Pekar himself. (Shanon Gee)
Anything Else See review this issue.
Bend it Like Beckham
Not exactly a masterpiece, this film is a lighthearted, cute escape best suited for parents and teens. An adolescent, soccer-playing daughter struggles against her Hindu parents, who would rather gear her interests towards cooking and otherwise preparing herself to be a proper Indian bride. (Marjorie Skinner)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer had more heroism in his little pinkie than Tom Hanks and his Private Ryan-saving platoon combined! A German theologian, Bonhoeffer made the mold for "peacemaker through violence." During World War II, he helped lead a religious rebellion and eventually a plot against Hitler. A remarkable, little told true story (with a very unhappy, very un-Hollywood ending).
* bubba ho-tep See review this issue.
* Buffalo Soldiers
Completed just before 9/11 and finally released, much of the taboo status surrounding the matte-black comedy Buffalo Soldiers may have come from unexpected world events, but its combination of jaded cynicism and artful cool would pass muster in any era. Based on Robert O'Connor's novel, the film chronicles the rising fall of Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix), a Berlin-based Army file clerk who delights in selling everything from Mr. Clean to bathtub meth to his numbed compatriots, all directly under the radar of his dunderheaded commander (Ed Harris). Stakes are raised with the simultaneous arrival of some illicit heavy artillery and a granite-nosed new sergeant (Scott Glenn), determined to best Elwood by any means necessary. (Andrew Wright)
Out in some anonymous woods a mysterious disease infects a hunter, whose flesh quickly begins to dissolve off his bones. Desperately seeking help, he descends on a cabin where a group of young, unnaturally attractive urbanites are partying. Drunk and startled, the hotties beat the woodsman savagely with baseball bats, virus-infected blood flies everywhere and presto! The readymade disease-vs.-humans plot for Eli Roth's directorial debut Cabin Fever is born. Despite these banalities Fever could have been a spooky little ride. Instead Roth's flesh-dissolving makeup team is amateurish, and his characters are right out of Horror Movie Class 101. (Justin Sanders)
Capturing the Friedmans
The Friedmans are a middle-class Jewish family from Long Island. Three sons comprise the Friedmans, along with two parents, Arnold and Elaine. The dad is a schoolteacher who instructs computer classes to young boys in his basement on the side. Also in the basement is Mr. Friedman's collection of kiddie porn, which he has hidden behind the piano. And no one knows about the kiddie porn until dumbass Mr. Friedman gets busted in a sting operation for sending kiddie porn through the mail. After he gets caught for the mags, a wave of hysteria and sloppy police work sweeps the town. Arnold and, oddly, his youngest son Jesse, are charged with about a million counts of child rape. Thankfully for the filmmakers, during all of this insanity the three annoying sons record the dissolution of the Friedman family on video, which is the basis of the movie. (Katie Shimer)
Casa de los Babys
A special screening of John Sayles' new film: Five would-be moms travel to South America to pick up the foreign baby they have adopted. As they wait in the heat for the paperwork to move through the bureaucracy, Sayles' camera wanders the streets, interviews the teenage breeders and marvels at the glue-sniffers.
The Crime Spree
Gerard Depardieu and Harvey Keitel star in this film about a French crime mob who flies to Chicago for one last job.
Dirty Pretty Things
An African illegal immigrant works as a cab driver by day and a hotel desk clerk by night, despite his training as a doctor. When he does sleep, it's on the couch of a Turkish illegal immigrant (Tautou from Amelie). He soon discovers an illicit kidney-selling scheme that is praying on fellow immigrants. Frears' London is engaging in that it is a place where corruption is taken for granted, but unfortunately the plot resolves itself mechanically. Tautou, however, remains feisty and adorable throughout. (Andy Spletzer)
Felix and Lola
Nothing says humor and romance like carnies! A classic love story filtered through a house of mirrors: Felix is the lonely man who works the bumper cars; Lola is a French chain-smoking wanderer. Set against a backdrop of their circus freak friends, they fall in love.
The Fighting Temptations
Cuba Gooding Jr. continues his winning streak of zany, fish-out-of-water comedies (in the illustrious tradition of Boat Trip and Snow Dogs) with a role as some chump who must successfully champion a gospel choir at the risk of his family's inheritance. This fish-out-of-water is beginning to smell like shit. Co-starring the abs and complete lack of off-stage charisma of Beyonce Knowles. (Zac Pennington)
Despite the generally amiable Jamie Lee Curtis and the overwhelming presence of feigned teen rock band sequences (the greatest joy that the pubescent live-action genre affords), the new Freaky Friday movie is not the old Freaky Friday movie. Absent: Jodie Foster, Barbara Harris, Boss Hogg, and (in the most unfortunate oversight) the earth-shattering car-chase/water-skiing/hang-gliding finale. Present: an uninvested Jamie Lee, obligatory modernizations, and (most inexplicably) something called "Asian voodoo." (Zac Pennington)
* I Capture the Castle
Taking back the English period piece from those Merchant-Ivory hacks, this is one girl's coming-of-age film that anyone can enjoy. Two sisters live with their family in a remote castle, and their romantic prospects are severely limited until two American brothers inherit the land they are living on. The star of the movie is good, old-fashioned repression, and it is refreshing to see the more traditional happy ending replaced by unresolved longing. (Andy Spletzer)
* Hello Video!
Local video makers show, you guessed it, videos, while you suck down cocktails. This is Hello Video's first year anniversary and 12th show, which they'll celebrate at the fancy club Holocene. Expect an hour and a half of video and animation (plus a cut and paste of the best of the PDX Indy Animation fest) and music by DJ Safi, DJ Satellite Jockey, and Invisible.
* The Insider
Another chance to catch this Oscar-nominated film that slams Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes, and the tobacco industry and sports Russell Crowe with an American accent.
* Learn to Dumpster [Dive] & Videos from the Resistance
Learn dumpster diving from the masters. Then check out these videos, from the trenches, where the emotions of the protesters are raw and the pepper-spray stings. Three different demonstrations are profiled tonight--the August 22nd protest against President Bush's fund-raiser for Sen. Smith, where police pepper-sprayed babies; the massive 35,000 person for-peace march on March 15; and, a compilation of seven videotapers' footage from sit-ins and bridge closures.
* Lost in Translation See Review this Issue
* The Magdalene Sisters
Serious as a heart attack, this unabashedly enraged lapel-grabber focuses on a trio of young women unjustly confined to an Irish convent/slave labor camp. Director Peter Mullan gives absolutely no quarter, placing shivery moments of genuine power and beauty within long stretches of cranked to eleven Legion of Doom-villainy. Provocative to a fault, helplessly moving, and a definite conversation piece for those with the fortitude to ride it out. Based on true events, and condemned by the Vatican. (Andrew Wright)
* Marooned in Iraq
Motorcycles, leather jackets, and rebel attitudes pave the way for the most exuberant movie a Kurd could have made about his people in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. Despite a lot of singing and dancing, the films of Ghobadi--cinema's one and only Kurdish filmmaker--are heartbreaking, almost by necessity, and this one is no exception.
* Masked and Anonymous
Set in a mythic future America ravaged by revolutionary war, Masked concerns the planning and execution of a benefit concert headlined by the mysterious musical elder Jack Fate (Bob Dylan). The film features a cast of characters--from carnival barkers and minstrel dandies to dark ladies and prodigal sons--who might've wandered off side two of Highway 61 Revisited, portrayed by a cast of actors--Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Angela Bassett, Jeff Bridges--who might've wandered out of an Altman film. It's as an inspired continuation of Dylan's cryptic myth that Masked and Anonymous scores its biggest points. As a movie, it's a mess (albeit one with a knockout cast and some admirably big ideas). But as a cinematic rendering of the Bob Dylan experience, it's a beguiling, frequently intoxicating artifact. (David Schmader)
In truth, Nicholas Cage could have been airlifted from any number of his films and dropped into the middle of Matchstick Men, a film about a nervous con man, his odd-couple partner (played by Sam Rockwell) and his estranged 14-year-old daughter. Rambling to his shrink or just puttering anxiously around his impeccably clean house, Cage picks up the wild goose chase of neurosis right where Adaptation left off. With his ticks, abrupt laughs and adorable anxiety, this has become Cage's trademark character, which is to say that overuse has worn down its uniqueness and sharp edges. (Phil Busse)
In 1955, the small heartland of Northfork is about to disappear, a casualty of a newly constructed hydroelectric dam. In an attempt to move every resident out, an evacuation committee has been assembled. These men make their way through the eerie and near-empty area, trying to coax the few remaining holdouts from their land. Meanwhile, a sickly orphan, confined to bed and afflicted with feverish dreams, lies under the care of a local pastor (Nick Nolte). The inhabitants of the boy's dreams: a pack of mangy angels who may or may not be searching for him. Northfork moves at a deliberate pace, holding your attention by only offering explanations when they are absolutely needed; the cards are kept close to chest here, which is a cinematic skill long on the rim of extinction. From the opening shot, of a dark lake that is curiously sprouting coffins from beneath its surface, the Polish Brothers have crafted a film that is gorgeous, confusing, and occasionally sad. A film that does what all the best films do: inspire argument. (Bradley Steinbacher)
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Robert Rodriguez's latest venture as director/writer/editor/cinematographer/composer/effects guy, is a bit of a glorious mess--exhilarating in parts, but migraine-inducing overall. Picking up a few years after 1995's Desperado, this third (and presumably final) installment in the El Mariachi series finds Antonio Banderas' vengeful guitarist blackmailed by a shady CIA agent (Johnny Depp) into interfering with an attempted plot to assassinate the Mexican President. The double-crosses soon quadruple, culminating in all-out war, and what may be the gnarliest shotgun-inflicted wound ever. Narrative coherence has never been Rodriguez's forte, but his scripts have never quite had this slapdash, 52-pickup quality before. Bad guys die repeatedly, flashbacks stumble into flash-forwards, Mickey Rourke shows up with a Chihuahua--flowcharts should be issued at the door. (Andrew Wright)
* OT: Our Town
An uplifting documentary about an inner-city school's theatrical performance. See Destination Fun pg 15.
We ugly Americans could learn a thing or two from our Soviet comrades. After whooping their butts in the Cold War, we took over their power companies. What happens when a population accustomed to free power suddenly has to pay for it? See this documentary.
* The Princess Blade
Five-hundred years from now, in a world where lengthy exposition is required before even the simplest action films, there lives a clan of assassins-for-hire called the Takemikazuchi. Their job is to root out the terroristic rebels threatening the region's monarchical rulers, but fellow assassin Princess Yuki discovers that her fellow sword-wielding killers aren't the nicest folks in the forest. All this narrative is merely an excuse for some genuinely ass-kicking battles, choreographed by Hong Kong fight master Donnie Yen. Yumiko Shaku, making her movie debut, is charismatic as Yuki, and her final confrontation with the evil assassin will bring a smile to the face of action-movie fans. Formulaic, but in a good way. (Marc Mohan)
Queer Films... in Color!
Four short films that take four different looks at being gay in different ethnic groups. Junk Box Warrior is written by Trans Slam Poet Marcus Rene Van. The Love Thang Trilogy is the story of a lesbian Asian Pacific Islander. The award winning A Different Kind of Black Man talks to successful gay black men about masculinity, sex, and the black community. Plus, more!
Before being discovered by an oddball trainer in the 1930s, Seabiscuit was a lazy lie-around horse with a goofy gait. He was unruly, abused, and could barely keep pace in minor-league country fair races. But coupled with a nearly blind and down-on-his-luck jockey, Seabiscuit stormed into the top tier of horseracing and, for a stretch of three years or so, became the most written-about celebrity in America. The moral, as the film version of the horse's life crams down our gullet, is "you don't throw a whole life away because it's banged up a little." Yet in spite of this spirited true-life story, Dreamworks does the story complete injustice by kicking Seabiscuit's corpse for the sake of a summer blockbuster. It's unclear why Dreamworks bothered to work with a true story. The film version deletes and adds major facts at will. In a classic Disney turn of events, they omit Seabiscuit's follies and loses, and clean and sober up Seabiscuit's primary jockey, Red (played by Tobey Maguire), who was endlessly profane and often drunk in real life. (Phil Busse)
This film, starring the unbearable Haley Joel Osmet, is about a boy who is left by his mother to spend an indefinite amount of time with his uncles, who, upon first impression, are stubborn hicks with a big barn. Through stories told by Michael Caine, the boy soon learns that his uncles are not hicks at all but war heroes with a glorious past. The eldest uncle, Duvall, was in his youth a man of action, a great soldier who defeated powerful sheiks and seduced a dark woman while riding a wild horse on the shores of Arabia--a man amongst men who, even in his old age, has not lost an inch of his erection. Impressed by this example of pure manhood, Osment switches his dependency on mommy for an even more unhealthy dependency on this violent father figure. This movie sucks. (Charles Mudede)
* The Secret Lives of Dentists
The laughing gas gets turned way up when a dentist (Scott) suspects his wife of having an affair, and his maniacally misogynist patient (Leary) encourages him to drill down to the root of the problem. Based on Jane Smiley's novella The Age of Grief.
* Step into Liquid
Step into Liquid is directed by Dana Brown, the son of Bruce Brown, who's best known for The Endless Summer. The big kahuna of surf flicks, Summer captures the youthful exuberance of globe-trotting surfers looking for the perfect wave. Liquid is a sequel of sorts, focusing instead on a myriad of obsessive wave-riders and what makes them tick. Brown features a charismatic cast of daredevils and oddballs; though big wave rider Laird Hamilton exhibits steely-eyed nerve while navigating monster-sized swells, Liquid isn't just about tanned surfer gods. There's also an older group of fun-seekers tackling the two-foot waves of Lake Michigan, and a Texas trio who surf the wakes of oil tankers. However, cinematography makes or breaks a surf flick, and Liquid certainly delivers. Shot from inside, overhead, and underneath the waves, viewers get a visceral sense of their thundering power. And while the self-inflated hippie-dippy language of some surfers may temporarily annoy, most of its subjects are straight-up knowledgeable and charming. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Older people tend to address this film in an alarmist tone, while the younger set thinks it's crappy. (Except for the excellent tight jeans, slit shirts, and hoop earrings.) It tackles a lot of very real issues about maturity, but it takes on too much at once, to no effect. The lead protagonist is a smart, well-behaved child--until the hottest, brassiest, most popular girl in school criticizes her socks. Then it's like she slipped on a banana peel and became the embodiment of parental paranoia: Drugs! Tongue piercings! Boys! Shoplifting! (Marjorie Skinner)