In Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 21 Grams, tragedy is finally given the respect it deserves. The story is told in a series of fragments. Flashing forward and back, the audience is given glimpses of its three main characters; Paul (Sean Penn) is on the cusp of death, waiting for his heart condition to finally claim him. Cristina (Naomi Watts) is a suburban wife with two children and a doting husband--who is soon to be scarred by an accident of epic proportions. Jack (Benicio del Toro) is an ex-jailbird turned fundamentalist Christian who can't escape the tragedies of his past which, like the repeated scenes of this film, keep returning as his future. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Cinemagic
50 First Dates
Adam Sandler isn't as funny as he used to be, but 50 First Dates still has a few good jokes. Drew Barrymore is pretty terrible but wears totally cool outfits and bitching turquoise eyeliner. All in all, it's worth $3 at the second run. (Katie Shimer) Regal Cinemas, etc.
better off dead
John Cusack ponders suicide, avoids the creepy paper boy, and skis the K-12 in this 1985 classic. You drink beer, heckle, and bid adieu to this year's Mercury/Clinton Street Prozac Film Fest. And hey, don't miss the after party at Genies. See My What a Busy Week pg 17. Clinton Street Theater
* Big Fish
While director Tim Burton may have been pooh-poohed in the past for placing cinematic glitz over storytelling ability, with Big Fish he finally brings them together in glorious harmony. Switching back and forth between reality and tall tales, Burton weaves a truly poignant story about the complicated ties between fathers and sons, and how severing those ties can eventually strengthen them. The cast is uniformly terrific, with an absolutely amazing performance by Albert Finney. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Cinemagic, Edgefield, Laurelhurst, St. Johns Pub
A team of world-class surfers travels the globe looking for monster waves (of the three-stories high variety) and for the most part are successful. There are shots of waves that demonstrate their incredible beauty and power, and there are also shots of the obligatory not-very-interesting surfers who yammer on incessantly about the "idea" of wave riding. And therein lies the problem with surf documentaries; though surfing itself has made startling advancements since the 1960s, surf movies have barely progressed past the narration driven format of Endless Summer. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Hollywood Theatre
* Bonsoir Collage'd Heart
A night of experimental cinema and performance art. Animator Jason Leonard shows his work, as does Mack McFarland, Carl Diehl, and Rosy Boyer shows documentary film. Support The Know and check out this wacky shit. The Know
This film tells the true story of a rogue faction of a women's group in North Yorkshire, England. Ahem. These goosey rebels make a nude calendar of themselves in order to raise money for medical research after one of the women's husband dies. It's entertaining in that fond, hangin' with your spunky grandma way, when things are cute/funny just because the person saying them is "mature." (Marjorie Skinner) Kennedy School
* City of God
City of God chronicles gang warfare in one of the most impoverished and depraved slums in Rio de Janeiro. It revolves around a young man named Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) as he struggles to get high, get laid, and finally get a real job in photography so he can get out of the slums. He narrates the film in a dazed, almost aloof tone as waves of drugs, guns, and murder swirl around him. (Justin Sanders ) Hollywood Theatre
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
The story of Mary (Lindsay Lohan) clawing her way to the top of the ranks of the New York City pop music megastar echelon while simultaneously enduring the daily doldrums of high school is basically retarded, and the actor playing Mary's high-school love interest is clearly a fag-in-waiting, but this quasi-musical (it's for kids) is riveting because Lohan's breasts are really, really big. (Christopher Frizzelle) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Cooler is a small, unremarkable film that's watchable due to one thing: sex. Specifically, a sex scene between William H. Macy and Maria Bello. Director Wayne Kramer has managed to give audiences something all too rare in films these days--a sexy scene that not only causes the audience to flush, but makes sense as well. The coitus in The Cooler is refreshing, fun, and the tangling of bodies helps elevate the entire endeavor above its somewhat middling quality. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10
* Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights pales in comparison to the original, but it's still a delicious, guilty pleasure. This film is basically a remake of the Swayze version, but this time it stars a boring blonde chick and a smoking-hot "Cuban" guy, played by Mexican actor Diego Luna. Diego and the blonde meet when her family moves to Cuba. His royal hotness is a waiter at the swanky hotel she's staying at, and she's a studious, non-racist honky with something to prove. The two hit it off immediately, absconding to a Cuban club to get dirty on the dance floor. Then, conveniently enough, they discover there's a big dance contest that pays big money, and conveniently again, Diego could really use the dough to help his poor Cuban family. (Katie Shimer) Evergreen Parkway, Lloyd Mall, Tigard Cinemas
* The Dreamers
The Dreamers begins when Matthew, an American cinemaphile living in Paris meets twins Theo and Isabelle on the day of the historic 1968 protests outside Paris' Cinematheque Française. The trio winds up living in the twins' ridiculous library-as-labyrinth apartment while their parents are away, using movies as a way to connect, seduce, and ridicule one another. Despite director Bernardo Bertolucci's nostalgic bent, the film is sexy. The trio's desire is played out honestly and openly, and it's refreshing to see sex that doesn't always look comfortable--and bodies that haven't been waxed or pumped with silicon. Their menage à trois is a shifting kaleidoscope of emotions, and the possible incestuous nature of Theo and Isabelle appears nave rather than grotesque. (Steven Lankenau) City Center 12, Hollywood Theatre
* Escape from New York
The famed story of Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) and his quest to rescue the president from the island of Manhattan--which is now a maximum security prison. Laurelhurst
* Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Three strippers, plus a woman they pick up in their travels, try to scam an old man and his sons out of all his money. Too bad for them, he has sinister intentions, too. Blind Onion
* The Fog of War
From World War II through the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara was everywhere and wrapped up in some of the most destructive aggressions by the U.S. military. It was his brainstorm to firebomb cities in Japan, so that bombs would not just destroy what they impacted but would set fire to entire towns. Under his guidance, U.S. forces in Vietnam relentlessly dropped Napalm. (Oddly, also, in a foray into the private sector, under his direction, the Ford Corp. insisted on seatbelts and other safety measures that have saved countless lives!) Interspliced with historical footage, the interviews are simple, sober, and bring to the surface an old man who is less remorseful than trying to reason with guilt. The parallels to current political leaders are never touched on, but are nonetheless poignantly present. Directed by Errol Morris. (Phil Busse) Fox Tower 10
Girl with the Pearl Earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring is stuffy to a fault, no matter how many shots of Scarlett Johansson's pout director Peter Webber can fit in, and the final tally falls somewhere between the best of Merchant Ivory and the worst of Merchant Ivory. Which is to say this: It is a well-made but nonetheless empty and, quite often, outright dull affair. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10, Westgate
Rumor has it that Viggo Mortenson was cast in this bloated desert adventure before he became one of the most famous actors ever via Lord of the Rings. I find it very hard to believe, however, that the producers of Hidalgo weren't just trying to cash in on a bankable star... because Mortenson STINKS. I can't imagine any casting agent in their right mind listening to his dismal cowboy accent or observing his nonexistent comic timing, and not saying, "Next!" Aside from Mortenson, though, Hidalgo could almost be cool. It tells the story of a cowboy at the turn of the century who entered a race in Saudi Arabia across a vicious desert. It's supposedly a true story, but regardless, it's a neat premise. Too bad the script is tepid and meandering and loaded with stupid family-friendly Middle Eastern stereotypes. Pretty scenery, though. And horses. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* I Was Born, But...
Yasujiro Ozu is perhaps Japan's greatest and most moving director ever. A prolific film producer during the years of the country's isolation, he received more Kinema Junpo "Best Film" awards (Japan's equivalent of the Oscar) than any other director. Made in 1932, this is one of his best and most stirring films. A run-of-the-mill worker is forced to face his mediocrity when his young sons point out that the boss he buttkisses has a son that they can easily beat up. Guild Theater
* Karl Rove Paranoia Film Fest See review this issue.
A spoof on how science can make for more efficient living, the fictional Swedish Home Research Institute sends observers to examine kitchen habits in 1950s Norway. The subtext of this gentle comedy is a homosexual love story. The "text" is much less interesting. Beware: your grandparents will love it. (Andy Spletzer) Fox Tower 10
* La Promesse
A young son and his father make a living renting apartments to illegal immigrants and then taking advantage of them through various manipulations. When the building inspector comes by unexpectedly, however, their scam is virtually exposed and the father and son's business begins to unravel. PSU Smith Memorial Union Rm 225
* Martin & Orloff
First, let me say that Martin & Orloff is utterly bizarre. Staffed by the comedy troupe, the Upright Citizens Brigade, it's the story of a suicidal costume designer and his unconventional therapist. The film follows the duo on a few days of misadventures, from Martin's first session with Dr. Orloff to the realization that eventually helps cure him of his depression. Revealing any of the jokes in Martin & Orloff would ruin them, but trust me, there's a ton of funny shit: physical comedy, one liners, social commentary, etc. And worry not: David Cross and Janeane Garofalo both make appearances. At the end, the film devolves in an attempt at a big, stupid finale--but it doesn't matter. From the opening scene, I laughed my ass off, and I haven't done that since I saw some guy fall off his bike while holding a bag of groceries. (Katie Shimer) Hollywood Theatre
In an amazing feat, Charlize Theron not only manages to look like complete crap, she does a spectacular job of playing notorious serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Mimicking her telltale mannerisms perfectly, Theron plays the part with total believability. Her performance--and the smart direction of the film--evoke sympathy, anger, disgust, and an overwhelming emptiness. Granted, seeing a movie about a woman whose life went from child abuse to prostitution to rape to murder to betrayal by her lover to execution isn't a fun time; but it effectively makes you ponder the immense good and evil in humanity, and quite possibly, will make you cry. (Katie Shimer) City Center 12, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower 10, Lake Twin Cinema, Lloyd Mall, Milwaukie 3 Theater, Sherwood 10
* My Architect
My Architect isn't really about architecture. It's not even about its subject, Louis I. Kahn, except insofar as the late master builder and his immortal buildings remain an enigma to his son Nathaniel, the filmmaker behind this extraordinary documentary. Nathaniel Kahn's film is about the void created by a father's absence from his children's lives, and the way that void is continually filled and depleted by the father's reputation. (Sean Nelson) Cinema 21
For all the "inexorability" and "meditation" of its violence, Mystic River feels desperately contrived. Whether director Clint Eastwood has some deep understanding of the nature of violence remains unclear. What is certain is that he knows how to make a movie, even a dumb one, well worth watching. I only wish someone would send him some better books. (Sean Nelson) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Only Son
The Film Center continues its homage to Japan's greatest director, Yasujiro Ozu. In this, his first sound film, a simple story about a working-class mother who sacrifices her life for her son's future, only to have him end up mediocre. Guild Theater
Osama is not directly about bin Laden. The film is about a little girl forced to disguise herself as a boy to prevent her jobless mother and grandmother from starving under the oppressive Taliban regime--subtle. It's a fantastic film, with invaluable historic significance, but a devastatingly joyless experience. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10
The Passion of the Christ
Jewish theologians have made a lot of hay recently about the anti-Semitic overtones of Mel Gibson's biblical drama, The Passion of the Christ--and they're right. The film is anti-Semitic. Even more surprisingly, it's hugely anti-Christian. In fact, it's just about anti-EVERYTHING, except anti-blood, guts, and gore. This is the story of Christ as told by Quentin Tarantino's evil twin, and to sum it all up? It's the world's first Christian snuff film; two full hours of Jesus Christ getting his ass KICKED. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Sinister plots at the White House, the president's daughter gets kidnapped--it's one big, fat West Wing episode, care of David Mamet. Starring Val Kilmer and William H. Macy. Division Street, Lloyd Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sherwood 10, Tigard Cinemas
Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation
The impressarios of independent animation return. As always, if you're really, really high, it will be the funniest shit you've seen all night. Cinema 21
* Spirited Away
One of the last remaining directors of animation to truly capture the strange, subtly contented spirit of childhood (and, for that matter, one of the only directors of animation with any sense of singular recognition), Princess Mononoke director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service) follows his 1997 masterpiece with his latest--an Alice in Wonderland-inspired fable about a little girl whose parents are transformed into pigs. Pix Patisserie
Starsky & Hutch
The story of two plain-clothes detectives who broke the rules to catch the crook, S&H were different from other buddy cops in that they couldn't keep their hands off each other. Though attempts were made to re-enforce the duo's heterosexuality, in practically every episode the buddies were hugging, touching, and rolling around together in the heat of action. Amazingly, the movie version of Starsky & Hutch practically ignores this crucial part of their relationship, which significantly lessens the parody. In this version, Starsky and Hutch (Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson) enlist the help of street informant Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) to bring down a murderous coke dealer (Vince Vaughn). There are plenty of missed opportunities in this movie, and while I've certainly seen less funny films recently, I can't help but think Stiller and Wilson's talents have been largely wasted. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Station Agent
Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage), The Station Agent's protagonist, was born a dwarf, and has built up a stone-faced resistance to the stares and slurs directed at him daily. When he inherits a small abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, he leaves the city and makes the shack his home. Within a day, the locals notice him and are banging on his door. (Brian Brait) Kennedy School, Laurelhurst
* Touching the Void
Have you heard the one about the two English men who tried to climb an icy mountain in Peru? One slipped, fell, and broke his leg. The other left him for dead. Now they've made a movie that would make make Ansel Adams blush! City Center 12, Fox Tower 10
Nothing in Philip Kaufman's thriller Twisted is worth recommending. It's set in San Francisco and concerns an alcoholic cop (Ashley Judd), whose father killed himself after killing her mother. She was only six when this happened, and now the tragedy looms over her life like a dark cloud over the city of San Francisco. However, she has a father figure in the proud police commissioner, Samuel L. Jackson, who knew her parents and has brought her to become what her real father ultimately failed to be, a good cop. The police commissioner also likes to drink wine; indeed, wine has a leading role in this depthless film. After being promoted to homicide, Judd is handed her first case, which by sheer coincidence involves solving the murders of men she has had one-night stands with. (Charles Mudede) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* What the Fuck Do We Know?
Mark Vincente's What the #$*! Do We Know?, is a tidy, slick, and thoroughly compelling documentary-infused narrative, which attempts to break the ice of quantum physics without putting us to sleep. The dramatized portions follow a few days in the life of Portland photographer Amanda, affectionately played by Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, as she deals with her separation from a cheating husband.