FILM FESTIVAL reviews
Here you go--the Mercury's look at the selections of the Clinton St. Theater's film fest! For more info, see our story on page 57 and My, What A Busy Week! on page 11.
Four slackers rob a dead guy's apartment in this stoner film noir, which has some good laughs, but it's hard to care much about the outcome when the disposable supporting characters are more interesting than the film's clumsy plot. (Ryan Dirks)
Jerkbeast is the red-hued monstrous host of a Seattle public access show who decides to start a rock band--but eventually falls prey to the pitfalls of bad management, touring, and a girlfriend who dies of Lupus in the van. It's an old story that's reinvigorated with hilariously dirty (but sharp-witted) hijinx. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
* The King, the Lawyers, and The Cheese
In 2000, Kraft sued artist Stu Helm for his use of the pen name "King VelVeeda"--claiming that his "unwholesome" art work tarnished the Kraft name. Helm is like a more articulate version of your stoner friend from high school, and it's interesting to watch him try to defend his art and his name from Kraft's attack. (Alison Hallett)
The Loser of Colourballs
Directed by Portlander Jack G., Colourballs is a "sad comedy" in which "hero anti-hero Jack G. makes his way through the realms of self-doubt and self-destruction to find his strength in the ruins he left behind many years ago." Jack G. will do a Q & A after the film.
A mockumentary which addresses the potentially amusing event horizon of homo sapiens eventually evolving into a super-fat, food-obsessed hominid species, known playfully as "Muffin Man." The mockumentary portion of this film is slickly produced and amusing, but its singular joke fully exhausts itself after about 20 minutes (note: the film is 93 minutes long). (Lance Chess)
* The Naked Feminist
Though it doesn't cover much new ground, these candid, funny interviews with women in the porn industry will reinforce what you already know: that it is possible to be a self-aware, articulate woman who fucks for money. Other footage includes a behind the scenes look at the making of a Fan Fuxxx video, plus tons of clips from classics of the genre. (Alison Hallett)
* The Portland Bike Film
Essentially a series of short films documenting the Zoobombers and Chunk 666, the town's foremost bicycle gangs. A documentation of Portland bike glory days, all the films are fun and cheeky in a self-romanticizing kind of way. That's not a bad thing if you're a good Portland cheerleader, but I think the collection would serve better as a letter of introduction for visiting or recently transplanted bike activists to get a sense of Portland's vibe. (Marjorie Skinner)
* Rock and Roll Eulogy
In the vein of Roger Corman's Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill! and the instructional Reefer Madness comes this '50s style parody warning of the dangers of rock and roll. While overlong and not exactly original, this smartly filmed feature has nice production values and should be enjoyable for the rockabilly crowd. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
The Short Films of Armando D. Munoz
Mimes are a fitting symbol for Munoz's harmlessly silly, inexplicably disturbing films, and that's just what you get in his "Mime After Midnight," which has a mime (Sean Musacchia) hunting his victims with invisible mime weapons. Munoz's amateurish, hey-look-I-made-this-movie-in-a-day style can get tiresome quickly, but his knack for campy humor creates some memorable moments in his narrative shorts. Unfortunately, "Perverts in Residence," his sloppy hand-held documentary about the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival's Paradise Hotel, manages to be pretty forgettable--even with all the gay porn, karaoke-singing trannies, and masked dudes wielding dildos. I guess you had to be there. (Ryan Dirks)
More wacky, PUFF-approved shorts. Not screened for critics.
* Sickest Shorts
Most of these are pretty mediocre, but it's totally worth sitting through the not-so-great stuff just to see one great short: "Nohasfrontwo," a fucking hilarious (and borderline brilliant) short detailing the travails of Dracula's son--who had his fangs knocked out in a childhood golfing accident. (Erik Henriksen)
* The State of PDX Indie Filmmaking Panel
A panel featuring filmmakers discussing the current state of indie filmmaking in our fair city.
A French comedy/mystery starring Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, and six other actresses whose names you sort of know how to pronounce. Pix Patisserie
If you're looking for a way to drive up high school suicide rates, then make sure teachers show Oliver Stone's THREE HOUR LONG Alexander in history class. A sweeping, mind-numbingly annoying epic, Stone is possibly the only director in the world that can put hunky Colin Farrell in a largely gay role, yet still make it ridiculously unexciting. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Almost Peaceful
Technically sloppy but otherwise engaging, Almost Peaceful portrays the lives of a Jewish tailor, his family, and his employees in post-WWII Paris. Underlying the action (which consists mostly of office drama and the requisite angsty French sex) is an unusual take on the Jewish experience that focuses on the difficulty of re-integrating into Parisian society, rather than on the Holocaust itself. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
Annette Bening gives a high-decibel performance as a whorey London stage actress who learns how to love, then forgets how to love, and then remembers again, courtesy of some late afternoon "teas" (nudge, nudge). Bening can be entertainingly malicious--particularly in the latter scenes--but for the most part, the costumes are hotter than the actors in this lackluster period piece. (Alison Hallett) Laurelhurst
Blade: Trinity See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Check out what Portland filmmakers are up to in this evening of shorts by the students of the Northwest Film Center's School of Film. Guild Theater
Chopper Chicks in Zombietown
A group of tough chick bikers revel in gore as they take down the undead inhabitants of Zombietown. Featuring Billy Bob Thornton, which is awesome. Blind Onion
Christmas with the Kranks
If you're swamped with a suicide-inducing list of stuff to do for the holidays, chances are you're already busy as hell. Save some time and pain by not paying eight dollars to watch yet another crappy Tim Allen Christmas movie. (Lance Chess) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Everything in Closer revolves around four characters (excellently portrayed by Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen) and their well- and ill-intentioned romantic and sexual experiences with each other. The film treats the oft-idealized concepts of love and romance as undeniably beautiful things that are just as undeniably filled with duplicity, anger, confusion, and pain. Closer's incestuously twisting, darkly fascinating narrative is rooted in the psychosexual drives of its characters, and it's all topped off with enough sadistic mindfucks and inevitable despair to satisfy even the staunchest emotional masochist. One of the best pictures of the year--and a film that powerfully proves that the most complex, accurate, and emotionally wrenching stories writhe beneath the surfaces of the simplest narratives. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
Evenly tracing the feats and pratfalls of the Ramones' entire career with admirable honesty, End of the Century relies upon narrowly captured insights of the original foursome--miraculously filmed just prior to the untimely domino deaths of Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny over the last four years. Frank and forthcoming, the interviews offer the band a much-needed sense of dimension and paint surprisingly sympathetic portraits of a junk-sick fuck-up, a sensitive obsessive-compulsive, and a tyrannical conservative. (Zac Pennington) Cinema 21
Johnny Depp provides a quirky, believable performance as the wildly imaginative James Barrie, who's stuck with a bitchy wife (Radha Mitchell) and mired in conservative, early 1900s British society. But Barrie dreams big, even as his plays fail, and when he meets up with the Llewelyn Davies family--made up of charming widow Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her three impossibly adorable sons--he hatches the idea for Peter Pan. To be fair, Finding Neverland is a pretty decent film. It's not bad at what it attempts--indeed, at times it's damn near skillful and clever in its technique and imagination--it's just that its heavy-handed attempts to be Oscar worthy are so transparent that they prevent the film from ever becoming an entity in and of itself. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Hebrew Hammer
Mordechai Jefferson Carver is a badass Semitic Superfly in this "jewsploitation" spoof. Hired by the Jewish Justice League, the "Hammer" (Adam Goldberg) must put a stop to the fiendish son of Santa (Andy Dick), who plans to destroy Hanukkah. A very funny idea that fails to meet expectations thanks to its draggy script. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Clinton Street Theater
* In the Mood for Love
Directed by Wong Kar-wai (Fallen Angels), Mood is an achingly beautiful film about two neighbors in 1960s Hong Kong whose spouses are having affairs with each other. In spite of their smoldering lust for each other, the two jilted non-cheaters try to refrain from falling into the same trap of lust and betrayal as their spouses have. Film critic groupie alert! The Saturday screening will feature Kenneth Turan, a film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition. Turan be discussing the film and how it relates to his new book, Never Coming to a Theater Near You: A Celebration of a Certain Kind of Movie. (Phil Busse) Whitsell Auditorium
Incident at Loch Ness
A mock documentary about the making of a fictional documentary gone awry. Werner Herzog plays himself, an adventurous filmmaker who wants to explore the relationship between truth and fiction via the Loch Ness Monster. The film is cleverly constructed (though it's not nearly as quick and witty as it stuffily fancies itself to be), and after a long, uneventful start featuring mediocre Hollywood jokes and boring self reflexive exercises, Incident eventually evolves into something engaging. Especially worth the hassle if you're a theory-obsessed film student or an industry cog who's actually amused by the cheap corruptions of big budget filmmaking. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre
Liam Neeson's rendition of revolutionary sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is a scientist to the bone. Sexual desire, feels Kinsey, is just a biological impulse, and should be openly discussed and explored. As a professor in the 1930s, Kinsey makes waves with his explicit sexuality classes, and Kinsey convincingly argues that its subject's unflinchingly technical attitude towards sex helped liberate the American people in a time of intense prudishness. Good point, but what's missing is any exploration of why Kinsey is the way he is. This is the way of the Hollywood biopic; leaping frantically from rock to rock along the surface of its chosen figure's life, but never stopping to dig down and see what's underneath. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10
Luiz Fernando Carvalho's 2001 drama/tragedy has a title that sounds like a weird reproductive organ, but it's actually about a family of Lebanese immigrants in Brazil. Guild Theater
Though even the most blockbuster-lovin' cinephile would agree that National Treasure has a deeply stupid plot--Nicholas Cage plays "Benjamin Franklin Gates," who's tyring to find a wondrous treasure from a map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence--the screenwriters throw in enough pseudo-history to make it "buyable," if not believable. Plus, director Jon Turteltaub gives the affair a rollicking "Goonies for adults" vibe that forces you to put aside any annoying intellectual cynicism. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Broadway Metroplex, Regal Cinemas, etc.
Ocean's Twelve See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
One of the roughly five billion Los Angeles bartenders trying to make it as filmmakers, Troy Duffy actually did, somehow coercing Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein into not only buying his screenplay for a million dollars, but giving him a $15 million budget to direct it with, AND hiring his terrible band Brood to produce the soundtrack, AND (!!) buying the bar at which Duffy worked as a gesture of good faith. Upon receiving the filmmaker's equivalent of the Powerball jackpot, Duffy promptly screams, curses, whines, brags, smokes, and drinks himself into oblivion, alienating Weinstein, his band, his friends and family, and everyone else pathetic enough to remain in his company. Weinstein backs out, and the other studios quickly follow suit. Somehow, Duffy still finishes the film, but it only plays for one week in five theaters nationwide. Overnight is not a well made film, but it's satisfying like your dreams of smashing the school bully's fat face are satisfying. (Justin Sanders) Cinema 21
Pure Sweet Hell
A documentary about the fringe sport of cyclocross racing, in which bikers have to pick up and carry their bikes over difficult terrain. How do they do that? I mean, just typing that first sentence made me want to take a nap. (Erik Henriksen) Doubletree Jantzen Beach,
Rosenstrasse tells the story of a little Jewish-German girl and her savior, an Aryan princess. Of course, this plot has been recycled by any number of Holocaust narratives, so there are a couple of twists. The child eventually grows up, moves to New York City, and gives birth to a snappy dresser named Hannah (Maria Schrader). As the film opens, Hannah gets sick of her mother's refusal to speak of her traumatic girlhood and tromps off to Berlin to find answers. The exposition flows plentifully, and director Margaretha von Trotta keeps unmediated action to a minimum. When a straightforward scene does break through the voiceover morass, its effectiveness is undercut by melodramatic zooms and soap-opera pacing. This film fails as entertainment, and as education it's completely muddled. (Annie Wagner) Fox Tower 10
The Sea Inside
Javier Bardeem plays Ramon Sampedro (the Northwest Film Center describes him as a "wily, witty quadriplegic"), who fought a 30-year battle to die with dignity after he was paralyzed from a diving accident. Whether this film is any good or not is kind of insignificant--how many chances are you going to get to see a film starring a "wily, witty quadriplegic"? Not many, which is a goddamn shame. Guild Theater
Philip Baker Hall plays President Nixon for director Robert Altman. The Northwest Film Center promises that this 1984 film has Nixon ranting "in a drunken frenzy of self-justification and resentment" as he "bemoans his fate." Aw. Poor widdle Nixon. Guild Theater, Whitsell Auditorium
Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a would-be writer who accompanies his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a weeklong trip through California's wine country for a final bachelor's hurrah before Jack's upcoming wedding. While Sideways is enjoyable, it's ultimately unsatisfying--we watch as Miles and Jack are stripped of all their illusions, but we never find out what they're replaced with. (Alison Hallett) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Kirk Douglas and Barbara Stanwyck star in this noirish mystery. This is Douglas' first film, which means it was made sometime in the mid-1700s. Cafe Nola
* Teenagers From Outer Space
Aliens invade earth to breed evil creatures that are called Gargons and look like lobsters. When the alien hero realizes that there is intelligent life on Earth, he warns the humans, sacrificing himself in the process. Hey, thanks a lot, alien! Old Town Pizza
* Towlines: An Evening of Film and Music with Matt McCormick & James Mercer
See My, What A Busy Week! page 11. Whitsell Auditorium
* Vera Drake
Besides working as a maid, factory worker, and homemaker for her husband and two grown children in '50s London, the beatifically portrayed Vera (Imelda Staunton) performs illegal abortions. When disaster strikes a teenaged patient and Vera gets pinched, the devastation she faces puts the finishing touches on the film's masterful, horrifying recreation. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10,
Films by Portland animator Joanna Priestley and her husband, animator and live-action director Paul Harrod. Guild Theater
A village pastor (Gunnar Bj-rnstrand) attempts to understand his faith and "God's silence" in Ingmar Bergman's slapstick comedy. Part of PSU's excruciatingly named Spinozan Pantheist Winter Break Progressive Film Fest. PSU Smith Memorial Union