PDX Film Fest
This is the third year for the Portland Documentary & Experimental Film Festival, which is put on by experimental video collective Peripheral Produce and the Northwest Film Center. A Darkness Swallowed Betzy Bromberg's 78-minute-long exploration of color. Yay! Color! 78 minutes of it!
Cul De Sac: A Suburban War Story In 1995, Shawn Nelson stole an Army tank and drove through his California suburb for a half-hour, decimating traffic lights, fire hydrants, and parked cars while cop cars trailed in pursuit. Utilizing interviews and TV news footage, director Garrett Scott's post-event examination of how and why Nelson did what he did is fascinating stuff--even if Scott stretches a bit by trying to blame Nelson's joyride on a combination of meth, decaying suburbs, military culture, and the 21st century as a whole. (Erik Henriksen) Guild
Kings of the Sky An experimental documentary that follows record-breakin', tightrope-walkin' Adil Hoxur, and also examines the Tukic-Muslim people known as the Uyghurs. Also likely to be included: Other hard-to-pronounce proper nouns. Guild
Me and You and Everyone We Know A wildly heartbreaking movie that manages to be both sweet and dark in the same breath. Written and directed by ex-Portlander Miranda July (who also stars), Me and You has been on my mind almost nonstop since I saw it. At the heart of the movie are all-too-human individuals creating their own private rituals, rules, and architectures that allow them to create meaningful relationships with other people and the world around them. Every character in the film is flawed and beautiful, lonely and graceful. With nearly every scene packing a dazzling emotional punch, Me and You and Everyone We Know is one of the richest, most delicate, and rewarding movies I've seen in years. (Chas Bowie) Guild
Operation Dreamland This documentary follows American soldiers stationed in an abandoned resort in Al Fallujah. Bored, young, and confused, they feel ripped off and don't know what they're fighting for--basically confirming every tidbit of bad news you've seen about the situation over there. Ordinarily, I'd insist that we're obligated to watch this kind of reality considering our role in the world, but this documentary is so simple, bleak, and solution-free that I'll let you off the hook--this time. (Marjorie Skinner) Guild
PDX Film Fest: The Birdpeople Some people really like birds. This is a movie about those people. Guild
The Great Art of Knowing This is the latest in filmmaker David Gatten's cycle of nine films exploring the Byrds, a Virginian family from the early 18th century. Existing somewhere at the intersection of structuralist aesthetics, biographical narrative, and language poetry, Gatten's work is meditative and philosophical. Much of the film alternates between abstract montages and text-heavy fragments, leaving the viewer to construct meaning from the recurrent themes of flying birds, luxurious gardens, faith, and life's menial tasks. It is difficult and dense, but totally worth the effort. Plays with Peter Hutton's Skagafjordur. (Ryan Dirks) Guild
The Peripheral Produce Invitational In what might be the crown jewel of the PDX Film Fest, 14 experimental filmmakers will compete in the "World Championship of Experimental Cinema." Suffice to say that last year's winner, Vladimir, won with a film/experience that had the audience simultaneously utilizing 400 View-Masters. Sounds weird, yes? But also pretty kickass. Guild
War at a Distance Harun Farocki's film about "the relationship between military strategy and industrial production." Preceded by Diary, a Lithuanian film looking at post-Soviet life. Guild
After Midnight After a long-term crush on the girl who works at a fast food joint, Amanda (Francesca Inaudi), the shy night watchman at Torino's Cinema Museum, Martino (Giorgio Pasotti), finally commands her attention. True, this is no original story, but as a tribute to silent films (particularly Buster Keaton), After Midnight relies more on the characters' actions and expressions than their words; the film, unlike others with similar plots, never says too much. (Will Gardner) Hollywood Theatre
The Amityville Horror 1979's original Amityville suffered from a stupid family that withstood the antics of the terrifying house when anyone else would have ran for the hills within the first week of living there. The new Amityville's characters are equally moronic, but it has better special effects. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Bad Education If Hitchcock's Vertigo collided head-on with a drag queen variety show, the brilliant wreckage would be Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education. (Ryan Dirks) Hollywood Theatre
Ballad of Jack and Rose Taking up the thin line between familial and romantic love, The Ballad of Jack and Rose is not nearly as creepy or sordid as one might think. Inhabiting an old commune, the handsome, rugged father (Daniel Day-Lewis) and angel-faced adolescent daughter (Camilla Belle) toil in post-hippie paradise while classic folk rock accompanies them on the soundtrack. The ballad is rich with incident--it's touching, anguished, disturbing, strange, and occasionally hilarious. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10
Beautiful Boxer In Beautiful Boxer, a young Thai boy, Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan), becomes a professional boxer to earn money for a sex change operation. The film has a made-for-TV kind of appeal, but its heavy-handed attempts to be inspirational and empowering fall short of the mark. Though based on a true story, Nong Toom isn't given the depth necessary to make his difficult decisions believable. Ultimately, the best scenes in the film take place in the boxing ring--so when Nong Toom abandons boxing to become a woman, it's more disappointing than inspirational. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
Big Spuds, Little Spuds & Seeds Rather than writing a snarky, anti-hippie film short about these two selections of the "Think Globally, Eat Locally" film series, we'll just print the complete titles: Big Spuds, Little Spuds: The Impact of Climate Change and Monoculture on One of the World's Staple Food Crops and Seeds: Genetic Diversity in the Food Supply. Why, this film festival sounds as if it will be as exciting as those film titles! Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Bull Durham Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and the ever-creepy Susan Sarandon play baseball and have sex. Kennedy School
The Celebration When patriarch Helge (Henning Moritzen) turns 60, there's a big party--and all of his family's painful secrets are unexpectedly thrust into public view. Happy birthday, Helge! Pix Patisserie
Dear Frankie The adjective "heartwarming" is pretty much a curse at this point, thanks to maudlin, simplistic tearjerkers targeted at the Oprah crowd--so it's a nice surprise that Dear Frankie is both "heartwarming" and "good." Frankie (Jack McElhone) is a deaf boy who's constantly on the move with his young mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer). The one constant in Frankie's life are loving letters from his dad, who travels the world as a sailor. Turns out, however, that it's really Lizzie who writes the letters--and when the ship Frankie's dad supposedly sails on comes into town, Lizzie has to find someone to pretend to be the perfect dad. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
Downfall An epic film taking place in Hitler's Berlin bunker, in the last days before the end of the war and his suicide. Much like taking a short trip into one of the circles of Hell, it's a cement-filled world teeming with Nazis who know they have lost, who are getting drunk, planning their suicides, and painfully watching their Fuhrer descend further into failure, frailty, desperation, and rage. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10 , City Center 12
Dust to Glory An uneven documentary about the no-holds-barred, off-road race the Baja 1000. As directed and narrated by Dana Brown, though, its highs (spectacular footage, moving stories of the racers) make up for its lows (overbearing narration, some sappy music that'd be more at home at the end of a Full House episode). Brown--whose previous film was the surfing doc Step Into Liquid--captures the grit, speed, and daring of the Baja 1000's racers, who race an ever-changing course in vehicles that range from multi-million dollar trophy trucks to unmodified, pre-1982 Volkswagen Beetles. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10
Fever Pitch Ben (the incorrigibly grating Jimmy Fallon) is a teacher whose life is dominated by his love for the Red Sox. But when he hooks up with Lindsey (the ineffably angelic Drew Barrymore), things get rough--Lindsey's a baseball neophyte, and justifiably freaked out by Ben's fandom. Pretend you're a Red Sox fan, and think of Fever Pitch as one of the Sox's pre-'04 seasons: You have a bad hunch about how predictably disappointing it'll turn out, but that doesn't necessarily make it any less enjoyable. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Goto+Play Film Festival Running through April at PushDot Studio, the Goto+Play Film Festival is an art installation featuring wall-sized projections of animation and other types of work from motion graphic artists. 20 artists contributed to the promising-sounding installation, including Portland-area video artists. PushDot Studio
High Heels Pedro Almodóvar strikes again with his tale of Rebeca (Victoria Abril), a television news star desperately trying to measure up to her movie star mother. Whitsell Auditorium
The Interpreter See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
IT (Independent Tuesdays) Nocturnal's homemade film and video event. Nocturnal
King's Ransom This film was not screened for critics, which leads one to suspect it's going to be pretty horrible. Said suspicion is strengthened by the film's press release, which notes that Anthony Anderson plays "a successful and wealthy businessmen, [sic] with plenty of attitude to spare" who concocts some shitbrained kidnapping scheme. But one of his "long-suffering employees (Nicole Parker) and a dim-witted local bumpkin (Jay Mohr)" have other plans! Yes. Pretty horrible. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Kung Fu Hustle See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Land Has Eyes Viki (Sapeta Taito), a poor girl in the Fiji Islands, tries to find her way as British authorities make false accusations against her father. Rejecting the Christian colonial values, she finds inspiration in a myth about a warrior woman, once told to Viki by her father. Hollywood Theatre
A Lot Like Love I can already hear the Ashton Kutcher apologists: "Take it easy, it's just an escape." But this film is no escape; it's Hell. And I'm talking about the first circle of Hell, way past the gnashing of teeth and the smell of burning flesh--this is the place where you're strapped to a chair and your eyes are held open by tiny metal fingers, all Clockwork Orange style. And there you are forced to eternally view a scene in A Lot Like Love, wherein Ashton plays electric guitar and sings Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There For You" to Amanda Peet, while Satan laughs over your shoulder like a preteen girl at the movie theater, kicking your chair and only letting you eat the green and yellow Dots. (Ryan Dirks) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Mail Order Wife The most manipulative and profoundly irritating of films, Mail Order Wife is a mockumentary which--at least initially--tricks you into thinking it's a documentary. A creepy sex-obsessed doorman (Adrian Martinez) "orders" a Chinese woman (Eugenia Yuan), which the "documentarians" have paid for. She's meek and submissive, while he's a total asshole who makes her clean the toilet, feed rats to his giant pet snake, and of course, spread her legs in the bedroom. Once the "director" (Andrew Gurland) realizes what he's gotten this poor gal into, he valiantly rescues her from the doorman and starts fucking her himself. At this point it becomes obvious the film is a farce, and the story spirals off into a pointless nowhereville of boring conversations between a supposed documentarian and a supposed Chinese mail order bride who don't even speak the same language. (Katie Shimer) Clinton Street Theater
Meet the Feebles One of Peter Jackson's earliest films, Feebles follows a group of puppets putting on a variety show. But Jackson infuses it with demented giddiness: The rabbit MC has VD. The walrus manager receives blowjobs from a pussycat. The knife-throwing frog is a 'Nam vet who needs a junk fix. Jackson's content to let this one joke--Muppets doing things they aren't supposed to--serve as the backbone for the entire film, and there's a certain charm in the amoral humor. Then again, that charm wears out quickly, and the film begins to grate after about 10 minutes. (Erik Henriksen) Clinton Street Theater
Melinda and Melinda Since he's been toying with comedies and tragedies for decades, Allen here has the perfect chance to capitalize on his proficiency in both genres. But while Melinda and Melinda is theoretically two Allen films for the price of one, its sum is far less than even one of Allen's past masterpieces. (Will Gardner) Fox Tower 10
Millions Danny Boyle's tale of two young brothers (Alexander Nathan Etel and Lewis Owen McGibbon) who find a duffel bag stuffed with cash. Ultimately, Millions becomes less about the money and more about the boys' splintered family; despite a retarded subplot about a criminal looking for the cash and some unforgivably sappy moments, Millions is definitely worthwhile. (Erik Henriksen) Fox Tower 10 , City Center 12 , Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing
Nobody Knows Nobody Knows is a simple and true story: Keiko is a self-centered party girl who (oops!) happens to be a mother to four children. Mysteriously absent for weeks on end, she leaves her oldest son in charge. Had an hour been lopped off the film's three-hour running time, Nobody Knows would be decently engaging. As it is, I couldn't make it through the whole film. (Phil Busse) Hollywood Theatre
Off the Map Set deep in the thick of the '70s, director Campbell Scott's film follows the coming-of-age story of a tomboy growing up within an isolationist family. Scott creates some lovely and startling color schemes in New Mexico's stunning wide-open spaces, but such golden bits can't negate the cumulative effect of Joan Ackermann's script, which, as adapted from her play, contains enough twinkly magic realism to give Garrison Keillor a canker sore. (Andrew Wright) Fox Tower 10
The Panic in Needle Park A young Al Pacino plays Bobby, a heroin addict in New York who introduces his girlfriend (Kitty Winn) to the glamorous lifestyle of being a junkie. Fifth Avenue Cinemas
A Single Spark The tale of a South Korean labor organizer who killed himself--by lighting himself on fire--to protest sweatshops and labor laws. (Insert Paris Hilton's catchphrase here.) PSU Smith Memorial Union
Steamboy See review this issue. Cinema 21
The Upside of Anger The Upside of Anger makes an all-too-blatant grab for the award-friendly glory road well plowed by the likes of American Beauty and Terms of Endearment, yet is nearly redeemed by a cast (including Joan Allen and Kevin Costner) that wrings out every last bit of potential from the formula. (Andrew Wright) Regal Cinemas, etc.
What Have I Done to Deserve This? Pedro Almodóvar's tale of a woman (Carmen Maura) attempting to live with her husband, her self-destructive sons, and her mother-in-law. (Sensibly, she uses No-Doz and inhalants to assist in this undertaking.) Whitsell Auditorium