23rd Annual Reel Music Fest
The Northwest Film Center's 23rd Reel Music Fest kicks off this Friday, with a bunch of music-related films playing at the Guild and Whitsell Auditorium. For more info, hit www.nwfilm.org.
It's common knowledge that Willie Nelson is the Coolest Motherfucker on the Planet, but if there are three guys who even come close to challenging Willie's title, they're Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. This doc looks at the four's supergroup, the Highwaymen, with no small amount of nostalgia and praise—and despite its sometimes overly wistful moments and glossy historicity (no one mentions that the Highwaymen really only had one good song) the badassery on display here cannot be denied. Plays with Shakespeare was a Big George Jones Fan: Cowboy Jack Clement's Home Movies. (Erik Henriksen)
Malfunkshun—The Andrew Wood Story
A documentary that traces Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood's troubled life through heartfelt interviews and a hefty amount of fuzzy archival video. But in spite of the participants' tender, powerful recollections, Malfunkshun is a wreck of a documentary—with long segments of staggeringly cheesy digital collage effects tying scenes together, all set to Wood's middling poetry. (Zac Pennington)
Pick Up the Mic
A documentary on the growing scene of LGBT rappers, mainly in San Francisco and New York. The most entertaining thing about Pick Up the Mic is how freaking terrible the music is. On the other hand, it's an interesting look into a bubbling aspect of pop culture whose artists face their own particular set of struggles. Apparently, struggling not to suck is a common one. (Marjorie Skinner)
Sam Cooke: Legend
See review this issue. Plays with the awesomely titled Parliament Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove.
Film collector Dennis Nyback's showcase of 1950s-1960s films that were originally shown on the Scopitone—a weird-ass combination of a TV and jukebox. Sounds interesting, but at 90 minutes, Nyback's "evening of archeological discovery in which camp and kitsch collide" might be pushin' it.
The latest from Uwe Boll (Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead), who is arguably the worst motion picture director of all time. His latest videogame adaptation features Kristanna Loken and—yep—Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley. Shockingly, it wasn't screened for critics; watch for our giddily vicious film short next week.
Breakfast on Pluto As Patrick "Kitten" Brady, Cillian Murphy cross-dresses as the disarmingly beautiful and magnetic transvestite protagonist. Set in a tumultuous Ireland during the '60s and '70s, Kitten is an orphan literally left on the doorstep of the local priest (Liam Neeson); as he grows up, his inclinations become more cemented, and he gradually, and for all intents and purposes, becomes a she. Murphy's complete mastery of this incredibly complex character—along with the general eye candy of setting and wardrobes—is the reason to see Pluto. (Marjorie Skinner)
Brick by Brick, Side by Side
A documentary about American volunteers helping a Nicaraguan community get clean water. Screens as a benefit for clean water/reforestation non-profit group El Porvenir.
See review this issue.
The Northwest Film Center screens work from three of its students—Charlotte Lettis Richardson, Melissa Tvetan, and Justin Ward.
Down to the Bone
See review this issue.
Gay Sex in the '70s
Ever wonder what that one shining decade of true sexual freedom for gay men was like? Before AIDS, those horrible freedom rings, and baggy pants? Well—in New York, at least, and according to Gay Sex in the '70s—it was all about sex. Interspersing photos, porn clips, and grainy archival footage with interviews from a few men lucky enough to live through the AIDS aftermath, this film still left me wanting a bit more substance. Maybe what's missing are the stories of those who weren't lucky enough to survive. (Brad Buckner)
A film about a 35-year-old videogame tester, Alex (Allen Covert) who has to move in with his grandmother (Doris Roberts) and her friends. It looks terrible, and it wasn't screened for critics... but what was the last movie about videogames you saw—The Wizard?
This Eli Roth-directed, Quentin Tarantino-executive produced horror flick wasn't screened for critics, so that's a bad sign. But there are some okay good signs, too: Roth directed 2002's well-received Cabin Fever, IMDB has Takashi Miike listed as a cast member (weird), and then there's that Tarantino guy. Watch for our film short next week.
2004's Marebito is shot on all digital video and manages to deliver a semi-entrancing walk through one man's nightmare...or fantasy. Considering famous J-horror director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge) shot it in only eight days, the toggling between shots of home video, otherworldly landscapes, and grungy darkness provides impressive visual verve. The plot: A cameraman (Shinya Tsukamoto) is consumed with an obsession to discover the ultimate terror—and eventually finds it in ruins beneath the Tokyo subway. Instead of a gurgle-mouthed monstrosity, he finds a naked mute girl (Tomomi Miyashita) and takes her home—which ultimately turns him into the monster. I recommend covering your ears to avoid the messy philosophical voice-overs; instead, just sit back and enjoy the creepy imagery and graphic finesse. (Jenna Roadman)
Music from the Inside Out
105 musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra are followed around for five years by filmmaker Daniel Anker to get a closer look at what makes musicians tick. Although this may sound kind of lame, it is actually pretty rad to see all the quirks and eccentricities that make great musicians truly great. (Christine S. Blystone)
Naked in Ashes
According to Naked in Ashes, over 13 million sadhus—holy men—wander around India, many of them strung along the banks of the "mother Ganges." The average sadhu bathes daily in the river, covers his body in ashes, and "performs austerities" like, say, pulling a jeep full of people with his penis. Naked in Ashes is a documentary in the strictest sense: It doesn't critically engage these wacky—excuse me, holy—men and their theologies so invite us to gape at their extreme devotions and listen to them talk about yoga, opening the mind, holy fire, and drowning in oceans of happiness. Their feats are spectacular, even if we leave the theater as puzzled by them as when we walked in. (Brendan Kiley)
The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear
A documentary that shows how some politicians gain power—by promising to deliver us from supposed threats that we don't see or understand. In other words, it's fucking scary. (Christine S. Blystone)
Protocols of Zion
The big news: Anti-Semitism exists! That's the sole revelation that the 90-minute-long Protocols of Zion ultimately arrives at. Granted, that not-so-profound statement isn't all that the meandering, unfocused Zion aims to say, but it is pretty much the only thing that comes out. (Erik Henriksen)
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
Wal-Mart does such a good job of shooting themselves in the foot that siccing lefty documentarian Robert Greenwald on 'em seems a bit superfluous. Plus, Wal-Mart isn't that good of a movie—Greenwald's hacky, overbearing presence means we get a lot of heavy-handed Message. Still, it's a powerful film, despite its clumsiness, and must-see viewing for anyone who's not already anti-Wal-Mart. (Erik Henriksen)