It's almost time for the Third Annual One Minute Film Festival, the always-fun, always-interesting fest that's—yep—made up of films that're a minute or less in length. C'mon. Anybody can make a film that's a minute or less in length, so get off your lazy ass and hit telegrapharts.org for more info. Submissions must be postmarked by April 21.
The Northwest Film Center continues their screenings of the UCLA Film Archive's Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film, Part II. This week: The awesomely named Dirty Ho, plus The Boxer from Shantung, King Boxer, and Clans of Intrigue. Wait—we mentioned Dirty Ho, right? Okay, cool.
33rd Student Academy Awards Regional Finalists
The best work from students in university film programs, as selected by the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These are the films from the West Coast portion of the competition, and previous entrants include Spike Lee and Trey Parker—so be prepared for what could be some pretty promising stuff. Whitsell Auditorium
All the President's Men
1976's excellent film about those crazy dudes who broke Watergate. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters almost single-handedly responsible for bringing down Nixon; not only is this film more tense and frightening than any thriller out there, but its ramifications are as powerful as ever... nah, never mind. Like that Watergate/conspiracy/deceiving the American public sort of shit could ever happen again. (Erik Henriksen) Hollywood Theatre
Yes, ATL is yet another teen-targeted, thinly veiled vehicle for a rapper-turned-actor. And yes, ATL predictably plays it by the numbers: You've got your drugs and violence subplots, the obligatory "wrong side of the tracks" love story, and even a dollop of class contention, all set to a heavingly brilliant soundtrack that plays like a central character. (Did I mention the fact that the main characters happen to be orphans? No, seriously.) And yet, for some reason, no volume of endless cliché can sink ATL. Effectively helmed by music video director Chris Robinson, ATL is a totally enjoyable celebration of the now familiar (read: heavily commodified) filth and flash of the Dirty South, staring likeably scrawny rapper Tip "T.I." Harris. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.
I tried to ignore it, but as each scene flipped into the next, the word kept coming back and flicking my earlobe: "Budget." Automatic is budget. Budget actors so painfully wooden I want to carve totem poles out of them. Budget camera angles, dialogue, film quality, plot—just total budget. Automatic is supposed to be a meditation on fate with an ensemble cast showing the repercussions and range of minor personal choices, but it flops on its face and breaks its nose five minutes in. You can make great movies without a lot of cash. This isn't one of them. (Adam Gnade) Hollywood Theatre
Battle in Heaven
Marcos (Marcos Hernández), is one pathetic motherfucker. He works for a general in the Mexican army, but he and his wife (Bertha Ruiz) have also inexplicably, stupidly kidnapped a baby, which has died. At work, Marcos confides in Ana (Anapola Mushkadiz), the General's young daughter, who he drives around and wants to fuck. Battle in Heaven's cast of non-actors handles things fine, but there are other problems here: Aside from its glacial pace, the film's so maddeningly structured and opaque—so insistently and ostentatiously closed—that one never feels like they know the characters. Plus, neither the film's graphic sexuality nor intense final reel do much to either illuminate or entertain; everything that (eventually) happens feels artificially assembled rather than earned, so instead of actually knowing where Marcos is coming from, or getting drawn in to the film's Lolita-esque plot, or just being grossed out by watching the fat Marcos and his fatter wife go at it, you're mostly left watching Marcos mope for an hour and a half. For a film that embraces sex and modern boredom/self-hatred as much as Battle does, it all feels sterile and removed—which, even if that's director Carlos Reygadas' point, still makes for a pretty lousy film. (Erik Henriksen) Cinema 21
Wonder of wonders, this movie (starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, and John Heder, AKA that dickbag from Napoleon Dynamite) wasn't screened for critics. All we have to go on is the trailer. There's no other way to say it: Everyone who was involved—from the producers to the actors to the caterers—should be force-fed syphilitic anuses until they apologize for single handedly destroying America. I'm not going to waste any space talking about plot or premise, but you should know that it has something to do with baseball and retards or some shit. And John Heder plays, well, Napoleon Dynamite. Only, somehow, impossibly, even less funny. (Scott Moore) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Best of the Ottowa Animation Festival
Those Canadian motherfuckers take a break from chugging their precious syrup to show some cartoons. Fucking Canadians. Whitsell Auditorium
Shrunken Head Skateboards, the fucking illest skate shop on Planet Earth, McTwists your noggin with Born Dead, an ultrasick street- and pool-skate flick starring Darren Navarette, Sam Hitz, Al Partanen, and the rest of the greatest skaters living today! If you miss this, you're not worthy of wearing that retro Animal Chin t-shirt you were wearing the other day! Bottom line—SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!! (Dear Shrunken Heads Skateboards: Your fax indicated there would be free "stickers and tees" if we played our cards right. Please send size mediums to Chas Bowie and Erik Henriksen, c/o Portland Mercury, 605 NE 21st Ave, Suite 200, Portland, Oregon, 97232) This movie is highly recommended!!! Mission Theater
A film noir set in a high school, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt from 3rd Rock from the Sun. Brick-ville's a hardboiled wonderland; senior year is fulla dead dames and double-crossers, but instead of the coppers, we've got vice principals, and instead of smoky jazz clubs, we've got the basement in some kid's house. First-time director Rian Johnson never lets up on the tough-guy tone or the pace, and for a while, it's fun to see 'roided-out jocks play the dumb muscle, and to watch teenager Nora Zehetner as a femme fatale with a great pair of getaway sticks. After the first 45 minutes, though, you'll begin to feel like you're watching the cast of Peanuts trying to act cooler and smarter than they'll ever be in real life. (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10
Don't Come Knocking
Sam Shepard plays Howard Spence, a washed-up Western star who spent the better part of his life knocking back booze, pills, women, and handcuffs. One day on the set of a cheesy, generic Western, Howard takes off into the sunset to make peace with his personal history—and an odd, starchy detective (Tim Roth) hired by the film company hunts Howard down in the dusty streets of Nevada and Montana. While not a flawless movie, you'd be hard-pressed this month to find another that's this intelligent, cool, and fun. (Chas Bowie) Fox Tower 10
Filmed by Bike
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 15. Clinton Street Theater
First-Person in a Globalized World
For the finale to its Critical Cinemas series, Cinema Project turns its eye toward the ever-encroaching phenomenon of globalization and how it impacts the individual. It's a subject that's deserving of the attention and rich with possibilities, but this two-night program is mostly made up of artsy films of the eye-rolling variety. Tran T. Kim-Trang's Operculum uses Asian eyelid surgery as a means to explore hegemonic notions of beauty, but its production values are so poor, you can barely read the painfully academic text that scrolls down one half of the screen. And Michelle Dizon's Calibrate is such a heavy-handed meditation on race and capitalism—complete with deadpan voiceover—that it could moonlight as a parody of art house cinema. (John Motley) Cinema Project @ New American Art Union
Friends with Money
Jennifer Aniston plays Olivia, a woman who used to be a teacher, but currently cleans houses, smokes pot, crank calls a former lover, and considers becoming a personal trainer. Olivia hangs out with her three married gal pals, who are all wealthy in an annoying L.A. way. Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, and Frances McDormand play Aniston's friends; given the raw talent in those women, Friends with Money should be a passable film. Unfortunately, McDormand is the only bright spot, and the rest of the film comes across as contrived, leaving too many unanswered questions (Why are these women all friends? What derailed Olivia's life?), and instead honing in on the friends' superficial (and condescending) obsession with Olivia's simple life. Yawn. (Amy Jenniges) Fox Tower 10
A "multi-media call to action" about how logging is bad, presented by a group called "The Oxygen Collective" that uses a bio-diesel tour bus to "create and enhance events, and then add live music, independent media, organic food, and large-scale, participative art projects." What's that smell? That stink of patchouli and rotting tofu? Yep, the hippie stank is definitely all over this one. Go back to Woodstock, hippies. Clinton Street Theater
The Hidden Fortress
Stop me if this sounds familiar: A defeated general recruits two bumbling vagabonds to rescue his somewhat spoiled princess. Give up? Kurosawa's 1963 The Hidden Fortress is widely acknowledged as the blueprint for Star Wars. A fun romp filmed with the wide-angle battle scenes and bold stunts that made the director as famous in Japan as, well, R2D2. Clinton Street Theater
I Am a Sex Addict
See review this issue. Cinema 21
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Well, there are these two possums, and this elephant girl, and there was a boy one too, one of the mammoths? And the ice was breaking, so they had to find a new home, and in this one part, there are these two animals that wanted to kill them? So they found a new home. But my favorite part! There was this sloth, in just Ice Age, plain Ice Age—but in Ice Age 2, there's a whole group of sloths! And they kidnap the sloth because he can make fire, and they call him The Fire King, and 'cause he can make fire, and then he made fire! I like it better than the first one—I liked it better, this one had more of my favorite parts. And there were some parts with a squirrel. Those parts were my favorite. (Kayla, the Mercury's resident six-year-old.) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The Jackpot Records/Clinton Street Video Film Festival
Running Monday April 17 through Sunday April 23, the Jackpot Records/Clinton Street Video Film Festival boasts seven nights of programming, featuring rare films and Jandek's first ever West Coast performance. (Another unusual treat: The Beaver Trilogy, Trent Harris' one-of-a-kind film that was made from 1979 to 1985—the film's one part documentary, one part Sean Penn reenacting the documentary, and one part Crispin Glover reenacting the documentary again.) For more info, see music on pg. 19 or hit jackpotrecords.com. Hollywood Theatre
Larry Clark has built his career and notoriety on never pulling punches, from his groundbreaking debut as a photographer, Tulsa, to his seminal movie debut, Kids. So to call Ken Park his toughest-to-watch, most controversial work yet—well, that's saying a lot. Banned in Australia, never released in the US, Ken Park has garnered that singular buzz exclusive to works of art that "they" don't want you to see; maybe it's because of Clark's devastatingly natural depictions of blowjobs, drug use, incest, suicide, and autoerotic asphyxiation. Be sure to bring the kids for this one! (Chas Bowie) Video Verite
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
Lucky Number Slevin
In any synopsis of Slevin, spoilers lay like landmines, so I will tell you nothing. And the reason I'm hot on keeping the plot twists secret is that when they come, they snap like wet towels to the face—Slevin is a constant series of smacks, contoured around the kind of smart, funny screenwriting action films and thrillers usually don't employ. (Unless you're Snatch or Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and movies like that are too stylized to be truly great.) But Slevin is great—not because it's deep or artsy, but because it delivers and does so intelligently. (Adam Gnade) Regal Cinemas, etc.
On a Clear Day
There's a scene in the Scottish film On a Clear Day in which Frank Redmond, the rugged hero, questions his decision to swim the English Channel. His family doesn't understand, and the Channel is pretty wide, and he's feeling discouraged. He's at swim practice, moping, when he sees a little retarded kid swim across the pool, all by himself. And Frank thinks, "Hey. If the retarded kid can swim across the pool, then by god, I can swim across the Channel!" So he does. As uplifting and inspirational as the film may be, they cross the line with the retarded kid. It's time to "just say no" to uplifting, inspirational movies out of the UK—before things really get out of hand. (Alison Hallett) Fox Tower 10
Is Mo'Nique round 'n' sassy, or morbidly obese 'n' depressed? Is the moral here that phat girlz should go to Nigeria to find brothers who love their curves? Is Mo'Nique channeling the ghost of Nell Carter here? (We miss ya, Nell.) Why are all the funniest parts of this preview the parts when the "serious" music is playing? Does Big Momma make a cameo in this movie? Please? Why is it that the fatter our society gets, the more comedies about fat people there are? Will Tyra Banks please put her fat suit back on and go see this movie with me? What does 'Nique do with that white man's wig after she snatches it off his cracker head? If those fatty boombooms at Fox Searchlight had held an advance screening for us, I could answer these questions for you. But they didn't, so instead, you're going to have to get your 48-ounce Diet Coke and family-size Sour Patch Kids and find out for yourself. (Chas Bowie) Century Eastport 16, Lloyd Cinemas
Scary Movie 4
Fuck. They just keep on coming, don't they? Regal Cinemas, etc.
Shakespeare Behind Bars
See review this issue. Cinema 21
Source to Sea: The Columbia River Swim
A locally produced documentary about Christopher Swain, who swam the entire Columbia to raise attention about—what else?—the environment. Hey, hippie, while you're at it, why don't you swim back to Hippietown, hippie? Director in attendance. Clinton Street Theater
Frankie Muniz teams up with a bunch of no-names in this flaccid excuse for a Ring rip-off. But, instead of a death-sealing video, it's a videogame! Ooooooh. This movie's such a piece of shit that I couldn't hold my popcorn in my mouth because of all the nasal laughs I had going on. (Jenna Roadman)Sherwood 10, Lloyd Mall
Take the Lead
If I asked you to guess what would happen in a film about an uptown ballroom dance instructor and a detention classroom's worth of inner city high school kids, I'd bet you'd lay out the events of Take the Lead with 80-90 percent accuracy. (Marjorie Skinner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Troma Double Feature
It's a two-fer from Troma, the cultiest, goriest, nudiest, schlockiest film company out there. The Toxic Avenger is about a wimpy gym employee who exacts his revenge after falling into a vat of toxic waste; Lollilove's a cult mockumentary about two dimwits who pass out lollipops to the homeless. Video Verite
Disney's latest attempt at pretending they still make movies anyone gives a shit about. Regal Cinemas, etc.
yellow is local filmmaker Nick Peterson's (annoyingly uncapitalized) first feature, a "freeform narrative" that's "inspired by the saucy musical comedies of Ernst Lubitsch." Watch for our review in next week's mercury. Whitsell Auditorium