The 34th Northwest Film
& Video Festival
A documentary about the landscape of southeastern Washington where a nuclear facility produced plutonium for atomic weapons, 60 years ago.
Vai is a teenage girl who grew up knowing very little about her dead mother; now in her late teens, she discovers old films in the attic of her mother and father in their native (and fictional) country of Otisia. Cathedral Park flips between footage of the past and the present, and while the story of Vai's parents' life in Otisia is intriguing, the plotline of the present is awkward, mostly due to stiff and contrived acting. SHAUNA MORRIS
This one's only for the most hardcore photo history buffs, and even then, only for those with a soft spot for dry, OPB-style documentaries. Charis Wilson was the wife, model, and muse of Modernist photographer Edward Weston, who created some of the best nudes ever recorded on film. At the age of 90, Charis sat down to talk about her relationship with Weston, which is about exactly as interesting as you'd expect from an (albeit cool) 90-year-old. CHAS BOWIE
A quiet documentary shot last year by local filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. With no narration and no expository text, Lindstrom tells the personal stories of addicts and counselors at CCC's downtown Portland rehab center. SCOTT MOORE
Hear and Now
A kick-ass elderly deaf couple decides that together they will undergo surgery to restore their hearing. These types of documentaries are usually either a total snore fest or unbelievably awesome. This one falls under the latter category. CHRISTINE S. BLYSTONE
High and Outside
A profile of outspoken former major league pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee.
Made in China
Seattle's John Helde examines his father's life in pre-WW II China.
A documentary about live action role playing (LARPing) in the Pacific Northwest—think Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft nerds, except instead of playing in their mothers' basements, they go out to parks and dress up as elves and hit each other with Nerf swords. It doesn't help that a far more insightful doc on the same subject, Darkon, screened in Portland a while back. If LARPing is your thing, make haste, brave adventurer! For the rest of us, think Darkon -20 points interest. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Most of what you need to know about Outsourced can be found in one nugget of info from the press materials: It was co-written by George Wing, who co-wrote Adam Sandler's steaming pile of donkey shit 50 First Dates. Here's what else you need to know: Todd (Josh Hamilton) works at a call center for a crappy novelty product company, which decides to outsource (get it?) his department to India. Todd is sent there to train the new Indian employees. Fish out of water, falls in love, discovers the beauty of India, blah blah blah. Screens with Gus Van Sant's First Kiss and Matt McCormick's It Was a Crushing Defeat. SCOTT MOORE
A short film about the experiences of teens learning about career pathways.
Even MORE shorts!
Based on a true story, Ridley Scott's American Gangster is written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List, Gangs of New York), who's never met an Oscar bait-y, "based on a true story" tale he didn't like. But while Zaillian's weaker scripts lose their characters in all the Important History he's trying to convey, here it's all about Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a heroin crime lord in 1970s Harlem, and Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), the cop who aims to take Lucas down. Yes, American Gangster touches on all sorts of things—Vietnam, police corruption, urban decay, race—but at its entertaining core, it's really just about two badasses going head to head. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
The Ed Wood Film Festival
A brand new 35 mm print of Plan 9 From Outer Space (in color?!), screening with some of Wood's home movies, commercials, and more. Clinton Street Theater.
See review. Various Theaters.
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
See review. Cinema 21.
Corn is everywhere, in absolutely everything. Don't believe me? Check the ingredients list on any random item in the grocery store. Bread? Has corn in it. Hamburgers? From corn-fed cows. Soda? Sweetened by high fructose corn syrup. Etc. At any rate, the ubiquity of corn led Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis decided to investigate the crop from the first person, moving to Iowa to grow an acre of corn and then following it as it made its way into a variety of products that don't resemble corn. It seems to aim for Super Size Me, but lands more in the realm of a PBS science special for kids. That's not necessarily bad—it is what it is, and it's pretty interesting. SCOTT MOORE Hollywood Theatre.
Lions for Lambs
See review. Various Theaters.
John Cusack, stop jerking us around with these shitty movies. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
A horror movie set in a parking garage! Oooooh! Not screened in time for press, see portlandmercury.com on Friday, November 9, for our review. Various Theaters.
More often than is acceptable, a film's death is delivered with the words "Adapted from the play by...." In the hands of most directors, stories don't make the jump from theater to cinema without coming off like nails on a chalkboard. It's not that it can't be done well, but the differing needs of actors and directors between the two mediums require a director with intimate knowledge of both. Luckily, Kenneth Branagh is one of those rare few, and his remake of the 1972 film Sleuth represents that theater/cinema crossover at its finest. Both the 1972 film and Branagh's dark, disturbing, and humorous remake are adapted from a play by Anthony Shaffer, both feature Michael Caine, and both delve into the cruelty that humans can inflict upon each other. SCOTT MOORE Fox Tower 10.
Wristcutters: A Love Story
Working from a novella by cult writer Etgar Keret, director Goran Dukic posits a universe where all of the world's suicides are condemned to work dead-end jobs in a grayscale region of limbo. When a recent addition (Patrick Fugit) ventures into uncharted territories in search of an old girlfriend, he runs into a slew of eccentrics, including an emo hitchhiker (Shannyn Sossamon) who insists that she's there due to a clerical foul-up. It's much less arch than it sounds, thankfully, with an ingenious use of found locations and a winning sense of its own absurdities. Fugit and Sossamon are, admittedly, a shade pale as the leads, but they're more than compensated for by a superb supporting cast including John Hawkes, Will Arnett, and Tom Waits at his most beatifically craggled. The rate of invention does sputter a tad during the last act (right around the time when someone discovers a literal black hole under a car seat), but when it's cooking, Dukic's debut favorably recalls the all-too-brief post-Repo Man era, when the possibilities of indie film seemed head-bustingly limitless. ANDREW WRIGHT Fox Tower 10.