59 Seconds Video Festival
What do you get when you send out a worldwide call for submission of films that are 59 seconds long? A little bit of everything, of course: There's a mini-dramedy of a guy in Mexico calling a hooker to find out what he can get for 59 pesos. There's the guy who took tiny amounts of footage of himself every day for a year (kind of the film equivalent of an Everything I Ate project).There are artful montages, moments of Zen, and more. And while all fests are by nature uneven, at least here, nothing you won't like lasts very long. At all. MARJORIE SKINNER Gallery Homeland.
Alvin and the Chipmunks
See review. Various Theaters.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The much-anticipated revisionist western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as evidenced by its chewily purple title, has a lot on its plate—too much, possibly. The result is a film with sustained passages of eerie, Malickian beauty (an early sequence involving a train robbery feels like one of the reasons that film was invented), mixed with increasing stretches of self-conscious artiness. Whether you should see it or not may ultimately depend on your tolerance for shots of windswept wheat and time-lapse clouds. ANDREW WRIGHT Academy Theater, Laurelhurst.
The first hour of Atonement, based on the book by Ian McEwan and set in a pre-war English country house, is faultless: a pungent stew of pleasure and dread, shrill suspicions and pouting revenge. The film's casting is brilliant, the production design impeccable, the point-of-view switchbacks beautifully turned. Sloughing off the novel's pretentious narration, the film nonetheless bows to his conceit by weaving the sounds of a typewriter into the score. And even if the second half of the film is disappointing, relative to the first, it's not entirely wrongheaded. ANNIE WAGNER Fox Tower 10.
A doc about "the rise of Nazi fascism and its threat to Czechoslovakia." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Dan in Real Life
Exactly how much goodwill does Steve Carell think he's floating on? Following up a small series of unlikely successes (The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine) with the disastrous succession of Evan Almighty and this modest, middle-of-the-road trip, Carell (and, presumably, his overzealous agent) seems to have all too quickly slipped on the banana peel of relative credibility toward that great chasm of modern comedy: warm-hearted grandma pictures. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Shohei Imamura's lauded drama from 1981. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
From Saturday to Sunday
A Czech melodrama from 1931, and the inspiration for From Dusk Till Dawn. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Golden Compass
From armored polar bears to shape-shifting animal sidekicks, author Philip Pullman's kid lit fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials is packed with kid-friendly concepts just begging to be brought to (computer-generated) life. On a superficial and visual level, at least, the first of the three film adaptations, The Golden Compass, does Pullman's vision justice—but Pullman's books are also firmly rooted in heavier stuff, like the idea that institutionalized religion warps and perverts all that is good and natural in humanity. In a predictably spineless move, all direct references to religion have been dropped for the film. But by retaining plot points that tie into Pullman's religious and metaphysical themes—while avoiding the actual themes themselves—director Chris Weitz has drained the narrative of its impetus and cohesion. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Not as much fun as it sounds. HA! No, really, okay: It's a Czechoslovakian comedy from 1934. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
I Am Legend
See review. Various Theaters.
I'm Not There
Six different films in at least as many styles weave through I'm Not There, and after the opening credits announce that the movie was "inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan," we never hear the singer's name again (although his music is used to maximum effect throughout). Each of the film's fictionalized-Dylan characters, including those played by Cate Blanchett and 14-year-old African American actor Marcus Carl Franklin, come with their own names (including "Woody Guthrie" and "Billy the Kid"), and represent a unique strand of Dylan's creative path, career, or persona. As a whole, I'm Not There is one of the smartest, most innovative, and beautiful films of this era. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
The Last Winter
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
The Making of a Prostitute
Shohei Imamura's 1968 drama. For more info, see film short for Heave Ho! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Man From Plains
Last year, former president Jimmy Carter published a book on the future of the Middle East mess, provocatively titled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. It made for quite a book tour. In Man from Plains, director Jonathan Demme chronicles the tour, with its attendant protests, Al Jazeera interviews, face-offs with seriously pissed American rabbis, dialogues with college students, and regular dips in hotel pools. It's a backstage look at the modern mechanics of political persuasion and, while extremely repetitive—at times it seems that not a talk-radio interview or local Barnes & Noble appearance has gone unchronicled—it's surprisingly entrancing. Carter intended his book to incite debate; he wanted to push beyond the agreed-upon (and often stale) norms for American discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The tension of the movie becomes whether he will accomplish anything more than that—whether deliberately enraging a large number of made-up minds will create an opening for a new discussion and lay the foundation for changes of heart, or whether it will just sell a lot of books and, in the end, change nothing. ELI SANDERS Hollywood Theatre.
No Country for Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen's unforgettably stylish paean to risk, violence, and resourcefulness, based on the throbbing, violent thriller by Cormac McCarthy. No Country's conflict is as lean and primal as they come: one badass chasing another through the the unforgiving landscape of Southwest Texas. Few contemporary directors are as well suited to the task: Through meticulous editing, sound design, and cinematography, the Coens pace and manipulate the narrative tension to masterly effect. When that tension's relieved, it's through the two channels that they know best: violence and humor. They've teased out the wry, deadpan pathos from McCarthy's novel, and use it mostly to decompress the audience, only so they can begin the process again. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
The Perfect Holiday
See review. Various Theaters.
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
This entry in the Northwest Film Center's Czech Modernism series was the basis for the Oscar-winning Meryl Streep/Kevin Bacon thriller The River Wild. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Romance & Cigarettes
See review. Cinema 21.
Saturday Morning Cartoon Extravaganza
A whole bunch of cartoons. Plus: cold cereal! The Waypost.
A drama about a black family's "first holiday together in four years." Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Shohei Imamura's "comic satire on colonialism." Starring Norm Macdonald. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.