25TH REEL MUSIC FESTIVAL
All screenings take place at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
BETWEEN TWO NOTES
A meandering documentary about the chant-like music of the Middle East. Mainly focusing on a group of Iraqis in Israel, the parlor sessions of classically trained practitioners of Arab music are painstakingly filmed. As one interview subject says, "These songs can last for hours. They are very repetitive." That about sums it up. COURTNEY FERGUSON
CHASIN' GUS' GHOST
A look at American jug band music and its influence. Is it wrong to have a negative knee-jerk reaction to a film purely because it contains an interview with one of the members of the Grateful Dead? 'Cause we just did.
A doc about indie rockers the Damnwells.
H IMAGINE THE SOUND
Pianist Cecil Taylor opens this documentary on free jazz, saying music is as fundamental as "a fuchsia awning on a building in sunlight." Yes, some musicians, from time to time, may have taken drugs. Then, Taylor plays so incredibly quickly and precisely that the footage looks sped-up. Meanwhile, pipe-smoking charmer Archie Shepp plays his atonal sax with more sweat than Luther Vandross and more intention than John Coltrane (whom he confesses to idolizing in a revealing interview). It's breathtaking footage, and while free jazz isn't most people's idea of driving music, this offbeat performance doc may convince the open-minded that the much-maligned genre is worth a second look. MATT DAVIS
H MONKS: THE TRANSATLANTIC FEEDBACK
In the mid '60s, five American GIs stationed in Germany started a rock band with the idea of being the anti-Beatles. They wore black and shaved tonsures in their hair; their music was loud, robotic, and violent. This excellent documentary focuses on the Monks' sensation of being far from home at a time when America underwent drastic change. It also captures the artistic climate of Germany during the '60s, with a particular eye on the distinct design of the period. The world wasn't quite ready for the Monks then; in many ways, it still isn't. NED LANNAMANN
SLIM GAILLARD'S CIVILIZATION,
The first chunk in an epic four-part look at jazz musician Slim Gaillard.
According to this documentary, the trumpet became widely embraced in Serbian culture during the 19th century. Despite the fact that, historically speaking, that isn't all that long ago, the subjects of this film are diehard trumpet fans—here, trumpets are played at funerals and parties alike, culminating with Sabor Trubaca, the largest brass orchestra competition in the world, which frankly looks more like a weekend in the French Quarter than an organized competition, with young women dancing wildly to the trumpeted beats, and shots all around for everyone. Less than mesmerizing, the film nonetheless allows a glimpse into how incessant warring (trumpets were traditionally used to lead battlefield charges) can leave an indelible mark on a nation's identity. MARJORIE SKINNER
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 Various Theaters.
Marco Williams' documentary examines how white Americans drove African Americans from their land between the Civil War and the Great Depression. Followed by a panel discussion. St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub.
A short, punchy, exhilarating riff on the Godzilla flicks of the '50s and '60s and the disaster epics of the '70s. But Cloverfield is decidedly personal and postmodern, too: Unlike the polished bluster of Bruckheimer or the popcorn thrills of Spielberg, director Matt Reeves' film is messy and clunky, thanks to its gimmick of shooting epic-sized disaster with digital camcorders. It's a contrivance, sure, but what impresses is how well it's done: I've seen countless monsters demolish countless New York landmarks, but I can't think of any time it's felt as fresh and fun as it does in Cloverfield. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A Sigur Rós concert film. It'll be Iceland-riffic! Clinton Street Theater.
How She Move
See review. Various Theaters.
It Is Fine, Everything Is Fine & What Is It?
A selection of new films and a feature from Crispin Glover. The evening also includes a slide show, a Q & A with Glover, and a book and poster signing. Feel free to shout out "You were the bomb in Beowulf, yo!" But whatever you do, do not bring up Back to the Future. Clinton Street Theater.
There's a perfect little gem of a movie buried inside of Juno, an offbeat-yet-honest portrayal of a precocious high school girl, Juno (played by an acerbic Ellen Page), who gets pregnant, finds herself unable to go through with an abortion, and decides to give the baby up for adoption. Unfortunately, it's not enough that Juno is funny, well written, and perfectly acted; director Jason Reitman seems determined to get his piece of the saccharine twee-cinema pie, and the film has a too-precious lacquer that can distract from its best moments. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Meet the Spartans
Another spoof movie from the unfunny douchebags who're culpable for Epic Movie and Date Movie. This time, 300, Spider-Man 3, and Borat get parodied. Guys, just... please stop. Just... fucking stop. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Like your Alzheimer's-stricken great-uncle unexpectedly showing up at your door, John Rambo has returned! See I'm Staying Home. Various Theaters.
Seduced and Abandoned
In his 1963 film, Pietro Germi skewers "macho Italian male values and the injustices of the Sicilian moral code." Oooh, snap! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Various Theaters.
H There Will Be Blood
"I have a competition in me. I do not wish to see anyone else succeed," confides Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in a moment of rare candor. "I hate most people." This is Plainview's secret, which emerges slowly from his veneer of confident sophistication until it becomes a misanthropic force too large for any man to harness. Plainview's greed and loathing is at the heart of There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's new film of astounding depth, intensity, and brutality. Based loosely on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil!, Blood finds Anderson with a refined vision and cinematic maturity that not even his best films could have prepared us for. CHAS BOWIE Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Days after snagging an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, this film—about three children in a Ugandan displacement camp who "overcome nearly insurmountable odds" to perform in a music festival—opens in Portland. Hollywood Theatre.