Opens Fri Nov 10
"Oh, it's on, homey!" proclaims an astonishingly miscast Christian Bale in a faux Latino accent. That's confusing for a few reasons: First, Christian Bale is white. Second, Bale is saying this in Hard Times, one of the most bizarre pieces of filmmaking in recent memory. (It's also fucking terrible, but whatever.) Bale plays Jim, an ex-army ranger who's back in LA, where he resumes his thug life—smoking joints, downing 40s, teasing Asian people, etc. Shit gets heavy when the damaged Jim starts having wartime flashbacks, but mostly Harsh Times just kind of wanders around, content to see Jim grow increasingly more disturbed—until the film's climax, which somehow manages to be both bloody and (unintentionally) hilarious. Morals to be gleaned: The military fucks people up, and Christian Bale has no business whatsoever saying lines like "Yo, don't dog me like this, bro!" ERIK HENRIKSEN
Opens Fri Nov 10
Let it be said, before anything else, that there are two Cocaine Cowboys. One was released in 1979 and starred Jack Palance. Shot at Andy Warhol's house in Montauk, the Cocaine Cowboys of 1979 was about a rock band that sold coke on the side. This Cocaine Cowboys—the one I want to tell you about—came out this year, and it's a damn fine film. Documentary filmmaker Billy Corben shows us Miami during the '80s cocaine trade, a big-time business that changed the city from a sleepy, rundown retirement town to a booming, hip metropolis. This was a hot time for drug dealers and cops, and the two mixed freely. This was also a hot time that inspired the makers of Miami Vice and Scarface to tell their own fictionalized stories. While it rolls deep and glitzy with a soundtrack from Miami Vice's own Jan Hammer, Cocaine Cowboys isn't flawless—most of the special effects and segues look cheap and gaudy, and the overall production, structure, and sound come off like a ninth-grade class project. The story, however, is what makes this thing mighty. ADAM GNADE
33rd Northwest Film & Video Festival
Fri Nov 10-Sat Nov 18
Cinema 21, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, Clinton St. Theater
With over three decades of experience, the organizers of the Northwest Film & Video Festival should be able to assemble a film festival that more than five Portlanders know or care about, right? So it's fairly bewildering that, once again, the Northwest Film Center's annual Film & Video Festival proves to be fantastically unexciting. Okay, maybe it's not that bewildering. It's been ages since the NWFC did anything exciting. But still. Three decades.
Anyway, here we go again: Proclaiming itself "the premiere showcase of work made by filmmakers of the Northwest," the fest collates features, shorts, and documentaries into a nine-day program of works that hail from Boise to Alaska. Regionalism aside, there's little consistency within the selections, and anyone vaguely familiar with local film will find most of them familiar (half of the fest's features have already played in Portland, numerous times). The three shorts programs are more intriguing, but predictably scattershot.
Kicking off at Cinema 21 on Friday, spending a week at the Whitsell, and ending next Saturday at the Clinton Street, it's not for a lack of screenings that the Film & Video Fest stumbles—it's for a lack of interesting ones. Then again, 33 years is a long time to keep a festival going. Clearly, the NWFC's more comfortable staying their course rather than blazing any new trails. ERIK HENRIKSEN
For the Mercury's take on the Film & Video Festival's feature films, see Film Shorts on pg. 52.