Film Shorts 

choose your own adventure

You swallow a bit of bile that rises in your throat as you hurriedly cram yourself inside the putrid corpse of the saber-toothed tiger. But your tactic works—the tyrannosaur raises his head and looks around, and sniffs the air, but doesn't sense you! Yawning again, the tyrannosaur goes back to sleep. Clutching the bloody, heavy saber-toothed tiger heart in one hand and pressing the gun's time portal button with the other, a time portal opens up. Do you dash through now, or do you want to explore a bit more?

Want to explore some more? Click here.

Want to go back and give Smitty the goddamn heart for his stupid pet? Click here.

To go back, click here.

Portland int. film festival

Art School Confidential (US)
I'd like to ask director Terry Zwigoff if the Art School Confidential DVD is going to include an alternate ending—namely the second half of the movie. Comic book creator Daniel Clowes (who wrote the comic that Art School is based on) frequently screws up his own awesomeness; he creates wonderful, melancholic ambiance, and fills his culturally devoid settings with characters that we care about... but then he tosses in some far-fetched, quasi-Hardy Boys plot twist. It doesn't work that well in the comics, and it doesn't work at all in the Art School film. So while Zwigoff does a great job directing Clowes' script, the script screws itself halfway in. (That being said, the first half of the movie is so fucking awesome that it's definitely worth checking out.) (Chas Bowie)

Bluebird (Netherlands)
Already stretched dangerously thin with the effort of dealing with her handicapped brother, an overly booksmart middle-grader begins to buckle under the increasing wrath of schoolyard bullies. The premise smacks of Carrie-type shenanigans, but director de Jong wisely keeps things located in the real world, and draws out a tremulously effective performance from 13-year-old Elske Rotteveel in the process. Originally developed as an after school special for Dutch television, but don't hold that against it. (Andrew Wright)

The Car (Colombia)
A middle-class family from Bogotá tries to buy a car. Hilarity ensues!

Clearcut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon (US)
In a nearly unprecedented feat of generosity, logging tycoon Rex Clemens set up the Clemens Foundation in 1959, which ensured that every (yes, every) high school graduate from his hometown of Philomath, OR, would have their college tuition paid for, should they go down that path. Director Peter Richardson's first full-length documentary, Clearcut, is about those now in charge of that Clemens Foundation (Rex died in the '80s), a group of Bible-thumping bigots, who waged war in the late '80s against a liberal, "politically correct" school superintendent, threatening to pull the scholarships if he wasn't fired. Richardson hails from Philomath, and his love for his hometown is evident in Clearcut, an elegant, balanced little film that lets both sides of the issue speak their piece. Oddly, the star of the show winds up being Clemens Foundation spokesperson Steve Lowther, a terrifyingly backwards-thinking, right-wing redneck who also happens to be, like certain people in unfortunately high levels of political office, almost hypnotically charismatic. (Justin Sanders)

C.R.A.Z.Y. (Canada)
First, I have no idea why C.R.A.Z.Y. is spelled like an acronym, because the motivation for the title seems to be the Patsy Cline song "Crazy." Moving on, the film is about a French-Canadian kid, Zac, who has a gift for healing people—and might also be gay, much to the dismay of his family. Overall, it's a pretty good movie—it's pretty meandering, though, making it a tad draggy. Then again, the guy who plays the 20-something Zac is smoking hot, so that helps. (Katie Shimer)

Delwende (Burkina Faso)
When a woman is blamed for the deaths of several children, she's accused of witchcraft and banished to a "witch village." (Sounds reasonable.)

Factotum (Norway/US)
The first problem with Factotum is that handsome Matt Dillon plays the spectacularly haggard Charles Bukowski, or rather Bukowski's usual protagonist, Henry Chinaski. Second, Lili Taylor, the most annoying actress in the world, plays his drunk girlfriend. The movie, like the Bukowski novel it's based on, follows Chinaski through a series of odd jobs, a couple of loveless relationships, and thousands of whiskey shots and cigarettes. But while I genuinely feel for Bukowski's work and his characters, somehow I didn't feel shit for the self-congratulating, self-sabotaging layabout portrayed by Dillon. (Katie Shimer)

In My Father's Den (New Zealand)
A drama about a war photographer who returns to his New Zealand hometown and hooks up with a 16-year-old—guess who gets the blame when she goes missing?

Iraq in Fragments (US)
A Sundance darling (it won a grip of awards), Iraq In Fragments is a documentary wholly unlike the spate of Iraq docs that are piling up like so many war casualties. Instead of hyping up Bush's incompetent handling of the war with ham-fisted narration, Seattle filmmaker James Longley spent years getting to know his subjects, enabling him to tell very personal, intimate stories of Iraqis in distinct situations—a young, fatherless boy in Baghdad who can't read and is taken advantage of by a cruel boss; followers of imam Muhammad al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric attempting to fill the power vacuum left by Saddam's ouster; and two young Kurdish friends and their families, imagining a world free of Saddam's oppression. The result is a powerful film that presents the effects of the U.S. invasion on Iraqis in a way that makes all other attempts irrelevant. (Scott Moore)

Kissed by Winter (Norway)
The NWFC says: "[Director Sara] Johnsen paints a portrait of a small Norwegian town where snowflakes cover everything, easing the burden of unbearable loss and muffling the cry of repressed emotion." Ha!

Manderlay (DENMARK)
Lars Von Trier seems to be losing fans on a daily basis, thanks in no small part to 2003's Dogville, which eschewed locations and scenery for an enormous soundstage with minimal props. Manderlay is shot in the same style, replete with John Hurt as a Masterpiece Theatre-style omniscient narrator. When a white woman, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), stumbles upon an active slave plantation in the 1930s, she emancipates the slaves by locking up their white, tyrannical owners. What follows is a complex and challenging (if imperfect) look at race relations in America: The slaves don't know what to do with their freedom, so Grace shepherds over them in a liberal guilt version of the White Man's Burden. Every attempt to help the former slaves is portrayed as a misguided form of colonialism, even when Grace has their best interests at heart. Although Crash was supposed to be 2005's cinematic opus about the complexities of race, it hardly scratched the surface of Manderlay's discomforting probing. (Chas Bowie)

The Notorious Bettie Page (US)
Shot almost entirely in black and white, this biopic—starring Gretchen Mol as Bettie Page—lets you tag along with the infamous pin-up girl as she ventures from Nashville, Tennessee to New York City, where she begins her modeling career in the 1950s. Though the film portrays Page as a naïve girl who didn't quite understand what her racy bondage poses really meant (she thought she was just having fun in costumes, the film argues), it's still an engaging peek into the life of a pop culture icon. (Amy Jenniges)

Paheli (India)
A vibrant Bollywood production set in traditional times of Rajasthan, Paheli is essentially a fairy tale such as one that might be passed down generationally. The tale concerns a beautiful young bride who is abandoned by her husband the day after the wedding when he leaves for a five-year-long business trip. A ghost who has fallen in love with her on sight takes the form of her husband, replacing him at her side and engaging in all manner of ghostly trickery to deceive everyone but the bride, who knowingly chooses him. At nearly two and a half hours, Paheli manages to be many things beyond folkloric. There is a feminist aspect in the treatment of women's choice in love and marriage, as well as a showcase of Rajasthanian beauty in architecture, costume, and (albeit simulated) landscape. While the plot gets wobbly if you seek too much logic, and there's a camel-racing scene I could've done without, Paheli is a refreshing, chick-flicky musical slice of escapism and eye candy. (Marjorie Skinner)

The President's Last Bang (South Korea)
Movies probably shouldn't require the viewer to hit up Wikipedia in order to follow the plot, but in the case of this odd dark comedy from South Korea, the payoff is worth the studying. Understated actor Baek Yun-shik plays the head of the country's version of the CIA in the late '70s; disillusioned with the halting state of Korean democracy, he decides to assassinate the president (and most of the president's inner circle) during a private dinner party. To do so, he enlists the help of a young lackey and several hapless bodyguards, who provide clumsy comic relief. The results are bloody and wickedly funny. The film apparently drew a great deal of controversy in South Korea, most likely because the assassin is the closest thing to a hero in the story, and because the unfortunate president, Park Chunghee, still has posthumous support. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) (Scott Moore)

The Requiem of Snow (Iraq)
Iraq's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar deals with a young girl who's ordered by her father to ditch her current fiancé and instead marry an old, wealthy businessman.

The Second Wedding Night (Italy)
A comic melodrama set in post-war Italy.

Short Cuts V: Made in Portland
Short films. Made in Portland. Features work from Vanessa Renwick (ker-snooze!) and Henry Selick (rad!).

So Close, So Far (Iran)
A snobby neurologist discovers that his son has an inoperable brain tumor, and sets off on a voyage into the desert to find him. Do you think that—maybe, just maybe—he'll also find himself?

Tapas (Spain)
A "dramatic comedy" that intertwines five stories, all of which take place in the same neighborhood.

To the Other Side (Mexico)
The stories of a Mexican boy, a Moroccan girl, and a Cuban boy are woven together in this film about immigration and fatherless children.

We Feed the World (Austria)
A look at "the inefficiencies [and] injustices" of the world's food supply.

When the Sea Rises (France)
A "bittersweet love story" centering around a traveling comedienne.

Zozo (Sweden)
No, dude, it's not about the Zep.

Barbarella
Although 32 years has rubbed off some of the more shocking edges, Jane Fonda as a space cowboy nympho is still an energizing fantasy. Dressed­­—and undressed —in skintight cellophane and glittery go-go boots, Fonda parades her antigravity breasts around the galaxy. Fonda flies her orange-shag carpeted space ship, discovers the "old fashion" way of love-making, and otherwise gets groovy on an evil scientist's plans to destroy the universe. (Phil Busse) Fifth Avenue Cinemas

Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt
A beautifully complex portrait of Townes Van Zandt, who wrote some of the most heartbreak-y flower child/alt-cowboy songs ever recorded. Van Zandt expedited his self-destruction with an addiction to bottles and needles, but Be Here to Love Me paints a three-dimensional profile of the artist, digging not only into his songs, but into his late-adolescent shock treatments, his needlessly run-down life, and his wonderfully metaphoric mind. Includes tons of rare performances, as well as interviews with ex-wives, family members, and musicians such as Guy Clark, Joe Ely, and Willie Nelson. (Chas Bowie) Clinton Street Theater

Beetlejuice
See My, What a Busy Week! on page 15. Clinton Street Theater

Coachella
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater

Curious George
Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, and Jack Johnson provide voices for this animated adaptation of the classic children's books. This time around, The Man in the Yellow Hat may or may not do it with Curious George. Regal Cinemas, etc

Date Movie
In the pervasive TV ads, they're actually boasting that this spoof film comes from "two of the six writers of Scary Movie." Shockingly, it wasn't screened for critics—though it does star Buffy's delightful Alyson Hannigan. Regal Cinemas, etc

Doogal
If you've been hoping for a crappy-looking kids' movie that unites the voice talents of Whoopi Goldberg and Jimmy Fallon, your wait is over. Century Eastport 16

, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing

Eight Below
Yes, I cried. So the fuck what? It wasn't like a fat girl "Boo hoo, Voodoo Doughnut doesn't open for three hours" crying; just nine little manly tears that rolled down my cheek. What? Was I not supposed to cry when the eight awesomest dogs ever are left to freeze and starve to death on the South Pole? (Chas Bowie) Regal Cinemas, etc

Final Destination 3
In the vein of voluminous classics such as Hellraiser and Wishmaster, Final Destination 3 rides on a lame plot to demonstrate nothing but creative ways to die. In 2000, the first Final Destination—which had Death going after a bunch of teens, just as this one does—blew us away with its unabashed willingness to push the limits of the R-rating for a teen-targeted film. Well, FD3 makes FD look like an episode of Full House. (Jenna Roadman) Regal Cinemas, etc

Firewall
Since foreigners are always up to no good (Air Force One), Harrison Ford's family are taken hostage by a nefarious limey (Paul Bettany) who coerces Harrison into robbing the bank! So Harrison also has to save his family (Patriot Games), but since he's getting old, he can't only use fisticuffs (Clear and Present Danger)—so he also relies on his wits (Presumed Innocent). (Luckily, he gets some help from a clever secretary [Working Girl].) Too bad he can't go to the cops, because the bad guys have framed him for a crime he didn't commit (The Fugitive). (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc

Freedomland
Watching the messy, illogical Freedomland is like walking into the throes of a directorial disaster­—one for which we can thank Joe Roth (who's also helmed such classics as Christmas with the Kranks and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise). Regal Cinemas, etc

Grandma Zula's Legacy
A locally produced documentary about "Several generations of powerful women" and the "inspirational legacy of the Kiser/Payne family in Portland." Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center

The Greater Circulation
The press release offers this: "Part biopic and narrative fiction, The Greater Circulation is a cinematic treatment of Rilke's powerful prose addressing the central drama of all women who feel torn between sacrificing their lives to their Art or to Motherhood." Huh. Hollywood Theatre

Illusion
Any film that sports a glowing rave on its cover from Mark Vicente—one of the directors of the integrity-free new-age cult propaganda flick What the Fuck Do We Know?—gets an automatic red flag. In the case of actor/filmmaker Michael Goorjian's Illusion, the flag is bright, screaming, magenta-pink red, as Vicente also happens to be one of the producers. (I guess the only positive quote the Illusion team could find was from one of its own members. Or maybe that team has simply given up the façade and accepted its status as the least reputable filmmaking organization in America.) Regardless, I forbid you from supporting Illusion, a shameless piece of "spiritual," father-and-son reunion crap centered around a stroke-addled Kirk Douglas, whose mush-mouthed performance is not a touching last hurrah from a legend, but downright discomforting to watch. Fuck you, Vicente. You make me angry. (Justin Sanders) Hollywood Theatre

Imagine Me & You
If you like cheesy romantic comedies, but would rather see it with lesbians, here you are. (Marjorie Skinner)

IT (Independent Tuesdays)
Nocturnal's homemade film and video event—now at Acme! Acme

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam
A story within a story, The Keeper is in part the legend of a famous Persian astronomer and poet, Omar Khayyam, and his tragic relationships with both the love of his life and his closest childhood friend. Surrounding this tale is the modern-day drama of a young boy who desperately seeks to keep the legends and stories of his family's oral traditions, such as this one, alive. While the legend portions of the film are the more interesting, the real point seems to be valuing the stories of your elders, and "keeping" them to continue to pass them down to future generations. It's a decent movie, though not outstanding—but as only the second project from director Kayvan Mashayekh (the first being The Tip, way back in '97), it is, at least in its subject matter, not un-promising. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood Theatre

Madea's Family Reunion
Tyler Perry's creations—full of monstrous characters, plus-sized plots, and operatic gospel climaxes—are a genre unto themselves. Perry started out on the so-called "chitlin'" theater circuit, and his gun-toting grandma character, Madea, is a pure creature of the stage. Part drag queen, part sketch comic, and all Southern black rage, Madea has to be seen to be believed. This episode wasn't screened for the press—too many critics are ignorant white people, and all the reviews of Perry's last film (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) were just this side of hostile. (Annie Wagner) Oak Grove 8 Theater

, Century Eastport 16, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing

Malarkey
The Mercury has no fucking idea what to make of this: It's a locally produced "documentary" about a leprechaun who "has a gripe with City Hall regarding the ownership of the smallest park in the world." Which is in Portland, of course, and also of course, the film features City Commissioner Sam Adams. See? The fuck? Alberta Street Pub

Match Point
In his first straight-ahead drama in quite some time (and arguably his best), Match Point finds Woody Allen traversing the previously uncharted waters of modern Britain. He's also dropped most of his patented, Bergman-esque pretenses in favor of an admirable stab at Hitchcock—and a healthy, if unexpected, dollop of Dostoyevsky. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc

Neil Young: Heart of Gold
See review this issue. Cinema 21

Running Scared
See review this issue. Century Eastport 16

, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
I hate to say this kind of thing in print, and I rarely do, so maybe you'll forgive me: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is the closest thing to a perfect movie you'll ever find. (Justin Sanders) Cinetopia

, Century Eastport 16

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Okay, bear with me for a minute: This comedy is about a real novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman—a 700-plus page behemoth written in the late 1700s, and supposedly the first post-modern novel. The film—which is actually about a bunch of people trying to film the "unfilmable" text—resembles, at times, an insider-y DVD behind-the-scenes extra: It has all the gossip, romance, and competition one would expect on a movie set. And it's awesome, every bit as farcical and naughty as the really old novel it's based on. (Amy Jenniges) Hollywood Theatre

Villains
The first part in a locally produced, episodic "action/fantasy show" developed for the internet. Hollywood Theatre

Why We Fight
A film about the United States "military industrial complex" in the context of 9/11 and the Iraq War. Awww—another one? I expected yet one more tedious indie-media style documentary, or a semi-hysterical rant, á la Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. At the very least, I prepared to spend 98 minutes getting hit over the head with a dissection of Bush's march into Iraq. I was wrong. (Amy Jenniges)

choose your own adventure

After paying your admission to the Cat Fanciers' Association Show, you scan the scene. In front of you are rows of cats in their cages, the aisles between them trafficked by breeders and stage cat-mothers grooming and cooing. At the far end of the hall, a brightly colored cat gymnasium has been set up as an obstacle course for the feline agility contest. Vendors' booths wrap around the scene, boasting great bundles of feather wand toys, specialty cat foods and treats, and even paintings and cookbooks!

You head, naturally, for the agility contest, housed in a makeshift arena with stairs, hurdles, tubes, columns, and rings that the cats must navigate to demonstrate their superior athleticism and speed!

As the cats crouch around the hurdles, stalking feather toys, an old man with a toothpick in his mouth standing next to you chuckles, "They sure don't like having to jump those things at all!" His companion concurs, "Yeah. Boy, I'd watch this over the Super Bowl any day!"

Chuckling over the earnestness that pervades the proceedings, you decide to explore the rows of cat cages taking up the middle of the room. Eventually, you come upon Annabelle, an enormously puffy Persian specimen, whose cage is dressed up like a giant Pepto Bismal-pink canopy bed. She flirts, rubbing herself against the side of the cage. Without thinking, you reach out and stroke the incredible softness of her flawless white fur. "Please do not touch my cat!" an indignant voice behind you booms. A stout woman in her mid-50s stands behind you, a stern look on her face. She is wearing a shirt printed all over with cats. As you walk away, the woman picks up a ruffled paper collar—possibly a coffee filter in its original incarnation—and puts it around the cat's neck; she then opens a jar of baby food—chicken—and starts spoon-feeding mush to the cat.

A little nauseous, you head towards the exit, wandering towards the waiting MAX train, alone. "Man, that sucked," you say to yourself. "I really should have chosen to go to the gun show. I bet that would have been quite the adventure...."

THE END

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