12 Years a Slave
Solomon (the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free black man, living in the North, who is abducted into slavery in 1841. Twelve years later, he's released. During those 12 years, he is a slave, and something of a stand-in for the modern viewer: He's intelligent, he's educated, and most crucially, he's attuned to the horror and injustice that surrounds him. Our attempts to comprehend life under slavery parallel his own: We share his terror when he wakes up in chains after a night of heavy drinking with two friendly-seeming white men. We understand his urge to fight back against those who have separated him from his family. We chafe to find him at the mercy of men who are his physical and intellectual inferior. And, through his eyes, the utterly schizophrenic nature of slavery is revealed. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
All the President's Men
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who exposed the Watergate coverup. Their story is played as suspense, and it's absolutely thrilling, although the wordy script's rapid-firing of names might confuse viewers too young to have lived through the scandal. What's astonishing, though, is how a mere two years after Nixon resigned, All the President's Men tells its story plainly, with plenty of perspective and a near-total lack of shrill liberal bias. Also, Jason Robards is a badass. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater.
The Best Man Holiday
A Christmas-themed sequel to 1999's The Best Man, starring Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, and Regina Hall. More importantly, the soundtrack features R. Kelly's beloved holiday ballad "Christmas I'll Be Steppin'." Various Theaters.
British Advertising Awards
Just like advertising in America, except somehow it seems classier! Whitsell Auditorium.
The Broken Circle Breakdown
A film based on a play about a small-town Belgian tattoo artist and her banjo-playing, bluegrass-loving man. They fall in love and have a daughter who becomes desperately ill, which rips the skin off their fantasies and the façades of their relationship. With a celebrated bluegrass soundtrack by Bjorn Eriksson. Whitsell Auditorium.
Dallas Buyers Club
In addition to being an electrician and a part-time rodeo bull rider, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) was also a career partier—a thorough user of drugs and a prolific fucker of women. When he contracted AIDS in 1986, the disease was still, in the public's eye, very much limited to the realm of gay men. Woodroof overcame not only his deeply ingrained homophobia but, for many years, the disease itself: He smuggled in non-approved medications from Mexico, Japan, and elsewhere, selling them to HIV-positive patients while the FDA remained in Big Pharma's thrall. The movie sputters at the end, as it attempts to draw tears from the audience while remaining true to the facts. It doesn't do either of those things very well, but for the first hour and a half, McConaughey's exceptional performance is riveting enough. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
Husbands and Wives
"It's the Second Law of Thermodynamics: sooner or later everything turns to shit. That's my phrasing, not the Encyclopedia Britannica." Fifth Avenue Cinema.
JFK: A President Betrayed
A JFK documentary, narrated by the honey-voiced Morgan Freeman ("Azeem" in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Hollywood Theatre.
Kill Your Darlings
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Maniac Cop 2
You know, that old chestnut: "An undead killer cop and a Times Square serial killer wreak carnage on the streets of New York City." Hollywood Theatre.
The Motel Life
Willy Vlautin's The Motel Life is a great book. Can we just leave it at that? No? Well, okay, then. Willy Vlautin's The Motel Life is a great book, and it does not make a particularly good movie. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre, On Demand.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters, On Demand.
The Northwest Filmmakers' Festival
It's not called the Northwest Film Festival. Portland's annual, regional (meaning Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, Alaska, and Montana) showcase of film has made a point of existing as much, if not more, for the sake of filmmakers as for audiences. That's not to say the festival's aim is to alienate: Offerings represent a huge span of genres, and each year, the films are chosen by a guest curator who knows what they're doing (this year, it's Mike Plante, Senior Shorts Programmer for the Sundance Film Festival). MARJORIE SKINNER Mission Theater, Whitsell Auditorium.
A monthly "open screening potluck" that combines food and experimental film. More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
A film series sponsored by In Other Words Feminist Community Center. This month's film: The Grey Area. Clinton Street Theater.
A monthly series at the Hollywood Theatre, "showing vintage and contemporary films that are obscure, neglected, and from the fringe." This month: Andy Milligan's 1970 horror flick Guru the Mad Monk and the 2011 Milligan tribute Seven Deadly Sins. Hollywood Theatre.
The Seventh Seal
Narrated by Kevin James. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The Shawshank Redemption
"They run this place like a fucking prison!" Laurelhurst Theater.
The Stone Roses: Made of Stone
A doc about the reunion of British band the Stone Roses. This is possibly of interest to someone! Right? Hollywood Theatre.
A Touch of Sin
See review this issue. Cinema 21.