32nd Annual Portland International Film Festival
The Portland International Film Festival runs through Saturday, February 21. For more info, see nwfilm.org/piff32.
24 City (China)
The Chinese semi-documentary 24 City rewards close attention, mingling real interview footage with scripted segments to tell the story of a weapons factory that's being converted into a housing complex. ALISON HALLETT Broadway Metroplex.
All Around Us (Japan)
A film that chronicles "eight years of a marriage." To get all Rodney Dangerfield for a minute: "Jeez! The horror films they're makin' these days, am I right?" Broadway Metroplex.
As Simple As That (Iran)
A drama about a put-upon Iranian housewife. Broadway Metroplex.
Blind Sunflowers (Spain)
A drama focusing on children in Spain after the Spanish Civil War. Broadway Metroplex.
Cape No. 7 (Taiwan)
Taiwan's answer to From Justin to Kelly, this is "a heartwarming tale of music and longing" starring Japanese and Taiwanese pop stars. Broadway Metroplex.
Cherry Blossoms (Germany)
Rudi and Trudi are an aging German couple; when Trudi dies, Rudi travels to Tokyo. This vivid, strange film couldn't be more opposite to America's youth obsession, and its engrossment in the interior lives of people circling the drain is either something you take comfort in or not. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Chicken, the Fish, and the King Crab (Spain)
The Bocuse d'Or has been described as the Olympics of cooking contests. The Chicken, the Fish, and the King Crab follows a handful of its virtuoso competitors, each representing their native country, as they prepare for the excruciatingly detail-obsessed competition. MARJORIE SKINNER Broadway Metroplex.
Crossing (South Korea)
An extremely poor North Korean man travels to China and is arrested; meanwhile, his wife grows more and more ill, and his son is sent to a Mongolian labor camp. A Michael Bay film. Broadway Metroplex.
Dream Weavers: Beijing 2008
This officially sanctioned doc follows China's preparation for the Olympics. It's light and uplifting and unrelentingly propaganda-y, but it's probably good to see the pained, determined faces of China's adorable wannabe gymnasts and the Commando-style training of Beijing's SWAT team so you know what to expect when China inevitably invades North America in 2017. ERIK HENRIKSEN Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The English Surgeon (Great Britain)
An interesting portrait of a London-based neurosurgeon who travels regularly to Kiev to treat Ukrainian patients. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Fermat's Room (Spain)
Four mathematicians must quickly solve a series of puzzles, or the walls of the room will crush them alive. It's a cross between Cube, Die Hard 3, and the garbage compressor scene from the first Star Wars, and it's all pretty silly. NED LANNAMANN Broadway Metroplex.
The Friend (Switzerland)
The Swiss once again try to make up for Heidi by offering this coming-of-age tale. Broadway Metroplex.
The Garden (US)
A documentary focusing on the ownership of a Latino community garden in South Central, this film shows real-life corruption in the City of Angels to be just as mind boggling as its portrayal in film noir. It's enough to make a reporter want to move to Los Angeles. Or run screaming in the opposite direction. I still can't decide. MATT DAVIS Broadway Metroplex.
Goodbye Solo (US)
When grumpy old bastard William (Red West) hops into the cab of affable Senegalese cabbie Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), Goodbye Solo threatens to become yet another movie in which a quasi-mystical black person teaches an oblivious white person some Life Lessons. (See: The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Green Mile, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, any number of films starring Morgan Freeman.) Thankfully, what results is nothing of the sort: Smart, heartfelt, surprising, and unexpectedly moving, Goodbye Solo is one of the best films at this year's PIFF. ERIK HENRIKSEN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Great Buck Howard (US)
Been waiting for a movie that features both Tom and Colin Hanks? HOLY SHIT! YOUR WAIT IS FINALLY OVER!!!!!! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Home of Dark Butterflies (Finland)
Idiots and Angels (US)
Portland native Bill Plympton's latest animated feature is a blackly humorous, violent morality play. MARJORIE SKINNER Broadway Metroplex. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Il Divo (Italy)
Even those with an intimate knowledge of Italian politics in the 1980s will likely be lost during this biopic of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Which is a pity, because the film has the scope and depth of a Coppola epic and the kinetic energy of a good Guy Ritchie thriller. Do a shit-ton of homework before trying to get through this. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
In a Dream (US)
Filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar turns the lens on his father Isaiah, a mosaic artist who transforms derelict buildings into compulsively personal art projects. It's not surprising, then, that Isaiah is a little screwy, and when his marriage disintegrates, we watch not just Isaiah but the entire Zagar family go off the deep end. I've never seen a documentary get this close to its subject; it's embarrassing, visceral, soulful, and blazingly powerful. NED LANNAMANN Broadway Metroplex.
Jerusalema (South Africa)
A based-on-a-true-events crime drama. Broadway Metroplex.
Karamazovs (Czech Republic)
A traveling theater company takes up residence in a Polish factory to rehearse for a production of The Brothers Karamazov, not anticipating the significance their rehearsal will have to one factory worker, whose son is in the hospital. If you've ever found yourself wondering whether art actually matters, this film is a must see. ALISON HALLETT Broadway Metroplex.
A film about those affected by the massacre of 15,000 Poles after the USSR's invasion of Poland in 1939. Broadway Metroplex.
King of Ping Pong (Sweden)
This Sundance hit follows a tubby teenager who, despite his family problems, "rules all" at ping pong. Broadway Metroplex.
Dylan and his next-door neighbor, Kylie, are pre-pubescent kids in Dublin who run away from their abusive families with some money that Kylie received for Christmas. Kisses is about what you would expect: With entirely too many long closeups soundtracked by touching music, the two have some fun until they find themselves in danger and when it’s passed, they realize their deep affection for one another. KAMALA PULIGANDLA Broadway Metroplex.
Lake Tahoe (Mexico)
A slow, sensitive story about a teenager, Juan, and his brother. The film manages to be sad and quiet without being too boring, but there's no getting around that it's a study in feeling lost and depressed. MARJORIE SKINNER Broadway Metroplex.
The Lemon Tree (Israel)
Salma is a Palestinian widow who quietly tends her late father's lemon grove until the Israeli defense minister deems the trees a security risk. This pretty, sad film made my heart ache a bit for both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. LOGAN SACHON Broadway Metroplex.
Lorna's Silence (Belgium)
A thriller/drama about Lorna, who gets embroiled in a hustle to sneak illegal immigrants into Belgium. For its first half, Lorna's Silence is tense, confident, and engaging, but as the film progresses, Lorna's increasingly dumbass decisions pretty much eliminate any empathy one has for her. The film also never answers its biggest mystery, which is why anyone would want to sneak into Belgium. ERIK HENRIKSEN Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A drama inspired by Six Degrees of Separation. (Fresh Prince cameo? Please?) Broadway Metroplex.
Love of Siam (Thailand)
Milking the Rhino (US)
An optimistic and beautiful doc showcasing communities in Kenya and Namibia that are creating wildlife tourist destinations instead of killing the wildlife. LOGAN SACHON Broadway Metroplex.
Moscow, Belgium (Belgium)
A romcom about "two misfits faced with each others' messed-up lives." Broadway Metroplex.
This two-and-a-half-hour art history lesson concerns itself with Rembrandt's most famous work, "The Night Watch." Nightwatching both dramatizes the events leading up to the portrait and provides a fascinating context for the piece that solidified Rembrandt's place in the canon and destroyed him financially and socially. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Opium War (Afghanistan)
Two American soldiers crash in Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan. Starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. Broadway Metroplex.
Paper Cannot Wrap Up Embers (Cambodia)
A carefully observed documentary about a group of Cambodian prostitutes living in a decaying apartment building in Phnom Penh. This is 90-plus minutes of desolation that begins to wear on you after 20. MATTHEW VOLLONO Broadway Metroplex.
Pressure Cooker (US)
A documentary about three inner-city seniors in Philly getting wrapped up in a culinary competition. Broadway Metroplex.
Salt of This Sea (Palestine)
A young Palestinian-American and a bitter Palestinian conspire to rob a bank. Broadway Metroplex.
Shall We Kiss? (France)
A bit of fluffy French romance that chronicles the chance meeting of an attractive woman and man, both in long-term relationships, who've got the hots for each other. COURTNEY FERGUSON Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Short Cuts III: International Ties
Interesting to look at but ultimately tiring, this program's quirky presentation is too scatter-brained to elicit any kind of real reaction. MATTHEW VOLLONO Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Short Cuts IV: Sketches in Time
A Cinema Project-approved program of experimental films from different parts of the globe. The Presentation Theme is a bizarre animation with images that resemble quivering cave paintings and a droll, illogical narration that I dare you to make sense of, while Box Office is a brief, hand-drawn film that compares the death count in Iraq to Hollywood box office earnings in the summer of 2007. Unfortunately, the film ends before the reality of the statistics has had time to get across. MATTHEW VOLLONO Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
After all the men in a tiny Bosnian village were massacred, the town's wives and daughters carve out a difficult living from the mountain landscape. The camera lingers for long seconds on the lush, lonely images of the women's lives, creating a somber but compelling work. SARAH MIRK Broadway Metroplex.
I didn't know who Séraphine de Senlis was at the start of this biopic, but I quickly deduced she was an actual person by the movie's ponderous, presumptuous tone. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Sugar follows Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) on an unsteady journey from a Dominican Republic youth baseball camps to minor league baseball in the States. Flawlessly crafted by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (the pair responsible for turning Ryan Gosling into the world's most sympathetic crackhead in Half Nelson), it makes a compelling case to be considered as one of the finer sports films of our generation. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Tehran Has No Pomegranates (Iran)
This doc is about Tehran and also about making a doc about Tehran, and it's pretty confusing and all over the place, but really, so is the city, so it works. LOGAN SACHON Broadway Metroplex.
Terra Nova (Russia)
Set in 2013—after the abolition of the death penalty—convicts are sent to an island to begin a new life. Yep, this'll go well. Broadway Metroplex.
Treeless Mountain (US)
A six-year-old girl and her younger sister are forced to live with relatives in rural Korea. Broadway Metroplex.
Under the Bombs (Lebanon)
A Shiite woman searches for her son in the aftermath of the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. As a feat of documentation—the film uses actual footage from the conflict—it's fascinating, but as a drama—the film also uses fictional elements—it's hackneyed and clichéd. MATTHEW VOLLONO Broadway Metroplex.
Upstream Battle (Germany)
A thought-provoking German doc about the damming of the Klamath River, Upstream Battle examines what we have done to our planet and offers insights about how society, culture, and corporate interests clash. This documentary was an eye opener. I liked it. DIANE TAMASSIA Broadway Metroplex.
Wolf: The Laws of Wilderness (Sweden)
Veteran character actor Peter Stormare (he was Steve Buscemi's partner in Fargo!) plays a reindeer herder in this drama about environmental conflict. Blitzen better meet a wood chipper. Broadway Metroplex.
Worlds Apart (Denmark)
Take Say Anything (sub the overprotective father for an overprotective church, leave the life-changing boyfriend), add Saved (take out the teen pregnancy, leave the religious revelations) and also Big Love (for the tutorial in sect religion), and voila! You have Worlds Apart, a lovely little movie about a perfect teenage Jehovah's Witness who has some personal revelations when she falls for a non-believer. LOGAN SACHON Broadway Metroplex.
The 19th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films
The Cascade Festival of African Films runs through March 7. All screenings are free, and all take place at the Portland Community College Cascade Campus. Films were not screened for critics. For more info, see africanfilmfestival.org.
A Nigerian love story.
Bab'Aziz: The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul
Nacer Khamir's 2006 fairy tale.
Clouds over Conakry
With a mostly steady hand, Clouds over Conakry traverses the spiritual and generational divides in modern Guinea through the intersecting lives of two families. ANDREW R TONRY
Cuba: An African Odyssey
A documentary about Cuba's support of various African revolutionary movements.
Set in the US during the slavery era, director Charles Burnett's (Killer of Sheep) Nightjohn follows a man who teaches a young girl how to read and write. Director in attendance.
Battlestar Galactica: The Final Episodes
"Lighten up a little bit. It's only the end of the world." Bagdad Theater.
Camille La Traviata
Opera Theater Oregon combines silent film with a live opera soundtrack and sound effects. Clinton Street Theater.
Confessions of a Shopaholic
Sam Peckinpah, Kris Kristofferson, and Ernest Borgnine? Shit yes, people. Laurelhurst Theater.
Gorgeous, inventive, and melancholy—a film that's fantastic to look at, gives Pixar a run for its money in the creativity department, and reminds everyone how cool animation used to look in those prehistoric days before CG. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Friday the 13th
Better in name than in concept, Goth Cruise is a documentary on, well, just that: Goths on a ship (sort of like Snakes on a Plane, but way worse). No matter how much you love the dark arts, or nautical adventures on the high seas, it's difficult to muster any interest in either of the film's subjects or the constant "Goths are really people, too!" moral. Goths, please stick to smoking cloves, idolizing Peter Murphy, and ruining Rocky Horror on a weekly basis. Director in attendance. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Hollywood Theatre.
He's Just Not That Into You
Summarizing the plot of He's Just Not That Into You on a two-dimensional piece of paper is physically impossible. You'd need toothpicks and fun-sized marshmallows to construct an accurate representation, and even then you'd probably end up building a sort of ravenous, shrill-voiced toothpick monster that would want to corner you and talk about why none of the boy toothpick monsters want to date it. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
In a bit of accidental timeliness, The International's eeeevil antagonist is the fictitious "International Bank of Business and Credit." "You control the debt... you control everything," exposits one soon-to-be assassinated informant. From there on out, the film's a no-holds-barred rollercoaster of excitement in which Interpol Agent Clive Owen grumbles a lot and Manhattan District Attorney Naomi Watts frantically text messages on her BlackBerry in between saying things like, "Who gives a shit about jurisdictional providence?!" ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Odds and Ends
Most of the films and real-life performers at this Valentine's-themed variety show achieve a likable, surreal shtick. Performance duo Rush N Disco, who head up the in-the-flesh entertainment, typically do song and dance remixes of pop hits in vaudevillian tuxedos or unitards. The bizarre short films on tap feature lo-fi flying dildo animations, paper dolls stop-motion fucking in a world made of egg shells, etc. SARAH MIRK Valentine's.
PDX Filmmakers Showcase
A collection of shorts from local filmmakers. Kelly's Olympian.
The Pink Panther 2
In a nutshell, Steve Martin spends this entire film making that pinched "Ooh!" face as if someone had just kicked him in the scrabble bag, while a cast of formerly respectable actors (such as John Cleese, Lily Tomlin, Andy Garcia, and Alfred Molina) bow to the economic pressure of bringing home a paycheck. WM.™ STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
The first three months of the year are traditionally when the big studios dump their crappy movies on the public. Push recalls an earlier tenant of the misfit movie graveyard, Jumper, in that it's about pretty, young people with superpowers. Instead of Hayden Christensen, we get Chris Evans as the vacant main character, and rather than Samuel L. Jackson squandering his talents as the bad guy, here Djimon Hounsou fills the thankless role. And instead of teleportation, the powers include telepathy, telekinesis, and precognition. These powers have been done a million times before in movies, and there's no inventiveness here, although a telekinetic battle in a restaurant in the middle of the film does at least show a little exuberance. PAUL CONSTANT Various Theaters.
Red Gold & Equilibrium
Get your A River Runs Through It on with two flyfishing films about Bristol Bay, Alaska—"one of the last great fisheries on Earth," and one that's in danger of being lost. Sierra Club.
Somewhere in Time
Arguably the cheesiest movie ever made, Somewhere in Time stars Christopher Reeve as a dude who falls in love with some old lady and, via hypnosis, travels back in time to be with her. Circa 1993, my seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Olpin, showed this to our class. To this day, I have no idea why. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.
Taken is hampered by horrible foreshadowing and stiff, wooden dialogue that would be unbearable had it not been for the knowledge that once the chat stops, the splat starts. Thankfully, Liam Neeson spends the majority of Taken's 94 minutes cracking skulls, snapping necks, and shooting just about anyone that will stand still. As he gets closer to his kidnapped daughter, Neeson piles up the bodies of the stereotypical French, Albanian, and even Arab bad guys. It's like a big colorful rainbow of ethnicities, splattered in blood! EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
Nicolas in the '80s-riffic romcom, back before the dude's forehead had its own Botoxed ZIP code. Suggested $10 admission benefits Cascade AIDS Project. Clinton Street Theater.
Were the World Mine
A musical in which a gay high schooler cast as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream magically turns "much of his narrow-minded town gay, beginning with the rugby jock of his dreams." Wow. There are gay movies, and then there are super gay movies. Guess which one this is. Living Room Theaters.