The 37th Portland International Film Festival runs through Sat Feb 22. Not all films were screened for critics. Films screen at Cinema 21, Cinemagic, OMSI's Empirical Theater, Fox Tower 10, Whitsell Auditorium, and the World Trade Center. For more, see "Passport PIFF" (Mercury, Feb 5); for showtimes, see nwfilm.org.
2 Autumns, 3 Winters
A film about aging French slackers that's way more likeable that it should be. Relationships and medical anomalies dominate the film's events, all relayed with good-natured humor and self-deprecation. The mood is light, but the interest level is steady. MARJORIE SKINNER
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Alan Partridge, the clueless, vain broadcaster embodied by brilliant British comedian Steve Coogan, is an even more intrinsically funny character than Ron Burgundy. Partridge's big-screen debut is a little plot-heavy, as Partridge attempts to negotiate a siege situation when one of his fellow DJs takes the radio station hostage after getting laid off. But scene for scene, Alpha Papa is undoubtedly the funniest film at PIFF this year. NED LANNAMANN
A short, sweet, Danish superhero movie starring short, sweet, Danish children. Antboy is pleasant enough, but it also swipes a great deal from Spider-Man without offering much in return. If you—or your kids—have ever seen a superhero movie before, it's hard to think of a good reason why you should see this one. ERIK HENRIKSEN
This darkly funny documentary dumps us right into the pell-mell hell of Cairo's highways on the eve of the Arab Spring. It's a difficult mission to sustain; the brake lights, cursing, and reckless pedestrians all bleed together. But the daily chaos offers a poignant peek behind the crumbling façade of an authoritarian regime. DENIS C. THERIAULT
After her adult son gets involved in a horrific accident, a wealthy Romanian woman begins calling in her considerable markers. A witty, more-than-a-little Oedipal drama sparked by Luminita Gheorghiu's towering performance as a woman bent on imposing her will over reality. Every time the camera lands on her, there's something new to see. ANDREW WRIGHT
Coffee in Berlin
A handsome, diffident hipster wanders the streets of Berlin, carousing with friends and meeting girls and trying to get a cup of coffee. Coffee in Berlin isn't bad, exactly; but it's hard to muster up too much enthusiasm for yet another bloodless tale of urban twentysomething malaise. (If you haven't yet reached peak hipster, then by all means, give it a shot.) ALISON HALLETT
A psychedelic, half-animated film that explores a dystopian future in which entertainment companies and fantasy-inducing drugs dominate human existence. Outside of Ari Folman's captivating visuals (he also made the fantastic Waltz with Bashir), the film also raises intriguing questions about our culture's relationship to celebrity and denial. MARJORIE SKINNER
Eat Sleep Die
Raša (Nermina Lukac) is a young immigrant in a working-class Swedish town, far removed from the gloss and comfort we imagine Scandinavian life to be. She's a no-bullshit, tough-as-nails, tomboy factory worker; she's also a devoted daughter who struggles to provide for her ailing father. Eat Sleep Die is a simple film about simple people, but it is totally unforgettable. Raša is my new patronus. ELINOR JONES
Google and the World Brain
The story of Google's controversial attempt to scan every book in existence, filtered through a doomy prophecy by H.G. Wells. Clunky at times, particularly during some ill-conceived animated sequences, but the questions raised by the future-minded interviewees are fascinating. The Head of the French Library needs a sitcom, stat. ANDREW WRIGHT
A dour, black-and-white film about a young convent girl on the brink of taking her vows. Sent to find her only living relative—an unhappy, hard-drinking, man-eating aunt—the two bond over their family's mysterious tragedy in a listless story that doesn't live up to its stunning visual arrangement. MARJORIE SKINNER
Being a 14-year-old girl in Tbilisi, Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union was a gray, depressing, joyless experience. If you were lucky, the boy you liked gave you a gun as a present; if you were unlucky (i.e., most people), you had plenty of reasons to want to use it. While In Bloom may be intentional in its lack of meaning, it's hard not wish there was more to it. ELINOR JONES
Just a Sigh
This French film, about a broke, unhappy actress who picks up Gabriel Byrne at a funeral and has passionately anonymous sex in his hotel room, is oddly dull considering the inherent sexiness of the premise. Per the title, star Emmanuelle Devos does indeed do a lot of sighing, presumably because she's bored by her own boring movie. ALISON HALLETT
A young woman carefully packs lunch every day for her unappreciative husband; when the lunch is mistakenly delivered to a sour, lonely accountant, a friendship blossoms via notes passed through the daily lunchbox. Despite the premise, this isn't a meet-cute, but rather a thoughtful look at how relationships affect the texture of our lives. Plus, all of the food looks amazing. ALISON HALLETT
There's minimalist documentary filmmaking—and then there's bolting a camera to a cable-car and surveilling pilgrims as they take the 10-minute ride up a mountain to a Nepalese temple. Some passengers' conversations are slice-of-life charming; others sit quietly the whole time. The view through the window is lovely. But two hours of this? Come on. ERIC D. SNIDER
Mary Queen of Scots
An almost gothic representation of the beautiful, well-intentioned, ill-fated queen. This romantic period drama isn't much for explanations (nothing a quick Wikipedia scan can't prepare you for) but it does breathe a dreamily creepy breath into an old, musty story. MARJORIE SKINNER
A two-hour-long drama set in the Philippines, and a torturous exercise in misery and desperation. Take the price of admission and ship it off to victims of Typhoon Haiyan rather than wallowing in Metro Manila's human suffering, as a sweet farmer and his young family get dicked over again and again. COURTNEY FERGUSON
The Missing Picture
Part documentary and part biography, Rithy Panh uses a combination of archival images and clay dioramas to recount the difficult story of his childhood as the only surviving family member under Pol Pot's regime. Illuminating and nightmarish, it's an important account that many wouldn't have the strength to tell in this level of detail. MARJORIE SKINNER
Nothing Bad Can Happen
Actually, pretty much only bad things happen in this film about a young Christian punk who falls in with one of the most fucked-up families on the planet. Things go from pretty bad to unbelievably horrible in this soul-crushingly bleak film that will destory whatever faith you have left in humanity. No fun at all. MARJORIE SKINNER
Stranger by the Lake
This French film barely qualifies as anything other than pornography. It's set entirely on a gay nude/pickup beach, and the camera follows its characters into the bushes for no-holds sex scenes, money shots and all. The plot revolves around a mystery that is laughably un-mysterious, so come for the dick play, not the story. MARJORIE SKINNER
A documentary that follows a quirky inventor, Tim Jenison, who attempts to recreate a painting by Johannes Vermeer. Jenison is a techie; he invents a device to assist with his painting and engineers an elaborate diorama to mimic the scene in the 17th century masterpiece. The journey is funny, the results are impressive, and Tim's Vermeer is one of the most entertaining art documentaries I've seen (and I watch a lot of 'em... a lot of 'em being boring). JENNA LECHNER
Tito on Ice
This semi-animated yarn about two Swedish comic artists touring the war-torn Balkans with a "mummy" of Yugoslavian god-king Josip Tito opens with pure absurdity. But as they reach towns whose wounds have barely scabbed-over more than a decade later, a fascinating tale emerges about the resiliency of art and its ability to make sense of devastation. DENIS C. THERIAULT
Wajma (An Afghan Love Story)
Grim sarcasm drips from the of this film, a compilation of true stories. Wajma is a young woman on the fringes of modernity—she's just been accepted to law school, which represents the potential to escape an antiquated, anti-feminist society. Then she gets pregnant, and you can guess how well that goes over. MARJORIE SKINNER
Walesa: Man of Hope
This taut, well-acted study on the rise of Poland's Lech Walesa—the anti-Soviet folk hero whose charisma cut the first real hole through the Iron Curtain—smartly makes a point of dwelling as much on his flaws as his fortitude. Walesa galvanized the pro-worker Solidarity strike movement. But he struggled just as mightily with family duties and hubris. DENIS C. THERIAULT
What Is Cinema?
According to this semi-engaging but unfocused doc about the current state of experimental film, pure cinema is concerned about the experience of watching it, not on prosaic things like "story" or "characters." Fair enough. But the filmmaker, veteran Oscar-montage editor Chuck Workman, doesn't tell us why avant-garde cinema matters, only that it does. ERIC D. SNIDER
The Wishful Thinkers
Here's the thing about the rambling, free-form The Wishful Thinkers: this is a movie where someone says "cut" when a scene ends. As in, you can hear "cut." I suppose it's an intentional mashup of product and production, but if you're looking for plot and polish, look elsewhere. Otherwise, it's a charmingly bohemian experimental film. BEN COLEMAN
About Last Night
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Hollywood Theatre's "film series for women audiences." This time: Wild at Heart. See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
A documentary about "the lives and work of New York's iconic street photographers." Hollywood Theatre.
A Field in England
See review this issue. On Demand.
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X
A sci-fi musical. Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
"How many times do I have to tell you? You don't put a bra in a dryer! It warps!" Clinton Street Theater.
Knights of Badassdom
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater, Living Room Theaters, On Demand.
The Lego Movie
The latest low-concept gem from directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street). Instead of plodding through like one more cynical big-screen commercial (hi, Transformers!), The Lego Movie manages to weave an enlivening magic spell of nostalgia that's equal parts hysterical, subversive, beautiful, and sweet. DENIS C. THERIAULT Various Theaters.
The Monuments Men
It'd be unfair to expect George Clooney's The Monuments Men to feel like Ocean's WWII, but what it does feel like is... not much of anything. A plinking score by Alexandre Desplat is the one constant as the script veers from comedy to sentimentality, and frustratingly, the cast is split up as soon as they're introduced: Off on their own, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban have some first-rate moments, and Cate Blanchett—the one woman at this sausage party—accomplishes the most and seems to be having the most fun. But no one else gets enough screen time to do much of anything. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Portland Black Film Festival
The second Portland Black Film Festival, curated by writer and filmmaker David Walker (BadAzz MoFo, Darius Logan: Super Justice Force) and featuring "films that are either directed by African Americans or deal with being black in America"—including 12 O'Clock Boys, Beat Street, Sidewalk Stories, a Soul Train compilation, Purple Rain, and Black Belt Jones. More at hollywoodtheatre.org. Hollywood Theatre.
The Pretty One
A "tale of identity and the eternal bond between two sisters" that sounds an awful lot like The Parent Trap. Featuring New Girl's Jake Johnson! Eeeee! Living Room Theaters.
"I didn't ask for a shrink. That must've been somebody else. Also, that pudding isn't mine. Also, I'm wearing this suit today because I had a very important meeting this morning. And I don't have a crying problem." Fifth Avenue Cinema.
A monthly series at the Hollywood Theatre, "showing vintage and contemporary films that are obscure, neglected, and from the fringe." This month: 16mm shorts about "love, romance, lust, and sex." Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
A documentary that examines "the ongoing struggle of the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of six very different protesters." Clinton Street Theater.
See My, What a Busy Week! Academy Theater, Kennedy School.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.