Chronicles of a Professional Eulogist & Fierce Light
A "semi-fictional, hand-drawn animation" that follows a eulogist in training. Screens with Fierce Light.
Humpday is more focused and charming than most mumblecore films, taking the best qualities and leaving behind the characteristic sloppiness and over-privileged naiveté. The result is a breakthrough, and as we're led into the inner circle of the characters' earnest attempts to be communicative, positive, and open minded, it slowly dawns on you how mistreated we are by the studios' infliction of endless lashes of gender stereotype and homophobia, where 90-minute jokes are based on the supposed male aversion to talking about their feelings. MARJORIE SKINNER
A look at Columbia Villa/New Columbia, a North Portland public housing project that was recently revamped—a process that involved temporarily displacing its residents—Imagining Home ends up being more than a sad story about how things just ain't how they used to be. The project that was the scene of Portland's first-ever drive-by shooting is a microcosm of the tough decisions that go into Portland's lauded progressive city planning strategies, and a glimpse at a side of the city many residents are barely aware of. MARJORIE SKINNER
SALMON POET & NATHAN AND NORDRICH
A documentary in which poet Walt Curtis rants about salmon. Huh. Screens with Nathan and Nordrich.
Shorts II & III
A documentary about the Nigerian oil industry.
Uncle Tom's Apartment
Former Willamette Week screen editor David Walker's 2006 film about a 30-something black man (Alan Wone) who unexpectedly finds himself taking care of two young girls.
See review. Various Theaters.
7th Planet Picture Show: Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe
Former Mercury intern Will Radik and two other "hardened camp cinema veterans" screen and mock the 1991 Jesse Ventura sci-fi flick Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe. Heckling encouraged. Mt. Tabor Theater.
African American Film Festival
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
Those expecting that Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, after the critical and commercial catastrophe of Southland Tales, will scale things back on the bizarro scale are gonna be surprised: Shortly after its initial premise is introduced, The Box spirals into an overwhelming clusterfuck of sci-fi surrealism that's as imaginative, fascinating, disorienting, and frustrating as anything in Darko and Southland. Most of the time The Box is just weird—creative and original and entertaining as hell, but, at least on first viewing, equally inscrutable. While I can't blindly recommend it—I'm not a huge fan of violent reprisal—I will say this: I'll be seeing it a few more times, and I'm already looking forward to whatever Kelly cooks up next. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A Christmas Carol
Over the course of his last three films—2004's The Polar Express, 2007's Beowulf, and now his indefensible adaptation of A Christmas Carol—Robert Zemeckis has single-handedly cartographed the depths of the uncanny valley with Shackletonian heroism, selflessly sacrificing his admittedly modest reputation and what must be the whole of his dignity for the betterment of a digital people unable to feel, let alone express, gratitude. His weirdly persistent reliance on motion capture technology has afforded us with some of the most spectacularly troubling digital representations of the uncanny valley known to man—and never have they seemed so superfluous as in A Christmas Carol, the very same Charles Dickens affair that's been filmed seemingly hundreds of times, for literally a hundred years. ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
See review. Cinema 21.
A Korean comedy of errors in which the humor doesn't quite translate. One sodden night, Hyuk-Jin's friends persuade him to take a trip in order to forget about his ex-girlfriend—but when morning comes, he's the only one who shows up at the bus station. This is only the first in a series of super-depressing things that happen to poor Hyuk-Jin; other depressing things include having his pants stolen and having his karaoke skills dissed. Keep swinging for that football, Korean Charlie Brown. ALISON HALLETT Clinton Street Theater.
Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a precocious high schooler in 1960s Britain, an overachiever bound for Oxford—until the day she accepts a ride home from a wealthy older man (the phrase "stranger danger" apparently hadn't been coined yet). The cultured, well-traveled David (Peter Saarsgard) seems like the perfect suitor, and before long, their whirlwind romance has entirely replaced Jenny's dreams of attending Oxford. The film is meticulous in detailing exactly what value was placed on a woman's education in the 1960s, and Jenny's decision to forgo her schooling for a more glamorous life is well-contextualized. But for all its beautiful costumes, beautiful actors, and beautiful cars, there's something dry about An Education, something sexless and preachy. Perhaps it's a concession to modern mores—guys like David are creeps, we're subtly reassured, even if no one in the '60s realized it yet. Either way, the whiff of judgmental hindsight that comes off An Education ensures that its characters, and their decisions, remain at arm's length. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Filmusik: Gamera vs. Guiron
Filmusik—the crew that adds live music, sound effects, and voiceovers to classic films—is going all-out with their latest production, Filmusik: Gamera vs. Guiron. This 1969 Japanese monster flick—in which the knife-headed Guiron fights the giant turtle Gamera—should prove the perfect flick to accompany the efforts of Filmusik's crew, made up of vets from Live Wire! and the Willamette Radio Workshop. Hollywood Theatre.
Five Minutes of Heaven
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
Floating World Animation Fest
Are you ready to experience a pretty and trippy seizure, induced by a three-hour series of blips and flashing lights? Take your brain on a videocation with the Floating World Animation Fest, filled with "mind-melting, soul-loving psychedelicanimation." COURTNEY FERGUSON Valentine's
The Fourth Kind
The thought of being abducted by aliens doesn't really do it for me on the fear factor scale. But if I were fearful of UFOs and anal probings, The Fourth Kind would have me rattled. As is, it makes for a good, cheap thrill in the spirit of like-minded fake documentaries like The Blair Witch Project. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
The latest from Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre). Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, November 13 for our review. Fox Tower 10.
Grindhouse Film Fest: Fist of the White Lotus
Gordon Liu stars in this 1980 chop-socky flick, featuring action scenes choreographed by the director of 36th Chamber of Shaolin! Hot damn! Hollywood Theatre.
An "epic skating adventure that takes its participants south of the border for some badass action." Not screened for critics. Clinton Street Theater.
Based on a true story, the hilarious The Informant! is one of director Steven Soderbergh's best films—and considering the dude's other work (Traffic, Che, Ocean's Eleven, The Limey, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich), that's saying a lot. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Edgefield, Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters, St. Johns Theater & Pub.
A documentary about "ordinary citizens taking a stand against the planned destruction of their homes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Lens on China series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Men Who Stare at Goats
Inspired by Jon Ronson's 2004 book about the US Army's experiments with the paranormal, Goats works best in its flashbacks, which are weird and hilarious; George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, and Stephen Lang all seem to be having a blast. In the modern-day sequences, Goats loses much of its goofy, satirical edge, but director Grant Heslov never totally strays from the film's outlandish-but-weirdly-believable tone, which, at its best, recalls Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and Dr. Strangelove. The Men Who Stare at Goats isn't nearly as good as either of those films, but Heslov's goals seem somewhat the same as Kubrick's: Throw all sorts of preposterous allegations at those in power, and then step back, content and happy and pleased with how many of those allegations, in context, don't seem quite as ridiculous as they did before. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Michael Jackson's This Is It
The footage from the shamelessly exploitative This Is It is culled from rehearsals for Michael Jackson's ill-fated comeback concerts, and the product is less a concert film and more a rehearsal film: After running through performances, Jackson looks like a brittle skeleton as he gives bewildering instructions to various yes men. ("Just bathe it in moonlight—you have to let it simmer," he tells the show's musical director about "The Way You Make Me Feel.") Despite Jackson's frailty—the cameras keep their distance, rarely giving us a good look at his papery, gaunt face—he could still move, and here he does so with a vigor and grace that, even now, astonishes. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
New York, I Love You
Setting aside the weird glee of recognition intrinsic to any cinematic anthology—this is surely the only time in the history of the world that Shia LaBeouf will get the chance to play a gimp-legged, Russian immigrant bellhop, and you can hear him salivating over ewery... sinkle... word—there are very few exciting ideas in New York, I Love You. Did you know that New York is the Greatest City in the World? That different cultures are Learning Important Lessons about each other every single day? That Strangers Can Be Rude but deep down We All Want to Be Loved? Did you realize that Crippled Hot Girls Can Fuck Like Monkeys? (Thanks for that last one, Brett Ratner!) PAUL CONSTANT Fox Tower 10.
Screenings of work from Karen Mirza and Brad Butler from the annoyingly punctuated London arts space no.w.here. More info: cinemaproject.org. New American Art Union.
Ong Bak 2
See review. Cinema 21.
Writer/director Oren Peli's single-set calling card of a ghost story is clever, unbearably tense, and, above all, relentless—a Blair Witch Project that doesn't skimp on the money shots. Much like that film, the combination of jittery handheld cameras, no-profile actors, and a lack of dudes in rubber suits will no doubt turn off a significant portion of the audience in the mood for something overt. For those in a more suggestible frame of mind, however, Peli's method of imbuing everyday objects with an atmosphere of ball-crawling dread is really something to see. It doesn't let up. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Paths of Glory
Stanley Kubrick's 1957 wartime melodrama. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
See review. Various Theaters
A Serious Man
Not to be all depressing about it, but life is shitty, and we're all going to die. Such is the depressing-as-fuck truth we're reminded of in the Coen Brothers' latest, which tells us that family and religion and work will always control us, and while they are beautiful, necessary things, often and ultimately, they are useless. And yet despite all of this—and I probably should have mentioned this sooner—A Serious Man is one of the funnier movies you're going to see this year. You will laugh loudly and frequently, which is a hell of thing, considering you'll walk out of the theater feeling like you've been ground into an oily paste. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
A 2000 British comedy "about a couple trying to enjoy daily life while struggling with mental illness." Not screened for critics, and featuring a pre-007 Daniel Craig. Living Room Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
A thriller about the politics surrounding the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims. Not screened for critics. Hollywood Theatre.
"Who are we to judge what stands the test of time?" asks Grant (Michael Panes)—a mere bit player, a gallery assistant—in (Untitled), which both skewers and sympathizes with the world of contemporary art. It's a question that enunciates the heart of the film's contention that the world of galleries, collectors, and avant-garde artists is one in which the blind lead the blind and where even the best (or, at least, the most over-intellectualized) intentions can end up sacrificed to the altar of headline grabs, shock tactics, money, and politics. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Where the Wild Things Are
Where the Wild Things Are is unique among children's books in that the only real stakes are emotional ones. On the island, as king of the Wild Things, Max (Max Records) is tasked with sorting out the complicated allegiances and resentments of his new subjects. It's a lot, in fact, like life on the playground, and much of Spike Jonze's movie feels like a big game—perceived as being deadly serious, as only a child could consider it. From the elaborate forts that Max plans and constructs to the sorta half-assed, sorta brilliant stories he tells, Wild Things perfectly captures the improvisational quality of children's play. If it doesn't pack quite the intensely personal emotional wallop of the trailer, it nonetheless contains moments of sheer unadulterated recklessness, as Max and the Wild Things play ferocious games in the forest, accompanied by giddy, Karen O-scored drumbeats. But the film's quiet moments really hit home, as Max, scared in his now-tattered wolf costume, does his best to help his new friends feel safe in the world they live in. In its willingness to take childhood seriously, Where the Wild Things Are is every bit as good as we wanted it to be. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Could Drew Barrymore be any more likeable? No. The answer is no. Submitted for your approval: Barrymore's directorial debut, the criminally enjoyable roller derby teen pic Whip It. Early on, it becomes apparent that Drew and her roller girls are having a blast, body checking and food fighting, which makes for two hours of infectious fun and feel-good eye candy. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub.
Young and Restless in China
Disappointingly, not a Mandarin-dubbed screening of The Young and the Restless, but rather a film about "five ambitious young people" over four years in China. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's Lens on China series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.