33rd PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
About Elly (Iran)
A few good friends and some youngsters go for a beach weekend outside Tehran, hoping to couple newcomer Elly with recently-divorced Ahmad. But when someone vanishes, a suspenseful drama unfolds. JANE CARLEN
Life in Jaffa—a rough, melting-pot neighborhood of Tel Aviv—can be bleak. Instability trickles down from the conflict with Palestine, and regular families are sucked into the struggles of criminals. The multi-threaded, non-linear, interwoven Ajami is as much pulp as political, and the harsh, violent tale moves along at a fine clip. ANDREW R TONRY
The Art of the Steal (US)
Wealthy misanthrope Dr. Albert C. Barnes spent the better part of his adult life assembling what has since become one of the most enviable (and valuable) collections of post-impressionist art in the world—all the while pledging to keep it out of the hands of all those philistines at the national museums. Satisfyingly one-sided, The Art of the Steal tells the compelling story of conspiracy, greed, and political outrage that followed Barnes' heir-less death. ZAC PENNINGTON
A visually and emotionally sparse interpretation of an 18th-century French fairy tale. The film manages to omit most of the Crusade-type violence and sexual deviance associated with this era, but doesn't leave the audience without someone's head on a silver platter. RAQUEL NASSER
Charlie Haden: Ramblin Boy (Switzerland)
A documentary about Charlie Haden, an "affable jazz bassist" who apparently doesn't believe in using apostrophes.
Cooking History (Czech Republic)
"Portraits of various military cooks from all over Europe who have witnessed the European wars of the 20th century." Quit gabbin' and gimme my MRE, Cooky.
For the Love of Movies (US)
An 80-minute, quick 'n' dirty history of the birth and evolution of American film criticism from the turn of the 20th century to the present. For the Love of Movies might stoke the passions of those devoted to critical discourse, but its humdrum production values and reliance on talking heads aren't going to seduce any nonbelievers. More tantalizing is the panel of Portland film critics lined up for discussion after the screening, including the Mercury's own film editor, Erik Henriksen. MARJORIE SKINNER
Garbage Dreams (Egypt)
A documentary about a group of teenage boys in Cairo "whose livelihoods wholly depend on trash."
Gigante deals with the fine line between stalking and lonely obsession—namely between Jara, a supermarket security guard, and Julia, one of the store's cleaners. Fantastic performances and the director's flair for subtlety build to a killer conclusion. MATT DAVIS
The Girl on the Train (France)
Jeanne is a French girl who glides through life on the path of least resistance—until a relationship goes disastrously wrong, leading her to one of the weirdest breakup coping mechanisms ever: She pretends she's been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. It's a baffling sequence of events, more so because it's based on a true story. ALISON HALLETT
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden)
A thriller based on the novel by Stieg Larsson.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird
The first 20 minutes of Kim Ji-Woon's The Good, the Bad, the Weird, are a fun, quirky subversion of the Western. Then it veers sharply into well-choreographed—but still goofy—swashbuckler territory, substituting tons o' guns for broadswords. And after 20 minutes of that, the movie explodes into pure cinematic bedlam, scattering buckshot, dynamite, vehicles, and animals all over the screen. Perhaps the best action movie in South Korean history. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS
An Afghan refugee and a 17-year-old Iranian fall in love and flee to Tehran. Featuring lots of rhyming.
Intertwined stories of Egyptian society.
Russia's answer to Hairspray, Hipsters follows the colorful rebellion of Moscow youth in the 1950s and '60s whose love of American jazz and partying in bright clothes, tall shoes, and big hair is in quasi-criminal opposition to the drab conformity of Soviet life. MARJORIE SKINNER
A charmingly eccentric family living on the side of an unused stretch of freeway has their lives upended when the road is suddenly opened to traffic. The gradual downward spiral of their mental states as more and more vehicles whiz outside their windows reveals their own peculiar set of survival mechanisms and the impact of industrial proximity on the health of the human psyche. MARJORIE SKINNER
John Rabe (Germany)
John Rabe was a German industrialist who saved thousands of Chinese citizens from genocide in 1937. This is a very serious movie, made with a distinctly German combination of detachment and apology: this Nazi was a good guy, ja? Steve Buscemi is excellent in a supporting role as a sympathetic doctor, and this ponderous movie opens a window onto another overlooked chapter of history. NED LANNAMANN
Learning from Light:
The Vision of I.M. Pei (US)
A documentary about architect I.M. Pei.
The Letter for the King (Netherlands)
"One of the most popular young-adult books in Dutch history" is brought to life. FINALLY.
A handicapped girl is miraculously healed.
Mid-August Lunch (Italy)
This short, sweet slice of geriatric life takes place over 24 hours in the apartment of an Italian bachelor who unwillingly finds himself playing host to his mother and three other elderly women. ALISON HALLETT
Music on Hold (Argentina)
A romcom about a composer and an executive.
My Year without Sex (Australia)
The anxieties endemic to any modern family (mortgages, marital fidelity, the challenges of parenting in a digital age) get an entertaining treatment in this Australian film about a wife and mother who survives a brain embolism only to be told that she needs to avoid sexual activity for a year so as not to risk another one. ALISON HALLETT
Nora's Will (Mexico)
This charming film circles around the best-laid plans of a Jewish-Mexican grandmother who plots her own death to coincide with Passover, forcing her dysfunctional family to pass five days together in her apartment before she can be buried. SARAH MIRK
October Country (US)
An American documentary about a typically atypical family wracked by everything from the Vietnam War to child abuse, teen pregnancy, poverty, and Wiccaphobia. Rendered in visually beautiful and emotionally aware strokes, it would be a stretch to say this film offers a tremendous amount of hope—but it is a singularly compassionate portrayal of the quirky characters that make our dysfunctional little world go 'round. MARJORIE SKINNER
Police, Adjective (Romania)
Drink a minimum of three cups of coffee before you head into Police, Adjective, a tedious Romanian film in which nothing happens. MARJORIE SKINNER
A Prophet (France)
A robust, gripping, engaging character study of a young Arab prisoner serving a six-year sentence under the thumb of the Corsican mafia. COURTNEY FERGUSON
Protector (Czech Republic)
A great-looking film with an energetic score centered around a Czech couple living under the shadow of Nazi occupation. Europe may never grow tired of making WWII movies, but this one's unique in that it steers clear of the utter depths of misery suffered by most victims in favor of the exotic ennui of the elite. MARJORIE SKINNER
Revered for pushing Darfur into the public discussion, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof may be the most politically influential Oregonian ever. Reporter follows Kristof to the Congo, where he interviews a warlord and illuminates the world's deepest suffering. Kristof and his subjects are incredibly compelling; they rise above Reporter's overwrought filmmaking. ANDREW R TONRY
The Reverse (Poland)
A noir-hued glimpse into Poland and its politics during Stalinism, drenched in comedy as dark as its color scheme. RAQUEL NASSER
A Shine of Rainbows
This tale of an orphan boy adopted by a childless island couple is better told through its dynamic cinematography than its heavy handed tear-jerker of a script. It's beautiful but sappy, which is usually the case in films where animatronic seal pups play a pivotal role. PATRICK COLEMAN
Short Cuts I: International Ties
Short Cuts II: International Ties
More short films!
Small Crime (Cyprus/Greece)
A village drunk falls off a cliff, and an eager young cop tries to solve the case.
A gritty, gorgeous documentation of gruff, hard-bitten sheepherders driving their flocks through the treacherous mountains of Montana. Told in breathtaking, bracing images, it expertly conveys the silent strength of a callous lifestyle, kindred to earth and animals, that's sputtering into nonexistence. MARJORIE SKINNER
Terribly Happy (Denmark)
A "blackly comic thriller" set in a Danish village.
Through a Glass, Darkly (Norway)
"An otherworldly presence helps a young girl come to terms with her serious illness." Well, it has to be better than The Lovely Bones.
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (New Zealand)
This documentary studies a pair of elderly yodeling lesbian twins from New Zealand who perform country-comedy songs in a variety of terrible costumes that would make Benny Hill blush. The Topp sisters, while tireless champions of gay rights and very nice-seeming ladies, hinge their thick-accented humor upon an intimate knowledge of rural farming life in New Zealand. I was baffled from start to finish. NED LANNAMANN
The Warlords (Hong Kong)
Jet Li! Fighting! In old-timey China! Not screened in time for press! Doesn't matter! Jet Li gets a star regardless!
The Wedding Song (Tunisia)
It's 1942, and two teenagers are trying to remain friends despite mitigating forces. Myriam is an educated Jew being forced to marry a much older man; Nour is a stay-at-home Muslim whose intended husband is an anti-Semite. The sexual tension between the two girls is palpable. Be ready to squirm during a scene where Myriam gets her pubic hair ripped off; the rest of the film is striking and lovely in shades of blue and white. LOGAN SACHON
The story of a young Iraqi refugee stuck in France, trying to get to his girlfriend in London by any means necessary. That includes swimming the English Channel. A little predictable and a little divisive, Welcome deals with familiar tropes wrapped around an exotic conceit. MARJORIE SKINNER
Wind Journeys (Colombia)
A Colombian twist on Robert Johnson's meeting the devil at the crossroads. A tight-lipped minstrel, Ignacio, is saddled with the devil's accordion and an envious boy; their quest to return the cursed instrument is a crisp, colorful odyssey across a land of magic realism. ANDREW R TONRY
A young man is lost in "a picaresque netherworld of petty crime and mystical visions." Like Rip Torn!
20th ANNUAL CASCADE FESTIVAL OF AFRICAN FILMS
An illiterate newspaper boy meets a magician who teaches him "the real meaning of life."
Four musicians' friendships are tested when they overcome obstacles to perform at a nightclub.
My Neighbor, My Killer
A documentary on the post-genocide tribunals in Rwanda that sent confessed genocide killers "home from prison, while traumatized survivors were asked to forgive them and resume living side-by-side."
Nothing But the Truth
A drama about the "complex dynamic between political exiles and those who remained in South Africa during the apartheid years." Director John Kani in attendance. Hollywood Theatre.
A 17-year-old joins a wrestling team, while a compulsive gambler turns to street hustling.
BAM: BEER & MOVIE FEST
Ridley Scott's masterpiece of sci-fi, horror, and genital-shaped monsters.
Big Trouble in Little China
"We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn't we Wang?"
David Bowie's junk.
Robert De Niro punches a bunch of dudes, then gets fat. It's Scorsese's masterpiece. We're probably not doing it justice.
"When three curvaceous babes arrive at a desert hideaway to steal from an underworld kingpin, things quickly spiral out of control." Not screened for critics. Clinton Street Theater.
The Blind Side
Sandra Bullock is a natural fit for the role of sassy, wealthy, Southern, evangelical MILF do-gooder Leigh Anne Tuohy, who took in a homeless African American teenager after scooping him off the streets of Memphis. That boy, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), went on to become one of the most sought-after young football players in the country, receiving numerous college scholarships, and now plays professionally for the Baltimore Ravens. At its heart, The Blind Side is a straight-ahead feel-good family movie—but there are aspects of it that'll make you squirm. Leigh Anne and her husband Sean (Tim McGraw) are rich off the profits of some 60-odd fast food restaurants, with two sweetheart children, but it's Leigh Anne who runs the family and dominates the film: Rarely do more than five minutes elapse without her breaking in with a piece of her mind, telling everybody—from a drug dealer to a racist lady-who-lunches to a high school football coach—what's what, with a cocksure fearlessness typical of someone upon whom fortune has always smiled. (And who carries a gun in her purse.) There's no escaping the cringingly congratulatory, rich-white-folk-bail-out-helpless-black-kid dynamic, but, well, that's just kind of what happened, by all accounts (it's harder to misrepresent people who are still alive). And once you allow yourself to drop the liberal guilt and just like the Tuohys, you're left with a pretty good story. MARJORIE SKINNER 99W Twin Indoor Cinema, Century Clackamas Town Center, Evergreen Parkway 13, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Mall 8.
The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli isn't Black Mad Max Gon' Cut Yo' Ass Up: The Movie. That's what the trailers are selling, and sure, it is set in a post-nuclear wasteland—but what's onscreen is a bona fide western. And not a post-western western like Unforgiven that's concerned with deconstructing the form, but a middle-of-the-road, mid-'60s western content to amble through the dust, with occasional bursts of violence punctuating long scenes of stoic wincing. Eli is somber, silly, and mostly empty, and its heavy-handed message about faith's importance is undercut by lazy performances and uninspiring dialogue. To damn The Book of Eli with faint praise: At least it's not The Postman. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Evergreen Parkway 13, Forest Theatre, Lloyd Mall 8, Sandy Cinema, Stark Street Cinemas.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Wow. So how about that Mickey Rooney, huh? Fifth Avenue Cinema.
A great film that centers around a grizzled slab of a man, on the waning sunset years of life, battling addiction and years of neglect to once again regain his faded glory. At his side, an inspiring young woman hides scars of her own even as she acts as the muse that triggers his valiant comeback. If all this sounds familiar, it is. It's impossible to ignore the fact that no matter how excellent Crazy Heart is, the screenwriter should pay royalties to Robert Siegel, writer of The Wrestler. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, City Center 12, Evergreen Parkway 13, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
I'm so freaking excited to see this in 35mm on the big screen! As the last film in the Late-Night European Horror Series, you may know the surreal 1985 film Creepers as its other title Phenomena, but you'll always remember it for its bat-shit crazy awesomeness. A list of the ways it will kick your ass: Italian giallo czar Dario Argento, 14-year-old Jennifer Connelly at a Swiss boarding school for girls, a vengeful chimpanzee, a soundtrack by Goblin, and, oh, a few other things like a telepathic swarm of bugs, a stalking serial killer, the world's creepiest kid, a pool of maggots, sleepwalking nightgown-clad Connelly, the best ending ever, and, and, and... OMG my brain just had a horror movie orgasm. COURTNEY FERGUSON Cinema 21.
A prime cut of grade-A, red-state values porn. When Channing Tatum and his 1,000-yard stare return home to South Carolina, he meets Amanda Seyfried, a doe-eyed nurturer who is completely free of sin and compelling character traits. (When Tatum asks her if she has any faults, Seyfried admits that she curses at people in her head. How humanizing!) These two boring people throw themselves into a passionately milquetoast courtship ("I want to meet your dad—tonight!" Seyfried coos on their second date) before Tatum—a Green Beret—has to leave for a year to finish up his military service. No problem, right? Tatum and Seyfried may have only known each other for two weeks, but their fiery, under-the-shirt-over-the-bra love is eternal! DAVE BOW Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Cinetopia, City Center 12, Cornelius Stadium Cinemas, Evergreen Parkway 13, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinema, Stark Street Cinemas, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
Edge of Darkness
In the time since his last leading role—in 2002's Signs—Mel Gibson has crucified Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, made a jaguar chew off a man's face in Apocalypto, and drunkenly blamed the Jews for starting every war in the world. He's been a busy, probably-at-least-partially-insane man, but now he's getting back into the movie star business—and to do so, he's picked a pretty safe project. Edge of Darkness is a thriller directed by Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) and based on a BBC miniseries Campbell directed in 1985; it's hammy and simple and occasionally slow, but it's solid. Memories of Jesus-centric torture porn and slurred hate speech aside, Edge of Darkness is a reminder that Gibson's a reliable and watchable star, and that Campbell can make an engaging flick without relying on 007's tired formulas. ERIK HENRIKSEN Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Cinetopia, Cornelius Stadium Cinemas, Evergreen Parkway 13, Lloyd Mall 8, Sandy Cinema, Stark Street Cinemas.
The Evil Dead
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
Fly Fishing Film Tour
Probably the best chance you'll get all week to do your best Robert Redford voice and talk about how a river runs through it. Bagdad Theater.
From Paris With Love
If John Travolta stars in a movie set in France, there are really only two ways the movie can go: Either he doesn't make the "Royale with cheese" joke, or he does. You'll be relieved to learn that in From Paris with Love, the new action flick from Pierre Morel (Taken, District B13), Travolta does make the "Royale with cheese" joke—not once, but twice. It's totally awkward and unfitting for the movie, too, busting down an already shaky fourth wall with a cheap laugh that'll only remind you how far Travolta has plummeted in the decade-and-a-half since his career resurgence with Pulp Fiction. NED LANNAMANN Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, City Center 12, Cornelius Stadium Cinemas, Evergreen Parkway 13, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinema, Stark Street Cinemas, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
Kill Bill, Vol. 2
See My, What a Busy Week! Laurelhurst Theater.
The Last Station
See review. Fox Tower 10.
After so many years of putting up with the human race, God has learned to hate us. Then again, considering our penchant for war, sin, and Kardashians, who can blame Him? In Legion, the big dude upstairs sends down an angel with stubble, six-pack abs, and a strange, vaguely Eastern European accent to finish off humanity. But Archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) decides to disobey God and instead save the unborn child that will eventually save the human race (John Connor?). Legion is awful to the point that it can barely be parodied, with painful dialogue, a confusing plot, and not enough action and gore to justify such stupidity. After suffering through this, I'm with God. We suck. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Lloyd Mall 8.
The latest episode, hosted by Cort and Fatboy. (Psst! Here's the island's secret: The show's writers don't know what they're doing!) Bagdad Theater.
The Magnificent Seven
"We deal in lead, friend." Pix Patisserie (North).
North Face describes, in frostbitten, vertiginous detail, the efforts of four men who're determined to scale the biggest, baddest mountain in the Alps. The year is 1936, and the North Face of the Eiger is the last great Alpine face to remain unscaled. A team of hot young German mountaineers takes up the challenge (supported by the Nazi party, a fact that's made as little of as possible); a pretty young newspaperwoman adds a touch of romantic intrigue. Because North Face is based on a true story, and its salient plot points are a matter of historical record, I'm going to spoil a couple of them: Everybody dies. The mountain wins. While the backstory tries to force a connection to the characters that goes beyond the elemental "Man vs. Enormous Fucking Mountain," it never really succeeds—once the snow starts blowing around, and everyone's faces get all black and frostbitey, you can't really tell them apart anyway. It's an undeniable nail-biter, though. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Don't be tricked, kids. He's not Harry Potter, no matter how loudly he claims he is. Not screened in time for press; hit portlandmercury.com on Friday, February 12 for our review. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinetopia, City Center 12, Cornelius Stadium Cinemas, Evergreen Parkway 13, Lloyd Mall 8, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinema, Stark Street Cinemas, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
The "unseen films of Brian Tissot shot in Bali, Hawaii, and California from 1972-1989."
That Evening Sun
An aging farmer (Hal Holbrook) returns to his land to find it taken over by his old enemy. Old man fight! Old man fight! Hollywood Theatre.
The Third Man
There are few films that embody what film noir is about as well as John Huston's The Maltese Falcon or Carol Reed's The Third Man. Yet while Falcon has been dissected, reassembled, and copied down to its DNA, The Third Man remains enigmatic and singular. The diverse facets of Man that are towering and memorable—Anton Karas' indelible zither score, Orson Welles' performance as Harry Lime, Reed's depiction of Vienna as a city of shadows and danger—remain so partly because they've never been duplicated. DAVE BOW Cinema 21.
Until the Light Takes Us
Even if you're not a fan of metal—much less dark metal, the melodramatic, Nordic-originating version characterized by extremely lo-fi production of crudely black subject matter that flourished in the early '90s—you probably remember some of the headlines when a series of medieval churches were torched by what the media deemed to be "satanic" cult members. A documentary about this seems impossible to fuck up, and yet Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell have managed to do just that with Until the Light Takes Us, a disappointing stab at a rich and under-tapped subject, undertaken with a perspective that falls somewhere between feeble and nonexistent. There's a compelling, creepy, and blackly humorous story here that's only been partially told, because Until barely scratches the dirt. MARJORIE SKINNER Clinton Street Theater.
Maybe the easiest (though not the cheapest) way to make a decent romantic comedy is through sheer quantity. Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, and Taylor Lautner are just some of the stars on the exhaustingly big ensemble cast of Valentine's Day. Touching on multiple generations and scenarios, this film is like a mash-up of at least six different movies, and its interconnected characters aren't on screen long enough to get annoyed with them. Sure, the something-for-everyone feel-good strategy is transparent, and not every joke works, but there are honestly funny moments and effective tearjerkers, too. If you're going to indulge/withstand one corny Hollywood flick in the name of this month's holiday, you'll come through this one unscathed. MARJORIE SKINNER Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinetopia, City Center 12, Cornelius Stadium Cinemas, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway 13, Hilltop 9, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinema, St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub, Stark Street Cinemas, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Town Center 9.
Nicolas in the '80s-riffic romcom, back before the dude's forehead had its own ZIP code. Clinton Street Theater.
The Waiting List
The parents you know are pretty cool, right? They saw Tricky open for P.J. Harvey back in the day. The Waiting List is a comedy for them—Clerks meets parents of pre-schoolers meets tepid after-school special. This is a local film that revels in its aren't-I-cleverness as a group of thirtysomethings spend a night jawing away at each other, all while waiting in line at a prestigious preschool to sign their children up for enrollment. It's uneven—funny in spurts, then ridiculously cheesy—but it's ideal if you're nostalgic for the '90s-style vulgar talky flick (and you've got a couple of kids of your own so that you can nod in agreement to the it's-so-rough-being-a-parent anecdotes). COURTNEY FERGUSON
See review. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinemagic, Cinetopia, City Center 12, Cornelius Stadium Cinemas, Evergreen Parkway 13, Hilltop 9, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinema, Stark Street Cinemas, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Town Center 9.
Youth in Revolt
The hero of C.D. Payne's classic young-adult novel Youth in Revolt—and the new Michael Cera-starring film of the same name—is Nick Twisp, a bright but bitter young teenager ("even John Wayne on a horse would look effeminate pronouncing that name," Payne writes). His parents are separated, hostile, and generally unfit; his best friend Lefty (Erik Knudsen) is so named because his "erect member takes a sudden and dramatic turn to the east about midway up the shaft"; and Nick himself is entirely and unremittingly obsessed with sex, despite meager prospects of ever actually having any. When Nick meets the beautiful and brilliant Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), Nick creates an alter ego, Francois Dillinger, who coaxes Nick into living dangerously—stealing cars and making moves on the irresistible Sheeni. But a lot happens in Payne's plotty, 499-page novel, and screenwriter Gustin Nash is undone by his efforts to cover as much ground as the book: There's car theft, cross dressing, a road trip to a girls' school, and more. The result is more muddled than madcap. ALISON HALLETT Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater & Pub.