20th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films
From a Whisper
A drama about the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Nairobi.
Movement (R)evolution Africa
A showcase of nine African dance choreographers. Preceded by Coming of Age and Nora.
Paris or Nothing
"Suzy will do anything to leave her native Cameroon for Paris, but when she finally achieves her wish, it is only to learn that Paris is not the paradise she dreamed it would be." WAY TO DISAPPOINT, PARIS. Director in attendance.
2010 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts
The animated short films are the fun-size candies of the Oscar nominations—they're invariably delightful, short bursts of sweetness. It goes without saying that the Wallace and Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death is brilliant, with the prudent dog desperately trying to keep Wallace out of an unwise relationship with a mysterious blonde spokesmodel. Logorama is a heavy-handed, yet outrageously innovative and entertaining French film about a hard-boiled city constructed entirely of company logos, wherein the cops (all Michelin Men) hunt down a sociopathic fugitive on the run (trash-talkin' Ronald McDonald). Let's just say Adbusters found their new favorite film. It's a great group of films—not a stinker in the bunch. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
2010 Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts
There's one thing you can pretty much count on with the majority of the live-action short-film nominations for Academy Awards—incredibly earnest Important Topic Films. Modern-day slavery in India. The fun riot that is Chernobyl. A sniper run amok in an elementary school. Good times. But it's the comedic films that are the true standouts in this year's batch: The New Tenants, with Vincent D'Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan, about a gay couple who moves into a messed-up apartment building. And don't miss the Swedish short Instead of Abracadabra, a very funny (non-annoying, I swear) Napoleon Dynamite-esque riff on a loveable loser who yearns for the "gothic mystery and mayhem" of being a magician. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
A documentary about a man raised by an eco-conscious hippie who now examines his own sustainable lifestyle choices. Narrated by Bob Uecker. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Alice in Wonderland
See review. Various Theaters.
The Blues Brothers
Cort and Fatboy (and the Mercury!) present a big-screen showing of the 1980 classic. "Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail us now!" Bagdad Theater.
Action director Antoine Fuqua's latest is a cop drama starring Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, and Richard Gere. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
A loving, overlong homage to the omnipresent buddy cop flicks of the '80s. Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hours, Stakeout, Lethal Weapon—all are represented and lovingly mined to create what director Kevin Smith obviously hoped would be the über-buddy cop movie. Half the time you'll laugh harder than during most of the films you'll see all year, and half the time you'll shift in your seat and feel like someone's poking you with a fork. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
If you're going to see one remake of a 1970s horror flick this year... no seriously, you could do so much worse than The Crazies. It's a remake of George A. Romero's 1973 film of the same name, in which a town loses its shit after the military accidentally releases a sanity-shaking toxin into the water supply. I haven't seen the original, so please don't ask me how it stacks up—but I can tell you that this one is scary. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Filmusik: Kansas City Confidential
The 1952 noir Kansas City Confidential gets the Filmusik treatment, with voice actors and musicians providing live performances for the film. Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Cinema 21.
The Ghost Writer
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Harmony and Me
A dumped 30-something is "drowning in the familiar state of romantic loss where every song of despair seems written just for him." :( Living Room Theaters.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' immediate distinction is not that it was directed by Terry Gilliam—it's that it's the last movie to appear on Heath Ledger's IMDB page. Parnassus stars Ledger as Tony, a shady businessman who's rescued from near death by a passing traveling circus. The circus, run by one Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), boasts a magical "Imaginarium," a gateway to a world that's molded by the imaginations of all who enter. Gilliam salvaged enough of Ledger's performance that Tony's character is grounded in the real world—it's only in the world of the Imaginarium that he's replaced by actors Jude Law, Johnny Depp, and Colin Farrell, thanks to a tweak to the plot (when you go inside the Imaginarium... your face changes! Sure, okay). Ledger's death necessitated this device, but every time Depp or Farrell's face pops up, it's an unwelcome reminder not only of Ledger's death, but that these actors are only present thanks to this fairly flimsy last-minute workaround. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
I'm not going to say anything snarky about Meryl Streep in this review of her new momedy, It's Complicated. Streep is perfectly charming here, totally comfortable in the everywoman mantle she dons to play Jane, a divorced mother of three. Jane is sweet but grounded, sexy in a totally natural and age-appropriate way, and so likeable that it's completely plausible when her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) decides he wants to get back together. Ultimately, It's Complicated is a not-too-embarrassing movie about romance and families and finding oneself. I mean no disrespect to your mother when I assure you that she will like it. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The Last Station
While the expression "behind every great man is a great woman" has rightfully fallen into disuse, The Last Station is based on just such a historical formulation: the turbulent relationship between Leo Tolstoy and his wife, Sofya. This, though, is no tale of stoic devotion, of wifey tending the fires while her husband is out sowing his genius. Sofya Tolstoy (fiercely portrayed by Helen Mirren) is indeed devoted to her husband—they've been married for 50 years, during which time she's served as his supporter and secretary, famously copying multiple drafts of War and Peace by hand. She is also utterly determined to see his legacy preserved, in a manner that befits both of their labors. Leo and Sofya's grand, crumbling passion is depicted with unerring emotional precision by Plummer and Mirren. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Tigard 11 Cinemas.
One Peace at a Time
Writer, director, and "road-tripper" Turk Pipkin leads viewers through a scattered survey of Third World problems, armed with enough optimism to blind a smiley face. This film is at its best when Pipkin sits down with social change pioneers and Nobel Prize winners; the rest is an earnest do-gooder infomercial that someone rotten classified as a documentary. The film also features an entirely pointless chess game with Willie Nelson. Director in attendance on Friday, March 5. JANE CARLEN Hollywood Theatre.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
At its goofy best, Percy Jackson feels like a fun episode of Hercules or Xena, and is about as well made. This is the sort of movie where, when the heroic teen protagonists board a Greyhound bus to begin their journey to Hades, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" plays over the soundtrack; later, in a casino owned by the mythical lotus eaters, a satyr does a choreographed dance routine with a bunch of skanky Vegas showgirls to "Poker Face." Percy Jackson, you might have started out as a soulless and calculated Harry Potter knockoff, but apparently, you know me well: Give me a cool fight against a hydra and a stoned-out-of-his-mind satyr dancing to Lady Gaga, and you've won me over. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies
... and are gravely disappointed by The Blind Side. Okay, no: Art curators Bernice Rose and Arne Glimcher present the case that Picasso and Braque's work was influcenced by early cinema. Artists Chuck Close and Julian Schabel weigh in, too, with narration by Martin "C'mon, the last half of Shutter Island wasn't really that bad, was it?" Scorsese. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Princess and the Frog
By my estimation, Disney's animated features took a dramatic turn for the terrible with the release of Pocahontas in 1995. With a few exceptions, the 15 movies since have squandered a good deal of cultural capital—what American kid wasn't half-raised by Disney cartoons? How much would you have to pay the average American adult to watch Chicken Little? But Disney's newest, The Princess and the Frog, abruptly and unexpectedly reminded me just how good Disney movies used to be. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The sort of movie where supposedly smart characters do idiotic things; where lightning dramatically flashes to underscore plot developments; where things lunge from shadows not because it makes sense for them to do so but because... well, lunging is just what things in shadows do. Director Martin Scorsese seems eager to try out some time-honored genre clichés: The music jolts, character actors offer dire warnings, and for its first hour or so, Shutter Island is, if not scary, then satisfyingly creepy. I won't spoil how it ends, but suffice to say there's a shot of DiCaprio screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" at the heavens, and also that the climax would be considered pretty shoddy even by M. Night Shyamalan's standards. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
"We must meet this threat with our courage, our valor—indeed, with our very lives—to ensure that human civilization, not insect, dominates this galaxy NOW AND ALWAYS!" Laurelhurst Theater.
Touch of Evil
Quite a bit more than a "touch" of evil, actually. A raw, seedy sensibility permeates this film, from its stunning opening tracking shot to Marlene Dietrich's world-weary kiss-off at the end. Orson Welles' last film for Hollywood is a look at the dirty dealings in a sleazy Mexican border town that makes the low-lifes in L.A. Confidential look positively sweet in comparison. GILLIAN G. GAAR Fifth Avenue Cinema.
A Town Called Panic
Good luck getting the kids to settle down for a movie with subtitles. Adults won't fare much better with this spastic, meandering stop-motion adventure that boasts pretty designs but rinky-dink animation. ANDREW R TONRY Hollywood Theatre.
Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day
The gang from the legitimately funny Canadian sitcom Trailer Park Boys are back with their second full-length feature—and this time it's more "mayhem-y" than ever. Trailer park residents Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles are out of the joint, and each are looking to start their own successful business. Pair this with the park's A-hole landlord's scheme to take Julian's property (while staying sober) and the result is, as usual, a trainwreck of mammoth and hilarious proportion—involving four or more trains... carrying nitro... and doused in gasoline. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY 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 in 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 romcom, you'll come through this one unscathed. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The White Ribbon
A smoldering and horrifying masterpiece from Austrian director Michael Haneke (Funny Games). The methodical, even glacial, pace of the film, which lingers on mundane and momentous exchanges alike, draws the audience unwittingly into a subtly taut experience. You may not find yourself gripping the edge of your seat in the theater, but the wary sense of secret evil will dog you for days. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
Will Vinton: Claymation Classics
Local animator (claymator?) Will Vinton presents several of his short films, including 1982's Oscar-nominated Creation. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Desperately intending to evoke the feel and nostalgia of 1941's horror classic The Wolf Man, director Joe Johnston's The Wolfman is about as fun to watch as that attention-hungry, paste-eating kid you pitied in kindergarten. Chockfull of showy, heavy-handed sound effects and overbearing scare tactics, it falls flat in the suspense and fright departments, gravely mistaking bombast for atmosphere. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
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), he 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 Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.