A Simple Matter of Justice & Degrees of Shame
A film showing the role of unions in our lives and one on the serious conditions part-time workers face.
All right, thrill-seekers and panty-sniffers: Audition begins when a widower, Shigeharu Aoyama (played by Ryo Ishibashi), decides he needs another wife. Being fairly antisocial and looking "old," as his 17-year-old son tells him, the odds that he'll meet a nice lady the traditional way are looking pretty slim. So, he and his movie-making friend decide to hold an audition for a movie, in which young, beautiful women would secretly be auditioning for the part of Aoyama's new wife.
Barry Levinson does what he does best: Grown-up themes of love and life dreams acted out by characters with the sense of five-year-old boys. Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis, both with extremely bad haircuts, play two escaped inmates (from Oregon State Penitiary, nonetheless). On the run, the two invent a playful game of kidnapping bank managers and pleasantly robbing vaults. As a hypochondric and self-declared genius, Thornton adds a verve of wry humor to the film.
* Big as Life: Small Gauge Artist's Cinema
8 mm and Super 8 film over the last 50 years. DIY kinda stuff.
Snoop Dogg stars in a crappy horror film while still managing to make women hot. A heavy reliance on the public's fear of maggots, a confused plot, and classic horror movie rip-offs (not parody-style) make this movie as lame as a barrell of used douche water. (Katie Shimer)
Mathieu spends another boring summer with his family of women. But wait, he meets a hot boy while selling candy, begins a love affair, and comes out to his relatives.
A study of one of white trash America's past times: the muscle car. Beaters, about having a pile of crap for a car, and Real Smoker (see pg 27) will also be shown.
Following in the wake of David Fincher's Seven, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's film covers much of the same ground at a more languid pace, and without the benefit of variety in its murders. A young drifter with the ability to mesmerize is all that links a series of gruesome slayings, all committed by people who can't seem to remember their motivation--or the drifter--when the deed is done. Eventually the drifter leaves a trail of witnesses who aid in his capture. His identity, past, and modus operandi are discovered, but not before the lead investigators' good cop-bad cop act places the tediousness of the case-and the film-in sharp relief. (Sarah Sternau)
* The Deep End
Though it comes dressed in the icy blue clothes of a suspense thriller, The Deep End is a far more interesting creature. Using its intricate plot as shrewd camouflage, the film serves as an examination of the evolving relationship between a lonely mother and her gifted teenage son, whose sexuality (homo) is such an impenetrable subject that Mom (the ineffable Tilda Swinton) would rather navigate a murder cover-up, blackmail, and death threats than talk to the lad directly. (Sean Nelson)
A resentful housekeeper videotapes the lives of his clients by going through their shit. Is this a horror film?
John Travolta is the dad, and Vince Vaughn is the stepdad. One of them is a nasty murderer and one of them is an underdog hero. It's up to the kid to decide. How droll is this movie? Even the orthodonic nightmare Steve Buscemi can't make it creepy!
It's October 1988, and the era-defining campaign between George Bush I and Michael Dukakis is entering the stretch run. Meanwhile, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is quite possibly going insane. The teenaged son of a functional but unpleasant upper middle class family, Donnie starts having visions of a six-foot-tall demonic-looking bunny named Frank, who warns him of an impending apocalypse. Is Donnie's medication simply not working, or is there something else going on? First-time director Richard Kelly has a sure visual sense and concocts an ending that, remarkably, doesn't cop out. At times funny, eerie, and intense, "Donnie Darko" could be the cinematic square peg you've been looking for. (Marc Mohan)
Down from the Mountain
Footage of the two-day music fest that created the soundtrack to the Coen Brother's O Brother Where Art Thou. And I thought that movie was boring.
Four Portland filmmakers, including Gus Van Sant, do film interpretations of symphonic works.
You're a naughty one, saucy Jack. A Jack the Ripper tale from the brothers responsible for such crap as Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, Allen and Albert Hughes. Johnny Depp and Heather Graham star.
* Ghost World
Fans of Daniel Clowes' epochal comic novel about the listless inner teen life have been awaiting this adaptation by Crumb director Terry Zwigoff for years now, and the film delivers, though not in the direct way you might have anticipated. Clowes' super-detached geek queens Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have graduated from high school, and, bored, they answer a personals ad placed by über-dork vinyl junkie Seymour (an R. Crumb surrogate played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi) responds. As an experiment, Enid decides to educate Seymour in the ways of love, and her world begins to crumble. (Sean Nelson)
Home Movies as Folk Art
A glom of home movies showing crazy American rituals over the past 70 years.
Honky Tonk Dirt & Welcome to the Club: Women in Rockabilly
Honky Tonk Dirt is the charming documentary of local senior citizen street artist, Lucky Buster. Welcome, obviously, documents women rockabillians.
Human Resources & Degrees of Shame
A film showing the role of unions in the lives of Americans and one on the serious conditions part-time workers face.
If it Moves We'll Shoot It
Award winning films, including Multiple Sidosis (selected in 2000 for the Library of Congress National Film Registry), made by amateur filmmakers.
* Iron Monkey
The recently re-released Iron Monkey features almost a two-to-one ratio of awesome fight scenes vs. people standing around blabbing. This includes tons of director Ping's famous "wire fu" antics, where heroes and villains alike fly over rooftops and smash through walls. And while the comedy is broad-to say the least!-the mechanics of the martial arts scenes are thrillingly precise, and often gasp-inducing. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
Universal Pictures has requested that the Mercury not review this film, which stars Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. And who are we to cross Universal Pictures? I saw the trailer, though, and it didn't look very promising. Sort of like Cocoon meets Phenomenon. I'd rather eat my own shit for a year than see either of those monstrosities again.
L.I.E. (Long Island Expressway) is focused on a teenage boy named Howie, his best friend Gary and "Big John," a pervy, wealthy ex-marine. The film navigates themes of adolescent apathy and petty crime as well as the sensual side of pedophilia, somehow without demonizing its characters. The dangerous mire of teen disenchantment is captured in Howie and his friends, who rob houses, fuck their little sisters and prostitute themselves to old men. (Marjorie Skinner)
The Last Castle
Robert Redford and James Gandolfini star in this story of power struggles and hypermasculine one-upsmanship behind the bars of a military prison. Also starring that really great actor from You Can Count on Me, Mark Ruffalo. Because it's directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), expect the world this film presents to be divided into two camps: liberals and fascists.
Life as a House
Kevin Kline has cancer, but he hasn't told his ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), who's too busy letting herself be an emotional doormat, or his son (Hayden Christensen), who's too busy huffing Scotchguard, wearing makeup, and masturbating with a rope around his neck. Rather than come clean, he decides to fix everything by making his dysfunctional son help him build his dream house. In the process--surprise of surprises!--he does fix everything: the son wipes away the mascara and stops giving head to rich men for cash (hooking up with a nubile hottie in the process), the wife realizes she's still in love with her ex, and Kline gets to die the heroic death of a saintly drop-out. Histrionic folderol aside, this film is a guilty kind of good. Despite all the male menopause baggage, there is a nugget of human goodwill somewhere, possibly just in Kevin Kline, who is such a fine actor that he invests what should be pure trash with a patina of integrity. This is the kind of film one should watch with one's parents and then, when it's over, as a gift, pretend it wasn't bullshit. (Sean Nelson)
Unlike, say, Biko, which personified and simplified South Africa's struggle against apartheid, this movie is perhaps too diligent in staying true to each and every fact. It is beautifully filmed and acted with gripping intensity. But the past hundred years of the Congo is so muddled with power shifts and greedy characters that the film struggles under the weight of relatively obscure history. (Cliff Notes: In 1960, the Congo attempted to move from a brutal century of Belgium rule into independence. Lumumba, the title character, was the popularly appointed Prime Minister and guardian for democratic ideals. But rumors and back-stabbing by diamond-mining corporations and the CIA turned political allies and the army against Lumumba. He was murdered after only two bumpy months in office.) The film deservedly has won accolades, including mentions at Cannes. Just consult your African history notes ahead of time--or be prepared to be lost in the African outback. (Phil Busse)
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Coen Brothers sink even further into their philosophical abyss in this sluggish, but beautifully shot film noir starring Billy Bob Thornton. See review this issue. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)
A talentless freak traipses around Portland trying to get attention by wearing a giant baby head and strewing the city with meat.
Sully (John Goodman) is one of Monsters, Inc.'s top Scarers, meaning that he excels at getting kids to scream in fright-and bottled screams are the fuel upon which Monstropolis, his hometown, depends. Kids, however, are supposed to be highly contagious, so when Sully accidentally brings a little girl back to Monstropolis, he's got a lot of nervous running and hiding to do. The first two-thirds of this film are pleasant to watch, though the narcotizing currents of confused cultural allegory that run through modern Disney films course just as strongly through this one. In Monsters, Inc. this includes a truly uncomfortable fetishizing of the sleeping American child, and the assumption of a world benevolently owned and operated by a private corporation. But the final third of the movie is excellent and beautiful, arriving suddenly at one of those gorgeous imaginary landscapes that legitimately become a part of a child's dream fabric. (Evan Sult )
David Lynch doing his usually contorted mystery, and the ending makes no sense.
On the Line
Love isn't always on time, but the "L" train is. Just ask Joey Fatone (is that how you pronounce it?) and Lance Bass, the members of N'Sync who star in this romantic comedy, which takes place in Chicago, and whose pivotal moment occurs on said train.
Jet Li must battle his evil alter ego, escaped from the future. In a psychological turn of events, he must not only battle this dark futuristic clone, but also--ah, ha, ha--the evil within himself. See review this issue.
Riding in Cars with Boys
A film for 40-year-olds of all ages. Drew Barrymore plays a Connecticut townie bad girl who gets knocked up at age 15, then spends the rest of her lapsed Catholic life negotiating the disappointments and joys of a life lived in service to an accidental baby. Because the film is directed by Penny Marshall, it is very very bad, indeed painfully so. Drew Barrymore tries very hard, and turns in what counts for her as a strong performance. But the movie is mawkish and cloying, full of screenwriter homilies and syrupy strings, so all her efforts are in the service of the devil. It does have one saving grace, however: the great Steve Zahn, stealing gems of naturalism and invention. (Sean Nelson)
* Science is Fiction: Scored by Yo La Tengo
The science and nature films of Jean Painleve with live accompaniment.
This film is hokey, as expected, relying on over-dramatized coincidences. You know: John Cusack comes out of an elevator just as the doors are closing behind Kate Beckinsale in another one, she loses her jacket and he just happens to find it, etc. Oh, isn't love magical! How serendipitous! And so on. I sometimes embarrass myself by getting teary-eyed over this type of crap, but not once did I so much as bite my lip or chew my nails during this film. The plot was too obvious, the characters selfish. Molly Shannon's sorta cute in the chunky friend slot, Jeremy Piven is pretty funny as Cusack's best friend and if you like Eugene Levy, that spazz with huge eyebrows, he's in it too. But it's not enough to make it the cinematic comfort food that romantic comedies should be. (Marjorie Skinner)
Gwyneth Paltrow is a 300-pound woman. Puh-lease.
Features shorts: Zipped, about the obsession with the fly, like on jeans; Reveries and Rocketships (see pg 27); Bloodhag:The Faster You Go Deaf, the More Time You Have to Read (pg 27); The End of the Old as We Know It, directed by Courtney "Dandy" Taylor; Found Footage; a found film of a family vaca; Woke Up Dreaming; Martirio; Positive Reinforcement; Friday Night Idiot Box; and Populi.
Features A Night in the Gilman, about a girl made out of mud; Sleeping Car; The Tassled Loafers; Heart of Harlem, Shadowgraph; Deadpan, A Problem with Sharks, about a couple that goes undersea treaure hunting during a shark alert; Adrian's Hole, about a man who must rediscover himself after he finds a neverending hole in his living room; and The Subconcious Art of Graffiti Removal.
Features Airplane Glue (see page 27).; The Lines of the Hand; Frank Was a Monster that Wanted to Dance; Strange Ships; Autographhss.com; The Passage, a trip through a prisoner's mind; Insect Poetry; Thought Bubble, about a lonely streetwalker in a city built with paper; and The Burden.
It's your basic, teenaged boy, super-secret agent story, where our hero must save the world after Noah's Ark (yes, the Noah) is discovered and a mentally enhanced evil little boy wants to use it to destroy Earth. This is all accomplished in the typically noisy, gunfire-laden way of much anime, and also suffers from too much narrative detail packed into a 90-minute flick. There's a good chase scene through the streets of Istanbul, and things get legitimately trippy inside the Ark, but it's not enough to make up for the predictable sensory overload of the rest. (Marc Mohan)
The Wise Ones
Holy Shit. The guy that wrote this film also co-wrote the best film of this generation, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. A neurotic doctor with insane visions of grandeur freaks out for a while by thinking his delusions are real.
A remake of Ang Lee's 1994 Eat Drink Man Woman. This time the focus is upon a Latino community in Los Angeles, where a retired Mexican American chef prepares lavish meals for his emotionally distraught daughters.
Director Jaques Rivette examines love and the theater as couples with all sorts of issues switch partners, drudge up old problems, and create new ones.
* Vertical Ray of the Sun
Tran Anh Hung shows a serene dream life for three sisters painted against a difficult and undiscussed real life of infidelity and in one sister's case, a near incestuous relationship with her brother. A visual stimulant with a pretty good story.