An outed soap opera actor (Steve Callahan) and a divorced gay marriage activist (Trey Reed) "explore the fickle nature of fame in the gay community." Just so we're clear: There's nothing fickle about the nature of Fame.
The Secret Diaries of
Pride and Prejudice for the queer set, this beautifully shot film details the true, extensive, and cryptic diaries of Anne Lister (Maxine Peake), a confident, self-possessed 19th century lesbian. Anne grapples with the love of her life (who marries an old fart), her mother (who thinks her lovelorn ennui can be fixed with a visit to the "leech woman"), and the rest of upper-class English society (who accept her as an intelligent oddball). SARAH MIRK
Becloud "An enthralling mix of history, memory, and atonement" set in Mexico in the 1960s. Director in attendance.
7th Planet Picture Show
Local blogger/KJ Will Radik hosts a film screening during which he and others heckle the shit out of crappy movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. Mt. Tabor Theater.
Three childhood friends reunite. Naturally, "old attractions and resentments rise to the surface." Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Whaa? A crappy looking horror flick (starring Renée Zellweger?) that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
Catfish markets itself as a documentation of a Facebook cautionary tale, cloaking its surprises in such a way as to allow the rest of us to imagine the worst of our paranoias: stalkers, scams, identity theft—pick your poison. To its (albeit unplanned) credit, Catfish goes in a less obvious direction, exploring the ways in which social networking—specifically when it takes the form of relationships that exist solely online—can supplement our self-perception, to occasionally disturbing extents. The film perhaps serves best as a time capsule of its era; one can only imagine what it will look like after another 20 years of a society increasingly ordered online. MARJORIE SKINNER Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
A super low-budget zombie flick—like, made for 75 bucks—that tells its story "through the eyes of the zombie." Hollywood Theatre.
Isaki Lacuesta's "meditation on the price of failing to live up to your ideals." :( Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Directing the Off-Screen:
Work by Jeanne Faust
Cinema Project presents work by German photographer and filmmaker Jeanne Faust, who "examines the relationship between word and image—showing how spoken language can both reveal and supplant what lies outside the frame." For more info, hit cinemaproject.org. Director in attendance. Clinton Street Theater.
See My, What a Busy Week! Holocene.
Dust & Illusions: 30 Years of Burning Man
A documentary about Burning Man that "questions our ability as humans to build communities that can satisfy everyone." (Dust & Illusion's findings aside, Burning Man has taught us one thing: Humans are certainly capable of building communities that annoy the living shit out of everyone who isn't in them.) Director in attendance. Cinema 21.
One can't help but wonder if Easy A director Will Gluck ever had the pleasure of an English class assignment that asked its students to reinterpret a piece of literature into amateur film, because Easy A has a similar joie de vivre, with the added bonus of a much better budget. Forcefully in reference to The Scarlet Letter, its delightfully likeable protagonist, Olive (Emma Stone), experiments with a societal ostracization that bears little technical resemblance to the trials of Hester Prynne, but which does feature her literally wearing a red letter "A" for most of its runtime. This movie approaches Mean Girls territory on the fun scale. Various Theaters.
Garbo, the Spy
This documentary investigates the story of a shadowy Spaniard who walked into WWII out of nowhere, manipulated the Nazis with a web of lies, then faked his own death. The film suggests this opportunistic double-agent might have been responsible for the Allies' victory at Normandy, but while the sheer badassery speaks for itself, the film pushes for a soul with its pensive soundtrack and curious bits of old footage. Garbo illustrates the war as it would have appeared to a surprisingly human, even vulnerable master of espionage. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. KEVIN "THE INTERN" OTZENBERGER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
An amiable and rather unapologetic victory lap for Robert Duvall, who plays a crazy old hermit who returns from the woods after 30 years in order to organize and attend his own funeral. Director Aaron Schneider gets strong performances from his cast, including Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek, and a deadpan-even-for-him Bill Murray, but the main reason to watch is Duvall, who imbues his stock Snuffy Smith character with undercurrents of humor, pathos, and wounded menace. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
A documentary about the controversial "alleged rediscovery" of the ivory billed woodpecker in 2005, examining "the uneasy relationship between modern society and nature." Director in attendance. Hollywood Theatre.
A Frenchified romantic comedy set in the impossible glamour of Monaco, Heartbreaker is the loveliest of brain candies. Its whimsical premise is that Alex (Romain Duris) is a professional homewrecker who's hired to lure women out of bad relationships with his swarthy good looks and a trusty backup team composed of his sister (Julie Ferrier) and her husband (François Damiens). When he's hired by Juliette's (Vanessa Paradis) wealthy father to bust up her impending marriage, though, you can probably guess what ensues: FRENCH FABULOUSNESS. (PS: My boyfriend walked out on this after the first 10 minutes.) MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
It should come as no surprise that James Franco is great in the role of Allen Ginsberg—after all, Franco's done his best work to date portraying stoners and gays. (See: Freaks and Geeks, Pineapple Express, Milk.) Perhaps Franco also found some connection to the role via his own literary aspirations, though the less said about his fiction output, the better. (Don't see: "Just Before the Black," Esquire, March 24.) Whatever the source of his inspiration, Franco immerses himself convincingly in Ginsberg's character in Howl, which juxtaposes interview transcripts with courtroom scenes from the obscenity case against Grove Press, publisher of Ginsberg's controversial poem. Howl is a mostly successful historical reenactment—the Grove trial is lent additional fascination by the casting of Mad Men's Jon Hamm as Grove's lawyer. Unfortunately, significant portions of the film superimpose Franco's voice, reading "Howl," over animations based on the poem. These attempts to capture the spirit of the poem fall embarrassingly flat. ALISON HALLETT On Friday, October 8, the 7 pm show will be introduced by executive producer Gus Van Sant, with star James Franco appearing live via Skype. Cinema 21.
The Island Inside
Three estranged siblings are forced to return home when they learn of their schizophrenic father's suicide attempt. The story then backs up and is reconstructed through each sibling's experiences, revealing a family plagued by a war for control. This film's commanding cast succeeds in turning painfully neurotic characters into perfectly relatable ones, and the result is a dark lesson in unity, taught by the most alienated people imaginable. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. KEVIN "THE INTERN" OTZENBERGER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
It's Kind of a Funny Story
See review this issue. City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Let Me In
Pardon the wet blanket, but the book was better, as was the Swedish cult vampire flick Let the Right One In, which Let Me In is based on. No longer named after a Morrissey song, but instead after an R.E.M. one, Let Me In stays mostly loyal to the original John Ajvide Lindqvist script, taking liberties only when it comes to violence (there's more of it) and the underlying gender issues that the original addressed so well. The end result is still worth watching, but it'll never be like the original. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
Life As We Know It
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Daniel (Pablo Pineda) is extraordinary—a 34-year-old with Down syndrome who holds a college degree and inspires people with his wittiness and sophistication. But his battle against society's perceptions is tested when he falls in love with a beautiful, reckless young woman (Lola Dueñas). What follows is a conflicted dynamic between two people that pulls the audience into a unique personal space and shatters presumptions. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. KEVIN "THE INTERN" OTZENBERGER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
My Soul to Take 3D
Whaa? A crappy looking horror flick (directed by Wes Craven, who's apparently still alive?) that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
Never Let Me Go
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Portland Humanist Film Fest: Monty Python's The Life of Brian
A free screening of the Monty Python movie that isn't The Holy Grail. It's part of the Portland Humanist Film Fest; for more info, hit humanistfest.com. Clinton Street Theater.
A "social commentary about immigration" that's also a "terrifying and claustrophobic thriller"! Two genres for the price of one! Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Ready, Set, Bag!
A documentary about "eight contestants who train for and compete in the National Grocery Bagging Competition in Las Vegas." Hollywood Theatre.
Room in Rome
A "steamy, incisive contemplation of life, sex, and romance" from Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia). It's recommended for "mature audiences." NICE. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Social Network
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin's fantastic film about Facebook's tortured origins. Fincher, back in control after the sap of Benjamin Button, directs as commandingly and deftly as ever; Sorkin's script punches along at lightspeed, telling an endlessly complex story with machined precision. From its opening scene, it's hard not to be floored: In 2003, in a bar outside Harvard, a geeky undergrad named Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has an increasingly intense conversation with his increasingly fed-up girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara). Sorkin's razor-sharp dialogue zips back and forth; Eisenberg and Mara's faces begin to subtly strain; tensions rise and rise and snap. And then Zuckerberg, calmly furious, runs—literally, runs—back to his dorm, spiraling into a festering frenzy of drunken blogging and effortless hacking. And so The Social Network's damningly sympathetic portraiture begins. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Some dude wakes up bleeding from his hands... hey, just like that old X-Files episode! Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Sweethearts of the
A documentary that follows "convict cowgirls on their journey to the 2007 Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo," a now-defunct event that was "part Wild West show and part coliseum-esque spectacle." Director in attendance. Hollywood Theatre.
Three Days with the Family
A Catalonian 21-year-old returns home from France to attend her grandfather's funeral. Screens as part of the Northwest Film Center's New Spanish Cinema series. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Tillman Story
Patrick Tillman was a successful NFL linebacker, until, in 2002, he dropped his football career and enlisted in the US Army Rangers. Tillman was later killed while deployed in Afghanistan, and his death created a media bonanza—one that grew even more rampant as it came to light that Tillman wasn't killed in an ambush, as the Army originally claimed, but was instead shot by friendly fire. The Tillman Story tracks the lives of Tillman's family as they deal with the gut-wrenching ramifications of his death; while director Amir Bar-Lev's somewhat biased perspective can be distracting at times, it hardly overpowers the important questions this resonant film grapples with. NOAH "THE INTERN" DUNHAM Fox Tower 10.
Written, directed, and starring the one and only David Arquette, The Tripper wasn't screened for critics, but it's about "a Ronald Reagan-obsessed serial killer [who] targets a bunch of hippies." Fair enough. Clinton Street Theater.
Waiting for Superman
Waiting for Superman is a documentary about the failure of the American educational system, and it's compelling. It's hard to watch the movie and not feel outraged—the film points fingers directly at bad teachers, complaining that it's impossible to fire them thanks to out-of-control teachers unions. But once you leave the theater, you start to notice some discrepancies. The pat answer the filmmakers arrive at, very early on, is: It's the bad teachers, stupid! This feels overly simple. For instance, all the parents in the film are perfect: They work long hours to send their kids to private school or tutoring. They research every alternative possible to get their kids to better schools. They support their kid's educations wholeheartedly. Never once does Superman even begin to suggest that any of the problems of our educational system might be due to lack of interest on behalf of the parents. This is probably savvy filmmaking—you wouldn't pay to see a documentary that explicitly identifies you as a problem, would you?—but it feels as though an enormous part of the issue isn't addressed. To point fingers at a union and suggest that workers' rights are the sole source of difficulty makes me feel itchy on an ideological level. PAUL CONSTANT Fox Tower 10.
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)
A 2006 documentary about musician Harry Nilsson. Clinton Street Theater.
Much like we all did back in our budding pre-adulthoods, You Again has real potential. Kristen Bell as Marni, the bullied high school geek who grew up right, pitted against a beautiful bitch no-name (Odette Yustman) as her former bully and soon-to-be sister-in-law, is a fine set-up for a good girl fight. Add to that a parallel rivalry among the elder generation (Sigourney Weaver vs. Jamie Lee Curtis!), and Betty White as grandma, and the sting of You Again's mediocrity seems all the more unfair. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.