* 21 Grams
In Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 21 Grams, tragedy is finally given the respect it deserves. The story is told in a series of fragments. Flashing forward and back, the audience is given glimpses of its three main characters; Paul (Sean Penn) is on the cusp of death, waiting for his heart condition to finally claim him. Cristina (Naomi Watts) is a suburban wife with two children and a doting husband--who is soon to be scarred by an accident of epic proportions. Jack (Benicio del Toro) is an ex-jailbird turned fundamentalist Christian who can't escape the tragedies of his past which, like the repeated scenes of this film, keep returning as his future. The previously mentioned accident binds these three into an unwanted triad, sending each on a skidding path with their pasts, and sealing what seems to be a predestined fate. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst
* Art Fag Movie Night
See the premiere of Bending the Equator, a video tour diary of the Brazilian band Dominatrix, while on tour with Portland's the Haggard. Also catch The Lesbian Movie 2000, plus more films and whatever those goofy folks at The Know decide to deliver you tonight. The Know
* Battle Royale II
Three years after a group of junior high students were dropped on an island and made to fight to the death, a well-known terrorist tries to take down the government. The politicians respond with a "Battle Royale 2" program, where junior high students are sent to capture the terrorist. See My What a Busy Week pg 15 Clinton Street Theater
* Big Fish
While director Tim Burton may have been pooh-poohed in the past for placing cinematic glitz over storytelling ability, with Big Fish he finally brings them together in glorious harmony. Switching back and forth between reality and tall tales, Burton weaves a truly poignant story about the complicated ties between fathers and sons, and how severing those ties can eventually strengthen them. The cast is uniformly terrific, with an absolutely amazing performance by Albert Finney. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Kennedy School, Laurelhurst, Mission Theater, St. Johns Pub
* Brewster McGee
A couple of money-obsessed nerds are constantly hatching marketing strategies and get-rich-quick schemes while hanging out in the parking lot of the Chicken Hut. When they try to get one of the Hut's employees in on one of their schemes, things go awry. In the style of Clerks, this comedy comes out of Vancouver, BC, and will be attended by filmmaker Ross Munro, who will answer questions after both screenings. Clinton Street Theater
* Bum's Paradise
Once upon a time, on an abandoned landfill on the San Francisco Bay, there was a squalid but utopian homeless community nicknamed Bum's Paradise. Men and women who said "screw this" to income tax taxes, paved roads, postal delivery, and door to door salesmen moved to Bum's Paradise, slept under the stars, and got back to nature the way hippies only dreamed of 30 years ago. Yeah, some of the residents were a little kooky, but kooky characters make for interesting movies. Most of them wrote poetry that rivals anything I've read in Street Roots, and one poem actually had me questioning why I go to work everyday and give all my money to the government, who spends it in all sorts of ways I disapprove of. Anyway, fun times only last for so long before the pigs roll in and bust the party up. And you know how it is trying to tell a bum to move --they're probably going to have a few words for you. Well, that's what this movie is about--bums who had a cool thing going for them until The Man fucked it all up. Now the bums have a chance to tell their side of the story. Director and producer Tomas McCabe will be present for Q & A, as will the film's narrator, Rabbit, and the film's main bum will be there, too. (Chas Bowie) Clinton Street Theater
The Cooler is a small, unremarkable film that's watchable due to one thing: sex. Specifically, a sex scene between William H. Macy and Maria Bello. Director Wayne Kramer has managed to give audiences something all too rare in films these days--a sexy scene that not only causes the audience to flush, but makes sense as well. The coitus in The Cooler is refreshing, fun, and the tangling of bodies helps elevate the entire endeavor above its somewhat middling quality. (Bradley Steinbacher) Cinemagic
* Creature From the Black Lagoon 3-D
The old fish-man must deal with explorers on the Amazon, and being projected in 3-D. Laurelhurst
* Dawn of the Dead
No longer content to lumber around like tranquilized robots, The zombies in Dawn, like in 28 Days Later, screech like hellish bobcats, and sprint at their prey with horrible speed. In short, filmmakers have finally figured out how zombies can still terrify this modern world hooked on high-speed wireless connections and instant messenger programs: They must be FAST. A movie with cool gore effects, likable characters, and most importantly, fast-movin' zombies, is guaranteed to be at least a little bit fun and scary. This is proven by Dawn, an entertaining movie with all the aforementioned qualities, and little else. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Whereas the last Michel Gondry/Charlie Kaufman collaboration, Human Nature, eventually crumbled under its own quirkiness (considerably helped along by the staggering blandness of Tim Robbins), Eternal Sunshine finds director and scribe fitting perfectly together. This is a film that travels far beyond most of our imaginations. It is also one of the most beautifully assembled romances you will ever see. (Bradley Steinbacher) City Center 12, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway, Lloyd Cinemas, Movies on TV, Oak Grove 8 Theater, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Tigard Cinemas
A documentary that goes inside the motorcycle racing world, spanning five continents, 16 races, and featuring 24 of the world's top riders. Check out the nonstop action, not to mention the cool bikes. See My What a Busy Week pg 15 Laurelhurst
* The Fog of War
From World War II through the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara was everywhere and wrapped up in some of the most destructive aggressions by the U.S. military. It was his brainstorm to firebomb cities in Japan, so that bombs would not just destroy what they impacted but would set fire to entire towns. Under his guidance, U.S. forces in Vietnam relentlessly dropped Napalm. (Oddly, also, in a foray into the private sector, under his direction, the Ford Corp. insisted on seatbelts and other safety measures that have saved countless lives!) Interspersed with historical footage, the interviews are simple, sober, and bring to the surface an old man who is less remorseful than trying to reason with guilt. The parallels to current political leaders are never touched on, but are nonetheless poignantly present. Directed by Errol Morris. (Phil Busse) Hollywood Theatre
Girl with the Pearl Earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring is stuffy to a fault, no matter how many shots of Scarlett Johansson's pout director Peter Webber can fit in, and the final tally falls somewhere between the best of Merchant Ivory and the worst of Merchant Ivory. Which is to say this: It is a well-made but nonetheless empty and, quite often, outright dull affair. (Bradley Steinbacher) Fox Tower 10, Moreland Theater, Westgate
* Good bye, Lenin
In 1989, Alexander Kerner (Daniel Brühl) is a young East Berliner not beginning, as he had hoped, a career in space, but one as a TV repairman. Though not happy about his situation, Alexander is not an angry youth, nor is he openly hostile to his mother, whose faith in the Socialist Party contradicts his emerging political beliefs. During a protest against the state, which is brutally repressed by the police, Alexander's mother chances to see him being beaten and arrested by the very cops who serve the party that she is devoted to. The mother faints and has a heart attack, which sends her into a coma. During her sleep, the Berlin Wall falls, East Germany dissolves into West Germany, and the society changes its money, its clothes, its entire mode of material existence. After eight months, the mother awakes, but because she is frail, the doctor strongly recommends that her recovery not be shaken by shocks and surprises. It's at this point that Good Bye, Lenin! becomes interesting. (Charles Mudede) Fox Tower 10
The Good Lot
A locally made independent full-length film from director/writer Brian Thomas Wright, The Good Lot tells the story of a runner who returns to his dream of Olympic glory with the help of his friends and ex-lover/coach. Nice cinematography and better than average acting can't save a weak script which comes across as a Breaking Away knockoff. Though not a particularly auspicious start, Bouncing Light productions shows a lot of heart, and if pushed to choose more interesting scripts, has the potential for a bright future. Filmmakers in attendance, plus a panel which will discuss the state of Portland indie filmmaking. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Clinton Street Theater, Hollywood Theatre
* The Happiness of the Katakuris
See review this issue. Clinton Street Theater
A Hen in the Wind
No director caught the bleak and desperate post-world War II times in Japan like Yasujiro Ozu. While her husband is off fighting, to fend off poverty and starvation, a devoted mom and wife whores herself out to make a little cash while her husband is away. When he returns, he is not terribly understanding. Guild Theater
Rumor has it that Viggo Mortenson was cast in this bloated desert adventure before he became one of the most famous actors ever via Lord of the Rings. I find it very hard to believe, however... because Mortenson STINKS. I can't imagine any casting agent in their right mind listening to his dismal cowboy accent or observing his nonexistent comic timing, and not saying, "Next!" Aside from Mortenson, though, Hidalgo could almost be cool. It tells the story of a cowboy at the turn of the century who entered a race in Saudi Arabia across a vicious desert. It's supposedly a true story, but regardless, it's a neat premise. Too bad the script is tepid and meandering and loaded with stupid family-friendly Middle Eastern stereotypes. Pretty scenery, though. And horses. (Justin Sanders) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* How To Be A Model
A fascinating and smart documentary about modeling by a former modeling director who went to art school and became a filmmaker. Following friends through demeaning interviews, anorexia, and tightly wound nerves, the film takes the form of a 12-step program; that is, how to recover from being a model. Whitsell Auditorium
Here is a small film from Dublin that steals your attention with its very first scene. Starring Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney, Kelly Macdonald, and Cillian Murphy, Intermission may at first glance appear to be a lob back to those bleak days of the '90s when indie films appeared to exhaust all angles of the crime genre (the film's plot: bank job, dirty cop, eager but simple-headed crooks). But the writing and the performances (what you can make out of them, at least; Dublin accents are not always easy to decipher) make up for the staleness of the premise, and Crowley frames the entire endeavor with a skilled lens, going the jittery hand-held route but still somehow managing to create something fairly fresh for the eyes. The result is a film worthy of a look, even if it's not an entirely memorable one. (Bradley Steinbacher)
* it (independent tuesdays)
The very cool Nocturnal continues to bat a thousand with this monthly event at which budding filmmakers can show off their wares. This month's theme: Food! All are welcome to show films; just call 239-5900 or email email@example.com Nocturnal
Japanese Story begins as a beautifully photographed romance that is sustained by lead Toni Collette's professional performance. After the accident near the final third of the film, however, it becomes a bad melodrama that drags on and on. (Charles Mudede) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A spoof on how science can make for more efficient living, the fictional Swedish Home Research Institute sends observers to examine kitchen habits in 1950s Norway. The subtext of this gentle comedy is a homosexual love story. The "text" is much less interesting. Beware: your grandparents will love it. (Andy Spletzer) Fox Tower 10
The Lady and the Beard
Here's a true lost in translation film: It starts, apparently, with the premise that Japanese men don't have beards. But, now get this, this traditional Japanese guy has a beard! That makes him unorthodox. This, in turn, translates to an incredible amount of mojo; that is, he attracts women like fly paper. Somehow this is funny. Another wildly crazy comedy presented by the Film Center. Yeah, I don't get it either. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. Guild Theater
The Ladykillers See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu turns his classic film Late Spring inside out. In that story, a daughter (played by Setsuko Hara) refuses to marry, instead caring for her dad. In this film, Hara returns. But this time she is an aging widow and has a reluctant son on her hands. Guild Theater
The Film Center wraps up its homage to Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu with one of his most touching films. When a young, old-fashion daughter refuses to marry in order to care for her aging dad, he, in turn, devises a scheme to trick her into marriage. Guild Theater
A Long Happy Life
Gennady Shapalikov was one of the Soviet's premier screenwriters in the '60s. This is his only venture as a film director. That's unfortunate. This is a nuanced, dreamy story about a man who chance-meets a Lena. But instead of Before Sunrise serendipity, the couple asks themselves if it really matters. Whitsell Auditorium
Jealousy, deception, opulence. It is Shakespeare filtered through 1941 Soviet sensibility. When a beautiful uppercrust woman loses her bracelet at a masquerade ball, her husband suspects the worse--and then goes about creating it. Whitsell Auditorium
* Mommie Dearest
The home life depiction of mega-bitch Joan Crawford as told by her adopted daughter, Christina. Crawford tries to force feed the kid raw meat and goes completely apeshit when she finds one of the girl's dresses on a wire hanger... and that's only the tip of the iceberg. A thrilling/disturbing/thrilling true story starring Faye Dunaway. Blind Onion
Had the movie remained within the limits of its basic plot, and stayed enclosed within this vibrant section of Paris (the busy narrow street; the boy's dark, book-packed apartment; the bright piazza where a teen girl practices American dance moves; and the small but well-stocked store), it would have been perfectly charming. But instead, the director, François Dupeyron, wanted something more than all he had--a warm relationship that develops between two people who come from opposing religions, ages, and races. This something more that the director wanted to squeeze out of the modest scenario is a major statement, a declaration about the fate of all mankind. (Charles Mudede) Fox Tower 10
In an amazing feat, Charlize Theron not only manages to look like complete crap, she does a spectacular job of playing notorious serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Mimicking her telltale mannerisms perfectly, Theron plays the part with total believability. Her performance--and the smart direction of the film--evoke sympathy, anger, disgust, and an overwhelming emptiness. Granted, seeing a movie about a woman whose life went from child abuse to prostitution to rape to murder to betrayal by her lover to execution isn't a fun time; but it effectively makes you ponder the immense good and evil in humanity, and quite possibly, will make you cry. (Katie Shimer) Broadway Metroplex, Westgate
* My Architect
My Architect isn't really about architecture. It's not even about its subject, Louis I. Kahn, except insofar as the late master builder and his immortal buildings remain an enigma to his son Nathaniel, the filmmaker behind this extraordinary documentary. Nathaniel Kahn's film is about the void created by a father's absence from his children's lives, and the way that void is continually filled and depleted by the father's reputation. (Sean Nelson) Hollywood Theatre
Never Die Alone See review this issue. Division Street, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV
Osama is not directly about bin Laden. The film is about a little girl forced to disguise herself as a boy to prevent her jobless mother and grandmother from starving under the oppressive Taliban regime--subtle. It's a fantastic film, with invaluable historic significance, but a devastatingly joyless experience. (Marjorie Skinner) Fox Tower 10
The Passion of the Christ
Jewish theologians have made a lot of hay recently about the anti-Semitic overtones of Mel Gibson's biblical drama, The Passion of the Christ--and they're right. The film is anti-Semitic. Even more surprisingly, it's hugely anti-Christian. In fact, it's just about anti-EVERYTHING, except anti-blood, guts, and gore. This is the story of Christ as told by Quentin Tarantino's evil twin, and to sum it all up? It's the world's first Christian snuff film; two full hours of Jesus Christ getting his ass KICKED. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* Pitch Black and The Abyss
Pitch Black starts out great, dropping you onto a planet by means of a rather exciting crash of a passenger ship (which, of course, is also transporting a dangerous criminal). We learn that the planet has three suns, so it is never dark. Ah, but an eclipse is coming, and the creatures that live underground, the ones that can't stand the light, will once again have free reign over the planet's surface, and will once again kill everything and everyone they find. The movie is actually pretty smart-until near the end, when the filmmakers lose track of just how much light upsets these creatures, and when a couple of characters go from being complex to just confused. Then again, those are minor flaws in a good genre picture. Follow Pitch Black up with James Cameron's The Abyss about a team of divers who encounter an underwater alien species while searching for a lost nuclear submarine. (Andy Spletzer) XV
* The Princess Bride
Rob Reiner's greatest contribution to modern and ancient societies: A sharply written fairytale that bounces from one cliché to the next satirical take on revenge, true love, and dark forests inhabited by evil. Even if you have already heard the movie quoted an inconceivable number of times, it remains jam-packed with witty exchanges, fast-footed sword-fighting, and downright enjoyable stupidity. (Phil Busse) Mississippi Pizza
* Reed Harkness: The Sam Show
Tarantino has Uma, P.T. Anderson has Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Reed Harkness, co-founder of the Tiny Picture Club, has his half brother Sam. Harkness' one man show--a visual timeline of his relationship with Sam--will feature many of the Super 8 films he has made about his brother over the better part of a decade, accompanied by slideshows and music. Also being unleashed are excerpts from the filmmaker's new documentary Sam Now about the cross country trip they took in search of Sam's mother, who left the house one day and never came back. (JB Rabin) Guild Theater
* The Same River Twice See review this issue. Cinema 21
Scooby Doo 2
Scooby Doo 2 wasn't great, but it was strangely charming--charming enough that I don't feel like attacking it. It's just a kid's movie, after all, and to pick on it would feel like picking on an eight-year-old; Ruben, of American Idol fame makes a cameo, and that kind of makes me want to barf, but other than that it's a sappy, lesson-to-be-learned kid flick. (Megan Seling) Regal Cinemas, etc.
A French In the Company of Men starring women; two hottie lesbos set out to make money by manipulating men. But worry not, they stick their hands up each other's skirts, get naked, act sexy-but-serious all the time, and descend a downward spiral into debauchery. Personally, this kind of film is not my bag; but for fans of pseudo-feminist thrillers that show a lot of T&A, this is right up your alley. Cinema 21
The Secret Window
Johnny Depp plays Mort Rainey, a depressed novelist who's got a bad case of writer's block and a divorce waiting in the wings. While his unfaithful ex (Maria Bello) gets it on with her lunkhead boyfriend (Timothy Hutton), Mort steams in a lakeside cabin in upper New York. His self-imposed privacy is broken, however, by a Mississippi hick called John Shooter (John Turturro) who claims Mort has plagiarized one of his stories. When the situation isn't rectified to Shooter's satisfaction, Mort's acquaintances and pets begin winding up with screwdrivers crammed into their heads. And while most levelheaded people would run screaming back to the big city, Mort remains, because he has secrets of his own. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Sexy Chef
Ian and Tyson Smith, creators of the Oddjob comic series bring their first feature length film, about a guy with a boring job who puts his last hope of happiness on a mysterious woman he sees smoking in an alley. He gathers a couple buddies together and the pack of them follow the woman across the country, finding perhaps not love, but good old misadventure. Pix Patisserie
Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation
The impressarios of independent animation return. As always, if you're really, really high, it will be the funniest shit you've seen all night. Cinema 21
Starsky & Hutch
The story of two plain-clothes detectives who broke the rules to catch the crook, S&H were different from other buddy cops, in that they couldn't keep their hands off each other. Though attempts were made to re-enforce the duo's heterosexuality, in practically every episode the buddies were hugging, touching, and rolling around together in the heat of action. Amazingly, the movie version of Starsky & Hutch practically ignores this crucial part of their relationship, which significantly lessens the parody. (Wm. Steven Humphrey) Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Station Agent
Fin McBride (Peter Dinklage), The Station Agent's protagonist, was born a dwarf, and has built up a stone-faced resistance to the stares and slurs directed at him daily. When he inherits a small abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, he leaves the city and makes the shack his home. Within a day, the locals notice him and are banging on his door. (Brian Brait) Laurelhurst
* Taking Lives
When Montreal detectives have a score of mutilated bodies on their hands, they call in FBI profiler Agent Scott (Angelina Jolie) whose keen clue-cracking skills lead them to their star witness (Ethan Hawke). Scott eventually figures out that their serial killer is tracking his victims and stealing their identities. Getting in her way is the misogynistic--but extremely HOT--French Canadian cop Olivier Martinez, and the buzzy sexual feelings Scott is developing for her star witness--who may or may not be who he seems. Now, if they gave a class on how to write a typical page-turning potboiler, it would contain all these clichéd elements. However, while you may have seen it all before, Taking Lives still works because director DJ Caruso keeps the pace leisurely but tense, dropping red herrings into the mix to keep you guessing. Regal Cinemas, etc.
* The Texture of Memory
Filmmaker Phil Solomon brings Portland his experimental work, weaving together chemically manipulated visuals, childhood memories, and intense soundrtarcks. For experimental film lovers this is a must see, considering Solomon will be in attendance. Cinema Project
* Touching the Void
Have you heard the one about the two English men who tried to climb an icy mountain in Peru? One slipped, fell, and broke his leg. The other left him for dead. Now they've made a movie that would make make Ansel Adams blush! Fox Tower 10, Westgate
* The Triplets of Belleville
An animated French film that speaks nary an intelligible word throughout its entire 80-minute running time, Les Triplettes de Belleville's jaw-dropping artwork alone could have kept me riveted for hours. Physically exaggerated characterizations and dark, dank urban landscapes give the film a particularly strong noir sensibility, and in the void of spoken word, layered sound effects add to the ambience. (Justin Sanders) Fox Tower 10, Roseway Theatre
* What Alice Found
A young woman is recruited by a friendly RV-driving couple into becoming a truckstop hooker. Winner of the Sundance Special Jury Award. Hollywood Theatre
What the Fuck Do We Know?
Mark Vincente's What the #$*! Do We Know? is a tidy, slick, and thoroughly compelling documentary-infused narrative, which attempts to break the ice of quantum physics without putting us to sleep.