The Reel Music Festival runs through Tuesday January 18. Not all films were screened for critics. Unless otherwise noted, films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whistell Auditorium. For more info, see Film, this issue and nwfilm.org.
The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi
See My, What a Busy Week! Mission Theater.
Arvo Pärt: 24 Preludes for a Fugue
A doc about Estonian composer Arvo "Don't Forget the Umlaut!" Pärt.
Coming Back for More
Two Dutch brothers try to track down the legendary and elusive Sly Stone (of Sly and the Family Stone), who seemingly vanished off the face of the earth following his stellar success in the 1970s. Their search coincides with Stone's bizarre appearance at the 2006 Grammys, and they eventually connect with the (now very damaged) musician. It's likely as good a document we'll ever get of Stone's "lost years," but the film is a little too scattershot to hold together. NED LANNAMANN
Do It Again
Do it Again isn't really about the Kinks, but about Boston Globe writer Geoff Edgers and his "quest" to reunite the band. The Kinks' (deep, fascinating, and as yet largely untold in film form) history is nowhere in this movie, which primarily consists of Edgers talking to the camera and embarrassing himself in interviews with people like Sting, Zooey Deschanel, and Robyn Hitchcock—who gives a priceless look of resignation when Edgers insists on plunking his banjo along to Hitchcock's rendition of "Waterloo Sunset" on camera. Hitchcock must be a very nice, patient fellow indeed. Paul Weller, of the Jam, is also interviewed and similarly pressured to play with Edgers on camera, but he stubbornly refuses. Good for him. NED LANNAMANN Mission Theater.
In the Garden of Sounds
A documentary about Swiss noise therapist Wolfgang Fasser, In the Garden of Sounds isn't so much about music as it is about the power of sound in general. Blind since 22, Fasser works with disabled youth in his studio full of instruments, and director Nicola Bellucci manages to unobtrusively capture the pain and wonder of these sessions. The movie is incredibly slow paced—it feels longer than its runtime—but it's filled with beautiful sounds and images that linger. NED LANNAMANN
Look What the Light Did Now
A documentary about the creation of Feist's 1997 album The Reminder.
Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie
A doc that examines the complicated analog-tape keyboard and misses its mark by a mile, appealing to only the palest of studio nerds. NED LANNAMANN
Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune
A doc about great '60s folk singer Phil Ochs.
"A humorous journey into the secret world of sounds" that follows piano expert Stefan Knuepfer.
Search and Destroy: Iggy Pop & the Stooges' Raw Power
An after-the-fact documentary about the making of the Stooges' 1973 classic Raw Power album, which was not a hit at the time but grew in esteem over the years. The modern-day interviews with Iggy alternate between eloquent and annoying (although he manages to keep his shirt on for most of the interview clips), but hearing about the making of the album—which, to this day, is still a thumping, jawdropping classic—is a total adrenalin rush. NED LANNAMANN Mission Theater.
"Any time a woman picks up a guitar... It's a radical act," lesbian radio producer Vicki Starr declares in the early moments of Tex Clark's 1995 documentary. Radical Act features a series of interviews with female musicians (most of them lesbians), which attempt to capture and map the recent role of women in rock music. But the film won't reach an audience behind the narrow few who might tune in for nostalgia's sake, thanks to its total lack of context, a reliance on now-familiar tropes about music and empowerment, and the fact that bands like Apostles on Strike and Girls in the Nose aren't exactly household names. ALISON HALLETT Mission Theater.
The Secret to a Happy Ending: A Documentary About the Drive-By Truckers
Barr Weissman's penetrating documentary about the Drive-By Truckers was shot over three years during the band's mid-'00s honeymoon period, when Jason Isbell was in the group and all three songwriters were firing with plenty of ammo. This is as good as band documentaries get, with ample music and stories that get intimately close to its subjects. At the film's conclusion, when Isbell leaves—not just the band, but splitting with wife and bassist Shonna Tucker as well—it's a poignant and emotional moment in a story about the fragility of the seemingly indestructible force of rock 'n' roll, not to mention the toll it takes on those in the thick of it. NED LANNAMANN
Sounds Like a Revolution
This worthless movie plays like a junior-high project, pasted together by hopeless naïfs who have only just now discovered that—gosh!—music can be used to protest social injustice. The film focuses on terrible, terrible musicians like Michael Franti and Anti-Flag, who, apparently, are changing the world with their shitty protest songs. Odetta gets a brief mention, but this movie is totally clueless about the long, rich history of musical dissent. NED LANNAMANN
The Turandot Project
A making-of documentary about the elaborate 1998 production of Puccini's Turandot in Beijing's Forbidden City, staged by film director Zhang Yimou and conductor Zubin Mehta, in which the filmmakers seem to be constantly kept at arm's length from the action. As a result, we never get to the heart of the production's creation, or Puccini's opera itself. The 2000 film is screening at part of the festival to drum up interest for Portland Opera's staging of Turandot in February. NED LANNAMANN
All Good Things
See review this issue.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
See I'm Staying Home. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Forks Over Knives
Americans are meat and dairy addicts, and we pay for it dearly. Forks Over Knives, the latest political foodie documentary linking our woeful diet with our sky-high disease rates, details the work of two doctors who treat chronic diseases not with drugs or surgery, but by cutting meat, dairy, and processed foods from their patients' plates. With its sluggish pace and lack of interesting subjects, this movie isn't as engaging as is forefathers Super Size Me and Food, Inc., but at least its rather "duh" lesson about nutrition is worthwhile. SARAH MIRK Fox Tower 10.
Hood to Coast
See My, What a Busy Week! Various Theaters.
As far as he can recall through the haze of a severely damaged brain, Mark Hogancamp was an unlikable alcoholic. But after the rural New Yorker was savagely beaten outside a bar, he fled the cruelties of reality for Marwencol, a city of dolls that he assembled in his backyard. The fascinating world of Marwencol—where the good dolls (representing Hogancamp and his friends) battle Nazis (representing his real-life attackers) in a handmade WWII gulag–leads Hogancamp to an unlikely artistic turnaround, and results in an excellent documentary that examines both the pain of real life and the wonders of escapism. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Living Room Theaters.
The Muppet Movie
See My, What a Busy Week! Bagdad Theater.
Season of the Witch
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Short Films of
Riley Michael Parker
A selection of shorts from local writer and filmmaker Riley Michael Parker. The Waypost.
Like a particularly emo WarGames, the anime Summer Wars follows Kenji, a naïve young math nerd with two semi-interesting problems. First, he finds himself on an intense vacation with the extended family of Natsuki, the girl he’s got a huge crush on; second, somebody’s framed him as the hacker who’s attacking “Oz,” an all-encompassing, all-important social network. Part YA romance, part family drama, and part sci-fi techno-mystery, it’s occasionally gorgeous to look at—at times Summer Wars' visuals recall the surreal, vivid fun of Takashi Murakami, at others the detailed, confident grace of Hayao Miyazaki. But looks aside (and despite a runtime of nearly two hours), director Mamoru Hosada fails to nail down even a single engaging plot thread or character. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.