The 10 Commandments
See review. Various Theaters.
Less Film Festival
Formerly known as the PISS (Portland International Short Short) Film Festival, the 2007 10 or Less Film Festival is totally worth your time. With all films running at 10 minutes or less, you don't have to suffer through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff. The festival covers documentary, animation, narrative, experimental, and other genres from around the world. A few standouts: "I Met the Walrus," for it's dynamic, creative animation; "Daddy's Little Man," because it's the cutest three minute stop-motion experience; and "Filthy Food," because you'll never look at a nectarine the same way again. SHAUNA MORRIS Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Various Theaters.
Angels in the Dust
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
The much-anticipated revisionist western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as evidenced by its chewily purple title, has a lot on its plate—too much, possibly. The result is a film with sustained passages of eerie, Malickian beauty (an early sequence involving a train robbery feels like one of the reasons that film was invented), mixed with increasing stretches of self-conscious artiness. Whether you should see it or not may ultimately depend on your tolerance for shots of windswept wheat and time-lapse clouds. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Black White + Gray
& A Walk into the
Sam Wagstaff was a dashing, pedigreed young man who, as an adult, fell in love with the subversive and oft-censored photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Wagstaff was also a millionaire with excellent taste in art, whose astounding photography collection was sold to the Getty for a whopping $5 million in 1984. Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe looks at Wagstaff's impact on art of the '70s, regarding Mapplethorpe in particular, but sucks the life out of the whole scene, and bored me right to sleep. Twice. A Walk into the Sea screens with Black White + Gray, and reminds us of a curious phenomenon: Artists have a curious way of drifting off to sea. Dutch conceptualist Bas Jan Ader sailed into the ocean and was never seen again; Spalding Gray threw himself off the Staten Island Ferry; most recently, Jeremy Blake walked into the Atlantic as his final living act. Here's another one for the trivia buffs: Danny Williams, a filmmaker and one-time lover to Andy Warhol, drove to the ocean one night from his mother's house and has never been seen since. Williams' niece, Esther Robinson, has now made A Walk into the Sea about her uncle, most of which is comprised of interviews with Warhol's "superstar" acolytes. They're all here: Billy Name, Gerald Malanga, Paul Morrissey, and more, and there's little they love more than to gossip and bitch about one another. Warhol fetishists will eat this up with a spoon, but for casual audiences, it's none too thrilling. CHAS BOWIE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A film about a "boob-squeezing werewolf loose in a feminist all-girl college." Not screened in time for press—though one has to admit, that's a pretty promising premise. Hollywood Theatre.
"They're all gonna laugh at you!" Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Sure, sure. Of course when I say "coca," the first thing you think of is a key bump. But the coca plant is more than just the origin of crappy party drugs for trust-fund hipsters—it's also the life blood of Colombia's indigenous population. The stunning and intimate Cocalero traces socialist and coca hero Evo Morales' journey to the presidency. Throughout, he's painted convincingly as pretty much an average farmer/union leader, despite his Erik Estrada-esque hairdo. SCOTT MOORE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A spoof of inspirational sports movies. Thankfully, it was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Crossing the Line
A doc about James Dresnok, a former member of the US Army who went AWOL and has been living in North Korea since the 1960s. Living Room Theaters.
If you believe that pretty people are fundamentally more interesting than ugly ones, then you will be fascinated by this tale of two depressed and debaucherous French brothers blundering through their interactions with the opposite sex. If you are disinclined to tolerate self-indulgence even in those with excellent bone structures, perhaps this is not the film for you. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
Wes Anderson's films have grown increasingly farfetched and precious, and even the change of scenery to a romanticized India doesn't change the fact that Darjeeling is yet another of his stories about children with daddy issues. On a stronger note, other and less tired Andersonisms—a beautiful soundtrack, breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography, sharp and bittersweet performances—are solidly in place, and while the film occasionally exemplifies Anderson's sometimes annoying tendency of quirkiness for quirkiness' sake, the more constant and important thing is the film's heart. Throughout all of The Darjeeling Limited's rambling, there's a core of earnestness, a sense that these characters and their scant story genuinely matter. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
Beware the Sumatran Rat-Monkey. Laurelhurst.
The Devil Came on Horseback
There's no way to sugarcoat a documentary about the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Made using the testimony and photographic evidence collected by former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle, The Devil Came on Horseback is a shocking and sorrowful portrait, yes, and it's compounded by the realization that the western world has refused to do anything meaningful about the genocide. After all, China's already got dibs on the oil produced in Sudan, so... yeah. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
This was not a good idea. The courtly bravado of 1998's Elizabeth had a purpose: to show Cate Blanchett tearing up the scenery as England's "Virgin Queen" as she dallied about with the Earl of Leicester and spouted feministic jingo. It was sumptuous, kinda sexy, and complex. But its sequel, the clunky, sloppy Elizabeth: The Golden Age, has no purpose whatsoever. In fact, it's kind of the equivalent of treating yourself to a nap in a rusty iron maiden. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
If there's one thing you can say about the American invasion of Afghanistan, it's that it made the country safer for democracy, and safer for women. Oh—ha ha ha! Turns out, things haven't gotten much better for either! Enemies of Happiness follows 28-year-old Malalai Joya through her campaign for the Afghan parliament, which is controlled by former warlords. It's a frightening, eye-opening film, though the drabness of the video it was shot on steals the color away from what could have been a gorgeous documentary. SCOTT MOORE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster
Pretty much what it sounds like. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Gone Baby Gone
See review. Various Theaters.
In Between Days
The snow on the ground in Canada is as cold as the loneliness felt by Aimie (Jiseon Kim), a Korean immigrant who lives with her miserable, endlessly working mother. Her only joy is in her constant companionship with Tran (Taegu Andy Kang), ostensibly her best friend (I don't know about you, but handjobs cross the threshold of things I do for my "friends"), with whom she's in love. When Tran drifts away, as teenage boys are wont to do, Aimie reacts the way most teenage girls do—which is to say, not in her own best interest. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
In the Valley of Elah
Based on his back catalog (including Crash and the scripts for Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, and the superb short-lived TV series EZ Streets), Paul Haggis comes off as a filmmaker with a genuine knack with actors, a taste for big, significant themes, and a near-to-total inability to figure out when to say when. Unfortunately, Haggis' shelf full of awards hasn't exactly inspired him to curb his more excessive tendencies. In the Valley of Elah, the writer/director's Oscar-bait follow-up to Crash, boasts an honorable, provocative premise and a towering no-bullshit performance by Tommy Lee Jones. It just doesn't know when to quit. Based on a true incident, Haggis' script follows a retired military policeman (Jones) spurred into action when his son is reported AWOL soon after his return from Iraq. The premise packs an undeniably timely gut punch, but the film's plodding, overstated style comes off as both needlessly busy—the central mystery feels drawn out, with new clues introduced at strategic intervals—and dumbed-down preachy. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
The backstory of Into the Wild comes from Jon Krakauer's book, which recounts the true tale of Christopher McCandless—who drops out of life after college, gives his entire savings to charity, and becomes a nomad, wandering the country in search of... well, nothing really. With a worn copy of Thoreau firmly in hand, McCandless is determined to live in each moment, and eventually his travels push him farther and farther from civilization and into an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilds. This film is more about the trip than the destination, and it's to director Sean Penn's credit (and that of Emile Hirsch, who plays McCandless) that the audience is brought to a better understanding of this young nomad's often baffling actions. Penn uses pointed, elegiac imagery of Americana to punctuate McCandless' journey, and the supporting cast of Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, and (in a particularly devastating turn) Hal Holbrook play believable, sympathetic characters who are both influenced by and eventually lead the young traveler to his road's end and hard-won epiphany. As for Hirsch, he plays McCandless with such an open-faced likeability, one can't help but be as conflicted as everyone else who witnesses him walking headlong into destruction, while realizing he has no other path to choose. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Preying on Americans' two greatest fears—Muslims with explosives and paying more than three dollars a gallon for gasoline—The Kingdom tries to be a lot of things. There are the mystery elements, the thriller elements, the police procedural elements, and the social commentary elements. By the time it all wraps up, all are overwhelmed by the film's action elements, which boil the entire Middle East situation down to Jamie Foxx firing off rounds from an assault rifle while running from rocket-propelled grenades. You can make solid, intelligent, and entertaining movies about controversial topics and current events; instead of doing so, The Kingdom mashes and twists those events into a trashy, pulpy popcorn flick. The result is questionably intentioned, messily executed, and loud and boring and ignorant. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I'm not giving The Kingdom enough credit—all those things might, in fact, make it the perfect film about America's role in the Middle East. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
A painful, disturbing romance and thriller, and a story of desperation, dependence, and the sometimes brutal consequences of emotion. Ang Lee's Lust, Caution will probably be heralded as one of the best of the year, and for good reason. It's a slow film—one that patiently builds, with Lee's shots lingering on details, meditating on the briefest of nuances and shadows. Beautiful and impressive is Tang Wei, who plays Wang Jiazhi, a young student in Shanghai. World War II is on, Japan occupies the city, and soon, Wang is caught up with a few naïve friends who fancy themselves rebels. Aiming to assassinate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung)—a government official who's cooperating with the Japanese—the group soon uses Wang as part of a scheme to seduce and kill him. Fox Tower 10.
On paper, it's nothing that we haven't seen before: A stereotypically villainous corporation hurts the little guy; our conflicted protagonist (George Clooney) has to figure out what to do. But that's where all the impressive names behind Michael Clayton—Clooney's, Steven Soderbergh's, Anthony Minghella's, Sydney Pollack's—come into play: An impressive cast, a good sense of production, and writer/director Tony Gilroy's solid direction allow Michael Clayton to take a John Grisham-y concept and amp it up. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters
One Way Boogie Woogie:
27 Years Later
A re-examination of James Benning's 1977 film One Way Boogie Woogie, in which he filmed 60 shots of Milwaukie's industrial landscape. Now, 27 years later, Benning has returned and reshot the same areas, showing how they've changed in two and a half decades. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
About midway through Oswald's Ghost, a new documentary about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a remark is made that there have been thousands of books published about who really killed the president. The implication is that none of them have anything new to say—too bad director Robert Stone didn't listen to his own film. It's not that there's anything wrong with the film, exactly, but after Oliver Stone's JFK, what's left to say? Maybe Oswald acted alone, maybe he didn't. But after an hour and a half, I stopped caring. SCOTT MOORE Hollywood Theatre.
Portland Lesbian & Gay
PLGFF wraps up on Sunday, October 21. More info: plgff.org. Cinema 21.
See review. Various Theaters.
See review. Fox Tower 10.
One of the craziest, funniest, and most badass action movies in recent memory. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst.
Take It or Leave It:
A BMX Shralpumentary
BMX porn. Clinton St. Theater.
Seven short films created by teenagers. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Things We Lost in the Fire
See review. Various Theaters.
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?
The latest from Tyler Perry, starring Janet Jackson(!). Not screened for critics. Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Division Street.
Fourteen-year-old Vanaja, the fisherman's daughter, wants desperately to be a dancer—and it looks like she might get her wish, after sassing her way into a job at the rich landlady's house. But plans are derailed when the landlady's hot son, Shekar Babu, arrives from America, and youthful flirtation begets grown-up horrors. The sight of bendy, stompy, preternaturally graceful Kuchipudi dancing is worth the price of admission—but it's Shekar Babu's beautiful menace ("Sometimes I want to hurt you because... how should I explain? So that I can then protect you") and Vanaja's willowy resilience that give the film its heft. LINDY WEST Hollywood Theatre.
We Own the Night
We Own the Night could've gone either way. Granted, the "two brothers on opposite sides of the law" storyline is formulaic and uninspired, but the presence of lovable freaks Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg and Joaquin "It's Not a Harelip!" Phoenix offers faint hope. Alas, mediocrity wins the day, and writer/director James Gray's underwhelming cops 'n' robbers flick is as disappointing as its slipshod premise. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
This painfully cool horror/action film follows the edgy exploits of two junkies whose worlds are totally rocked when their hooker friend first dies of an overdose and then is accidentally brought back to life by members of a satanic cult. The exhaustingly convoluted plot includes hair-brained burglary schemes, moody camera angles, improbably muscular drug addicts, and a midget. (Of course there's a midget, because this movie will do just about anything to establish how hip it is.) ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.