Better Than Something:
Punk-garage musician Jay Reatard died suddenly, of cocaine toxicity and alcohol, at age 29 in January of 2010—leaving behind a sprawling legacy of albums, singles, and EPs that he'd released over the previous decade under a huge variety of names. His death was awful, to say the least, but perhaps most painful in the way that his intense, provocative version of rock 'n' roll seemed to practically predestine it. Better Than Something: Jay Reatard, the excellent feature-length documentary by Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz, proves that this perception is very far away from the truth; Reatard had a painful upbringing and a difficult life, but not for one second did he buy into the worn-out myth of living fast and leaving a pretty corpse. It's a must-see for anyone who's a Jay Reatard fan; if you're not one, you will be after. NED LANNAMANN Clinton Street Theater.
A few things about The Conquest, a subtitled passion play exploring the dickishly diminutive Nicolas Sarkozy and his all-consuming ascent to the pinnacle of French politics: (1) Fire is a symbol for ambition, but sometimes rage. (Careful, because that shit can burn out of control!) (2) French men would be lost without their women. (3) The title works on two whole levels! Just as Sarkozy's vocational dreams finally are within reach, that same fiery ambition drives away his long-suffering first wife, and then he has to try to win her back, too. Of course, he doesn't. But (4) Carla Bruni is never mentioned. It's captivating enough, but I think I'd have liked it more if I were, you know, French. Or if I actually knew who more than three or four of the other faces on display and what the hell they were talking about. But I'm not, and I didn't. DENIS C. THERIAULT Cinema 21.
Driven: The Films of
Nicolas Winding Refn
See Film, this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Faded is not, as its tagline claims, "a film about girls and binge drinking." It is a film about four utterly distinct girls with little in common, all of whom happen to abuse alcohol. Shoehorning their experiences into one film, under one catchy premise, does a disservice both to the girls in question and to the seriousness of the problem the film purports to consider. It's borderline irresponsible to place the habits of a college-bound white girl in the same context as an overweight black girl who grew up poor, but filmmaker Janet McIntyre hinges her movie on the affinity for drinking that these girls share. Similarly, an Indonesian girl with an abusive mother clearly has some fascinating baggage, but there's no good reason why she's sharing a film with a heavy-drinking Rose City Roller. McIntire would've done better to narrow her focus, whether to problems unique to first-generation immigrants or to the hipster-binge drinking that's simply known in Portland as "going out." On a related note: I don't ever want to hear the words "body image" ever again. Director in attendance. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Musical group Bear & Moose provide a live score for the 1929 avant-garde film The Man With A Movie Camera. Hollywood Theatre
Flip Flop Flippin'
A documentary about filmmaker Scott Herriott's experiences on the Appalachian Trail. Laurelhurst Theater.
Friends with Kids
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Inner Space and Outer Space: 16mm Experimental Films from Los Angeles
The Cinema Project hosts the Academy Film Archive's curator and archivist Mark Toscano for "two evenings of rare and classic psychedelic and experimental film." More info: cinemaproject.org. Hollywood Theatre.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Let the Bullets Fly
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
The Mystery of Chess Boxing
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.
Tran Anh Hung's beautifully shot adaptation of Haruki Murakami's extraordinary 1987 novel lacks Murakami's subtlety and power, but still packs a sensual punch. Watanabe (Ken'ichi Matsuyama) is a college student in 1960s Tokyo, and his life is defined by radically different relationships with three women: cute Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), who flirts but has a boyfriend; Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), who'd be the love of his life if she wasn't in a rural insane asylum; and Reiko (Reika Kirishima), Naoko's fellow patient. Those looking for their maximum daily dose of Murakami Melancholy™ should just read the book, but the film still captures the soul of Murakami's story better than it should, in part thanks to a score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. And, yes, that one Beatles song. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
Portland Women's Film Festival (POW Fest)
See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Is there anything that more perfectly summarizes the clumsy bravado of a teenaged boy's sense of humor than a midget joke? Adults don't think midget jokes are funny. (Or, okay: Adults who aren't total assholes don't think midget jokes are funny.) The midget gag in Project X involves a midget being shoved into an oven by three hulking jocks, then bursting out to angrily sucker punch everyone in his vicinity in the balls. (Did that make you laugh? That was a test.) ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Co-written by director Oren Moverman (The Messenger) alongside James Ellroy's hard-on for the LAPD, Rampart is as loosely structured as the damaged psyche of "Date Rape" Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), a racist cop and terminally crappy dad in Los Angeles circa 1999. Though too long by at least 20 minutes, Rampart's unflinching portrait of a bad man in decline packs a lot of power. JAMIE S. RICH Fox Tower 10.
The Secret World of Arrietty
Forget the '92 BBC miniseries The Borrowers, or John Goodman's '97 adaptation (if you haven't already) of Mary Norton's classic children's book. Studio Ghibli presents a quietly compelling anime version of the story, written by Spirited Away's Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The film masterfully demonstrates the worldview of the borrowers by rapid pullback shots, their small stature fully realized when Arrietty's mother gets trapped in a jar and is unable to escape. It's also filled with special little details—like when Arrietty uses a leaf as an umbrella and flies through the yard trying to avoid an entanglement with a grasshopper—and loud, comical, emotional outbursts by Arrietty's worrisome mother and the cunning housekeeper. Despite the inherent dangers of Arrietty's world, the landscapes look slightly like an impressionistic painting, and the wind is always whistling through the trees. AMY SCOTT Various Theaters.
What's this? A crappy looking horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
A Thousand Words
Eddie Murphy's latest was kept far, far away from critics. Wherefore art thou, Axel Foley? Various Theaters.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
An extended dose of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (To many, Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker schtick is supremely annoying; to others, it's the cutting edge of comedy.) While the show, by definition, changes gears every 10 minutes, the film is one long, increasingly wrong ride that leaves the viewer a little exhausted. Much like a box of whip-its, a few quick hits is boneheaded fun; doing the whole thing kind of crosses the line into depressing. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.
If the idea of a dog being kicked to death renders you inconsolable, you're gonna have a really rough time at Tyrannosaur, the feature-length directorial debut from British actor Paddy Considine, and an expansion of his 2007 short film Dog Altogether. Yes, Considine has made a very difficult film to watch, but he's also made a very good one, fueled by stunning performances by Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan, and, in particular, Olivia Colman. NED LANNAMANN Living Room Theaters.
Jennifer Aniston and our sparkly-eyed squeal factory Paul Rudd are Linda and George, a Manhattan couple who goes broke, loses their tiny condo, and heads to Atlanta to find work with George's horrible brother, Rick (Ken Marino). En route they stumble upon Elysium, a hippie commune that (SPOILER ALERT, if you're dumb) changes the way they see the world. Now, you're probably going to want to do what I did when you see Aniston on the poster—i.e., write this movie off because she does NOT make good movies and doesn't need your $9 contribution to her Salty Aging Sorority Girl Pilates Club. (Also because the whole thing looks boring and lame.) But resist that urge, because this movie is, surprisingly, pretty goddamned funny. I was all, "Chuckle chuckle, wait what is happening?" ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.