Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film
"There is no way that anybody who is much younger than I am can understand how profoundly different the world before Andy looked, and the world after Andy looked," says art critic Dave Hickey, 66, in this captivating and scholarly new documentary by Ric Burns. "A supermarket before Andy looked one way, a supermarket after Andy looked another way." This is the main point of the four-hour(!) film: that Andy Warhol was the cultural lynchpin that turned postwar America into postmodern America. By exploding society's preconceptions of art and commerce; displaying a morbid obsession with celebrity (and suggesting that we're all ephemeral celebrities ourselves); democratically intermingling queers, movie stars, poets, and millionaires; and holding a chaotic, commercial reality up for nonjudgmental scrutiny, Warhol laid way for the dominant cultural themes of the last 40 years. When Hickey says that the supermarket looks different, it's not because product labels changed under Warhol's influence (they eventually did, but that's not the point he was making). It's that Warhol changed the way we see the world, and Burns argues that this is the highest form of art that an artist can make. I've seen an untold number of Warhol documentaries, I've read the books, seen the exhibitions—I even married an art history instructor. So I feel very comfortable in saying that this is the best documentary on Andy Warhol that you will probably ever see. (Chas Bowie) Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
Animal House Toga Party
Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Clinton Street Theater
Bad Brains Live at CBGB 1982
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 31. Bagdad Theater
The Beauty Academy of Kabul
When the group Beauty Without Borders sent several American, British, and Afghani-American women to Kabul to start a beauty school, filmmaker Liz Mermin tagged along. The resulting documentary is more embarrassing than empowering: The legitimately useful nature of the venture is overshadowed by the shocking cultural insensitivity of the teachers, who seem more concerned about helping Afghani women get cute hair than about providing viable job skills. One teacher suggests that the women (who lived through the Taliban regime, mind you) practice meditation as a form of stress relief, while another calls herself a "pioneer" and states that Afgani women need to "lose the burqua and get a car." Inadvertently, the film becomes a study in liberal guilt and ugly Americanism—which seems all the uglier compared to the cheerful resilience of the film's Afghani subjects. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
Todd and Jan Wolfhouse (Erik Stolhanske and Paul Soter), to get back at some asshole Germans, put together a team of misfits to compete in the Beerfest Olympics. Insert all your favorite Broken Lizard actors, dick and burp jokes, and a nasty run-in with mustard. Go into Beerfest expecting a good time, a lot of laughs, and not much else-and you, like me, will likely enjoy this hilarious masterpiece. I loved this movie—and I'm not just saying that because I'm drunk! (Christine S. Blystone) Century Eastport 16, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing
The Black Dahlia
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
By the People
Not screened for critics, this "unprecedented documentary... vividly reveals the myriad of activities required to maintain the most basic element of democracy—our right to vote." Narrated by Mr. Belvedere. Clinton Street Theater
In short: Warlock jocks use their powers to evade cops and flip up skirts. Okay, first of all, the apex of man-witch terror awesomeness happened in 1989 with Julian Sands in Warlock, a goddamn masterpiece. Nobody should ever attempt to make a movie about man-witches ever again for this reason alone. Secondly, it's a self-evident truth that horror does not necessitate seasoned actors, plot continuity, or smart dialogue—as long as you keep the guts rolling and the flesh showing. This offensive piece of garbage didn't have one drop of blood, nor one boob... not one. (Jenna Roadman) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Not screened for press (LAME!), this actioner stars The Transporter's Jason Stratham as a dude who'll die if his heart rate drops. That means pulse-pounding action—literally! Also starring that goddamn kid who played that goddamn Pedro in that goddamn Napoleon Dyanamite. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Dark Water Rising
After Hurricane Katrina, relief agencies had a no-animal rescue policy: When families evacuated, they had to leave their pets behind. One month later, animal rescue agencies began searching the decimated neighborhoods of New Orleans for the thousands of pets still living in and around the city. While some of the camerawork feels sloppy, and the interviews are rarely deep, there's no doubt that Dark Water Rising's filmmakers were in the right place at the right time, and their footage is fascinating. This is not an easy documentary to watch, though; the film shows as many decomposing animals as living ones, and the ones that are alive are often in pretty bad shape. If nothing else, it'll make you want to hug your dog, and then volunteer at the Humane Society. (Alison Hallett) Laurelhurst
Dreams of the City
Mohammad Malas' award-winning 1983 film about a family in 1950s Syria. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
A 1972 Syrian film about three Palestinians hoping to sneak into Kuwait. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
You know us. We here at the Mercury try to review every movie we can. We do this for you, loyal reader. But: Everyone's Hero, a baseball-themed, computer animated kids' flick that bewilderingly claims to be directed by the late Christopher Reeve, proved to be too much. We sent no one to this screening, for two reasons. (A) No one wanted to see a film that features the voice "talents" of Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin, Raven-Symone, and Whoopi Goldberg. (B) It screened on 9/11. How weird is that? Anyway, you're on your own with this one. Tell That's So Raven we said hi. No, wait. Don't. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Film School: Back to School
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 31. Mississippi Studios
A quirky movie with quirky premise, the locally made Freedom State tells the story of eight mental patients who think the world has ended and steal a bus. It's hard to think of anything worse than bad actors playing retards—then again, the performances aren't much worse than those in most of Jim Jarmusch's films. (Scott Moore) Hollywood Theatre
It's a goombah-rama when Marty Scorsese directs this fast-moving, hilarious tale of mob life. Laurelhurst
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
Charming and clever, Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is a great teacher. Lecturing about history in an inner-city junior high school, Dunne connects with his disadvantaged students, teaching the kids about how opposing forces shape current and past events—and when he's not teaching, he's coaching the school's girls' basketball team. And all this makes it pretty awkward when one of his smartest and most troubled students, Drey (Shareeka Epps) catches Dunne smoking crack in the locker room. The greatness of Half Nelson isn't in its thorny concept, nor in its understated execution—it's in these two lead characters. By the time the end credits roll, it's evident that Half Nelson is truly excellent filmmaking—as intellectually complex and difficult as it is emotionally engaging. (Erik Henriksen)
Set in Haiti in the 1970s, Laurent Cantet's Heading South takes place at a pristine, beachside resort where middle-aged white women enjoy the sexual attention of young Haitian men (for a small fee, of course). British spinster Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), and the fragile, emotional Brenda (Karen Young) both come to Haiti to be with Legba (Ménothy César), the sexiest in the beach boy cabal. Writer/director Cantet spends more time exploring the illusions held by Ellen and Brenda than addressing any of myriad racial, sexual, and economic questions that are inevitably raised by the film's premise. True, this narrow focus keeps the film from feeling pedantic, but it also detracts from what is a fundamentally fascinating situation: I wanted more politics and history, and less of Brenda and Ellen's (relatively uninteresting) inner lives. (Alison Hallett) Hollywood Theatre
As we move into fall, when Hollywood rolls out a parade of shameless Academy bait, the fixers are attempting to position Hollywoodland as a hard-boiled noir throwback. Like the movies it's clearly trying to emulate, Hollywoodland presents a revisionist take on a footnote of Golden State history: Was George Reeves, erstwhile Superman, truly a suicide? All the interesting parts of Hollywoodland are bound up in the personal drama of Reeves (an uncharacteristically nuanced Ben Affleck), but the detective aspect, less than ably anchored by Adrien Brody, feels perfunctory in comparison. Forget hard-boiled—Hollywoodland is unevenly poached. (Annie Wagner) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Take Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, two of the best actors working today, and throw in a few interesting themes—science vs. magic, order vs. chaos, politics vs. love—and it'd seem like The Illusionist has everything going for it. But it doesn't. Writer/director Neil Burger doesn't know what to do with these two great actors, let alone how to handle what should have been a multi-layered drama. Five minutes in, one realizes that just about everything in The Illusionist, with the exception of Giamatti, feels like a cheap TV movie. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
The more you like OutKast, the more you will hate Idlewild, a feature-length vanity project showcasing André 3000 and Big Boi. Essentially a scant few music videos threaded together by an impossibly boring and limp plot, the film is mishandled at nearly every step by director Bryan Barber. With OutKast's future in doubt—they don't tour together anymore, and a proper album sounds like a pipe dream—it's already hard being an OutKast fan. The reason we loved them so much in the first place was because they were a brilliant alternative to everything unimaginative and corny that Idlewild celebrates. (Chas Bowie) Lloyd Mall
Marky Mark Wahlberg makes his football-playing debut in this Disneyfied "true story" of Vince Papale, a down-and-out bartender/substitute teacher who arrives home to find that his wife has left him, mainly because she thinks he's a big fuckup—and yeah, he is a big fuckup, but then he also later becomes a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, and he gets himself a foxy girlfriend who actually likes football! A lot of the movie consists of Marky Mark running really fast, and the rest of the movie is Marky Mark falling down and getting back up again, because Marky Mark is scrappy and tough and he doesn't need you or me or the Funky Bunch or anybody else. And fuck you Vince's ex-wife, you fucking bitch. Football is a way of life. (Alison Hallett) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Jimmy and Judy
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10
The Last Kiss
See review this issue. Regal Cinemas, etc.
More like Miami NICE! (Adam Gnade and Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Family drama in 1967 Syria! Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
Written by local author Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt (who also directed the film), Old Joy focuses on two men, Mark and Kurt. Mark (Daniel London) is well on his way to becoming one sort of Portland cliché—he's an Air America-listening guy who is expecting a kid, and is, however reluctantly, settling into the steady, predictable stream of adult life. Mark's old friend Kurt (musician Will Oldham), however, has another personality familiar to Portlanders—he's a rambling free-spirit, affable and eager. So Kurt calls Mark, the two make plans to go camping, and soon they're in Mark's Volvo, getting lost on the way to some hot springs. And—on the surface, at least—that's about all that happens. But emotionally, an astonishing amount transpires. Kurt and Mark soon grow out of their Northwest stereotypes, thanks to Oldham and London's earnest performances. Opening up to each other—and keeping just as much hidden—the two develop a bond with each other and the audience. Add in Reichardt's penchant for subtly beautiful shots and patient pacing, and a Yo La Tengo soundtrack that's not nearly as annoying as you might think, and Old Joy becomes a film that, in all the right ways, feels uniquely local. (Erik Henriksen) Hollywood Theatre
A Prairie Home Companion
Back when The Simpsons was funny, they had a great gag about PBS' A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Garrison Keillor. Homer, et al., were sitting on the couch, watching Keillor tell his supposedly comedic stories. Stone-faced, the Simpsons couldn't figure out why the TV audience was in fits over Keillor; finally, Homer stood up and banged on the TV: "Be more funny!" he shouted, confused and angry. So let's give Homer the benefit of the doubt: If broken technology is why A Prairie Home Companion is so dull on PBS (and equally so on NPR), then that means there are a whole bunch of lousy projectors in America's movie theaters—because Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion film is even duller. (Erik Henriksen) Academy Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst
It's an all too common story these days: Boy grows up in Thailand, and is best friends with an adorable baby elephant. Elephant gets stolen... to be made into a fancy meal for rich people... in Australia! Luckily, boy knows Muay Thai martial arts, so he journeys to Australia to save his pachyderm pal. Boy runs into a lot of inept henchmen, but thanks to his Muay Thai skillz, boy easily and awesomely kicks/punches/ elbows/knees all their faces in. And it's all done to a soundtrack from The RZA. Always, always, always. Have you no imagination, you makers of modern cinema? It is always the same story. (Erik Henriksen) Regal Cinemas, etc.
Latino culture, the quinceañera is a customary ceremony to commemorate a girl's 15th birthday. More importantly, it signifies the transition into womanhood. The amount of fuss and pomp (read: money) over this event is taken to be indicative of the family's economic status, and the similarities to weddings don't stop there—the young woman of the hour almost always wears a big, fluffy, white, virginal dress. You can understand, then, the monument of mess that 14-year-old Magdalena (Emily Rios) is in when it's discovered that she's pregnant--just as preparations are starting to be made for her quinceañera. (Marjorie Skinner) Hollywood
TBA On Screen
The Time-Based Art Festival spreads its omniscience into the Whitsell Auditorium, with two programs: Films by Laurie Anderson, and N4467S: Tracking the "Torture Planes." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium
This Film is Not Yet Rated
See review this issue. Cinema 21
The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man, the remake of the classic '70s horror film, is not delicious. The Wicker Man tastes like an over-ripe, under-written, test marketed to death Hollywood afterthought. The Wicker Man, quite frankly, tastes like shit. And while I concede that it's rarely constructive to compare any remake to its source material, The Wicker Man: Remix seems to me to be a reasonable exception in this regard—as each and every one of its many insurmountable shortcomings can be traced back the movie's subtle straying from the original. A brief list of "improvements": predictable love interest, completely inexplicable backstory, digital bees (don't ask), an all-girl summer fun cult, guns, post-Shyamalan whisper-y sounds, non-sequitur "creepy" imagery, Nicolas Cage. (Zac Pennington) Regal Cinemas, etc.