10th Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
Most of the films playing this week weren't screened for your trustworthy Mercury critics, so you're on your own. All films screen at Cinema 21; for more info hit plgff.org.
From the director of Eating Out comes this "saucily clever" film about "the boundary-defying possibilities of gay relationships."
CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON
What should have been a nice, gay-themed vacation gets ruined by a bunch of horny zombies. Typical.
Rodney's a wannabe Broadway star stuck in a tiny Texas town with his "Rubenesque" friend Sabrina. According to the fest's program, Fat Girls is "a hilarious roller-coaster ride that careens to an outrageous climax."
Fortysomething Jane—a former Olympic gymnastic contender turned massage therapist—is having a mid-life crisis. Should she remain a not-so-happily married housewife and have a baby while she still can? Give in to the advances of her "nice guy" neighbor? Have an affair with her former teammate Denise? Or become a professional aerialist with hot young lesbian Serena? Impressive on its own and boasting a slowly simmering script and solid cinematography, The Gymnast makes for a lesbian-themed film that doesn't hit you over the head or play on preconceptions. I give it a 9.875. (Brad Buckner)
I wasn't really excited about Mom, especially after reading this deal-breaker of a phrase attached to its synopsis: "When all is said and done, they learn a few things about themselves and each other that help them gain a greater perspective about life." Uptight Kelly and easy-going Linda leave New York on a market research assignment to survey and interview locals in Nowheresville, New England. When all the town's hotels are full, leaving the hostel as their only option, Kelly is pushed to the brink and Linda gets herself some hickeys. Despite minimal (and very tame) girl-on-girl action and a few laughs, I'm still not excited about Mom. (Will Gardner)
A film focusing on a gay multiple marriage ceremony in Spain. According to the fest's guide, Queens is either a "rollicking ensemble comedy" or a "crowd-pleasing romp." Could it be both?!
RACE YOU TO THE BOTTOM
Two old friends cheat on their partners with each other. The only reason anybody's going to this movie is because Amber Benson, who played the incredibly annoying lesbo witch Tara on Buffy, is in it. For some reason, people just can't get enough of Tara's incredibly annoying schtick—even though when she hooked up with Willow it totally ruined everything great about the perfect Willow/Oz relationship. Seriously, just because Oz was a werewolf didn't mean he couldn't love. Maybe it meant could love even more. But I guess now Willow won't ever find out, will she? Goddamn you, Tara.
SHOW & TELL: UNCENSORED
A selection of 8-10 randomly selected short films presented in an "open mic" format. Hmm. "Randomly selected." "Short films." "Open mic." There are so many warning signs that it's like they're flashing red lights and screaming sirens.
Nobody knows how to make girl-on-transsexual action better than the Danes!
See review this issue.
All the King's Men
I know this is going to sound simplistic and lazy, but there's really no better way to say it: All the King's Men is a horrible film. That statement is wholly accurate, fairly descriptive, and damn near irrefutable. In fact, that point is so incontrovertible that I can't picture anyone arguing it—even Sean Penn, and that guy argues about everything. (Erik Henriksen)
America: From Freedom to Fascism
There are a lot of stupid people in this world, and some of those stupid people are going to see America: From Freedom to Fascism and buy into its half-baked, hole-ridden, libertarian rhetoric about the alleged illegality of the federal income tax. And that's a shame, if for no other reason than it'll be a small defeat for logic. (Scott Moore)
Six contemporary animators present 10 films that "veer into the surreal worlds of delirium and paranoia."
The Case of the Grinning Cat
Chris Marker made three of my very favorite experimental films: La Jetée, Sans Soleil, and Le Joli Mai. They were each brilliant and moving in completely different ways, and are impossible to reconcile with the befuddlingly lame The Case of the Grinning Cat. Marker's latest film doesn't even feel like it was made by a professional, much less a 85-year-old veteran. Grinning Cat is a sloppily edited stream of consciousness nonfiction work set in post-9/11 Paris, where ridiculous flash mobs keep appearing on the street, as do anonymous graffiti pieces of smiling cats. Marker becomes obsessed with the omnipresent felines, and struggles and strains to discover something meaningful about them. The narrator's French accent is so strong that it's hard to catch most of what he says, and when he is comprehensible, he's usually mispronouncing polysyllabic words. Throw in some stiff, iMovie-style editing, and you've got yourself a laughably bad movie. I spend a lot of my life defending offbeat and experimental works of art to uninterested parties, but films like Grinning Cat make my mission especially hard. I might have to rewatch La Jetée just to wipe this one from my mind. (Chas Bowie)
Martin Scorsese's made a bunch of important movies. Movies that changed things, that define American cinema: Taxi Driver. Raging Bull. The Last Temptation of Christ. Goodfellas. That sweet music video for Michael Jackson's "Bad." So even though it's pretty goddamn great, Scorsese's latest, The Departed—an intense take on the cop thriller genre—can't live up to the expectations his IMDB page inspires. But while The Departed is nothing revolutionary, it is one hell of a genre film—smart and forceful and fun. (Erik Henriksen)
Employee of the Month
Dane Cook is painfully unfunny. Jessica Simpson is an empty-headed hussy. This film was not screened for critics. Draw your own conclusions.
The charm of Factotum is that it doesn't fancy anything up: Charles Bukowski was poor, fucked up, and had a depressing life. And that's exactly what inspired him to become a great writer. (Katie Shimer)
Jet Li's much-ballyhooed farewell to the historical martial arts genre serves as a rousing reminder of the actor's glory days—when Li's unbelievable physical grace enraptured an entire generation of jaded video store clerks. (Andrew Wright)
A comedy from France! Go ahead. Name the last time a French person made you laugh. (Laughing at them doesn't count.)
A period piece about a French married couple whose life together is based entirely upon social necessity. When Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert) decides to leave her husband (Pascal Greggory), the fiction upon which their life is built collapses. While the film does set up some interesting comparisons between public and private life, ultimately the tale of these sad, uptight French people is nothing more than a wordy parlor drama that only an uptight French person could love. (Alison Hallett)
The Grudge 2
Not screened for critics, The Grudge 2 is yet another film about a creepy Japanese ghost who looks like Michael Jackson.
While The Guardian might just be a lamer, wetter version of Top Gun, Ashton Kutcher looks a hell of a lot better with his shirt off then Tom Cruise ever did. (Courtney Ferguson)
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)
Yes, it's another movie about Truman Capote. However familiar the subject, Douglas McGrath's Infamous quickly establishes its own rhythm, shuffling with ease between an amusing look at NYC social butterflyism and the darker, sardonic Kansas segments. Admittedly, the film does have to deal with a rather large elephant in the room, given Philip Seymour Hoffman's towering performance in Capote just last year. But here, as Capote, Toby Jones' lolling ease at impersonation permeates the film, and while McGrath and Jones can't match the intensity of the earlier film or actor, Infamous' knowingly glib, facile tone makes for a fearsomely entertaining night out. (Andrew Wright)
Jackass: Number Two
Is Jackass: Number Two funny? Jesus Christ, it's fucking hilarious. (Chas Bowie)
Jesus Camp falls into the category of films that I wanted to like more than I did. In some ways, it's a dream of a documentary: an intriguing, inflammatory idea combined with apparently unrestricted access. Unfortunately, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady can't resist the temptation to turn the film into a polemic about how fundamentalists are taking over the country and ruining our government. (Well, yeah—no shit.) (Alison Hallett)
See review this issue.
The Last King of Scotland
The story of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (played with charisma—and a lazy eye—by Forest Whitaker). It starts happily enough: The Ugandan people are all for Amin's 1971 overthrow of Prime Minister Milton Obote. They dance in the streets, sing, and clap. It's nice. Things are good. Then, of course, things get heavy. This is no spoiler if you know your history, but by the end of Amin's rule in 1979, some 300,000 of his own people had been butchered in the name of purity and progress. While beautifully shot and flawlessly acted, Last King is intensely savage. You might be appalled and you might be disturbed. Get over it. Like Hotel Rwanda or Schindler's List, this is important. (Adam Gnade)
The Last Kiss
A remake of Gabriele Muccino's L'Ultimo Bacio, the script for The Last Kiss comes from Paul Haggis, also responsible for Million Dollar Baby and Crash—both films I disliked for their heavy handedness. Kiss, therefore, is a welcome surprise; a film about romantic relationships and infidelities that's so spot-on that I cried almost as much as the first time I saw Beaches. (Marjorie Skinner)
No, not "Viagra," perv. Kay Armatage's critically acclaimed film "is about the inner life of a prostitute imprisoned for killing a client."
Man of the Year
See review this issue.
Oh yesssss! John Cena's movie is finally coming out! He's so totally the best wrestler alive since the Rock left the WWE! How many other rappers can rap as good as Cena? None! Like when he goes "Dead-da, when the lights, the mic is on/The crowd is dead like intermission and you on the Titan Tron"!!! Then he waves his hand in front of his face like "You can't see me!" Oh man, Cena rulz so hard. I don't even care what The Marine is about. If Vince McMahon signed his name to it, I know it's gonna be good. (Sean "ucantcme" Perkins)
See review this issue.
PDXKayaker 2006 Film Festival
You know that one guy? Drives the Land Rover? Wears Patagonia? Rich as fuck and doesn't have anything better to do with his time than drop a few grand on a plastic boat and paddle around in the Willamette? Yeah. This is for him.
Rain in a Dry Land
A look at two Somali Bantu families who come to the United States.
School for Scoundrels
You might be tempted to see School for Scoundrels because of all the funny people that are in it: David Cross, Sarah Silverman, and Ben Stiller. You might think, "Funny people make funny movies. I bet School for Scoundrels is going to be funny!" Right? Wrong. Here's a better way of looking at it: Funny people need to get paid, just like everyone else—which is why they end up playing underwritten supporting roles in marginally entertaining movies like this one. (Alison Hallett)
The Science of Sleep
Unlike most of fall's big films, Michel Gondry's Science isn't one of Hollywood's prefabricated darlings. It's an excellent film, but on its own terms—it's clever, fresh, funny, rambling, and heartfelt. (Erik Henriksen)
An unfulfilling documentary about a riveting subject: the 1990 robbery of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where 13 priceless pieces of art were effortlessly stolen. The film haphazardly follows Harold J. Smith, a 70-some-year-old famous art detective, as he searches the world for these stolen works. While the story is fascinating, the documentary is stilted and lackluster—in short, it ain't no masterpiece. (Courtney Ferguson)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
The story arcs of horror prequels are at a disadvantage to their more linear counterparts—if for no other reason than the assumed knowledge of who dies and who doesn't. In its favor, however, the horror prequel is given a lot more license to up the creep factor—providing, presumably, a palpable depth to the motivations of its typically (and in this case, literally) faceless killer. In the case of this prequel to the annoyingly stylized 2003 remake (wrap your head around that one), the filmmakers relegate the very purpose of a prequel—the elucidation of historical details—to its stale, post-Seven title sequence, and spend the rest of the movie basically remaking the remake. Which is fine, honestly—they do a pretty good job of it. Sure, they're still working within the music video cliché constructs of most contemporary Hollywood horror, but with an appropriately brutal hand that the other, more chickenshit remake wholly lacked. Oh, and just in case it isn't entirely obvious: Everybody dies. (Zac Pennington)
See review this issue.
The US vs. John Lennon
The problem with The US vs. John Lennon is that there's hardly a movie here; it's more a portrait of Lennon's activist leanings. And it doesn't help that there's already a powerful documentary portrait of the best Beatle on video store shelves—it's called Imagine, and it's a much better film than this one. (Chas Bowie)
The War Tapes
Shot in 2004, The War Tapes doesn't spin the facts. Instead, it gives digital cameras to three National Guardsmen and lets the war tell its story. We get the bloodthirsty and blindly patriotic, right along with the terrified, cynical, and those outwardly skeptical of putting their lives behind a war for oil. As bullets zip with neon tracers and homemade car bombs pop and thud in the distance, we're given a straight story, and the results aren't pretty—for either side. This is not easy watching. (Adam Gnade)