PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Not all films were screened for critics. Films screen at Cinema 21, Cinemagic, Lloyd Center 10 Cinema, Newmark Theatre, Fox Tower 10, Whitsell Auditorium, and the World Trade Center. For more info, see Film, this issue; for showtimes, see nwfilm.org.
The Angels' Share
Inspired by a chance introduction to the world of high-end whiskey, a Glasgow thug hatches a fabulously outlandish plan to turn his life around, with a little help from the fuck-ups in his community service group. Ken Loach's latest is for fans of whiskey, class war, heists, hijinks, lovable misfits, and rich people getting their comeuppance. In other words: Everyone. ALISON HALLETT
Beyond the Hills
A teenage girl goes to a Romanian monastery to visit her childhood friend. Once there, her mysterious behavior leads the head priest to conclude an exorcism may be necessary. Director Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) steadily builds up the bad vibes, to the point where a 360 head spin would come as a relief. Unfortunately, the lengthy running time tends to blunt the considerable impact of the climactic scenes. Still worth seeing, particularly for a masterfully ironic final shot—but a little less may have been more. ANDREW WRIGHT
Caesar Must Die
An interesting arthouse piece from Italian octogenarian directing partners/brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Caesar Must Die was inspired by a real-life theater program at a maximum-security prison outside of Rome. Using incarcerated actors and shot entirely within the prison walls, the film follows the rehearsals for a rousing production of Julius Caesar, with the actors becoming increasingly blurred with their characters. For as lofty a concept as this is, Caesar clocks in at a modest 90-ish minutes, a noteworthy courtesy in this age of self-importmant bloat. MARJORIE SKINNER
Growing up isn't easy when your parents are Montoneros—guerilla dissidents of Argentina's military rule during the "Dirty War." First kisses and class field trips are seen from a 12-year-old's eyes alongside incidents of terrorism and subterfuge in director Benjamín Ávila's moving account of his own fragmented childhood. NED LANNAMANN
A power outage affects the inhabitants of a Swedish town—in particular the local employees of a large telecom company. Black humor and a surreal sensibility punctuate these stories of drab workaday lives, although sometimes the satire feels a little directionless. Still, Flicker offers some warm characterizations and a few big laughs. NED LANNAMANN
Ginger & Rosa
Two girls (Elle Fanning and Alice Englert) overly concerned with the nuclear threat come of age in 1960s Britain. Friendships are tested as ideas diverge, and Ginger's skeevy dad takes a liking to Rosa. It's a slow burn that's both effective and maddening, with a melodramatic finish that shows how hard it is to grow up when the adults in your life never have. JAMIE S. RICH
The Last Sentence
Crusading Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt really hated Hitler—and devoted the tail end of his career to letting everyone know. Now Everlasting Moments director Jan Troell has made a movie about Segerstedt's campaign against the Nazis. And also how he was kind of a crappy husband and lover who only told his ladyfriends how he felt about them after they died and returned as spirits. The black-and-white photography is pretty and the performances are strong, but the story itself runs a dull course, even with the ghosts. JAMIE S. RICH
A Letter to Momo
One of the only kid-oriented films in this year's PIFF program (provided the kid in question can either speak Japanese or read/tolerate subtitles), the animated A Letter to Momo follows the depressed titular character, a young girl whose father is dead and whose mother has moved them from Tokyo out to the beautiful but remote islands of the Inland Sea. There, her boredom is alleviated when she encounters a trio of clumsy sea goblins (yeah, you heard me: sea goblins). Beautifully rendered, imaginative, and featuring an improbably adorable trio of baby wild boars. MARJORIE SKINNER
The inexhaustible setting of WWII hosts yet another film in Lore, this one's based on the plight of the children of arrested Nazis, who were rounded up and taken to internment camps, if not shot upon identification. It's an overlooked chapter in the massive mess that was WWII, and worth contemplating, considering the attitude of wholesale retribution that fueled German expulsion and pervades in our culture. Lore's (Saskia Rosendahl) transition from girl to teenager is hastened at the close of the war when her father is arrested, her mother is raped, and she flees across the Black Forest with her four siblings, one of whom is an infant. Their survival is given slightly better odds when Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a Jewish teenage boy from the camps, joins them, and engages Lore in a fumbling, racism-tinged quasi-romance. It's a grim, affecting, mesmerizing film, but a twist toward the end regarding Thomas' identity raises provocative questions about the film's overall messaging. MARJORIE SKINNER
A car stereo is stolen in the night. A dog's incessant barking drives a woman nearly mad. A startup security firm begins canvassing the neighborhood. Family, violence, sex, and increasingly elaborate plans to shut up those fucking dogs are all jumbled together in a cozily dense Brazilian neighborhood captured in this enjoyable slice o' life. ALISON HALLETT
Off White Lies
An average road-trip movie about a teenaged girl who's sent to live with her lovable con artist dad. The relationship between father and daughter is suitably contentious (there's hugging AND fighting!) and setting the action in war-torn Israel gives the uncertainty of their prospects a sharper edge. But for all the drama of the setting, the stakes here are low. ALISON HALLETT
Beautifully shot, brutally insightful, and frequently uncomfortable to watch, the first film in Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy follows a lonely middle-aged Austrian woman who travels to Kenya and dips her sunburned toe into the local sex-tourism industry. Sex, race, and power drive interactions between the film's characters in ways many don't fully understand, and no one gets off the hook—least of all the viewer. Highly recommended. ALISON HALLETT
Luciano has a big, loving, Italian family, and a decent living as a fishmonger. When he's urged to audition for Big Brother, though, dreams of fame and riches consume his modest life. Director Matteo Garrone opens Reality with impressive and complicated long takes, but the film's pleasures are in its subtle humor and adept characterizations. NED LANNAMANN
Based on a true story, The Sapphires follows a group of Aboriginal Australian girls who escape the racism of their native country to pursue a career as a girl group—as entertainers for US forces fighting in Vietnam! Despite barely knowing where Vietnam is or any details of the war, the group embarks under the managerial leadership of the drunk but protective Dave (Chris O'Dowd). Despite an almost Disney-like corniness, The Sapphires takes on serious issues of race identity, an offbeat romance, and a few spine-tingling musical numbers with enjoyable aplomb. MARJORIE SKINNER
An elderly Lisbon woman reminisces about her past in Colonial Africa, aided by a determined neighbor and a crocodile that may or may not be a ghost. It makes sense when you watch it. Taking loose (very loose) inspiration from the 1931 film of the same title, director Miguel Gomes's two-chapter pastiche is both swooningly romantic and disarmingly funny, with an overall effect that's better experienced than explained. Between this and Holy Motors, we may have entered a Golden Age of movies about movies. ANDREW WRIGHT
A mysterious German tank appears on the battlefield, decimating Russian troops before impossibly traveling over swamps and through thick forest. An amnesiac tank operator attempts to take down this "White Tiger"—shades of Moby-Dick, for sure—and there's much to admire about Karen Shakhnazarov's WWII flick. Unfortunately, the tank battles are surprisingly static, and the dreamlike film peters out, miring itself in Russian malaise. NED LANNAMANN
An animated film about old age. Former bank manager Emilio is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's when his son dumps him in a rest home. Emilio's con-artist roommate Miguel jokes that the place is like a jail, and he's not entirely wrong. This geriatric Cuckoo's Nest is mostly light-hearted, but a serious turn in the final act turns the cartoon into a meaningful depiction of late-in-life friendships. JAMIE S. RICH
The Faux Museum Microcinema
Eclectic 16mm films curated by Dennis Nyback, screening every night in February except for Mondays. More info: dennisnybackfilms.com. The Faux Museum.
Harold and Maude
"I haven't lived. I've died a few times." Academy Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
John Dies at the End
The new film from Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep, The Beastmaster) has a gleefully deranged sense of gory humor, a completely unpredictable plot, and an appearance by Paul Giamatti (GIAMATTI!!!), but in all, it's a disappointing muddle. There are long stretches of tedium and incoherence, and the jokes aren't as sharp as they should be. Here's what I think happens: Two friends take a magic drug called "soy sauce" that enables them to see monsters and demons invisible to everyone else, so they become warriors against the forces of darkness. Perhaps meant to ape crappy late-night-cable horror flicks, John Dies at the End ends up just feeling crappy. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
Kung Fu Theater
A 35mm print of Invincible Pole Fighter! Hollywood Theatre.
Last Tango in Paris
"I could dance forever! Oh, my hemorrhoid." Clinton Street Theater.
Let My People Go!
A "fusion of gay romantic comedy, Jewish family drama, and French bedroom farce." Sure, why not. Living Room Theaters.
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
Remember when Guy Ritchie movies were good? Laurelhurst Theater.
Notes from the Underground
See My, What a Busy Week! Cinema 21.
"A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window." Clinton Street Theater.
A series showcasing live concert footage. This week, footage of Heart, the Runaways, and Pat Benatar. Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Twilight Zone! Twilight Zone! Twilight Zone!
Three season one episodes on 16mm: "A Nice Place to Visit," "Passage for Trumpet," and "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." Hollywood Theatre.
Re-imagining Romeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies is the tale of a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) who longs for the old days before the apocalypse. On an outing for human flesh, R encounters the blonde beauty Julie (Teresa Palmer)—but she's from the other side of the tracks, as in she's a living breathing girl whose father is the head of the militant human survivors. It's way more charming and funny and clever than it needs to be. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Who Bombed Judi Bari?
A documentary about Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, who were "falsely accused of car-bombing themselves on May 24, 1990, while on an Earth First! musical organizing tour." Clinton Street Theater.
Wild at Heart
Sailor and Lulu fuck like bunnies, Bobby Peru scares the crap outta everyone, and Laura Palmer the Good Witch floats around in a pretty bubble. Welcome to David Lynch's Lollipop Guild. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.