Should you spend 90 minutes watching a documentary about musician James Booker, a man who called himself "The Black Liberace"—a charming, black, gay, one-eyed, drug-addicted, self-destructive, alcoholic, paranoid schizophrenic who was insane on the keys and worked with some of the most famous jazz, blues and R&B artists of the 20th century but never made it as big as he should have because his personal demons were too great? Yes. Fuck yes. ELINOR JONES
I AM DIVINE
A documentary that celebrates the life and career of Divine should be fun—and for the most part, I Am Divine is a laugh-out-loud blast, thanks in no small part to interviews with the enchanting John Waters. The blingy doc follows Harris Glenn Milstead's rise from wig-curious Baltimore shy guy to Waters' muse to being crowned the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. It's breezy, informative, and full of genuine love for the actor who died in 1988 of a heart attack. COURTNEY FERGUSON
I AM A WOMAN NOW
This absolutely essential documentary introduces five elderly transsexual women, all of whom were patients of one Casablanca doctor who performed sex-change operations as early as the 1950s. Nostalgic, inspiring, and compelling, I Am a Woman Now respectfully catalogues the triumphs and challenges faced by these women over the years, from archival footage of glamorous Parisian cabarets to present-day German knitting conventions. ALISON HALLETT
INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR
James Franco and Co. recreate the deleted 40 minute S&M scene from William Friedkin's infamous 1980 film Cruising, with a straight, married friend of the celebrity uncomfortably assuming the Pacino role. (The scenes where the cast talk about how brave Franco is, as they put on leather codpieces and prepare to get paddled, are a hoot.) The idea of reinterpreting a once-reviled film as a positive gay landmark is intriguing, but the emphasis on Franco goading on his star from the sidelines makes this seem more like an elaborate edition of Punk'd, albeit one with occasional flashes of hardcore sex. ANDREW WRIGHT
See Film, this issue.
At Any Price
Someone, someday is going to effectively dramatize the struggle of family farmers in the U.S., but it wasn't Gus Van Sant with Promised Land, and it sure as hell isn't Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo) in the tedious, morally slipshod At Any Price. Zac Efron is a hotshot teenager who wants to be a racecar driver, Dennis Quaid is his sleazy farmer dad, and Heather Graham prances around in cutoffs trying to have sex with everything; plot points about agribusiness jostle uncomfortably with murder, infidelity, and betrayal. It's all very self-serious, and—except for when Efron is flexing in a wifebeater—all very uninteresting. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
Oh good lord, there's a term for when mumblecore meets horror... "mumblegore." Black Rock is that. Written by mumblecorps general Mark Duplass and directed by his wife Katie Aselton, the boilerplate horror-thriller pits three bickering girlfriends (Eselton, Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell) against shotgun-wielding poachers on a remote island. Think Deliverance with lots of purdy mouths squealing lots of bland mumbles. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
The Sharon Stone remake of 1955's Les Diaboliques. Hey, remember the '90s? When Sharon Stone was in all those movies? Weird! Whitsell Auditorium.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby is about how the belief that wealth can buy happiness is corrosive (to paraphrase an essay I got an A on in ninth grade). Baz Luhrmann's Gatsby is about how rich people throw the best parties! And while they undeniably do, to give in to the spectacle is to miss the point. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters
Michael Shannon, with his unparalleled track record of convincingly playing freaks and psychos, is a perfect choice to play Richard Kuklinski, the real-life mafia hit man who murdered over a hundred people. Unfortunately, Shannon's supporting cast—Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta—leave him adrift, with only Chris Evans playing on Shannon's level, in the guise of an even-more-twisted killer. One wonders what could have happened if The Iceman had started with a decent script, rather than the leaden cliché-fest that director and co-writer Ariel Vromen saddled his production with. PAUL CONSTANT Fox Tower 10.
Deepa Mehta's adaptation of Salman Rushdie's 1981 novel. Fox Tower 10.
The latest from writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) is a sad, sweet story about growing up and discovering that adults don't hold all the answers. If that sounds like a cliché, Mud offers a worthwhile variation that contains real feeling. NED LANNAMANN Century Clackamas Town Center, City Center 12, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
NW Animation Festival
Animated short festivals are a dicey proposition in this day and age, given that you can find all or most of the material on YouTube. On top of that, you'll usually have to sit through an hour of conceptual scribbles that some film board has convinced itself is high art. Thankfully, that isn't the case for the annual NW Animation Festival, where the majority of selections are solidly entertaining cartoons you should be supporting with your money. The standout submission, "The Eagleman Stag," packs more personality and deep thinking in a nine-minute short than most full length features you'll see this summer; "Otzi," by Cartoon Brew, will delight anyone with an appreciation for the morbid side of Adventure Time; and "Fresh Guacamole" is remarkably straightforward while cunningly employing every animation trick in the book. Bottom line: you'll see something new, and you'll probably like it. More info: nwanimationfest.com. BEN COLEMAN Hollywood Theatre.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mira Nair's third masterpiece—her first is, of course, Salaam Bombay!, and the second is Mississippi Masala—succeeds as a political thriller (big themes, big images, big Hollywood sound), a work of global cinema (it connects several stories in very different and distant societies—USA, Turkey, Philippines, and Pakistan), and as a criticism of the dominant economic form for the past 30 years (market fundamentalism). The film concerns a young, bright, and ambitious Pakistani man, Changez (Riz Ahmed), who, after obtaining a business degree from Princeton, enters a position in a Wall Street firm that makes its money in much the same way that Romney's Bain does (stripping vulnerable companies of their value). Changez is on top of the world until two planes bring down the Twin Towers. Suddenly the society he loves is transformed into a society that hates him, his color, his culture, his religion. Changez returns to Pakistan a bitter and broken man but eventually becomes a popular anti-American professor at a university in Lahore. His lectures are fiery, his followers dedicated, and his commitment to Islamist politics is absolute. But that is not the end of the story. There is an important surprise near the end of Nair's third masterpiece. CHARLES MUDEDE Living Room Theaters.
A monthly series at the Hollywood Theatre, "showing vintage and contemporary films that are obscure, neglected, and from the fringe." This month: 1962's Fallguy. Hollywood Theatre.
Return to Noir Ville
As the 20th century recedes, film noir seems more an attitude than an actual genre. The phrase itself—which wasn't coined until after the fact, by French critics—refers to gritty, bleak American thrillers from the '40s and '50s, almost always shot in black and white. There's usually a murder and a femme fatale to accompany it; trench coats, fedoras, and plumes of cigarette smoke are de rigueur. But watching the 11 selections in this year's edition of Cinema 21's noir series, the commonality doesn't have so much to do with murders, or dames, or nicotine. These films are all about love—more specifically, about passion and obsession, about some poor johnny getting dizzy over a skirt. Also see "Blackjacks and Wise Cracks," Mercury, May 8. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.
Something in the Air
With Something in the Air, Olivier Assayas, the director of Carlos, Irma Vep, and Boarding Gate, revisits the twilight of the global social revolution that had the center of its spirit in the year 1968. The revolutionaries are French, urban, young, beautiful, dedicated, and intelligent. During the day, they listen to lectures about Pascal and Marx, and at night, they destroy private property with their anarchy signs, propaganda posters, and bombs. We know how all of this enthusiasm and revolutionary energy will end, we know that this rebellion is more youthful than political, but the film's direction, art direction, wardrobe, cinematography, and performances never lose your interest for one moment. CHARLES MUDEDE Living Room Theaters.
The Source Family
The Source Family was a cult that spun out from a wildly successful LA health-food restaurant in the early '70s, and a film examining the commune and their charismatic leader, Father Yod, AKA Jim Baker—a war veteran, movie stuntman, and criminal who killed multiple men with his bare hands—would seem to promise something weird and grimly fascinating. Celebrating polyamory, sex magic, and the "sacrament" of marijuana, Baker eventually amassed 13 wives (many of them underage), a flock of brainwashed, white-robed followers, and his own psychedelic rock band called Ya Ho Wha 13. Things of course did not go so well for the Source Family, and Baker died in a hang-gliding accident in 1975 (best celebrity death ever). The slow-moving The Source Family was made with the full participation of the former cult members, and while it stops short of deifying the immensely sleazy Baker, the documentary still pulls its punches—and not without reason, as most of the cult's survivors seem truly damaged by their pasts. Still, it fails to offer any outside perspective of the goings-on within the cult, or any real analysis or criticism of Baker's methods; as such, we're left to guess at the psychology of what actually went on. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
Star Trek Into Darkness
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Thief of Bagdad
Douglas Fairbanks' 1924 silent fantasy classic is a dreamlike spin on tales from the Arabian Nights with Fairbanks is at his rascally, athletic best. While this beautiful, long film isn't as iconic as the groundbreaking 1940 remake, it has every right to be. NED LANNAMANN Whitsell Auditorium.
To the Wonder
Terrence Malick's latest is a lot less confounding than The Tree of Life (there aren't any dinosaurs in it, for better or worse), in large part because rather than tackling the entirety of existence, it focuses on something ostensibly smaller: relationships. In particular, one between Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil (Ben Affleck). Because it's Malick, everything looks stunning, though it never loses its Ansel Adams-like layer of precision and distance. It sounds great, too: Only a few lines of dialogue are spoken (Affleck gets about two lines), though much is said, via subtitled voiceover. But while the impressionistic To the Wonder is remarkable to see and hear, it's also both intimate and remote—an odd sensation that keeps the film's characters just past arm's length. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
Luis Buñuel's 1970 satire skewers sexual mores and masculine ego, as Catherine Deneuve's young orphan pinballs between a wealthy guardian (Fernando Rey) and a handsome artist (Franco Nero). Buñuel's own obsessions are, as ever, at the forefront and he's wonderfully playful with the material, even if the film seems deliberately stripped of emotion. NED LANNAMANN Whitsell Auditorium.
Twilight Zone! Twilight Zone! Twilight Zone!
A bunch of classic Twilight Zone episodes? Okay! Hollywood Theatre.
Like his first film, Primer, Shane Carruth's sci-fi/body horror/romance Upstream Color can come off as clammy and occasionally baffling. Movies that make you work for it can be a tough draw, of course, and Carruth's melding of Kubrickian control and Malick's expansiveness will likely have some begging off early. Those on the film's wavelength, however, may well find themselves floored by the nearly wordless final act, where all of the seemingly disparate elements are drawn together with a beauty and power that's a little freaky to behold. ANDREW WRIGHT Laurelhurst Theater.