ONCE A YEAR, the Northwest Film Center rounds up an impressive batch of music-related films for their Reel Music series. By and large they're documentaries, and the Northwest Film Center usually endeavors to select a range of films that cover a broad range of styles. This year's no exception: You've got your standard-issue rock doc (Wilco in the concert film Ashes of American Flags, screening January 8-9); your revisionist history (The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector, January 15); your polite defense of an outmoded genre (Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, January 31); your bio-doc of a neglected artist (Ed Thigpen: Master of Time, Rhythm, and Taste, January 17; Kim Seok-Chul in Intangible Asset Number 82, February 7); your examination of geek/fringe culture (Mighty Uke, January 9; I Need that Record, January 21); and new work from established artists (Sufjan Stevens' The BQE Brooklyn Queens Expressway, January 16 & 23).
This year's big-ticket item is the Portland premiere of Neil Young Trunk Show, Jonathan Demme's capture of a 2007 Neil Young concert in Philadelphia. The film has slowly made the rounds on the festival circuit and will likely be released on DVD later this year; in the meantime, it kicks off the Reel Music festival on Friday, January 8. Neil Young Trunk Show is reportedly the second full-length film in a trio Demme intends to make on the Canadian singer/songwriter (2006's Heart of Gold being the first, although Demme also shot a 1994 session with Crazy Horse that was released on videotape), and it's highlighted by a version of "No Hidden Path," in which the gray-haired rocker launches a hair-bending assault on his electric guitar for 20 minutes. Demme's also responsible for the penultimate film at this year's Reel, the legendary 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense (February 6).
A handful of films have Portland ties. There's the January 16 screening of Burn to Shine, in which 12 local bands, including the Thermals, Sleater-Kinney, and the Shins, play the living room of a house in Portland before burning it down. Portland Mojo: How Stumptown Got the Blues (January 25) examines—you guessed it—Portland's history as a cradle for blues music in the '60s and '70s. And Christopher Pomerenke's let's-talk-about-music documentary The Heart Is a Drum Machine (January 30) includes interviews with Portland musicians like Isaac Brock, Janet Weiss, Britt Daniel, and the Dandy Warhols.