ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA Ned says its undoubtedly the funniest film at PIFF this year.
  • ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA Ned says it's "undoubtedly the funniest film at PIFF."

What with the state-sanctioned homophobia, the massive corruption, the unfinished buildings, the displaced residents, and the good old-fashioned dog murdering, Sochi's doing its best to convince us that the world is a terrible, terrible place. BUT WAIT. There are other places in the world that aren't Sochi! And the Portland International Film Festival has got movies from a bunch of them. There's plenty of stuff to see that will restore your crumbling faith in humanity, and as such, the festival has taken over this week's Mercury's Film section.

Sure, we've got a review of the The Lego Movie, which Denis says is great—

The latest low-concept gem from directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street).... Instead of plodding through like one more cynical big-screen commercial (hi, Transformers!), The Lego Movie manages to weave an enlivening magic spell of nostalgia that's equal parts hysterical, subversive, beautiful, and sweet.

—and one of The Monuments Men, which I say isn't so great—

It'd be unfair to expect George Clooney's The Monuments Men to feel like Ocean's WWII, but what it does feel like is... not much of anything. A plinking score by Alexandre Desplat is the one constant as the script veers from comedy to sentimentality, and frustratingly, the cast is split up as soon as they're introduced: Off on their own, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban have some first-rate moments, and Cate Blanchett—the one woman at this sausage party—accomplishes the most and seems to be having the most fun. But no one else gets enough screen time to do much of anything.

—but this week it's really all about PIFF, which kicks off tonight with not one but two screenings (one of which is The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki's latest, and last, film). Marjorie has the full rundown, along with a reminder why it's worth reading our coverage if you plan on seeing anything at the fest:

The world is vast, and so is the festival, which spans the greater part of February and features films as diverse as their origins—from a program of Oregon-made shorts to documentaries and dramas from the West Bank, Poland, Manila, and beyond. It's a bit too much, actually, and unless you've cleared your schedule and are willing to take more than a few gambles, it helps to have guideposts when mapping an approach to PIFF. Which is where we come in.

Read Marjorie's overview, then click over to our Film Shorts, where we've got a whole bunch of Mercury reviewers giving their takes on a whole bunch of PIFF selections. We'll have even more reviews next week.