Bending the Bard: Cinematic Twists on Shakespeare
A series commemorating the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, featuring some of the most interestingly skewed adaptations of his work in cinema history, including films from directors Akira Kurosawa, Julie Taymor, Laurence Olivier, Gus Van Sant, and more. More at nwfilm.org. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Too many people slept far too long on Pam Grier. Quentin Tarantino woke a lot of ’em up by building Jackie Brown around her, and a few might have actually ventured further back to check out Foxy Brown or Friday Foster—but it was her performance as a revenge-fueled vigilante nurse in 1973’s Coffy that established her as one of the toughest badasses the decade ever produced, standing defiantly triumphant and taller than tough guys like Richard Roundtree and Charles Bronson with a sawed-off shotgun balanced oh-so-fashionably on the side of her hip. BOBBY ROBERTS Laurelhurst Theater.
The Center for Women’s Leadership screens this dramatization of Anita Hill’s testimony at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing, and her ensuing demonization at the hands of the right wing. Executive Producer Janice Williams in attendance. Hollywood Theatre.
For a genre known for headbanging excess, it’s often the subtler things—rhythm, geography, use of negative space—that can put a horror movie over the top. The new home invasion movie Don’t Breathe displays a remarkable sense of when to hold back and build tension, and when to go ferociously all in. Throw in a terrifyingly committed performance by Stephen Lang and you’ve got the kind of thing that gets an entire audience giggling at their collective discomfort. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
Dracula: A Modern Silent Film
The story of Transylvania’s most notorious resident, told entirely through rough illustrations and text fragments. Okay, okay, the strictly non-animated style may be daunting at first, especially when considering the near two-hour running time. (Portland director/illustrator Mark Andres has streamlined the story and reduced the number of supporting characters, even if it doesn’t seem like it.) Thankfully, the evocative energy of his drawings, combined with Rachel Knight’s chiming guitar score, creates an engrossing, weirdly hypnotic experience. Even if you know Bram Stoker’s tale back to front, this is well worth your time. Art that manages to sweep you up into someone else’s obsession should always be recognized. ANDREW WRIGHT Living Room Theater.
Drive-in at Zidell Yards
You know that place under the Ross Island Bridge where no one ever goes? Well, the NW Film Center is showing some movies down there! Park your car, bring a chair or a blanket, and pay in cash to see The Big Lebowski (Thurs Sept 22), Goldfinger (Fri Sept 23), Space Jam (Sat Sept 24), Say Anything (Sun Sept 25), and Cool Hand Luke (Mon Sept 26). More at nwfilm.org. Zidell Yards.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
She’s a Broadway legend and a veteran theater actress, but to younger folk, Elaine Stritch is best known for playing Jack Donaghy’s exhausting mom on 30 Rock. Lesser known is that she pretty much plays herself in the role: Stritch is brassy and demanding, but lovable... kind of. Shoot Me traces Stritch’s steps as she prepares for a one-woman show while in her 80s: there’s a lot of conversations about her prunes and where they are, and she gets in a heated argument with the cameraman about how to shoot her when she is opening a bag of muffins; all the while, she never wears pants. JENNA LECHNER Hollywood Theatre.
Equity stands alone, but it reveals how low-impact, how barely-trying movies like Wolf of Wall Street really are. Oh, you got in trouble for the first time in your life and had to go to summer-camp jail but you’ll probably be fine? That’s no ancient tragedy. That’s a boring installment in the ongoing saga of White Men Getting Away with Stuff. I mean there’s something tragic in there, but it’s not new. Because the workplace is far more punishing for women, Equity is more inherently dramatic than those other movies. MEGAN BURBANK Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Film Noir Double Feature
Eddie Muller presents two new 35mm restorations of little-seen crime stories—1951’s The Prowler, written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by Joseph Losey, about a cop who decides the best way to get the girl he wants is to murder her husband, and 1951’s The Bitter Stems, an Argentinian noir about a man caught up in a con with a shifty Hungarian. Hollywood Theatre.
1981’s trippy animated sci-fi/horror/fantasy/etc. anthology, based on Heavy Metal magazine and featuring the vocal stylings of John Candy, Eugene Levy, and good ol’ Rodger Bumpass. Come and claim your one-way ticket to midnight. Academy Theater.
Special guests Nariko Ott, Alex Falcone, Shannan Hunt, Mark Saltveit, Laci Day, and Mark Mahoney prime their texting thumbs to shoot the most poisonous of darts at Thrashin’, the ’80s turd about skateboarding that’s so relentlessly corny not even Poochie would stop to give it a sniff. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
People recall Garden State’s sins more readily than its virtues, which strikes me as unfair: At the time, it was a stylishly crafted comedy drama with a genuine interest in small emotional moments. The flip side, of course, is that white malaise is never as profound as white people seem to think it is, and also the whole manic pixie dream girl thing. So a mixed bag, certainly. I mention all this because when I tell you that The Hollars is Garden State: 2016 Edition, I don’t want you to think I’m dismissing it entirely. There’s simply no other way to describe a movie in which a big city sad boy returns to his hometown in the wake of a family tragedy only to discover—well, you know the drill. What’s changed in the intervening years is an emphasis on giving the female characters actual inner lives and stuff to do. Which is nice! But this is still a film where Anna Kendrick designs dog clothes and John Krasinski falls off a symbolic tire swing. All that’s missing is a Shins song. BEN COLEMAN Hollywood Theatre.
Jesus Christ Superstar
A special screening of the sassiest, flashiest accounting of that one time humanity responded really poorly to a bearded street magician and tacked his gentle ass to a giant T. Why is this screening so special? Because Jesus himself is going to be in attendance! By that we mean Ted Neeley, the guy who played Jesus in the movie. Not actual Jesus. Because he’s not real. Clinton Street Theater.
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
As a filmmaker, Werner Herzog is often obsessed with the tangible—with people on the edges of society, with feats as lethal as they are daring. But Lo and Behold is Herzog’s attempt to parse a world that’s moving away from the physical. It makes sense he starts his documentary by reminding us that the internet started as—and still is—a series of weird-smelling tubes and wires. It also makes sense, given the immeasurable ways the internet has affected humanity, Lo and Behold splits in countless directions: It isn’t long until Herzog is interviewing brain researchers and hackers, until he’s watching orange-clad Buddhist monks stare into their phones. If this parade of scientists and eccentrics and weirdos sounds broad, it is: Herzog wants to look at every aspect of our online lives. Lo and Behold is a look at what might come next, and a mourning for what we’ve lost, but more than anything, it’s a meditation on how the internet has already changed us. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
Movies in the Dark: Death to Smoochy
Robin Williams is universally beloved now, but in the early days of the 21st century, that wasn’t the case. A lot of the man’s goodwill had been used up as he took on one schmaltzy, cloying tearjerker after another, following a trail of Oscar-bait into near-irrelevance. But in 2002, Williams decided to remind everyone he still had chops, smacking audiences around with amazing turns in Insomnia, One Hour Photo, and Danny DeVito’s acidic farce set in the world of children’s entertainment, Death to Smoochy. Smoochy is the most lightweight of the three, but there’s something to the manic desperation in Williams’ performance that suggests this was the role that cut closest to his people-pleasing bones. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
OMSI Animation Film Festival
The single biggest screen in Portland becomes a showcase for the best animators in the business, from independent shorts to big-budget blockbusters, with titles including Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Secret of Kells, Anomalisa, Coraline, Finding Dory, and more. More at omsi.edu. OMSI Empirical Theater.
Portland Queer Film Festival
Twenty years ago, a fledgling showcase for queer film known as the Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival got its humble start. Now known as the Portland Queer Film Festival, the series is stronger than ever, putting seven days’ worth of entertaining LGBTQ storytelling on Cinema 21’s screens, including documentaries, features, and web series. More at pdxqueerfilm.com. Also see FIlm, this issue. Cinema 21.
Print the Legend
So there’s this competition-style reality show on. It’s the one that pits the bloviating, orange-haired pustule who spouts incoherent, racist free verse against a grandparent with the temerity to possess a vagina. The show asks America to make the agonizing decision: Which one’s worse? Well, according to several sources, this is no mere entertainment: In just a few short weeks, the results will be used to determine which striver will occupy the most important job in the country for the next four years (or until he gets bored and quits). As usual, one can turn to H.L. Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” The fact that electioneering and entertainment have become so incestuously linked is the subject of the NW Film Center’s fall series Print the Legend, which lines up 17 movies between now and Election Day that tackle the intersections of politics and mass media. Also see “Print the Legend: Cinema, and Politics, at the NW Film Center” [Film, Sept 7]. MARC MOHAN NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
Repressed Cinema: Loaded Guns
A rare 16mm screening of Fernando Di Leo’s 1975 Italian sexploitation comedy, starring Ursula Andress as a stewardess who finds herself mixed up in a three-way power struggle between rival gangs. Preceded by a reel of classic 16mm exploitation trailers. Hollywood Theatre.
Under a Shipwrecked Moon
Antero Alli’s surreal 2003 fantasy about a shamanic punk who ventures into the spirit realm to find his drowned father. Director in attendance. Clinton Street Theater.
When the Bough Breaks
Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall play young professionals who are rethinking their decision to hire Jaz Sinclair as the surrogate mother for their baby, mostly due to the fact Jaz is a fucking psycho fixated on the husband (and in her defense—he is Morris Chestnut. Rawr.) and willing to kill to keep him and the baby. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, September 16-Thursday, September 22, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.