Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch? In the same movie? Hot damn, sounds like the sort of thing a studio might try to quietly dump in September without even the common courtesy of a screening for cri—oh shit, they didn’t screen it for critics? Hot damn, I guess you’re on your own if you want a hint as to whether Tim Riggins and the dude from MTV’s Teen Wolf made a decent movie. Good luck, fuckers! Various Theaters.
★ Babe: Pig in the City
People tend to trip out when told the Mad Max guy is the guy behind Happy Feet and Babe. The confusion is understandable on a surface level—cutesy talking animals having family-friendly adventures doesn’t fit too well with one-armed feminist shit-wreckers blowing up the desert in bone-crunching, fast-and-fiery fashion. But when you actually watch writer/director George Miller’s Babe: Pig in the City, the storytelling similarities quickly make themselves apparent. The amazing (and amazingly efficient) worldbuilding, the emotion that’s shared but not spoken, and the pitch-perfect humor that stops the encroaching darkness from blotting out the hard-earned triumphs. Granted, the pig isn’t diving off the back of a truck with spray-paint on its snout, but somehow Pig in the City, with its simple-yet-complicated story of a family trying to win a state fair ribbon, feels like there’s just as much at stake. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
Arthouse films in which the camera caresses young male bodies are usually directed by men, like Gus Van Sant or Larry Clark, so Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats feels like an outlier. If anything, her follow-up to 2013’s It Felt Like Love is as much about a 19-year-old exploring his sexuality as it’s a chance for Pina cinematographer Hélène Louvart to linger on the panes of his face, the curvature of his lips, the contours of his torso. At home, Frankie (Harris Dickinson) hooks up with men he meets through a gay webcam forum, but with his friends—Brooklyn bros in tank tops and backwards hats—he hangs out on the boardwalk, smoking blunts and digging the heteronormative scene. When a pretty brunette (Madeline Weinstein) flirts with him one night, he flirts back, but the minute his friends abandon him, he looks frightened. Their first sexual encounter is a bust, but he convinces her to give him another chance. His father is dying, and he’s eager for the kind of human connection his friends are unable to provide, and so he splits his life down the middle—gay in private and straight in public, a bifurcation bound to fail. Though the trailer portends vapid soft core, Hitmann has a sure and sensitive hand as a director; better yet, Dickinson registers as more than just a photogenic body. Though he’s certainly that, too. KATHY FENNESSY Cinema 21.
Best of the NW Animation Fest
The Best of the NW Animation Festival collects animated shorts that either won awards at the main festival or garnered special mention. I always find at least one great short in a batch like this—and at this level of curation, there aren’t any duds. SUZETTE SMITH Hollywood Theatre.
Caryn Cline: Organic Films
The Seattle-based filmmaker visits Portland to present her experimental shorts focused on biological processes, including Compost Confidential, In the Conservatory, and Perchance. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
A Child is Not a Cloth
Mississippi Records hosts an evening with filmmaker Cyrus Moussavi of Raw Music International, presenting three documentary shorts focused on sounds from all over the world, including A Child is Not a Cloth, about Kenyan guitarist George Mukabi and the musical legacy he left after his murder; Uptown is Covered in Mud, a look at the various styles created in the space between Ulaanbataar and the mountains of Mongolia; and Olima Anditi: Where Else Would I Be?, following the travels of the renowned blind guitarist as he hits various bars and clubs. Hollywood Theatre.
Dawson City: Frozen Time
This experimental documentary—scored by Sigur Rós’ Alex Somers—chronicles the history of Dawson City, located 350 miles south of the Arctic Circle, using footage from over 500 films found buried in a Yukon Territory swimming pool. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ The Holy Mountain
An LSD-emulating vision quest that still feels like one of the oddest things to ever hit a screen. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film remains a compulsively watchable mélange of sexed-up robots, hysterically deadpan dialogue, and unforgettable scatological alchemy. ANDREW WRIGHT NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ I Do... Until I Don’t
I Do...Until I Don’t starts with a brilliant suggestion: Marriage should be a seven-year contract, with an option to renew. This way, you don’t have to fret about getting divorced; you know an ending is just down the road. You don’t have to feel guilty for failing, because it was never meant to be permanent to begin with. As a grizzled divorcée eager to cast spells on everyone else’s marital bliss, I LOVE this concept! But then I Do... cleverly reveals one of the biggest twists in the history of romantic comedies, straying from its central thesis of marriage being an evil and archaic institution and becoming something (spoiler!) kinda positive? Love-affirming, even? It sneaks up on you, and even the most hardened among us (raises hand, shakes fist at happy brides, slowly stops shaking fist, sniffles, wipes eyes, it’s just allergies) can root for this secretly delightful movie. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
In theory, It should work: Many of the things that make Stephen King’s book so remarkable are here, and all those elements are better than those of the 1990 miniseries. But for a movie with so much blood, It feels disappointingly bloodless. Maybe its sequel—which promises to tell the second half of the story—will find the scope and the horror missing from this chapter, but for now, It feels less than the sum of its parts. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film about a bunch of Chairman Mao-obsessed French students who hole up in an apartment and have a grand old time playing revolutionary, in much the same way small children play pillow-forts and don’t-touch-the-lava. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ A League of Their Own
There’s a lot one can praise in what is easily Penny Marshall’s best film, A League of Their Own—Geena Davis’ tough-yet-tender portrayal of Dottie Hinson, Marshall’s ability to somehow soften both Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell enough that they can share the screen without the film turning into 40-grit sandpaper, and the joy of watching a chubby brat catch a 50-mph mitt with his face. But the best thing about League is that it features the last performance of Classic Tom Hanks—the guy from Splash, The Burbs, and The Money Pit, the hapless asshole who used to splutter and spew like Daffy Duck, radiating a barely-contained, bug-eyed-and-explosive frustration. Eventually that Hanks was erased by Oscar bait, with faint echoes only barely surviving in the voice of Toy Story’s Woody. League is the swan song for Hanks’ agitated majesty, and that stubble-faced sourpuss is a must to behold on the big screen. BOBBY ROBERTS Clinton Street Theater.
★ Logan Lucky
“I just don’t think movies matter as much anymore, culturally,” infamously unpredictable filmmaker Steven Soderbergh told the Guardian in 2013—one of the many legit reasons he gave when he announced he was quitting movies forever. So naturally, four years later, the infamously unpredictable Soderbergh has a new comedy—Logan Lucky, a movie that aims to undermine Hollywood’s traditional distribution model, a movie whose screenwriter may or may not exist, and, most importantly, a movie that’s a goddamn delight. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
More than enough has been written about how terrifyingly prophetic Sidney Lumet’s 1976 satire has turned out to be, but as far as I know, nobody’s pointed out that it somehow seems even more relevant in the age of Twitter. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater.
Andrew Cohn’s documentary follows three adults as they attempt to successfully complete a high-school diploma program, and looks at the differing-yet-similar conditions that led them to the Indianapolis classroom that holds their hopes for a better future. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ Patti Cake$
Patti Cake$ could easily be labeled a feminist 8 Mile, and at first glance, it looks just about identical: the fights with mom, the working poverty, the white rapper seeking to break into a traditionally African American art form. Patti Cake$ only escapes the 8 Mile cliché—the idea that it’s somehow heroic for a white person to succeed in a marginalized person’s world—on the strength of its actors, the inventiveness of its director, and the fact that its script packs so much heart. SUZETTE SMITH Hollywood Theatre.
Portland Latin American Film Festival: You’re Killing Me Susana
Director Robert Sneider presents his adaptation of José Agustín’s novel Ciudades Desiertas, starring Gael García Bernal as a man determined to win back the woman he loves, despite the fact he’s kind of a chauvinistic, insecure dipshit. Hollywood Theatre.
Do you want to watch adorable old people teach winsome youths the ancient art of letterpress? In this unpredictable fireball of world, do you want to see a movie where the biggest source of conflict is how best to move a huge old letterpress out of a basement without it bumping into anything? Do you want to see a parade of enviable prints made by a Midwestern mom? Do you want to see a man support his spouse in her habit of constantly bringing unwieldy printing presses into their home because he loves her—and old fashioned printmaking!—so much? Yeah, I bet you do. And you can in this documentary, and that’s all I have to say about that. MEGAN BURBANK Clinton Street Theater.
Repressed Cinema: Wheels on Reels 3
Curator Ian Sundahl returns to the Hollywood with another showcase of lost-to-time 16mm short films about cars, with some new discoveries burning rubber as well as some tried-and-true favorites getting their shine, including “the hypnotically meditative” short How to Park Your Car, a film that roughly 89 percent of all Portland motorists could stand to pay just a little more attention to if the sidewalks on Alberta and Hawthorne are any kind of indication (and they absolutely are Jesus Christ you fuckin’ people I swear to god). BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
The Secret Garden
I mean, it’s not really much of a secret after a hundred-year-old book and two movies, right? Secret’s pretty much out by now. Spoilers: There’s a garden. Sad British kids are in it. They learn to not be sad, despite the fact the garden is still in Great Britain. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ The Trip to Spain
Michael Winterbottom’s latest continues the shenanigans first chronicled in 2010’s The Trip and 2014’s The Trip to Italy: Actor/comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon travel to fancy restaurants, ostensibly for review purposes, but really so they can do dueling Michael Caine impressions and wax humorously on the foibles of middle-aged manhood. MARC MOHAN Cinema 21.
John Hughes’ 1985 enjoyable-yet-morally bankrupt comedy about two nerds who create a real-life wet dream! Probably not the best film with which to introduce teenage boys to gender issues. Or racial issues either, for that matter. But if you want to introduce teenage boys to the wonders of the late great Bill Paxton, this is a pretty good place to start, as his portrayal of Chet, a right-wing fuckhead who is transformed into a talking, quivering pile of shit, is legitimately legendary. Also starring Robert Downey Jr. with a bra on his head. Laurelhurst Theater.
★ Wind River
Actor Taylor Sheridan certainly came bolting out of the gate as a screenwriter, with his scripts for 2015’s Sicario and last year’s Hell or High Water displaying a firm grasp of pulp storytelling dynamics and an eagerness to explore the darker aspects of the human condition. (That both films had terrific directors in charge, with Denis Villeneuve and David Mackenzie respectively, definitely didn’t hurt.) Wind River, Sheridan’s first attempt at directing one of his own scripts, is a similarly tough, intelligently elevated B-movie, bolstered by unexpectedly deft novelistic touches and an exceptional, contents-under-pressure lead performance by Jeremy Renner. It’s got a kick. ANDREW WRIGHT Various Theaters.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, September 15-Thursday, September 21, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.