ANIMATED WORLDS: STOP-MOTION CLASSICS
A series dedicated to spotlighting some of the most miraculous cinema ever created, with entries from directors including Henry Selick, Nick Park & Peter Lord, Wes Anderson, and Travis Knight. See nwfilm.org for a full list of titles and showtimes.
A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS
Can you imagine a movie called A Bad Dads Christmas? I can’t! Because men who are dads enjoying themselves is in no way revolutionary and is a stupid plot point. Just like it is for women! Also! All the swearing seems so forced! This movie was written by men (*spits on ground*) and you can tell. Funny women with dirty mouths are a beautiful thing and I don’t know why none were asked to liven up this awkward script. We work twice as hard for our money and this movie is what we’re supposed to spend it on? PLEASE! ELINOR JONES
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL
The 100th(!) film from Takashi Miike, Blade of the Immortal is a live-action adaptation of Hirokai Samura’s manga, in which an immortal samurai (Takuya Kimura) meets a young girl (Hana Sugisaki) who’s “hell-bent on avenging the gruesome deaths of her parents.” BLOOD ENSUES. ERIK HENRIKSEN
CASA DE LAVA
Pedro Costa’s 1994 arthouse kinda-sorta-not-really-but-sure-go-ahead-and-call-it-a-remake of Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie.
GOD’S OWN COUNTRY
Irma Vep is the kind of film that’ll sprain your brainpan if you’re not careful—it’s quite the metatextual pretzel of self-referential filmmaking. But even if there were no subtitles to work with, and no sound to help carry the narrative, the film would still be a triumph due to the fact Maggie Cheung is the absolutely mesmerizing (and latex-encased) focus of the film. There are few actors who can make a movie go from “what the fuck am I watching” to “Holy fuck I can’t stop watching this” like Cheung can. BOBBY ROBERTS
Based on recovered footage of iconic primatologist Jane Goodall during her groundbreaking chimpanzee research in 1960s Tanzania, Jane unfolds in a traditional National Geographic documentary format: beautiful nature footage paired with reserved British voiceover (provided by Goodall herself). Anyone with a passing interest in Goodall’s writings about the social relationships of chimpanzees will be delighted by the dramatic film clips of chimps stealing bananas from her camp set to an energetic score by Philip Glass. Mixed-in moments of Goodall’s perfectly-lit beauty seem out of place with her professional reflections until the film reveals this recovered footage was shot by Hugo van Lawick, a gifted wildlife photographer and, in time, Goodall’s first husband. The authentic relatability to both these love stories—van Lawick falling for Goodall and Goodall discovering her life’s work—pushes Jane beyond the confines of a nature film into the territory of being a pretty ideal date movie. SUZETTE SMITH
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ morality play uses the myth of Iphigenia—who was sacrificed by her father to appease the gods—as a springboard, but it’s the mythology of cinema that Lanthimos is intent on exploding as he uses sterile, slow, almost Kubrickian imagery to interrogate the story. The surreal hilarity of Lanthimos’ last film, The Lobster, is totally absent here; Sacred Deer is, in the moment, an unpleasant experience. But as the director is careful to announce early on, this is not a film about what you see—it’s about what you realize hours, maybe days, after you’ve left the theater. Lanthimos gets under your skin and stays there. NED LANNAMANN
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
The mustache has got to be real. Right? Everything else about Murder on the Orient Express—Kenneth Branagh’s stodgy, grandmother-friendly adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 mystery novel—is so sumptuous that there’s no way they would skimp on such an obviously fake-looking mustache, not when it’s plastered to Branagh’s face so prominently. The cast is overstuffed with prestige, the sets are detailed and geographically consistent, the dramatic mountainous backdrop is computer-enhanced at great expense, and the 70mm camerawork is fancy-pants as all get out. And yet Branagh’s mustache, a gratuitously frosted thing that emerges from his nose to bisect the entire front half of his skull, looks so absurd and unnatural that it takes you out of the movie every time the actor/director is onscreen. NED LANNAMANN .
Merely describing the appeal and beauty of Satoshi Kon's Paprika can't quite be done—sure, I can tell you about the stunningly detailed animation, the overwhelming colors, the way that Paprika's hand-drawn characters convey their weight and personalities and movements as effortlessly as if they were portrayed by real-life actors, and about how there are a few sequences in which music, movement, and color align as beautifully as they have in anything else I've seen. But it's not quite enough. ERIK HENRIKSEN
★ PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES
“I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn’t fucking there. And I really didn’t care to fucking walk down a fucking highway and across a fucking runway to get back here to have you smile in my fucking face.” .
PORTLAND ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL
The International Film Exchange of Oregon shares a carefully curated selections of genre-spanning, paradigm-shifting films from Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, and the Philippines. For a full list of titles visit ifeoo.org.
PRE-CODE CINEMA: CLASSICS AND RARITIES
Most of us have never known a time when the (utterly corrupt) MPAA wasn't applying (useless) ratings to films. Before them, there was the Motion Picture Production Code, an invention of the 1930s intended to promote "wholesome values" in a still-new medium. And before the Code? Wouldn't you know it, artists of the '20s and '30s actually attempted things like incisive social commentary and criticism in the absence of religiously motivated censorship! This series presents some of the best examples of pre-code drama, centered on forgotten, downtrodden, and dismissed members of American society in the early years of the 20th century, directed by soon-to-be-legends of entertainment like Frank Capra, William A. Wellman, Busby Berkeley, and Victor Fleming. BOBBY ROBERTS
RE-RUN THEATER: BLACK ADDER FEST II
The Hollywood’s tribute to classic television. This month: Mr. Bean’s snide ride through British history, AKA Black Adder, home to some of the bleakest, most cutting satire ever broadcast on the BBC, leavened with more basic (but still hilarious) punnery and silliness. Between each of the three episodes on the big screen tonight will be a collection of “too-naughty-for-American-TV” ads, which are basically just a bunch of crass dick jokes but because there’s a British accent involved, they’re about 12 percent more classy. BOBBY ROBERTS
A documentary about people who claim to have an allergic reaction to modern life. Chemical agents, electronics, wifi signals—they say their bodies are rebelling against the technologies and conventions we take for granted. The hitch is that no medical body appears to recognize this as a legitimate malady. I can't speak to the science here, but to its credit neither does the film, which largely concerns itself with the daily goings-on of the afflicted. The amount of time you want to spend watching a documentary like this depends on how much interest you derive from watching a group of eccentrics feel uncomfortable. I didn't derive much, and I got a strong whiff of pseudoscience from the proceedings, but I don't doubt everyone involved feels crummy. BEN COLEMAN
Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography is an embarrassment of riches, each movie an almost-perfectly sculpted work of magic, wonder, action, and emotion. Spirited Away is the master at his most whimsical—but what separates Miyazaki from most storytellers is that he can (and often does) wield whimsy like a scalpel. Something as airy and light as Spirited Away would be an not much more than an empty confection in even the best director’s hands. But Miyazaki, working without a script (!), weaves a modern fairy tale so affecting that for many, his story of a 10-year-old girl on a mystical journey to free her parents is still the best—and most human—animated film ever made. BOBBY ROBERTS
A computer animated adaptation of the Nativity, focused on a brave donkey and his talking animal friends. Nobody here watched it because we’re mostly godless heathens and the few of us who do believe know better than to willingly sit in front of this shit. Starring Oprah Winfrey as a camel, and Christopher Plummer as Kevin Spacey.
★ SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS
In Preston Sturges’ hilariously heartwarming take on class and poverty, the dreamy, diminutive Veronica Lake is at her peak, years before she got screwed over by her studio and spiraled down into alcoholism. Lake epitomized the glamorous Hollywood leading lady, and the film itself is also a gem: Joel McCrea fakes being a tramp in order to learn what it’s like to be poor, so he can make his masterpiece Depression-era film, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. Laughs ensue, comeuppances are delivered, and everyone learns something about life and love. The End. Beautiful. SCOTT MOORE
TETSUO: THE IRON MAN
Tetsuo is Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s attempt at fitting himself into the disturbing, provocative headspace often occupied by two prolific Davids—Lynch and Cronenberg. And with less than 70 minutes total of black-and-white apocalyptic desperation, Tsukamoto absolutely succeeds. Which is a very nice way of saying Tetsuo is amazingly, horrifyingly, profoundly fucked up. BOBBY ROBERTS
★ THELMA & LOUISE
When Thelma and Louise released in 1991, the poster's tagline read "Somebody said get a life... so they did," which is an interesting means of selling this amiably heartbreaking road movie about two put-upon Texas women (Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis) just trying to drink a little, dance a little, smoke a little, and enjoy their low-key vacation without every single goddamn man in the world getting in the way and fucking everything all to hell. Callie Khouri's screenplay is beautifully foolproofed against director Ridley Scott's predilection toward missing the point, and the performances by Sarandon and Davis are arguably the best either gave in their long, celebrated careers. BOBBY ROBERTS
★ THOR: RAGNAROK
Thor: Ragnarok begins with an imprisoned Thor dangling from a chain in the bowels of some reeking hellscape, taunting a world-destroying demon. Then “Immigrant Song” shudders and shakes the theater’s speakers, and Thor—wielding his trusty hammer Mjolnir, and really feeling the music—lays righteous waste to a skittering army of the undead. Then there’s some hyperspace travel. And a lot of dragon blood? And a Shake Weight! Ragnarok gets weirder, funnier, and better from there. I watched the whole thing with a big stupid grin on my big stupid face. ERIK HENRIKSEN
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Opens Nov 22, see next week’s Mercury for our review.
★ UNKNOWN PASSAGE
The Hollywood pays tribute to the life of Fred Cole with a screening of this 2004 Dead Moon documentary, which doesn’t fully diagram the power and impact Fred, Toody, and Andrew had on Portland, but is crusty, unglamorous, and intimately genial, just like their band. NED LANNAMANN
Todd Haynes has been in the zone for quite some time now, creating a remarkable streak of films that establish glorious illusions, and then burrow deeper for the real, messy deal. Wonderstruck, the director’s first movie for a younger audience, feels like an anomaly in other, less intriguing ways—including an atypically slack narrative and an occasional case of the cutes. But then the third act kicks in, and everything gets terrific. ANDREW WRIGHT