THE BLACK STALLION
It’s no Equus, but it’ll do in a pinch. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
A digital restoration of the film John Waters calls "the greatest Christmas movie ever made." You might be thinking "John Waters is a freak, so what does that mean?" It means he prefers his Christmas films to be slashers about deranged toy factory employees who find out Santa isn't real and in response, kill the shit out of everything in a five-mile radius. If that sorta thing doesn't turn your crank, you can always watch A Christmas Story for the three-billionth time, I guess. Hollywood Theatre.
Coco, the new Pixar film that’s set in Mexico during Dia de los Muertos, handles the subject of death with humor, lightness, and depth. The “Coco” in question is the oldest living relative of the film’s young protagonist, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), but the story is driven by Miguel’s passion for becoming a musician—and the conflicted relationship he has with his family, who label music as “bad” for reasons he has yet to learn. But Miguel is tenacious when it comes to performing (“I’m gonna play Mariachi Plaza if it kills me!”), and after his abuelita smashes his guitar, Miguel steals the guitar of a famous ancestor. Since taking from the dead is a big no-no—especially on Dia de los Muertos—Miguel crosses over into the Land of the Dead. JENNI MOORE Edgefield, St. Johns Twin Cinemas.
COMING TO TERMS
Director Jon Jost hosts a screening of his film about a death in an American family, a death that not only fractures the relationships, but the narrative of the story itself. Hollywood Theatre.
★ THE DISASTER ARTIST
Don’t come to The Disaster Artist looking for answers. James Franco’s film about the making of The Room probably won’t resolve your biggest questions about Tommy Wiseau, the writer/director/producer/star of that infamously bad 2003 movie. Rather than craft an exposé, Franco embraces Wiseau’s inscrutability while drawing a vivid emotional portrait. At first you think it’s going to be a sniggering, get-a-load-of-this-guy takedown, but Franco’s Wiseau—while enormously funny—is given surprising depth and complexity. Despite all the jokes it cracks at The Room’s expense, it eventually becomes clear that everyone involved in The Disaster Artist has deep affection for Wiseau’s weird, wretched movie. NED LANNAMANN Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Cinema 21, Evergreen Parkway 13.
Akira Kurosawa doesn't have just one masterpiece on his resume, he has something closer to like, eight or nine of 'em. And while Seven Samurai is the boisterous one, and Ran is the heaviest, Ikiru is the quiet, contemplative, and profound one. Loosely inspired by Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Illyich, Ikiru focuses on a career bureaucrat who sees his own end rushing to meet him, attempts to glean a measure of meaning from his existence before it ceases, and finds it in the creation of a neighborhood playground. The result is a film that is simultaneously uplifting, inspirational, clinical, and devastating. BOBBY ROBERTS NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
JUST GETTING STARTED
Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, Tin Cup) tries his hand at a Midnight Run-ish-sorta thing, even going so far as to get Joey Pants in the film. But instead of a salty ex-cop protecting a prissy accountant from the mob, this one's about an ex-fed (Tommy Lee Jones) helping protect a mob lawyer (Morgan Freeman) from attempted assassination. Co-starring Rene Russo, an amazing screen presence that Hollywood has never really known what to do with, and is probably utterly wasted here, because lord knows she should be doing something more than playing her umpteenth romantic foil, especially to either ancient-ass Cragface McScowlhead or Batman's old-as-fuck IT department. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters<.
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 Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
★ KUNG FU THEATER: INVINCIBLE KUNG FU LEGS
This month’s installment in Dan Halsted’s ongoing celebration of all things whoop-ass is the only known 35mm print of the wonderfully titled Invincible Kung Fu Legs from 1980, which gets even more wonderful when you learn it's about a "kickfighting expert" (kickfighting!) who seeks redemption by training a princess in the art of having invincible legs for kung fu! Invincible legs will come in handy when some wronged asshole with a thirst for murder shows up in the name of revenge, which is how roughly 98 percent of all kung fu movies go, this one included. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ LADY BIRD
Watching Lady Bird is kind of like reopening your high school yearbook for the first time in years, wincing and smiling in equal measure. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is sweet, tragic, and sentimental, which is exactly how a coming-of-age movie should be. CIARA DOLAN Hollywood Theatre.
★ LETHAL WEAPON
Remember when Mel Gibson wasn’t a huge asshole? No? Well, remember when he was at least a somewhat entertaining asshole at least? Like in the family holiday classic Lethal Weapon, where he’s a suicidal cop with a dodgy American accent who constantly endangers Danny Glover’s life and gets his ass wrecked by Gary Busey, of all people? You remember that one? (Sighs) It’s the one that starts with Woody’s girlfriend Kelly from Cheers, all topless and snorting rails, before launching off a balcony onto a car 20 stories below. Oh, now you remember it. You pig. Laurelhurst Theater.
“I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.” Clinton Street Theater.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION
“When Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!” Academy Theater, Bridgeport Village Stadium 18, Division Street, Evergreen Parkway 13, Lloyd Center 10, Regal Cascade Stadium 16 Cinemas.
★ PRICED OUT
Cornelius Swart’s Priced Out assembles a wealth of information about the history of gentrification in the Black neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland. This film is a follow-up to NorthEast Passage, a documentary Swart, a longtime reporter, co-produced in 2002; that film’s central figure, Nikki Williams, spoke in favor of gentrification. Priced Out juxtaposes Williams’ current perspective with the recent developments that have turned several Portland neighborhoods into playgrounds for white newcomers. It’s as fascinating to watch as it is devastating to comprehend. SUZETTE SMITH .
QUEER COMMONS: IMAGINE ME AND YOU
This month’s installment of the Hollywood’s queer-focused series is the 2005 romantic comedy Imagine Me and You, about a woman (Piper Perabo) who is about to get married to Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) when she spots Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) in the crowd and instantly realizes she needs to be with her instead. Hollywood Theatre.
★ QUEER HORROR: BATMAN RETURNS
Carla Rossi celebrates Queer Horror’s first birthday and the Christmas season by presenting Batman Returns, a film that checks the “horror” box with the presence of Danny DeVito’s grotesque, bilious Penguin, and fits under Queer Horror’s women-centric focus through the landmark performance of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. Batman’s (kinda) in the movie too, as the idealized self-insertion of director Tim Burton, which makes for a fairly inaccurate traditional adaptation of the character, but a fucking fascinating examination of the neuroses and fetishes that fuel one of cinema’s most famous Disney dropouts. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ THE SHAPE OF WATER
Guillermo Del Toro’s latest love story about misunderstood sympathetic monsters. The man has his niche. See our review in next week’s Mercury. Cinema 21.
Through the eyes of a satirist, the world of contemporary art museums is what one might call a “target-rich environment.” Pretense, hypocrisy, decadence—they’re all there, just waiting to be mocked. And the mercilessly acerbic Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, whose Force Majeure was one of the sharpest critiques of matrimony and masculinity in recent memory, would seem to be just the person to do it. And he does so in smart and entertaining fashion, at least until a drawn-out final act turns The Square from a sharp-tongued takedown into an example of the kind of high-minded narcissism it decries. MARC MOHAN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
★ THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Let’s talk about Sam Rockwell for a minute. There’s a lot of other talent in the awkwardly, memorably titled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Frances McDormand is predictably, fiercely awesome; Woody Harrelson demonstrates unexpected nuance; and writer/director Martin McDonagh takes his patented mixture of profanity and profundity to new levels. But I’d argue that Three Billboards is Rockwell’s movie. He takes a character who at first seems to be little more than a cartoon of a bumbling, racist cop, and transforms him into the moral center of a powerfully moral film. MARC MOHAN Cinemagic, Hollywood Theatre.
★ TOKYO GODFATHERS
After dropping back-to-back mindfucks with Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, Satoshi Kon’s third film, Tokyo Godfathers, is a comparatively straightforward story. For Kon, “straightforward” means a comedic Christmas adventure about a makeshift homeless family who find a baby in a dump and go searching for the parents. “Heartwarming” is not a word that typically applies to Kon’s filmography, but in this film’s charmingly skewed way, it fits here. BOBBY ROBERTS Clinton Street Theater.
WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM
Dusan Makavejev’s 1971 film is “part essay, part political inquiry, and part documentary on Wilhelm Reich.” Phew. NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, December 8-Thursday, December 14, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.