It might be easier to explain Annihilation by telling you what the movie isn’t. It isn’t a comedy, that’s for sure. Nor is it a period-accurate costume drama. Beyond that, though? Annihilation could squeeze into just about any label you give it: a horror film; a science-fiction flick that toys with the possibility of extraterrestrial life; a wilderness adventure; a romantically yearning character study; a chilling, painfully suspenseful mystery; a “message” film about either the environment or male toxicity, depending on where you feel like directing your anger; an abstract, allegorical art piece with long stretches of dialogue-free visuals. However you classify it, Annihilation is the best kind of cinematic experience—one that floods the senses without battering them into submission, and one that moves the mind and heart without manipulating them. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
★ B-MOVIE BINGO: BREAKAWAY
Your monthly opportunity to literally check off a bingo card full of B-movie clichés! This month: The cinematic debut of would-be-ingénue Tonya Harding, fresh off her skating disgrace and ready for two days worth of filming on Breakaway, a direct-to-video hunk of ’90s trash starring Joe Estevez (Martin Sheen’s brother!) as a hitman out to recover stolen mob money that Tonya’s managed to procure. While you’re watching, you might be thinking “Hey, it really sounds like someone’s just reading Tonya’s lines to her off-camera and she’s just blandly repeating them.” Guess what: You’re right!. But the asswhippings she’s handing out? 100 percent unadulterated Harding, baby. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
★ BLACK PANTHER
Marvel movies get a bad rap for their cheesy dialogue, disjointed plots, and CGI-crowded battle scenes. But you never know when they’ll drop a gem. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is one huuuge gem, and comes closer to achieving truth and realness in its story than any Marvel film has before. Fully embracing its Blackness, the film smartly toes the line between history and fantasy. JENNI MOORE Various Theaters.
★ BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT
You know what the trick is to enjoying this endlessly-praised, virtually plotless, depressingly beautiful neo-noir? It’s a trick the members of its cult often learn by their third or fourth viewing—Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard is a giant piece of shit, and he also really sucks at his job. Once you stop expecting anything resembling “heroics” out of him, and realize you definitely shouldn’t be rooting for him, the film’s focus naturally shifts to his shared targets, Roy Batty and Rachel, and that’s when the ponderous, accidental genius of Ridley Scott’s film locks in and takes hold. That all-timer of a score by Vangelis doesn’t hurt, either. BOBBY ROBERTS Clinton Street Theater.
★ BROADCAST NEWS
It’s more than a little astounding that in 1987, when James L. Brooks wrote and directed Broadcast News, it played fairly realistically. Sure all the sitcom-y contrivances of your basic love triangle come into play, but the performances by Albert Brooks, William Hurt, and especially Holly Hunter (maybe the best thing she’s ever done, which is really fuckin’ saying something) provide so much richness and depth that it all feels authentic and believable. But 2018, it plays like a flight of fancy—imagine a newsroom like this even beginning to exist today. Imagine anyone in it caring this much. Imagine the days, 30 years gone now, where this tableau felt vibrant and alive, and not like remains of an abandoned culture. Broadcast News was always a little wistful. Now it’s almost as elegiac as it is comedic. Part of Hollywood Theatre’s Feminist March series; see Film, this issue. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
A 1998 documentary about Tim “Speed” Levitch, an eccentric New York City tour guide. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Is... is Bruce Willis supposed to be smirking his way through this? I know that’s sorta his default setting in anything that isn’t a Wes Anderson movie now, but it’s a Death Wish remake, yunno? It’s not fuckin’ Hudson Hawk II. Or hell, maybe it is! It’s not like the studio screened it so we could confirm otherwise. Anyway, good luck at your white guy revenge fantasy revival! Various Theaters.
★ ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
John Carpenter has made better movies than this over his long and incredibly varied career, and he’s definitely made worse (cough—Ghosts of Mars—cough cough), but 1981’s Escape From New York could be the most Carpenter of all Carpenter’s films, the one most consistently peppered with the director’s signature touches. If, by some weird happenstance, you haven’t seen one of his films before (that’s crazy), Escape is the best introduction, primarily due to Kurt Russell’s career-defining performance as Snake Plissken. BOBBY ROBERTS Academy Theater.
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
Daniela Vegas’ amazing face—even her most muted expressions communicate visible thoughts—carries most of the weight of A Fantastic Woman, Sebastián Lelio’s endurance piece of a movie. Even in nominally progressive media like Transparent, cisgender men are often cast as transwomen, so it’s somewhat revolutionary to see Vegas, who is transgender, play transgender singer Marina, whose mourning for her dead partner, Orlando, is disrupted by brutal treatment from Orlando’s bigoted family and the police and hospital workers handling his body. There’s a lot of rhetorical and physical violence in A Fantastic Woman, and all of it is hard to watch (and almost enough to make you wonder at what point depicting abuse leveled at a marginalized character becomes more exploitative than instructive). But a strain of emotionally startling fancy pushes A Fantastic Woman away from gratuitous pain and into the surreal, with moments that are visually striking and frame Marina’s inner life and reserves with the respect they deserve. MEGAN BURBANK Cinema 21.
Outliers like Girls Trip and The Big Sick notwithstanding, the comedy-movie genre is probably in its worst shape ever, so when Game Night achieves the bare minimum—making you laugh—it’s downright refreshing. The plot, not that it matters, involves Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams and a group of friends trying to solve a puzzle mystery that may or may not include Bulgarian gangsters, Fabergé eggs, and the kidnapping of Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler). Is it all a game? Is any of it real? I 100 percent guaran-fucking-tee you will not care. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
IDA LUPINO ON FILM
A celebration of one of the most remarkable women in Hollywood history—an arresting screen presence, a confident businessperson, and the only woman in the 1950s studio system to progress from actor to director to producer. Throughout March, the Hollywood will screen 35mm prints of her most notable works, including The Hitch-Hiker (Sat Mar 3), On Dangerous Ground (Thurs Mar 8), and They Drive By Night (Wed Mar 21). Hollywood Theatre.
In terms of how heartfelt it is, Mute is an unmitigated success. The Netflix-released film from Moon and Warcraft director Duncan Jones is almost painfully personal, as evidenced by the dedication at its end, which acknowledges the two parents who raised him: his father, David Bowie, and his nanny, Marion Skene, both of whom died in the past two years. (His estranged and living mother, Angie Bowie, is not mentioned, although one can guess by the behavior of some of Mute’s more nefarious characters as to how he feels about her.) That’s why the critical trouncing of Jones’ odd and admittedly far-from-perfect science-fiction flick has been so hard to watch: Despite its narrative ungainliness and the across-the-board miscasting—Alexander Skarsgård’s mute bartender/artist being the main offender—there’s a blockbuster’s worth of ideas packed into these overstuffed two hours, and Jones’ combination of visionary tech and raw-nerve emotion is wholly admirable. Here’s hoping audiences can give Mute a few years to mellow into something wonderful, and movie studios can give Jones more runway to tell his unique, affecting stories. NED LANNAMANN Netflix.
★ PHANTOM THREAD
A phenomenally fucked-up romantic comedy, Phantom Thread manages to be pitch-black funny and profoundly disconcerting, sometimes within the same scene. Novelistic, mean, and funny, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is unlike anything else out there, and it’s great. At least, I thought so? As the end credits rolled, a distressed lady in front of me huffed out, declaring, “Well, that’s not the kind of love I like.” Fair enough, lady! But there’s more truth in Phantom Thread’s love—a kind of love that’s as unavoidable as it is frightening and co-dependent—than in most feel-good films’ soulless romances. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
As the robber barons in charge of America attempt to isolate our country from the rest of the world, the Portland International Film Festival makes its annual cinematic case for humankind’s inherent interconnectedness. The 88 feature films and 48 shorts that the NW Film Center has collected will pack Portland theaters, bringing a can’t-eat-it-all smorgasbord of movies from every corner of the globe. While the diversity of this year’s lineup outlines how privilege, race, and geography can divide us, the films themselves successfully argue that many of our struggles and ambitions are universal. See “The Best Movies to See at the 2018 Portland International Film Festival” [Film, Feb 14]; for complete schedule, see nwfilm.org. NED LANNAMANN NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.
PORTLAND MUSIC VIDEO FESTIVAL
Despite the preponderance of old farts thinking “I remember when MTV played music videos” is either observational or funny, the art of the music video (and it is an art) is healthier than it’s ever been. Who needs MTV when YouTube, Vimeo, and a bevy of online platforms make watching (and rewatching) videos so easy (You’ve seen that new Janelle Monae joint, right? Damn.) The Portland Music Video Festival not only champions the best videos from around the world, it provides an opportunity to see them on the big screen—and just as importantly, to hear them on a massive surround sound system, as opposed to through the earbuds you have crammed in your head while trying to ignore all the shitty men crowding you on the bus. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.
TRAGOS: A CYBER-NOIR WITCH HUNT
Director Antero Alli’s turn-of-the-21st-century allegorical thriller is set in a San Fransisco populated by “technopagans,” who find themselves at the center of a murder mystery that doubles as a culture clash between technology, humanity, and religion. Director in attendance. Clinton Street Theater.
★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, March 2-Thursday, March 8, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.