HEY! FILMMAKERS! Two local film festivals are now accepting entries, and the deadlines are coming up soon! Salem's Willamette University Film Festival is accepting films until March 1 (hit www.willamette.edu/news/04_05/44.htm for more info). If that's too soon, the Forest Film Fest (www.forestfilmfest.com) is accepting entries until April 15. So get filmin', you lazy bastards.
* Appleseed I wouldn't ever say that Appleseed is a "good" movie, but I would say that it's a "fucking awesome" one. (Erik Henriksen)
* Bad Education If Hitchcock's Vertigo collided head-on with a drag queen variety show, the brilliant wreckage would be Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education. (Ryan Dirks)
Because of Winn-Dixie Based on a children's book about a smiling dog who befriends a lonely little girl and brings back to life a depressed Southern town, this film will largely be remembered only as Dave Mathews' acting debut. (Andrea Chalupa)
The Best of Empty Noggin Comedic short films from the folks at Empty Noggin.
Bigger Than the Sky A cute movie about a community theater group, filmed in Portland. It stars the guy who played Aidan on Sex and the City, some skinny blonde chick, and a lead actor who gives a performance that's reminiscent of the retarded Corky from Life Goes On. (Katie Shimer)
The Chorus In The Chorus, the French take on a favorite American theme--dedicated teacher turns society's outcasts into the upright citizens of tomorrow (see: Sister Acts I and II, The Mighty Ducks I, II, and III, etc.). Sure, it's cheesy--but it's French cheese, stinky, unpasteurized and tasty, without the plastic, mass-produced quality of most American shit. (Alison Hallett)
* Constantine "You're fucked," archangel Gabriel tells John Constantine. As God's messenger, Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) is in a position to know. But Constantine (Keanu Reeves) isn't quite ready to give up. Sure, he's doomed to go to Hell for committing murder--but in a futile effort to get back on God's good side, he spends his life as a sort of chain smoking Ghostbuster, performing bed-shaking exorcisms and fighting computer-generated demons in equal measure. (Erik Henriksen)
Cursed Some Mercury "Fun Facts!" about Cursed: It has something to do with werewolves. It's directed by Wes Craven. It stars Christina Ricci, Portia de Rossi, Lance Bass, and Scott Baio. While filming, it halted production and underwent extensive rewrites/reshoots, to the point where entire plot elements and characters were changed. Press screenings were abruptly cancelled last week. (Just so we're clear, none of the above Mercury "Fun Facts!" bode well for the film.)
Diary of a Mad Black Woman Kimberly Elise stars as Helen, the housewife of powerful attorney--who, on her wedding anniversary, gets tossed to the curb. Conveniently, there's a packed U-Haul out front (so that's why it was parked there!) along with a hunky driver, Orlando (Shemar Moore). Lacking money and friends, Helen returns to her old neighborhood and, with the help of her zany, gun-toting grandmother (played by Tyler Perry, who also adapted the screenplay from his stage play), starts over. Diary is on the tolerable side of the rom-com genre--Elise is less cloying than your Meg Ryans and Kate Hudsons--but it's still a rom-com and, if you're not into those, it's puke-tastic tripe. (Will Gardner)
East African Shorts Three shorts from East/Northeast Africa: The Father, Surrender, and The Marriage of Miriamu. Selections of the 15th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films. Free Form Film Festival See My, What A Busy Week! page 13.
* Inside Deep Throat 1972's infamous skin flick showcasing Linda Lovelace's talent for fellatio became a lightning rod for national controversy. Inside Deep Throat looks at the film and its lasting legal, cultural, and financial repercussions. (Erik Henriksen)
* Joanie 4 Jackie The film portion of Reed College's Arts Week is kicked off with a film from Joanie 4 Jackie, a unique filmmaking group which compiles, archives, and distributes women's films in a sort of VHS chainletter format.
La Promesse A young son and his father make a living renting apartments to illegal immigrants and then taking advantage of them through various other scams.
Last Time I Saw Paris A writer (Van Johnson) recalls his life in Paris. Features Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Gabor, and Roger Moore.
The Life and Times of Sara Baartman & The Return of Sara Baartman Two films about Sara Baartman, a South African woman who was taken from her home in 1810 and ignorantly exhibited across Europe as an example of racial inferiority and black female sexuality. Selections of the 15th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films.
Live Freaky! Die Freaky! A puppet porn musical is a great idea--in theory. And Live Freaky! Die Freaky! pushes that theory to the limit. A filthy-talkin' claymation retelling of Charles Manson and the murder of Sharon Tate (voiced by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Theo Kogan of Lunachicks), LFDF is at first reminiscent of the creepy puppetry of The Brothers Quay, delving into the insanity of both Manson and the materialistic society that spawned him. And while the musical numbers and sex scenes are fun, the second half grows increasingly tedious in its forced offensiveness, killing off its initial intellectual integrity. (Wm. Steve Humphrey)
Madame Brouette A romantic comedy taking place in Dakar. A selection of the 15th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films.
Man of the House Holy shit. A "by-the-book Texas Ranger" (Tommy Lee Jones) teams up with a "streetwise preacher" (Cedric the Entertainer) to protect five murder witnesses/"uncontrollable college coeds"--who also happen to be University of Texas cheerleaders! (Those excerpts are from the official press release, an illustrious document that also reveals the film's original title was Cheer Up. Needless to say, this film wasn't screened for critics.)
Meet John Doe Frank Capra's film--starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck--in which a political movement grows around a fake letter from a man threatening to kill himself because of society's problems.
* Melvin and Howard Jonathan Demme's 1980 movie about a loser kid who inherits a fortune from Howard Hughes.
NW Rockypalooza If you're one of those people who can't get enough Rocky Horror, then here's your Mecca--the third annual NW Rockypalooza, a giant gathering with Rocky merchandise, live performances, swarms of other fans, and the "world's longest pre-show."
Peaceable Kingdom HIPPIE ALERT! Peaceable Kingdom is about a cattle rancher and dairy farmer who became "animal advocates," which is code for "loud-mouthed vegetarians." What's more, this screening is sponsored by the "Northwest Vegetarian Education & Empowerment Group," an organization which sounds like it comes from a bad SNL sketch--yet apparently actually exists.
Sky Blue See review this issue
* The Smurfs and the Magic Flute Part of the Mercury's Prozac Film Series! See My, What A Busy Week! on page 13.
Student Film Screening Students of the Northwest Film Center's Art of Filmmaking class show their stuff. Une
Femme Est Une Femme Godard's tale of a stripper (Anna Karina) who, after her boyfriend (Jean-Claude Brialy) refuses to get her pregnant, goes after her boyfriend's friend (Jean-Paul Belmondo).
Visuals 2.05 A film and music festival featuring local filmmakers and musicians.
Crónicas (Equador/Mexico) A yawningly cursory psychological thriller set in Ecuador, Crónicas tells the tired tale of an exploitative celebrity journalist (a particularly flat John Leguizamo) on the trail of a serial child slayer. Were it not for the subtitles, Crónicas is the sort of film you'd expect to see filling time in syndication on Sunday afternoon--poor in both performance and execution. (Zac Pennington)
Deep Blue (Britain) Fish! Doing stuff! (Warning: Younger Free Willy fans may be upset by the repeated bloodthirsty depiction of killer whales as complete and utter bastards.) (Andrew Wright) Don't Move (Italy) A surgeon (Sergio Castellitto) recounts a love affair with a young woman (Penelope Cruz) as his daughter lies in the hospital after a serious accident.
Dutch Light (Netherlands) A film examining the long-held idea that the light in Holland is somehow unique, as evidenced by the paintings of Vermeer and Rembrandt.
Flying Classroom (Germany) Five boarding school friends fight bullies, play music, chase girls, and keep their favorite teacher from getting fired. There's not a scrap of originality in the entire movie, but it's cute and funny enough to be worth seeing--particularly since this remake of the 1954 original has been retro-fitted to include the nerdiest rap sequence I've ever seen in my life. (Alison Hallett)
Imaginary Heroes (US) A syrupy, sniveling little formula-fest posing as an art house film. It takes virtually every single element taught in Indie Filmmaking 101, chops them up, and packages them in a shimmering wrap of meaningful glances and tender strains of music. The story revolves around the requisite dysfunctional family unit (dealing, of course, with its requisite tragedy)--with its repressed MILF Sandy (Sigourney Weaver), its sexually confused-but-lovable teenager Tim (Emile Hirsch), and its remote, embittered patriarch Ben (Jeff Daniels, who needs to face the fact that he will never give a better performance than he did in Dumb and Dumber). (Justin Sanders)
In Your Hands (Denmark) A novice prison chaplain (the marvelous Petrine Agger) becomes increasingly affected by a mysterious inmate rumored to have healing powers. Not the usual women-in-prison flick, this production promises an emotional marathon from frame one and nails it, effortlessly juggling effective melodrama with serious matters of faith. Strong, vital stuff, with a lingering sadness that not even a frustratingly enigmatic ending can wreck. (Andrew Wright)
Insaat (Turkey) A black comedy about two construction workers in Istanbul who end up digging graves and hiding bodies for the mob.
Ladies in Lavender (Britain) Two old sisters (Judy Dench and Maggie Smith) find a handsome young man washed up on shore, and take him in to care for him.
Moolad (Senegal) A film about Africa's female excision. Moolad focuses on Coll (Fatoumata Coulibaly), the wife of a village elder who refuses to have her daughter undergo the procedure.
* Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (Japan) See My, What A Busy Week! page 13.
Nobody Knows (Japan) Occasionally endearing--in that annoying sort of way that orphan children can be--Nobody Knows is a simple and true story: Keiko is a self-centered party girl who (oops!) happens to be a mother to four children (all from different dads). Mysteriously absent for weeks on end, she leaves her oldest son, a patient and precocious 13-year-old, in charge. And, while she's gone, there is one primary rule (which being Japanese, all the kids adhere to): That no one but the son may leave the cramped apartment. The acting is remarkable in a hypnotically boring sort of way, and ultimately, the film drags from nearly three hours. Had an hour been lopped off, Nobody Knows would be decently engaging. As it is, I couldn't make it through the whole film. (Phil Busse)
* Or (Israel) Or (Dana Ivgi) is an Israeli teenager who works to support her drug-addicted mother, Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz), locking her inside to keep her from turning tricks for cash. As Or's life grows more complicated, she slowly begins to follow in her mother's footsteps. This heart-wrenching film is subtly acted, impeccably paced, beautifully shot, and will make you want to kill yourself. (Ryan Dirks)
* Porco Rosso (Japan) An anime set in the 1930s, about a pig who also happens to be an aviator and bounty hunter. From legendary anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, who's so fucking good that it's not even funny.
* Producing Adults (Finland) She wants a kid. He doesn't. Both parties are willing to go to psychotic lengths to get what they want, which makes you wonder: Does this couple love each other or are they just insane lunatics? Soon enough--and equally bizarrely--this story turns from a battle of the sexes thriller to a lesbian love story. The film is filled with amazing characters and crazy situations (especially intriguing is the scene where the original couple is forced to wear orange suits that look like condoms and walk into the sea). I loved this movie because it's completely demented, but in the end, totally sweet. (Katie Shimer)
Schizo (Kazakhstan) The fact that Kazakhstan has a selection in the film festival is enough of a feat that I'm not going to talk too much shit about this film. That said, the story moves slowly through a short period in the life of a teenage boy called Schizo (Oldzhas Nusupbayev), who may or may not have schizophrenia. The boy is involved in some shady dealings, from finding victims to fight to the death in spectator matches, to stealing money, to humping chicks, to murder. All this sounds more exciting than it is, and overall, the film suffers because few of the characters invoke compassion or concern, save for one charming young kid who spends hours wearing goggles and diving for change in a bathtub. (Katie Shimer)
Shape of the Moon (Netherlands) A tale of three generations of a Christian family who live on the outskirts of Jakarta. Short Cuts IV More PIFF-approved shorts from all over the world.
Somersault (Australia) A 16-year-old girl (Abbie Cornish) hits on her mom's boyfriend, gets caught, and runs away to a mountain town. Drama ensues.
* Tell Them Who You Are (US) Haskell Wexler is a legendary cinematographer with a reputation for genius, leftist political involvement, and one hell of an ego. This documentary, by his son Mark Wexler, follows him through his cantankerous day-to-day life and interviews old friends and co-workers like Sidney Poitier, Ron Howard and George Lucas. Wexler's career is fascinating, but his strained relationship with his son fills the film with laughs and sympathy, as he often turns the camera on his son and berates him for poor lighting choices. This is a must for Wexler fans, but will be enjoyed by all. (Ryan Dirks)
Tropic of Cancer (Mexico) A documentary about poor families in central Mexico, who must rely on primitive hunting--checking traps in the desert for small animals--in order to survive.
* Travelers and Magicians This charming, philosophical film takes place in Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom in Middle of Nowhere, Asia. Dondup (Tsewang Dandup) is a young man who's just been given an important position in his village, but consumed by the pop cultural influences that filter down to him, he dismisses it in exchange for an opportunity to go to the U.S. He doesn't get very far before a monk (Sonam Kinga) and several other ad hoc travel companions capture his interest, particularly the monk, with his story of another young man's parallel adventure and subsequent folly. A pleasant clash of modern attitude and traditional wisdom, Travelers and Magicians is a subtly engaging film with a quiet, simple message, leaving just enough give in its construction for the viewer to conclude their own version of the point. (Marjorie Skinner)