A Dirty Shame
Dir. Waters
Opens Fri Sept 24
Cinema 21

There are more euphemisms for "going down" in the first 30 minutes of John Waters' new movie, A Dirty Shame, than I've heard in my entire life. From the beginning of the film onward, Waters' uses his usual subtlety (ha!) and nuance (double ha!) to take on the world of sex addiction.

Waters tells the story of Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman), a worn-out, uptight wife and mother who doesn't understand her husband Vaughn's (Chris Isaak) sexual urges. By day, Sylvia works at the family owned convenience store, and by night she attempts to keep her daughter, Caprice (Selma Blair) out of sight. (Caprice--who once had the stage name of "Ursula Udders"--has had her breasts enlarged to mountainous proportions.)

But on her way to work one day, Sylvia accidentally gets whacked on the head... unleashing her dormant sex addiction. Enter Ray-Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville), a hedonistic tow-truck driver hell-bent on helping Sylvia ascend to her position as the 12th apostle of his rockin' sexual fetish cult.

This is classic John Waters fare: dirty (it's rated NC-17), funny, wild, and weirdly educational. If you're a Waters fan, you won't be disappointed. If you're not, well... you've been warned. MICHAEL SVOBODA

dir. Various
Opens Fri, Sept 24
Hollywood Theater

The Third Annual Portland International Short Short Film Festival demonstrates the best and the worst in short film. For some of the 18 selections (including six from Oregon), the fest's requirement of a running time no longer than 10 minutes feels exceedingly overbearing--but other filmmakers manage to make even that meager timeframe stretch ad infinitum.

The good ones: "A Whole New You" takes a sympathetic and funny look at alienation; the abstract "Stall" is disconcertingly beautiful; and "Say When," while overly dependent on its final frames, is still rather enjoyable. But the crown jewel here is "Each One Teach One," which documents an ex-con who now teaches art to troubled youth; subtle and moving, "Each One" is a reminder of the hard, fast punch that short film can throw.

That said... man, some of these really suck. "To Whom It May Concern"--directed by "Kristina B. Nameless"--is the cinematic equivalent of painfully bad high school poetry; "Split Pea Soup" can't decide whether to be boring or merely pointless; "Runaway Bathtub" would be considered overly simplistic by the Sesame Street crowd; and "Solitaire" is so pretentiously ham-handed that it should be re-titled "A Good Time To Get Up and Buy Popcorn or Take A Leak."

The remainders are middling--they're solid filler, and while they're hardly amazing, they (like the piss-poor selections) are worth sitting through to get to PISS' worthwhile shorts. ERIK HENRIKSEN

The Forgotten
Dir. Ruben
Opens Fri Sep 24
Various Theaters

Sadly, an entire movie cannot be carried by the beauty and stature of its lead actress--in this case, Julianne Moore. Sorry, J.MO--I do love you--but The Forgotten is a bland, convoluted mess that's more of a recycled episode of The X-Files than a feature film.

Moore stars as Telly, a woman who can't get over her young son's sudden disappearance. Things take an odd swing when everyone around her starts telling her that her son never even existed. Faced with being put in an institution, J.MO starts running. She runs through the streets of New York, through airplane hangers, through dream sequences...

At some point in her marathon, Telly hooks up with Ash (Dominic West) a hunky dad who has also "forgotten" his daughter. Together they try to find out just what the heck is going on, doing their best Mulder and Scully impressions.

It's depressing to see director Joseph Ruben and screenwriter Gerald DiPego steal so heavily from another source, yet still try to pass the product off as something original. Wait a minute--maybe they've been afflicted with the same problem as their protagonists, but instead of children, they've forgotten a certain TV show.... Perhaps if you ask them, they might insist that The X-Files never even existed. MICHAEL SVOBODA