8: The Mormon Proposition
A must-see for all Americans facing political battles for rights and freedoms. This call-to-action documentary digs deep into the political machinations of the Mormon Church—the driving force behind the surprising success of California's Proposition 8—exposing the manipulations involved in denying rights to gay couples and the church's history of persecution of homosexuals. (That this same church was once persecuted for its own mating practices is an irony not lost on the filmmakers, who are apparently former Mormons themselves.) While the Proposition 8 part of the film and a later part of the film that deals more with the Mormons' treatment of gay church members almost seem like different movies, they work together to paint a picture sure to fill you with emotion. Angry, incensed, and quite possibly vindictive emotion. BRAD BUCKNER
A Drag King Extravaganza
See Film, this issue.
Edie & Thea:
A Very Long Engagement
Conventional meets taboo in this cute-as-a-button documentary about two women who fell in love and grew old together. They're blind to each other's age, but were smokin' hot in the '60s. You'll probably cry. STEFAN KAMPH
Le Tigre: On Tour
Feminist and LGBT rockers Le Tigre made a name for themselves in the early- to mid-aughts by mixing their dance-pop with an inclusive, empowering creed. This humor-infused film documents their last tour together and gives insight into the band's origins and message. NOAH "THE INTERN" DUNHAM
See Film, this issue.
Out in the Silence
Amateur handheld digital production, while not always pretty, lends itself to the sincerity and charm of this doc about being gay in Oil Town, Pennsylvania. Schools that turn a blind eye to homophobic bullying, religious proselytizers with radio pulpits, and well-funded national "family values" organizations are practically part of the scenery in rural America. But here, a brave teenager and his mother fight the school board, a lesbian couple works to give back to the community, and an evangelical pastor gradually befriends Out in the Silence's filmmaker, giving us a sense of hope that progress can be made even in Anytown, USA. BRAD BUCKNER
Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls
This documentary studies a pair of elderly yodeling lesbian twins from New Zealand who perform country-comedy songs in a variety of terrible costumes that would make Benny Hill blush. The Topp sisters, while tireless champions of gay rights and very nice-seeming ladies, hinge their thick-accented humor upon an intimate knowledge of rural farming life in New Zealand. I was baffled from start to finish. NED LANNAMANN
See Film, this issue.
William S. Burroughs:
A Man Within
If any insight's gained watching William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, it's the realization you should live life so that your documentary will not only include John Waters and Jello Biafra, but also a "snake master" and a gun expert. Not bad for a disappointing, disjointed film about a troubled and talented addict. PATRICK ALAN COLEMAN
A documentary that follows "adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraces the epic 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia." Hollywood Theatre.
Martin Scorsese's forgotten 1985 comedy, featuring Griffin Dunne, Bronson Pinchot, and Cheech and Chong. (You think we're making this up, but we're totally not.) Clinton Street Theater.
A Sundance-approved flick in which a man (played by director Linas Phillips) drives a '76 Volkswagen van across the country. We're guessing some life lessons are learned. Hollywood Theatre.
The Best of the Northwest
Film & Video Festival
The Northwest Film Center's annual roundup of highlights from their Film & Video Festival. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Casino Jack and the
United States of Money
When Jack Abramoff is released from prison late this year, he will not benefit from having been out of sight, his crimes a fading memory. Instead, the former lobbyist who contributed to massive levels of corruption in the US government is the subject of not one but two 2010 films chronicling his breathtakingly expansive crimes. One is a dramatized biopic starring Kevin Spacey, due in early fall. The documentary version, by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), Casino Jack and the United States of Money, preps you for the whirling scope of what you're in for. Truth be told, there's simply too much information crammed into Casino: even with director Gibney's expeditious filmmaking tactics it's hard to synthesize the significance of every transgression before the film moves on to the next. MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
The Edge of Heaven
The Edge of Heaven stands on the verge of more than just the celestial. With one disingenuous foot in the "hyperlink" style of filmmaking—in which several seemingly disconnected plot threads are told out of time, only to conclude with an "a-ha!" finale that unites them—writer/director Fatih Aiken misleads the audience with the assumption of such a solution. His characters, meanwhile, search for and narrowly miss each other, keeping them on the edge of the kind of "heaven" found in closure as well. When the film ends, it's abrupt and unfinished, and ultimately induces a pang of recognition in the messy, bottomless, and cyclical condition of life. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
With the way street art has moved in the last 20 years—deep into the crass, stupid logic of high-priced art—it's a relief and a minor miracle to experience major projects that are more than egotistical spectacles. Don't believe me? Watch Exit Through the Gift Shop. It's a hilarious and brilliant movie by the elusive British street artist Banksy, telling the story of "street" "artist" Mr. Brainwash, possibly the dumbest dangerous artist living, if he even is who he says he is (some question whether he's another Banksy act, which would be delightful). Mr. Brainwash, in the film, is Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman with a penchant for saying things like "Everything that I do, somewhere, brainwashes your face." The basis for his art—very big, very expensive (he sets his own prices, of course) colored prints and paintings—is celebrities and consumer products. If Warhol threw up, and then Damien Hirst threw up on top of that, and then the throwup threw up, Mr. Brainwash's work would be the result. And yet hundreds of people show up to his openings, buy the art, and pronounce how happy they are that this art isn't all snotty and exclusive. Here the banality is actually banal. The brainlessness is not ironic. The hype is the only meaning. Two hundred kids are standing in a line to get into the show because 199 other kids are standing in the line. In the film, Mr. Brainwash makes Banksy—who can be ingenious but has not been above an empty publicity stunt (painted elephant? Really?)—look like a monk. Banksy comes across as the smartest guy in the movie. Go figure: He directed. But Exit Through the Gift Shop is not a grisly dissection of the hump that has metastasized on the back of street art since it became popular. It's a funny-as-hell comedy. When Banksy was challenged about the veracity of the film, his defense was: You think I could have made that up? JEN GRAVES Fox Tower 10.
Get Him to the Greek
See review this issue.Various Theaters.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy, and a bestseller in Europe and the US. The new film adaptation centers on the unlikely relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth, a journalist and a young hacker who team up to investigate a long-unsolved mystery—and the pathological misogyny that is apparently endemic to Swedish culture. But even at 152 minutes, no insights emerge, other than that women get raped and murdered a lot. It's a shame, too—Girl is beautifully shot, and Mikael and Lisbeth are odd, sympathetic characters. I just wish their investigation didn't involve quite so many pictures of naked, mutilated dead women. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird
See review. Cinema 21.
It's about time writer/director Noah Baumbach wrote a full-fledged character study, because his attention to the details that make up a personality is peerless. Baumbach's last movie, Margot at the Wedding, relentlessly catalogued the anxieties and quirks of two estranged sisters—but while the depiction of family dynamics was razor sharp, Margot's characters were so generally unpleasant that by the time Jennifer Jason Leigh pooped her pants in the woods, it was hard to care how all that meticulously detailed moping would be resolved. With Greenberg—in which Ben Stiller plays an unstable New York carpenter who's just relocated to LA—Baumbach tempers his lacerating insights with a humor that recalls his excellent 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. ALISON HALLETT Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.
Director Fatih Aiken's fabulous cinematic tragedy that shows how love destroys two people and then builds them up again. Cahit (Birol Ünel) is a Turkish man living in Germany. When life's burdens becomes too much to bear, he drives his car straight into a stone wall. When he comes to, Cahit finds himself in a mental institution, and he's being pursued by a beautiful, young, and suicidal girl, Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) who begs him to marry her. Cahit is baffled, and Sibel is manic, and eventually, romance and tragedy strike. Putting aside all the dramatic events that occur, in the end, Cahit and Sibel's tale is heartbreaking and relatable, and better than just about any love story I've seen. KATIE SHIMER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
An action comedy flick starring—shudder—Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl. Mercifully, it was not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Owen Wilson voices the dog from the funny pages in yet another "talking CG animal" flick marketed to halfwit children. Not screened for critics. Various Theaters.
Mother and Child
There's no shortage of racism and sexism in much of what Hollywood squeezes out, but it usually seems more lazy than malicious: kung fu-fighting Asian sidekicks, boy-addled blondes. Mother and Child distinguishes itself in that its bias is systemic, propelling all the plot's moving parts. This is a movie about the singular experience of motherhood, and the bond between mother and child. Its myopic view of that relationship, and its insistence that disaster results when that bond is severed, gives Mother and Child a staggeringly, offensively narrow view of the ways that women can define "family." ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
Prince of Persia:
The Sands of Time
Someday videogame movies will have their Ghost World, their American Splendor—a breakout film that will bring a marginalized medium a degree of mainstream recognition. Maybe Jake Gyllenhaal will even star in that movie. But in the meantime, courtesy of Disney and the guy who directed Mona Lisa Smile, videogames make another predictably awkward transition to the big screen in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time—a movie whose primary selling points are Gyllenhaal's admittedly compelling abs. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
At long, long last, the Rush documentary you've been waiting for! Cinema 21.
The Secret in Their Eyes
Secret plays games at its outset, toggling between past and present and teasing the audience with setups that make it difficult to determine what's real and imagined. It takes its time getting to the point: Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín) is a retired "federal justice agent" in Argentina obsessed with a rape and murder case he tackled 25 years prior. He decides to write a book about it, and as he peels back the layers on his earlier investigation alongside the woman he carries a torch for, Irene (Soledad Villamil), and his tragically alcoholic colleague Pablo (Guillermo Francella), he stumbles onto new clues to the case's mysteries. It's a fair but obvious criticism that the film is indecisive in its focus, and that even its finale leaves questions and motives in the balance. But it is a richly textured film, bordering on epic. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
Sex and the City 2
Sex and the City 2 is basically the gayest fan-fiction ever put to celluloid: familiar faces in new settings, guest stars (Miley! Liza! Tim Gunn!), and lots and lots of bad wordplay. It's a sequel with, for better or worse, tremendous affection for its characters, which goes a long way toward watchability—and while real fans may consider this bit of fanfic a non-canonical outrage, this outsider thought that, for what it is, it was just fine. DAVE BOW Cinetopia, Cornelius Stadium Cinemas.
The curious setting of Mexican director Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light is a Mennonite community outside of Chihuahua. Plautdietsch, a German dialect associated with Prussian Mennonites, is spoken throughout the film, and the women wear dresses and headscarves reminiscent of conservative Amish attire. They do, however, eat tacos. If the plot is somewhat uneventful (barring a confusing and unsatisfyingly vague final act), the film is a visual masterpiece. The camera's slow gaze only occasionally feels gratuitous, and every frame is a feast of nature, lighting, and complexion. Silent Light is an increasingly rare style of film—the sort that one senses was not created to cater to its audience, but to challenge it. MARJORIE SKINNER Fifth Avenue Cinema.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Ray (David Roberts) is having an extramarital affair with Carla (Claire van der Boom), and the two hatch a plot to run away with a bag of money stolen from Carla's mulleted dirtbag of a husband. It's worth mentioning that Ray and Carla are both guileless up to this point—they're naïvely and genuinely in love with each other—and when their plans unravel, the spiraling repercussions are immense and almost absurd. The Square follows a gripping, increasingly intense coil of a plot, resulting in an exhilarating, grimly hilarious, and surprisingly moving film. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre.
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY
"Wolfies fine, honey. Wolfies just fine." Presented by pdx.fm's Cort and Fatboy. Bagdad Theater.