38TH ANNUAL PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
See "Get Out of This Place," Film, Feb 4. Not all films were screened for critics. Screenings take place at Cinema 21, Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Moreland Theater, NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, Roseway Theater, and World Trade Center. For showtimes and a complete list of films, see nwfilm.org.
10,000 KM (Spain)
She goes to LA, he stays in Barcelona, and Skype does what it can. Smart, bittersweet, and occasionally really hot (Game of Thrones' Natalia Tena is still not the slightest bit camera shy), with a genuine feel for how innocuous pillow talk can quickly turn serious and/or sour. ANDREW WRIGHT
Lonely Gloria (Lola Dueñas) meets swindling lothario Michel (Laurent Lucas) online, and helps him scam innocent women—but her growing sexual obsession leads to MURRRRDERRR. Based on actual 1940s serial-killing couple Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, this bloody, psychological horror film is oh-so-artsy and has the splatter tropes down pat, but planting the story in modern times feels false and misogynistic. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Belle and Sebastian (France)
Kids (and adults who can tolerate 'em) will love this movie about a French boy and a feral dog he befriends in the Nazi-occupied French Alps. It's gorgeous and sweet and full of adventure... even though it's hard to stop worrying whether the dog is going to make it out of the film alive. The titular twee band makes no appearance. COURTNEY FERGUSON
Beloved Sisters (Germany)
Beloved Sisters initially resembles a ponderous, indulgent European costume drama, what with all the fetching frock coats and languorous sighs. But the 170-minute production feels downright sprightly thanks to energetic editing, an attractive cast, and rapid-fire banter. It's like if Aaron Sorkin wrote 18th century German erotica and thought women were interesting. BEN COLEMAN
Black Coal, Thin Ice (China)
A disgraced cop finds himself drawn to a beautiful murder suspect when some new bodies begin to pile up. The jabs of dark humor and extremely assured style (check out that lulu of an early gunfight) help paper over the sense that everything may not quite fit together. ANDREW WRIGHT
The Dark Valley
A mysterious stranger brings spaghetti western vengeance to the Austrian Alps. The Dark Valley has atmosphere and gore to spare, but doesn't really start humming until the final reel, capped by some memorably bizarre end credits. Viewers with an aversion to eye trauma may want to sit on the aisle. ANDREW WRIGHT
Horse Money (Portugal)
Pedro Costa's latest plays like a feed from the mind of its lead character, as he pores over his tortured past on his deathbed. Scenes are fragmented and dreamlike; the dialogue mostly whispered. Though hauntingly beautiful, the film is a slow slog and, without some knowledge of Portuguese politics, often confusing. ROBERT HAM
I Am Big Bird (US)
Did you know that the man inside the Big Bird costume has been the same guy since the beginning? It's true! His name is Carroll Spinney, and I Am Big Bird documents his rocky beginnings with Jim Henson's Sesame Street crew to finding his calling as an eight-foot-tall bird and being just about the nicest guy around. ELINOR JONES
In Order of Disappearance (Norway)
In Order of Disappearance reunites Stellan Skarsgård with his A Somewhat Gentle Man director, Hans Petter Moland, for a darkly comic Norwegian revenge thriller about an ordinary snowplow driver (the native title translates as "Powerful Idiot") bumping off the mobsters who killed his son. It's bloody, violent fun that's somehow tasteful in spite of itself. ERIC D. SNIDER
Viggo Mortensen's a 19th-century Danish military officer searching for his elven girlfriend teenage daughter in a gorgeous, fearsomely barren Patagonia landscape, in what is apparently avant-garde director Lisandro Alonso's most conventional film yet. It's still weird as shit, with lengthy static shots, hardly any dialogue, deep focus, rich color, and a wispy narrative that ends with a Lynchian twist. I kind of hated this movie at first, pegging it as an unnecessarily arty mash-up of Meek's Crossing, Aguirre, and A Field in England. But by the end, I think I loved it. NED LANNAMANN
You're going to see a lot of weirdness in R100. There's a hint of The Game as a lonely man signs up for a secret bondage service whose dominatrices attack him in his everyday life. You're going to see 10 times more groin kicks than Nomi Malone ever delivered in Showgirls. Also echoes of Kill Bill's Crazy 88, Species, and James Bond henchwomen. It's a hodgepodge of very strange and humorous delights. It's also kinda gross. COURTNEY FERGUSON
Secrets of War (Netherlands)
Dutch boy BFFs growing up in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands attempt to mitigate the dangerous terrain accompanying the arrival of a beautiful girl with an asymmetrical haircut. I'm not going to insult your intelligence and pretend she's not a beautiful girl with an asymmetrical haircut in hiding. It's still a good time. And there's a baby pig in it. SUZETTE SMITH
What We Do in the Shadows (New Zealand)
A mockumentary (wait, keep reading) about vampire roommates (just a little further) from the Flight of the Conchords brain trust. Blissfully, consistently silly throughout (Jemaine Clement's virile Coppola posturing gets funnier with every frame) with some knowingly wobbly effects by Peter Jackson's gang that only enhance the giggles. ANDREW WRIGHT
The Age of Love
See Film, this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
Alan Lomax 100th Birthday Celebration
Mississippi Records presents a screening of rare footage from the Alan Lomax archive, featuring music from the Mississippi Delta, Cajun Louisiana, and Southern Appalachia. Hollywood Theatre.
American Sniper is basically The Hurt Locker rewritten for love-it-or-leave-it-style Americans who hate war movies that depict our enemies as actual people, rather than evil, swarthy stereotypes. However, unlike The Hurt Locker, American Sniper seriously lacks a sense of forward momentum and suspense... sooooo... hope that's not a deal breaker. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Australian horror movie The Babadook is gonna scare the babadook out of you. Writer/director Jennifer Kent's first feature is incredibly smart and insightful. Here's a horror film that's legitimately good (!), and has thoughts about the hardships of motherhood, the frustration of being a child, and the psychological dangers of tamping down feelings. COURTNEY FERGUSON Living Room Theaters, VOD.
The first live-action film Tim Burton has made without his bauble-spangled muse, Johnny Depp, since 2003, and a refreshing departure from the usual Burton world of guyliner and reaction shots. But as much fun is it is to see Burton warm up his frozen palette and leave goth camp for the sci-fi '50s (his perfect sandbox, strangely), he seems to have broken the knob off his volume control. VINCE MANCINI Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
There's no doubt that Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest is very clever about what it says. The question is if it has anything to say. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Black or White
This movie is two hours of black people walking up to white people and yelling "BLACK" and white people yelling "WHY YOU GOTTA MAKE IT ABOUT RACE" over and over again. IJEOMA OLUO Various Theaters.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
PRO: Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly. CON: Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi. ANOTHER PRO: Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly! Academy Theater.
Church of Film
Church of Film presents avant-garde director Shuji Terayam's Pastoral: To Die in the Country. Hollywood Theatre.
Fat Tuesday with Les Blank
Two films from documentarian Les Blank—1973's Dry Wood and 1978's Always for Pleasure—along with jambalaya, gumbo, and cornbread. Clinton Street Theater.
Fifty Shades of Grey
See Film, this issue. Various Theaters.
Life is pain, even in the gorgeous French Alps. What starts as a perfect family vacation goes hideously awry in Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund's darkly hilarious and/or darkly horrifying tale of a marriage on the rocks. Or maybe that should be "on the slopes"? I don't know. The important thing is that these people are fucked. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.
Harold and Maude
"The computer dating service offers you at least three dates on the initial investment. They screen out the fat and ugly, so it is obviously a firm of high standards." Laurelhurst Theater.
The Imitation Game
This Alan Turing biopic is a big, sepia-toned war drama designed to make audiences feel things. What it makes us feel, though, is not War Is Hell or Brotherhood Is Eternal or Human Spirit Triumphs Against Impossible Odds. It makes us feel the acute shittiness of a world in which a gay genius kills himself (spoiler) because his sexuality was criminalized by the very government that should have protected and celebrated him. It's the kind of feeling that makes you want to be a little bit nicer to the people around you—a modest end, but a worthy one. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The best mysteries are the unpredictable ones—and the unpredictable ones rely on quick-switches and surprise reveals, buried details and long-forgotten connections. So when I tell you that Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice has all of those things, and also that it flickers onscreen through a thick blur of marijuana smoke, it won't come as a surprise when I add that the movie makes hardly any goddamn sense. Maybe it does if you see it twice, or if you've read the Thomas Pynchon book it's based on, or if you—unlike me—possess enough foresight to sneak a joint into the theater. Or two, or three: Inherent Vice is two-and-a-half-hours long, and for some, that'll feel like a long time to be confused. For Inherent Vice's dubious hero, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), that feels like a long time to be sober. ERIK HENRIKSEN Cinema 21.
The phrase "Cinderella, but in space, and featuring Channing Tatum as a part-human, part-wolf with rocket boots" either appeals to you or it doesn't. So yeah: Jupiter Ascending will either appeal to you or it won't. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
See Film, this issue. Various Theaters.
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine
A documentary examining the life of Matthew Shepard through the eyes of those who knew him. Shepard's mother, Judy, will be in attendance for the screening on Sat Feb 14. More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
See Film, this issue. Living Room Theaters.
Brian Lindstrom, the director of Alien Boy, returns with a documentary about the Family Preservation Project at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Not screened for critics. Cinema 21.
Richard Linklater's Boyhood was last year's big, ambitious cinematic experiment with time, but in its way, Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner is just as concerned with time's passage. Where Boyhood strode more or less triumphantly into the future, Mr. Turner is more interested in how time passes once you're finished growing up. Middle age drags on until one day you're old; old age drags on until one day you're dead. It's slow and inexorable and the people around you won't notice it's happening, until they do: Has he always looked so old? In the end, all that matters to J.M.W. Turner (Timothy Spall) is that pigment and canvas will survive him—and for better and for worse, they do. ALISON HALLETT Cinema 21.
A pulpy rush that's shot to mirror the nocturnal, grainy world of freelancers who monitor the police scanner and speed to crime scenes to be the first one with sensational video. Unblinking and gaunt, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a fascinating misfit who discovers his strengths in this new, macabre calling. NED LANNAMANN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
A sci-fi horror flick from Joe Sherlock and "a strange trip into a small town where nothing is quite what it seems." More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
I'm all sorts of meh about this year's crop of Oscar nominated animated shorts. Usually they're bold, adorable, and fun, but this year... not so much. The strongest, Me and My Moulton, by Norwegian Canadian Torill Kove, is a lovely, bittersweet look at her childhood in 1960s-era Norway. Take my indifference about all the other nominees with a grain of salt, though, because Disney's entry wasn't included as a screener: By all accounts, Feast (which is currently showing before Big Hero 6 in theaters) is an adorable short about a Boston terrier named Winston and the many meals his owner treats him to over the course of his life. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
Yep. Oscar nominated documentary shorts. Not screened for critics. Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
Oscar Nominated Shorts
Say what you will about this year's milquetoast Best Picture Oscar nominees, but the directors and stars of the nominated live-action shorts are a veritable rainbow of diversity. We got ladies behind the camera, Tibetans in front, and three women leads, including Sally Hawkins, who acts her wonderful face off in The Phone Call. It's not often that the live-action shorts outshine the historically more sprightly animated ones, but this year they're a special batch, full of joy, humor, and warmth. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
Portland Black Film Festival
The third annual Portland Black Film Festival, curated by Ariella Tai and David Walker, focuses "on the important contributions to cinema of African American women directors." This week's screenings include 1992's Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (screens Sun Feb 15) and, in conjunction with Rerun Theater, footage from Soul Train featuring the "very best of the female singers or female-fronted bands of the '70s and early '80s" (Wed Feb 18). Festival runs through Sat Feb 21; more at hollywoodtheatre.org. Hollywood Theatre.
A monthly series "showing vintage and contemporary films that are obscure, neglected, and from the fringe." This month: Curator Ian Sundahl shares his collection of contemporary and vintage 16mm erotic shorts. Hollywood Theatre.
Speak up at your peril: This sentiment punctuates Ava DuVernay's Selma, which takes on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr., James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and John Lewis. DuVernay's willingness to engage with this particularly American history of violence sets Selma apart—portraying a movement on film is an impossible task, but if DuVernay has succeeded, it's in the way Selma forces a kind of reckoning for its viewer. MEGAN BURBANK Various Theaters.
I don't know how you blow it when your movie includes Julianne Moore playing a witch who can turn into a dragon, but the makers of Seventh Son have managed it. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
She's Beautiful When
Thanks to single-sex education and a pre-adolescent indoctrination via New Moon magazine, the number of documentaries on the women's movement I've seen is legion. If you share my hobby, don't be dissuaded by the cloying title of Mary Dore's new documentary (or your suspicion that it's actually Makers 2: Still Making America), or else you'll miss a delightfully comprehensive take on the movement, with minimal levels of hagiography. MEGAN BURBANK Living Room Theaters.
& The Ultimate Flex Machine
A pair of rare 16mm skateboarding documentaries, one of which (Skaterdater) dates back to 1965 and was used as an educational film on pubescence, and the other (The Ultimate Flex Machine) about the scene in Australia in 1975. Hollywood Theatre.
Jonathan Demme's 1986 comedy with Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels. [Insert joke about it not being as funny as The Newsroom here.] Hollywood Theatre.
The SpongeBob Movie:
Sponge Out of Water
I didn't even realize this franchise was still a thing, all these years after 9/11 and the Iraq War destroyed the concept of childhood. But I guess I'm wrong? Because for the first time since 2004, there's a SpongeBob movie in theaters, and you could technically take yourself, or some children you know and kind of like, to see it! I did that. I wish I hadn't! DENIS C. THERIAULT Various Theaters.
See, in the early '80s, if you wanted to make a movie about how unfair society is to women, you had to put Dustin Hoffman in a dress to get your point across. The '80s were really high on cocaine. Like, a lot. Clinton Street Theater.
Twenty-first century romance on the screen is begging for redrawing of its genre lines, and newcomer Andrew Haigh might be the one to do it. Reminiscent of the films of Kelly Reichardt, Weekend is a work of grace and introspection, but one that's always present and candid. The space between expectation and reality guides Haigh's narrative, which follows two young British men who, after a boozed-up one-night stand, tenuously further their intimacy. WILL ELDER Fifth Avenue Cinema.
As a whole, Jean-Marc Vallée's adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's harshly beautiful memoir works phenomenally well, and at its best, it's as striking and intense as the book. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.