See review. Various Theaters.
20 Feet From Stardom
A documentary that turns the spotlight away from the biggest music stars of the last 60 years and onto their backup singers. These singers—often women, mostly black—are responsible for some of the most memorable sounds of popular music. Most of us don't even know their names. 20 Feet from Stardom is fabulous for its music, interviews, and amazing concert and studio footage spanning several decades. But it's more than just eye candy for wannabe rockers and sentimental boomers; it also asks some big questions about fame, art, and giving credit where it's due. ELINOR JONES Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
48-Hour Film Project
A selection of Portland's entries from the 48-Hour Film Project, in which teams of local filmmakers had two days to create a short film. Hollywood Theatre
About 111 Girls
A "darkly comic road movie" from Iran. Whitsell Auditorium.
See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 17. Hollywood Theatre.
The Bling Ring
With its monotonous succession of nightclubs, elegantly overexposed housing developments, and fancy closets, The Bling Ring is a disappointingly unambitious retelling of the fame-hungry Bling Ring's gossip-related crimes. As Sofia Coppola's camera lingers over her protagonists' vanity and self-infatuation, it's clear she's fascinated by the motivations of their real-life counterparts—and, presumably, with the sociological implications that their crimes underscore. Problem is, Coppola never manages to translate that fascination into something greater than a sumptuously composed episode of TMZ. ZAC PENNINGTON Bagdad Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
See review. iTunes, On Demand.
First you have to get over the weirdness of watching porn in a movie theater with a bunch of strangers. Then you have to move past the idea that all porn involves ladies with giant boobs uttering stilted dialogue while being penetrated by enormous dicks. But if you can get over those two things, then maybe CineKink is for you. The New York-based kink-and-sexuality film fest is chockfull of hardcore flicks made not for the furtive-trenchcoat crowd, but for people who want to be loud and proud about diverse types of sex. This year's selections include a shorts program ("Best of 2013") and a psychological drama (Remedy). SARAH MIRK Clinton Street Theater.
Set in Chile, Crystal Fairy is a case of hipster vs. hippie: Jamie (Michael Cera), controlled and controlling, is inflexible and dictatorial in his pursuit of fun, while Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) is kind and embarrassing and uninhibited. But while its main characters aren't particularly likeable, they're also incredibly well-drawn and recognizable types, and the film functions beautifully as a two-pronged personality study of two ugly Americans looking for what they think they need, far from home. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
The Dark Crystal
The Gelflings might be the most annoying Muppets in history. With their dreamfasting and Skeksis baiting, Jen and Kira are the only two inhabitants of the world Thra who can tolerate each other—with everyone else electing to leave this mortal coil by throwing themselves upon the merciful lobster claws of the Gathim. Besides having their essence drained and speaking gibberish to animals, the Gelflings roam the countryside communing with flowers, talking about the healing powers of crystals, walking their dog, Fizzgig, and playing with Kira's fairy wings, exactly like that insufferable hippie couple you knew in college. COURTNEY FERGUSON Academy Theater, Burnside Brewing Co.
Despicable Me 2
I don't know... it's probably fine? You probably hoped that your children would have more discerning tastes than fart jokes and merciless cartoon violence by now, but kids are dumb and the worst, and it's literally going to make $500,000,000 regardless of what anybody says, so whatevs? ZAC PENNINGTON Various Theaters.
Drive-in at Zidell Yards
You know that place under the Ross Island Bridge where no one ever goes? Well, the NW Film Center is showing some movies—including Jaws, Blue Velvet, and Dazed and Confused—down there! Weird. Possibly cool? But weird. Zidell Yards.
An inspired-by-true-events thriller from Washington filmmaker Megan Griffiths. Director in attendance. Whitsell Auditorium.
Whichever way you turn the movie, it catches some light: This way, the plight of millennials; that way, the stylistic nods to French New Wave. There's a whole trend piece to be written about the young female writers (star Greta Gerwig co-wrote the script) who are changing the way women are depicted in popular entertainment, and then there's parsing how this generous, optimistic film fits into the context of writer/director Noah Baumbach's previous work. What a tremendous relief it is to find a movie that acknowledges that women are interesting—that a woman can be the protagonist in a story that doesn't end in romance or a makeover, and that all the vitality and confusion and excitement of being young can be refracted just as well through a woman as a man. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
It's a few hours into New Year's Day 2009, and a transit cop stands over 22-year-old Oscar Grant and his friends in the aftermath of a fight on a commuter train. The cops are indelicate, impatient. The men struggle back. Grant, in handcuffs, is dumped onto his stomach. Suddenly, in the chaos, one of the cops fires his gun into Grant's back. The crowd wails at a needless and visceral homicide. The picture fades out. In real life, Grant's death—and the pale justice that followed, with the cop who shot him serving merely 11 months for manslaughter—sparked riots. But it's only then, when we know how Grant's story ends, that Fruitvale Station—a dramatized retelling of the day that preceded Grant's death—can finally begin. DENIS C. THERIAULT Various Theaters.
Getting to Know YouTube
Local presenters fire up YouTube and explore "the boundaries of what tubes and you were meant for." Hollywood Theatre.
See review. Hollywood Theatre.
I'm So Excited!
Pedro Almodóvar's latest is shallow, asking nothing from its audience; as aimless as the aircraft it takes place on, it's a commitment-free diversion that is pleasant enough but dwarfed by the long shadow of Almodóvar's superior works. It also, uncomfortably, smells a bit like someone's lost touch—its brand of sexual boundary pushing is dated and occasionally insensitive (date rape meet-cute, anyone?). MARJORIE SKINNER Cinema 21.
In Bed with Ulysses
See review. Whitsell Auditorium.
Inside Czech and Polish Animation
"Works from the veterans, the mid-careerists, and the emerging forces" in Czech and Polish animation, with an accompanying lecture by curator Miriam Harris. Hollywood Theatre.
Laugh Out Loud Short Film Fest
Nine short films that promise "edgy adult humor." Clinton Street Theater.
Only God Forgives
Nicolas Winding Refn's follow-up to 2011's very nearly perfect Drive is very far from perfect. If one element of Drive stuck in audiences' memories, it was its hazy, druggy atmosphere: Ryan Gosling, then a nameless driver, staring into the distance, or gazing lovingly at Carey Mulligan, when he wasn't dispensing righteous bursts of violence. In Only God Forgives, that equation has been switched; the violence takes the forefront and is usually the opposite of righteous. Going for levels of horrific gore and lurid blood that he hasn't reveled in since his Pusher trilogy, Refn zooms in, tighter and tighter, on his characters' psychological and physical mutilations. A friend I saw Only God Forgives with described the experience as "excruciating." I didn't offer a defense. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters.
In anyone else's hands, Pacific Rim would've been a generic blockbuster; in Guillermo del Toro's, it's something thrilling and fun and weird. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
PDX Loves Japan
A "Japanese movie and sake festival," with films preceded by sake classes taught by sake brewer Gordon Heady and experts from Biwa, Yakuza, and other restaurants. More info: mcmenamins.com. Mission Theater.
Scores of Shorts
Short films and clips with live musical accompaniment. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
A top-secret screening for supporters and members of the Hollywood Theatre. *fingers crossed* please be Doc Hollywood, please be Doc Hollywood Hollywood Theatre.
Sex Worker Film Series
A series offering "the best films by and about sex workers." This installment: Live Nude Girls Unite!, about the unionization efforts of the employees of San Francisco's The Lusty Lady. Clinton Street Theater.
Oh goddammit, America. Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
The Smurfs 2
After several long seconds of deliberation, we decided to not make anyone watch this film. Various Theaters.
James Cromwell shoulders all of the emotional weight of this quiet but affecting true story of Craig, a retirement-age farmer who clashes with bureaucracy and legal hoops while building a house better suited to the needs of his wife, Irene (Geneviève Bujold), who is rapidly succumbing to dementia. As boring as that sounds, Cromwell gives a steady performance as a stubborn and imperfect man (the moments when he loses patience and swears at his wife's inability to remember are cringe-inducing) taking a final stand against the cluttering bullshit of the civilized life he's always sought to avoid. Other than the complaint that Irene is relatively underdrawn, this is a proud, rare, and appropriate tribute to the wisdom of elders. MARJORIE SKINNER Living Room Theaters.
Stories We Tell
With Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley takes on the art of documentary—and not only makes something human and impactful, but folds the genre in on itself. Ostensibly, Stories is a study of Polley's family, centered on her mother, Diane, who died of cancer when Polley was 11. With almost cold calculation, Polley puts virtually everyone in her family—siblings, father, aunts, family friends—into the hot seat and tasks them with telling "the whole story": what Diane was like, what her relationship with her father was like, and far into the plot-thickening beyond. MARJORIE SKINNER Laurelhurst Theater.
The Time Being
A drama starring Wes Bentley (Ghost Rider) and Frank Langella (Masters of the Universe). Living Room Theaters.
The To Do List
Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is a nerdy virgin in Boise, Idaho, in 1993, i.e., totally mired in lameness. Realizing that she is awesome at everything except sex, Brandy makes it her mission to get all sorts of freaky before leaving for college. I am jealous of present-day high school girls who can feel inspired by the sex-loving, self-loving girl power at play here: As Brandy foreplayed her way around, nobody said she was gross, she never hated her body, and she never apologized for her experiences. Get it, girl. Go on. Get it alllll. More special than discovering uncircumcised dicks (could there be such a thing?) are the relationships between the women of this film (played, in addition to Plaza, by Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat, The O.C.'s Rachel Bilson, and Friday Night Lights' Connie Britton). While they're almost always talking about dudes, they aren't talking about pleasing dudes; they talk about their own wants, and pleasing themselves. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
The Way Way Back
Mainstream movies remind me of family reunions: inane dialogue, formulaic plots, and two-dimensional characters. The Way, Way Back felt so much like a family reunion that by the end, I was ready to get drunk with my cousins and forget it ever happened. ROSE FINN Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Moreland Theatre, St. Johns Twin Cinemas.
DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND ME. The Wolverine is not what cinephiles with monocles will call a "good" film. It is, however a film that contains the following things: Hugh Jackman being gruff and charming, usually without a shirt! An angry silver robot! A snake lady? Prophetic mysteries. Ninjas! Samurai swords. The best bit of self-surgery since Prometheus! Honor. (Ugh, so much honor.) Beautiful Japanese ladies! BOOM! A nuclear explosion. A love hotel. Wolverine living in a cave, looking and probably smelling like a filthy hobo. More ninjas! Grumpy yakuza! A friendly grizzly bear! For real: You will get your money's worth. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
"I worked with Freud in Vienna. We broke over the concept of penis envy. Freud felt that it should be limited to women." Screening as part of the NW Film Center's Top Down: Rooftop Cinema series.