Festival runs through February 27, with to-be-announced "encore screenings" taking place on Sunday, February 28. Not all films were screened for critics. Films screen at the Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, Broadway Metroplex, and Cinema 21. For more info, see Movie Times, and nwfilm.org.
The Inheritors (Mexico)
This beautifully shot documentary studies groups of worker children in Mexico. We watch very tiny children do very hard labor without complaint; with no narration, no narrative, and almost no dialogue, we're meant to draw our own conclusion. (That conclusion being: child labor is wrong.) At 90 minutes, it's a bit of a chore to sit through—but that's probably the point. NED LANNAMANN
The Misfortunates (Belgium)
A surprisingly poignant story about four mulleted idiots sponging off their mom and casually corrupting the 13-year-old boy living with them. Grungy and beautiful, like it was shot on nicotine-stained Polaroids from the '70s,The Misfortunates honestly tackles the sadly hilarious challenges of growing up white trash. Who knew they spoke fluent Gresham in Belgium? BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERS
Nobody to Watch Over Me
A teenager is accused of murdering two children, and a cop is assigned to look after the suspect's 15-year-old sister.
This slow, quiet film is tough to describe—not much happens in the way of a plot, and we don't learn much about its two lonely main characters: A nameless, fiercely independent woman wanders Ireland until stumbling into the house and life of an equally isolated widower. SARAH MIRK
Like You Know it All
A film director "propels himself from one embarrassing situation to another." Just like Brett Ratner!
Looking for Eric (Great Britain)
Eric Cantona is one of the finest football (that's soccer to you, stupid American) players the world has ever seen, plus he's a bit of a badass. Think of him as the anti-David Beckham. Following a mental breakdown, sad-sack postman Eric Bishop (played to perfection by Steve Evets, former bassist for the Fall) is visited by a vision of Cantona, whose friendship and advice helps the struggling father of three get his life back together. Throw in some intense football obsession, drug-dealing bad guys, and a love story, and you have an absolutely charming film. EZRA ACE CARAEFF
Shameless (Czech Republic)
An unapologetic asshole cheats on his wife because she's got a massive nose, gets fired from his job as a weatherman, and starts banging the Czech equivalent of Celine Dion. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't live up to its absurd premise: 75 minutes of aimless, low-key comedy, five minutes of actual laughs, and one dead turtle. BOBBY "FATBOY" ROBERTS
Short Cuts IV
The Sicilian Girl (Italy)
A drama "inspired by the true story of a young girl who broke ranks to testify against the mafia." Wait—a mafia movie? From Italy? No way!
The cast is colorful and compelling: a controversial billionaire media mogul turned Italian prime minister, a Mussolini-sympathizing television agent with close ties to the PM, and a paparazzi extortionist turned national cult hero. The set-up for Videocracy seems all-too perfect—unfortunate, then, that the filmmakers can't seem to find it within their tangled mess of a documentary. ZAC PENNINGTON
The Wild Hunt (Canada)
The Lord of the Rings meets Lord of the Flies in this awesomely gruesome look at live-action roleplaying. Emo-kid Erik suspects his girlfriend might be cheating on him with her LARPing buddies, so he heads to the woods to track her down—only to find her dressed as a Viking princess, sharing a sweat-lodge with a sexy shaman. When he tries to win her back, the comic premise takes a convincingly nightmarish turn... let's just say heads are bashed. ALISON HALLETT
Woman without Piano (Spain)
A middle-aged woman stuck in the routine of daily life decides to leave her sleeping husband in the middle of the night and spends the next eight hours wandering the streets in this slow-paced Spanish film. And yes, she is largely without piano. ALI REINGOLD
Yang Yang (Taiwan)
A coming-of-age story about a Eurasian model.
Runs through March 6. Unless otherwise noted, films screen at PCC Cascade. Free admission. More info: africanfilmfestival.org.
From a Whisper
A drama about the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Nairobi.
A film about the friendship between two families, one Muslim and one Jewish.
Paris or Nothing
"Suzy will do anything to leave her native Cameroon for Paris, but when she finally achieves her wish, it is only to learn that Paris is not the paradise she dreamed it would be." WAY TO DISAPPOINT, PARIS.
Sex, Okra, and Salted Butter
A satire from Chad about African ex-patriots living in France. (Which is probably a disappointing place to live.)
Yandé Codou, La Griotte de Senghor
A portrait of Yandé Codou, Senegal's first president-poet. Preceded by Senegalese Women and Islam.
2010 Oscar Nominated
The animated short films are the fun-size candies of the Oscar nominations—they're invariably delightful, short bursts of sweetness. It goes without saying that the Wallace and Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death is brilliant, with the prudent dog desperately trying to keep Wallace out of an unwise relationship with a mysterious blonde spokesmodel. Logorama is a heavy-handed, yet outrageously innovative and entertaining French film about a hard-boiled city constructed entirely of company logos, wherein the cops (all Michelin Men) hunt down a sociopathic fugitive on the run (trash-talkin' Ronald McDonald). Let's just say Adbusters found their new favorite film. It's a great group of films—not a stinker in the bunch. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
2010 Oscar Nominated
Live Action Shorts
There's one thing you can pretty much count on with the majority of the live-action short-film nominations for Academy Awards—incredibly earnest Important Topic Films. Modern-day slavery in India. The fun riot that is Chernobyl. A sniper run amok in an elementary school. Good times. But it's the comedic films that are the true standouts in this year's batch: The New Tenants, with Vincent D'Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan, about a gay couple who moves into a messed-up apartment building. And don't miss the Swedish short Instead of Abracadabra, a very funny (non-annoying, I swear) Napoleon Dynamite-esque riff on a loveable loser who yearns for the "gothic mystery and mayhem" of being a magician. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
"Make love? But no one's done that for hundreds of centuries!" Bagdad Theater.
See review. Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
A great film that centers around a grizzled slab of a man, on the waning sunset years of life, battling addiction and years of neglect to once again regain his faded glory. At his side, an inspiring young woman hides scars of her own even as she acts as the muse that triggers his valiant comeback. If all this sounds familiar, it is. It's impossible to ignore the fact that no matter how excellent Crazy Heart is, the screenwriter should pay royalties to Robert Siegel, writer of The Wrestler. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Various Theaters.
A prime cut of grade-A, red-state values porn. When Channing Tatum and his 1,000-yard stare return home to South Carolina, he meets Amanda Seyfried, a doe-eyed nurturer who is completely free of sin and compelling character traits. (When Tatum asks her if she has any faults, Seyfried admits that she curses at people in her head. How humanizing!) These two boring people throw themselves into a passionately milquetoast courtship ("I want to meet your dad—tonight!" Seyfried coos on their second date) before Tatum—a Green Beret—has to leave for a year to finish up his military service. No problem, right? Tatum and Seyfried may have only known each other for two weeks, but their fiery, under-the-shirt-over-the-bra love is eternal! DAVE BOW Various Theaters.
Four Seasons Lodge
A documentary about a colony in the Catskills where, every year, a group of elderly Holocaust survivors convene to spend the summer together—the closest thing many of them have to a family. They talk about the war, and the camps; they talk about their friends, and their jobs, and about how the lights in their cabin aren't working right; they talk about how to go on with life after seeing what they've seen. Plus, there's old-person dancing, which is about the cutest damn thing on the planet. Go see it, but good luck not crying your face off. ALISON HALLETT Living Room Theaters.
From Paris With Love
If John Travolta stars in a movie set in France, there are really only two ways the movie can go: Either he doesn't make the "Royale with cheese" joke, or he does. You'll be relieved to learn that in From Paris with Love, the new action flick from Pierre Morel (Taken, District B13), Travolta does make the "Royale with cheese" joke—not once, but twice. It's totally awkward and unfitting for the movie, too, busting down an already shaky fourth wall with a cheap laugh that'll only remind you how far Travolta has plummeted in the decade-and-a-half since his career resurgence with Pulp Fiction. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Harmony and Me
A dumped 30-something is "drowning in the familiar state of romantic loss where every song of despair seems written just for him." :( Living Room Theaters.
Seven Japanese schoolgirls visit a haunted house in Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 head-trip, which is quite simply one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. The effects are incredibly cheesy and the movie refuses to settle on a consistent tone, but Obayashi's visual style creates a wispy, sugary dream world that gushes with blood. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.
In a Lonely Place
Classic noir starring Humphrey Bogart, about a tempermental screenwriter suspected of murder. Cinema 21.
The Last Station
While the expression "behind every great man is a great woman" has rightfully fallen into disuse, The Last Station is based on just such a historical formulation: the turbulent relationship between Leo Tolstoy and his wife, Sofya. This, though, is no tale of stoic devotion, of wifey tending the fires while her husband is out sowing his genius. Sofya Tolstoy (fiercely portrayed by Helen Mirren) is indeed devoted to her husband—they've been married for 50 years, during which time she's served as his supporter and secretary, famously copying multiple drafts of War and Peace by hand. She is also utterly determined to see his legacy preserved, in a manner that befits both of their labors. Leo and Sofya's grand, crumbling passion is depicted with unerring emotional precision by Plummer and Mirren. ALISON HALLETT City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
At its goofy best, Percy Jackson feels like a fun episode of Hercules or Xena, and is about as well made. This is the sort of movie where, when the heroic teen protagonists board a Greyhound bus to begin their journey to Hades, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" plays over the soundtrack; later, in a casino owned by the mythical lotus eaters, a satyr does a choreographed dance routine with a bunch of skanky Vegas showgirls to "Poker Face." Percy Jackson, you might have started out as a soulless and calculated Harry Potter knockoff, but apparently, you know me well: Give me a cool fight against a hydra and a stoned-out-of-his-mind satyr dancing to Lady Gaga, and you've won me over. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Saint John of Las Vegas
See review. Fox Tower 10.
The sort of movie where supposedly smart characters do idiotic things; where lightning dramatically flashes to underscore plot developments; where things lunge from shadows not because it makes sense for them to do so but because... well, lunging is just what things in shadows do. Director Martin Scorsese seems eager to try out some time-honored genre clichés: The music jolts, character actors offer dire warnings, and for its first hour or so, Shutter Island is, if not scary, satisfyingly creepy. I won't spoil how it ends, but suffice to say there's a shot of DiCaprio screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" at the heavens, and also that the climax would be considered pretty shoddy even by M. Night Shyamalan's standards. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
James Gunn's horror comedy Slither stars the always-charming Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, that one crime show on TV where he plays a writer or something) as a sheriff whose small town is overrun with alien slugs. It is funny and goofy and bloody and clever. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fifth Avenue Cinema.
To Pay My Way with Stories
Local filmmaker Brian Lindstrom (Finding Normal) looks "inside the unique Portland non-profit corporate Write Around Portland." Director in attendance. Cinema 21.
A Town Called Panic
Good luck getting the kids to settle down for a movie with subtitles. Adults won't fare much better with this spastic, meandering stop-motion adventure that boasts pretty designs but rinky-dink animation. ANDREW R TONRY Hollywood Theatre.
Maybe the easiest (though not the cheapest) way to make a decent romantic comedy is through sheer quantity. Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, and Taylor Lautner are just some of the stars on the exhaustingly big ensemble cast of Valentine's Day. Touching on multiple generations and scenarios, this film is like a mash-up of at least six different movies, and its interconnected characters aren't on screen long enough to get annoyed with them. Sure, the something-for-everyone feel-good strategy is transparent, and not every joke works, but there are honestly funny moments and effective tearjerkers, too. If you're going to indulge/withstand one corny Hollywood flick in the name of this month's holiday, you'll come through this one unscathed. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The White Ribbon
See review. Fox Tower 10.
Youth in Revolt
The hero of C.D. Payne's classic young-adult novel Youth in Revolt—and the new Michael Cera-starring film of the same name—is Nick Twisp, a bright but bitter young teenager ("even John Wayne on a horse would look effeminate pronouncing that name," Payne writes). His parents are separated, hostile, and generally unfit; his best friend Lefty (Erik Knudsen) is so named because his "erect member takes a sudden and dramatic turn to the east about midway up the shaft"; and Nick himself is entirely and unremittingly obsessed with sex, despite meager prospects of ever actually having any. When Nick meets the beautiful and brilliant Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), he creates an alter ego, Francois Dillinger, who coaxes Nick into living dangerously—stealing cars and making moves on the irresistible Sheeni. But a lot happens in Payne's plotty, 499-page novel, and screenwriter Gustin Nash is undone by his efforts to cover as much ground as the book: There's car theft, cross dressing, a road trip to a girls' school, and more. The result is more muddled than madcap. ALISON HALLETT Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater.