Fall Arts Calendar
The Stranger's Noncomprehensive, Only-the-Best Guide to Your Near Future
"Fall" and "arts"—two great things that go great together. Below you'll find Stranger editors' picks for the best of the best in visual art, music, readings, theater, and film in the next four months. These are only predictions, but if our selected shows aren't worth leaving the house/braving the rain/refraining from suicide to see, you can punch us in the face.
Portland's six-year-old Time-Based Art Festival is a throbbing knot of goodness. This year on the visual-art side, it includes appearances, performances, installations, and talks by artists from around the world, including the snarling, don't-call-her-a-feminist satirist Tamy Ben-Tor, the radical and vaudeville-influenced video artists-performers Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, Ryan Trecartin of the bedroom video epic I-Be Area, Seattle baroque-ceramic installation artist Jeffry Mitchell, L.A. master madman Mike Kelley, and Fritz Haeg, who makes animal estates. (Simultaneously at Reed College's Cooley Gallery is a promising-looking show called Suddenly: Where We Live Now, including Haeg, Hadley+Maxwell, and Eli Hansen and Oscar Tuazon.) Sept 4–14, visual art installations through Oct 4, various locations, Portland, www.pica.org, free–$25.
This little artist-collective gallery is always worth watching, and it has a particularly tasty lineup of the fresh and the familiar this fall. Through Oct 12 is Home Field Advantage, new member Matt Browning's images and sculptures dissecting masculine ritual and folly. From Oct 18–Nov 16, longtime members and best friends Anne Mathern and Chad Wentzel collaborate together on video and installation in response to "a stretch of solitude in the wilderness." All six members take over the gallery like a wild tribe from Nov 22–Dec 21. Crawl Space Gallery, 504 E Denny Way, 201-2441, free.
Such a wholesome name for a woman who has been painting giant porn shots for more than 35 years. She began in the heyday of early feminist art but was overlooked then (and rediscovered in 2003 at the Lyon Biennial, after which the Pompidou acquired three of her works) for the simple reason implied in the plain-Jane tag for her website: "Large scale photorealistic paintings of heterosexual intercourse." Straight sex filtered through porn was not exactly the stuff of early 1970s return-to-craftiness (such as Womanhouse) or antipatriarchy protest performance (such as Ana Mendieta's Rape/Murder). What's it good for now? See and decide in Fuck Drawings and Paintings. Through Oct 18, Lawrimore Project, 831 Airport Way S, 501-1231, free.
'Century 21: Dealer's Choice'
The dealers voted to come up with a contemporary regional overview of 49 Washington-based artists. They were only allowed to choose artists not in their own stables, and the resulting list is divided into three categories. There are emerging artists (those under 45—a 40-year-old artist who has been working 20 years is an emerging artist?), midcareer artists (45–55), and senior artists. You'll see everybody from Lead Pencil Studio to Alice Wheeler to Dale Chihuly. Sept 12–Nov 21, Wright Exhibition Space, 407 Dexter Ave N, 264-8200, free.
Like The Wrong Gallery, which was nothing more than a two-and-a-half-foot showplace behind a glass door in New York, OKOK Gallery in Ballard is launching a microspace—this one even smaller, in the drawer of the gallery desk. Its name: The Vatican. The first artist to have a show at The Vatican is Seattle's Iole Alessandrini. The show will include a flat-screen monitor that comes out of the drawer, a painting on the ceiling of the Vatican City in a perspective devised by Michelangelo and used by the church to encode secret documents, and a digital camera, so you can record your Vatican visit. Sept 13–Oct 5, OKOK Gallery, 5107 Ballard Ave NW, 789-6242, free.
The visiting show Napoleon on the Nile provides a glimpse of early-19th-century Egypt through the exoticizing eyes of conquest-hungry Napoleonites, who made paintings and prints to describe what they "discovered." Empire, organized by Frye Art Museum curator Robin Held, goes the other way, exposing how empires are built and destroyed in contemporary times in a series of projected works by the artists Dias & Riedweg, Halil Altindere, Paul Pfeiffer, Runa Islam, and János Révérsz and Norbert Szirmai. (In addition, the Frye itself will be turned into an interactive game board for one night, on Oct 17.) Sept 20– Jan 4, Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave, 622-9250, free.
Lari Pittman is a painter who was born in 1952, which is to say just as painting was about to go out of style, and not for the last time. (Neither has it stayed out of style.) But he's worked continuously, independently, in his little corner of visual culture—with his mashed-together visions including Pop-style commercial signs, biomorphic abstractions, computer graphics, folk art, and what critic Doug Harvey called "full-frontal Visa and MasterCard logos"—without much consideration for trends. Only now is he beginning to get the broad attention he's due. No wonder Seattle Art Museum is flying him up from his home in L.A. to talk; it should be a hit. (Next, please, a show of his work.) Fri Sept 26, Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, 654-3121, 7 pm, $8.
Not Yet Titled
This will be the loosest show to date at Western Bridge. The concept has something to do with landscape and light, but really it's an excuse to bring together Solange Fabião, who captures super-high-def sunrises and sunsets in the Amazon (and happens to married to architect Steven Holl); Claire Cowie, whose animalscapes are a hallmark of art-making in Seattle; Mary Temple, whose works "stop time" by making shadow paintings on existing architecture; and Susan Philipsz, whose under-the-bridge harmonies were a highlight of last year's Münster Sculpture Projects. Oct 2–Dec 20, Western Bridge, 3412 Fourth Ave S, 838-7444, free.
'WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution'
This will easily be the most thought-provoking art show to hit the region this season. WACK! is awe-inspiring for its ambition alone: Organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, it's the first show to demonstrate the early history of global feminist art from 1965 to 1980, including 120 artists working in paint, sculpture, performance, video, photography, and film. Dozens of unknowns show right alongside the dildo-toting, establishment-fucking heroes. Oct 4–Jan 11, Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC, 604-662-4719, $15.75 (Canadian).
In one of his many cunning thefts, titled Pyramid Rubbing (2007), this L.A. up-and-comer created an impression of the pyramid graph that Painter of Light™ painter Thomas Kinkade distributes to his salespeople so they can determine the value of the Kinkade they're trying to sell (painting versus printed painting versus type of print, etc.). Lipomi has also made chaotic sport of art-star types like Jeff Koons and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Is it a lame game or does this art have legs as well as roots? The Bellevue residency program Open Satellite brings him to the Northwest to make a show, curated by the Henry's Sara Krajewski. Nov 12–Jan 17, Open Satellite, 989 112th Ave NE, Bellevue, 425-454-7355, free. Artist lecture Wed Nov 12, Henry Art Gallery, 7 pm, free.
An electronic-music fest with multimedia embellishments and panel discussions, Decibel continues to solidify its world-class status in its fifth year. Over 100 artists—including Carl Craig, the Bug, Supermayer, Audion, Deadmau5, and Flying Lotus—representing 12 countries and many genres will converge in Seattle for a mind-expanding/body-stimulating experience. Sept 25–28, various locations, www.dbfestival.com.
Taking inspiration from great NYC artists like ESG and Konk, San Francisco's Tussle established themselves earlier this decade as a lean funk machine, with serpentine bass lines and metronomic makeshift drums to the fore. Recent lineup changes have pushed Tussle into a more dubby, spacious direction, with Kraut-rock and cosmic disco elements infiltrating their stark funk foundation. With Lemonade and Arbitron. Wed Oct 1, Comet, 922 E Pike St, 322-9272, 8 pm, $6, 21+.
Jamie Lidell is an experimental electronic knob-twiddler turned relatively traditional blue-eyed soul singer. But he still brings an engaging amount of futurist flair, as well as his own singular British charm, to his rhythm and blues. Live, he performs both solo, looping his own voice into layered tracks, and with a fully freaked-out backing band. With Janelle Monae. Fri Oct 3, Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave, 626-3151, 8 pm, $18 adv/$22 DOS, all ages.
It wouldn't be fair to put the sonically mesmerizing Sigur Rós in your average rock club, which is why the Icelandic outfit will be playing the gorgeous (aesthetically and acoustically) Benaroya Hall. Benaroya was built to house symphonies, chamber music, and other such intricate musicianship; Sigur Rós's epic, delicate compositions (and made-up language) should shake it to its core. Sun Oct 5, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, 8 pm, $37–$45, all ages.
Australian new new-wavers Cut Copy have scored one of the year's finest pop records with their new album, In Ghost Colours. Live, the band are equal parts dreamy and raving, deploying dark strobing dance beats, carefully styled synth and guitars, and euphoric if ephemeral choruses. With Presets and Heartbreak. Wed Oct 8, Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave, 626-3151, 8 pm, $16.50 adv/$18 DOS, all ages.
Against Me!, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The election will be just over a week away at this point, which will be the perfect time to see politically fueled punk rockers Against Me! and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Against Me!'s hook-ridden anthems still bear some of the grit of the band's Gainesville roots. Ted Leo incites dance riots with his guitar solos. Should the most recent polls not be going your way, tonight will provide a chance to unleash some pent-up tension. Fri Oct 24, Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave, 626-3151, 8 pm, $21 adv/$24 DOS, all ages.
Roky Erickson and the Black Angels
Few could've predicted the recent comeback of Roky Erickson, the wayward singer of the 13th Floor Elevators whose battle with mental illness was the subject of the 2005 documentary You're Gonna Miss Me. Miraculously, Erikson's tortured wail is undiminished by time and tribulation; it should sound especially searing backed by Austin psych droners the Black Angels. Tues Oct 28, Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave, 626-3151, 8 pm, $22 adv/$25 DOS, all ages.
In the 1960s, Tacoma band the Sonics pioneered, along with acts like the Wailers and the Kingsmen, the raw, red-lined rhythm and blues that became known as garage rock, singing songs about hot rods and surfing alongside ones about Satan and witches. In 2008, on Halloween, they play their first Seattle show since 1972. Fri Oct 31, Paramount, 911 Pine St, 467-5510, 8 pm, $26.50–$62, all ages.
DJ Spooky has remixed a Steve Reich piece, curated a reggae compilation of Trojan Records artists, and collaborated with Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. But even those endeavors don't fully encapsulate Spooky's range as a musician, disc jockey, and theoretician. His highbrow approach to beat science is always worthy of acute study. Sat Nov 1, Nectar, 412 N 36th St, 632-2020, 9 pm, $12, 21+.
Method Man, Redman
These veteran MCs starred in the 2001 stoner-comedy romp How High, but they've amply proven that their chemistry extends beyond celluloid to the stage and disc (see 1999's Blackout!). Wu-Tang Clansman Meth and Red's witty wordplay and gruff-yet-smooth flow reveal lyricists who rap with levity and gravity with equal aplomb. Wed Nov 5, Showbox Sodo, 1700 First Ave S, 628-3151, 8 pm, $25 adv/$30 DOS, all ages.
The King Khan & BBQ Show
If garage rock refuses to die despite getting long in the tooth, it's because of bands like the King Khan & BBQ Show. The Montreal group adhere to the genre's time-tested tropes, but they infuse them with so much ribald intensity that what should sound moribund surges to galvanizing life. With the Dutchess & the Duke. Thurs Nov 6, Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 9 pm, $12, 21+.
Modern Swedish psychedelic rock doesn't get any better than Dungen. Led by multi-instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes, Dungen perfectly balance the raucous and rococo, the flammable and the florid. Their music can blow your mind or cuddle your heart. Yeah, it's nothing new, but Dungen's sound pays vital homage to a heady era of rock. Fri Nov 7, Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 9 pm, $12 adv/$14 DOS, 21+.
Of Montreal's forthcoming ninth album, Skeletal Lamping, extends the funk odd-yssey launched on 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, with band leader Kevin Barnes transforming into stage persona Georgie Fruit, a black transgender sex machine in the vein of Prince's Camille alter ego. The touring production promises a stage show every bit as elaborate and bizarre as the album's backstory. Wed Nov 19, Showbox Sodo, 1700 First Ave S, 628-3151, 8 pm, $20, all ages.
The Hold Steady
At this summer's Capitol Hill Block Party, Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn performed the band's über-posi, hyperactive rock anthems with unrelenting giddiness. The dude loves playing music, and he loves the people who share that experience with him—awash with feel-good brotherhood, the Hold Steady live is the best basement show ever, singing along with all your friends. With Drive-By Truckers. Thurs Nov 20, Showbox Sodo, 1700 First Ave S, 628-3151, 8 pm, $26.50 adv/$30 DOS, all ages.
The New York Trilogy was a masterpiece, sure, but what has Paul Auster done lately? The truth is, he was going through a rough patch there (Timbuktu, a novel from the point of a dog, Mr. Auster? Really?), but his last three novels have improved in almost every way. They're stories about humans who have real emotions, which Auster hadn't done for a decade, and it makes for the best comeback-kid story since Philip Roth wrote American Pastoral. Thurs Sept 18, Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave, 386-4636, 7 pm, free.
Love him or hate him, Klosterman's newest move is pretty smart. Just when all the snotty publishing blogs pin him down as a pithy Andy Rooney for Generation X, he feints to the right and puts out a novel titled Downtown Owl. You've got to admire that kind of gutsiness—he could've coasted for another decade writing countless books of pop-culture essays. Mon Sept 22, Elliott Bay Book Company, 101 S Main St, 624-6600, 7:30 pm, free.
After the beautiful Housekeeping, it took 24 years for Robinson to write her second novel, Gilead. It was worth the wait; along with the praise of hundreds of critics, Barack Obama, a fine writer in his own right, declared Gilead his favorite novel of the past few years. It's only been four years and Robinson is back with Home, a companion novel to Gilead, and tonight she'll make a rare public appearance. Thurs Oct 2, Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave, 386-4636, 6 pm, free.
Since everybody in the entire world has read Neil Gaiman's American Gods (this year's Stranger Literature Genius Sherman Alexie says of Gaiman, simply, "I love him"), this reading by the fantasy author should be packed. Expect lots of people clutching well-worn copies of Sandman comic collections. Fri Oct 3, University Temple Chapel, 1415 NE 43rd St, 634-3400, 7 pm, free.
Deb Olin Unferth
McSweeney's author Unferth writes lovely short stories, but her first novel, Vacation, looks to be something truly beautiful. It's about a man following his wife as she follows a strange man. McSweeney's promises that, by the end of the book, "a dolphin swims free." Sat Oct 4, Ravenna Third Place Books, 6504 20th Ave NE, 525-2347, free.
Prose is one of our finest moral novelists. She writes books about people in tricky ethical situations who behave as you or I would behave—confusedly, but with the idea that we're doing what's best. She's one of the finest American novelists alive, and this Words & Wine event means that you can get plastered with her and ask her just why she's so goddamned brilliant all the time. Sat Oct 4, W Hotel, 1112 Fourth Ave, 632-2419, 6:30 pm, $50.
Terry Tempest Williams
Everyone loves Terry Tempest Williams, and for good reason: She writes stories that intertwine her own story with the land around her, which is exactly how it should be done. She's one of the most authentic and entertaining voices in environmentalist writing since Edward Abbey. Tues Oct 7, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 621-2230, 7:30 pm, $10–$50.
Often it's easy to forget about thriller writers; the publishing industry tends to promote the absolute worst of the genre just because those books are the most profitable. But Lehane, with books like Mystic River, writes about flawed and realistic people in unspeakably difficult situations. Every night, John Grisham should read all of Lehane's books and then cry the bitter tears of failure. Wed Oct 8, Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, 7 pm, free.
Spiegelman's latest, Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, has been a long time coming. Part memoir, part rumination on the art of comics, part grand master looking back on his own career, this is the kind of book that an artist in middle age should do. There are lots of really funny gags, too, which you maybe would not initially assume from the creator of Maus. Wed Oct 8, Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 634-3400, 7:30 pm, free w/purchase of book or $5.
Don't even get me started on Sarah Vowell. You've got a writer who's hilarious and is fascinated by great assassinations in American history? It's like God decided to make a perfect human being and give her a book deal. Her newest is all about the Mayflower, and it looks to be just as funny as Assassination Vacation. Swoon. Mon Oct 13, Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 624-6600, 8 pm, $5.
Hugo House puts together great events with a mixture of popular, critically acclaimed, and lesser-known writers. Tonight, awesome local author Matt Ruff (who wrote the transcendent Set This House in Order), Aimee Bender (who has written a genius novel and two stellar books of short stories), and poet Marie Howe (who would be the lesser-known quantity here) assemble to read original work on the theme of road trips. Fri Oct 24, Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, www.brownpapertickets.com, 7:30 pm, $15–$25.
W. S. Merwin
Here is a poem by W. S. Merwin, called "Lights Out": The old grieving autumn goes on calling to its summer The valley is calling to other valleys beyond the ridge Each star is roaring alone into darkness There is not a sound in the whole night.
Fri Nov 7, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 621-2230, 7:30 pm, $10–$50.
Updike is the King of American letters, and he never travels to read his work. In his Genius profile in this issue, Sherman Alexie says, "I don't walk around like John fuckin' Updike." This may be your only chance to see what John fuckin' Updike walks around like. Wed Nov 12, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 621-2230, 7:30 pm, $10–$50.
A reading about hurting by Sallie Tisdale (Talk Dirty to Me: An Intimate Philosophy of Sex), Richard Rodriguez (a Mexican-American writer most famous for his autobiography, The Hunger of Memory), Laura Veirs (popular local singer/songwriter), and Allen Johnson. Johnson is the reason to go—his painfully revealing stories about masculinity, sex, and the violence of his upbringing are sublime. And he's got a sincere, New Jersey storyteller's voice that you want to listen to for days. Fri Nov 21, Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, 7:30 pm, $15–$20.
A funny and fucked-up performance collective based in Vienna and Paris, Superamas is in the tradition of Forced Entertainment (who rocked OtB in 2005), except younger and nakeder. Their BIG, 3rd episode (happy/end) puts Sex in the City, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Jacques Derrida, Michel Houellebecq, and house parties in a big blender and spills the results onstage. Sept 18–20, On the Boards, 100 W Roy St, 217-9888, $24.
People talk about Washington Ensemble Theatre's harrowing and inventive production of Sarah Kane's Crave, the show that put WET on the map and was heavily responsible for designer Jennifer Zeyl's 2006 Genius Award. Crave's director, Roger Bennington, is returning to direct WET in this Jenny Schwartz play about a couple losing their minds with grief over their dead child. Dad strays, Mom's language fragments, and their surviving kid thinks she's Helen Keller. The tooth fairy and G.I. Joe appear. It's a sad, dreamy world. Oct 10–Nov 10, Washington Ensemble Theatre, 609 19th Ave E, 800-838-3006.
'The Moon Is a Dead World'
Solo performer Mike Daisey is beloved wherever he goes—from New York to Boston to his old hometown Seattle, his extemporaneous monologues about science, history, personal injury, and political idiocy make him a direct literary descendant of Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain. His first full-length play will premiere at Annex Theatre this fall, and it sounds fantastic. From Annex's description: "A dead cosmonaut is called back to earth in a radio wave when Americans in a remote arctic base hear the beating of his dying heart." Oct 17–Nov 15, Annex Theatre, 1100 E Pike St, 800-838-3006, $5–$12.
'October: A Eulogy'
Last October, Marya Sea Kaminski read a story about her brother's suicide to a small crowd at the gazebo in the Arboretum. The tale—from Adam's awkwardly beautiful way of interacting with the world to the shattered days that followed his death to the endearing, anonymous toughs who showed up to pay their respects—was funny, graceful, and devastating. Kaminski has been on the Genius shortlist every year since 2006 and is one of the most talented actors, writers, and directors in this city. To watch her pour all of her talents into one moment, as an act of devotion to her brother, is to become a better person. Fri Oct 17, gazebo in the Arboretum, 2 pm, free.
The "Awesome" Cycle
"Awesome" are a seven-person band, theater collective, and nest of comedians. Their impressionistic spectacles—Delaware, NoSignal—have pushed against the boundaries of musical theater and are practically their own genre. A series of shows for the Central Heating Lab at ACT, the "Awesome" Cycle sounds like their magical early shows at the Rendezvous that mixed music, patter, and unexpectedly touching theatrical gestures. The series sounds fast, generative, and ill-defined—in other words, "Awesome" at their best. Oct 24–Nov 15, ACT Theatre, 700 Union St, 292-7676, $15.
Gisèle Vienne and Dennis Cooper
Dennis Cooper is the most harrowing living novelist writing in English. His novels like My Loose Thread are a horror show of intermingled sex and violence. Their viscera are repulsive but their visceral understanding of the eternal human enigma—why do people do fucked-up things to each other?—makes them fascinating. Cooper has teamed up with French director Gisèle Vienne to stage Jerk, a solo puppet show based on the true story of serial killer Dean Corll, who killed over 20 boys in Texas in the 1970s. Nov 5–9, On the Boards, 100 W Roy St, 217-9888, $24.
'The Adding Machine'
A group of excellent Seattle artists (playwright Stephanie Timm; actors Amy Thone, Hans Altweis, Paul Morgan Stetler, and others) have formed a new company dedicated to performing forgotten American classics. The mission sounds like a bit of a snooze—how about some new work, y'all?—but the performances will kick ever-loving ass. To a person, each member of the New Century Theatre Company has serious chops. Its first production is The Adding Machine, a 1923 play by Elmer Rice about a laid-off worker named Mr. Zero, and it should be exquisite. Nov 13–Dec 13, ACT Theatre, 700 Union St, 292-7676, $25.
A new play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, boom is about a female journalist and a male biology student who meet in an underground biology lab for some no-strings sex. Except he's gay. And the world might end. The plot is promising, but we're mostly excited about boom because of the talent. It stars Gretchen Lee Krich (Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain!), Nick Garrison (he'll always be Hedwig to us), and Chelsey Rives (who made this year's Theater Genius shortlist for her performance as Stella in Intiman's production of A Streetcar Named Desire). Jerry Manning—who directed last season's Thom Pain—directs. And our Stranger Theater Genius from 2006, Jennifer Zeyl, is designing. We expect greatness. Nov 13–Dec 14, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St, 443-2222, $29–$45.
The Pajama Men
Most comedy just reflects and makes fun of the world. The Pajama Men—a duo from Chicago—make fast, tight fictions (one concerns a horse who wants to kill, but cannot bring himself to kill, his rider; another concerns variations on an old couple walking through a park, verbally abusing each other) that imagine new realities. They rethink the world. The Pajama Men have crazy discipline—they switch between characters as quickly as you'd blink—and understand precisely how long an audience's attention will follow one idea. And they're hilarious. Dec 5–20, Annex Theatre, 1100 E Pike St, 800-838-3006, $5–$12.
'Waiting for Godot'
Bill Irwin is a great American clown, and his vaudevillian interpretations of Samuel Beckett are changing the way people watch—and even read—the cranky Irishman's most exhaustively analyzed plays. This is a pre-Broadway production. Jan 15–Feb 14, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St, 443-2222, $15–$59.
Devil Music Ensemble Presents 'Red Heroine'
Boston avant-garde trio Devil Music Ensemble performs a live, original soundtrack to the 1929 Chinese silent martial-art film Red Heroine. The film involves bandits, maidens, a crazy monkey man, buckteeth, hair twirling, and much old-timey kicking of ass. Sun Sept 21, SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St, 633-7151, 7:30 pm, $15.
'Miracle at St. Anna'
Some people like Spike Lee and some people don't. Some people like some things by Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing) and dislike other things (She Hate Me). This movie may be likable or it may be unlikable, but here's the thing: It is a fucking historical World War II period piece directed by Spike Lee! How weird is that? Miracle at St. Anna tells the based-on-a-true-story of a group of black soldiers in the 92nd Infantry Division who get pinned under a German onslaught in northern Tuscany. Also, did you know Spike Lee named his daughter "Satchel"? Various theaters. Opens Sept 26.
Couch Film Fest
This sweet little DIY idea invites film lovers into the homes and onto the couches of other film lovers, to love films together. On couches. This year's fest—the first ever—features 200 short films (all less than five minutes) screening in private homes around town, each with its own dedicated genre. The movies play all day long, while moviegoers wander about from house to house, chatting, snacking, making friends, getting in fistfights maybe, touching each other surreptitiously on the thigh maybe, and watching films. Awwww. Sat Sep 27, various locations, www.couchfestfilms.org, 11 am–6 pm.
Bill Maher thinks religion is stupid. To make his point, he bops around the world to various holy sites and interviews a bunch of people who aren't embarrassed to publicly (and condescendingly) believe in magic: from scary "Jews for Jesus" to corny satanists to fat evangelicals who want to kill him. "It worries me that people are running my country who believe in a talking snake." Me too, Bill. Me too. Director Larry Charles also directed Borat. Opens Oct 3.
This annual showcase of Seattle filmmakers, visual and performance artists, movers, shakers, and candlestick-makers introduces audiences to the best the local scene has to offer. Programming includes documentary, narrative, and experimental films, as well as staged readings, meet and greets, elbow rubbings, and hobnob-a-thons. Also, there is booze! Oct 3–8, Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave, 329-2629.
Crazy-ass Oliver Stone takes on our dumb-ass president—hoping, he told Variety, to answer the eternal question: "How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world?" Josh Brolin steps into the Velcro shoes of the sinister special-needs child at the helm of our nation. With Elizabeth Banks as Lady Bush, James Cromwell as Granddaddy Bush, Rob Corddry as Ari Fleischer, and Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney. In a word: HAHAHAHAHAHA. Opens Oct 17.
'Synecdoche, New York'
Do you guys like literary terms? If you do (AND WHO FUCKING DOESN'T?), you probably remember that "synecdoche" means a part of a thing that is used to refer to the whole of the thing. As in, "Look at that asshole trying to act like he doesn't care about Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut." See? I am using this hypothetical man's asshole to refer to his hypothetical entirety. Synecdoche, New York is the first film both written and directed by Kaufman. It is about a playwright, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and, inevitably, relationships or something. Is Kaufman a good director? We don't know yet. Probably. Aren't you curious? Opens Nov 7.
It's hard to believe that nobody's made an Academy Award–gobbling narrative film about Harvey Milk yet. But I guess that's why we have Sean Penn and his weird face, and Gus Van Sant and his bangs—to dramatize the 20th century's most fucked-up tragedies. Penn plays Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor and gay-rights activist who was assassinated by a disgruntled coworker (Josh Brolin [again!]) in 1978. Not to trivialize anyone's crazy devastating murder, but this movie also has James Franco getting all gay with Penn. All I am doing is saying. Opens Dec 5.
'The Secret of the Grain'
One of the most sublime discoveries at SIFF this year was Abdellatif Kechiche's The Secret of the Grain, a quiet, riveting, microscopically real French family drama about a French-Arab man and his couscous. Jon Frosch wrote: "Rarely has the sensation of being a fly on the wall felt so ticklish and addictive. Of the movie's many triumphs, the most striking is how it coaxes nail-biting suspense from the petty foibles that haunt even the most loving of families." Opens Dec 26.
'The Godless Girl'
So this isn't technically playing until June, but mark your calendars now, people. In Cecil B. DeMille's 1929 feature-length teenage riot, atheists and varsity-sweatered Christians battle it out over their immortal souls (or lack thereof). The kids in the atheist club (The Godless Society) get sworn in on a monkey head! THE HEAD OF A MONKEY! As Annie Wagner wrote in this paper, "No excuses! You must see The Godless Girl." Mon June 22, Paramount, 911 Pine St, 467-5510, 7 pm, $12.