Coming Soon

Better Than Sex, Focus, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, Novocane, Tape, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

New This Week

* Amélie
Revered this issue. A beautifully kinetic testament to human sweetness that has audiences lining up around the block and contrarians carping about its artificiality. I'm not saying you have to be an asshole not to like Amélie, but it would probably help.... When director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was in Seattle recently, I asked him if the criticism of the film's fairy tale aesthetic bothered him. "In France," he laughed, "sometimes if you have too much style, they crucify you. They prefer films about men and women fighting in ugly kitchens. They think if you have style, if the film is lit well, or is poetic, then you are not making something true. The reverse is true. The style is important. I love to play with everything. I can't avoid it. You need the style to get to the emotion. It's actually more realistic, dans un certain sense. When you do a film, it's for you. Very egoist. But you can please people if you are sincere." (Sean Nelson) Egyptian

* Better Off Dead
Although many of my peers favor "It's a damn shame when folks be throwing away a perfectly good white boy like that," I have always been partial to "Gee, Ricky, I'm real sorry your mom blew up" in the Better Off Dead quotation sweepstakes. John Cusack's performance as Lane Meyer is cemented as one of the essential teen hero turns of '80s film folklore. This is surely Savage Steve Holland's finest hour. (Sean Nelson) Egyptian

* Communities Under Siege
911 Media Arts Center hosts this program of documentaries about contemporary urban centers beset by socioeconomic strife. At the center of it rests Boom, The Sound of Eviction, which chronicles the endless hassles of San Francisco's unmonied classes in negotiating the e-conomic explosion of the late '90s. The film is a shrewd, entertaining, and concerned documentary of a dilemma that may not be as far from over as it seems. As bad as we had it in Seattle on the cost of living index front, SF had it a thousand times worse. (Sean Nelson) 911 Media Arts Center

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de lá Cruz
All men dream, but only movie characters dream of murdering women for a living. This is one of Buñuel's darker comedies, and its charms will be spelled out in advance in a lecture given about the film by Richard T. Jameson. Fri Nov 9. Grand Illusion

According to a press release for this two-day colloquium sponsored by the UW's freshly minted Cinema Studies department, "The world of media is one of continuous change." Thanks. Participants can look forward to a day of academic papers, a screening of the film Chutney Popcorn, a short film festival, and a keynote address by Vivan Sobchack entitled "What My Fingers Knew: The Synesthetic Subject Envisioned in the Flesh." Speaking of synesthesia, reading the press release evoked a number of simultaneous sensations in me, most notably the frustrating feeling that no matter how many times I drop out of college, I'm still answering essay questions with smart-ass distractions. Discuss. (Sean Nelson)

UW Campus; go to for complete scedule.

In Heist, writer-director David Mamet adores his plot-twisting, line-stinging script so much that the acting comes off plastic, and it repeatedly occurs to you that no one would ever, ever say "she could talk her way out of a sunburn," and "my man is so cool, when he goes to sleep, sheep count him" when lives are in danger. This isn't really a problem in itself, though. It's the whole point: The script is the thing to "watch," and Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo, and Danny DeVito are its vehicles. What becomes a problem, however, is that at the end of Heist, you'll remember that Mamet is capable of writing characters of incredible--profound, even--emotional depth, and there is absolutely no depth here. Even Mamet's slick, script-dependent film Spanish Prisoner makes me think about interpersonal ethics. In Heist, when characters betray, love, fight, save, etc., each other, it doesn't really matter. You wish it would, but it doesn't. This is a perfect summer movie! (Brian Goedde)

Meridian 16, Grand Alderwood, Metro

Illusion Travels by Streetcar
Somewhere between American screwball comedy and Italian social realism lies this 1953 Mexican Buñuel film, which follows a madcap series of misadventures shared by two men who decide to take a decommissioned trolley out for one last spin. Grand Illusion

Man With a Movie Camera
One day in the life of Moscow (circa 1929), as filmed by Dziga Vertov's "kino-eye." Paramount Theatre

A cute, sometimes cloying comedy about a bizarre love triangle whose points are formed by a globetrotting activist doctor (Craig Sheffer), his fashion industry working gal (Laura Linney), and their mutual friend, an artist (Rob Morrow) who pines for the fashion slave. Did I mention the friend has Tourette's Syndrome? Fine at times, mind-bogglingly hard to reckon at others (is the wildly spaz-modic life of a TS sufferer legitimately comedic, or is the film being callous by pretending to be so sensitive as not to ask such a question?), Maze, which Morrow directed, is at least well acted, if a mite predictable. Two things: (1) The device of shooting the artist's POV shots with a video camera and slam-cutting the footage into the rest of the film may be a clever mimetic device, but it's showy and annoying; and (2) Forgive me for saying so, but Laura Linney gets all the way naked. (Sean Nelson) Broadway Market

* Music + Film at EMP
This week: What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band. JBL Theater at EMP

* New Works by Jon Behrens
Seattle experimental filmmaker Behrens presents a handful of new shorts, which includes collaborations, direct animation, hand-painted film, and found footage embellished with "Crisco, wax, human/dog/bee hair, insects living and dead, blood, and other bodily fluids." Little Theatre

This week: Caged. Before women-in-prison films became little more than excuses to set cameras dollying through gang showers, they were heavy-handed, moralistic tales like this one, which is nonetheless gripping thanks to a couple of excellent performances by Eleanor Parker (as the naif sent upriver after abetting in a robbery) and Agnes Moorehead (hooray!) as the kindly prison matron who tries (unsuccessfully) to protect her from wickedness. (Sean Nelson) Seattle Art Museum

* Open Screening
This monthly screening series at 911 is one of the most hit-or-miss events in town: no curators here, merely willing hosts to whomever submits a film. (For only $1, however, it's also one of the best deals.) In a way, the very unevenness of the presentation reflects quite favorably on the best filmmakers, whose works truly stand out as fresh and inspiring after you've sat through three or four duds. And there are few viewing spaces as pleasant as 911, with its series of offices and studios just behind you and to your right as you watch the films. Even quiet and dark, you can tell it's a place where work, much good work, gets done. Mon Nov 12 at 8 pm. (Bruce Reid) 911 Media Arts Center

Shallow Hal
Reviled this issue. The new film by the Farrelly Brothers looks like it might be even crappier than their other films, which seems like it should be impossible, as anyone who sat through Me, Myself & Irene can attest to. The presence of the great Jack Black--playing a superficial man who becomes cursed (or is it blessed?) with the ability to see only inner beauty--oughtn't fool you. The Farrellys have been squandering brilliant comic performers for years. Yes, they made Kingpin. Yes they made Dumb and Dumber. But those are the only reasons they haven't been brought up on charges. Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11

Although it's usually respectable, Spike and Mike's Festival of Classic Animation kind of sucks this year. Pixar's For the Birds and Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected are the primary selling points, which would be great if everybody hadn't seen them both about 15 times already. Other would-be-noteworthy pieces include Drink, a bald-faced Bill Plympton rip off, and Father & Daughter, which lands somewhere between quaint and dull. So, yeah, most of the selections are inane or mediocre, but there are two reasons to go. One is Brother, which is great if only because it's perfectly funny without falling all over itself to make you laugh. The other is The Man with the Beautiful Eyes, an illustrated Bukowski piece. The language is simple, the artwork is earnest, and if you are human, the effect will astonish you. (Meg van Huygen)


Two Thousand Maniacs
One of maybe five shitty exploitation grinders that you really should see at least once before you die, written and directed by the infamous Herschell Gordon Lewis. It's trash, but it's classic trash. Grand Illusion

The Wash
Just as the laughs from Next Friday had begun to subside from the collective belly ("Damn, I can't believe such a big poo came out of such a little dog!"), now comes the new comedy from writer DJ Pooh. Pooh makes his directorial debut with this vehicle for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who play a couple of hoodied miscreants who get a job at a car wash (hmm... ) to pay the rent. And that's when all hell breaks loose! I haven't seen the film, but I have a hunch that the wise words of Ice Cube (one of America's best movie stars) will prove prophetic: "Uh, yo Dre, stick to proDUCIN'!"

Opens Nov 14 at various venues; check local listings.

Continuing Runs

13 Ghosts
How bad is 13 Ghosts? Bad enough that when the woman sitting next to me fielded a call on her cell phone during the movie, I wasn't even annoyed--in fact, I was more interested in what she had to say than in any of the characters onscreen. Her conversation went something like this: "Girl, I'm in a movie... 'Thirteen' something.... Nah, lemme call you back. I'll call you back, all right?" Then, once she'd hung up: "Damn, she's always callin' me." So there you have it. (Bradley Steinbacher) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree

The most fucked-up movie since The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover, and maybe of all time. It begins with a sad, shy Japanese widower on a slightly disingenuous search for a new wife and ends up... oh, God, I can't go on. Reports have it that when this film screened at SIFF, half the audience left before it was over. Even the most nervy filmgoers should consider not eating before Audition; and you'll definitely need a few stiff drinks afterward. (Emily Hall) Broadway Market

Not great, but certainly no travesty. Barry Levinson's new movie about two bank robbers (Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton) and the woman they both love (Cate Blanchett) fares well, especially when placed aside the stream of crap Hollywood has been cranking out over the past few months. Fairly funny and occasionally smart (save for a somewhat unbelievable ending), the movie is a breeze of oddball character development and marginally ludicruous scenarios. In other words, it's pretty fun. (Bradley Steinbacher) Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Northgate, Redmond Town Center

Bones begins with two frat boys getting mauled by the ghost of Snoop Dogg. We then learn that Snoop was a prosperous pimp back in the day (1979), who was loved by his community and murdered by his closest friend. Snoop now haunts the house where the evil deed was committed. The day after the frat boys are mysteriously slaughtered, the teen sons and daughter of the double-crosser (who is now a black Republican with a white wife and a home in the suburbs) decide to open a hiphop nightclub in Snoop Dogg's haunted house. Everyone in the 'hood warns them about the ghost, the hellhound, and... then the movie theater's projector broke down. I never saw the end of Bones. (Charles Mudede) Lewis & Clark

Domestic Disturbance
John Travolta is the dad, and Vince Vaughn is the stepdad. One of them is a nasty murderer and one of them is an underdog hero. It's up to the kid to decide. A propos of nothing: my late grandmother was fond of calling Travolta "John Revolting" when she was alive. (Sean Nelson) Factoria, Meridian 16, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center, Varsity

* Donnie Darko
Donnie, a brilliant, disturbed teenager languishing in a Reagan-era suburb, is lured from slumber by the malevolent whispers of Frank, a giant, horrifically deformed bunny rabbit who informs him that the world will come to an end in 28 days. Moments later, an airplane engine crashes into his bedroom. And from there things get really spooky. Donnie Darko has either gone mad or come unstuck in time in this frightening, funny, and darkly imaginative film. Imagine American Beauty with an insect-headed monster or Magnolia with time-travel, and you're in the right neighborhood. Though it's definitely flawed (what is Drew Barrymore DOING?), I am tempted to call this one a must-see. But be sure to bring a date--maybe the impossibly convoluted ending makes some sort of sense if discussed over lots and lots of drinks. (Tamara Paris) Uptown

* Grateful Dawg
Ever wonder what Jerry Garcia did when the Grateful Dead weren't on the road (besides a lot of heroin)? Me neither. But this documentary is nonetheless a warm, entertaining, and sometimes beautiful examination of the musical partnership between Garcia and David Grisman--two true reverent aficionados of old-timey bluegrass picking--which spanned some 30 years. The music is absolutely stellar. (Sean Nelson) Varsity

High Heels & Low Lifes
Screwball comedy about two drab ladies (Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack--at least the latter is far from drab) who witness a bank robbery and get entangled with the Mob. Pacific Place 11

Andreas and Claire were once young lovers in post-WWII Belgium. Now, half a century later, they find themselves neighbors in Melbourne, where Andreas has been a widower for 30 years and Claire is in an agreeable though passionless marriage. Unable to resist the tug of nostalgia, they resume their tempestuous affair, much to the chagrin of their loved ones. A big hit at Cannes and SIFF alike. Harvard Exit

* Iron Monkey
Directed by Yuen Wo Ping, the man who coordinated the fight sequences in The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Iron Monkey (1993) is centered around a kind doctor (Yu Ruang-Guang), his beautiful assistant (Jean Wang), and a corrupt libertarian (James Wong) who governs a provincial city on the outskirts of a great civilization. Like Bruce Wayne, the doctor has another identity: He is a kung fu master who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Yes, it's "an Asian Robin Hood," as so many critics have eagerly pointed out. But it's also an "Asian Western" with a heady dose of Russian provincial comedy, made world-famous by Nikolai Gogol's play The Inspector General. (Charles Mudede) Redmond Town Center, Uptown, Varsity

* L.I.E.
Some movies implicate their audience by making them cheer on a dastardly act. This painfully beautiful drama does the reverse: It makes us dread an event which never comes, and when it doesn't, forces us to reevaluate our feelings not just about the film and its characters, but about the moral universe they inhabit. The story concerns a young boy in Long Island whose sheltered life turns rocky, much to the delight of a neighborhood chicken hawk. But despite the potentially lurid trappings, the film is an unsettlingly sensitive dramatization of the process of growing up out of the shadow of parental protection. (Sean Nelson) Broadway Market

The Last Castle
Robert Redford and James Gandolfini star in this story of power struggles and hypermasculine one-upsmanship behind the bars of a military prison. Also starring that really great actor from You Can Count on Me, Mark Ruffalo. Because it's directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), expect the world this film presents to be divided into two camps: liberals and fascists. Grand Alderwood, Pacific Place 11

Life as a House
Kevin Kline has cancer, but he hasn't told his ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), who's too busy letting herself be an emotional doormat, or his son (Hayden Christensen), who's too busy huffing Scotchguard, wearing makeup, and masturbating with a rope around his neck (Michael Hutchence-style). Rather than come clean, Kline decides to fix everything by making his dysfunctional son help him build his dream house. In the process--surprise of surprises!--he does fix everything: the son wipes away the mascara and stops giving head to rich men for cash (hooking up with a nubile hottie in the process), the wife realizes she's still in love with her ex, and Kline gets to die the heroic death of a saintly drop-out. Histrionic folderol aside, this film is a guilty kind of good. Despite all the male menopause baggage, there is a nugget of human goodwill somewhere, possibly just in Kevin Kline, who is such a fine actor that he invests what should be pure trash with a patina of integrity. This is the kind of film one should watch with one's parents and then, when it's over, as a gift, pretend it wasn't bullshit. (Sean Nelson) Meridian 16

* The Man Who Wasn't There
The new film by the Coen Brothers, shot in glorious black and white, recalls the low-budget, slow burning, postwar noir of directors like Edgar G. Ulmer, and features Billy Bob Thornton's uncannily Bogartlike performance (In a Lonely Place-era) as the eponymous Man. Thornton's Ed Crane is a drastically affectless man, a barber who chain-smokes his way through a sexless marriage to a bourgeois wannabe in a postwar California town. When he discovers his wife (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini), Ed hatches a scheme and soon becomes embroiled in a complex imbroglio involving blackmail, murder, and dry cleaning. You get the sense that fate is waiting to smear Ed--like all protagonists in such films--across life's highway like so many turtles in a Steinbeck novel. But, also like all protagonists in such movies, Ed has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. But, also, like all movies featuring such protagonists, all the tricks in the world can't save you from cosmic destiny. The Coens' genre fetish works astoundingly well in this film, which mines noir's deeply American absurdities for rich laughs, shrewd plotting, top-flight performances from all the actors (Thornton and Gandolfini in particular), and visuals that make your eyes swell. (Sean Nelson) Neptune

Monsters, Inc.
Sully (John Goodman) is one of Monsters, Inc.'s top Scarers, meaning that he excels at getting kids to scream in fright--and bottled screams are the fuel upon which Monstropolis, his hometown, depends. Kids, however, are supposed to be highly contagious, so when Sully accidentally brings a little girl back to Monstropolis, he's got a lot of nervous running and hiding to do. The first two-thirds of this film are pleasant to watch, though the narcotizing currents of confused cultural allegory that run through modern Disney films course just as strongly through this one. In Monsters, Inc. this includes a truly uncomfortable fetishizing of the sleeping American child, and the assumption of a world benevolently owned and operated by a private corporation. But the final third of the movie is excellent and beautiful, arriving suddenly at one of those gorgeous imaginary landscapes that legitimately become a part of a child's dream fabric. (Evan Sult) Factoria, Majestic Bay, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree

* Mulholland Drive
This new work from David Lynch is confounding and bizarre (for a change). Originally conceived as a network TV pilot, Drive takes a long time establishing its characters--an aspiring actress, a glamorous amnesiac, a luckless Hollywood producer, and a mysterious gang of Mafiosi who are dead set on making sure a certain woman gets a certain part. Like all of Lynch's post-Wild at Heart work, Drive is more concerned with atmosphere and suggestion than linear meaning. But like all Lynch, period, it's beautifully constructed, bizarre, and funny. It's just impossible to say definitively whether this is good or not. (Sean Nelson) Guild 45th, Meridian 16

My First Mister
A teenage goth drama queen (Leelee Sobieski) finds an unlikely soulmate in Randall, a bemustached men's store manager nearly three times her age (Albert Brooks). Though the movie's stylistic and thematic trajectory points to the curious middle distance between the MTV and Lifetime networks, and the script relies rather heavily on a shopping mall understanding of youth culture (which might actually be prescient, come to think of it, since American youth culture is more or less defined by shopping malls), a great many good, tender, and true moments peek up out of what could have been a rankly sentimental sinkhole. (Sean Nelson) Uptown

On the Line
Love isn't always on time, but the L train is. Just ask Joey Fatone (is that how you pronounce it?) and Lance Bass, the members of N'Sync who star in this romantic comedy, which takes place in Chicago, and whose pivotal moment occurs on said train. Grand Alderwood, Pacific Place 11

The One
Dude! Jet LI! DUDE! Kung fu in space! If nothing else, this movie promises to justify the physics-defying acrobatics of most martial arts films, because in space, no one can see your wires. Aurora Cinema Grill, Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Metro, Redmond Town Center

Riding in Cars with Boys
A film for 40-year-old soccer moms of all ages. Drew Barrymore plays a Connecticut townie bad girl who gets knocked up at age 15, then spends the rest of her lapsed Catholic life negotiating the disappointments and joys of a life lived in service to an accidental baby. Because the film is directed by Penny Marshall, it is very very bad, indeed painfully so. It does have one saving grace, however: the great Steve Zahn, proving once again that he is to contemporary film what Robert Downey Jr. was to '80s film--the very best and often only good thing in a series of truly awful movies. (Sean Nelson) Grand Alderwood, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11

John Cusack stars as John Cusack with a bad haircut, opposite the unremarkably beautiful Kate Beckinsale, in the very worst movie I've ever seen. Premise: They meet over Christmas shopping in Bloomingdales, sort of fall in love but not really, part ways, get betrothed to other people, and spend the rest of the movie trying to find each other again. Fine. The injury comes from the script relentlessly stabbing you in the gut with its transparent plot twists, maddening dialogue, and desperate "fateful coincidences." The fact that this film was ever made defies reason. If you like John Cusack, it will hurt your feelings. If you don't, it will make you want to die. (Meg van Huygen) Aurora Cinema Grill, Grand Alderwood, Majestic Bay, Metro, Pacific Place 11

* Together
Q: What do you get when you combine a '70s commune full of Swedish hippies, a soundtrack that features hits by ABBA and Nazareth, and a VW bus painted with flowers? A: This strangely sitcommish but thoroughly engaging little movie. Throw in a middle-class domestic-abuse refugee and her kids, a pre-op transsexual, some hilariously passive-aggressive dialogue about the importance of nonaggressiveness, a nymphomaniac, and a central character who suffers like a sweet-natured Job trying to keep the whole thing together (as it were); stir; cock your head in wonder; and enjoy. (Sean Nelson) Guild 45th

Tortilla Soup
A remake of Ang Lee's 1994 Eat Drink Man Woman. This time the focus is upon a Latino community in Los Angeles, where a retired Mexican American chef prepares lavish meals for his emotionally distraught daughters. Broadway Market

Training Day
What should have been and pretty much is a run-of-the-mill, overstylized L.A. cop morality play achieves glory because of the ravenous, flesh-chewing, blood-spitting performance of Mr. Denzel Washington, who has never had so complex a villain to play. He's usually overtly heroic, but on the occasions when his characters have been allowed to show a mean streak, they've always been tempered by a strain of nobility. In Training Day he's a complete bastard, and it's the best, most fun performance he's given in years. (Sean Nelson) Factoria, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

* Va Savoir
This latest film from underappreciated French master Jacques Rivette is a romantic comedy about Camille, an expatriate French actress who returns to Paris to star in a play, and becomes entangled in a bizarre love hexagon with her former lover, her current director, the student helping the director find an obscure manuscript, her half-brother, and his wife (who happens to be involved with Camille's ex). Harvard Exit

* Waking Life
Richard Linklater's monologue-heavy, beautifully animated opus about the quest for lucid dreaming and active living is one of the coolest, most interesting movies you'll ever see. Or you might hate it and think it's talky and pretentious. If you liked Slacker, however--wait, not if you liked it... if you GOT Slacker--and have been waiting for Linklater to return to philosophical quandary mode, don't wait another second. Go see Waking Life. (Sean Nelson) Egyptian

* Zoolander
This movie is a complete delight, fueled by the dual brilliance of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, who play rival supermodels who become embroiled in a global assassination plot. Not every joke succeeds, but the gut laugh success rate is pretty astounding, and the moments of total comic transcendence (such as the male supermodel gasoline fight) are many. It's such a pleasure to watch an American farce that doesn't make you feel like a moron for enjoying the funny parts. (Sean Nelson) Grand Alderwood, Metro, Pacific Place 11