Film critic Robert Horton leads you on a twisted journey through scary and decidedly off-kilter cinema. Films under consideration include The Night of the Hunter, Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Twin Peaks. Sun May 21 at 2 pm.
Antonioni's mildly overrated movie set in swinging London, served with wine and appetizers. Pink Door, Sun May 21 at 7 pm.
A absolutely fantastic documentary about the silver mines of Cerro Rico in the mountains of Bolivia. Focusing on two indigenous brothers, 14-year-old Basilio and 12-year-old Bernadino, filmmakers Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani examine a community of Catholics who worship Jesus at church but also make sacrifices to a stone devil who holds sole dominion inside the mountain. The camera records the miners' simultaneous skepticism about and eager participation in the elaborate animist rituals: Even as they make offerings of coca leaves and booze to the devil Tio, for example, Basilio and Bernadino tell each other the story of how the Spanish invented the god to scare the indigenous people into giving their lives to the punishing mines. A village priest acknowledges their practice isn't strictly Catholic, but he looks on the heresy with a benevolent neglect. The Devil's Miner could have easily turned into an agit-doc; happily, there's nothing shrill about its sensitive characterizations, stunning cinematography, and careful balance of suffering and tarnished hope. (ANNIE WAGNER) Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Mon-Thurs 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.
See review this issue. Varsity, Daily 1:45, 5, 8:15 pm.
A short documentary about cycling enthusiasts in Vancouver, and another about the history of the bicycle. Keystone Church, Fri May 19 at 7 pm.
A doc presented by Radical Women about Korean, Filipino, and Thai immigrants working in the city of angels. New Freeway Hall, Thurs May 18 at 7:30 pm.
Lacombe, Lucien is a self-flagellating exploration of the temptations that led French citizens to collaborate with the German occupation during World War II. Of course, the temptations are a bit obvious: money, loot, wine, women. And the quality that leads one 18-year-old farm boy named Lucien (Pierre Blaise) to veer from potential Resistance fighter to full-fledged Nazi punk is a bit obvious too: natural-born thuggery. It's hard to draw any conclusions from his story, but it's easy to become darkly fascinated by Lucien. (ANNIE WAGNER) Museum of History and Industry, Thurs May 25 at 7:30 pm.
See Stranger Suggests,. Gena Rowlands plays a woman who talks nervously, wears blue, is cheerful in a shaky way, likes visiting the sick and the dying, wants custody of her sour daughter, and insists that love is an ever-flowing stream. Following her divorce, she goes to Europe in search of something, returns immediately not having found it, and, in lieu of ever figuring out what it is, this thing that she wants, turns up (with piles and piles of luggage) at the wood-paneled California mansion of her suit-wearing, drunk-driving, facial-scar-acquiring brother (played by John Cassavetes, who also directs). Later, convinced her brother's life is lacking, she surprises him with the purchase of a half-dozen farm animals. Later still, and fully dressed, she does a back flip from a diving board into a swimming pool while frantically trying to get Seymour Cassel, who plays her husband, to laugh. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE) Northwest Film Forum, Fri 7 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:30 pm.
If you don't have time to attend a three-day workshop on unlearning racism, that's fine. This documentary has done it for you! I quote from the press release: "Tension, confrontation, and learning transpires." Bitter Lake Community Center, Wed May 24 at 7 pm.
Preston Sturges wrote and directed this madcap romp through World War II America. Movie Legends, Sun May 21 at 1 pm.
Those hoping for a thorough bio of Ernesto "Che" Guevara are sure to be disappointed by Walter Salles's The Motorcycle Diaries. There are no cigars or fatigues, no striking figure that will one day adorn T-shirts and dorm-room walls. Even Cuba fails to earn much of a mention. This is a film that should be taken for what it is: a beautifully constructed road movie with a dash of conscience on the side. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Central Cinema, Wed May 24 at 6:30, 9:30 pm. (Late show 21+.)
A coming-of-age picture of the incest subgenre. At first, it's hard to believe Louis Malle made this movie in 1971—it has so much of the '50s in it, and I'm not just talking about the setting. Or the main character Laurent Chevalier (Benoît Ferreux), a cute rascal in short pants who nicks bop records and peruses existentialist novels. It's the way the characters seem to suck in Freud along with their oxygen. You know there's going to be trouble when Laurent's sexy mom (Lea Massari) chases him through bedrooms in a state of (could it be calculated?) dishabille. But then—and here's why it's definitely a '70s movie after all, having needed the chance not only to gnaw on but to digest the Freud—the Oedipal subtext devours the narrative whole and runs away with the plot. Which is to say, the boy and his mom have sex. What's great about Murmur of the Heart is the way the headlong pitch toward taboo comes slicked with both the hot whine of Charlie Parker and the traditional healing waters of a provincial spa. (ANNIE WAGNER) Museum of History and Industry, Thurs May 18 at 7:30 pm.
The UW's Southeast Asia Center kicks off a series of events to welcome a visiting professor of Phillippine literature. Pinoy Blonde is about two dreadlocked film geeks who are asked by their dying uncle to transport a mysterious brown paper bag. Ethnic Cultural Theater, Wed May 24 at 6 pm.
Seattle filmmakers Ann Hedreen and Rustin Thompson will introduce their highly personal documentary about searching for causes and treatments after Hedreen's mother was diagnosed with the disease. Frye Art Museum, Sat May 20 at 2 pm. Free, tickets available at the Frye one hour prior to the screening.
Cross-dressing and organic vegetables intersect in a non-commune environment in this documentary. The film is a kind of agit-prop about the disintegration of viable farmland and food, and the loss of a way of life that not only sustained the food supply but also literally grounded American life. It centers on the charismatic maverick Farmer John, who is treated as a pariah in his community as he struggles to transform his farm amidst a flagging economy, arson, and marginalization. (NATE LIPPENS) Northwest Film Forum, Sat May 20 at 4 pm. Free if you email email@example.com.
Not Teddy or FD, but a Liberian refugee named Rosevelt Henderson is the subject of this documentary about making it in the USA. Capitol Hill Library, Thurs May 18 at 6 pm.
A nerdy store owner is frozen and revived in a decidedly Woody Allen future. Introduced by Tim Appelo, late of the Seattle Weekly and lately of Amazon.com. EMP's JBL Theater, Sunday May 21 at 4 pm.
Films shot frame by frame, beginning with Cassis and Notes on the Circus (two 16mm journal films by Jonas Mekas), and continuing with new works by local filmmakers. Northwest Film Forum, Mon May 22 at 7 pm.
This great series, focused on queer desire in Westerns, finishes off with a quite literal interpretation of the theme. Andy Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys is a 1968 Western spoof, about a strange and sexy cowboy who arrives in a small town in the Old West. With Joe Dallesandro and Viva. Northwest Film Forum, Thurs May 18 at 7 pm.
What is Tron about? Is it about the peculiar relationship between man and machine? Is it about reminding us that there used to be a semi-popular actor named Bruce Boxleitner? Is it about Jeff Bridges' majestically feathered hair? The answers: Yes, yes, and yes. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
Last seen at SIFF 2004, Vodka Lemon is a quiet, irrationally charming comedy about liquor and nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Set in snowy, snowy Armenia. Central Cinema, Thurs-Sun 7, 9:20 pm. (Late show 21+.)
Underwater aliens enslave shipwrecked sailors in this tentacled B-picture from 1978. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
This agitdoc, from The Trials of Henry Kissinger director Eugene Jarecki, tries to tread the thin line between dry but thorough Frontline documentaries and Michael Moore's gotcha journalism. Both styles of filmmaking are persuasive in their own right, but transferring techniques from one to the other makes the argument start to feel patched together and limp. (ANNIE WAGNER) On the House, Wed May 23 at 7 pm.
Adam & Steve begins in 1987, when our title characters meet in a Manhattan disco. Adam (Craig Chester) is a nebbish young Goth with a plus-sized female sidekick; Steve (Malcolm Gets) is a buff Dazzle Dancer with a plus-sized coke habit. Despite their differences, the duo share a sweet and thrilling first night together-until things go horribly, excruciatingly wrong, and Adam & Steve is set on its twisted, present-day gay romantic comedy path. Written and directed by Craig Chester, the film offers an impressively messy look at finding love in the gayest city in America. But it's also messy in a whole bunch of less meaningful ways, switching tones and styles like a too-eager-to-please drag queen, and leaving viewers with a confused jumble of goop. (DAVID SCHMADER)
Keke Palmer, who is 11 years old and plays Akeelah, is a charming, promising actress who is constantly made to do sappy things you pretty much only find in afterschool TV specials. Angela Bassett tries her damnedest to make Akeelah's mother resemble a real human being grappling with real problems, but the characters that writer/director Doug Atchison has dreamed up are pure foam. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
American Dreamz spoofs American Idol and the pathetic spectacle of an entire nation banding together to pick some half-talented blockhead to be the next C-list superstar. The film also spoofs real life: The president is a complete idiot who's so dumb he has to wear a bug in his ear so his staff can tell him what to say. HAHA! Truth is funny. Based on the material reality gave the writers to work with, this movie should've been fucking hilarious, right? Not so much. (MEGAN SELING)
Art School Confidential is a movie about whether it is worse to be an art poser or a serial killer. The serial killer character has a strike against him from the start, since he is strangling strangers all over campus. But, we learn, the killer is a sensitive, wounded painter who has been driven to madness by the corruption of the art world. In the end, our hero, the freshman art student, decides to adopt the identity of the serial killer. How else will he get a gallery show? Oh, Daniel Clowes. What Pratt Institute must have done to you. (JEN GRAVES)
If you thought Napoleon Dynamite was heeee-larious (like me), you're probably gonna love Benchwarmers' endearing geekiness. But if you're a jerk without a sense of humor, you'll quickly get bored with the innocent PG-13 rating and onslaught of hilariously lame third-grade jokes. (MEGAN SELING)
An adaptation of the 1990s New Age novel about the search for an ancient Peruvian scroll, this movie was rushed to production in 2004, presumably so it could ride the Da Vinci Code buzz.
Friends with Money atones for its shortcomings in the plot department by kicking unprecedented ass in the great-actress-triumvirate-of-delight department: Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, and Catherine Keener. But it's still a movie about the emotional pain of building an addition to one's house. (LINDY WEST)
The first in a projected trilogy espousing the wonders of soccer hits all of the hoary old inspirational bull's-eyes—and maybe even invents some new ones. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Hoot is a movie about evil pancakes and tiny endangered owls. It glides along on a laidback soundtrack by Jimmy Buffett—who also produced, and stars as a beclogged hippie. Luke Wilson rides around in a tiny car. The whole thing is even weirder and less interesting than it sounds. (LINDY WEST)
The plot has spongy spots, like the amorphous Aryan evil that both the good and bad guys ultimately have to contend with, but it's never less than fun. (ANNIE WAGNER)
On the desolate border of Tibet, an ethically shaky volunteer militia takes on a ruthless assortment of rare antelope poachers, with tragic results. Based on true events, this spectacularly tough, built-for-speed survival actioner favorably recalls the single-minded glory days of Walter Hill. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
It's getting pretty tiring, this cinematic obsession with prying open the clam-tight minds of the English working class. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Substantively, the movie is weak, but it's entrancing. Like a superficial fling, La Mujer de Mi Hermano is all texture: brushed steel, warm lights, white curtains, thick lips, cigarette smoke, high-thread-count sheets, swimming-pool water, ambient music. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
J. J. Abrams's television work displays a genuine affinity for the ol' cloak and dagger, as well as a winningly snarky knack for subverting the dustier conventions of same. It's with Tom Cruise, however, that the director pulls off his biggest coup. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Unfortunately, director Mary Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner limit themselves to cursory observations about the conservative mores of the '50s and perfunctory stops along the timeline of Bettie's rise to "notoriety." (HANNAH LEVIN)
Dylan's 16-year old body is growing a tumor big enough to shut down his whole system. Because he's dying, he gets to make one wish. He was going to go fishing with a football superstar, but because he's a horny 16-year-old boy, he instead decides to ask for a weekend with the nation's hottest (and most fucked-up) supermodel. One Last Thing... isn't bad; it's actually sorta funny. (MEGAN SELING)
This movie is about cartoon animals with feelings who learn lessons about junk food and waste and suburban sprawl. There are three funny parts. 1. RJ the Raccoon teaches the other animals about big fat humans: "The human mouth is called a piehole." 2. The exterminator is fooled by a lawn flamingo: "Those things are so lifelike. Curse you, plastic moldsman!" 3. A cat's pick-up line: "Inside, I have a multi-leveled climby thing with shag carpet." Wait. I fucked up. Number three's not funny. The rest—despite an all-hits-no-misses cast and an awesome Ben Folds soundtrack—is a shrill combo of recycled jokes, less than hilarious mayhem, and demonic porcupine babies. But the kiddie audience loved it. In the climactic moments, when Stella the Skunk pops her anal plug and fills evil Gladys's house with skunk stank, they burst into triumphant applause. (LINDY WEST)
Poseidon, the mega-budgeted revamp of 1972's upside-down ocean liner opus, would most likely be a lousy movie in any situation, but the still-vivid memories of the effects of an actual, real-world tsunami quickly snuff out any hopes of vicarious thrills. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The film is gorgeous, with tons of wire work, and director Chen Kaige uses CGI special effects with no hesitance. The future of Chinese cinema is in ancient martial-art films. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Robin Williams is a big dumb jerk who can't say no to his asshole boss, so instead of taking his selfish family on vacation, he rents a giant RV and drags them to Colorado where he'll secretly attend a business meeting. Catch is, Dude doesn't know how to work the poop-emptying machine. You can imagine the hilarity that ensures. (MEGAN SELING)
A horror movie about a bunch of teen delinquents sent to clean a dilapidated hotel.
Until a late appeal to logic interrupts the fun, the new goth-friendly splatter flick Silent Hill delivers a freshly rancid freakout of the sort that's intelligible only to some dank level of your subconscious. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
A defiant teen with a taste for extreme sports, Haley is, like her predecessor in Bring It On, much more hardcore than the pantywaist sport she's forced to take up. Soon Stick It veers off the sports-movie formula. The run-up to the big meet deemphasizes sweat and competition, opting instead for a delirious Busby Berkeley-style stretching circle against a bright red background. And the climax isn't so much about perfect execution as it is about one ex-gymnast (Bendinger, natch) and her contradictory feelings about the alien psychology of the sport. (ANNIE WAGNER)
As a work of satire, Thank You for Smoking is safely and securely dated. The book it's adapted from (by conservative novelist Christopher Buckley) was published in the mid-'90s, when tobacco lawsuits were flying fast and loose and the word "probe" was rampant in headlines in the Washington Post. But what the movie loses in relevance, it gains in absurd comedy. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a masterpiece, flat out. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
There are very good reasons to sit through United 93. On the emotional register, the film hits a perfectly chosen note, neither aggressive enough to seem callous nor excessively deferential, which would have felt mawkish. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Chuyia (Sarala) is a plump 8-year-old with a stick of sugarcane clenched tight in her fist. She barely seems to notice she's on her way to be married. But married she'll be, and shortly thereafter, her husband will die. In 1930s India, Chuyia the child-widow is shunted off to an ashram, condemned to spend the rest of her life shaved bald and desperately poor. Deepa Mehta's final film in a socially engaged trilogy, Water addresses an issue that's relatively remote from the concerns of Western audiences. The characters, however, are awfully familiar. Chuyia shakes up the pit of crones with her (of course) irrepressible spirit. One of the widows (Lisa Ray) is a beautiful, doomed prostitute with a heart—nay, an entire cardiovascular system—composed of gold. Still, Mehta and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens illustrate their story with images that do much more than awaken the prescribed moral outrage. The trail of colors leads you through the narrative gently, and pushes the melodrama upward into a starker, purer realm. (ANNIE WAGNER)