2001: A Space Odyssey
Kubrick's classic meditation about time, space, and evolution is introduced by Greg Bear. EMP's JBL Theater, Fri Oct 15 at 7 pm.
7th Annual Local Sightings
Local films and videos are being screened at Northwest Film Forum. Not Recommended Usage: An Evening of Cameraless Films, Thurs Oct 14 at 7:30 pm. Shorts: Dancing and Dating, Thurs Oct 14 at 7:30 pm. Shorts: Strangely Poetic, Thurs Oct 14 at 9 pm. Tell Us the Truth, Thurs Oct 14 at 9:30 pm. Closing Night Awards Show, Fri Oct 15 at 7 pm. See www.nwfilmforum.org for more information.
* Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
It is of course, difficult to remember when Sam Raimi (director of the two Spider-Man movies and For Love of the Game) was one of the really important guys of the cinema. But the first five minutes of this towering classic of comedy-horror, featuring the magnanimous Bruce Campbell as a hapless shop clerk who does battle with the demons of hell, should remind us all what Hollywood does when it discovers great talent. (SEAN NELSON) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
* Goodbye Dragon Inn
Tsai Ming-liang (What Time Is It There?, The River) directs this haunting and haunted story of a decrepit cinema. The seats are alternately deserted and full of seed-cracking patrons and aged actors from the martial arts classic being screened--it's not clear whether they're traces from the past or the hallucinations of the present. Meanwhile, young men pace the halls and catwalks outside the projection booth, more interested in a passing glance or perhaps a glancing touch than in the images flickering onscreen. This is a movie about garish colors (a gigantic pink steamed bun features prominently) and cascades of rain (the sounds of water are a Tsai hallmark). It's a movie about nostalgia and architectural ruin. And if the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival knew what was good for them, they would have programmed this film before anything else on their schedule. But the Grand Illusion got to it first. (ANNIE WAGNER) Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, Mon-Thurs 7, 9 pm.
He Walked by Night
A 1948 film by Alfred Werker and Anthony Mann about the hunt for a young man who kills a cop. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Oct 21 at 7:30 pm.
Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train
This documentary offers a very basic portrait of a man, Howard Zinn, whose life has been extraordinary. Composed of interviews with the popular author of A People's History of The United States, his colleagues, and former students like Alice Walker, the story of Howard Zinn is not that different from the story of Forrest Gump. Both seem to have been close to the center of all the major American social events in the second half of the 20th century. After obtaining his doctorate, Zinn, we learn, got a post at a prominent black university, Spellman, just at the very moment that the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. He wrote an early book about the radical black student organization SNCC, and was fired by the black university for his aggressive role in anti-segregation protests. (Very few white liberals have that kind of cred.) In the '60s and '70s, he taught at Boston University, which was a hotbed of antiwar activity. And he also visited North Vietnam during the war. Howard Zinn wrote about history at the very moment he was an active part of it, but this documentary fails to capture the energy of this historian and his times; and maybe the documentary form is wholly inadequate for such an enormous undertaking. It's possible that big events and passions can only be successfully represented by films that have the budget and star power of Forrest Gump. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Northwest Film Forum, Sat-Sun 12:45, 2:30, 4:15 pm, Mon 6, 7:45, 9:30 pm, Wed 6, 7:45, 9:30 pm.
Jandek on Corwood
Jandek on Corwood is the story of "Jandek," a Thomas Pynchon-style recluse whose popularity increases the less people know about him. The Texas-based singer/songwriter has released 34 home-recorded albums (on his own Corwood Industries label) over the past 25 years, each one a whispery, eerie, out-of-tune take on his "deathbed blues" aesthetic. He's had only two press interviews in that time--his first being a 1985 piece in Spin--and is so cryptic about his work he won't even name the people who guest on his records or say how he knows them. All of which could make for an interesting short whether or not you're a fan of Jandek's challenging, outsider folk. But to sit through almost an hour and a half of talking heads--some of whom verge on the point of music-critic parody they're so far into their own conjectures--projecting their (over)analysis of this beyond-underground figure is an exercise in audio-visual water-torture. Hardcore Jandek fans (which seems to be the only breed of fan in existence) will most likely froth at the mouth comparing their theories to those of other fetishists across the country--everyone else can save this slow-moving spotlight as a possible cure for insomnia. (JENNIFER MAERZ) Northwest Film Forum, Sat-Sun 6, 9:45 pm.
Lost & Found: Media Archeology
The opening night event features music from Climax Golden Twins and readings of new works by Matthew Stadler, Diana George, Melanie Noel, and Fionn Meade, which were commissioned in response to short films by Rob Zverina. Northwest Film Forum, Thurs Oct 21 at 7:30 pm. Series continues through Oct 31. For more information and complete schedule, see www.testpatternsite.org.
Message from Space
This 1978 Japanese film is part of Grand Illusion's series of Star Wars rip-offs. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
SAM's film-noir series continues with this 1947 film about a quiet doctor who chances to meet a nightclub singer named Nora Prentiss. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Oct 14 at 7:30 pm.
Persons of Interest
A documentary about the more than 5,000 people who were detained indefinitely by the U.S. Justice Department after 9/11. Northwest Film Forum, Tues Oct 19 at 7 pm.
Assured, deliberate cinematic incomprehensibility (think 2001's Space Baby) is a rare bird these days, what with even ostensibly indie flicks showing signs of having been test-marketed, smoothed out, and pre-digested for mass consumption by the lowest possible denominator. Primer, the $7,000 debut from director/writer/editor/composer/actor/egghead Shane Carruth may very well be one of the best American movies of the year, and I'll be damned if I understood more than 40 percent of it. Set within a buzzing, florescent-lit labyrinth of garage labs and self-storage complexes, the film follows two aspiring hackers as they accidentally invent an ominously humming box that seems to combine the most worrisome aspects of both time and Xerox machines. Things progress from there, and back again. Vague, I know, but to reveal more would sour the script's surprises (of which there are more than a few), and because Carruth's flummoxing combination of dense torrents of geek-speak and leap-frogging plot threads actively defies standard narrative coherence, while encouraging and supporting multiple explanations. A second viewing may explain more, but hopefully not everything. Comparisons have been made to both Pi's trip-hoppy visuals and Memento's rewinding plot, and while such surface comparisons are certainly apt, the director's talents for invoking confusion without frustration and investing found locations with a just slightly off feeling are entirely his own. (This flickering, alien vibe may prove to be the most off-putting to some viewers; at times the film feels less like it was shot than grown in a petri dish somewhere.) For watchers willing to sit back and be taken, it's a helluva thing--even if it isn't totally apparent what that thing is, exactly. (ANDREW WRIGHT) Varsity, Fri-Sun 1:20, 3:20, 5:20, 7:30, 9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 7:30, 9:30 pm.
Rachel's Daughters: Searching for the Causes of Breast Cancer
A free screening organized by the Breast Cancer Fund. Town Hall, Mon Oct 18 at 7 pm.
* Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
See review this issue. For more information, please see seattlequeerfilm.com.
Señorita Extraviada, Missing Young Woman
A documentary about the more than 200 women from Juarez, Mexico who have been kidnapped and murdered since 1993. New Freeway Hall, Thurs Oct 21 at 7:30 pm.
The Sneak series of film previews continues its fourth season. For more information, see www.sneakfilms.com. Pacific Place, Sun Oct 17 at 10 am.
The Tenth Victim
This 1965 Italian film about hunting human beings stars Marcello Mastroianni. Movie Legends, Sun Oct 17 at 1 pm.
This Ain't No Heartland
A film that documents contemporary responses to Bush's Iraq war in the American Midwest. Northwest Film Forum, Tues Oct 19 at 9 pm.
* You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story
Compared to Jandek on Corwood, The Gary Wilson Story is a far more colorful look at a freakish underground music icon--mostly because Wilson's tale is made much more multidimensional. As a creative crackpot, Wilson came out on the perverse side of the '70s, taking a pet duck out on walks, working on funny art films with subjects like men fighting over a mannequin girlfriend, and, most significantly, leading a group of musicians called the Blind Dates in some way-out, early electro funk. Described by one fan as "demented blue-eyed soul [blended] with Steely Dan on crack," his oddly costumed musical performances (which sometimes included throwing handfuls of flour and/or destroying the instruments on stage) and independent recording methods are said to have inspired everyone from Beck to K Records, although he remained mainly an obscure figure until recently. This film includes interviews with Wilson and his father, as well as his bandmates, fans, and the Motel Records operators who released Forgotten Lovers, a collection of unreleased tracks and rarities, in 2003. (JENNIFER MAERZ) Northwest Film Forum, Sat-Sun 8 pm.
The big problem with Zero Day is that the director, Ben Coccio, wants us to believe that there are no real reasons behind a massacre like Columbine, the incident on which his film is based. The two high-school seniors in Zero Day (Andre Keuck and Calvin Robertson) just did what they did because they could do it. It wasn't violent video games, or cruel parents, or a lack of friends. They committed murder because we live in a world where everything is permitted, as Old Dusty would say.
Shot on digital and narrated as a video diary counting down the days to the killing spree, which, like Columbine, is captured on video monitors, the boys in Zero Day, who call themselves the Army of Two, have normal parents, and one, Calvin, has a beautiful girlfriend, plays the sitar, and enjoys reading poetry at cafes. Both are not really outsiders, or even that morbid. Therefore, the director argues, the pact they make to kill others and themselves has no ground, no purpose, no meaning. But this is completely wrong. There were reasons for Columbine, and there are reasons for Zero Day. The murderous teens exist in, and interact with, a social reality that can be read, interpreted, and corrected. Their brand of suburban existentialism is the consequence of real and recognizable social factors that are at every level and moment political. Nothing human comes from nothing. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Consolidated Works, Fri-Sun 8 pm.
Around the Bend
See review this issue.
As polished and pleasant as all this scenery is (and as good as both Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx are), Collateral nonetheless fails, both as a thriller and as yet another entry into Michael Mann's brooding-men oeuvre. What may have been intended as a thinking man's thriller--patient, observant, character-driven--is thoroughly derailed by a surprising source: Mann's inability to shoot action. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
As Dig!, the new documentary about the Dandys vs. Brian Jonestown Massacre, shows, these groups were able use some talent to cultivate followings within the music industry (from Psychic TV's Genesis P-Orridge to A&R types) and achieve modest successes. Dig! spotlights the rise and stumble of the Dandys as they work their way through signing to Columbia, as well as BJM's desperate attempts to cling to a label without killing each other. But more than being about the record industry, Dig! is a movie about the superegos of a bunch of temperamental, drug addicted, jealous musicians who both love and loathe each other. And for that reason the film is pure genius--as well as an accidental comedy. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
A Dirty Shame
A Dirty Shame tackles the very John Waters-worthy topic of sexual addiction, only to squander it in a pile of unfunny, obvious, and surprisingly tame jokes. Has popular culture finally out-crassed John Waters? (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
* Fahrenheit 9/11
Michael Moore is a propagandist, taking the fight to the opposition on their terms, and winning. Because of his motives and his audience, this propagandist is the most important filmmaker we have, and Fahrenheit 9/11 is the best film he's ever made. (SEAN NELSON)
The Final Cut
See review this issue.
This daughter-of-the-prez teen flick is surprisingly good, even though it's exactly like Chasing Liberty and even though it stars Katie Holmes of bland, excessively scrubbed Dawson's Creek fame. And I ought not neglect to mention that the plot argues for the reelection of a subtly right-leaning president. What's great about First Daughter, despite all these negative portents, is that Katie Holmes' character is fundamentally unlikeable. And Katie Holmes knows it. Watching an actress condescend to her own character--from inorganic grins to pantmomimes of sorority-girl fun--is deeply, perversely satisfying. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The Forgotten is a surprisingly strong mainstream thriller, with twists that are both implausible and utterly credible, thanks especially to the open-wound vulnerability of the great Julianne Moore. She plays a bereaved mother who suddenly begins to suspect that everyone around her--shrink, husband, neighbor--is part of a conspiracy to make her believe her dead son never existed. Because this is a thriller, she's right, of course, but in a world of infinite possibilities, the choices made by screenwriter Gerald DiPego and highly skilled genre director Joseph Ruben justify the thrills in a refreshingly inventive style. (SEAN NELSON)
Friday Night Lights
A working-class football movie starring Billy Bob Thornton.
* Garden State
Zack Braff's debut film, Garden State, which he wrote, directed, and stars in, may very well be a similar act of egogasm (when you put Simon and Garfunkel on the soundtrack of your examination of disaffected twentysomethings, you're just asking for it), but it features enough odd grace notes among the rampant navel-gazing to warrant a watch. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Innocence is set in the year 2032, and concerns an android cop and his human partner trying to determine why a series of pleasure robots have turned into killers. What begins as a murder investigation ends as an ontological inquiry--an examination of the meaning of being. The fight and battle sequences are impressively complex, but the long sections of philosophizing are laughably simple. The director, Mamoru Oshii, forced his film to confront and answer the biggest of all questions about human existence. But Descartes has no business being in the land of anime. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Initially, Yimou Zhang, the director of such intimate character pieces as Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, may seem an odd choice to successfully rekindle the flaming swords and arrows of the martial arts genre, but from the opening frames he sells you. Hero melds modern wirework effects with the director's own mastery of character to create an awesome chop-socky epic with an honestly moving emotional backbeat. This time, at least, the hype can be believed. I could watch it every night. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
I * Huckabees
While there are many characters, themes, plots, and subplots in Huckabees, the real conflicts are all dialectical--existential detectives vs. nihilist temptress, surrealistic idealist vs. empirical purist, etc. And even though these precepts are embodied by famous actors, the entire film winds up feeling like an abstraction, rather than a dramatization, of a philosophical quandary. That doesn't mean Huckabees fails to entertain; it just means that the viewer is required to discern a pattern from a seemingly random blizzard of ideas blowing across the screen. (SEAN NELSON)
Directed by Patrice Leconte, Intimate Strangers has a strong start and a weak finish. The opening is strong because the premise actually works. But once the accountant is exposed, the comedy dies and a drama is born. With the comedy gone for good, all that's left to enjoy are the film's set designs and the cinematography, which works hard to capture the bourgeois elegance of Sandrine Bonnaire's face. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
* Ladder 49
I can't say Ladder 49 is a powerful movie that does real justice to the life of a firefighter, because I'm not a firefighter. I don't even personally know any firefighters. But if it is, if this movie is even 75-percent legit... well then, shit--firefighters are amazing, courageous, and insane human beings. (MEGAN SELING )
Maria Full of Grace
Following an angelic (i.e., stunningly gorgeous) young woman--pregnant and sick of life in her one-factory town--who joins up with the local drug lord for a single trip across the Colombian border, this first film from writer-director Joshua Marston is an admirably restrained, even-handed debut that wisely avoids making sweeping societal pronouncements, shrinking Maria's world--whether she's in rural Colombia or big-city New Jersey--to the small circle of people who directly impact her life. (ADAM HART)
* The Motorcycle Diaries
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. There is much to despise about Che Guevara later in his life; these early adventures help us understand where the eventual fanatic was born. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Mr. 3000 (Bernie Mac) is an aging former baseball star who, upon discovering that several of his namesake 3000 hits were mistakenly counted twice, vows to regain his dignity, glory, and nickname by returning to the field.
* Napoleon Dynamite
In this charming new film, 24-year-old writer/director Jared Hess mines the nebulous area between popular chic and weirdo freak, where outcast attributes are both quality, subtle comedy, and a charmingly dark part of our collective high-school unconscious. (JENNIFER MAERZ)
* Open Water
This year's Sundance bidding champ, Open Water, made with a skeleton crew and produced on a budget unfair to most shoestrings, has a central gimmick that's hard to trump: actors in the water messing around with real live sharks. Where husband-and-wife team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau excel is in creating the steadily mounting feeling that something could go terribly wrong at any moment, both in front of and behind the camera. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Raise Your Voice
Hilary Duff has about as much screen presence as a Peep marshmallow treat. "Band camp is hard! I miss my dead brother!" BOO HOO, Lizzy Maguire! So, yeah, all these kids (including Lizzy Maguire) are at a prestigious L.A. music camp. They make music, they fight, they get drunk (well, one gets drunk), and in the end they all learn a valuable lesson about themselves. How sweet. How dull. I was told that I have to go see all these dumb movies because my reviews of them are funny. Does that makes sense?!?! I'm being punished for being funny?!?! I demand I start getting to review good movies. If you're with me, send an e-mail to Bradley Steinbacher, Mr. Film Editor, at email@example.com with the subject line "Don't punish Megan Seling for being hilarious." Thank you. (MEGAN SELING)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Alice (Milla Jovovich) survives a dastardly laboratory incident! But now she has to flee from the undead! The horror.
See review this issue.
Shall We Dance?
See review this issue.
Dreamworks' newest faux-Disney offering is a drably animated parable about the perils of watching too much Cribs. Will Smith provides the voice of a lowly fish named Oscar, a whale-wash employee who can only fantasize about appearing on a billboard in the ocean equivalent of midtown Manhattan. But then a freak accident kills a shark who'd been pursuing Oscar, and the boy from the reef's South Side seizes the opportunity to reinvent himself as a shark-slaying celebrity. Clearly, the ruse can't be sustained for long. (ANNIE WAGNER)
* Shaun of the Dead
A sharp, clever, and gory horror-comedy that manages to be as scary as it is hilarious, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead shows all the marks of becoming a cult classic (and yeah, I know that sounds clichéd--but in this case, it's actually true). In the recent glut of financially successful zombie flicks--from 28 Days Later to the remake of Dawn of the Dead--the UK-made Shaun is the clear spiritual and intellectual winner, a film that simultaneously respects and satirizes the zombie genre. (ERIK HENRIKSEN)
Silver City is a toothless political satire weighted down by self-satisfaction, lame performances, and a plot that seems to understand that its only purpose is to motorize the anti-George W. Bush allegory that beats ineffectually where the film's heart should be. (SEAN NELSON)
* Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
This is perhaps the most expensive experimental film ever (think of a cheerful Lars von Trier's Zentropa, or a Guy Maddin film with a ridiculous budget), and as such it's fairly shocking that it exists at all. Studios are not ones to gamble, after all, especially on first-time filmmakers with cockamamie schemes about robots and fighter planes, but Conran has managed to make something in Sky Captain that both harks back and leaps forward at the same time, and it is without a doubt, on a purely technical level, one of the bravest major studio pictures ever released. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Taxi met every single one of my expectations. Of course, knowing the film's storyline included a likeable but clumsy cop, an opinionated bike messenger turned cab driver, and a gang of supermodels who rob banks.... Well, my standards weren't set very high. Jimmy Fallon played Jimmy Fallon, Queen Latifah played Queen Latifah, and the supermodels wore a lot of short skirts. But I laughed, so, you know, it was fine. (MEGAN SELING)
Team America: World Police
See review this issue.
The problem with Reese Witherspoon as Becky is linked to the way this film tries to reinvent her character. Thackeray's secret sympathy for his conniving protagonist--who is so bad she even hates children--always seeps through the cynical narration. Becky Sharp is great because, no matter how much we admire her pluck from the safe distance of the 21st century, she was a terrible bitch. Mira Nair does not agree. (ANNIE WAGNER)
What the #$*! Do We Know?!
This ungainly, inane film purports to be about quantum physics but is really about the power of positive thinking, with a midlife-crisis plot (starring Marlee Matlin) and some childish cartoon figures and a series of talking heads who can't stop using the word "paradigm." (EMILY HALL)
In this wretched, soulless tale of love on the courts of Wimbledon, tennis boy Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) meets tennis girl Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) when a serendipitous keycard mix-up sends him into her hotel suite just as she's finishing her shower. The sad fact is that the best thing about this movie is the dorky, good-omen ball boy, who pops up whenever it looks like Peter is about to lose. (ANNIE WAGNER)
The Yes Men
This documentary follows two culture jammers as they plot out a series of increasingly absurd theatrical stunts. Seeing the way their absurdities play with the credulous corporate audiences is fairly amusing, and the lengths they go toward pulling the wool over people's eyes is admirable. The only problem is that the film, directed by the team responsible for the brilliant American Movie, is equally credulous, which makes the activism feel cloying and self-satisfied. (SEAN NELSON)
See review this issue.