500 Dunam on the Moon
A documentary featurette about a Israeli artists' colony and the dispossed former residents, Palestinians who resettled less than a mile away. Ethnic Cultural Theater, Sun Nov 14 at 7 pm.
A 1952 film by Otto Preminger about an ambulance driver played by Robert Mitchum. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Nov 11 at 7:30 pm.
Films by Peter Braatz
German documentaries about outsider artists: No Frank in Lumberton (about the making of Blue Velvet), Ich Sende Aus Dem All (about dub producer Lee "Scratch" Perry), and Over the Air (about former Can singer Damo Suzuki). Georgetown Records, Sun Nov 14 at 6 pm.
Woody Harrelson is a stinkin' hippie. Always with the hemp, that one. And now in this documentary, always on a bio-fueled bus with his buddies (yoga teacher, hemp activist, raw-foods activist) discussing how to be more eco-friendly with the likes of Dave Matthews, Anthony Kiedis, and Michael Franti. Varsity, Fri-Sun 12:50, 2:50, 4:50, 7, 9 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9 pm.
Short documentaries commisioned by ConWorks from filmmakers around the globe. Consolidated Works, Tues Nov 16 at 8 pm.
A documentary about a European porn company with high artistic standards. Consolidated Works, Fri-Sun 8 pm.
Kids Are All Right: Mikhail Baryshnikov's Stories from My Childhood
Animated Russian fairy tales dubbed by American movie stars like Kirsten Dunst and Jim Belushi. The Snow Queen, Wild Swans, and Alice and the Mystery of the Third Planet, Northwest Film Forum, Sat Nov 13 at 11 am.
"Jesus! What a mind-job!" EMP's JBL Theater, Fri Nov 12 at 7 pm. Discussion with Mark Rahner follows.
A Buster Keaton tale of love on the high seas. Rendezvous, Wed Nov 17 at 7:30 pm.
Grand Illusion launches its Baadd Side of Black Action series with this 1987 film starring Leon Isaac Kennedy as a man wrongfully convicted of murder. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
* The Rules of the Game
Jean Renoir made many masterpieces, but come the wet-ass hour, this savage vivisection of the ruling, bourgeois, and servile classes is the masterpiece to end all masterpieces. There is too much to say about the greatness of La Regle du Jeu for this space, besides which, most of it has probably been said by people much wiser than I in such matters. So I'll just leave it by adding that the brutal naturalism of the hunting scene is my favorite part. (SEAN NELSON) Movie Legends, Sun Nov 14 at 1 pm.
Shadow of the Himalayas: How People Live in Nepal
A locally produced short film about Nepal. Seattle Mountaineers Clubhouse, Thurs Nov 11 at 7 pm.
* Since Otar Left
Since Otar Left is about three women (a very old grandmother, a world-weary mother, and a cunning granddaughter) who share a book-filled apartment in the capitol of the former-Soviet republic of Georgia. The grandmother's son, Otar, lives and works as a laborer in Paris; the father of the granddaughter died during Russia's Vietnam, the Afghanistan war; and the mother presently has a lover whom she likes in bed but nowhere else in her life. This close family of Georgian women is devoted to French culture; the grandmother and her granddaughter love to conduct their conversations in French, and to read the French literature and philosophy that dominates their apartment's bookshelves. Otar's letters from the City of Lights are composed in French, and arrive with a little money to help his mother, who is 90 years old but alert and even agile. Despite their cultivation, and high level of education (Otar is a Moscow-trained doctor), the family is struggling to survive in a global economy that is driven by the harsh principles of neo-liberalism. Expertly paced, beautifully photographed, with a plot that gets to the very heart of the postfordist, postsocialist, postproletarian immigrant experience of our new century--what first-time director Julie Bertucelli accomplishes in Since Otar Left is truly transcendental. Please, do your best not to miss this movie. (CHARLES MUDEDE) Northwest Film Forum, Daily 7:15, 9:30 pm.
Songs of the River: Maha Kumbh Mela
A documentary about the largest gathering of people anywhere ever. (It happened in 2001.) Travelers, Fri Nov 12 at 8 pm.
This 1953 film by Dick Powell continues SAM's film noir series. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs Nov 18 at 7:30 pm.
* The Thin Man Series
All six of the Thin Man pictures must be watched because none departs from the essential pleasures: drinking and solving crime. Both films screen at the Grand Illusion. Another Thin Man, Weekdays 7 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 7 pm. Shadow of the Thin Man, Weekdays 9 pm, Sat-Sun 5, 9 pm.
* Y Tu Mamá También
As two Mexican teenagers frantically fuck, the boy, Tenoch (Diego Luna), pleads/demands that the girl not screw any Italians on her impending European trip with her best friend. Meanwhile, that best friend is having rushed pre-departure sex with her boyfriend, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is also Tenoch's best friend. When the girls have left, we settle down to watch these two boys spend an aimless summer. Everything gets thrown sideways when they meet a sexy older woman (that is to say, in her 20s) named Luisa. Y Tu Mamá También is a brilliant, incisive core sampling of life in Mexico. It's both slender and profound; the movie's greatest pleasures are often its smallest ones--even the title comes from a tossed--off bit of banter. Any individual moment could be trivial, silly, pointless, even embarrassing--but the accumulation of moments has a devastating scope. (BRET FETZER) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight. NOW PLAYING
After the Sunset
Not to be confused with Before Sunrise, After the Sunset is about a retired thief and the FBI agent who's out to get him.
Even in a picture that doesn't require him to do an accent (do people just not notice how terrible he is at doing accents?) pretty boy Jude Law remains unconvincing, even while playing a quintessential narcissist. Recasting the central character as a little boy lost, rather than a predator, director Charles Shyer squanders all the attraction and complications of the original role--you don't hate Law's Alfie; you're supposed to pity him because he's afraid of commitment, which is bullshit, because fear of commitment is never compelling. (SEAN NELSON)
Annette Bening throws herself into each dizzying emotion with abandon, but the histrionics are so grossly out of proportion with the charm or threat posed by her schoolboy lover that the emotional center of the film is hollowed out. The end is smashingly entertaining, but I'm not so sure it makes the tedious, feature-length setup worthwhile. (ANNIE WAGNER)
Nicole Kidman plays Anna, an upper-crust New York ice maiden whose imminent nuptials are rocked by the sudden appearance of a spooky-cute unblinking kid who claims to be possessed by her decade-dead husband. Laughed off at first, the visitor reveals an increasing number of intimate details that cause Anna to rethink the afterlife, family ties, and most creepily, the legal age of consent. The story may posit a slew of blather about soul transference and the world beyond, but, crucially, the film never quite comes off as believing its own pitch. One well-staged (and much hyped) bathtub encounter aside, there's nothing here that clammily lingers the way it should. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
* The Bourne Supremacy
The clock is ticking from the very first moment of this outstanding sequel, which meets the unenviable challenge of besting its predecessor, the fantastic Bourne Identity. Amnesiac super spy/assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, who is now as hard as a diamond) comes out of hiding to confront his masters, who, as fate would have it, are already scouring the earth looking for him because they think he murdered some Russians and stole some secrets. And guess what: He did! Just not the Russians they think he killed. Sorry, forget the plot. Remember the dizzying fight scenes, the indefatigable cloak and dagger in which everyone is the smartest person in the room (and Bourne is the smartest of them all), the best car chase ever filmed (fact!). Remember director Paul Greengrass's masterful handheld choreography. Best of all, remember the supporting cast: Brian Cox, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Franka Potente, all of whom, along with Damon--whose robotic beauty has never better served a character than this one--help to elevate the Robert Ludlum pulp into a high lowbrow masterpiece. (SEAN NELSON)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
See review this issue.
* Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
Having studied the film carefully a few times, I still can't tell if the plot's weird calculus--what actually happens, to whom, and where, and when--actually adds up to anything more than a semi-random sequence of related but unconnected events. What I can say, however, is that the film resonates with a uniquely American kind of sadness. (SEAN NELSON)
See review this issue.
* The Forgotten
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)
The problem with the American remake of The Grudge is that the ghost never rests. You want a moment to look at Tokyo, to observe its traffic, its bright shops and busy bars--but that pleasure must be found in another movie (see Lost In Translation), because before the setting cools into the normal rhythms of urban life, yet another victim is being pursued and devoured. The ghost in The Grudge is to horror films what Ebola is to pathology. (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)
* The Incredibles
The Incredibles is done in true and beautiful Pixar style, but the action sequences are far more exhilarating than anything seen in Finding Nemo or Toy Story. Plus, the humans aren't annoyingly unattractive, and it's pretty damn funny to boot. (MEGAN SELING)
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)
* 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)
See review this issue.
The Polar Express
See review this issue.
Despite a tendency to bathe in the molasses of sentimentality, Ray is a rich exponent of the biopic genre. It'd be crazy not to attribute the film's success to the brilliance of its subject, the inestimably great American composer Ray Charles, and the constant presence on the soundtrack of his songs, but the choices made by the filmmakers certainly don't hurt. Chief among them, the casting of Jamie Foxx, up to now a cloying black comic, and hereafter a dazzling performer capable of inhabiting one of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century in a mesmerizing feat of impersonation. Imposing a narrative on a life, especially one filled with so many contradictions (i.e. beloved entertainer/ abusive junkie cheapskate) may be a fool's errand, but this film is satisfying nonetheless. (SEAN NELSON)
Remember Me, My Love
At the start of the film, Carlo and his wife are in a marriage that is desiccated. The family is positioned for a crisis, which appears in the form of an elegant woman, Alessia (Monica Bellucci). She and Carlo meet at a party; they had been lovers in the '70s, and unable to remember why the relationship ended, they soon decide to restore it. The decision sends their families into chaos; however, Carlo's family is saved by a car accident that lands the father to the emergency room. Up until this point, Remember Me, My Love was convincing. In reality, he would have been out the door and into the arms of the other woman; in this film, the director has him struck down, maimed, and returned to the heart of a family that will suffocate him again. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
To call Saw a study in "ham and cheese" (to steal a line from director Paul Thomas Anderson) would be a massive understatement. Cary Elwes doesn't just chew the scenery here, he fully consumes, digests, and ejects it, delivering a performance that would be sheer comic genius if he weren't so obviously sincere. At the screening I attended, the audience broke into laughter during a scene when Danny Glover, playing a detective, mourns the requisite loss of his partner, and it signaled the swap of the film from a decent horror flick with a good idea, to a must-see comic debacle. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Seed of Chucky
This is the grossest movie title ever.
Shall We Dance?
In Shall We Dance?, which is directed by Peter Chelsom, an estate planner (Richard Gere) wants to fuck a mysterious dance instructor (Jennifer Lopez). His marriage is safe, dull, and very white; in a flash he sees the exact opposite of all that he is--a brown voluptuous woman. She thrives in the heart of the city (Chicago); he is imprisoned in the suburbs. She has passion; he has a pension. As always, the north wants to hump the south. He makes a cautious move toward his desire, but what he ends up with are a bunch of dance lessons instead of sex. His wife (Susan Sarandon) suspects he is having an affair; but she soon learns that he is spending his nights practicing the tango. The movie ends with the marriage reaffirmed and a return of peace to the kingdom of the petty bourgeoisie. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
While Sideways is a road movie, it's a lazy one; the distance traveled, both physically and emotionally, is short. Blessed with pitch-perfect performances, especially by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church (who really is an actor on the downslope of his career), Sideways is a slight film, to be sure, but it's also one of Alexander Payne's least snide efforts; known for rolling his eyes at his characters as much as he rolls cameras on them, the director keeps himself mostly in check here. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
As the footage of his childhood reveals, Jonathan Caouette is a born performer with a commitment to self-invention that verges on scary. But the performance of Tarnation is much grander than its components. It's a heroic assertion of life that's accompanied by a chilling history of compelling arguments against it; the film embraces hope without denying the self-destructive impulse. In many ways, it's the story of a performer in search of an audience. The greatest irony of all is that its author has now found one, but only by tearing down all pretense of self-aggrandizement--Caouette achieves beauty by showing his ugliest self. (SEAN NELSON)
Team America: World Police
Heavily inspired by Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds series (which was recently bastardized by Paramount into a puppet-free "adventure"), the marionette work in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's film is truly amazing. The action sequences, and even the quiet moments, are triumphs of design, beautifully photographed by Bill Pope and far more complicated than any sane person(s) would even attempt, let alone succeed at creating. It's not just an homage to Anderson, it's a completion of the creepy world Anderson was so obsessed with. Team America's comedy may run from inspired to painfully flat, and the politics may be far too simplistic, but Parker and Stone have done one thing better than anyone has before: They've made the greatest marionette movie of all time. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
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)
* Vera Drake
The title character, played with impossible pathos and naiveté by Imelda Staunton, is a housekeeper, mother, visitor of shut-ins, and part-time abortionist. She is paid for polishing fireplace grates in rich people's homes, but the latter three functions--feeding and clothing her family of four, putting the kettle on in the cramped flats of various invalids, and pumping the uteruses of troubled women full of a noxious solution of carbolic soap--she performs gratis. The narrative is clearly engaged in modern political struggles, but at the same time it's a bruising, classical tragedy about a woman whose passionate altruism brings pain and suffering upon herself and the people whom she loves. (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)