In Absentia, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Yards, Two Family House, Stardom, The Little Vampire, Lucky Numbers, Loving Jezebel, A Time for Drunken Horses, Seattle Asian American Film Festival 2000


Around the Fire
Fumblingly earnest, John Jacobsen's Around the Fire is far from the worst movie ever made about drug addiction--the setting is novel and there's a nice absence of preachiness--but telegraphs all its punches so thoroughly you'd know they were coming; then again you already do, since you've seen them all before. When young preppie Devon Sawa starts hanging out with the nomadic fans of an unnamed, forever-touring Grateful Dead/Phish-type rock band, it's a short step from him coughing over his first bong hit to dealing LSD as ruthlessly as Scarface did cocaine. The kind of film filled with recurring flashbacks of a child walking down a hallway at night, and taking so long to get to the door you don't care what permanently scars his mind when he gets there. (Bruce Reid) Thurs-Fri Oct 19-20, plus special benefit screenings Wed Oct 18 at 7 & 9:30, with all proceeds going to the Green Party. Little Theatre

Stumbling across Bedazzled is like finding a bucket full of moonshine in the woods. It's not that the film is great, but it's awfully nice to meander into something that is simply, confidently good. Plus, I never knew that Brendan Fraser was HILARIOUS! His goofy, unrestrained performance as a schmuck making Faustian deals with the devil (all tits and ass and Elizabeth Hurley) is a joy to behold--humble, manic, tidy, and sloppy all at once. I especially loved him as a sweaty, dim basketball player. It helps that the film is underpinned by the wit of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, who wrote and starred in the original British version in 1967. Oh, and watch for a standout handful of fine performances from Gabriel Casseus, who will be a big star someday; I'll wager $20 to anyone who wants to bet! (Jamie Hook) Opens Fri Oct 20. Metro

*Billy Elliot
An ADORABLE film about a SWEET boy who wants to DANCE instead of mine coal. Opens Fri Oct 20; see Stranger Suggests. Guild 45th

All great combos come in threes: bacon, lettuce, and tomato; Larry, Moe, and Curly; and, in this rare work of dubitable genius, pot, zombies, and the FBI come together with generous panache. Don't miss it! Fri-Sat Oct 20-21. Grand Illusion

An unemployed and lonely writer gets his kicks by following random people in order to learn about their lives from a distance. Opens Fri Oct 20; see review this issue. Grand Illusion

Legend of the Drunken Master
Miramax attempts to make a little more money by dubbing Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II into English, and then re-releasing it. Meanwhile, fans of the Crow series have demanded a boycott of the film, in a harebrained attempt to convince Miramax to release The Crow: Salvation. Angry Jackie Chan fans responded by arguing that a boycott of Legend of Drunken Master only really hurts Jackie Chan. Blood is gonna fly!!! Mark our words!! Opens Fri Oct 20.

The fruitiest film event of the year. Opens Fri Oct 20; see preview this issue. Egyptian, Little Theatre

Life Is a Bed of Roses
A wealthy count builds a brilliant, rococo "Palace of Happiness" during the first World War in this unseen, not-on-video, 1983 work from Alain Resnais. Sat-Sun Oct 21-22. Grand Illusion

*Louis Prima: The Wildest
There is a myth about the famous Benny Goodman piece, "SingSingSing." It is performed in two distinct movements, with the drums bringing us into the second, manic part. Supposedly, during a show, Louis Prima was so overcome with the urge to keep playing that, when the song was over, he simply started it up again. The musicians all followed suit, and the now-famous ditty was born. Whether or not this myth is true, it is a perfect representation of the irrepressible Prima's approach to jazz: ebullient, passionate, and totally out of control. If you're a fan, you won't want to miss this exhaustive documentary about the life of the great jazzman, who, by the way, talked just like he drummed: A LOT! (Jamie Hook) Wed Oct 25. JBL Theater at EMP

A screening of F. W. Murnau's truly frightening Nosferatu (1922), the first film adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Silent, with English titles and music. This event features live music by Ensemble Sub Masa. Thurs Oct 19. Rendezvous

One of the sharpest festivals in the U.S., the 17th Annual Olympia Film Festival opens on Friday Oct 20 with a screening of Spring Forward. First-week highlights include Greg Watkin and Caveh Zahedi's elegantly small new film A Sign From God; SUD, Chantal Akerman's brilliant video documentary of the murder of James Byrd, Jr.; and a handful of Robert Bresson's masterworks, introduced by professional curmudgeon and critic Ray Carney. Also, be sure to check out their wonderful All Freakin' Night show. Opens Fri Oct 20; tickets available at Scarecrow Video, or call 360-754-6670 or visit for more information. See Stranger Suggests.

A new update of the landmark 1953 film, which in turn updated the 765 B.C. myth of Orpheus, setting it amidst the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. Opens Fri Oct 20; see review this issue. Broadway Market

Pay it Forward
Kevin Spacey covered his face with Play-Doh for this strange, American study of karma. Opens Fri Oct 20; see review this issue. Metro

A very rare, very early adventure film from Frank Capra, Submarine tells the swashbuckling tale of a group of pedophiles on a submarine headed for Tinseltown, Hawaii for the 1928 Tropical Flower Cultivator's convention. Mon Oct 23. Paramount Theatre

*We Said Monorail!
Pro-monorail, pro-incendiary populist drama organization Rise Above It All sponsors an evening of informational video and discussion of alternative transportation systems as part of their campaign to "Re-elect the Monorail" in November with the passage of I-53. Fri Oct 20. 911 Media Arts


Almost Famous
The truth of the matter is that this movie is nothing more and nothing less than a light and entertaining crowd-pleaser. Which is fine. Good, even. It's just that for a rock 'n' roll tour film set in 1973, the content comes across as so... clean--like R-rated content in a PG-13 package. (Andy Spletzer) Factoria, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center

*The Art of War
This is a dazzling film. A dizzying film. Its structure is so baroque, so complex, so color-bright that it's totally incomprehensible. All we understand and enjoy is the fluid movements of the hero (Wesley Snipes) through underground sex clubs, rainy streets, corporate lobbies, office spaces, and cyberspace. Vertiginous, delirious, unstable, beautiful--this is the best action film you'll watch this year. You'll not, however, understand it. (Charles Mudede) Pacific Place 11

Barenaked in America
Barenaked Ladies are the quirky Canadians who scored radio hits with "One Week" and "It's All Been Done"; Barenaked in America is the aimless popumentary directed by Jason Priestley that would indicate This is Spinal Tap isn't being re-released north of the border. Check the listings for their VH1 Behind the Music instead. (Jason Pagano) Uptown

This poor homely kid is addicted to beauty pageants. Too ugly to win anything as a child, she grows up and... poof! she's Minnie Driver. Now her life goal is to become Miss America Miss, whatever that means. First-time director Sally Field has as uncanny ability to drain the blood from her characters until they flatline, and they're as dead as the plot. The movie skips by its own scenes, waving briskly at the main characters' moral poverty, sexual abuse, and jail time. Beautiful is neither dark nor funny, and Field extricates all traces of camp from a movie about beauty pageants! (Paula Gilovich) Meridian 16

*Best in Show
Christopher Guest's latest with Eugene Levy (they also collaborated on the hilarious 1996 regional theater spoof Waiting for Guffman) follows several dog owners on their quest for the blue ribbon at the 2000 Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. As with Guffman, the cast worked with little or no scripted dialogue and no rehearsals, free to improvise their scenes--a dangerous undertaking, but a total success thanks to the resulting uncanned humor and awkward, ugly cadences of people engaged in ordinary conversation no screenwriter could duplicate. (Jason Pagano) Broadway Market, Neptune, Redmond Town Center

*Bring it On
Universal Studios' marketing goons have not a goddamn clue what a great movie they've got on their hands. It's so sad--they keep playing it off like it's some nasty jiggle-fest (which in part it is) with no redeeming qualities (which it has plenty of). Best of all, the film is funny in a pre-postmodernistway--remember what that was like? When irony was just a brand of humor instead of a cynical philosophy? It was (and is) funny! (Jamie Hook) Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Redmond Town Center

The Broken Hearts Club
Let's be frank: This film is so profoundly awful that it inadvertently succeeds in performing the tremendous social service of euthanizing the subgenre of the once-viable "gay film." God, it's bad. I will waste your time by telling you that the film is about a group of gay men in L.A. looking for meaning in their lives. I will further bore you with the details that the protagonist is an "artist," and that the Broken Hearts Club is the name of the men's all-gay softball team, and that every character is a stereotype: the Ecstasy-snorting party boy, the fresh-from-the-closet "newbie," the macho sex addict, the ugly fag. But I can write no more. This film simply doesn't deserve it. (Jamie Hook) Harvard Exit

The Cell
The succulent Jennifer Lopez and the ever-more dissolute Vince Vaughn disappear into the mind of serial killer Vincent D'Onofrio, who is building an interesting career exploiting his rubbery anonymity. The stunning visuals are lifted whole from Damien Hirst, Mathew Barney, the Bros. Quay, and others, but remain creepily potent. (Tamara Paris) Pacific Place 11

The Contender
Liberals have won the culture wars, and it's embarrassing. In this Hollywood version of the Lewinsky affair (with the Clinton character recast as a woman), the Democrats make all the great speeches you wish they'd made during the 104th Congress and the Republicans are as simply evil and as plainly hypocritical as you wish they were. The Contender plays like it was funded by the DNC and scripted by a college sophomore taking her first Intro to Women's Studies class. The first hour of the movie--featuring murders, behind-the-scenes White House meetings, strong arm politicking, and secret memos--is actually a blast, but once the trite sermonizing kicks in (Democrats are pro-choice!), you'll start wishing they'd just cut to more footage of the sex scandal. A B-movie about a B-rate episode in American history. One plus, though: Allen is fetching. (Josh Feit) Bay Majestic, Factoria, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11, Redmond Town Center

Dancer in the Dark
Dancer in the Dark is a wonderful film in theory. In exposition, however, it suffers gravely from director Lars von Trier's ingrained contrarian aesthetic and growing avant-garde laziness. When the film is not wantonly sadistic, it is simply sloppy in a poorly thought-out way. While von Trier maintains his unique facility for the direction of small, crying women, his other tricks seem woefully inadequate for pulling off the feat he sets out to accomplish. (Jamie Hook) Harvard Exit, Seven Gables

Digimon: The Movie
Digimon was a very weird movie, at least that's what I thought because I don't know anything about Digimon. The movie was pretty boring, but there were some cool parts, like when the Digimon digevolved; the music gets louder, and the Digemon become something even cooler than what they were before. The animation was pretty cool, but not as good as I thought it would look. Now that I've seen this movie I like Digimon a little more and I know a lot more about it than I did before. So people who love Digimon will probably like this movie but I don't want to see it again. (Sam Lachow, 9 years old) Grand Alderwood, Meridian 16, Oak Tree

Dr. T & the Women
Robert Altman's newest film is a mishmash of the most frustrating variety. There is a great intro, set in the lobby of Richard Gere's gynecological practice, and the coda at the end is amusing, but overall the picture is uneven (this is Altman, after all), and the joke--a man surrounded by the multiplicitous insanity of women--wears thin a bit too soon. Then there's the gleefully rendered culture of Texan wealth, which holds all the fascination of a car wreck. (Jamie Hook) Factoria, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Redmond Town Center

*The Exorcist
Though the re-release of The Exorcist is unlikely to leave the same mark it did in 1973--when audience members purportedly vomited and ran screaming from theaters across the globe--it is nevertheless a great excuse to see the film in a dark theater, with the surround-sound effects of a remastered soundtrack. (Melody Moss) Cinerama, Metro, Redmond Town Center, Southcenter

Get Carter
Mike Hodges' 1971 thriller Get Carter may be no masterpiece, but it's a cool, ruthless little gem, as sharp and gleaming as a whetted knife blade. Stephen Kay's remake, on the other hand, is all flashing lights, showy video effects, and rapid, incoherent editing. Now, I'm all for style over substance, but if you go that route, be sure to get an actor who looks good in silk suits. Sylvester Stallone--at his most glumly immobile in the lead role of a Vegas loan shark's enforcer who comes up to Seattle to avenge his brother's death--seems comically distorted wearing designer threads. Mickey Rourke wears his muscle shirts and neon bright sunglasses with flair; maybe he should have starred. (Bruce Reid) Aurora Cinema Grill, Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16

I feel more comfortable pretending that the conflict in this movie takes place--oh, let's say over a Scrabble board. Okay. Diana, played by the hunky Michelle Rodriguez, is in trouble at her high school. We see her in an impromptu crossword match, and her principal warns her that one more unwarranted word-fest and she's expelled on the spot. Later that same day, Diana's father sends her on an errand to the local Scrabble club, where her brother takes lessons. Diana watches him squander a Q on a 12-point word with no bonus. Outraged, she pulls an F, an I, and an H from his tiles and slams down a triple-word FISH for 30 points. She sees a possible outlet for her aggressions. (Barley Blair) Grand Alderwood, Metro, Pacific Place 11

The Ladies Man
This loose and loopy extended sketch about lisping Lothario Leon Phelps has all the slippery charm of a circa-'70s polyester shirt. Carried by the unlikely but undeniable charisma of SNL regular Tim Meadows and a script that seems almost accidental, this cinematic equivalent of a bag of bar nuts manages to coax forth just enough laughs to make a matinee viewing worthwhile. If you're like me, the empty calories will leave you with a greasy aftertaste and an unquenchable thirst to see the pleasant pimp's penis. (Tamara Paris) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Oak Tree

Lost Souls
Right on the heels of The Exorcist's re-release comes this pale imitation of a diabolical thriller, starring Ben Chaplin as an unwitting Antichrist and Winona Ryder as the black-eyed, whispery mope who must convince him of his impending demonic possession. The few moments of suspense toward the end don't make up for the dull, plodding, wreck of a script, and it would take a superhuman suspension of disbelief to swallow the ridiculous plot lines ("SEX" spelled backwards equals 666?). You'll be wishing the devil would just hurry up and take you long before the film's "day of reckoning" arrives. (Melody Moss) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Varsity

*Meet the Parents
Ben Stiller plays Greg, a male nurse living in an unnamed metropolis about to pop the question to Pam, his kindergarten-teacher girlfriend. But he realizes in the nick of time that he must first ask her father (played with vicious delicacy by Robert De Niro) for permission. Happily, a trip home to attend her sister's wedding presents the perfect opportunity. But wait! Complications invariably ensue, and each new catastrophic development drives a wedge ever deeper twixt Greg and his beloved. (Tamara Paris) Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Guild 45th, Oak Tree, Pacific Place 11

Nurse Betty
Betty, a diner waitress, settles comfortably into a thick confusion after accidentally witnessing her sleazy husband's murder. She instantly blocks out reality, and decides to drive from Fair Oaks, Kansas to Los Angeles in pursuit of her favorite soap-opera character, "Dr. David Ravell," whom she believes is her long-lost true love. On paper, this all sounds so great--interesting, silly, action-packed, dramatic, full of potential. But what director Neil LaBute produces onscreen is surprisingly disappointing. (Min Liao) Aurora Cinema Grill, Meridian 16, Redmond Town Center

Charlie (Jason Cairns) has just finished serving a prison sentence for helping his grandfather commit suicide. He moves in with his friend Nick (Kane Picoy), who lives with his parents on a steady diet of spaghetti and sports. Both men are in their 20s, specifically living that floating year of 25, 26, or 27, when the ego cracks and it can't hold the world anymore. Although there are glimmers of inspiration, especially in the strong, well-written characterizations and the elegant evocation of place, no adductor exists to keep these pieces working with a pulse or purpose; no body exists. And because there is no body, there is no power of one. (Paula Gilovich) Uptown

Remember the Titans
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, directed by Boaz Yakin, and starring Denzel Washington, Remember the Titans is set in the early '70s and based on real life, real people, the real America. It's a "problem film"--a movie about a black man (a football coach, in this case) who has to win the trust and love of angry, white racists. Incredible as this may sound, the movie is actually fascinating--not because it's well done or acted (nothing stands out in that regard), but because it has the manic pace of The Rock coupled with the content of Do The Right Thing. Now how in the world can you top that? (Charles Mudede) Bay Majestic, Factoria, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Northgate, Pacific Place 11

Telling the story of Tony le Stephanois, a newly sprung bank robber who engineers the perfect caper, Rififi is a delirious fantasia of gangster ethics and underworld locales, artfully framed in a baroque, twisting plot and hung lovingly against the gorgeous backdrop of Parisian streets. The performances are quite excellent, the cinematography is stunning, the music is dead on, the plot is an economic wonder, and the virtually silent, gleefully long heist scene is a tingling, ecstatic, sustained act of brilliance--a sacrament of the cinema. (Jamie Hook) Egyptian, Varsity Calendar

First-date movies have special requirements, to which Santitos answers admirably: Colorful, light, and cheerful? Check. Sexy, but not mushy or gross? Check. Beautiful people? Check. But not only beautiful people? Something surprising? Check. A few puzzles to work out afterward? Check, check, check. So go with somebody nice--and won't the anthropologists of the future be impressed at the courting rituals we've worked out for ourselves? (Barley Blair) Broadway Market

Saving Grace
If you've seen a Cheech and Chong film, you've seen every gag here: absentminded cops oblivious to the cloud of smoke around an acquaintance's head; balding, potbellied hippies lighting up to the strains of a sitar; two sweet old ladies, inadvertently stoned and gorging themselves on candy bars. If these situations sound remotely amusing to you, you might as well go. (Bruce Reid) Admiral, Crest

Silent Cinema Classics
An evening of silent films, including Max Fleischer's Koko's Magic (1928), and Buster Keaton in One Week (1920). Professor Hokum W. Jeebs provides musical accompaniment on the mighty Wurlitzer organ. Hokum Hall

*Space Cowboys
Alongside voting and worrying about your body, one of your duties as an American is to see every Clint Eastwood film released, regardless of individual failures, hyperbole, plot holes, or any other misdeeds whatsoever. He alone has earned that right. (Jamie Hook) Meridian 16, Pacific Place 11

Spike and Mike's 2000 Classic Festival of Animation
An international collection of 14 almost entirely new works of "classic" animation (read: neither "sick" nor "twisted") that, while sometimes stumbling into occasional mediocrity, still avoids the lowest-common-denominator pandering of its sleazy counterpart. The 27 and a half minutes shared by One Day a Man Bought a House, Three Misses, and the heartbreaking, beautifully drawn When the Day Breaks are worth admission alone, and the unlikely combination of vaguely depressing and happily stoopid shorts proves a nice mix overall. (Jason Pagano) Varsity Calendar

The Tao of Steve
Chunky, attitudinal Dex (an extraordinarily charming Donal Logue, a prizewinner at Sundance) teaches kindergarten. He's great with women and drifting a decade out of college when an old college friend shows up and doesn't fall for his line. Hyperarticulate and hypersexed, Dex must learn the meaning of his words and his heart. (Ray Pride) Metro

Urban Legends: Final Cut
For those who create teen-slasher flicks, it is acknowledged that effort needn't necessarily be at a premium, but it is also acknowledged that one should do as best as one can do anyway. Why? Common fucking human decency--obviously not on the agenda when this fetid offering spluttered off the mill. (Kudzai Mudede) City Centre, Grand Alderwood, Lewis & Clark

The Watcher
I believe that the makers of this movie, sensing the impending threat of Keanu Reeves' disagreeable offerings, spared no expense upon damage limitation. Hence, The Watcher is a frightfully unimaginative, by-the-numbers thriller with no plot twists, no clever bits, horrendous slow-motion dance sequences, few thrills, and anemic character development, successfully leaving Reeves well within his depth. (Kudzai Mudede) Meridian 16

What Lies Beneath
A well-preserved pair of thoroughbred movie stars find that all is not well in their gorgeous New England home, what with the dead girl in the tub and all. The whole damn thing is ripped right out of the Hitchcock how-to manual, so of course it succeeds fantastically at its admittedly simple goal: scaring you so badly you throw your popcorn all over the people in the row behind you. (Tamara Paris) Admiral

Woman on Top
Penélope Cruz is Isabella, a Brazilian chef with severe motion sickness who leaves a small fishing village in Brazil for San Francisco in order to escape her two-timing husband. She subsequently finds herself on television in her very own spicy Latin cooking show, blessed with magical chef powers and a neverending supply of Wonderbra-friendly outfits. (Rachel Kessler) City Centre