Summer went so fast, and it's already time to huddle inside the theater and give your mind over to warming cinematic fancies. From the Spinal Tap-like Finnish metal comedy Heavy Trip to the neo-Western The Sisters Brothers, and from the Social Justice Film Festival: #HopeDemocracy to the Seattle Latino Film Festival, you've got plenty of entertaining and enlightening options this weekend. Plus, if you're in the mood to get out of town, you can head to the Tacoma Film Festival or the Orcas Island Film Festival, both of which are worth a trip. Follow the links below to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers for all of our critics' picks, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
I want to propose a 21st-century trilogy formed by French movies that star the great Vincent Lindon. The first film in this trilogy is Welcome, which came out in 2009 and concerns the politically and racially charged immigration question in Europe. Next is The Measure of a Man, which premiered at Cannes in 2015 and is about the dramatic and (for workers) often humiliating transition from an industrial labor market to one defined by flexible (or precarious) work. The last film in this trilogy is 2018’s The Apparition, which has Lindon playing a world-weary, atheist war journalist who is hired by the Vatican to investigate the claim of a supernatural event in a French village. The people so much want to believe that a young and unremarkable girl saw the ghost of Jesus’s mother in the woods. This film is superbly paced and presents one of the deepest investigations of religious faith in the age of social media. God now exists in a world that constantly exposes his invisibility. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Film Center
The Atomic Cafe
The US government's sustained campaign to reassure the public that the nuclear arms race was perfectly under control, and that A-bombs and H-bombs were literally gifts from God against the Commie menace, is the subject of this found-footage documentary. Terrifying and weirdly hilarious, it offers no commentary apart from the assemblage of clips—from testing footage of a cohort of soldiers ordered to run toward a nuclear blast in the desert to ads for bomb-themed fashion to friendly "duck-and-cover" cartoons.
In 1997, I saw something horrible near Bodega Bay, the town where Alfred Hitchcock set his 1963 horror film The Birds. I saw a huge and overfed seagull eating fried chicken out of a KFC box some human had abandoned on a picnic table. The seagull picked up a deep-fried wing with its beak, raised its head skyward, and swallowed the thing whole. Its neck expanded and contracted and swayed as the wing went down to the hell of its stomach. A bird eating a bird near the town where a movie about evil birds is set. Twenty-one years later, I can still recall that monstrous moment as if it happened a few hours ago. CHARLES MUDEDE
Based on retired police detective Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir Black Klansman, director Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman stars John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington) as the first Black cop on the Colorado Springs police department in the early 1970s. Answering a recruitment ad in the local newspaper—and a knack for talking on the phone using his best “white guy” voice—Stallworth gets in good with the local Klan in Colorado Springs. But his attempt to infiltrate the organization hits an obvious stumbling block when it comes time to meet in person. Enter fellow police officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a nonpracticing Jew who agrees to pretend to be Stallworth in person. It’s difficult to know what to make of Lee’s latest joint. As with many of his other films, BlacKkKlansman constantly feels like Lee’s not sure what tone he wants to hit, so he hits them all, often with the subtlety of a brick to the face. It’s a solid work, albeit one that’s flawed in the same ways that nearly all of Spike’s best films are flawed. DAVID F. WALKER
Ethan Hawke's Blaze does what good biopics should do: spur enough interest in the movie's subject as to make viewers explore them in greater depth. Before watching Hawke's fourth feature film, I didn't know ill-fated country-music troubadour Blaze Foley from Just Blaze. After seeing it, I went on a YouTube and Wikipedia bender to make up for lost time. On that criterion alone, Blaze is a success. Hawke made a non-fan deeply care about an obscure figure who makes cult Americana artist (and Foley buddy) Townes Van Zandt seem like Bob Dylan in terms of name recognition. Although luminaries like Lucinda Williams, Merle Haggard, and John Prine have covered Foley's songs, he has remained a mysterious character—but perhaps not for much longer. Blaze Foley—poignantly inhabited by burly, bearded musician Ben Dickey—was a combination of holy fool, drunken poet, and soulful troubadour. Afflicted with polio and bedeviled by a troubled childhood, Foley poured his sadness into forlorn songs that made being downtrodden seem noble. His lugubrious voice—think a cowboy-hatted Leonard Cohen—perfectly embodied the Texas-based songwriter's heart-shattering lyrics. DAVE SEGAL
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Keira Knightley embodies the 19th- and 20th-century French novelist Colette as a country girl who blossoms sexually and artistically after marrying a witty small publisher in Belle-Epoque Paris. Critics love the biopic's wit and convincing depiction of a truly well-matched and adventurous couple.
AMC Pacific Place
Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians is romantic-comedy gold that should be celebrated not only for its cast but also for its perfect execution of light, breezy escapism. It centers on the relationship between NYU economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding). Only when Nick takes Rachel to a buddy’s wedding in Singapore does she discover his family is richer than God. From its stunningly attractive cast to its setting of gold-plated opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is pure eye candy. And with its modern take on boy-meets-girl that shows us a film can still be funny without anyone pooping their pants, Crazy Rich Asians is heart candy, too. This will become a touchstone romantic comedy, and it better not be another 25 years before there’s another movie like it. ELINOR JONES
French Cinema Now
For one week, Seattle turns into a center for French and Francophone cinema culture, offering some of the best movies you'll see all year. The last films are A Season in France, a love story between an African asylum-seeker and his French host, and Lola Pater, about a young Algerian French man who discovers that his long-lost father has been living in the next town over for decades. JOULE ZELMAN
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Hausu is the legendary psychedelic ghost story from Japan about a group of schoolgirls who venture into the wrong house. Blasts of crazy animation (both stop-motion and ink) rub up against live-action plot twists that will bend your brain. Unless you’ve seen Hausu, you’ve never seen anything like Hausu. DAVID SCHMADER
Holy shit! Or should I say, sacred vomit! Directors Jukka Vidgren and Juuso Laatio have concocted the Scandinavian This Is Spinal Tap. Black metal deserves its own spot-on satire, too, and Heavy Trip delivers nearly as many LOL lines and scenes as a Mayhem song has blast beats. We follow the grossly engrossing story of Impaled Rektum, a Finnish black-metal foursome who finally get ambition after practicing other bands’ songs for 12 years. Their path to glory is mind-bogglingly serpentine and dryly hilarious. Heavy Trip’s plot twists and set pieces thread the needle between plausibility and absurdity with unerring wit. An instant classic is born screaming. DAVE SEGAL
Holiday for Henrietta
Two frustrated screenwriters attempt to control their script about pretty Henriette as she celebrates Bastille Day with her fiancé, but the scenario keeps escaping their hold. Julien Duvivier's 1952 meta-comedy has the reputation of a clever classic far ahead of its time.
In 2017, it was hard to escape the mania around Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors, which exhibited at SAM and other major art institutions all over the US. Everyone wanted a selfie in front of Kusama's famous dots, but did anyone want to know about the woman herself? Kusama, a giant in contemporary art who had her work copied by an embarrassingly large number of male pop artists, including Andy Warhol, now gets a major documentary on her life, and it's just as fascinating as those peculiar, infectious, maddening dots. CHASE BURNS
Northwest Film Forum
I vividly remember watching Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s. The rubber-limbed Detroit native was the most gifted physical performer. She also created some of the most memorable characters, from news commentator Emily Litella, a discombobulated version of her beloved nanny, to slovenly rock singer Candy Slice, her unhinged take on Patti Smith. During her relatively brief lifetime, Radner kept journals in which she recorded her thoughts, which leaned more towards the sober than the goofy. Debut director Lisa D'Apolito uses passages from those journals in combination with home movies, audiotapes, and material from Radner's 1989 memoir, It's Always Something, to shape her affectionate portrait of the comedian. For most of the film, D'Apolito focuses on Radner's career. The documentary takes a darker turn as her movie career fails to take flight, she experiences a miscarriage, and then she finds out she has ovarian cancer. Radner made the most of the time she had left, but you can feel the walls closing in. The result is an unavoidably slight, if touching portrait of a talented woman who deserved more time to find a creatively fulfilling second act. KATHY FENNESSY
The basic plot of Mandy is nothing you haven’t seen before: Contented middle-aged man (Nicholas Cage) witnesses a hideous act of violence against his beloved; very discontented man employs an overabundance of esoteric weapons to wreak awful revenge. The bad dudes (and ladies) in this film are way more entertaining than usual: a drugged-out, dysfunctional hippie cult headed by a failed psych-rock star and the Cenobite-like bikers he summons from darkness. But what really distinguishes Mandy is its art-film slowness as it gently builds a world around Andrea Riseborough and Cage. The whole movie mimics a series of vintage metal album covers, and heavy filters, slo-mo, motion blur, trippy superimpositions, and animated sequences abound. Mandy herself is half oneiric goddess, half vulnerable loner, and Riseborough possesses a fascinating spookiness that makes you forget she’s a cliche. But don’t worry, lovers of Cage: Once the vengeance plot revs up, you get all the eye-bugging lunacy you’ve come for. There’s a chainsaw duel, a creature with a knife-penis, some spectacular beheadings and cranium-splittings, and a bouquet of nonsensical one-liners. JOULE ZELMAN
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Matangi /Maya / MIA
The brilliant musical provocateur M.I.A., aka Maya Arulpragasam, came to Great Britain as a refugee from Sri Lanka and has developed a powerfully anti-establishment body of work. This documentary brings to light her personal diaries, making the film perhaps more autobiography than biography.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Night Heat: The 41st Film Noir Series
They proliferated in anxious postwar America and still occasionally return to brood and smolder onscreen: films noirs, born of the chiaroscuro influence of immigrant German directors and the pressure of unique American fears. Once again, the museum will screen nine hard-boiled, moody crime classics. This week's film is Leave Her to Heaven, one of the most bonkers films noir of the 1940s. It's set in the American West and stars Gene Tierney as a pathologically jealous wife whose obsession with her husband leads her to MURDER! It's one of the few classic noirs in full color.
Seattle Art Museum
Pick of the Litter
Pick of the Litter isn’t all roly-polies and snuggles and yips: The star dogs of the film work their tails off as they are trained to become service animals, and their journey is emotional, tense, inspiring. (And yes, cute as hell.) The film starts with a fresh litter of squeaky baby Labrador retriever woofers, called the “P litter” because they all get P names: Poppet, Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, and the everyman, Phil. We follow the five Ps through their highly regimented early lives that start at a breeding center, then move on to puppy raisers, to an academy, and, finally, at close to two years old, into the hands of a person who needs them. And because the squishy geniuses change hands so many times on their path to work, the film contains many, many minutes of people saying very emotional goodbyes to dogs or hellos to dogs. If you’ve ever done one of those things, you’re going to cry. ELINOR JONES
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution
The Forum continues its dedication to screening indie music documentaries with Yony Leyser’s film on queercore—punk by trans, lesbian, gay, and bi rockers. Bruce LaBruce, G.B. Jones, Lynn Breedlove, Kathleen Hanna, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Bikini Kill, Tribe 8, Pansy Division...these rockers gleefully undermined respectability politics and raged against straight society.
Northwest Film Forum
Rodents of Unusual Size
As if Louisiana hadn’t suffered enough from hurricanes and environmental disasters, now it’s overrun with enormous rodents called nutria—invasive “swamp rats” that can reach up to 20 pounds. This documentary by Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler, and Jeff Springer, narrated by Wendell Pierce, follows the fight between the hairy and destructive little monsters.
Seattle Latino Film Festival
This year's Seattle festival of Hispanic and Latinx cinema will highlight Spanish filmmakers and feature eight days of independent movies, filmmaker panels, workshops, and more, beginning with a splashy opening gala showing the charming comedy Growing Up. Other movies playing this weekend include El Sonido de las Cosas, about a nurse reeling from her cousin's suicide; Abrazos Imborrables, a documentary on tango; and Cuando los Hijos Regresan, in which an older couple goes to increasing lengths to drive their adult children out of the family home.
Seventh Art Stand: Time for Ilhan
There is the America that is going to hell and the America that is going to heaven. This documentary is about the side of America that is skyward bound. It concerns Ilhan Omar, a politician who, according to Wikipedia, became “the first Somali American legislator elected to office in the US” in 2016 (she became a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives). Though she is currently running for a seat in Congress, and has a good chance of winning, the documentary is about her heroic 2016 run for that Minnesota seat. CHARLES MUDEDE
Northwest Film Forum
A Simple Favor
When beguiling, stylish Emily (Blake Lively) disappears mysteriously, her mommy vlogger friend Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) investigates. Paul Feig directed this well-received crime caper, which has been praised for its brains and the draw of its skillful and appealing stars.
The Sisters Brothers
Patrick DeWitt’s anti-Western novel will come to the screen, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix as the titular assassins and directed by an internationally recognized talent, Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Dheepan).
Social Justice Film Festival: #HopeDemocracy
As social justice provides the only throughline, many of the movies have little in common. But the selection skews toward limber, on-the-ground filmmaking in the midst of protests and conflicts. The organizers write: "This year's screenings will fill in the national and local picture on immigration, Native American rights, Black Lives Matter, prisoner justice, and more. The festival will host several screenings with community groups and activists." This weekend, see the documentaries Justice in Immigration – Undeterred, Circle Up/Mayor of Graterford, Truth to Power: Unapologetically Black Voices in Civic Leadership, and more.
Sorry To Bother You
When hiphop collective the Coup released their sixth album, Sorry to Bother You, front man Boots Riley, a former telemarketer and Occupy Oakland activist, described it as "a dark comedy with magical realism." That description applies equally well to his razor-sharp directorial debut. The title phrase, of course, is how telemarketers, like Cassius Green (Atlanta's and Get Out's Lakeith Stanfied), launch cold calls to potential customers. He's just a young dude trying to earn enough to graduate from his uncle's garage where he lives with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a performance artist. Every time Cash makes a call, marks (people on the other end of the line) hang up on him, so he tries on a Putney Swope-like white voice. Marks love their unctuous new pal and buy crap they don't need, and Cash finally gets to ride the Mishima-inspired gold elevator to RegalView's top floor where the Power Sellers, a shallow gaggle of strivers, congregate. Riley's ability to transfer his leftist politics intact from turntable to screen is truly miraculous. His film has a distinct look that ranges from pop-art bright to demonically dark, and Stanfield's lightly absurdist performance holds it all together. KATHY FENNESSY
AMC Seattle 10
A Star Is Born
If you’re entering the theatre simply desiring a couple solid musical numbers, then your $15 will not have been spent in vain. Unfortunately, the movie falls flat as only a two-dimensional vignette of common misogyny can. Ally, the lead character played by Lady Gaga, is a woman who knows she has talent but needs to hear that she is sufficiently pretty to be an appropriate vehicle for said talent. Like any woman vying for a piece of the proverbial pie, she is just one man away from success. One man to lead her, to mold her, to push her through to the finish line. This man-shaped void is filled by her father, her husband, her manager, her producer, her choreographer, and her photographer, all of whom take credit or receive credit from other men for her creative output and appearance. A Star Is Born is a classic tale, meant to be mutable, fluid, to adapt within each age it is reimagined. But the flaws of the inherent narrative are too real, too every-day damaging to continue being told in the form of a cinematic fantasy. KIM SELLING
Tasveer South Asian Film Festival
This year, the 13-years-running, 10-day festival will focus on Pakistani film, with the theme of #KnowMe. Always relevant and on the artistic vanguard, Tasveer's biggest annual event does its best to dispel myths about South Asian countries. This weekend, see Afghan Cycles, about brave women bicyclists in Kabul; Half Widow, about a woman coping with the kidnapping of her husband during the Kashmiri conflict; Turup, a chess-centered drama; as well as other shorts and features.
Based on a novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, the wife, in this case, is Joan Castleman—played by a brilliant Glenn Close, in perhaps the most captivating role in her career. Joan is married to Joe Castleman, a much lauded novelist who has just found out he's won the Nobel Prize. When Joe receives the good news, Joan celebrates and quietly simmers at once. The undercurrent of Joan's anger plays throughout the film, and the viewer doesn't know why, exactly, she can't fully indulge in her husband's big win. He's been selected to replace Bill Clinton on the cover of TIME (this, along with ample smoking indoors, is one of the few reminders that the film is set in the early '90s). Why can't she just be happy for her man? The Wife sticks with you. Watch it with a friend—or, even better, your spouse—so you'll have someone with whom to discuss this Oscar-worthy work of art. KATIE HERZOG
AMC Seattle 10
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.