If you love movies, you've got a busy weekend ahead! You can catch up on Oscar-nominated films, and, of course, watch the ceremony itself. But there's plenty more going on, like the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, the universally praised drama Burning , and a run of the gloriously silly Singin' in the Rain. 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.
Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted.
2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animated, Live Action and Documentary
In this year's crop of animated short film nominees, meet characters like animals in therapy, a sweet little bao dumpling come to life, a Chinese American girl who wants to be an astronaut, and other charming folks. In the live action films, an aging woman bonds with her nurse; two young boys are interrogated over the death of a toddler; a mother receives a call from her young son, whose father has apparently abandoned him while on vacation; and more in these tense and touching films. The documentary subjects include a Zen hospice, Nigerian immigrants facing racism in England, refugees rescued from the Mediterranean, Indian women fighting menstruation stigma, and 20,000 American Nazis in 1939.
SIFF Cinema Uptown (live action & animation only) & AMC Seattle 10
The director of this documentary on black subcultures within the white-dominated punk scene will be on hand to introduce the film.
Ark Lodge Cinemas
Alita: Battle Angel
I have never recommended seeing a movie in 3-D, let alone IMAX 3-D, because films should either succeed in 2-D or they aren’t worth seeing. But for Alita: Battle Angel, I will—for the first time—tell you to splurge on the IMAX. I can’t stop dreaming about the glimmering city in the clouds that hovers above the film’s sci-fi setting. The story (cyborg woman is found comatose in trash heap, makes heroic journey to rediscover her past and her martial arts skills) lovingly smooshes at least three story arcs’ worth of plot into a single 122-minute film. I have no idea how Alita could have been done better. I’ve read all the Battle Angel comics, which manga artist Yukito Kishiro started publishing in 1990, and I could rattle off all the differences and references in director Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation. But I’d rather talk about what this film is: a fun, exhilarating realization of a sci-fi story that, even now, audiences may not be ready for. Salazar’s sensitive portrayal—enhanced by Alita’s robotic limbs and oversized, anime eyes—only strengthens the focus on conflict and competition that makes Alita so exciting. From the very start, Kishiro’s Alita was a battle comic—a serialized story to entertain young people with artful fight scenes. SUZETTE SMITH
3D listings here
And the Winner Is...
Catch up on the Oscar Best Picture nominees on the huge screen from February 22 to March 1: This weekend, see Bohemian Rhapsody, BlacKkKlansman, and A Star Is Born.
Adventure films don't have to be full of special effects and fast-moving action, as Joe Penna's first feature, Arctic, proves. Mads Mikkelsen plays a research explorer who survives an airplane crash, only to be stranded in the Arctic wilderness (the film was shot in Iceland, so you'll get an eyeful of gorgeous icy shots, if anything). As Owen Gleiberman put it in Variety, "The movie, in its indie way, is the anti-Cast Away. Yet that’s what’s good and, finally, moving about it. It lets survival look like the raw experience it is."
AMC Pacific Place & AMC Oak Tree
The Korean auteur Chang-dong Lee has only directed a handful of films, but what a handful: Poetry, probably his most famous film to date, won a boatload of awards around the world, including Best Screenplay and Ecumenical Jury Prize at Cannes (it was also nominated for the supreme Palme d'Or), while his earlier Oasis won the Golden Space Needle at our own Seattle International Film Festival. (Lee has also been the Minister of Culture since 2003, which is maybe why he hasn't made more movies.) His latest, Burning, an adaptation of a Murakami short story, has won the International Cinephile Society Awards' Palme d'Or. It's about a glamorous young man with a destructive hobby, an ordinary, underemployed guy who fears he'll do something bad, and a playful, seductive girl who may or may not have a cat. It's being hailed as a tense masterpiece.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
A 12-year-old boy, played by real-life Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea, sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life in this awful world. This film from director Nadine Labaki reportedly does an incredible job of dramatizing life for refugee children condemned to non-personhood by their lack of identity papers.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Oh my god, it’s Liam Neeson. Oh my god, someone has fucked with him again. As in his other action films, he is just a guy trying to lead a normal life, but then the shit hits the fan and the bullets start flying. Oh my god, I can never get enough of Neeson’s troubles. I can’t stop watching him in the same story. The latest, Cold Pursuit, is based on a 2014 film called In Order of Disappearance, which Stranger contributor Andrew Wright described as “a Scandinavian thriller that certainly hits the Coen piñata hard.” [Ed.'s note: Since this preview was written, of course, Liam Neeson has been in the news for bad reasons.] CHARLES MUDEDE
Meridian 16 & Thornton Place
There are two films that critics can’t stop singing about today: Roma and Cold War. These films have the air not of cinematic originality, but cinematic importance or grandeur. Cold War is set in the heart of the Cold War, the period in the 20th century when all nations had two main geopolitical choices: to side with either the Eagle (the United States) or the Bear (the USSR). Poland was close to the Bear, and so was caught in its political and military orbit, but it somehow managed to develop its own distinct, non-socialist realist cinema. Post-Soviet Cold War is certainly a part of that rich cinematic tradition. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Fighting with My Family
It’s really weird to look back at the British version of The Office now, knowing that Ricky Gervais would become an insufferable vial of smug poured into a bag of loose skin, Martin Freeman would end up being both Dr. Watson and Bilbo Baggins, and Stephen Merchant would end up directing this Dwayne Johnson-produced biography of WWE superstar Paige. By many accounts Johnson’s directed the best film about rasslin’ since The Wrestler, but without all the unrelenting, leathery misery that film trafficked in.
Ganja & Hess
Cinebago’s new series at the Northwest Film Forum, hosted by “Oprah of the Underworld” Isabella L. Price, pairs burlesque and scary movies. Ganja and Hess, Bill Gunn’s 1973 vampire thriller starring Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones, is the most critically appreciated of the series and the most interesting from the point of view of race. Per Price: “The main character is almost terrified of enjoying sex because that would give in to the stereotype of the hypersexual black man. Both characters are dealing with the perception of what white culture views black people to be, but the vampirism is a way for them to be free of that fear.” If horror reflects our terrors and traumas, it can also embody our best hopes—albeit sometimes in a negative cast. JOULE ZELMAN
Northwest Film Forum
This is a film that can only be described with an exploding-head emoji, because the climax, the big reveal, where all the shit hits the fan, is shockingly horrifying. Both because it seems so far-fetched (SPOILER ALERT: using hypnotherapy to mentally enslave black people in their own bodies so that white people might inhabit them and live in them instead of shriveling up and dying) and because it doesn’t (the lack of attention on the missing black people in the film, the festering white liberal ignorance and arrogance and general elitism, both reflections of the reality we live in now). This is one of my favorite films to come out of 2017. It also had a huge cultural impact. How many times have you seen the sunken place satirized in something else? LEILANI POLK
Green Book tells the supposedly true story of a Black jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), and his white driver, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), as they go on a concert tour through the segregated South in 1962. Although they’re both from New York, they’re from entirely different worlds: Shirley moves through the rarified air of highbrow culture. Tony, on the other hand, is an Italian American stereotype made sentient, a “whattsamattayou” tough guy with a tenderly soft underbelly. Green Book’s biggest red flag is that it’s essentially another Driving Miss Daisy story about how to solve racism in three convenient acts. But the movie’s really nice, and it’s hard to get too mad at it. Ali and Mortensen are both awfully good, and the script, for all its familiarity, is kind of comforting in its shtick-y predictability. NED LANNAMANN
Happy Death Day 2U
Two years ago, horror writer and director Christopher Landon (of Paranormal Activity fame) debuted Happy Death Day, a film that paired the time-looping premise of Groundhog Day with college students, creepy single-toothed baby masks, and classic slasher tropes. It was wildly popular, grossing $125 million from a $5 million budget, and had fans clamoring for a sequel. Happy Death Day 2U is the latest installment, and contrary to my expectations, it’s one of the best Blumhouse movies I’ve seen. In Happy Death Day 2U, fear and existential angst intersect with nonsensical science-fiction (at one point, a nerd uses a napkin to explain the multiverse) to create a perfectly serviceable, surprisingly feel-good horror movie. CIARA DOLAN
Rather than flee or go into hiding, four young Jews chose to continue living in Berlin, blending in among the "Aryans." Claus Räfle's critically acclaimed film dramatizes their (true) stories.
SIFF Film Center
Isn't It Romantic
In Isn’t It Romantic, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is unlucky in love... until she suffers a blow to the noggin that transforms her world! Natalie’s brain injury transforms the world around her to a glossy romcom version of New York City, complete with Adam DeVine as her platonic (?) male friend, Priyanka Chopra as her stunning competition, Brandon Scott Jones as her gay bestie, Betty Gilpin as her office nemesis, and Liam Hemsworth as Natalie’s impossibly handsome love interest who deserves some sort of trophy for his performance (or, at the very least, a kiss on the mouth from me). The film mocks every cliché of the romcom while simultaneously delivering a flawless execution of the genre, something that's both brilliant and entertaining. And it checks my "Is Liam Hemsworth Playing a Saxophone Bare-Chested?" box, which is just the icing on the cupcake. ELINOR JONES
Kirikou and the Sorceress
The monthly international animated film club is a great way to introduce kids to the Seventh Art, but the films are usually compelling for adults, too. All screenings are followed by a discussion with donuts and coffee. This month's movie is Michel Ocelot's Kirikou and the Sorceress, a trippy French/Belgian animated hit about a magical talking baby and an unpleasant witch.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Lego 2 picks up immediately where the first film left off: The Lego universe faces invasion from the girly Legos of Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), the younger sister of Finn (Jadon Sand). Lisp-laden challenges are uttered, glitter is thrown, and a battle of clicking plastic ensues until the toy metropolis of Bricksburg resembles a post-apocalyptic landscape. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part squarely occupies (sorry!) a middle ground between the first The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie: The premise is played, but there's still some fun to be had, and you can see it with your kids. The bold messaging of the first film isn't present here, and the morality slides off after 15 minutes so. But it's nice that Maya Rudolph tried to teach me how to share, even though the message probably won't stick. SUZETTE SMITH
The Magic Lantern of Ingmar Bergman
Swedish visionary film director Ingmar Bergman would have been 100 this year. His deeply introspective, unabashedly emotional, despairing yet strangely life-affirming oeuvre will once again be onscreen at Seattle Art Museum (in association with the Nordic Museum). This week's film is The Magic Flute, Bergman's enchanting filmic adaptation of the Mozart opera. JOULE ZELMAN
Seattle Art Museum
Mysterious Doctor Satan
Grand Illusion's pulpy Saturday programming, which aims to resurrect the tradition of the serial matinee, is starting up again. This time, it's going to be The Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940), shown, as always, on 16mm. The serial involves a mad genius, an army of robots, and a hero known as "the Copperhead." But that's not all! After the episode, there'll be a secret cult, adventure, sci-fi, or art house film.
The 2019 edition of this excellent annual festival features classic films, many of them newly restored. It closes with the underappreciated race noir Odds Against Tomorrow, which has one of the creepiest racist scenes in all of cinema. It happens like this: White ex-con Earle (Robert Ryan) is walking down a city street. Birds are in the air and children are playing on the sidewalk. One of them, a black girl, accidentally bumps into Earle. He picks her up and says to her small and confused face: “Hey, you little pickaninny, you are going to kill yourself flying like that.” The girl smiles weakly; he smiles wickedly, puts her back down, and walks into the seedy Hotel Juno. What makes the scene so creepy is not so much that he calls the girl a pickaninny, but that he talks to her in the way one usually does to a dog or a cat. Earle can’t see the human in the black girl, but only a lower, dim animal. This unsettling scene sets us up for the bad news Earle is about to receive from the planner of a bank heist: He has to work with a black man, Johnny (Harry Belafonte). Earle hates black people. He wants nothing to do with them. But he needs the money, and the heist will not work without the decoy of a black man. The ending of this film is a full-blown race apocalypse. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Also showing: The Crimson Kimono
'Police Story' and 'Police Story 2'
These were the films that made Jackie Chan a star in America. In the first, he plays a cop, Chan Ka-Kui, who's framed for murder by an escaped crime lord he helped apprehend. In the second, the criminal once again escapes, and Chan must once again face him. But you're not here for the plots: You're here for the amazing stunts, thrilling fight choreography, and furiously paced set-pieces.
SIFF Film Center
Scarecrow Academy 1959: The Greatest Year in Film History
The video rental library's new series contends that 1959 was the best year in film history ever. It saw "a high point of Hollywood studio filmmaking, the rise of new independent cinema, the great flowering of international movies, and the beginning of the French New Wave." Film critic Robert Horton will delve into the highlights of this landmark year, including this week's Nazariín, an antireligious Mexico-set drama by the great Spanish provocateur Luis Buñuel.
Seattle Asian American Film Festival
Films by and about Asian Americans are showcased at this annual festival, which always includes diverse features and short films about the diverse and rich experiences of these populations, particularly in Seattle and the Northwest. The opening party this Thursday is sold out, but you can watch shorts programs (some for free), the queer-focused Tongan documentary Leitis in Waiting, the Filipino food doc Ulam: Main Dish, the Chinese/Taiwanese animation On Happiness Road, and much more this weekend.
Singin' in the Rain
You haven't seen a movie musical until you've seen Singin' in the Rain. Ostensibly about the troubled times when Hollywood changed from silent movies to talkies, Singin' in the Rain is a chance for Gene Kelly, probably the Most Talented Human Being on Earth at the time, to show off. It's physically impossible to watch the slapstick dance number "Make 'Em Laugh" without dropping your jaw in awe. PAUL CONSTANT
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is the most important work of American Marxist cinema since Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer. The films have much in common. In Sleep Dealer, Mexican workers in the United States occupy en-soul machines, and this en-soulment resolves one of the GOP's defining issues: stateless labor. The labor market needs it, but the party’s white base hates any color that is not like its own. With en-soulment, brown Americans still supply their labor to the US economy, but without the physical presence of their brown bodies. They enter a factory in a Mexican city, plug their bodies into the global labor network, and remotely operate machines located in the United States. Sorry to Bother You also has a future concept of labor. It concerns WorryFree, a corporation that, like Uber, claims to be reinventing work, but is in fact extracting almost absolute surplus labor from workers. The film also has an image of a huge horse-like cock. CHARLES MUDEDE
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
Mashing up the bombast of Marvel with the glory days of Pixar, Spider-Verse feels decidedly different—funnier, weirder, more daring—than most American animated movies. This is almost a meta, post-modern take on Spider-Man: Instead of being all about Peter Parker, Spider-Verse stars Miles Morales (excellently voiced by Shameik Moore), a kid who also gets bit by a creepy spider and also gets creepy spider-powers. But Miles—a Afro-Latino teenager who, for all his cleverness and heart, feels out of place at his fancy Brooklyn school—not only has a different perspective on the whole "great power, great responsibility" thing, but has his own obstacles to becoming a hero. Luckily for Miles, a whole slew of other spider-people from alternate dimensions show up to help him out. This is a big, fun blockbuster, but it's also the rare big, fun blockbuster that dares to have a strong point of view and a fresh, exciting personality. As Spider-Verse dazzles and twists, thumping to a hip-hop soundtrack and glimmering with every color in the universe, it captures the thrill, smarts, and irreverence that mark Spider-Man's best stories. ERIK HENRIKSEN
They Shall Not Grow Old
Peter Jackson has led a team of restorationists and lip-readers (!) to snatch back moments of World War I in living detail. Archival films from the era were colorized and repaired, and experts were called in to decrypt what the people in the shots were saying. The results, bolstered by interviews and reminiscences, are history as you've never seen it.
A damning, decades-spanning portrait of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Vice is a far cry from the genial comedies Adam McKay used to make, like Anchorman and Step Brothers. Instead, it’s an angry, messy, overbearing, and frequently brilliant film—one that's indulgent in ways that are simultaneously admirable and irritating. At worst, it feels like a mashup of Oliver Stone's and Michael Moore’s worst tendencies. At its best, though, Vice is an elaborate juggling act of ideas and techniques, including broad comedy, documentary footage, propaganda, fourth-wall-busting, vicious satire, expository narration, and reworked Shakespeare. It’s impressive. It’s also exhausting. NED LANNAMANN
The Wicker Man
Not the "NOT THE BEES" version, but the vastly more bewitching and less laughable (though plenty campy) 1973 original. A tight-arse policeman (Edward Woodward) searches for a missing child on the estate of the pagan Lord Summerisle (a superbly sinister Christopher Lee) and finds himself at the center of a horrifying plot. Yes, there are plenty of ridiculous moments, like a sexy dance that will have you giggling, but that Shirley Jackson-esque ending still has the power to shake you up. Lhude sing cuccu!
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 Pacific Place
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.