This weekend, (re)visit Oscar winners like The Favourite and Free Solo, or try out other award-winners and blockbusters like Chen Kaige's Legend of the Demon Cat or Asghar Farhadi's Everybody Knows. On the festival front, there are two very different choices: the Nordic Lights Film Festival and the Cat Video Fest. 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 Animated Short Films
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.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
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
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
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
Because I do not want to spoil the experience of this movie, I will not describe the path of the film's plot to its core problem, which concerns the unification of black Africa with black America. Out of a comic book, director Ryan Coogler crafted an important concept about how, from the unification, a post-pan-Africanist global Africanism can emerge. It comes down to this: black Africans and black Americans have to admit their respective failings. (My feeling is that Coogler is much harder on black Americans than black Africans.) As a whole, Black Panther is lots of fun and will excite a lot of discussion and strong opinions. But the most revolutionary thing about Black Panther is its city. The capital of Wakanda has skyscrapers, a monorail, sidewalks of grass, green buildings, farmers markets, and no cars. The whole idea of private transportation is foreign to this fictional society. If this black African capital has anything to share with the world, it's its city planning. CHARLES MUDEDE
A spruce young black sheriff tries to defend a frontier town from a histrionic land-snatcher. His best ally: Gene Wilder as a watery-eyed, drunken sharpshooter. Featuring campfire farts and the classic antiracist speech: "You've got to remember that these are just farmers. These are people of the land, the common clay of the New West. You know, morons."
Why is it a good movie? Because it depicts and embodies the complicatedness of artistic collaboration, because it shows the downsides and the virtues of a brilliant person's out-of-control ego, because it dramatizes the way repression warps people, because it suggests what the world lost with an entire generation of gay artists who were wiped out (this was only one person, and yet the loss here alone is huge), because the music's fantastic (duh) and it was written by the characters we're seeing depicted on-screen, and because it manages to depict an artist who died of AIDS without ending with him on his deathbed succumbing to AIDS. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
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
Cat Video Fest
Former Stranger writer Sean Nelson described it best: "A two-day celebration of the internet's greatest (and arguably only) contribution to the cultural life of this planet: short clips of humankind's second-cutest pets being cute as hail. Meee-ow." On Saturday, meet "celeb-kitty Klaus"; on both days, pick up kitty swag from All the Best, PAWS, and Neko Cat Café. The fest benefits PAWS and its programs for homeless pussycats.
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 Uptown & AMC Seattle 10
DJ Nicfit & Substation Present: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
From Sean Nelson's review of the hit Iranian horror film: "Just when you thought there was no gas left in the tank of revisionist vampire cinema, along comes A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a tale billed as 'the first Iranian vampire western.' Though it’s unlikely to become a crowded field, this black-and-white Farsi-language gem is rich in allusive metaphor (blood-oil-sex-religion) and deep, dark texture. First-time writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour comes by her genre bona fides honestly, via a palette of cinematic and literary influences—Jim Jarmusch most strikingly, but also Leos Carax, Jim Thompson, and Raymond Chandler—not usually seen in horror films of any nationality." DJ NicFit will remix a new soundtrack on two turntables.
Asghar Farhadi first gained international notice with his intense drama of interrelational alienation, About Elly, which he followed up with the Oscar-winning A Separation. His follow-up, The Past, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and his next film, The Salesman, netted him a second Academy Award. But he did not come to the United States to receive the award, given that Donald Trump had just signed an executive order barring Iranians (among others) from entering the country. Our country's loss, but you can still see his latest film, Everybody Knows, starring Penelope Cruz as a woman returning from Buenos Aires to her Spanish hometown and reuniting with her lover (Javier Bardem). When Cruz's daughter goes missing, past secrets start overshadowing the present.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos knows how to get under the skin of emotions and situations in a way that’s surreal, but it makes his observations feel closer to actual truth. The Favourite is a historical period piece that pulls less heady tricks than his previous efforts, its focus on the relationship between two cousins (played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vying for the favor of Olivia Colman’s sickly Queen Anne in early 18th century England. The actresses churn out incredible performances, hysterically and humorously jockeying for control over each other, the palace, and themselves. Lanthimos still manages to throw in a few strange elements, like the use of a fish eye camera lens and silly dancing sequences, but in a way, it only heightens the characters’ believability. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Fighting with My Family
It’s really weird to look back at 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 John Watson and Bilbo Baggins, and Stephen Merchant would end up directing a Dwayne Johnson-produced biography of WWE superstar Paige. By many accounts Merchant’s directed the best film about rasslin’ since The Wrestler, but without all the unrelenting, leathery misery that film trafficked in.
This highly praised, dizzying documentary—an Oscar winner—reveals the heart-stopping journey of Alex Honnold as he conquered Yosemite's El Capitan wall without ropes or safety gear. You don't need to be a climber to be thrilled at this glimpse into human accomplishment.
Future Language: The Dimensions of Von LMO
“Everything is fake. Nothing is real,” says New York No Wave musician Von LMO at the start of director Lori Felker’s Future Language, which screens at Northwest Film Forum tonight and tomorrow night. This ethos sets the tone for the documentary, an un-slick cinematic fan letter by a woman who capped her 18-year obsession with her subject by completing this scrappy movie. With his black, sigil-covered shirt and an enigmatic amulet around his neck lending his quasi-crackpot philosophies a kitschy corona, Von LMO (a self-described “alien hybrid” now in his late 60s and in poor health after a lifetime of hard living, prison time, and being reincarnated) comes across like a wise-guy, Caucasian Sun Ra—but with drug and alcohol problems. You may find Von LMO’s stories far-fetched and his theories dubious, but he’s never less than riveting, whether being questioned by Felker or belting out assaultive songs onstage with his bands, creating a whirlwind breed of spasmodic sci-fi rock somewhere between Chrome and an unfunky Contortions. DAVE SEGAL
Northwest Film Forum
Gone with the Wind
Our nation's ugliest history is but a backdrop to the epic potboiler romance of Scarlett O'Hara and the various idiots who catch her fancy in this 1939 Hollywood classic. Starring an impossibly beautiful Vivien Leigh and the funniest child-death scene in cinema history.
Thornton Place & Varsity Theatre
Thursday & Sunday
The Gospel of Eureka
The reason to watch this documentary is its clever juxtaposition of Christian kitsch and drag queen culture. A sincere reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, for instance, turns into camp when it's preceded by a scene featuring the deliberate campiness of drag queens. The film is also helped by an expert narrator: the cabaret performer Mx Justin Vivian Bond, best known for being one half of cabaret duo Kiki and Herb. The best moments of the doc don't come from the drag, which is all pretty standard fare, but from the town's epic Christian pageantry. And there's a lot of it in Eureka Springs. CHASE BURNS
Northwest Film Forum
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
The latest from Neil Jordan (The Borgias, Breakfast on Pluto, The Crying Game), this thriller has critics united in admiration of stars Isabelle Huppert, Gallic queen of sociopathy, and her co-star Chloë Grace Moretz. But viewers warn that the plot is a little, well, silly: A widow (Huppert) lures a sweet young innocent (Moretz) into friendship, only to slowly reveal sinister motives.
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
AMC Pacific Place & Thornton Place
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
A Hungarian doctor discovers that his young refugee patient can levitate. He offers to help the lad escape the refugee camp—but not for nothing—in this Palme d’Or-nominated magical realist thriller by Kornel Mundruczó (he directed the dazzlingly ambitious, Un Certain Regard-winning fable White God).
Friday & Sunday
Legend of the Demon Cat
The great Chinese director Chen Kaige’s first masterpiece is Farewell My Concubine, which in the 1990s helped launch a new league of Chinese directors. His second is The Emperor and the Assassin. After these art-house successes, he directed an American thriller, Killing Me Softly, and a bunch of films for mainstream Chinese audiences, the latest of which is Legend of the Demon Cat. It’s set in the Tang Dynasty and concerns a very, very evil pussy. No matter what the subject, Chen’s visuals always stand out. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
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
Local Sightings 2018 Encore Screening: Chronic Means Forever & Always
Revisit two favorites from the indispensable Local Sightings Festival: Kadazia Allen-Perry's autobiographical Chronic Means Forever, about living with a chronic disease, and Angela DiMarco's "Always," about a mother coping with "the agony of death." Stay on to meet the filmmakers.
Northwest Film Forum
Nordic Lights Film Festival
This annual film festival celebrates the richness of Nordic culture, featuring films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and even the Faroe Islands. Highlights of this year's lineup include the opening-night feature Woman at War, Norwegian director Arild Andresen's Handle with Care, Danish director Daniel Borgman's Loving Pia, and Faroe Islands director Sakaris Stórá's Dreams By the Sea.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
This trio of three short documentaries chronicles the life of labor activist and poet laureate of North Dakota Henry Martinson, as well as Martinson's own work documenting the Nonpartisan League, a socialist organization founded in 1915. Important viewing for anyone interested in the history of the AFL-CIO and the labor struggle in America.
Northwest Film Forum
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.
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
Regal Meridian 16 & Thornton Place
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
AMC Seattle 10
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.
AMC Seattle 10
The plot: An Orthodox Jew becomes so obsessed with his wife’s death that he makes a science teacher at a local community college show him how the human body decomposes. He wants to see what death is actually doing to the one he (still) loves. Fine. But here is the thing. The science teacher is none other than the great Matthew Broderick, the husband of Sarah Jessica Parker. I honestly feel Broderick is an American giant that only the future will fully appreciate. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Film Center
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
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.