Friday, July 10, 2015

Trailers for Work #1 - The Art of Reinvention: Paul Thomas Anderson & His Influences

Those of you who know me personally are aware that I've been applying my cinema nerd powers for almost three years doing promotion and publicity at Portland's own Northwest Film Center. Over the past year, I've begun to cut trailers for some of our curated series content. Here's one that I made for our upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson + influences series, which I also collaboratively programmed with my co-worker Morgen Ruff.

Hope you enjoy it. It's the fifth trailer I've made so far for the Film Center and it feels like they're getting better with each successive attempt. And maybe you'll want to come out to the series, too, which I think is fairly awesome.

The Art of Reinvention: Paul Thomas Anderson & His Influences runs  Friday, July 24th through Sunday, September 6th at the Northwest Film Center.  More info available here.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I envy anyone who's yet to watch Don't Look Now.  Even as a film that's only gained acclaim over the years since its 1973 release, it's still an under-the-radar classic waiting to be discovered by many of the most voracious film fans, despite recently being declared the best British film of all time by Time Out London.  Directed by the great Nicholas Roeg, whose 1971 film Walkabout is in my personal top ten, Don't Look Now tells the story of Laura and John Baxter (winningly portrayed by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), a couple still processing the drowning death of their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams).

Based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, whose other works had previously been adapted by Alfred Hitchcock for Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and The Birds, Roeg's treatment of the supernatural, manifested as psychic visions experienced by John and the questionable predictions of a clairvoyant blind woman (Hilary Mason), is a brilliant ploy to distract from the film's central theme; at its core, Don't Look Now is about primal, insurmountable grief from which there is no chance of recovery.

From the magnificently brutal opening where we witness Christine's drowning to the wicked irony of the film's denouement, the whole of the film is spent observing how tragedy has altered John, Laura, and their connection to each other.  Roeg's patented intercutting of time and space constructs a present where, though physically in Venice, John's emotional and mental states are frozen in the moment when his daughter perished back in England.  But even the current timeline offers no respite, as John begins seeing what could be visions of his daughter and wife against the waterlogged vistas of this iconic Italian backdrop. 

Don't Look Now is a challenging and ambitious vision of what horror films can achieve if the locus of terror is placed internally within the characters.  Nothing against films where the threat comes from without, but Roeg's map of the unspeakable is more finely illustrated than those of even the most prolific and revered craftsmen (and women) of the genre.  If you've never seen Don't Look Now, it's time.  Everyone else, why not give it another go?  It's a damn fine film, more than worthy of another look.

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Friday, October 4, 2013


'Tis the season, so expect at least a few posts on The Rain Falls Down on Portlandtown during October to focus on horror (and/or just plain spooky) movies.  That being said, I wanted to start things off with a bang by highlighting a film from my personal top-ten.  Pauline Kael called Jack Clayton's 1961 gothic horror masterpiece The Innocents, "the best ghost movie I've ever seen."  Despite disagreeing with Kael on a few of her more controversial opinions (her vocal distaste for Hitchcock and Shoah being the most glaring examples), we're absolutely cine-buddies when it comes to the creepy atmospherics on offer in The Innocents.

One could certainly quibble with Pauline over the matter of whether or not Clayton's adaptation of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" is, in fact, a ghost story at all: Deborah Kerr's governess character, Miss Giddens, is arguably the most sinister thing going on in the film, given her determination to "love people and help them...even if they refuse my help...even if it hurts them sometimes."  Indeed, much of the pleasure of watching The Innocents boils down to the question of whether Miss Giddens supernatural encounters are real or imagined.

With two damaged, young children under her care, Kerr's unreliable sense of the objective steers the film towards a terrifying close, where no viewer can truly know whether the children (and Giddens) are being haunted by the spirits of their former governess and her lover or by Miss Giddens' stringently orthodox notions about morality and humanity's failure to rise to it.  As the college film professor who turned me on to The Innocents noted, there are strong clues present during the opening title sequence, just listen to the trembling prayer being offered up by Giddens.

In addition the central conundrum of the film, The Innocents sports crisply composed black and white compositions by the great English cinematographer Freddie Francis (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Elephant Man), biting dialogue script doctored by none other than Truman Capote, and two of the creepiest child actors (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) ever to have graced the silver screen.  All of which falls under the direction of Jack Clayton, whose later work on Something Wicked This Way Comes spooked an entire generation of Disney fans.

Out of the entire pack of older films that I'll be posting about this month in this "October Chills" series, The Innocents is by far the best of the bunch. 

Highly recommended viewing!

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Thursday, October 3, 2013


Some time back, I mentioned Portland's perennial love for a very short list of films, many of which have the name Jim Henson attached to them.  I'm not even going to pretend to understand.  While I definitely had my time in the sun with Mr. Henson, I've been out of short pants for a few decades now and don't find myself returning all that often to his oeuvre, though that's likely to change as my kiddo piles on the years.

Okay, full disclosure: not a day goes by without an Elmo clip being leveraged in exchange for tooth brushing, but I digress.

For those of you who enjoy marinating in childhood nostalgia, there's something to celebrate as the 99W Drive-in in Newberg welcomes back Henson's 1986 film Labyrinth, an extended experiment in puppets, musical fantasy, and David Bowie in very tight (or is it magical?) pants.  Sure, there's a fall chill in the air and the 99W isn't exactly a short drive from PDX, but bring a blanket, Portland, and you'll be rewarded for your efforts with a 35mm screening of your 3rd or 4th favorite film that doesn't star Seth Rogen or Paul Rudd, okay?  And, since the drive-in recently succeeded in their campaign to digitally upgrade their operation, this is pretty close to your final chance to see a film projected on actual film at a local outdoor theater.

As is the gold standard for drive-ins, admission to the 99W gets you a double scoop of film entertainment.  This week's second feature is We're the Millers, which currently holds a not-so-fresh score of 48% on a certain "tomatometer".  But, hey...Labyrinth!

Labyrinth plays in a double feature with We're the Millers on Friday, October 4th through Sunday, October 6th at the 99W Drive-in.  More info available here.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013


Yeah, I spent an unreasonable amount of my weekend peering up at The Hollywood Theatre's screen during Noir City Portland.  Do I regret it at all?  Of course not; if I have any regrets, it's that I missed 3 of the 8 features, but sometimes a guy has things he's gotta do, y'know.  Even so, those other priorities haven't kept me from spending a good deal of time thinking about and craving more noir and film noir related highs.  For instance, after skipping out on the third feature on Saturday night, I still ended up streaming Gun Crazy at home on the Warner Archive Instant service.  


I was also pleased to stumble across the film noir episode of the fairly great 1995 PBS series American Cinema on YouTube.  I hadn't viewed the series since it first aired on public television, so it was great to take another look at a series that, at the time of its release, had a strong influence in reinforcing my obsession with old films.

Anyone with even a mild interest in noir should get a kick out of the episode (introduced by series host John Lithgow).  So here it is, narrated by one of my all-time favorite noir actors, Mr. Richard Widmark (Pickup on South Street, Panic in the Streets, Kiss of Death, & Night and the City), and featuring great insights by Martin Scorsese, Kathryn Bigelow, Paul Schrader, and many of the writers, actors, and directors responsible for some of the greatest entries in the genre:

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A couple of great films are coming to my workplace this weekend.  Luchino Visconti's fatalistically romantic 1957 adaptation of Dostoevsky's "White Nights," Le Notti Bianche is Marcello Mastroianni's first outing as a leading man playing opposite Maria Schell.  Also on tap, Jean Renoir's The Golden Coach has Anna Magnani playing an actress with three men actively vying for her favor.  The latter film will be screened on 35mm.

Le Notti Bianche (White Nights) screens Friday, September 27th and Sunday, September 29th at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum).  Click here for more info.

The Golden Coach screens at the NW Film Center.  Click here for more info.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013


You can't get much more iconic than Julie Andrews spinning through Austrian hills in Robert Wise's The Sound of Music.  Well, beginning Thursday, Cinema 21's going to give you a chance to try your hardest to outsing the old girl when Sing-A-Long Sound of Music returns to Portland.  Whether you bring a group of friends or decide to caterwaul with a bunch of strangers, the event promises you the rare opportunity to be loud at the movies without getting tossed out of the theater on your head. 

Here's a glimpse at the release for the event:

The hit, interactive, musical phenomenon, SING-A-LONG SOUND OF MUSIC, returns to Portland for 7 full performances at Cinema 21 September 26 - October 6, 2013! Having started in the UK back in 1999, the Sing-a-Long Sound of Music show has now become a worldwide hit, playing to packed houses across the globe with over 10,000 performances in 11 different countries! It’s even filled the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles – 7 times! 

For those of you not yet converted, Sing-a-Long Sound of Music is a screening of the classic Julie Andrews film musical in glorious, full-screen technicolor, complete with subtitles so that the whole audience can sing along! The fun-filled show starts with a vocal warm-up led by the evening’s host, who also takes the audience through their complimentary "magic moments pack," containing various props to be used at strategic points throughout the film. Then there is the famous fancy-dress competition in which everyone who has come in costume is invited onto the stage to show off their fantastic tailoring skills. And the more venues we play, the more elaborate the costumes get. Previous entries have included: nuns of both genders (including a pregnant nun!), girls (and boys!) in white dresses with blue satin sashes, a lonely Goatherd, a man in a gold lycra catsuit (Ray a Drop of Golden Sun!), a gazebo and more! 

Get out your wimples and warm woolen mittens, put on your white dresses with blue satin sashes, cut up those chintz curtains and get your vocal cords warmed up because the city is alive with SING-A-LONG SOUND OF MUSIC! SING-A-LONG SOUND OF MUSIC is a fun, joyful, interactive event that makes an ideal girls' night or a unique family outing!

Sing-A-Long Sound of Music runs  Thursday, September 26th through Sunday, September 29th, plus Saturday, October 5th through Sunday, October 6th at the Cinema 21.  More info available here.

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