Thursday, May 31, 2012

THE COLOR WHEEL: IT'S GOING ON MY CHUCKLE LIST



The Color Wheel may very well be the biggest comedy surprise of the year.   But what's most surprising about it is that it works at all.  "Range-y" might be a word plucked straight from celebrity-host critiques of reality television contestants but it perfectly applies to many aspects of The Color Wheel; from the cinematography to the acting, the individual components of the film veer from brilliant to just kind of awkwardly composed at times.  Yet, the things that do work here work really well.




It mostly boils down to the chemistry between the two leads, actor/director/co-writer Alex Ross Perry and his co-writer/co-star Carlen Altman.  They play a brother (Colin) and sister (JR) who feebly attempt to set aside the strained nature of their relationship long enough for him to help her move out of her professor's apartment following a failed and probably inadvisable romance.  The cease fire doesn't last for long.  JR soon begins gleefully skewering Colin's effectively platonic relationship with his girlfriend, while Colin takes every opportunity to point out how unwanted JR is within their family.




The tension surrounding their back and forth squabbling is nearly ceaseless.  It's also incredibly funny.  As an actor, Perry appears intent on stuffing as many words into a sentence as humanly possible.  This would be annoying in most cases.  But, as Colin, his never-ending, half-mumbled diatribes offer insight into a character who, outside of his family circle, probably doesn't get listened to all that often; thus, the urgent need to cram all his thoughts into as compact a space as possible.  Real people might not express themselves as Colin does but Perry's performance still registers as true.

Altman's take on JR is no less exposed.  Her dreams of becoming a broadcast journalist are far out of reach; from her social awkwardness to juvenile way she carries herself, no one is going to hire JR to read the news or anything else.  It's not difficult to gather that the end of her bad relationship with the professor is just par for the course.  With her brother at her side, she forms one-half of a duo of misfits whose intelligence and talent goes wholly unappreciated by those surrounding them.










Every year I have people asking me about what new films I think are funny.  My answer is usually that "comedy recommendations are hard," followed by a very short list of movies that I found humorous.  With The Color Wheel, I've got another title to add to my chuckle list for 2012.  This film has all the makings of a new cult comedy classic.  It's a little rough around the edges but glides by on both charm and the crackling wit of the dialogue.  And Perry and Altman display a mighty rapport here that makes them incredibly fun to watch.  Surprisingly few films have as much going for them as The Color Wheel.





The Color Wheel screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Friday, June 1st at 7pm & 9pm, Saturday, June 2nd at 5pm, 7pm & 9pm, and Sunday June 3rd at 4:30pm.  More info available here.


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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

LAST CHANTS FOR A SLOW DANCE (DEAD END): FIXIN' TO DIE



Right up front, it should be understood that Jon Jost's 1977 deconstruction of the road movie, Last Chants for a Slow Dance (Dead End), nudges the viewer to abandon the need to know where the story is heading for most of the film.  Sure, there are familiar signposts and very subtle hints at genre conventions; at times, it appears as if we might be moving into territory once mined by Monte Hellman, but Jost isn't as interested in sustaining an existentially-flavored narrative or tone as much as he is in offering up a character piece that doesn't rely on the safety of a three-act structure.  Produced for only $2000, Slow Chants is a film like no other, a reminder that cinema doesn't always have to embrace the all-too-common formalism of the mainstream to successfully relay a story.




Jost introduces us to Tom (Tom Blair), a man on the road with the expressed goal of finding employment.  Except, he's really not looking for a job.  He complains about his wife (Jessica St. John), his kids ("I never wanted kids") and his duty to them, never once acknowledging that there might have been choices that lead him to this reality.  Although the journey is necessitated by his familial responsibilities, Tom mostly uses it to free himself of them, drifting aimlessly away from the orbit of those that need him the most, expressing only disdain for them when he can be troubled to acknowledge their existence at all.




There's an episodic quality to the situations that Tom wanders through, whether it be time spent drinking at a bar, a conversation with a hitchhiker, or an encounter with a man on the side of the road.  Jost stitches these moments together with stubbornly static, visual compositions (of the road, an abandoned storefront, clouds, etc.) and sustained fades to black, pulling the audience into a disjointed fugue that reflects the protagonist's lost meanderings through an undefined landscape.  At times, it's easy to forget the few details we've gleaned thus far, as Jost invites us to watch as Tom flips through a stack of postcards in real time, for instance.

All of which sounds like a recipe for a film lacking meaning; an assessment that couldn't be further from the truth.  The last scene of the film; the one that comes after the film's most shocking (and, yet, still emotionally numbed) sequence, provokes one to reassess the entire piece based on what we've just witnessed.  It plays out as a clear-eyed, glorious end to an otherwise elliptical portrait of a sociopath.






Last Chants for a Slow Dance (Dead End) plays at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Thursday, May 31st at 7pm.  Jost's Parable (2008) follows at 9pm.  Additional information on the screening available here.

On Sunday, June 3rd, two more films by Jost, The Long Shadow (La Lunga Ombra) and Images of a Lost City will screen at 6:30pm and 8:15pm, respectively.  More info available here.

Jon Jost will be in attendance for all four screenings.  He's also leading a workshop on digital production on June 2nd and 3rd.


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SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION @ THE HOLLYWOOD THEATRE



Paul Newman's film adaptation of Ken Kesey's great Northwestern logging strike tale, Sometimes a Great Notion, returns to the Hollywood Theatre this weekend for a limited, 4-day run.  Starring Newman, Henry Fonda and Lee Remick, it's a chance to see a rarely screened, regionally-filmed classic; the only known 35mm print in existence will light up the big screen at the Hollywood.  Given how tossed off the dvd version of this title is (it's been relegated to the made-to-order, dv-r "Universal Vault Series"), you practically owe it to yourself to check this out this weekend.






Sometimes a Great Notion plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, June 1st through Monday, June 4th.  More info available here.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

GRINDHOUSE FILM FESTIVAL presents SQUIRM


Portland's own Grindhouse Film Festival slams into high gear tonight with yet another rarely screened, B-horror gem at the Hollywood Theatre.  This month's selection is none other than the 1976 worms gone wild spectacle known as Squirm.  Directed by Jeff Lieberman of Blue Sunshine fame (or is it infamy?), the film finally answers the question of what it would take to get earthworms on board for eating human flesh; the answer...why electricity, of course.




Here's what the Grindhouse fest press release says is in store for tonight's audience:
Squirm (1976) When a violent storm rocks a small community, a series of power lines are knocked to the ground, sending high voltage electricity deep into the earth. The surge of power hits tens of thousands of earthworms, sending them into a flesh-eating frenzy! A young couple and a detective try to save the town, but not before angry screaming worms start infesting houses, spilling out of facets, and burrowing into people’s skin. If the thought of drowning in a sea of worms makes your skin crawl, then this is the movie for you. 
35mm 70′s horror trailers before the movie!





Squirm plays one-night-only at the Hollywood Theatre on Tuesday, May 29th at 7:30pm.  More info available here.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

EFF PORTLAND WINDS DOWN WITH CHARISMATIC MEGAFAUNA & MORE



EFF Portland is already nearing the end of its first year's run.  If you still haven't made it out to this year's festival, there's still plenty of stuff to see.  This evening, there's a two-part presentation of shorts going under the name The Upper Crust (part one's at 6pm, here's a link to part two, which begins at 8pm) and more (live performances, a premiere of work by Evan Meaney at 3pm, etc.).




Tomorrow night marks the official end of the festival.  And the good folks at EFF Portland have put together two enticing events to bring it all to a close.  Sunday afternoon at 1pm, the Clinton Street Theater hosts The Dill Pickle Club's latest installment in their ongoing lecture series, A Place Called Home: Lectures on Filmmaking in PortlandFor this month's edition, the D.P.C.'s rounded up local filmmakers Jim Blashfield, Brooke Jacobson and Matt McCormick (a piece on his most recent film was recently featured on the blog here) to talk about their craft and its relationship to place.





The official festival closing spot is occupied by the Portland premiere of Vanessa Renwick's  Charismatic Megafauna at the Hollywood Theatre.  Via e-mail, Renwick communicated that Charismatic Megafauna is the third piece she's made on the topic of wolf reintroduction (this installation piece being one of the others), part of a twelve year process of making a larger work on the topic.  The event will feature a live score performed by Lori Goldston, Jessika Kenney, Dylan Carlson and Greg Campbell.

Here's a snippet from the press release:
Portland Oregon-based radical documentary film maker Vanessa Renwick places 16mm film footage from her own teenage life in inner city Chicago, living with a wolf dog with stunning video documentation shot by biologists reintroducing wolves into the western USA in the late 90’s. We watch the wolf dog scavenging in the gutters of Chicago, and we watch humans performing the act known perversely as “wildlife management” on wolves.


The evening will also feature a rare screening of Renwick’s “Mighty Tacoma.”













Sound and Vision & EFF Portland present Charismatic Megafauna on Sunday, May 27th at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info on the program available here.  More info EFF Portland's showcases, tickets, venues and special events available here.


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Thursday, May 24, 2012

THE FILMS OF STUDIO GHIBLI: POM POKO



Let's be honest here:  Pom Poko is one of the weirder selections in the Studio Ghibli portfolio.  It doesn't get nearly as much love in Ghibli fan circles as some of their higher profile releases like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke do, but there's a lot about this less celebrated film worth recommending.  The action centers around a group of raccoons (okay, anime nerds, tanuki) whose natural living space is being infringed upon by ongoing human settlements.  So, basically, we've got an environmentally-themed kid's movie about urban sprawl.




Doesn't sound very strange to you?  What if I told you that these particular raccoons are shape-shifters, able to take on any form that they wish?  Furthermore, the male raccoons use their distinctly masculine, um, "pouch" in a likewise magical manner, inflating it at will or having it appear as a rug, etc.  One would be hard-pressed to point out an example of an animated product from the West containing such frank, anatomical depictions.  In Pom Poko, there's little hoopla associated with the choice to portray the characters this way; they're male, so, of course, they're packin' heat.  The movie doesn't get bogged down by this, so we won't either...




The far more interesting thing about Pom Poko is how it handles the raccoon population's attempts to address their shared problem.  They start in a fairly common place, trading violence for the violence being wrought against them and their homes.  Soon enough, though, the group becomes divided in opinion about how to proceed, many feeling uncomfortable about the dire consequences that their actions have had on individual humans.  In a sense, what director Isao Takahata's story is showing us is the birth of a politically-charged, activist movement, one that just happens to be made up of raccoons.




It's interesting to see such adult concepts as group process and consensus being tested out in a children's entertainment, but maybe that says more about the utterly banal films being released for kids by Hollywood nowadays.  If anything, Pom Poko respects the intelligence of children; sure, it's plenty silly at times, offering up more than one raccoon party involving folk songs about roadkill, but there's also more than a few losses stacked up by the end of the film, making the resolution of the film nothing if not bittersweet. 

Pom Poko is an odd duck of a film, no doubt.  Though, if you've somehow neglected seeing it, this final week of the NW Film Center's Studio Ghibli retrospective offers the perfect opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past.  As well as a chance to ponder the fate of raccoons, I suppose.







Pom Poko screens as a part of the retrospective series, Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata, and the Masters of Studio Ghibli.  More info about the Studio Ghibli series here.
It plays at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Friday, May 25th at 7pm and Sunday, May 27th at 2pm.


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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CINEMA PROJECT & EFF PORTLAND present THE ANIMALS & THEIR LIMITATIONS: FILMS BY JIM TRAINOR



Cinema Project joins forces this week with the premiere edition of EFF Portland (more coverage of the fest here) to present the animated films of Jim Trainor.  Trainor, who once received the mixed blessing of being shit on by the Mercury; an honor that was later re-examined by an article in the Art Institute of Chicago's student publication where Trainor questioned some people's ability to "get" the work, creates his films mostly with pen and ink on paper, which he then captures on 16mm. 





Tomorrow night's event includes seven of Trainor's idiosyncratic films.  For more on the program, here's the Cinema Project press release:

Since the harmony of nature is actually based on an unhappy system of things destroying other things, I am continually struck and amused by nature documentaries' almost compulsive tendency to try to comfort us instead of leaving us stranded in existential horror, where we belong. —Jim Trainor 

As part of the first-ever Experimental Film Festival Portland, Grand Detour and Cinema Project are pleased to present Chicago filmmaker Jim Trainor. Trainor's strange animation takes the traditional set-up of science and anthropological films and turns it on its head, giving the power of narration to the animals and the headhunters themselves. "I killed my identical twin sister, " a hyena confesses in Harmony. "I killed my sister. But then since I am only an animal, I kept looking for her everywhere." In Magic Kingdom, live-action shots of animals in the zoo are interspersed with the ever-pres­ent animated dots that act as tender representations of the pulse of living beings. Working almost exclusively on 16mm, Trainor often starts out simply with Sharpie and white paper. Perfection is not the point, instead the films purposefully quiver, underlining the subject matter's dark humor.






And here's the lineup of films:


The Presentation Theme [2008, 16mm, b&w, sound, 14min.] 
The Bats [1998, 16mm, color, sound, 8 min.] 
The Moschops pt. I [2000, 16mm, b&w, sound, 6 min.] 
The Moschops pt. II [2000, 16mm, b&w, sound, 6 min.] 
The Skulls and the Skulls and the Bones and the Bones [2003, video, color, sound, 13 min.] 
Harmony [2005, 16mm, color, sound, 13 min.] 
The Magic Kingdom [2002, 16mm, color, sound, 7 min.]












Cinema Project & EFF Portland present The Animals and Their Limitations on Thursday, May 24th.  More info on the program available here.  More info EFF Portland's showcases, tickets, venues and special events available here.


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Monday, May 21, 2012

EFF PORTLAND TINKERS WITH THE PDX FESTIVAL SCENE



I've been really excited about the emergence of EFF Portland ever since the first murmurings about it began popping up in my Facebook feed.  There's been a hollow space in the Portland's film festival circuit ever since the PDX Film Festival quietly exited the scene.  So, the idea of a new experimental fest coming to the rescue was more than welcome.  And from the films that I've seen thus far, the first edition of EFF Portland is a well-curated, diverse, and exciting mix of classically and bleeding edge experimental films, pushing the boundaries of the cinematic experience.

I'll be writing a bit more later in the week about a special event or two at EFF Portland but, for now, here are a few recommended films to catch:





New Hippie Future (dir. Dalibor Barić), screening as part of the "Mycology" presentation on Thurs., May 24th at 9pm:
A kaleidoscopic experience of constantly shifting images and textures, set to a driving Krautrockesque soundtrack.  A beautiful piece; you'll want to see it again as soon as it's over.





Chris Freeman presents: A Scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Episode 3X09, "The Vengeance Factor" (dir. Chris Freeman), screening as part of the "Near Side" presentation on Fri., May 25th at 8:45pm:
Freeman moves the context of a piece of pop culture into an entirely different place.  Humor and insight coexist here; it questions as much as it amuses.





 Jazzy Birds (dir. Jeremy Rourke), screening as part of the "Eruption" presentation on Wed., May 23rd at 7pm:
A sweet blending of stop-motion involving cutouts, illustrations, superimposed imagery, etc., all set to a lovely little song that shares the title of the film.





Wrestling With My Father (dir. Charles Fairbanks), screening as a part of the "Upper Crust, part two" presentation on Sat., May 26th at 8pm:
Fairbanks' camera observes his father at a wrestling match.  It's such a flimsy idea that it shouldn't really work but, somehow, a hypnotic effect is forged.





Dark Enough (dir. Jeanne Liotta), screening as a part of the "Magma Flow" presentation on Sat., May 26th at 1pm:
I've been a big fan of Liotta's work, ever since screening her Observando El Cielo in a film class a few years back.  This piece is based in an experiment with text and image, working in collaboration with the poet Lisa Gill.






EFF Portland runs through Sunday, May 27th.  More info on showcases, tickets, venues and special events available here.


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Friday, May 18, 2012

GOD BLESS AMERICA: "REALITY" INSPIRED VIOLENCE



You're either in or out with the films of Bobcat Goldthwait.  The 1980s comedian/actor turned auteur has written and directed four of 'em so far, all of which have hinged on a solidly profane premise meant to shock audiences into laughter.

There's the one about the girl who once performed oral sex on a dog (Sleeping Dogs Lie, surprisingly sweet given the underlying device at play), the one where a man's son dies from auto-erotic asphyxiation (World's Greatest Dad), and, my personal favorite, Bobcat's alcoholic clown movie, Shakes the Clown, which opens with a child urinating on the actor's face in a bathroom.  In short, Goldthwait has a tendency to rely on outrageous scenarios more than plot to drive his work behind the camera, a characteristic which hasn't shifted at all with his latest release, God Bless America.





What we have here, folks, is a comedy about a pair of serial killers, an older man, Frank (Joel Murray), and a teenage girl, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who go on a killing spree to protest the downward trajectory of American culture.  Frank's divorced, living next to a pair of white trash douchebags, and has been both recently laid off and diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Disgusted by the endless amount of human degradation on display on reality television and tabloid journalism, he decides to kill himself.  When that doesn't work out, Frank figures; why not turn the gun on those causing his frustration?






God Bless America is a savage and darkly funny screed against the dumbing-down of American life.  It shares a lot in common with Mike Judge's 1996 dystopian comedy Idiocracy, both films imagine (or is it perceive) a continually regressing state of popular discourse, turning the nation into an upside-down world where idiocy is applauded by the masses.

It's not difficult to hear Goldthwait's voice behind any place in the film where Frank begins to rant against what he identifies as the problems of this world; the character serves primarily as a mouthpiece for Goldthwait's assaults against Hollywood, conservatives, and whatever else pisses him off.  At times, it feels like outtakes from one of Goldthwait's standup routines with a lil' gun play added into the mix.  If you're a fan of the comic's caustic ravings, those moments are thrilling. 

Unfortunately, the film does feel a little padded at times.  The killings become repetitious and the targets begin to blend together, if only for their patent obviousness.  The violence never approaches the mind-numbing depths of films like Kick-Ass or 300; Goldthwait's too smart to sink that low, but it does keep the film from completely fulfilling the promise of its setup.  So it's not a perfect film, but it's quite watchable.  And, if you can get down with the basic idea, really funny.






God Bless America begins its run at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, May 18th.  More info  available here.


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Thursday, May 17, 2012

QDOC OPENS TONIGHT: A PREVIEW OF PORTLAND'S OWN LGBT NON-FICTION FILM FESTIVAL



The 6th Annual QDoc (Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival) invades McMenamins Kennedy School Theater beginning tonight (5/17) and running through this coming Sunday evening (5/20).  Packing eleven screenings (many with special guests in attendance) into the four day schedule, there are some really wonderful films on offer here.  Here's a rundown of the ones I was able to catch:





Wish Me Away (dir. Bobbie Birleffi & Beverly Kopf):
The story of one woman's coming out.  The major difference between her experience and that of countless others is that she's Chely Wright, the famed Nashville singer who in 2010 became country music's first star to out herself.  The film follows Chely in the anxious days leading up to her very public announcement on The Today Show.  
Along the way, we're given access to Chely as she meets with her spiritual counselor, publisher (there's a tell-all autobiography in the mix), family and fellow musicians.

Wish Me Away is the opening night selection at QDoc.  It screens on Thursday, May 17th at 7pm.
Chely Wright will be in attendance at the screening.





A moving portrait of Vito Russo that encompasses all sides of his activism: as a researcher/archivist of gay experience in cinema via his landmark tome The Celluloid Closet, as a host for the groundbreaking NYC-based television show Our Time, and as a founder of GLAAD and ACT UP.  This is a rare opportunity for Portland crowds to see this theatrically before it has its broadcast premiere on HBO in July.  Vito is highly recommended viewing.  One of the better documentaries I've seen in 2012.

Vito is the closing film for QDoc.  It screens on Sunday, May 20th at 7pm.
Director Jeffrey Schwarz will be in attendance at the screening.





Girl or Boy, My Sex is Not My Gender (dir. Valérie Mitteaux):
A French documentary exploring the lives of four individuals who were born biologically female and have transitioned to male somewhere along the line.  Out of all of the QDoc content I viewed this week, this film contains the best interviews; there are some incredibly lucid statements throughout concerning gender constructs--what it's like to abandon some while adopting others.  There's also some fairly surprising and sickening revelations about how the French govern the bodies (and technically, the minds, I guess) of their transgendered citizens.

Girl or Boy, My Sex is Not My Gender screens at QDoc on Friday, May 18th at 6:45pm.
One of its subjects, Lynnee Breedlove (of Tribe 8 fame), will be in attendance at the screening.





Love Free or Die (dir. Macky Alston):
This is my pick for the must-see film at QDoc.  Macky Alston (Questioning Faith, Family Name) focuses his lens on Gene Robinson, the priest who made international headlines for being the first openly gay, partnered person consecrated as a bishop by the Episcopal Church in the U.S.
The documentary tracks Robinson as he suffers pressure from without over the splintering effects that his ordination have had on the domestic church and its relationship within the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Yeah, it's scheduled for 4 in the afternoon on a Sunday.  That's not an excuse; don't miss it.

Love Free or Die screens at QDoc on Sunday, May 20th at 4pm.
Director Macky Alston will be in attendance at the screening.





























The 6th annual QDoc (Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival) begins this Thursday, May 17th at McMenamins Kennedy School Theater.  More info about the festival can be found here.


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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WE WERE HERE: AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT KIND OF WAR STORY




Near the end of David Weissman's We Were Here, an emotionally-charged exploration of the terrifying effects that the AIDS crisis had on San Francisco's gay community, Daniel Goldstein compares living through the era to surviving a war.  The film, perhaps the most fully-bodied documentary to broach the topic, supports this analogy quite well; what better label could you apply to a struggle where so few of the engaged subjects emerged unscathed...or at all?






Weissman's work here mournfully comes to terms with the unmitigated disaster that hit this community, simultaneously celebrating and eulogizing the youthful, utopian village built by the individuals the disease attacked.  The sheer amount of men cut down by AIDS in that time and place is difficult to come to terms with but We Were Here does a remarkable job of illustrating the scale and speed with which the infection spread through the city's young gay population.  It's a terrifying and moving viewing experience, one made all the more emotionally complicated by the words and memories of those left behind in the crisis' wake.






For a film with loss at its center, We Were Here never resorts to glorification of the dead; it merely offers an unwaveringly humane perspective on a crisis that, due to the negative influences of media-induced paranoia and many political and religious institutions, still isn't fully comprehended by the majority of the country.  It's a film that seeks to honor the dead and, in doing this, offers another chance for the living to reassess the epidemic for what it truly was: an immense tragedy that struck quickly and without warning, ending the lives of countless people who loved and were loved.







As an aside, had I seen this film last year, it absolutely would have ended up on my best of 2011 list, likely in the top 5.



 

We Were Here was released on dvd by Docurama Films on Tuesday, May 15th.  More info about the film available here.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HDFest KICKS OFF TONIGHT @ LIVING ROOM THEATERS


Portland certainly has no shortage of film festivals going on throughout the year.  Blink and you've probably missed a few already.  What our town doesn't have many of, however, is an influx of traveling festivals, curated omnibuses of cinematic goodness brought to our fair city from without.  Enter HDFest, a "digital cinema festival" that's crawled all over the globe since its inception some twelve years back.

To quote the statement of purpose from HDFest webpage:

Since 2000, HDFEST has known that high-def and digital cinema are the future of the entertainment industry. Since that time, the festival has been at the heart and core of this revolution. HDFEST has been responsible for numerous historic digital cinema landmark events and technological firsts. Since HDFEST's inception, there have been 23 HDFEST events in 10 cities including LA, NYC, London, Helsinki, Seoul, South Korea and Sydney, Australia.



A still from Leh Wi Tok (Let Us Talk)

Well, add Portland to the above list, as HDFest kicks off this year's series in Portland tonight (5/15) at Living Room Theaters.  Over the course of three nights, the festival will host multiple features, including Amy Alyson Fans, DisCONNECTED and Light of Mine (directed by Portland native, Brett Eichenberger).  HDFest also has several themed showcases in store for PDX audiences: "romantic relationships & intrigue," hd indie shorts, gay-themed shorts, etc.


A still from Two Boys


Of the films that I was able to preview, I most admired fun and playful animated piece, Place Stamp Here.  But I was also taken by the honesty and simplicity of Two Boys, a no-nonsense look at loss that overcomes its lack of visual flair via a commitment to emotional truths.  Le Wi Tok (Let Us Talk), focusing on the healing process in the aftermath of war, was, likewise, gripping to encounter.



A still from Place Stamp Here







HDFest opens tonight, Tuesday, May 15th, at Living Room Theaters.  More info about the festival available here.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

DRAGONSLAYER: A LIVING, BREATHING CAR WRECK OF A FELLOW


Exhibiting far more polish and nuance than its subject probably deserves, Dragonslayer is a drop-dead gorgeous film about one hell of a fuck-up.  The further one gets into the documentary, the more one wants to grab professional skater Josh "Skreech" Sandoval by the shoulders and shake him out of his chronic stupor.

Watching how he becomes "basically homeless," losing his sponsorships while continuing to choose drugs and alcohol over healthy food and behaving boorishly towards his much younger girlfriend, is maddening enough.  But, then, there's the issue of the considerable distance his actions are already putting between him and his 6 month old son.  Sandoval openly admits that he's going to do what he wants to do and hopes that his son won't hate him later for it.  Yeah, good luck with that approach, buddy.




But, even with as unlikeable a character as Sandoval at its center, Dragonslayer is a compulsively watchable 70+ minutes.  A lot of that credit goes to the clever editing scheme at play; the film is divided into a countdown of numbered sequences, each named for one of the ridiculous, half-tossed off sound bites ("Swedish Metal," "Sex Cream," etc.) that Skreech drops on the filmmakers while they follow him about on his waste-oid odyssey.  Each of these beautifully constructed sections could play as a standalone vignette, but stitched together, they form a nimble structure that keeps the film dancing forward, never allowing it to get bogged down in one spot for too long.





Another great thing about the way this film is cut is its emphasis on direct experience (or at least the illusion of direct experience) vs. exposition by its subject.  More times than not, we're allowed to just watch "Skreech" behave, rather than have to listen to him explain his reasons for his behavior.  It's a choice that pulls the viewer in and truly elevates the material, completely sidestepping what might otherwise be reduced to cheap and hideous exploitation; a film about a living, breathing car wreck of a fellow.





Director Tristan Patterson makes an attempt to align the rudderless lifestyle practiced by Sandoval and his friends to the current economic recession.  The film shows "Skreech" and his friends breaking into the backyards of repossessed properties to skate in empty pools.  The comparison falls apart, though, as the focus too often shifts away from the larger context being auditioned in these moments.  Fortunately, the attempt to substantiate such a parallel isn't vital to the film's success; it soars with or without a unified thematic device at play.  This is a really excellent film, just don't expect to love the guy at the center of it all.





Dragonslayer will be released on dvd by First Run Features on Tuesday, May 15th.  More info about the release available here.

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WE'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT: JAWS @ THE HOLLYWOOD THEATRE & THE 99W DRIVE-IN THEATER



Everybody's favorite cuddly sea creature is returning to the big screen this week at the Hollywood Theatre.  No, not Flipper, Andre or The Little Mermaid; I'm talkin' about Steven Spielberg's 1975 mega-blockbuster Jaws.

Wait, you think the titular fish in that film was the villain?!  C'mon, people, a shark's gotta eat.  It's a matter of life or death and I, for one, don't believe that our buddy Jaws deserved to be hunted down by Mr. Holland and that dude from Blue Thunder just because he had a little snack.

Movie fans in PDX will have a four-day opportunity (beginning tonight and running through Thursday) to check it out at the Hollywood.  And, on Friday night, the 99W Drive-In Theater in Newberg will screen Mr. Spielberg's opus on their large, outdoor screen.




Jaws plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Monday, May 14th through Thursday, May 17th.  More info on showtimes available here.  
The 99W Drive-In in Newberg, Oregon will show the film beginning Friday, May 18th through Sunday, May 20th.  It's not yet been listed on their webpage but there is a Facebook event page for those screenings here (you have to "like" the "Friends of the 99W Drive-in" FB page in order to view that link).


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