Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TOP DOWN presents THE PALM BEACH STORY: STURGES UNDER THE STARS



The NW Film Center's annual Top Down Rooftop Cinema series gets off to a rollicking start this week with Preston Sturges' 1942 screwball take on the romantic comedy, The Palm Beach Story.  As with most of Sturges' output, the film locates its humor in the narrow margins of what was socially acceptable in that era; in this case, it's an impending divorce that drives film's witty banter and absurd situations.





Gerry (Claudette Colbert) and Tom (Joel McCrea) are a married couple whose financial shortages inspire her to call it quits, citing the burden that she's become to him as reason enough to head on down to Palm Beach, where interested parties can get split up on the cheap.  Along the way to the city of their final separation, Tom and Gerry get entangled with a wealthy brother (Rudy Vallee) and sister (Mary Astor) duo who fall for them.  Oh, and I'd be remiss to not mention the presence of a guy calling himself the "wienie king" (Robert Dudley).




It all travels on a simple premise and, like in Leo McCarey's 1937 similarly-themed classic The Awful Truth, one can see from a mile away that this couple will, by the end of the picture, find themselves in each others arms once more.  Fortunately, the element of surprise really isn't the point of a film like The Palm Beach Story.  Like the best of these classic rom-coms, this is a picture in love with winking at the audience, letting us in on the joke quite early so we can laugh it up as the misguided actions of the characters multiply.  All the while, it assures us that everything will work out in the end.  The expected uplift is just part of the deal.  After all, who would really want a realistic, downer of an ending capping off a film such as this? 







The NW Film Center's Top Down Rooftop Cinema series presents The Palm Beach Story on Thursday, July 26th at 8pm.  More info available here.


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Sunday, July 22, 2012

POSSESSION: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT @ THE HOLLYWOOD THEATER


Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski's 1981 film Possession is one hell of a weird film.  Both Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani writhe and shout their way through the film.  Their characters and the relationship between them shifts constantly, the plot is clouded at times, and it all ends (predictably?) in a sweaty, tentacle sex-filled nightmare where identity and fidelity are both called into question.




This evening offers one more chance to see the 35mm print of the director's cut at The Hollywood Theatre.  Lovers of psychosexually-charged and unhinged material won't want to miss it.






Here's what the Hollywood has to say about the film:

For fans of the early films of David Cronenberg and David Lynch, this movie blurs the line between high art and grotesque horror. The film was heavily edited when originally released in the United States, with over 40 minutes cut from the running time. This new print is the original director’s cut of the film. Possession (1981) Mark (Sam Neill) comes home from months on the road to find his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani in an incredible performance) ready to divorce him. Distraught and angry, he tracks down her lover, but discovers a secret hidden from both of the men. Anna has given birth to a demon lover, and she’ll go to violent lengths to protect it. When doppelgangers of Mark and Anna appear (also played by Neill and Adjani), the couple grow increasingly erratic, as they sink deeper into madness and obsession.








Possession screens at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, July 21st and Sunday, July 22nd at 9:30pm.  More info available here.


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Saturday, July 21, 2012

TAKE THIS WALTZ: A DEEP LONGING, EXPOSED



There's a modest ambition coursing through the center of Take This Waltz, the latest film from actor turned director Sarah Polley.  Her elegiac 2006 directorial effort Away from Her was among the strongest debuts of the previous decade.  Take This Waltz doesn't quite reach the heights of that earlier work but its unerring focus on the sometimes dichotomous nature of domesticity and romantic love makes for a powerful interrogation that aligns the two films thematically.  With this new film, Polley peels back the facade on a seemingly happy relationship, locating a deep longing widening an already present gap in the marriage of Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen).





Yet another film about a married couple whose friendship remains strong even as their physical connection is waning might not seem like anything new or special, but Polley is a gifted filmmaker who understands that showing us Margot's quiet moments of discontent is a far more effective storytelling strategy than having the character explain her emotional state.  While on a business trip, Margot has a chance meeting with Daniel (Luke Kirby), a man who ends up being her new neighbor.  Unsurprisingly, her instant attraction to Daniel only widens the gap between her and Lou and it's not long before Margot begins finding daily excuses to run into Daniel..





As is often the case when actors make the transition into directing, the film is truly an actor's piece; Williams is brilliant and Rogen turns in what might be his best performance yet, actually evoking a lot of depth behind the usual nervous joke-making that so often constitutes his on screen persona.  Also of note is Sarah Silverman as a relative whose recently won sobriety casts her as a giver of sage advice, particularly when it comes to how not to live one's life.




Take This Waltz is a film that works on almost every level.  There's a spare and lived-in quality to the writing and performances that betrays great respect for the audience.  Plus, there's the pleasure of watching as Sarah Polley, long one of the better actresses working in independent film, continues to cement the impression that she'll grow into one of the indie world's best directors.





Take This Waltz begins its run at Living Room Theaters on Friday, July 20th.  More info available here.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: MAGIC AND LOSS ON THE LOUISIANA DELTA


I'm not usually in the habit of posting about films after they've already begun their theatrical run here in town.  But last night I hit a screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild with friends and was so impressed that I'm feeling the need to write as a means of processing it.  To cut to the chase, I loved it; I'm already scurrying to find a small amount of free time (not easy w/ an 8 month old in the house) to go see it again. 

Those of us who regularly return to the comforts of the movie house are a masochistic bunch.  The overwhelming majority of films we experience while sitting in those seats range from mediocre to just plain terrible.  And yet, we find ourselves, time and again, leaning back in the dark and peering up in hopes of experiencing an illuminating vision collectively.  There's a reason for all this hoping against hope.  We return because we're optimistic.  And we're optimistic because we've seen magic hit the screen before and the memory of it, no matter how faint, has implanted a yearning for more, regardless of how many lifeless, clichéd misfires might have passed before our eyes since we last saw that precious spark.





Beast of the Southern Wild is made of such magic.  It's a wild, unruly sort, and while it may not yield a movie grounded in perfection, there's little doubt that the chances taken in order to conjure this cinematic spell will extend one's belief in film just a little further, if one is willing to go where the film takes you.  This is a greatly ambitious first feature from director Benh Zeitlin, filled to the brim with risky transitions between passages that soar to ones based in somber ruminations, painting a deeply textured world that has more in common with the writing of Faulkner than with your average celluloid adventure.





You also might recognize within it the influence of Malick, George Washington, John Sayles (The Secret of Roan Inish is the obvious touchstone, but also his very underrated 1999 picture Limbo), and a general aesthetic of of tone based in absence and loss that's been quietly burbling under the surface of most recent American realist cinema.  All of which doesn't prepare you for the insertion into the mise en scène of aurochs roaming the film's Louisiana Delta setting (their presence bringing to mind the Leonard Smalls character that shadows H.I. in Raising Arizona).  Let me be clear, there's no mimicry at play here, Zeitlin masterfully blends these influences in manner that makes them his own.





Without a doubt, the presence of Quvenzhané Wallis as the six-year old protagonist, Hushpuppy, is what sells even the most far flung of Zeitlin's ideas (and notions of which ideas work and which don't will likely vary greatly depending on who's viewing the film).  It's been a while since I've seen a performance from a child actor capable of exhibiting such range, maybe since Whale Rider (yet another film that Beasts resembles at times).  Dwight Henry's turn as Hushpuppy's father, Wink, anchors Wallis' uninhibited approach whenever he's on screen.  Their onscreen rapport feels lived in, seasoned beyond the younger actor's years.

As for plot, well, I'm not really going to get into that at all.  I purposely went into the film totally blind.  I hadn't even seen the trailer (linked below).  I'd recommend ignoring that link and encountering it without any bloody notion what you're about to see.  Not a spoiler: it's a wonderful surprise.





Beasts of the Southern Wild is playing now at Cinema 21.  More info available here.


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Monday, July 16, 2012

ECSTASY OF ORDER: THE TETRIS MASTERS -- 5 QUESTIONS FOR DIRECTOR ADAM CORNELIUS



A lot of people have played Tetris.  Millions, in fact.  And many of them, myself included, have returned to the game periodically to find it just as addicting as it was when they first encountered it.  The common experience, though, is that the game always gets the best of you, usually not too long after the difficulty ramps up a few notches.  But what of those individuals who never put the game down at all?  What about players whose mastery allows them to sail past levels that crush the average enthusiast? 

Portland-based documentary filmmaker Adam Cornelius went searching for the story behind the game's most devoted, advanced players.  His film Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters follows former Nintendo World Championship (NWC) finalist Robin Mihara as he organizes a tournament of master players (including NWC champion Thor Aackerlund).

Cornelius will be hosting a screening that doubles as the film's dvd release party this coming Friday night at the Hollywood Theatre.  Leading up to that event, he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the film and its subjects.




NICK: What drew you to make a film about prodigious players of Tetris? And to further unpack that question: why now, almost 30 years after the game’s creation? What is it about the game and its players that brought you to explore the topic? And what’s your own explanation for the enduring appeal of Tetris so many years after its introduction? 

ADAM: The simple answer is I had been trying to master Tetris myself. So I was watching YouTube videos of record games by the people who are now in the movie to try and learn from them. But I really didn’t see a documentary film there because the whole scene was just people recording their games and mailing them to Twin Galaxies to be posted on the Internet. There was no human interaction or filmable action, frankly. In spite of that, when Harry Hong finally maxed out the game, as a Tetris player myself, I was just blown away and really wanted to go down to LA and shoot an interview with him and make a little video of some kind. Once I put that video on the internet (called Max-Out!) the whole movie just came to me from that point on. I met Robin Mihara who had been interested in putting together a tournament and it was just a critical mass kinda thing that grew exponentially into what you see in the movie. 

It is great that the game is old, because we have this group of people who’ve been playing the same simple video game for 20+ years, and since video games are relatively new, that’s unprecedented. So it warrants some reflection. In this case, especially for the guys who were in the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, a lot of hopes and dreams are wrapped up in this game. So there really is a history there that gives the movie some depth. When I started I hadn’t even heard of the 1990 NWC. So there’s another example of how things just unfolded before me and I had to put it all together and tell the story. 

My explanation for the greatness of Tetris is it is elemental and almost feels like an ancient game. For people who play all the time, it takes on almost a talismanic property where people talk about the Tetris God and the game denying you the pieces you need at critical moments. So you keep going back, hoping to get some cooperation from the Gods and break your high score. The truth is the top players in the movie have genuinely mastered the game and have managed to mostly remove the luck element… in a way they have given the Tetris God the finger, which is what we all wish we could do. 




NICK: Your previous film, People Who Do Noise, was about musicians participating in the Portland, Oregon noise scene. Does Ecstasy of Order fit into a larger fascination within your work for documenting individuals operating outside the trends of dominant pop culture? Or is there another explanation as to why you’ve focused in on these stories? 

ADAM: Well, first off, in both cases it was something I was directly involved with. In 2005, I played guitar in a drone-metal/guitar feedback band, and we ended up playing a bunch of noise shows, something I hadn’t had much exposure to. I discovered I really liked noise music, and viewed it as a really legitimate art form. And I was just blown away that most people didn’t even know it existed! Like everyone’s heard of abstract visual art, but you bring up abstract sound and just get blank stares. Even people who listen to extreme music like death metal or punk can be outright hostile and amazingly close-minded towards noise. So its just my way of trying to, I don’t know, generate some relevance or spotlight it in some way. And yeah, within that extreme marginalization comes a deep camaraderie that I found really touching. 

Tetris was the same way, in the sense that Harry’s max-out was front page news in my mind, like climbing Mount Everest, but in reality almost no one cared. So something compelled me to go to him and try to glorify his achievement. I mean, I actually hope the film becomes famous so that people will take competitive Tetris seriously and perhaps a more established league can form. That’s actually been one of my goals from the start, along with, of course, making a good movie. 

Another bond the films have is they depict people who’ve developed an almost spiritual connection with technology. In the case of the noise musicians, they’re like these mediums who’ve awakened all this broken circuitry and are having a séance. With Tetris, you have the Tetris God and I do feel the game becomes a meditative exercise. That’s where the title comes from.




NICK: There still lingers in the public mind at large an assumption that video games are a medium not to be taken seriously. From the get-go, Ecstasy of Order argues that Tetris is a serious game based in strategy and timing, there’s even an attempt in your film to align the game’s complexity with that of chess. Did you feel that Tetris needed defending? And, if so, was it a matter of principle, a means of building a basic argument within your film or somewhere in between? 

ADAM: Well Tetris is actually marketed and sold here in the States as the “Godfather of Casual Gaming” which is true. But I was still surprised that when I would bring up my film to people, they would often laugh and think I was joking. In my mind there’s no debating Tetris’s legitimacy as one of the great strategy games of all time. But people often don’t realize there is an elite level of play, and they don’t know what it entails. So I wasn’t defending it, more so just explaining it so that the audience could understand the challenge the game represented and hopefully enjoy the action of the tournament more during the film’s climactic scene. I’ve gotten enough positive feedback on that to think it basically worked. 

One of the most common reactions to the film is that people really want to play Tetris, because now they understand how the game should be played! They want to see if they can build a wall, leave a well, and burn lines while waiting for a long bar, instead of just blandly clearing lines at slow speeds. Even my parents got a Nintendo after seeing the film and they are way better than they were when I was a kid. 




NICK: For me, the most surprising and affecting moment of the film occurs when we finally get to meet Thor Aackerlund, the formerly teenaged Tetris champion of the early 90s. He’s been the elephant in the room for much of the picture, with the other players constantly spouting their theories about his skills, his undocumented claims of surviving the Tetris “kill screen,” and whether or not he’ll even show up for the competition. When the now adult Thor does make the scene, he comes off as quite modest and very candidly opens up about a past filled with personal tragedy, shifting any understanding we might have had about him as a “character” prior to that moment. Did this turn of events surprise you? Were there any other notable discoveries made during the course of production? And were there any moments that you ended up leaving on the cutting room floor that you now wish you had included in the film? 

ADAM: Well, I try to let Thor’s appearance in the film speak for itself. I will say that the way it unfolds in the movie is directly what I experienced behind the camera. All I had to go on were these rumors and this growing suspicion that Thor was some kind of fraud or a recluse. We really weren’t sure if he was going to show up or not. So its all true. I feel very lucky that the film has a real story that unfolded organically during the shoot. I think that’s often what sets apart the really memorable documentaries, is when they actually capture a real story arc in the present tense rather than being forced to manufacture one or remain stuck in the past. But you really just have to feel lucky if it happens. 

My biggest regret is that we did not do more to hunt down the other Nintendo World Champions who lost to Thor in 1990. Frankly from what I’ve heard through the grapevine, Thor is not the only finalist who went on to have a troubled life. But maybe he encapsulates that whole experience and its not needed. 





NICK: The screening at the Hollywood on July 20th also functions as Ecstasy of Order’s dvd and soundtrack release party. Congrats on bringing the film to the home video market. Are you already planning your next project? And, if so, would you feel comfortable sharing a little about it? 

ADAM: Thanks. It means a lot to me to have Portlanders come out and see the film and ask Robin and I some questions. I try to remind people that Robin Mihara was born in Portland and the film is about him as much as anyone, so it really is a Portland story. 

I have many ideas. There is an event in Texas called the One-Armed Dove Hunt that I’m hoping to shoot. It will be new for me because I will be a complete outsider. I have never hunted, and I am not an amputee, so it will require a higher degree of empathy on my part. I would also like to do something about primitivism and living off the grid. But I am so busy with the Tetris stuff that its hard to move on. We are hosting the 2012 Classic Tetris World Championship at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo on September 29th and 30th, so keep an eye out for that if you want to see Ecstasy of Order stars duke it out in person! 







Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters screens at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, July 20th at 7:30pm.  More info available here.



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Saturday, July 14, 2012

TURN ME ON, DAMMIT!: NAVIGATING TEENAGE LUST, NORWEGIAN-STYLE



Playing out like a slightly more benign, Norwegian version of Welcome to the Dollhouse, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen's Turn Me On, Dammit! was the best thing I saw at this year's PIFF that I didn't end up writing about at the time.  Delving into the budding female sexuality of its protagonist, it tells the story of Alma (Helene Bergsholm) whose coming of age is further complicated when a mishap with a boy she likes results in her being ostracized by her peers (could there be a less desirable high school nickname than "dick-Alma?").





Turn Me On, Dammit! doesn't shy away from the more painful aspects of Alma's experience but, mercifully, it does temper the misery with humor and true insight into the adolescent condition.  Funny, great stuff; don't miss it.




Turn Me On, Dammit! begins its run at Living Room Theaters on Friday, July 13th.  More info available here.
 
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Friday, July 13, 2012

DAYS OF HEAVEN: CHECKIN' OUT THE GROUND UNDERNEATH



As I mentioned some time ago, Terrence Malick's 1978 film Days of Heaven is pretty close to my favorite film of all-time.  For me, it's one of those films that never gets old, each subsequent viewing yielding new discoveries.  

The film begins a one-week engagement at the Laurelhurst Theater today.  It's really something that needs to be seen on the big screen at least once.  I've decided to share an essay that I wrote about Days of Heaven some seven years ago for a film class.  Looking it over again, it's very much, for better or worse, a snapshot of where I was as a writer back then.  

If you haven't seen the film, you probably shouldn't read the essay, since it's more analysis driven than review-based, so, yeah, there are SPOILERS.  Here we go:




Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven is a testament to an acuity of vision rarely seen in modern cinema. The film is a period piece that transcends its time and setting to paint with broad strokes whose trajectories can be read and applied universally to any era.

After opening with a collage of vintage pictures intended to apply setting for the action, we meet Abby and Bill who are both working difficult jobs in what appear to be less than safe environs.  Bill, who is shoveling coal, has an argument with his foreman that ends in violence.  He flees the scene, his job undoubtedly terminated.  Linda, a girl first seen in a still image at the opening of the film, is revealed as our narrator and Bill’s younger sister.  Also made clear is the relationship between Abby and Bill.  They are lovers, though Linda tells us “they told everybody they were brother and sister”.




One of the themes with which Malick deals here is the plight of the unskilled worker in America.  The disparity of wealth between the farmhands and the farmer is so pronounced that the issue of abusive power gained through economic gluttony becomes obvious very early.  The film understands that applied capitalism requires an underclass to exist, one that does not reap rewards or benefit from the system.  The farmhands are mostly seen laboring in the fields.  Linda tells us, “come the time the sun went up ‘til it went down, they was workin’ all the time. You didn’t work, they’d ship you right outta there.  They don’t need ya.  They can always get somebody else”.

When Abby is docked pay and Bill is threatened with the loss of employment for questioning the decision, we see just how trapped the workers are by the class-based system their world presents.  The farmhands don’t just work in the fields; they live there too.  We see them cooking in the fields, huddling together for warmth.  The lone structure on the horizon is the farmer’s house.  A modern edifice equipped with electricity, it contains more rooms that the single farmer could possibly require for himself.  And yet, when it begins to snow, Abby and Bill have to cover themselves in straw to compensate for the lack of a roof over their head.  To further distance the farmer’s economic standing from that of his laborers, we’re given access to him lounging outdoors on a couch, vacantly admiring his hat, as the farm foreman crunches numbers revealing the harvest to be the most profitable ever.  All the while the sounds of work carry over from the fields.




The film’s structure is a unique synthesis resulting from the simultaneous adherence to and rejection of traditional narrative-based cinema.  The emphasis on the visual element of the film heightens our awareness that the story is being drawn from memory.  That our narrator is a young girl allows us to accept the abstractions and playfulness of youthful misunderstanding that naturally occur as she relays her story.  Whereas a grown narrator might have insight concerning the complexities of adult relationships, Linda’s worldview boils everything down to the sparest of details.  In her mind, life is hard but there’s always the possibility of overcoming it all, becoming a mud doctor and “checkin’ out the ground underneath".  The film does create a decipherable world with characters that make choices, have conflict and, as a result, are handed consequences for those actions.  It even draws from classic literature for its major story arc, but more on that later.

Abby and Bill, thrust into lean times and situations, are characters ripe for the exploration of moral imbalance.  While it’s easy to identify the types they embody, it’s the lines that are crossed that eventually define them.   Early on, Linda explains the reason for the brother/sister story.  She says, “My brother didn’t want anybody to know.  You know how people are…you tell them somethin’ they start talkin’”.  The lie, and the need to protect it, weighs heavily on both of them.  When another worker asks Bill if his sister keeps him warm at night, Bill reacts violently.  On several occasions, Abby tells Bill to conceal his affections because people are watching.




The couple’s moral fortitude is most notably challenged when the farmer develops an interest in Abby.  The harvest season near its end, the farmer asks her to stay on with him.  Bill, in the act of stealing medical supplies for a wound Abby sustained in the fields, overhears his employer being given a year to live by the physician.  Knowing this, Bill views the farmer’s advances as opportunity rather than competition.  In a plot development borrowed from Henry James’ “Wings of the Dove”, he encourages Abby to tell him she’ll stay.  Since Malick reversed the gender roles of James’ tale, Bill can be viewed as more than merely opportunistic—he’s become a sort of pimp.  In the same manner in which he justified lying about their relationship, Bill tries to rationalize his proposition.  Perhaps unable to fully embrace every aspect of the plan for himself, he implies that part of his motivation derives from the other farmhands looking at her ass like she’s a whore.  Despite his excuses, he’s aware that no justification will diminish the essential wrong of what he’s suggesting.





In the end, the film judges them all.  The farmer, his growing suspicion and jealousy represented by the feverishly churning weather vane atop his house, finally observes Abby and Bill in one too many affectionate moments.  Everything comes to a head when, in a sequence that smacks of divine retribution; locusts descend on the wheat fields.  While the workers try to smoke the insects out of the fields, the farmer attacks Bill.  He inadvertently lights a wagon on fire that sets the fields ablaze.  When the farmhands try to put it out, he screams, “let it burn!”  Consumed in fire, the field becomes hell on earth, confirming Linda’s earlier suspicion that “the devil was on the farm”.  It all catches up with them. Bill, in self-defense, fatally stabs the farmer.  The farm foreman and local law enforcement chase Bill down and kill him.  Abby has to endure the loss of both the men in her life.  And Linda? She’s forced to witness the judgment falling upon them.





With a look and emotional space all its own, Days of Heaven dances around the average testifying to the unique vision of its director.  Achieving clarity and identification within impressionistic borders, Malick has given us a gift not easily digested or forgotten.





Days of Heaven runs for one-week-only at the Laurelhurst Theater beginning Friday, July 13th.  More info available here.

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NE CHANGE RIEN (CHANGE NOTHING): A STUDY IN INTIMACY AND DISTANCE




Ne Change Rien (Change Nothing) unfurls in slow motion glory like the opening of a flower to meet the morning sun.  And thanks to the attentive, fly-on-the-wall presence of filmmaker Pedro Costa, we're front and center for the blooming of actress/musician Jeanne Balibar's second album as she and the musicians working with her conceive and record the songs that populate it.






As a music documentary, Ne Change Rien operates far outside the standard, exposition-filled format that most viewers have come to expect from the genre.  With the exception of a few exchanges between the musicians and a spare aside or two to the camera, Balibar and her band are entirely focused on the task at hand, all while Costa's cameras silently capture the act of creation as it occurs.  Those unfamiliar with Balibar's vocal delivery will find it resides pleasantly somewhere in the neighborhood of Brigitte Fontaine, Marianne Faithfull, and, at its most dramatic moments, Nico.  The surprising derivation from that mode of vocalization: when we're privy to Balibar's opera rehearsals and lessons with her private voice instructor.





Costa shoots the action in exceptionally high-contrast images that, for the majority of the film, are swimming in darkness.  The presence of black within the majority of each frame is so pervasive that it comes as a complete shock when the polarity shifts here and there, moving to compositions bathed in brilliant white.  So dramatic is the shift, the band seems nearly naked in these moments, unprotected as they are by the shadows.





This is a breathtakingly beautiful film, one where the tone of the music and the look of the images are matched perfectly.  It's an effortless study in intimacy and distance, among the best documentaries I've seen in recent times on the topic of the creative process.  Highly recommended.





Ne Change Rien (Change Nothing) screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Friday, July 13th at 7pm and Sunday, July 15th at 5pm.  More info available here.


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

CINEFAMILY INVADES PORTLAND THIS WEEKEND



Los Angeles-based theater the Cinefamily is taking over a screen at the Hollywood Theatre for a series of special events this weekend.  Unaware of what Cinefamily is all about?  Here's a quick blurb from their website to catch you up to speed:

The Cinefamily’s mission is to foster a spirit of community and a sense of discovery, while reinvigorating the movie-going experience. Like campfires, sporting events and church services, we believe that movies work best as social experiences. They are more meaningful, funnier and scarier when shared with others. 

The Cinefamily was founded in 2007 by brothers Dan and Sammy Harkham and Hadrian Belove, founder of Cinefile Video. We currently average 14 shows per week, many of which are enhanced with special guests, live music, dance parties, potlucks and other kinds of social fun. Last year, 53,352 patrons visited the Cinefamily in person, and 1.5 million were reached by the Cinefamily livestream.

Those wanting a more visual representation of the work being done by the organization could easily spend hours wading through the Cinefamily vimeo page.

Co-founder Hadrian Belove will serve as an ambassador of the theater's mission for the Portland events, bringing with him three unique presentations for PDX audiences to enjoy.  First up on Friday night is a program called 100 Most Outrageous F-CKS.  According to the press release:

A psyche-shattering presentation featuring the most outrageous clips of copulation across the history of film! Since its inception, the motion picture has titillated our collective senses in more ways than you can shake a…well, let’s just say in a lot of ways. From the shiny mainstream to the slimy underground, from the restrained to the risqué, from the prudish to the piggish, sexual images have soaked cinema with their uncanny ability to turn peoples’ heads, curl their toes and make them feel all funny inside — and since the Cinefamily truly believes in the Catherine Breillat-approved adage that “sex is comedy”, it’s time to get real funny. Tonight we celebrate the absolute finest in demented on-screen porkage, alongside every conceivable combination of limbs, lips, etc. Bring a date (or at least someone you need to broach certain topics with…)!






Also on Friday, Hadrian will present Lost in the Desert.  It's "a South African kids’ movie sadistic to the point of absurdity, submitting its lone boy protagonist Dirkie, poor eight-year old Dirkie, to a cavalcade of traumas and tribulations punishing in their accumulation, and positively Christ-like in their extremity. This movie is either the bleakest of godless nightmares, or the blackest, most hilarious comedy ever concocted–and made for children, no less. Mel Gibson would flinch at what happens to this kid. And, unbelievably, the film was directed by the wee actor’s da. Stranded in the Kalahari without water, Dirkie biblically wanders the desert with his pet terrier where he is harassed by hyenas, repeatedly injured, sleep-deprived, psychologically tortured, and finally left passed out and half-buried in the sand looking like an image from an Arrabal film. Disturbing and relentless right up to its oblique, ambiguous and haunting last shot…and, oh, those dead puppies in the sand…dead puppies in the sand…"






Saturday evening brings an even more playful side of Cinefamily to town when Mr. Belove will lead Portland in a round of the 5 Minutes Game.  Need a lil' more info?  Here it is:
We’re firm believers in “Every movie is interesting for at least its first five minutes”, those fascinating moments when you’re still entering the new world a film presents you, and trying to figure out what the hell’s going on. What we’re gonna do is choose fifteen movies you’ve likely never seen before (with most, if not all the films unavailable on DVD), line ‘em up, and only show you the first five minutes of each, not counting their opening credits. After all that, you, the audience, gets to vote on which film out of the fifteen we all then watch in its entirety.








NSFW!! 100 Most Outrageous Fucks (trailer) from Cinefamily on Vimeo.






The Cinefamily presents:
100 Most Outrageous F-CKS at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, July 13th at 7:30pm.  More info available here.
Lost in the Desert at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, July 13th at 9:30pm.  More info available here.

5 Minutes Game at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, July 14th at 7:30pm.  More info available here.


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JACKPOT RECORDS presents FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III IN 3D



Tired of only celebrating patriotic holidays in July?  Well, Jackpot Records has got your back when in comes to commemorating the spookiest day outside of Halloween (and/or secretaries day).  Tomorrow night, they're hosting a rare theatrical screening of Friday the 13th part III as it was originally released back in 1982...in 3D!!! 

This third chapter in the co-ed slaying adventures of Jason Voorhees was directed by Steve Miner, who also helmed the second film in the series, as well as the far scarier, mid-80s C. Thomas Howell vehicle Soul Man.

Here's a little more info, plucked straight from Jackpot's press release for the event:

Friday the 13th Part III is the third film in the Friday the 13th series. Released in 1982, it was the first film in the series to feature Jason Voorhees wearing the hockey mask that has become his prominent trademark. Friday the 13th Part III was released theatrically in 3-D, and is notable as the first Paramount Pictures film produced in 3-D since 1954.


This 1982 film, upon it's initial release mainly played the drive-in circuit and was rarely shown in 3D. Now, we are giving you another chance to catch all manner of sharp objects being thrust your direction...and if you're lucky an eyeball might pop onto your lap!







Friday the 13th part III in 3D plays one-night-only at the Bagdad Theater on Friday, July 13th at 8pm.  More info available here.

 

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

NW FILM CENTER'S TOP DOWN ROOFTOP CINEMA NEEDS A HELPING HAND



Call it a mixed blessing, if you will, but the phenomenal success of the NW Film Center's annual Top Down rooftop cinema series has presented its organizers with a unique problem to solve.  Bottom line, the audience has outgrown the outdoor screen upon which the summertime screenings are projected.  It's reached the point where those unlucky enough to be at the back of the crowd have to squint in order to even be able to tell that there's a movie being projected at all.

As no doubt many of you are aware, the Film Center is a regional, non-profit media arts center, not exactly the kind of organization that tends to have much petty cash hidden away for emergencies of this variety.  Fortunately, we live in the age of crowd-funding where websites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo allow individuals to throw down a few bones in support of the artists, organizations and causes they love. 




Can you tell where we're going with this?  Yes, Top Down needs your help to make this year's outdoor film series an enjoyable experience for all in attendance.  They've got a Kickstarter campaign in progress as well as a winning season of Thursday night screenings lined-up for Portland audiences.  A donation of any size will help ensure that the NW Film Center is able to reach their goal and purchase a screen large enough for all to experience a little cinema under the stars.

And what to expect of this year's films?  Well, as usual, it's an eclectic mix of crowd pleasers ranging from an old favorite from the great Preston Sturges to a campy children's entertainment starring Don Knotts.  Also on the schedule, one of local film hero Gus Van Sant's best films and a rock and roll musical for the new millennium.  All in all, a series of events worthy of your patronage.

Here, again, is the link for the fundraising campaign, complete with details of the different rewards available for each level of support.  This link will allow you to peruse the specifics of this year's schedule.  And, because who doesn't love trailers, here are the coming attractions:





















The NW Film Center's Top Down rooftop cinema series kicks off on Thursday, July 26th at the Hotel deLuxe's parking garage (located at SW 15th & Yamhill).  The opening night film is Preston Sturges' 1942 screwball comedy The Palm Beach Story.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: WEARING THE HAT, GRABBING THE WHIP





Film snob or not, there aren't too many fans of the cinematic arts out there who can deny having at least some love for Raiders of the Lost ArkSteven Spielberg's 1981 homage to the serialized action material that powered his imagination as a child delivers on so many levels that very few of the action/adventure films that followed it, including Spielberg's sequels in the Indiana Jones series, feel as fresh or full of possibility as Raiders does.





Beginning tomorrow, PDX gets another chance to gather together in a theatrical setting to watch Harrison Ford wearing the hat, grabbing the whip, and transforming into the character he was born to play (yeah, I hear ya Star Wars fans--we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one).  The Hollywood Theatre's booked a 4-day run of the brand new 35mm print of the film.  One hopes that it won't be the last time that it's shown in town on actual film but, given the rush by the studios to erase analog exhibition, I wouldn't necessarily count on future opportunities to experience this king among blockbusters in this traditional and superior format.





Raiders of the Lost Ark begins a four-day run at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, July 6th.  More info available here.

 

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THE BALLAD OF GENESIS & LADY JAYE and GRAND ILLUSION



One gets the feeling while watching The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye that musician and artist Genesis P-Orridge's entire life is a performance.  Anyone with any familiarity with his work in the groundbreaking industrial and experimental electro acts Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV might have already had an inkling that this is the case; at any rate, Marie Losier's documentary portrait of Genesis and his wife and collaborator Lady Jaye does little to dispel such assumptions.





While the film does delve into the highlights of Genesis' past, it's chiefly an examination of his and Lady Jaye's pandrogyne project, a living, breathing performance piece wherein both members of the couple underwent various surgeries in order to resemble the other.  It's a fascinating topic that might have been better served by a more direct and confrontational mode of documentation.  As it stands, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a fluttering, dreamlike journey through a willfully individualistic consciousness (all narration comes from Genesis, as Lady Jaye passed away in 2007), often interesting but sometimes frustratingly short on narrative signposts.






The Ballad of Genesis & Lady Jaye begins its run at Cinema 21 on Friday, July 6th.  More info available here.






What can you say about a film that's already been qualified by so many others as the greatest anti-war feature ever made?  Jean Renoir's Le Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion) retains all its power some 75 years after its release.  Perhaps it's because nothing has changed; we still fight wars, the indomitable spirit of nationalism drives those efforts, and it almost never yields anything of value for the individual.  Built into those observations, Renoir fashioned an insightful analysis of class manners, emphasizing in particular their inability to withstand the brutality of war.





To commemorate the film's anniversary, Rialto Pictures has released a newly-restored 35mm print that trumps all previous restorations.  Both sound and image now have a crispness that was obscured in previous theatrical prints and home video versions.  As for the story, it still casts a hypnotic hold on this viewer.  First time viewers might notice the strong resemblance to John Sturges' popular 60s film, The Great Escape.  For those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing the film,  here's a rare chance to view it as it was meant to be seen, projected in 35mm onto a large theater screen. 






Grand Illusion begins its week-long run at Cinema 21 on Friday, July 6th.  More info available here.


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