Tuesday, October 30, 2012

HITCH ON 35MM: CINEMA 21 KICKS OFF AN ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF THE MASTER OF SUSPENSE



While I was already patiently awaiting Universal Studios release of their massive Alfred Hitchcock blu-ray box set, an even better bit of Hitchcock related news hit my e-mail account last month.  Tom Ranieri and the top shelf crew at Portland's great Cinema 21 have done it again.  Following in the footsteps of their stellar noir series, they've cobbled together an amazing lineup of ol' Alf's finest films for what's being dubbed the first annual Hitchcock festival.  Best of all, the festival is entirely sourced from 35mm prints!

Now I've seen my fair share of classic films on the big screen , but what this festival has made me realize is that, 1) I've never seen my favorite Hitchcock film, The 39 Steps (or Vertigo, for that matter), projected on film before, and 2) with things progressing as they are, further and further towards an all-digital cinema future, this may be the last chance that most of us have to view these seminal, 20th century works on film.

Which is to say, you can expect to see me sitting in the balcony for as many of these films as I can possibly make it to during the series.  Sure, we'll always have the option to pop in the nice new digital transfers at home, but c'mon, these films deserve a little more respect.  Many props to Cinema 21 for giving 'em (and us) their proper due.  It's completely without hyperbole when I say that this is THE movie event in Portland this coming month.

BTW, if you're in the mood to get a lil' academic with your readings of these films, I can recommend no better text than the late, great film theorist Robin Wood's Hitchcock's Films Revisited.  Magnificent stuff, I tell ya!























The Master of Suspense: The First Annual Hitchcock Festival begins at Cinema 21 on Friday, November 2nd.  More info available here.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

NW FILM CENTER presents CERTIFIABLY YOURS: NEW FILM FROM THE SCHOOL OF FILM



I just wanted to briefly mention that tomorrow night at 7:30 the NW Film Center's School of Film is presenting a showcase of their certificate student's final projects.  I'm a friend and sometimes a collaborator with a couple of these graduating film folks, so I'm not going to get too deeply into hocking their wares.  But, if you're down to catch the work of some of Portland's emerging filmmakers, the Whitsell Auditorium is the place to be this Sunday.  Oh, and it's FREE!

For more details, we turn to the NWFC's press release for the event:

Join us as we screen and celebrate the achievements of this year’s matriculating School of Film Certificate Program students. Each filmmaker will present the short narrative film that they have created as the culminating effort of their studies. 

Stephanie Hough’s Heart compares the rituals of three brothers; Nathan Luppino’s Locks follows two lonely souls in the city; William Scheuner’s Lily takes a circus performer back to a pivotal moment in the past; and Shane Watson’s Changes explores the processing of loss and grief. 

These “final projects” showcase the skill and voice that each individual has developed over the years through class exercises, visiting artist sessions, group projects, faculty advising, and extracurricular pursuits.

A reception honoring the filmmakers begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Andree Stevens Room.


Certifiably Yours: New Film from the School of Film screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Sunday, October 28th at 7:30pm.  More info available here.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

JACKPOT RECORDS presents A LIVING DEAD DOUBLE FEATURE



Just in time for Halloween, Jackpot Records has a double-scoop of zombie goodness lined up for Portland's horror enthusiasts.  For two nights, they're taking over McMenamins Bagdad Theater to host screenings of George Romero's 1968 undead classic Night of the Living Dead and Dan O'Bannon's much sillier (but still totally awesome) 1985 flick The Return of the Living Dead.

Romero's singular masterpiece is the more unimpeachable of the two, but O'Bannon, best known for his work as a screenwriter on Dark Star and Alien, made a considerable dent in the shape of horror-comedy with Return, marrying punk rock culture with flesh-eating fun for a cult-ready concoction that felt really fresh at the time of its release.




And speaking of releases, here's what the good folks at Jackpot have to say about the event via their press release:

George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead brought Zombie culture to the forefront of horror, and Dan O'Bannon helped keep it alive (or undead) by continuing on with Return Of The Living Dead. While the two films are only loosely connected, you can't deny the importance of their impact on the horror movie and Zombie scene. 

Night Of The Living Dead (starts at 8:00) 
Filmed in 1968 NOTLD was ahead of it's time. Focusing on both Zombies and the horrors of the human mind, Romero added a whole new level of fear to the Undead with this, the first is a series of many classic Zombie films, that have delighted and horrified the world over. 

Brief intermission with Q/A from Zombie expert and Zombease.com crew member. 

Return Of The Living Dead (starts at 10:00) 
A flop upon its original release, despite an amazing soundtrack, re-invention of the undead, and great one-liners; Return Of The Living Dead was bound to become a cult classic, and that's exactly what it did. Now a favorite among Zombie lovers world-wide, ROTLD has earned it's place among the greats.

















Jackpot Records' double feature presentation of Night of the Living Dead & Return of the Living Dead happens at the Bagdad Theater on Thursday, October 25th & Friday, October 26th at 8pm.  More info available here.

 

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

CINEMA PROJECT presents TWO WORKS BY CHRIS MARKER

The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (image courtesy of Icarus Films)

Just three months after his passing, Cinema Project has arranged for a special screening of two of Chris Marker's (La Jetée, Grin Without a Cat) lesser seen works.  Made during the time during which he was engaged in political collective filmmaking with SLON, The Sixth Side of the Pentagon documents the October '67 march on the Pentagon by anti-war activists.  Marker provides his usual sometimes acerbic, sometimes playful commentary over images of Vietnam protesters gathering and then clashing with government forces outside the world's largest symbol of military power.


The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (image courtesy of Icarus Films)

A bientôt j'espère (Be Seeing You) captures a 1967 workers strike at a textile factory in Besançon, France.  The film offers a view of what is essentially a precursor to the larger protests of May 1968, as the factory workers incorporated non-economic demands into their action.  A bientôt j'espère is the rarer of the two works being shown this week; trust me, even the internet can't help you see this one with English subtitles (CP's screening of the film, however, will be subtitled in English).


A bientôt j’espère (image courtesy of Icarus Films)

Here's what the good folks at Cinema Project have to say about this Tuesday and Wednesday night's showcase:

Pioneer of the essay film, photographer, artist, and cat lover, Chris Marker will be missed. From 1967 to 1976, Marker was a member of the film cooperative SLON (Société pour le Lancement des Oeuvres Nouvelles / Society for the Production of New Works), which was dedicated to activist film production, based on the idea that cinema should not be thought of solely in terms of commerce. 

To inspire new activist filmmaking and to pay tribute to this prolific and influential figure, we bring two SLON produced works. A bientôt j’espère depicts workers at a textile factory on strike in pre-May 1968 France and The Sixth Side of the Pentagon chronicles the 1967 Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam protest march on the Pentagon.












Cinema Project presents Two Works by Chris Marker on Tuesday, October 23rd and Wednesday, October 24th at 7:30pm.  More info on the program available here.


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Saturday, October 20, 2012

GRINDHOUSE FILM FESTIVAL presents CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST



Banned in several countries due to the misconception that it was a snuff film, Ruggero Deodato's 1980 shock horror film Cannibal Holocaust has become somewhat of a rite of passage for extreme horror fans.  The story is simple: an academic (Robert Kerman) heads to the Amazon to find out what happened to a missing film crew.  He stumbles upon an indigenous, cannibalistic tribe from which he recovers the crew's footage.  Upon returning to America, he reviews what they shot, revealing the group of filmmakers grisly, nasty ends.  Pretty basic stuff, and it doesn't take a genius to understand the influence of Deodato's film on the found footage craze driving such pictures as The Blair Witch Project, [REC], Paranormal Activity, and, most recently, V/H/S.

Cannibal Holocaust, unlike those other films, has built up a reputation as one of the most transgressive films of all time.  In Britain, it became one of the holy grails of the video nasties, movies that were forbidden for sale by legislative decree, resulting in an active black market for bootleg video copies of those films. For more on video nasties, I've included a short piece hosted by English critic Mark Kermode after the trailer.





The Hollywood Theatre's monthly Grindhouse Film Festival brings Portland audiences the chance to catch the film this Tuesday on the big screen, projected from a rare 35mm print.  Here's what the theater's press release has to say (note the warning about refunds):

The Grindhouse Film Festival presents the only known 35mm print of Ruggero Deodato’s soul-shattering horror film Cannibal Holocaust. 

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) A crew of documentary filmmakers, working on a movie about a lost cannibal tribe, disappears deep in the Amazon jungle. An anthropologist is sent in search of them, and finds only their film footage. When he screens the film, we witness the crew’’s horrible fate. This gut churning descent into the dark side of humanity includes some of the most horrific images ever burned into celluloid. This film is absolutely guaranteed to shock, offend and disgust. It is also one of the most powerful films of all time. 

WARNING: This film contains extreme violence and scenes of animal cruelty. No one under the age of 17 will be admitted, and no refunds will be given to those offended.








Cannibal Holocaust plays one-night-only at the Hollywood Theatre on Tuesday, October 23rd at 7:30pm.  More info available here.


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Friday, October 19, 2012

BAD BRAINS, PRIMITIVE FOLK, BLOODSUCKERS, THE OUTBACK & MORE - A WEEKEND PACKED W/ OPTIONS



I'm not sure if it was posting 10 times in seven days last week or just how busy things have been while shutting down my day job at Video Verite, but you might have noticed that the blog's been fairly quiet this week.  Even without posting this week, we finally passed 30,000 hits yesterday, a small milestone for our humble, little film obsessed site, indeed.  Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read, comment, and encourage me to continue posting.

Even with all the other regular life distractions at hand, I was still able to catch a small handful of films opening this weekend at the local indie theaters.  Here now is a sampling of just a few of the many options available in PDX for the cinematically curious.





In Search of Blind Joe Death,
dir. James Cullingham

A documentary on the immensely, influential primitive folk picker John Fahey.  The film brings together a wide swath of individuals, ranging from members of Calexico to Pete Townsend to musicologists and various associates, to heap much deserved adulation at the feet of the late steel string guitarist.  Fahey's life and (especially his) music form a story worth exploring and I've often wondered why no one had made a film about him.  In Search of Blind Joe Death is a compelling view for both fervent followers and those completely unfamiliar with Fahey's legacy.




In Search of Blind Joe Death plays one-night-only at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, October 21st at 7pm.  More info available here.



Step Up to the Plate, dir. Paul Lacoste

A look inside the Bras family cooking dynasty as world famous chef Michel Bras prepares to hand the reins over to his son Sébastien.  Although high-wire acts of culinary mastery are featured throughout the film, the food actually takes a backseat to the family dynamics in the film, distinguishing it from the overcrowded foodie doc scene. 

Michel and Sébastien butt heads over both Michel's established recipes and some newer innovations that Sébastien hopes will help restaurant goers discern what it is that he brings to the table.  Director Paul Lacoste wisely keeps Sébastien a mystery to the audience until very near the end of the film, allowing for a multi-layered, slow reveal that greatly enriches the viewing experience.

Highly recommended.




Step Up to the Plate begins its run at Living Room Theaters on Friday, October 19th.  More info available here.



Bad Brains: A Band in DC, dir. Ben Logan and Mandy Stein


Washington D.C. hardcore band Bad Brains were a complete anomaly when they first emerged in the punk scene of the late 70s.  Being an all African-American punk group in a mostly white playing field was one thing, but Bad Brains was also the fastest, most technically innovative group that anyone had ever seen playing this kind of music. 

Directors Logan and Stein tell the story of the band's formative years while following them on the road during a recent, tumultuous reunion tour.  Their cameras don't stop rolling even when things get rough between the band (singer H.R. displays his notorious mental health issues for the camera, causing things to go sour near the end of the tour), adding much needed tension to a film that might otherwise just be an exercise in nostalgia.

The film features interviews with Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, The Beastie Boys, and many others who were on the scene during the band's heyday. 




Bad Brains: A Band in D.C. screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) as a part of the Reel Music Festival series on Friday, October 19th at 8:45pm.  More info available here.




Wake in Fright, dir. Ted Kotcheff

This 1971 fever dream of a film started the ball rolling for the Australian New Wave.  Detailing the downward trajectory of John, a Sydney-based schoolteacher (Gary Bond) on vacation in the Outback town of Bundanyabba (referred to as "the Yabba" by the natives he meets), the film throws our hero into a volatile mix of gambling, alcoholism, and kangaroo death unlike anything I've ever seen.  Donald Pleasence shows up about a third of the way through the picture as Doc Tydon, a drunken physician living in squalor.  Once they meet, John and Doc's paths are tied together to the bitter, marsupial-wrestling end.

Recommended for those who revel in the weirder, more disturbing side of cult cinema (probably not ideal viewing for card carrying members of PETA).




Wake in Fright begins its run at Cinema 21 on Friday, October 19th.  More info available here.




Dracula, dir. Tod Browning

As I pointed out last week, without the success of the 1931 version of Dracula, Universal Pictures might not have continued producing what are now unquestionably a series of the best monster flicks of the silver screen.  Taken on its own, though, Dracula is a masterpiece of the macabre, filled with more shadows than light and powered by an unparalleled and unforgettable performance by Bela Lugosi in the title role.

If you haven't seen the film in a while, or even if you have, there's no better time to revisit it than now while the Hollywood Theatre has a 35mm print on hand. 




Dracula plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, October 20th and Sunday, October 21st at 2pm.  More info available here.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

THE MINERS' HYMNS: DOWN IN THE HOLE



Nobody doubts that coal mining in the 20th century was a hard, grimy trade to ply, but The Miners' Hymns adds noble to the list of words appropriate for describing this type of labor.  The film is the latest release from Bill Morrison, best known for Decasia and a series of short works (Light is Calling among the best of them) based in archival footage so ravaged physically by the hands of time that the deterioration produces unexpected and painterly qualities.  This time around, Morrison sets aside his usual fascination with decaying source materials, a choice that is surprising at first, and yet, the results are no less hypnotic to behold.





The film focuses on the coal mining industry of Durham, England, allowing us to gaze upon the coal miners as they drink, work, and fight in solidarity.  Morrison organizes the footage into discrete sections that move through the day and/or lifespan of the industry, carefully integrating the region as a player in his narrative.  For instance, after watching the miners toil underground for a long stretch, we see as an immense amount of coal is piled high in an above ground pit.  Morrison soon cuts to a group of children playing in these artificial hills of black rock.  Union demonstrations, clashes with authorities, and a ceremonial march through the backdrop of Durham play largely into the final third of The Miners' Hymns.





All of this occurs without narration; as per usual, the filmmaker resists being tied to a strictly literal retelling of the history as it flits across the screen.  Instead, the rough proximity of these events form their own hazy and vaguely familiar narrative, decipherable while still oblique enough to gather up mystery.  The original score by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson intertwines seamlessly with the visual motifs that Morrison has stitched together here, heightening the imagery and rhythm of the edits into something greater than the sum of their parts.  The lasting impression of this audio/visual collaboration is that these miners as a combined force were superhuman in their efforts.  Even if the negative health effects experienced by that population can't be expunged from memory while viewing it, The Miners' Hymns offers a heroic portrait of these men who toiled beneath the earth's surface.

Highly recommended.









The Miners' Hymns screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) as a part of the Reel Music Festival series on Monday, October 15th at 7pm.  More info available here.

 

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

FRANKENSTEIN: A POWER THAT CAN'T BE DENIED




Here it is, the great granddaddy of 'em all (if by "all" you mean monster movies), James Whale's 1931 creature feature Frankenstein.  Based on Mary Shelley's iconic, Gothic horror novel from 1818, the film was quickly green lit by execs at Universal after the wild success of Dracula.  Whale promptly recast the lead; Universal originally wanted Bela Lugosi to play the part, choosing Boris Karloff as his murderous and (in Whale's sympathetic hands) misunderstood monster. 

Let me just say, this is one handsome movie.  Many of the shots are firmly under the spell of German Expressionism and the look of the thing capably resonates a creeping terror throughout.  And though they might seem a little dated, the performances are great across the board.  Karloff is a mountain of decaying flesh here and it's the role for which he'll always be remembered.  Many folks champion Whale's sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, and I can certainly follow (and might even agree with) that argument, but the original film still retains a power that can't be denied.

For two afternoons only, the Hollywood Theatre has a 35mm print of this classic horror film available for Portland film fans to enjoy.  Don't hesitate, 'cause it'll be gone before you know it.  'Tis the season, after all.





Frankenstein plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday, October 13th and Sunday, October 14th at 2pm.  More info available here.


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Friday, October 12, 2012

WUTHERING HEIGHTS: THE SMELL OF THE EARTH, THE WARMTH OF THEIR BODIES



It's safe to say that Emily Brontë's famed 1847 novel Wuthering Heights has seen more that its fair share of screen adaptations; IMDb lists fifteen such entries .  Somehow, I'd only seen the 1939 William Wyler version with Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, and David Niven, a rather flowery, stiff affair that carries the strong whiff of being based on important literature.  That early version tells the story, but little else is conveyed by its capable performers and workmanship-like production.

When it was announced some time back that Andrea Arnold's next film would be a new take on Wuthering Heights, it seemed an odd fit.  Her work on Fish Tank and Red Road had shown her to be one of the most promising contemporary directors on the British scene, garnering positive comparisons to the social realist cinema of Ken Loach.  But how, exactly, would the application of her most lauded techniques--the use of handheld cameras, wide-open, dialogue-free spaces, and an emphasis on the environments in which her characters live--work when set against a 19th century period piece?  Incredibly well, it turns out.





Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights isn't like most period pieces.  If there's a comparison to be had, it's with Jane Campion's last feature, the magnificently composed Bright Star.  Both pieces shed the sterility so often associated with costume dramas, dirtying up the clothing worn by the characters and allowing period dialogue to flow from the actors mouths in an organic manner that communicates both its basis in reality and its meaning.  It's an approach that offers a sense of life to what might otherwise come off as nothing more than filmed theater.

As with her prior projects, Arnold's take on this material engages deeply with issues of class and gender.  She's also recast Brontë's Heathcliff (Solomon Glave as the younger version, James Howson as the elder one) as Afro-Carribbean, adding a telling analysis of racial inequity via Heathcliff's struggle to seen by his adopted family and loved openly by his Catherine (Shannon Beer as an adolescent, Kaya Scodelario as an adult).





None of these concerns are forced, as Arnold integrates everything into a film that quietly watches over the lives of these people, observing their emotional lives and circumstances, rather than placing the audience into a formally set stage where the actors project performative representations of lives lived.  Arnold slowly paints these characters in additive strokes that cumulatively forms the framework for her retelling of the story.





Highly supportive to this bold vision is the work of cinematographer Robbie Ryan who has crafted the best version of the visual style they've been exploring during his long-running collaboration with Arnold.  Ryan's camera imparts the chill of the landscape, the smell of the earth, and the warmth (and great lack thereof) of the bodies that roam these spaces.  When Heathcliff sorrowfully lies back in the pouring rain, there's a sense of danger and urgency promoted by the imagery that's palpable to the senses.




Fish Tank was the best film I saw in 2010.  Wuthering Heights is among a handful of titles from 2012 that I expect to be thinking about and revisiting for years to come.  Andrea Arnold is more than just a promising talent; she may be the best working director out there.  Wuthering Heights, like all of her films thus far, isn't fashioned for those expecting quick thrills, easy explanations, or happy endings, but it is a great work of art made at a time where, more and more, art films seem to be falling out of fashion.  My advice: resist giving in to your reservations about slow cinema, period dramas, and art films.  Wuthering Heights may not be for everyone, but to my own set of aesthetic sensibilities, it's exactly the kind of cinema that I want to see when I go to the movies.

Highly recommended.





Wuthering Heights begins its run at Cinema 21 on Friday, October 12th.  More info available here.


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3, 2, 1...FRANKIE GO BOOM: WELL, IT STARTS OUT OKAY



3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom is another one of those manic comedies based in familial strife where none of the characters behave like anyone ever would in real life.  Fair enough, there's certainly a place for absurdity and crudity in movies, but writer/director Jordan Roberts' (Around the Bend) film punishes its audience for caring about what he's set up in the first act by quickly transforming into an unglued mass of nonsense, one that seems as cruel to the audience as it does to its cast.




Frankie has an uneasy relationship with his brother.  Bruce (Chris O'Dowd) has always been a bit of a fuck up; in fact, when we meet him as an adult, he's just finishing up a stint in rehab.  There's little, if any, kind of fraternal bond between these guys.  Bruce constantly tortured Frankie when they were kids, perpetrating an endless series of pranks on Frankie so he could videotape them.  It's been years since the brothers have seen each other, thanks to Bruce allowing Frankie's humiliation at his wedding to go viral on the internet.




After attending Bruce's exit ceremony from rehab with his parents (Nora Dunn and Sam Anderson), Frankie quite literally crashes into Lassie (Lizzy Caplan).  She's drunk and very recently jilted, so, of course, they decide to go back to Frankie's place to have sex, which is all fine and dandy, except Frankie can't quite seal the deal physically.  Well, guess what, Bruce videotaped the entire thing and plans to share his "film" with others.  Bruce passes the goods on to Jack (Chris Noth), a washed up actor who he met in rehab, who, of course, ends up being Lassie's father.  The entire film devolves into a banal dash to get the sex tape before Jack sees it or it hits the web.




Here's the thing: most all of these actors deserve better than what they're dealt here, especially Ron Perlman whose ex-convict in drag (okay, post-op gender reassignment) routine is played in the most obvious direction it could ever go.  It's enough to make one wonder if any of the actors read beyond the first thirty pages of the script before signing on to the project.  It's almost more of an insult to the audience that 3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom begins well enough before becoming the boring, convoluted mess it will be remembered for being, if it's remembered at all.





3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom opens at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, October 12th.  More info available here.


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Thursday, October 11, 2012

AKA DOC POMUS: A STRIKING FIGURE, SHOT FULL OF SONGCRAFT



Born Jerome Felder, Doc Pomus was an extraordinary figure when he first hit the music scene, a white, Jewish blues singer paralyzed by polio as a child.  The fact that his music was exceptional only added to the befuddlement of audiences and record executives.  The new documentary AKA Doc Pomus delves into both the striking figure he was as a performer as well as the absolute phenom that he later became as a songwriter in the Brill Building scene of the early rock and roll era, penning such classics as "Save the Last Dance for Me," "This Magic Moment," "Little Sister," "A Teenager in Love," and countless more hits.





Drawing from a wealth of interviews ranging from conversations with his ex-wives and son to the many musicians whose paths intersected with Pomus (Ben E. King, Lou Reed, Shawn Colvin, B.B. King, Dion, etc.), the documentary paints Pomus as a sometimes tortured genius who was blessed with extended periods of reprieve from his sorrows while effortlessly drawing from them for lyrical inspiration.  The endless soundtrack of hits speaks far more loudly than any of the interviews could about this man, responsible for so many of the songs that defined the times in which he lived.





If there's a fault to find, it's in the repetitive nature of the interviews as the discussion shifts to the end of Doc's life, something that commonly occurs in these kinds of biographical documentaries (see the otherwise fantastic Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)? for another example of such missteps).  Overall, AKA Doc Pomus is a treat for fans of both his songs and the particular era of rock and roll in which he wrote them.









AKA Doc Pomus screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) as a part of the Reel Music Festival series on Friday , October 12th at 7pm.  More info available here.

 

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PDXLAFF CELEBRATES ITS 6TH YEAR WITH SHOWCASE OF LATIN AMERICAN FILMS



Focusing on bringing cinematic depictions of Latin American culture to PDX, the annual Portland Latin American Film Festival returns this Friday for its sixth year run.  The 2012 lineup sports films from Chile (Violeta Went to Heaven), Peru (The Bad Intentions), Mexico (Hidalgo, The Untold Story, starring Academy-award nominated actor Demián Bichir, and Tijuana's Nortec Sounds), Ecaudor (Fisherman), Brazil (The Sky We Were Born Under), Cuba (Fabula), and Spain (the Oscar-nominated, animated film Chico & Rita).

All events will be held at the historic Hollywood Theatre.  Ticket info can be accessed here.

And now, because I know everyone just wants to take a look at what's in store for them during the festival, on to the trailers:


























The 6th annual Portland Latin American Film Festival runs from Friday, October 12th through Thursday, October 18th at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info available here.


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PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY: LIKE A WARM REUNION WITH AN OLD FRIEND



Photographic Memory marks the welcome return of documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee (Sherman's March, Time Indefinite).  When McElwee first burst on the scene, his work was unique for the way it blurred the line between subject and maker; McElwee has always been front and center in his films, using the base materials of his life as narrative elements that guide his stories towards undetermined places. 





For better or worse, his style has become a common strategy in non-fiction filmmaking, so much so that when I recently tried to explain who McElwee was to a friend, they responded, "so is he the one to blame for Morgan Spurlock, then?"  Which is kind of neither here nor there, as Spurlock has made good work in the past and has even shown some signs of growth in his recent projects.  McElwee, on the other hand, has never exploited his style in a self-aggrandizing way; in fact, most of his films have been deeply introspective, questioning his own flaws and always finding a larger theme to anchor the overall piece.




Such is the case with Photographic Memory.  The film finds McElwee struggling to understand and connect with his teenage son Adrian.  Ross shares the worries that many have about their kids, that they're unfocused, lost, experimenting too heavily with drugs, alcohol, and other risky behaviors.  Adrian has many creative interests.  Like his father, he's constantly filming himself and his friends (mostly while snowboarding backwards).  He's also interested in web design and is trying to become an entrepreneur of sorts.  But, as Ross points out, there are just far too many interests and only so much energy, so much of what the younger McElwee begins ends up poorly done or unfinished.




While questioning his son's behavior, McElwee begins to dive back into his own past to examine what he was up to when he was his son's age.  The investigation sends him back to St. Quay-Portrieux in Brittany where he once worked as a photographer's assistant, before being fired in a mix-up about lost negatives.  McElwee searches for his former employer as well as an old flame, ruminating on his past as he journeys through the familiar and forgotten spaces of the small French town by the sea.

Photographic Memory feels like a warm reunion with an old friend.  If you've loved any of McElwee's prior works, you'll instantly be drawn back into the kind of unguarded, reflective video journals that McElwee is brave enough to share with his audiences.  For those who have never encountered a Ross McElwee film, this is as good enough a place to start as any, as it certainly contains more than enough universally experienced material as it filters through its maker's most recent set of concerns. 

Recommended.





Photographic Memory screens at the IFC Center in NYC on Friday, October 12th.  More info available here.

 

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THE LIVING RIVER FILM FESTIVAL MAKES A SPLASH THIS WEEKEND



Not all the good film events in Oregon happen in Portland.  Yeah, I know, it's hard to believe but there are great things happening outside the borders of our fair city.  Think about it, there's BendFilm, the Ashland Independent Film Festival, and now there's The Living River Film Festival in Eugene.  Presented by the McKenzie River Trust, the festival concentrates on "the stunning and unique landscapes that surround us...connecting audiences to our Oregon landscapes, celebrating them through film."

The Living River Film Festival is a three-day fundraising event with chances to meet and greet filmmakers and guest speakers, watch movies with a like-minded audience, and, yes, because it is Eugene, even participate in tree-climbing events.  Oh, and did I mention that Eugene's own "Slug Queen" will be there on Sunday?  Yeah, that's happening!

The bulk of the films will be shown on Saturday at the Bijou Art Cinemas.  Selections include Sometimes a Great NotionA River Runs Through It, the short-form works of Portland's own John Waller, and much more.

Here's a mess o' trailers from the festival lineup:


























More info on the festival can be found here.

 

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