Friday, November 23, 2012


Probably the most iconic American actor of all time, Humphrey Bogart was at his hard-boiled best in the early-to-mid 40s, something that the good folks at Cinema 21 seem bent on calling attention to with their latest 35mm revival series, You'll Take It and Like It!: 3 Bogart Classics in 35mm.  Over the course of seven days, the theater will be running a non-stop tour through three of Bogey's best-loved films, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca (directed, respectively, by the none too shabby trio of Howard Hawks, John Huston, and Michael Curtiz).

Humphrey may be the main man across this triptych of silver screen classics, but his supporting cast members, including outstanding, career-defining performances by Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, and (one of my favorites character actors of the golden age) Peter Lorre (who's in 2 of the 3 films!), shine just as brightly as their leading man.

Is it too greedy to hope that, like their recent Hitchcock fest, Cinema 21 will make the Bogey series an annual (or even quarterly) event?  'Cause I'd sure love to see Key Largo (my personal favorite), The Petrified Forest, To Have and Have Not, In a Lonely Place, High Sierra, They Drive By Night, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre all roll through town in subsequent installments.  But, for now, the three on offer will absolutely do!

Cinema 21's mini-Bogart fest, "You'll Take It and Like It!" begins on Friday, November 30th and runs through Thursday, December 6th.  More info available here.

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Karl Lind's In the Can Productions and Grand Detour have joined together to present Cine Spree at the Clinton Street Theater, a full day of screenings, discussions, and low-key mingling surrounding the topic of experimental film.  Kicking off on Sunday at 1p.m., the day's business begins with a Salon-style conversation on the state of experimental filmmaking and exhibition in PDX; I'll be around to help out with this part of the event, which is free to the public, so be sure to stop in, participate, and, above all, say "howdy."

After 3p.m., the complimentary portion of the day concludes, but that's when the booze, food, and films begin flowing.  $15 gets you a slice of it all, but note that there are also options available for foregoing the refreshments and just enjoying the films, including the Oregon premiere of Pip Choderov's documentary Free Radicals.

Keep in mind, the Portland 2012 Cine Spree is being billed as day one of The Clinton Street's Experimental Mini Fest.  Day two goes down on Monday, November, 26th.

Cine Spree happens at the Clinton Street Theater on Sunday, November 25th.  Full details available here.

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Have you heard the one about the rock band made up of martial artists who fight ninjas when they're not rocking out in the club?  Yeah, neither had I until seeing Miami Connection, a b-grade bomb from 1987 that's been plucked from obscurity by Drafthouse Films in an attempt to reconnect this forgotten relic with audiences amped up on a "so-bad-they're-good" kick.  The big surprise is that, despite highlighting some of the most inept filmmaking this side of Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau, the revival campaign is absolutely a well-placed bet; as far as terrible films go, this one's a hoot, offering up more than enough unintentionally comedic moments to recommend it to any and all lovers of absurdly poor cinema.

What little plot there is centers around the band Dragon Sound, a group of friends (how do we know they're friends?  Because they proclaim it loudly in their song "Friends"at the beginning of the film) who play together and steadfastly fight "Against the Ninja" (yes, that's their other song) whenever they're not busy attending the University of Central Florida (an obvious point of pride made apparent by the sheer amount and variety of UCF t-shirts worn by them).

If it sounds like I'm discussing the characters in an overly generalized way, it's because there's really not a lot of nuance to how they're drawn in the film.  Director/actor Y.K. Kim might be billed as the lead, but there's such an evenhanded diplomacy employed here that there's really no hierarchy in place here.  When the plot turns to the conflict between Jane (Kathy Collier) and her evil, ninja-affiliated brother, she's the lead.  When things inexplicably shift to Jim (Maurice Smith) locating his father via snail mail, the members of Dragon Sounds (sans shirts) earnestly lift him on their shoulders, suggesting that Jim is the lead.  A masterpiece of clarity in screenwriting this is not, though it is frequently hilarious in just how clumsily its story is stitched together.

Did I mention that the ninjas are coke-dealers?  Or that a film named Miami Connection is actually set in Orlando, Florida?  Or that the ninjas are also a motorcycle gang; yes, much like Dragon Sound's musician/student/martial artist membership, these ninjas can multitask, too.  Between the poorly choreographed fight scenes, club audiences who couldn't clap on beat to save their lives, a scene devoted almost entirely to leering at girls on the beach, and the endless parade of stilted performances, it'd be easy to assume that Miami Connection is deserving of its status as an overlooked film of the 80s.  Quite the contrary, it's arguably a severely flawed diamond in the rough, absolutely worth celebrating for the convoluted contours of its ineptitude. 

Take a look at the trailer and try to tell me you're not intrigued:

Miami Connection plays two-nights-only at the Hollywood Theatre on Friday, November 23rd at 9:30pm and Saturday, November 24th at 7:30 & 9:30pm.  More info available here.

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