Thursday, September 26, 2013


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


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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013


They say hindsight is 50/50, but what if the rearview was violent and trashy instead?  Put yer movie watchin' goggles on, 'cause you're going to need 'em tonight at The Hollywood Theatre where Dan Halsted is serving up a bloody, sexy b-movie trailer stew fashioned out of some of the best Grindhouse trailers of the 70s and 80s.  The lineup is unannounced, but expect to be blown away by what's on hand.

Anyone who's been to one of Halsted's trailer parties and/or Grindhouse Film Fest screenings can testify that the man's got excellent curatorial skills when it comes to genre cinema programming.  So you really don't want to miss tonight's show, okay?  Want a taste of what to expect?  Here's a few Grindhouse trailers to get you in the mood:

Here's what the Grindhouse Film Fest release has to say about tonight's proceedings:

Climb aboard the exploitation starship as we travel to the outer reaches of cinematic insanity! In the 1970s and 80's, distributors trying to creatively sell strange movies in oversaturated markets unwittingly created some of the most mind-blowing pieces of cinema to ever be burned into celluloid. 

This is a lineup of the best of these movie previews, presented on 35mm. All the wildest scenes, strangest taglines, and oddball promotional gimmicks crammed into two minute cinematic rollercoaster rides. We'll see Italian horror, blaxploitation, sexploitation, hicksploitation, kung fu insanity, revenge films and so much more. Buckle up and wear a neck brace.

Grindhouse Trailer Spectacular - Greatest Hits happens  Tuesday, September 24th at 7:30p.m. at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info available here.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013


Anyone who's glanced at this blog more than a few times knows that I have a big ol' soft spot in my heart for Cinema Project.  While they're not the only ones in town putting together incredible programs of experimental film (don't worry, EFF Portland, I love you, too), CP has kept their public exhibitions of outré cinema going for longer than most anyone would ever have expected possible.  You think it's difficult for indie and non-profit cinemas to turn a buck nowadays?  How's about a tight little crew of curators/film lovers without a permanent exhibition space and an exclusive focus on non-commercial works of art?  Needless to say, these folks are doing it for love, not money.

Which is why it's so fantastically inspiring that the organization is launching their 10th season this Saturday.  To celebrate their "tin" anniversary, CP is using their first screening of the fall to throw themselves a birthday party with a "best of" film presentation culled from the first 10 years of Cinema Project.

Here's what the good folks at the Project have to say about Saturday night's events:

Over the past ten years Cinema Project has organized and presented more than 100 unique film and video programs and only in rare instances do we ever show the same thing twice. The beginning of a ten-year anniversary, however, seems like a good time to break the rules and break into our own program archive. The first of two “best of” screenings (to be continued in Spring 2014), this program brings together a fun and unlikely mix of work that demonstrates the variety, breadth, and unique curatorial vision that Cinema Project is known for. Each past and present collective member has selected a favorite short film or video that he or she thinks deserves a second look, or that speaks anew to current political and cultural landscapes and personal outlooks. Older, newer, black-and-white, color, sound, silent, representational, abstract, psychedelic, poetic, diaristic, heavy, light: each is a skilled and personal production close to the artist who made it. This is the type of work we champion. 

At 10pm join us downstairs at the VFW Hall for a post-screening party and fall fundraiser kick-off, with DJs Cuica and Calle Danger, snacks, drinks, and sparkling conversation. Bring your dancing shoes!

Here's what's on tap for that evening:

Undefeated by Kevin Jerome Everson 
[US, 2008, video, b&w, sound, 1.5 min.] 

Associations by John Smith 
[US, 1975, 16mm, color, sound, 7 min.] 

 a-b-city by Brigitte Buhler and Dieter Hormel 
[West Germany, 1985, S8 transferred to video, color, sound, 8 min.] 

[US, 2002, Digital Video, color, sound, 26 min.] 

Nocturne by Phil Solomon 
[US, 1980/1989, 16mm, color, silent, 10 min.] 

Portrait, Tea Time, and Red Curtain by Helga Fanderl 
[Germany, 1992-2009, S8 blown up to 16mm, 18fps, color, silent, 7 min.] 

Offon by Scott Barlett 
[US, 1968, 16mm, color, sound, 10 min.] 

Ninety-Three by Kevin Jerome Everson 
[US, 2008, video, b&w, silent, 3 min.]

They had me at the inclusion Phil Solomon's Nocturne.  Need convincing?  How's about a look at another one of Solomon's films, PSALM III: "NIGHT OF THE MEEK" to wet your whistle before Saturday arrives.  It lives here.

Cinema Project celebrates their 10th year of existence on Saturday, September 28th at the VFW Hall (825 SE Mill St.).  More info available here.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013


Not much to say here, but, damn, doesn't Noir City look amazing on The Hollywood Theatre's newly restored marquee?  Anyone who came out to Friday's festivities already knows what a blast this mini-festival has been so far.  Host Eddie Muller presented beautiful 35mm prints of two obscure gems (Try and Get Me! & Sleep, My Love) to the enthusiastic crowd while offering up illuminating and entertaining pre-show banter before each film.

If you missed out last night, there's still plenty of Noir City Portland magic to take part in beginning today with the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby, followed by an additional two, rarely-screened films (Repeat Performance & The Come On).  And tomorrow brings yet another opportunity for a triple feature.  Anyone else planning on spending their weekend at Noir City?

Noir City Portland runs Friday, September 20th through Sunday, September 22nd at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info available here.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013


Portlanders are in for one hell of a treat this oh, so rainy weekend.  San Francisco's Noir City is headed to town for a special, weekend long festival of obscure thrillers from the 40s and 50s, none of which have ever been available on dvd.  Best of all, this Noir City Portland event will be MC'ed by none other than N.C. founder Eddie Muller, author of "Dark City," "Tab Hunter Confidential," and many other film-obsessed tomes. 

Here's a few excerpts from the Hollywood Theatre's release:

The Hollywood Theatre is proud to present Noir City Portland!  Friday September 20 through the Sunday the 22nd, the full lineup of titles boasts the Film Noir Foundation’s latest preservation efforts, Try and Get Me! (1951), and High Tide (1947), along with an impeccable selection of vintage noir titles including Alias Nick Beal (1949), Street of Chance (1942), The Come On (1956), and more!  Hosted by the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller, Noir City Portland will present these films on beautiful 35mm prints!  None of these films are available on DVD, so don’t miss this incredibly rare opportunity. 

Here's a little bit about the films, most of which are obscure enough to not even have trailer available online!  All synopses are sourced from AllMovie:

TRY AND GET ME aka THE SOUND OF FURY (dir. Cy Endfield, 1950):

The Sound of Fury is better known by its general release title, Try and Get Me. Based on Jo Pagano's novel The Condemned, the film recreates a dismal chapter in American history. In 1933, the otherwise peace-loving citizens of San Jose, CA, were stirred up by blind hatred into forming a mob and lynching two accused kidnappers (this same incident was fictionalized in the 1935 Fritz Lang film Fury). Frank Lovejoy and Lloyd Bridges play a couple of down-and-outers who kidnap a wealthy youngster in hopes of getting a huge ransom. Things go terribly wrong.

SLEEP, MY LOVE (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1948):

This noir mystery thriller was produced by Mary Pickford and her husband Buddy Rogers, and directed by Douglas Sirk. Claudette Colbert stars as Alison Courtland, a wealthy New York socialite who awakens on a Boston-bound train with no memory of how she got there. A kindly older woman, Mrs. Tomlinson (Queenie Smith) helps Alison call her husband Richard (Don Ameche), who informs her that she disappeared after threatening his life. While traveling back to New York, Alison meets Bruce Elcott (Robert Cummings), who is immediately smitten with her.

THE GREAT GATSBY (dir. Elliott Nugent, 1949):

This second film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's definitive jazz-age novel The Great Gatsby stars Alan Ladd in the title role. Jay Gatsby, formerly Jake Gatz, is a successful bootlegger with aspirations of being accepted in the highest social circles of Long Island. Once he's done this, Gatsby devotes his time to winning back the love of his former lady friend Daisy (Betty Field), now married to boorish "old-money" millionaire Tom Buchanan (Barry Sullivan). Gatsby's obsession with rekindling old flames results in disillusionment and, ultimately, tragedy. Sidelines observer Nick Carraway, the narrator of the original Fitzgerald novel, is expertly played by MacDonald Carey, while Shelley Winters makes an excellent impression as Buchanan's slatternly mistress Myrtle Wilson. Cast as Myrtle's dour optometrist husband is Howard Da Silva, who essayed a minor role in the 1974 remake of Great Gatsby. That 1974 version has unfortunately kept the 1949 Gatsby from being released to television.

REPEAT PERFORMANCE (dir. Alfred L. Werker, 1947):

On New Year's Eve, Joan Leslie runs desperately out of a penthouse apartment and into the Times Square crowd. She has reason to flee--she has just shot and killed her husband. Through a freakish wrinkle in time, Leslie is transported back to the last New Year's and is allowed to relive the past year all over again. This time she is forearmed with the knowledge of the murder and does everything she can to avoid the deed--a task made difficult by such antagonists as her nasty husband and her emotionally disturbed brother (Richard Basehart, in his film debut). Events lead inexorably to the murder...but will she do it this time? Cleverly assembled, and with a more expensive cast and budget than was usual for pinchpenny Eagle-Lion studios, Repeat Performance is a brisk and absorbing semi-fantasy. It was remade for television as Turn Back the Clock (89), with the original film's star Joan Leslie in a brief cameo role.

THE COME ON (dir. Russell Birdwell, 1956):

In this convoluted thriller a manipulative woman gets entangled in her own web of deceit. The story is set in Mexico, where an unlucky wanderer has come to fish. There he falls for a woman that he spied on the beach. She begs the drifter to murder her domineering husband.

ALIAS NICK BEAL aka CONTACT MAN (dir. John Farrow, 1949):

This modern-day "Faust" variation benefits from a superb cast. Thomas Mitchell plays Joseph Foster, an honest judge who wants to become governor. Blocked by corrupt political forces, Foster would practically have to make a deal with the Devil to reach his goal. Enter Nick Beal (Ray Milland), a diabolically handsome gent with a slick line of patter and a smooth, infallible method of getting things done. Failing to recognize his benefactor's true identity (after all, Nick has no horns or cloven hooves) Foster agrees to the deal when Nick assures him that the end result is for the good of the people.

 STREET OF CHANCE (dir. Jack Hively, 1942):

Based on Cornell Woolrich's novel The Black Curtain (later dramatized several times on the radio series Suspense), Street of Chance top-bills Burgess Meredith as an amnesia victim. He awakens in the middle of the street, with nary a clue of who he is or what he's done. Meredith comes to learn that his past year of darkness has been a crowded one--and that he might be a murderer! Louise Platt plays Meredith's wife, but it's total stranger Claire Trevor who seems most interested in probing Meredith's past. Street of Chance is worth spending 74 minutes with, even though the true identity of the killer becomes obvious halfway through.

HIGH TIDE (dir. John Reinhardt, 1947):

In this mystery, set within the newspaper industry, a detective is hired to protect the editor who believes that someone is out to kill him. 

Noir City Portland runs Friday, September 20th through Sunday, September 22nd at the Hollywood Theatre.  More info available here.

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It's a rough world out there.  And returning after a long absence is a difficult proposition.  How appropriate is it that Phil Morrison's less than prompt follow-up to his 2005 indie hit Junebug concerns itself with a man attempting to find his bearings, both familial and internal, after having his life interrupted by a long stay in prison?  In many ways, Dennis (Paul Giamatti), the protagonist of All is Bright suffers under far less steep expectations than Morrison does here.  No one expects anything from Dennis; in fact, his wife, Therese (Amy Landecker), has completely written him off, telling their young daughter that he died, rather than bothering with the messy truth about his incarceration.

The film picks up shortly after Dennis is released from prison.  What's his first move?  He returns to his rural, French-Canadian home where he's swiftly informed both Therese's lie and her involvement with Dennis' former best friend and partner-in-crime Rene (Paul Rudd), who Therese plans to marry once Rene's wife grants him a divorce.  With nowhere else to go, Dennis tracks down his romantic rival at a local bar, tries to beat him up, and (naturally?) ends up joining his Rene in an annual trek down to New York City to set up a seasonal Christmas tree selling business.  Yeah, this IS a Christmas you never saw that coming.

If the plot sounds convoluted, rest assured, this film, like Junebug, doesn't grind too heavily on plot mechanics.  Instead, Morrison and screenwriter Melissa James Gibson treat these characters as people, albeit ones that sometime stray into situations just a smidge over the line separating the real from circumstances of a cartoonish nature.  When All is Bright sticks with its primary motif of two losers holding a predictably bad hand, it's at its best, resembling at times a modern update on a flavor of male camaraderie rarely portrayed in film since Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky (a bromance, this is, thankfully, not).  But, on the few occasions when the script pushes Dennis and Rene to act like people trapped in an indie comedy, the film stumbles, drops focus, and feels oddly flat.

All is Bright is unlikely to enjoy the same strong word of mouth leading to a slow-building success that Junebug did.  It's just not a film designed to register with a broad audience.  The characters aren't that likeable, nor is the action all that identifiable.  But it is a movie that deserves a chance from fans of quietly observant, character-driven cinema because, for each slight misstep that it contains, there's a charming counterpoint hidden just around the corner. 

All is Bright is currently available for viewing on VOD platforms such as Amazon Instant Video & iTunes.  The film opens theatrically in October.

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