Cinema 21

FilmWatch Weekly: DIY art is the order of the day

New movies from France, China, and Mars (sort of) hit screens this week.

Recycled TV shows may dominate this weekend’s box office numbers, but our focus is on filmmakers who utilize pre-existing materials in more literal ways, as well as those who explore recurring themes through constantly varying stories.

 

“Microbe & Gasoline”: French director Michel Gondry tells a low-key (for him) story about two misfits who become friends and build a tiny car which they use to escape their humdrum lives. (Living Room Theaters) READ MORE

 

“Mountains May Depart” and “Jia Zhangke: A Guy from Fenyang”: The newest film from the Chinese auteur, which takes place over a 25-year span, screens along with a documentary about the filmmaker, one of global cinema’s leading lights. (Northwest Film Center) READ MORE

 

“A Space Program”: Artist Tom Sachs has constructed several installation/performance pieces over the last several years that mimic trips to the moon or Mars, but with equipment made out of plywood, Tyvek, and other ordinary materials. This documentary chronicles his latest effort. (Living Room Theaters) READ MORE

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FILM IN BRIEF: Frank Zappa, “Weiner-Dog,” and more

Documentaries about a musical icon, an elderly Korean couple, and an autistic little boy, plus the latest dark comedy from director Todd Solondz

There’s an especially long lineup of films opening in Portland’s independent theaters, so here’s a brief rundown of notable movies not covered elsewhere:

 

“Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words”

Despite releasing several albums of instrumental music over his three-decade career, Frank Zappa was never at a loss for words. His songs that did have lyrics overflowed with rapid-fire verbiage, and his interviews and other public appearances were masterpieces of straightforward, uncensored truth-telling. The guy had one of the most sensitive bullshit detectors in history.

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FILM REVIEW: An odd couple in the woods in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

Veteran Sam Neill and newcomer Julian Dennison play a mismatched pair in this comedy from the director of "What We Do in the Shadows"

I managed to start watching “The Hunt for the Wilderpeople” without really knowing too much about it, which is fairly rare for me. It played at Sundance in January when I was there, but I didn’t see it, though I recall a general sense of positive buzz. I knew it was New Zealand director Taika Waititi’s follow-up to the vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows,” which was one of the funniest films of last year. And I knew it starred a bearded Sam Neill and some sort of pudgy kid. That was about it.

If that’s enough info for you, and you’re willing to trust my judgment, you can stop reading after the next sentence. “Wilderpeople” is a completely delightful, brilliantly odd little comedy that’ll make you feel like “Napoleon Dynamite” might have if that movie had been made with a little more heart.

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FilmWatch Weekly: Bette Davis eyes and tickling lies

A series devoted to a pair of Hollywood legends kicks off, and a diverse roster of documentaries come to town this week.

Hollywood divas, competitive tickling, and the terrifying prospect of cyberwar. Around here, we just call that Friday.

 

ARTSWATCH RECOMMENDS:

 

“Bette & Joan”: 17 films, screened over the next seven weeks, track the parallel careers of two of the screen’s greatest stars, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, from the 1930s through their only on-screen collaboration in 1962’s “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (Northwest Film Center) READ MORE

“Tickled”: One of the strangest documentaries of the year follows a New Zealand journalist as he investigates the bizarre world of Competitive Endurance Tickling, only to find that it’s merely the tip of a much larger and more dangerous iceberg. (Hollywood Theatre, Living Room Theaters) READ MORE

“Zero Days”: Alex Gibney, the Energizer Bunny of documentary filmmakers, digs for the true story behind the 2010 cyberattack known as Stuxnet, which struck Iranian nuclear facilities but has never officially been acknowledged by the American or Israeli governments. (Cinema 21) READ MORE

“The Music of Strangers”: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma founded this sprawling, non-profit, global musical collective in 1998, and this documentary from the Oscar-winning maker of “20 Feet from Stardom” examines the diverse participants and the work they do to bring people together through music. (Regal Fox Tower) READ MORE

“Lawrence of Arabia”: The Hollywood Theatre continues its month-long 70mm extravaganza with screenings of David Lean’s 1962 epic to end all epics. Starring The Desert, with Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, and Omar Sharif in supporting roles. (Hollywood Theatre) READ MORE

 

 

ALSO OPENING:

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FILM REVIEW: A double dose of diverse docs–“Zero Days” and “Gurukulam”

Two documentaries opening at Cinema 21 represent polar extremes of style and technique.

We’re awash in a golden age for documentary filmmaking. Don’t take my word for it cinema vérité pioneer D.A. Pennebaker agrees. Long-since liberated from its stuffy, “educational” connotations, the word can refer these days to a staggeringly wide range of topics, styles, and approaches.

That diversity is on full display this week with three very different documentaries opening in Portland. You may have heard about “Tickled,” the bizarre exposé of a giggle-inducing, fetish-video subculture that becomes a dark and twisted journey for a New Zealand journalist. Erik McClanahan reviews that one, which opens at the Hollywood Theatre and the Living Room Theater, for ArtsWatch.

Two other docs, both opening at Cinema 21, almost perfectly illustrate opposite strategies. One is a densely factual, info-dump of a film that tries to explain a complicated issue and pushes a specific agenda. The other is an observational, experiential, and literally meditative glimpse into an unfamiliar world. Both are well worth your time, but watching them back-to-back might induce some sort of intellectual whiplash.

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This week’s notable movies include a pair of unique buddy comedies, a portrait of testicular quackery, and one role each for Stellan Skarsgard and his son Alexander.

 

ARTSWATCH REVIEWS:

 

“Swiss Army Man”: Frontrunner for most bizarre comedy of the year, this debut feature from the directing duo Daniels stars Paul Dano as a suicidal castaway and Daniel Radcliffe as the washed-up dead body who comes to his rescue. (Hollywood Theatre) READ MORE

David Giuntoli and Flula Borg star in "Buddymoon."

David Giuntoli and Flula Borg star in “Buddymoon.”

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FILM REVIEW: Testicular quackery exposed in “Nuts!”

Penny Lane's fantastic documentary profiles the inventor of the 'goat gland' impotence cure

“Gentlemen! Step right up! Been feeling down in the dumps? Lacking that usual masculine vitality? Well, Doctor John Romulus Brinkley has just the thing for you!”

“See that goat over there? The one frolicking about in a charged, even amorous fashion? Well, see, all we have to do is remove a certain gland from that there goat and insert it into your”—

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