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.




“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





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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