miles ahead

FilmWatch Weekly: “Green Room,” “Hologram” and more

A typically busy cinematic calendar has Tom Hanks, Patrick Stewart, a Japanese snow monkey, and Don Cheadle.

The big deal in Portland film this week is the long-awaited local premiere of “Green Room.” Director Jeremy Saulnier and a cast that included none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Patrick Stewart, himself, shot the film in the Portland area during the fall on 2014. Nearly a year after its world premiere at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, the intense thriller gets to thrill the folks who might have glimpsed Sir Patrick gamboling about town wearing a Timbers scarf 18 months ago.

The movie’s about a punk rock band who end up trapped in a seedy, remote club that caters to racist skinheads. It’s not for the weak of heart, but it’s a nasty, fun ride that should be extra enjoyable in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd. ArtsWatch’s Marc Mohan, who moderated a Q&A session with the director and cast following a private screening with crew, interviewed Saulnier. (Cinema 21)

Patrick Stewart in "Green Room." © A24 Photo by Scott Patrick Green, courtesy of A24.

Patrick Stewart in “Green Room.” © A24 Photo by Scott Patrick Green, courtesy of A24.

Other April 22nd openings of note include the tantalizing notion of Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey as, respectively, “Elvis & Nixon,” in a film inspired by the famous real-life meeting between these oh-so-American idols. Eric D. Snider reviewed for ArtsWatch. (Living Room Theaters and other locations)


ArtsWatch Weekly: a Will and a way

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

The first thing we do, let’s count all the layers. He’s been updated, squeezed down, rethought, rewritten, cleaned up, dirtied down, worshipped unabashedly, reviled occasionally, shrugged off as a front man for some more sophisticated writer (Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, is the latest in a long line of contrarian candidates), quoted out of context ’til the cows come home.

Shakespeare's funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Wikimedia Commons

Shakespeare’s funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Wikimedia Commons

And still, four hundred years after his death, old Will Shakespeare’s a survivor. In a lot of ways, it seems, he’s never been healthier. He’s translated into pretty much every language of any size on Earth, and adapted into everything from ballets to symphonic musical scores to teen-movie comedies. And he’s an economic powerhouse: towns from Ashland, Oregon to Stratford-upon-Avon, England are built on the sturdy foundation of the money and visitors he draws in.

So, happy anniversary, Will. No one’s absolutely sure of the precise date he was born, but he was baptized on April 26, 1564 (probably three days after his birth), and died on April 23, 1616, and April 23 – this Saturday – is the day that much of the world will be celebrating his legacy. In Portland, the biggest party might be Shakespeare at 400, an all-day event (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall. It’s presented by PSU, the Portland Shakespeare Project, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Play On! Project” of contemporary “translations” of the plays (that word’s caused a lot of ruckus in the Church of Shakespeare), with input from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s The Wonder of Will celebration. There’ll be lectures, and readings, and a sonnet slam, and excerpts from three of OSF’s controversial translations by contemporary playwrights. Come see and hear for yourself what Amy Freed’s done with The Taming of the Shrew, Ellen McLaughlin with Pericles, and Douglas Langworthy with Henry VI: fresh approaches, or sacrilege?

Everything’s free, but organizers want to know how many people will be showing up, so click that link above and send in your RSVP.

"Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing," William Blake, ca. 1786, watercolor and graphite on paper, 18.7 x 26.6 inches, Tate Britain, London / Wikimedia Commons

“Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing,” William Blake, ca. 1786, watercolor and graphite on paper, 18.7 x 26.6 inches, Tate Britain, London / Wikimedia Commons



Once upon a time the woods were mighty, and so were the men who worked in them. Paul Bunyan could clear-cut a hillside with a single swing of his ax (such activities are frowned upon these days) and hard-working, hard-living woodsmen were memorialized in folk songs: I see you are a logger, and not just a common bum, for nobody but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb.


Film Review: Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead”

Cheadle directs and stars in this Miles Davis biopic, but fails to capitalize on his own great performance

At first blush, it seems like a great idea: Don Cheadle as Miles Davis.

There’s enough of a physical resemblance between one of the best actors working today and one of the most fascinating musicians of the 20th century that you can see why Cheadle knew that he at least needed to give it a shot. Why, in fact, he chose “Miles Ahead” as his first foray into feature directing.

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis Photo by Brian Douglas, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis
Photo by Brian Douglas, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

And he’s good, really good, especially in scenes like the opening one, in which Davis is being interviewed by a documentary filmmaker. Cheadle the actor revels in the chain-smoking, serpentine danger, and the enigmatic, unpredictable cool emanating from behind those ubiquitous dark shades. But Cheadle the director doesn’t quite know what to do with his star’s performance, smothering its sharp-edged brilliance in distracting plot elements like a set of Chinese throwing stars buried in Styrofoam packing peanuts.

The film eschews a standard, cradle-to-grave biopic approach to focus on the “lost years” of the late 1970s. For five years the legendary trumpeter who straddled classic bebop, fusion, and psychedelic exploration didn’t even pick up his horn, instead secreting himself away in a New York brownstone and swimming in a sea of booze, coke, and self-pity.


So far, so good. The dissipated-master thing works as a hook, especially in contrast to the occasional 1950s flashbacks chronicling Davis’ early studio work and his courtship of his first wife (Emayatzy Corinealdi, luminescent). But “Miles Ahead” lazily leans on one of the hoariest clichés in the quiver of film biographers: the intrepid reporter (here Ewan McGregor, for some reason) acting as Father Confessor, amanuensis, and viewer surrogate in one.

McGregor’s entirely fictional (and almost entirely annoying) character knocks on Miles’ door one day on behalf of Rolling Stone magazine and proceeds to accompany him for a weekend’s worth of debauchery, drugs, and danger. Cars are chased, bullets are fired, and master tapes are reclaimed from the clutches of sleazy record company execs.

Instead of relying on the power of Davis’ actual life and art, Cheadle and co-writer Steven Baigelman felt they needed to resort to buddy-action-movie tropes. It’s an approach you can’t help but imagine the subject of this well-meaning but misguided film would have found just plain silly.

(100 minutes, rated R, opens Friday, April 22, at the Hollywood Theatre, Cinema 21, and the Bridgeport Village Cinemas) GRADE: B-

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