For cinephiles, the most significant release this weekend is the latest film from reclusive, eccentric auteur Terrence Malick, “Knight of Cups,” which stars Christian Bale and features supporting performances and cameos from a busload of other stars. Look for a full review in the next day or two, but our takeaway is that Malick seems stuck in a stylistic and thematic rut. Sorry.
“Only Yesterday”: With the announced retirement of master animator Hayao Miyazaki, the fortunes of Studio Ghibli, the production house he founded and which has released dozens of cartoon classics over the last decades, seem up in the air. Regardless, however, American audiences have a chance to catch, starting this weekend, the only Studio Ghibli movie that has never been released theatrically or on home video in the U.S. before now. And it’s delightful, of course.
Made in 1991 by director Isao Takahata (“Grave of the Fireflies,” “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”), “Only Yesterday” is a quiet tale of nostalgia for childhood, as 27-year-old Taiko (voiced by “Star Wars” star Daisy Ridley) takes a vacation from her Tokyo office job and heads to the countryside to work on a safflower farm. Along the way, and during her stay, she reminisces to herself and others about her experiences as an 11-year-old fifth-grader. Whether being befuddled by fractions or by boys, whether dealing with a stern father or mean older sisters, her experiences are universal and affectingly portrayed.
One of those experiences explains, apparently, why “Only Yesterday” has eluded American audiences. After the Walt Disney Company bought the U.S. rights to Ghibli’s films, they quailed at releasing this one because of references to menstruation—namely, an extended sequence in which Taiko and her friends discuss getting their first periods with a touching, hilarious mixture of awkwardness and curiosity. In other words, it’s nothing that any present-day fifth- or sixth-grader isn’t familiar with, and it’s treated in an utterly humane and sensitive manner. Luckily, the distributor GKids, which has become a leader in putting international animation on stateside screens, stepped in and picked this one up for a 25th anniversary release.
If your impression of Japanese animation is that it only deals with mutated monsters, cuddly critters, and/or objectified schoolgirls, think again. This is an emotionally compelling, beautifully rendered story about memory, regret, and following your heart. (Opens Friday, March 11, at Regal Fox Tower and the Kiggins Theatre)
“Last Man on the Moon”: The name Gene Cernan has been a footnote, if not a punchline, in the history of the American space program. At least until now. This admiring documentary tells the story of the commander of Apollo 17, the final mission of NASA’s glory years. Cernan, now 81, talks at length about his career as a Navy jet pilot, his induction into the astronaut corps, and his status as the twelfth and final human being to depart the lunar surface.
The film features priceless, rarely-seen archival footage of the training sessions and the flight itself, as well as interviews with luminaries such as Alan Bean, Jim Lovell, and retired NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz. It’s sure to appeal to anyone with even the slightest hope that someday in the future, Cernan will cede his title to some other Earthling—maybe not even a male one. (Opens Friday, March 11, at the Living Room Theatres)
Films that premiered locally at the Portland International Film Festival continue to trickle back into area theaters. ArtsWatch’s Erik McClanahan spoke with the Oscar-nominated director of the Colombian film “Embrace of the Serpent,” which opens today at the Living Room Theaters. The Norwegian disaster flick “The Wave,” after opening regionally at the Kiggins Theatre last week, starts an engagement at Cinema 21 this week, as does Peter Greenaway’s racy, revisionist “Eisenstein in Guanajuato.”
Studio openings include the quasi-sequel to a 2008 found-footage monster movie, “10 Cloverfield Lane”; the New Testament-via-Anne Rice saga “The Young Messiah”; and the horror flick “The Other Side of the Door.” Sacha Baron Cohen’s fall from grace apparently continues with the action-comedy “The Brothers Grimsby.” It wasn’t screened for Portland critics, which seems like an act of kindness judging from the out-of-town reviews.
The Liberty Theatre in Camas is showing “Glassland,” an Irish drama about a cabbie who gets sucked into the world of human trafficking while also trying to care for his drug-addicted mother (Toni Collette).
On the revival front, the Laurelhurst is showing the campily entertaining, hyperviolent sci-fi from 1993, “Demolition Man,” which stars Sylvester Stallone (take that, Oscar!) and Dennis Rodman—I mean, Wesley Snipes. The Academy goes for class over crass with Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 American epic “There Will Be Blood,” featuring Daniel Day-Lewis’ most intense performance (and that’s really saying something, you know). Family-friendly options include the Kiggins Theatre, which has a newly restored digital print of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” screening through Tuesday, and PSU’s 5th Avenue Cinema, which is showing the bestest “Batman” of them all, namely the 1966 campfest starring Adam West and Burt Ward, from Friday through Sunday.