FilmWatch Weekly: Our Bodies, Our Selves

Losing control of your physical self is a primal fear that's examined or exploited by more than one movie opening this week in Portland.

Several of this week’s movies deal with bodies and our control (or lack of control) over them. Some characters obsess over their appearance, and that of others, while others find themselves prisoners in their own flesh. Not sure what this says about the global zeitgeist—probably nothing—but in a time when the body politic, at home and abroad, seems to be thrashing thoughtlessly about, maybe the fear of irrational behavior becomes especially sharp.

A scene from the Polish film "Demon," playing in the Portland Jewish Film Festival.

A scene from the Polish film “Demon,” playing in the Portland Jewish Film Festival.

ARTSWATCH LINKS:

 

“The Fits”: In this remarkable debut feature, an 11-year-old girl (the captivating Royalty Hightower) who trains with her older brother at a boxing gym joins a dance team that practices in the same facility. Soon mysterious seizures start to affect her teammates. Erik McClanahan interviewed director Anna Rose Holmer, who shows a distinctive style, poetic and observational, in her first film. READ MORE.

“De Palma”: In Brian De Palma’s five-decade filmmaking career, he’s had highs (“Carrie,” “The Untouchables,” “Mission: Impossible”) and lows (“Bonfire of the Vanities,” “Mission to Mars”). In this revealing long-form interview, illustrated with clips, the Hitchcock-inspired auteur covers them all, making it a must-see for movie buffs. READ MORE.

“The Neon Demon”: Director Nicolas Winding Refn is getting a little old to be called an enfant terrible, but he still hasn’t lost his power to provoke strong reactions. His latest effort is set, surprisingly, in the world of Los Angeles high-fashion modeling, and stars Elle Fanning as a new face on the scene. Erik McClanahan provides a primer on the filmmaker’s career. READ MORE.

Portland Jewish Film Festival: Highlights of the festival’s final few days include the Polish horror film “Demon,” a documentary about the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, and a fact-based drama about modern teens confronting the legacy of the Holocaust. READ MORE.

“The Wailing”: A policeman is sent to investigate a series of violent, seemingly unmotivated crimes in a small Korean village, and begins to suspect the involvement of the eccentric Japanese man who recently moved to the area and lives in the woods. But when his daughter starts to exhibit the same symptoms as the other apparently possessed perpetrators, his task takes on new urgency. Tense and terrifying, with dashes of dark humor, this one leaves a mark. READ MORE.

 

ALSO OPENING:

 

“Independence Day: Resurgence”: This big-budget, 20-years-later sequel to Roland Emmerich’s White-House-exploding megahit about an alien invasion wasn’t screened at all for film critics in the U.S. This has prompted chagrin from some, but at ArtsWatch we’re secretly glad for the excuse to miss it. (multiple locations)

“Free State of Jones”: Matthew McConaughey stars as a Mississippi rebel who rebels against the rebellion during the Civil War and establishes his own quasi-independent micro-nation. Based on a true story, and directed by the guy who made the first “Hunger Games” movie. (multiple locations)

“The Other Side”: Down Louisiana way, folks have opinions nearly as strong as the meth they cook. If you can handle documentary-style scenes of pregnant strippers shooting up before they take the stage, director Roberto Minervini’s exploitive exposé might be just the thing for you. (Clinton Street Theater, through Thursday)

“When We Were Kings”: The tributes to the late Muhammad Ali continue, as do the opportunities to see director Leon Gast’s Oscar-winning documentary about Ali’s legendary 1974 bout against George Frazier in Africa, the “Rumble in the Jungle.” (Laurelhurst Theater, through Thursday)

“Popeye”: Robert Altman’s 1980 box-office bomb, starring Robin Williams as the spinachoholic sailor and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, sent the auteur’s career into a ten-year tailspin and helped herald the death of cinema’s 1970s golden age. But in retrospect, there’s a lot to like about it. (Academy Theater, through Thursday)

 

THE WEEK AHEAD:

 

Friday, June 24:

“Zardoz”: Sean Connery and his chest hair star in this critically lambasted post-apocalyptic tale from director John Boorman (this was his follow-up to “Deliverance”). If you know the secret of the title, don’t spoil it for anyone else. (7:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre; free admission for Hollywood members and anyone who dresses up like Connery’s character)

“Là-bas (Over There)”: This minimalist documentary shot from an apartment window in Tel Aviv screens along with the Holocaust-themed film “Dis-Moi (Tell Me)” as part of an ongoing series devoted to the late Chantal Akerman. Matthew Lucas wrote about the series last week. (7 pm, Northwest Film Center)

“Alien”: The movie that gave us the word xenomorph. And the word Ripley. (7 pm & 9:30 pm, 5th Avenue Cinema) (repeats at 7 & 9:30 pm Saturday and 3 pm Sunday)

“E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”: A movie with a much cuter alien than “Alien.” We see what you’re doing there, PSU Film people. We see. (7:30 pm, 5th Avenue Cinema) (repeats at 7:30 pm Saturday and 3:30 pm Sunday)

 

Saturday, June 25:

“Best in Show”: This free, outdoor screening of Christopher Guest’s 2000 dog show mockumentary, sponsored by the Hollywood Theatre, is both canine- and alcohol-friendly. But drink responsibly and don’t let your pooch pee on other people’s stuff. Weather forecast looks promising. (sunset, Molalla River State Park in Canby) Reserve free tickets here.

“Robin Hood”: Swashbuckler extraordinaire Douglas Fairbanks stars in the elaborate 1992 silent version of the oft-told tale about a gang of British socialists. Live organ accompaniment provided. (2 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

“Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”: Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 dark-comic masterpiece about the risks of putting madmen in charge of the American nuclear arsenal just gets more relevant all the time, it seems. (7 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

“The Phantom”: Billy Zane’s finest hour (and this is a guy who was in “Titanic”) came in this 1996 turkey based on the classic comic-strip character who debuted in 1936. Presented in Hecklevision. (9:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

 

Sunday, June 26:

“Waiting for John”: So-called ‘cargo cults’ developed in the 20th century when isolated, primitive societies came into contact with technology that seemed to them to be the work of the gods. (This is why the Prime Directive is a good idea.) This documentary visits a remote Pacific island where the last such cult continues to await the return of the Americans who brought refrigerators during World War II. Director in attendance. (7 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

“Trouble at Melody Mesa”: This hour-long, B-grade, 1949 Western will be screened on 16mm as part of the Repressed Cinema series, though whether it’s been repressed or just forgotten might be open to debate. (2 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

 

Monday, June 27:

“But I’m a Cheerleader!”: An All-American teenaged girl (Natasha Lyonne) who displays suspiciously Sapphic tendencies is sent by her parents to a sexual re-education camp in this 1999 cult classic comedy from director Jamie Babbitt. Michelle Williams, Bud Cort, Mink Stole and RuPaul costar. (7 pm & 9 pm, Clinton Street Theater)

 

Tuesday, June 28:

“Tender”: This documentary follows the residents of a small Australian town as they attempt to start a non-profit, community-based funeral service to replace the archaic, sterile, business-based model. (7 pm, Clinton Street Theater)

“Straight Time”: Dustin Hoffman stars in this gritty 1981 crime drama about an ex-con trying to make it on the outside, but getting caught up in the life again as the robbery partner to Harry Dean Stanton. Screening on 35mm, this rarely-seen minor classic is based on the novel by ex-con Eddie Bunker, who appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs.” (7:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

 

Wednesday, June 29:

“The Incredible Hulk: Prometheus”: In the two-part, fourth-season premiere of the classic TV series, Dr. Banner (Bill Bixby) and his jade-jawed alter ego (Lou Ferrigno) contend with a space alien in his mountain fortress. (7:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

An Evening with Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society: If you think Portland’s climate lends itself to indoor pursuits like experimental filmmaking, just imagine it in Alaska! JUMP Society director Pat Race will introduce some of the cinematic work churned up in the capital of The Last Frontier. (8:30 pm, Northwest Film Center)

 

Thursday, June 30:

“Desperate Living”: Yes, it’s true! If you plan your week right, you could see TWO Mink Stole movies on the big screen! In one of John Waters’ less-infamous, but still depraved efforts, a woman on the run stumbles into a “town full of idiots” ruled by the decadent Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey). (9:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre)

 

 

 

 

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