Marc Mohan

 

Streamers: Portland theaters’ reopening plans, Oscar-nominated shorts, French ski drama

Ready or not, movie theaters are starting to open again in time for the Oscars and summer blockbuster season. Plenty is still streaming, too.

As vaccines continue to make their way into the arms of more and more Oregonians, and the state in general dares to look forward to the resumption of some version of normality, it’s a good time to check in on Portland movie theaters and their plans. It should go without saying that these plans are extremely subject to change: Both Clackamas and Multnomah Counties are moving from Moderate Risk back to a High Risk status on Friday, April 9, which means that maximum allowance at theaters will move from 50% of capacity back to 25%, while Washington County will remain in the Moderate Risk category for the time being. That said, here’s a rundown of announced reopening plans.

Several independent Portland-area theaters have already reopened, including the six-screen Living Room Theaters, Cinemagic, the Moreland, Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre, and the Liberty Theatre in Camas. Among the titles showing on their big screens are Oscar nominees Nomadland and Minari, as well as more mainstream fare such as the Bob Odenkirk action flick Nobody and the monster mash Godzilla vs. Kong. The venerable Clinton Street Theater is resuming its traditional Saturday night Rocky Horror Picture Show events, although at 9 p.m. instead of midnight due to county restrictions.

One mainstay of Portland’s movie scene, Cinema 21, recently announced plans to open to the public for the first time in over a year on April 23 with a pair of documentaries: Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street and The Truffle Hunters. Another, the Hollywood Theatre, has yet to indicate a timeline, although it continues to offer remote programming, including an upcoming remote master class on the films of director Richard Linklater. The Northwest Film Center at the Portland Art Museum remains closed to the public as well, although it is opening experimental filmmaker Sky Hopinka’s poetic debut feature Małni—Towards the Ocean, Towards the Shore virtually on Friday, April 9.

Two chains operate theaters in Portland. Century Cinemas have opened their multiplexes at Eastport Plaza and Cedar Hills Crossing, while the screens at Clackamas Town Center remain dark for the time being. Regal Cinemas is planning a phased reopening. Bridgeport Village will begin on April 23, with the bulk of its Portland screens to follow on May 14. (The Pioneer Place theaters will wait until the following week, May 21.) Obviously, the summer movie season beckons, and these places are understandably eager to welcome paying customers once again. Personally, I don’t plan on setting foot in an indoor theater until, at the very earliest, I’m fully vaccinated, but once it seems safe to do so, I plan on making up for lost time with a vengeance.

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A scene from the Oscar-nominated “Do Not Split”

IN THE MEANTIME, many Portland-area theaters continue to offer expansive selections in their virtual cinemas, and will presumably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They provide a great way not only to help support exhibitors during this disastrous time, but also to keep abreast of exciting cinema that doesn’t necessarily get showcased on Netflix or Disney+.

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Streamers: A forgotten feminist filmmaker, and the stellar biography “Mike Nichols: A Life”

Celebrating the French director Nelly Kaplan on the Criterion Channel; a vivid and engaging biography of an American director-of-all-trades

By the time this column posts, it will be April, and another Women’s History Month will have come and gone. But does that mean we should stop spotlighting the contributions made by, for example, women filmmakers? If you think for a moment that was not a rhetorical question, we probably can’t be friends. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the work of a director whose name and filmography were new to me, but who deserves recognition for at least a couple of movies that captured a spiky, often hilarious feminism at a time when such a thing was rarely expressed, even in the relatively progressive milieu of post-’68 France.

Nelly Kaplan in 1969. Photo: Cythere/Paris Film/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock,
Cythere Films/Paris Film, On/Off Set, “La Fiancee Du Pirate.”

Her name was Nelly Kaplan, and she was born in Buenos Aires. After embarking on the pursuit of an economics degree, she fell in love with cinema and moved to Paris, where she frequented the Cinematheque Francais and became a trusted assistant and mentee of the legendary filmmaker Abel Gance, whose Napoleon had revolutionized the art in 1927 and who was still going fairly strong. After dabbling in short documentaries, Kaplan made her feature directing debut with 1971’s A Very Curious Girl.

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Profane documentaries about profound artists: “Wojnarowicz” & “F.T.A.”

Streamers: Marc Mohan goes to the movies from home and emerges with an F-load of features, plus some movie news

This week’s column is brought to you by the letter “F.” A pair of documentaries, each available to rent through virtual cinemas, employ profane F words in their titles as they separately capture the energizing spirit of artists giving the middle finger to the establishment.

David Wojnarowicz’s 1984 work “Fuck You Faggot Fucker”

Director Chris McKim’s film about the queer New York artist, photographer, and activist David Wojnarowicz takes its confrontational title from one of his best-known works. Wojnarowicz: Fuck You Faggot Fucker traces the path of its subject’s life, from his abusive childhood to his career among the East Village art scene that blossomed in the 1980s, to his death from AIDS at the age of 37. Wojnarowicz kept a journal on audio cassette, and McKim uses those recordings, as well as a plethora of fascinating archival material, to recreate the feel and spirit of the fertile subculture that also produced Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Karen Finlay, Richard Kern, and so many others. In more recent interviews, gallerist Grace Mansion and (of course) Fran Lebowitz share their memories of David and that gloriously grimy scene.

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Streamers: PIFF continued, plus new discoveries on disc

'Bernie Madoff' and more fresh picks from the virtual Portland International Film Fest; classic rediscoveries worth seeking out

The first ever mostly-virtual Portland International Film Festival continues through March 14, and hopefully it’s the last virtual version ever.

That’s not a dig at the functionality of the online interface the Northwest Film Center has employed, nor is it a criticism of the quality of cinema offered up. I’ve not noticed any of the features become unavailable due to its maximum viewings allotment being reached, although I haven’t done an exhaustive search. The online portal is generally self-explanatory, and it even remembers where you are in a film if you have to pause and switch between devices, à la Netflix or Hulu, as long as you’re logged into your festival account on both of them.

There is, of course, as when viewing any streaming-on-demand content, the ever-present temptation to pause in order to answer the phone or the doorbell, or to finish the film the next day. I’ve always maintained that, along with the communal experience and the size of the projected image, the enforced maintenance of focus is one of the biggest losses when cinema is experienced at home and on demand. (Which is not to say that it can’t also be convenient at times to pause and resume later…) This enforced focus is especially valuable when the film in question isn’t the sort of typical Hollywood narrative that leads its audience by the nose, or the kind of Netflix programming that people admit to watching while folding laundry, but a cohesive audio-visual experience that can only be appreciated in its entirety.

That said, here are some PIFF titles worth investigating during its last weekend:

A scene from “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff”

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Portland International Film Festival preview: 5 picks to click from (virtual) PIFF

Marc Mohan picks a handful of favorites from this year's 44th annual festival, much of which is online

Last year’s Portland International Film Festival was among the first cultural events truncated by the spread of COVID-19, and at the time it seemed impossible that the pandemic would continue to be inhibiting normal life when the 2021 edition rolled around. Nevertheless, here we are, albeit with more than a glimmer of hope that seeing movies in public with strangers might once again be possible relatively soon. Then again, that’s what we thought 11 ½ months ago…

“Minari” screens as part of PIFF’s opening-night celebration

In any event, the Northwest Film Center has made PIFF, like many other film festivals, a mostly online experience. Unlike most other film festivals, PIFF has a ready-made, pandemic-friendly resource at its disposal—namely, the Drive-In Theatre at Zidell Yards, where it has hosted popular outdoor screenings over the last several summers. With any luck, fickle March weather won’t put too much of a damper as Zidell Yards hosts both the fest’s opening-night Cinema Unbound Awards on Friday and a diverse lineup of crowd-pleasers for the duration, March 5-14.

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Streamers: ‘Nomadland’ and ‘Promising Young Woman’

In a strange Oscar season, virtuoso work by Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan stands out.

In an Oscar season like no other, checking out the likely contenders on the big screen simply isn’t an option. In previous years, some of the nominees would have been available for home viewing by the time of the award ceremony, but this year pretty much all of them should be, especially with the pushed-back calendar the Academy has instituted. (Any film released, including on a streaming platform, by February 28 is eligible; nominations are due on March 15, and statuettes will be doled out on April 25.)

Even if it’s possible to watch all these films at home, though, it’s anything but equally easy to do so. As an example, I caught up this week with two films widely expected to contend for, at the very least, the Best Actress prize. One was Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, which was released onto Hulu last Friday, February 19. For anyone with a $12 monthly Hulu subscription, Nomadland was free. The other was Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, which has been available on demand for several weeks, but for a rental price of $19.99.

Frances McDormand and David Strathairn in “Nomadland”

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The big news this week was the announcement that, as of Friday, February 12, Portland’s movie theaters, like its restaurants, will be able to reopen on a limited basis. None of the metro area theaters have announced plans to sell tickets or rentals to the public immediately, but it is at least a small symbolic step back toward normalcy. Let’s not screw it up this time, eh?

Cinema Unbound Awards

With the 44th Portland International Film Festival on the virtual horizon, the Northwest Film Center has announced the recipients of the second annual Cinema Unbound Awards, which will be presented at a drive-in ceremony on March 4 (which will also be streamed live online). Gus Van Sant, the director who put Portland on the independent cinema map, will get one. So will British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen (“Small Axe,” “12 Years a Slave”), filmmaker and artist Garrett Bradley (whose “Time” is one of the best documentaries of the year), producer Mollye Asher (the Oscar contender “Nomadland”), and animation producer Alex Bulkley (currently overseeing Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion, Portland-shot “Pinocchio”). Presenters will include del Toro, “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao, and Portland icons Walt Curtis and Thomas Lauderdale (gee, I wonder who they’ll be presenting to?).

‘Two of Us’

Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa in “Two of Us”

This Golden Globe nominee, Oscar contender, and late-career highlight for star Barbara Sukowa centers on two women who’ve been neighbors, and secret lovers, for decades. Now that Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) has been widowed, they have a chance to move from Paris to Rome and live out their lives together. But Madeleine, despite pressure from Nina (Sukowa), hesitates to reveal the truth to her adult children. When she suffers a debilitating stroke, Nina undertakes a bittersweet masquerade to remain close to the woman she loves, and who she knows loves her.

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