Friday November 16 – Thursday November 22

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Featured Film:

Monrovia, Indiana at the Northwest Film Forum

The Grand Illusion’s Jim Jarmusch series comes to an end this week with the very Thanksgiving appropriate Dead Man, playing in a new restoration. Which is good, because when we played it at the Metro a dozen years ago the print had a nasty scratch on the soundtrack. But as much as I love Dead Man (you can hear all about that on Episode 2 of The George Sanders Show), I have to go with the new Frederick Wiseman film as the Featured Film of the week. A portrait of the small Indiana town, Monrovia is a blunt portrait of the alienation and loss that mark aging rural American outposts. Beautiful and sad and cruel and fascinating and almost, but not entirely, hopeless.

Playing This Week:

Central Cinema:

Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988) Fri-Tues Hecklevision Sun
Addams Family Values (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1993) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Weds
Reel Rock 13 (Various) Thurs Only

Century Federal Way:

Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986) Sun, Mon & Tues Subtitled Mon

Grand Cinema:

Tea with the Dames (Roger Michell) Fri-Thurs
The Old Man & the Gun (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs
Pokemon 4Ever (Kunihiko Yuyama/Jim Malone, 2002) Sat Only Free Screening
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (Jim Hosking) Sat Only
Black ’47 (Lance Daly) Tues Only
The Wiz (Sidney Lumet, 1978) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995) Fri-Weds Our Podcast
The Last Race (Michael Dweck) Fri-Weds
Blood Tracks (Mats Helge, 1985) Sat Only VHS

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Front Runner (Jason Reitman) Fri-Thurs
Thugs of Hindustan (Vijay Krishna Acharya) Fri-Mon
Sarkar (A.R. Murugadoss) Fri-Mon
Amar Akbar Anthony (Manmohan Desai) Fri-Mon
Kaatrin Mozhi (Radha Mohan) Fri-Mon
Taxiwaala (Rahul Sankrityan) Fri-Mon
Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986) Sun, Mon & Tues Subtitled Mon

Regal Meridian:

Prospect (Chris Caldwell & Zeek Earl) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Monrovia, Indiana (Frederick Wiseman) Fri-Weds Our Review
Narcissister Organ Player (Narcissister) Fri-Sun
Harry and Tonto (Paul Mazursky, 1974) Sat Only
Cuban Food Stories (Asori Soto) Weds Only

AMC Pacific Place:

A Cool Fish (Rao Xiaozhi) Fri-Mon
Last Letter (Shunji Iwai) Fri-Mon Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Thugs of Hindustan (Vijay Krishna Acharya) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco (James Crump) Fri-Sun
The Laws of the Universe-Part I (Isamu Imakake) Fri-Sun

Regal Thornton Place:

Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986) Sun, Mon & Tues

SIFF Uptown:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Tues
Seattle Turkish Film Festival 2018 Fri-Sat Full Program
Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki, 2008) Sat Only English Dubbed, Free Screening
Sadie (Megan Griffiths) Sun-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986) Tues Only
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Monrovia, Indiana (Frederick Wiseman, 2018)

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Alienation from the Land: The Movie.

The new Frederick Wiseman film is always one of the film events of the year, and this week his new one opens exclusively at the Northwest Film Forum. Wiseman, despite his advanced years, has been one of the most productive American directors of the last decade, with a string of documentary masterpieces (La danse: The Paris Opera Ballet, National Gallery and In Jackson Heights are my personal favorites from among his post-2008 work) that would be enough to mark him as one of the finest ever to work in that form even if he hadn’t been making films just as often and just as high-quality since the late 1960s.

Monrovia, Indiana starts with and continually returns to the rich farmland and livestock of the Midwest, worked almost completely by machines. Every turn in the editing shows a population disconnected from their past, from their environment. The landscapes, gorgeous skies and verdant croplands alike, are almost completely devoid of human life. The fascinating and weird diversity of Wiseman’s 1999 look at a small American town, Belfast, Maine, is almost nowhere to be seen, as is the vibrant chaos and struggle of Jackson Heights.

Instead bored students listen to a history lecture about the high school basketball stars of the 1930s. City council meetings vainly negotiate against the totalizing onslaught of cookie-cutter development, development literally severed from the land in that it cannot get proper water service to protect its residents from fire. People eat cheap pizza and drink Budweiser and get tattoos and guns and dock their dog’s tails for no apparent reason (in one of the most disturbing film scenes of the year). President Obama’s assertion about clinging to guns and religion is never far from one’s mind as the film continually circles back to the church, but the solace found there, however real (and that shaft of light shining in the penultimate funeral scene has a beauty the minister’s sermon can’t touch) seems hollow. The young are just as bored with God as they are old white guy basketball. The final shot is as perfect a capper as we’ll see this year.

Looking forward to the sequel, Monrovia, Liberia.

Liz and the Blue Bird (Naoko Yamada, 2018)

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Shunji Iwai’s Last Letter wasn’t the only tear-jerking teen romance to sneak onto Seattle screens this past week. Naoko Yamada’s anime Liz and the Blue Bird, based on a novel called Sound! Euphonium by Ayano Takeda that has already been adapted into two seasons of a TV series and a couple of movies by Tatsuya Ishihara, is playing at the Varsity and the Grand Illusion, where it will be held-over for a couple more shows this coming weekend (the 24th and 25th of November). It’s about the relationship between two girls in the school band. Nozomoi, a flautist, is lively and gregarious, while the oboist Mizore is shy and withdrawn.  After a brief prologue, we follow the two girls on their walk to school for practice on a Sunday morning, Mizore following behind, her gaze, at Nozomi’s feet, her legs, and, most of all, her gaily swishing ponytail, brilliantly establishing the obsession that is her crush. The two girls are assigned a duet as a part of the band’s end of the year competition, and there negotiating that piece, their interpretations of the children’s story on which it is based, is the vehicle through which their delicate negotiation of teen love and self-actualization will be realized.

More muted and intimate than the other high-quality Japanese animated films that have played here this year, specifically the bombastically inventive Night is Short, Walk on Girl and the generationally-expansive Mirai (coming soon to a multiplex near you), Liz and the Blue Bird is no less breath-taking, both to look at and in narrative. Interspersed throughout the slice of life real-world story are the girls’ imagining of the eponymous fairy tale, given a story-book smudginess and an orange and yellow glow that contrasts sharply with the steely blues of the classroom interiors and rainy sidewalks of the city. But most of all it’s Yamada’s focus on small gestures and behaviors, the way Mizore tugs at her hair when she’s nervous, or how the camera, when adopting her point of view, tends to face downwards, like it’s afraid to face the world, that marks Liz and the Blue Bird as one of the most keenly observed romances of recent years, animated or otherwise.

Friday November 9 – Thursday November 15

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Featured Film:

Last Letter at the Pacific Place

We started Seattle Screen Scene almost four years ago because we discovered that there were a bunch of movies we really wanted to see playing in multiplexes around town. Specifically, there were Johnnie To and Tsui Hark movies playing at the Pacific Place with absolutely no press or coverage in the media, social or otherwise. Every week I go through the listings of every theatre in town hoping to find similar gems that we can review and highlight. This week, it’s Last Letter, the latest film from Japanese director Shunji Iwai (A Bride for Rip van Winkle, All About Lily Chou-Chou). It’s his first film made in China, and stars Zhou Xun (from last year’s Our Time Will Come). Like his previous Love Letter and Chang-ok’s Letter, it’s about the disappointments of life and the loves of youth, about discovering people through stories, stories told in letters. A cross-generational film about love and coping with the loss of a loved one, it’s one of the finest films to hit Seattle Screens this year and it deserves an audience. Don’t miss it.

Playing This Week:

Admiral Theater:

Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Weds Only

AMC Alderwood:

Thugs of Hindustan (Vijay Krishna Acharya) Fri-Thurs
Intimate Strangers (Lee Jaegyu) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven, 1997) Fri-Tues Hecklevision Sun
The Witches (Nicholas Roeg, 1990) Fri, Sat, Mon
The Growing Season (Evan Briggs) Sun Only Director & Editor Q&A

SIFF Egyptian:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Weds
Reel Rock 13 (Various) Thurs Only

Century Federal Way:

Intimate Strangers (Lee Jaegyu) Fri-Thurs
Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Thurs
Tea with the Dames (Roger Michell) Fri-Thurs
Wildlife (Paul Dano) Fri-Thurs
Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977) Sat Only
Little Pink House (Courtney Balaker) Mon Only
Brewmaster (Douglas Tirola) Tues Only
Horn From the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story (John Anderson) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991) Fri-Mon & Thurs 35mm
Mystery Train (Jim Jarmusch, 1989) Fri-Sun & Tues-Thurs 35mm
Liz and the Blue Bird (Naoko Yamada) Sat-Mon, Weds
Hannah Piper Burns: Hijacked Mastery, Metaphysical Mundanity Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Thurs
A Private War (Matthew Heineman) Fri-Thurs
Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Thugs of Hindustan (Vijay Krishna Acharya) Fri-Thurs
Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton) Fri-Thurs
Sarkar (A.R. Murugadoss) Fri-Thurs
Ani Dr. Kashinath Ghanekar (Abhijeet Deshpande) Fri-Thurs
Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma) Fri-Thurs
Varathan (Amal Neerad) Sat & Sun Only
Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Thugs of Hindustan (Vijay Krishna Acharya) Fri-Thurs
Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton) Fri-Thurs
Prospect (Chris Caldwell & Zeek Earl) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Life and Nothing More (Antonio Méndez Esparza) Fri-Weds
Tribal Justice (Anne Makepeace) Sat Only
Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968) Sat Only
Sticky Shed Syndrome Sun Only
Meow Wolf: Origin Story (Morgan Capps & Jilann Spitzmiller) Thurs Only Skype Q&A
Narcissister Organ Player (Narcissister) Starts Thurs Skype Q&A

AMC Oak Tree:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
A Private War (Matthew Heineman) Fri-Thurs
Last Letter (Shunji Iwai) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma) Fri-Thurs
First Love (Paul Soriano) Fri-Thurs
Thugs of Hindustan (Vijay Krishna Acharya) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Wildlife (Paul Dano) Fri-Thurs
Time Freak (Andrew Bowler) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) Thurs Only 35mm

SIFF Film Center:

Descent into the Maelstrom: The Untold Story of Radio Birdman (Jonathan Sequeira) Fri Only
Seattle Turkish Film Festival 2018 Fri-Sun Full Program

AMC Southcenter:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Sun & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton) Fri-Thurs
Cinema Italian Style 2018 Fri-Thurs Full Program

Varsity Theatre:

Wildlife (Paul Dano) Fri-Thurs
Liz and the Blue Bird (Naoko Yamada) Sun & Weds Only
The Advocate (Billy Clift) Tues Only
Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Weds Only

Friday November 2 – Thursday November 8

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Featured Film:

Jim Jarmusch at the Grand Illusion

There are a couple of excellent post-Halloween scary movies opening this week, John Carpenter’s The Fog in a new restoration at the Northwest Film Forum and the Brazilian werewolf/child-rearing thriller Good Manners (directed by Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas), at the SIFF Film Center, but there’s no doubt about what the must-see film event of this week on Seattle Screens is: the start of a two week retrospective on the films of Jim Jarmusch at the Grand Illusion. This week they’ve got his first three features: his debut, Permanent Vacation, on 16mm and his next two, Stranger than Paradise and Down by Law on 35mm. Stranger is the masterpiece of the bunch, a minimalist comedy of manners about a Hungarian woman who comes to visit her cousin in New York City where the two do almost nothing. Then they go to Cleveland. Then they go to Florida. It’s one of the few great American films of the 1980s. It puts a spell on you. Down By Law is more expansive, with a trio of convicts (John Lurie, Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni) escaping prison into the Louisiana woods. Next week, the retrospective continues with Night on EarthMystery Train and Dead Man, which is probably Jarmusch’s greatest film, if it isn’t Stranger than Paradise. Or Paterson. Or Ghost Dog. . . .

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Happy Prince (Rupert Everett) Fri-Thurs
Rampant (Kim Sunghoon) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Central Cinema:

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988) Fri-Tues Subtitled Fri, Sat, Tues, Check Listings
V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005) Fri-Tues
Dune (David Lynch, 1984) Thurs Only Hecklevision

SIFF Egyptian:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Rampant (Kim Sunghoon) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Grand Cinema:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Thurs
Tea with the Dames (Roger Michell) Fri-Thurs
Noche de Animas. Tzintzuntzan Sat Only Free Screening, In Spanish with No Subtitles
The Dead Zone (David Cronenberg, 1983) Sat Only
Lizzie (Craig William Macneill) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Stranger than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984) Fri-Sun, Mon & Weds 35mm
Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch, 1986) Fri-Sun, Mon & Weds 35mm
Permanent Vacation (Jim Jarmusch, 1981) Sat & Tues Only 16mm
The Public Image is Rotten (Tabbert Fiiller) Sat & Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller) Fri-Thurs
Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Kayamkulam Kochunni (Rosshan Andrrews) Fri-Thurs
Andhadhun (Sriram Raghavan) Fri-Thurs
Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma) Fri-Thurs
Savyasachi (Chandoo Mondeti) Fri-Thurs
The Villain (Prem) Sat & Sun Only

Regal Meridian:

Wildlife (Paul Dano) Fri-Thurs
What They Had (Elizabeth Chomko) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980) Fri-Sun Our Review Our Other Review
The Price of Everything (Nathaniel Kahn) Fri-Thurs Discussion Fri
Chris Marker’s Cat Films (Chris Marker) Sat Only
Jack Straw Shorts (Various) Weds Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Late Life: the Chien-ming Wang Story  (Frank W. Chen) Fri-Thurs
Viper Club (Maryam Keshavarz) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma) Fri-Thurs
Baazaar (Gauravv K. Chawla) Fri-Thurs
The Happy Prince (Rupert Everett) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Wildlife (Paul Dano) Fri-Thurs
Viper Club (Maryam Keshavarz) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Wicked Woman (Russell Rouse, 1953) Thurs Only 35mm

SIFF Film Center:

Good Manners (Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas) Fri-Sun

AMC Southcenter:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) Fri-Thurs
Romanian Film Festival 2018 Fri-Sun Full Program
The Reluctant Radical (Lindsey Grayzel) Tues & Weds Only

The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980)

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This guest review comes courtesy of critic Jaime Grijalba.

John Carpenter seems to be the most prominent living horror director, even if he hasn’t made a film since 2010. His presence in the modern landscape of the genre is mostly due to his legacy, and the permanent mark he’s left behind with his films, from classics like Halloween, which defined the slasher genre, to cult films that have marked generations like They Liveand Big Trouble in Little China. His presence is unavoidable on the landscape of horror to this day, from his constant touring in support of his fascinating musical abilities, to his more active association with films associated with his brand, like the new Halloween, a continuation of the original, directed by David Gordon Green, for which he served as executive producer and score composer.

Although his fourth theatrical outing, The Fog, was commercially successful (more due to the very low budget it had), it was far from being critically well-received at the time, and even if it warranted a lackluster remake in 2005, it still remained one of the least discussed films in Carpenter’s filmography until recently. Now, thanks to a restoration done by Studiocanal in 4K and a re-release through Rialto Pictures, there’s a way to re-experience or enjoy for the first time on a big screen the Lovecraft-inspired and Stephen King-flavored horrors that are still completely owned by Carpenter.

The film opens, fittingly, with an old man telling kids some ghost stories, which fits the overall tone of the film, which follows the events of the 100th anniversary of Antonio Bay, a coastal town in California. In the same way as the old man tells these old tales, we are introduced to a voice that seems to narrate the life of the town, DJ Stevie Wayne (played by Adrienne Barbeau), who has a radio station at the lighthouse that she also commands. Her tone, verging on eroticism while at the same time assured of her position of power (she’s “above” the town, as she’s on the lighthouse, and at the same time separated from it), accompanies various characters that will eventually come together under the threat of the fog.

And it’s the DJ, from her vantage point, who is the first to see the threat of the fog, as it approaches a nearby ship, just as midnight strikes. Through clever parallel editing, all of it linked through her voice, we see many supernatural events happen around the town, from the discovery of an old diary written by one of the original settlers of Antonio Bay, to the shattering of all the windows on a truck, all of which builds up to showing what’s behind the bright fog that envelops the coast: vengeful ghosts that a hundred years ago were killed by the founders of the town, and not only that, were robbed from the gold they carried on their ship, which eventually was used to build the church and the rest of the structure of the village.

So, the film becomes more an exploration on the subject of moral living, which resonated with me in ways that I wouldn’t suspect. What’s our responsibility to our ancestors, colonizers who killed or displaced people that originally lived there? Is there any moral dwelling possible in colonized territory? Now, of course, in the story of The Fog, the vengeful ghosts weren’t actually living in the territory of Antonio Bay, but it’s as if it were the cause. We see the next night a massive event in which the founders are honored on the 100th anniversary, and knowing what we already know, we can feel the rage of these ghosts as they maim and kill and gut people, maybe not strictly related to the founders, but it’s their way of exacting revenge on a town that doesn’t know on which crimes it was founded, and even celebrates those who committed the murders.

Visually, the film is a treat, and even with the low budget it manages to create a chilling atmosphere that goes beyond the idea of just pumping lots of fog onto exteriors and interiors. There’s a blue tone that, I assume, the new restoration will hinge on to bring forward the spooky imagery of the shadowy figures that in a brute manner slit throats, decapitate heads and dismember bodies. Much like in Halloween, Carpenter conjures a sense of dread out of the emptiness of the frame, devoid of human figures–we often just see empty streets, houses and the church from outside, slowly being surrounded by the bright fog, just as we see the sea, flowing, coming and going. We only hear the tones of Carpenter’s magnificent score, as if it were the fog itself, creeping into the frame, slowly building toward the final confrontation.

What one appreciates more about a film like The Fog is that although it is only 85 minutes long, it seems to live beyond the opening crawl and its final frame, the town exists beyond this horrifying event, and what helps build that is a sense of place, which is built through the landscape shots as well as the assured nature of the performances, where we seem to know everyone from the moment they open their mouths and that’s because they know each other beforehand. The only progression the film has, as it barely even has what one could call a character arc, is with the two characters that meet each other on the midnight of the anniversary, played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins.

Beyond their travels, in which they first find each other (him, a truck driver, her, a hitchhiker looking for a ride) and then find out what’s happening in the town, the film is pretty much free-form, as it seems to be made out of patches of lived life in town, a special day that is, but one that is given its sense of normalcy through the voice of the DJ that keeps on commenting through the night, through the attacks and even is confronted with the ghosts themselves as she is both at a point where she can give information to others, but at the same time is alone and isolated, incapable of defending herself. It’s that lived-in quality what gives the supernatural a child-like wonder that makes it one of the most fascinating horror films of the 1980s.

Rampant (Kim Sunghoon, 2018)

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Billed as coming from the same studio (Next Entertainment World) as the breakout 2016 zombie thriller Train to Busan, Kim Sunghoon’s Rampant has a fine pedigree and a promising premise: what if zombies, but in medieval Korea? Set in what appears to be the 17th or 18th Century, a complex conspiracy works to both topple the sitting Joseon King (and his son the Crown Prince) while also introducing a horde of zombies among the dissatisfied and rebellious populace (rebellious because they resent the neighboring Chinese Qing dynasty’s suzerainty over Korea). This sets the stage for lots of fun fights between mindless armies of bloodthirsty undead and warrior heroes armed with arrows and big swords.

Alas, apparently that wasn’t enough for Kim and his writers, because they’ve decided to pack their zombie movie with lengthy scenes of palace intrigue, discourses on the requirements of filial and fraternal piety, and the true source of governmental legitimacy  (the sovereign or the people). Where the fights scenes are fluid and exciting (these zombies are of the fast-moving variety, though they are vampirically afraid of sunlight), the court drama plays out like one of those palace rivalry soap operas that seem to be ubiquitous nowadays in Chinese television (if not Korean). Rather then the increasing tension of the set-piece upon set-piece constriction of Train to Busan, which spends only a few quiet moments fleshing out its characters and hints at broader themes in-between the fights, Rampant spends the first 90 minutes or so of its two hour(!) run-time acquainting us with the various rivalries at court, with only occasional breaks for zombie mayhem.

That would, of course, be fine if the palace intrigue stuff was the least bit interesting. But it’s rote genre stuff played like serious drama (there’s a hint of an idea about the zombies coming from European traders, and so being a metaphor for Western influence on the country, but it doesn’t go anywhere and more time is spent bemoaning China’s relation to the country instead). It’s basically Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, but without the humor. Zhang Yimou’s upcoming Shadow has a similar problem: it desperately wants to be a silly action movie, but it plays its non-fight scenes so straight they simply come off as overwrought, repetitive and dull. But, as with Shadow, the final half hour or so of Rampant, once all the masks are dropped and there’s nothing left to do but kill the unkillable, is a lot of fun. Director Kim stages his fights well, with a hint of CGI wuxia wirefu amid the beige and grey, while lead actors Hyun Bin and Jang Donggun are solid: Hyun as the happy-go-lucky second son of the King turned People’s Hero and Jang especially as the power-hungry villain. And for Hong Sangsoo fans there’s even a special treat: the King is played by Kim Euisung, star of Hong’s first film and featured actor in many of his later ones (and also Train to Busan), and the Crown Prince is played by Kim Taewoo, star of Woman is the Future of Man, Like You Know it All and Woman on the Beach.

The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980)

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There’s something fitting about the new restoration of John Carpenter’s The Fog rolling onto Seattle screens the day after Halloween. Everything about it is just a little off the beat, a little bit odd. Which is, of course, what makes it, almost 40 years after its release, continue to be one of his better works. It lingers in the back of your brain, long after its brief running time has elapsed. Clocking in at a mere 89 minutes, and taking place over a single 24 hour period in the life of a small coastal community, The Fog is the leanest work of modern Hollywood’s most efficient great director (one of the many qualities that links him to Howard Hawks).

It begins at a campfire, with a village elder (John Houseman in old-timey fisherman drag) telling the story of the tragedy that accompanied the village’s founding exactly one hundred years earlier. Quickly we will learn the truth behind the legend, that the ship that tragically crashed in the fog one night was lured there intentionally, part of a scheme by the great men of the town to steal gold from a rich leper and his diseased companions: they murdered them and built their town atop their ruins. One hundred years later, the dead men return to balance the karmic scale.

Arrayed against the forces of darkness are Jamie Lee Curtis (a hitchhiker passing through town), the solid blond guy she hooks up with, Janet Leigh (wife of a fisherman and leader of the town’s anniversary festivities), Adrienne Barbeau (single mom from Chicago and operator of the town’s radio station/lighthouse) and Hal Holbrook (drunken priest whose grandfather was integral in the murders and whose diary tells the whole secret). They’re all pretty quick to figure out what is happening, though each of them has only a piece of the puzzle. The fog itself, what with its eerie glow and hidden frozen sailors, is pretty obviously the danger.

It’s a simple story built out of small, perfectly crafted suspense sequences. And while a lot of the horror movies of the era, including Carpenter’s own Halloween, seem to be designed in response to second wave feminism and The Pill, with their Final Girls surviving while their more promiscuous friends get the knife, The Fog is part of another strand of New Hollywood horror, one inspired more by the crises of the 1960s (the Vietnam War and its attendant atrocities in particular) and a kind of generational awakening to the sins of America’s past. Nightmare on Elm Street about a suburban lynching, Poltergeist about building suburbia on the graves of our ancestors, and so on. The Fog equates the foundation of the American community with the literal theft of capital, a town built on blood money. But then Carpenter complicates it further. In the film’s final moments, the priest reads the next few pages of his grandfather’s diary and finds out that the conspirators were actually betrayed: they never even got the money they were trying to steal. Their murder was ultimately pointless, their conspiracy undermined from within. But they founded the town anyway. That’s America for you: immoral, cruel, murderous, hypocritical, and totally incompetent.

Friday October 26 – Thursday November 1

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Featured Film:

Hale County This Morning, This Evening at the Northwest Film Forum

Counter-programming against the scary movies this week, the Film Forum has the local premiere of RaMell Ross’s remarkable documentary about a few years in the life of a few of the residents of the eponymous county. Told in fleeting glimpses of quotidian life, with occasional extended sections and direct addresses, chronological but structured as much by image and idea as by narrative, it’s a singular, fascinating work. Like a Frederick Wiseman film edited by Terrence Malick.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Hocus Pocus (Kenny Ortega, 1993) Fri-Weds
Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987) Fri, Sat, Tues & Weds Hecklevision Tues
Hocus Pocus (Kenny Ortega, 1993) Fri-Weds
The Nightmare Emporium (Anthology) Part 1 Sun &  Part 2 Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

Collide-O-Scope Halloween 2018 (Shane Wahlund & Michael Anderson) Weds Only

Century Federal Way:

Ranjha Refugee (Avtar Singh) Fri-Thurs
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun, Mon & Tues Only Subtitled Tues

Grand Cinema:

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival (Various) Sat Only
Love, Gilda (Lisa Dapolito) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2012) Fri-Tues 35mm
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Eli Craig, 2010) Fri, Sat, Mon & Tues Only 35mm
Alien Invasion 35mm Triple Feature Pizza Party Sun Only 35mm
Frankenstein Unbound (Roger Corman, 1990) Weds Only 35mm Plus a Secret Second Film (16mm)
The Public Image is Rotten (Tabbert Fiiller) Thurs, Next Sat & Next Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Kayamkulam Kochunni (Rosshan Andrrews) Fri-Thurs
Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma) Fri-Thurs
Hello Guru Prema Kosame (Trinadha Rao Nakkina) Fri-Thurs
Aravindha Sametha…Veera Raghava (Trivikram Srinivas) Fri-Thurs
Baazaar (Gauravv K. Chawla) Fri-Thurs
Andhadhun (Sriram Raghavan) Fri-Thurs
Genius (Susienthiran) Fri-Thurs
Vada Chennai (Vetrimaaran) Fri-Thurs
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun, Mon & Tues Only Subtitled Tues

Regal Meridian:

The Happy Prince (Rupert Everett) Fri-Thurs
The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross) Fri-Weds Our Review
306 Hollywood (Elan & Jonathan Bogarín) Fri-Sun
Milford Graves Full Mantis (Jake Meginsky) Sat Only
And Then They Came for Us (Abby Ginzberg & Ken Schneider) Sat & Sun Only w/Post-Film Discussion
North Pole, NY (Ali Cotterill) Sun Only Director Q&A
Society (Brian Yuzna, 1989) Weds Only
A Tuba to Cuba (T.G. Herrington & Danny Clinch) Thurs Only
The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980) Starts Thurs Our Review

AMC Pacific Place:

Project Gutenberg (Felix Chong) Fri-Thurs

Paramount Theatre:

The Cat and the Canary (Paul Leni, 1927) Mon Only Live Score

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma) Fri-Thurs
Baazaar (Gauravv K. Chawla) Fri-Thurs
First Love (Paul Soriano) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Sudden Fear (David Miller, 1952) Thurs Only 35mm

SIFF Film Center:

Seattle Polish Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program
The Night of a Thousand Scares (Rachel Carlson & Kim Douthit) Tues Only

AMC Southcenter:

Hocus Pocus (Kenny Ortega, 1993) Fri-Weds

Regal Thornton Place:

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993) Fri-Thurs
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun, Mon & Tues Only

SIFF Uptown:

NFFTY 2018 Fri-Sun Full Program

Varsity Theatre:

Big Fish and Begonia (Liang Xuan & Chun Zhang) Mon Only
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Tues Only

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross, 2018)

Brody-Hale-County-This-Morning-This-Evening

Shot over several years while he lived in Hale County, Alabama working as a teacher in the area, RaMell Ross’s debut film Hale County This Morning, This Evening is without a doubt one of the essential documentaries of 2018, and it plays this week exclusively at the Northwest Film Forum. It’s an interesting companion to What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?, one of the highlights of this year’s Vancouver Film Festival (Seattle release date unfortunately unknown). Both are portraits of Southern, African-American communities, but from vastly different perspectives. As much as Roberto Minervini did to embed himself with his subjects and befriend them, he is necessarily an outsider, an Italian immigrant in America. And his film is more focused on rhetoric and event than on individual moments or the environments of the communities he’s depicting.

RaMell Ross, on the other hand, is documenting people he lived among for years. He’s filming from inside the room, and Hale County is made up of the kind of off-hand, minor moments that make up life, often devoid of any kind of narrative context (though there is a spine of a story about two young men, one of whom goes to college while the other stays home after high school). His tendency is toward the impressionistic (unlike, say, a Frederick Wiseman film), structured as much by image as theme. Ross even gives Apichatpong Weerasethakul a “creative advisor” credit, to give a hint of what the film’s rhythms are like. Though it’s world is far from dreamlike, it does have a certain potent magic. The presence of landscape (and its absence in the film’s interior spaces) is as deeply felt as any film of the year. Still, Hale County is no less political than Minervini’s film, of course, in its expressed intent to reconfigure stereotypical images of African-Americans, and in reclaiming the land they live in (the white residents of which were documented in the 30s by Walker Evans). Simply showing the way people live, in all their joy, wonder, tragedy and fear, is a revolutionary act.