Friday January 29 – Thursday February 4

Featured Film:

45 Years at the SIFF Uptown

Andrew Haigh’s follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2011 film Weekend, which was about the first stages of a budding romance, looks at love and relationships from the opposite end of their lifespan. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling star as a couple who’ve been married for the eponymous amount of time. When a revelation about an event long ago in her husband’s past begins to throw everything she thought she knew about him and their life together out of balance, Rampling finds she must investigate further, regardless of the radically reevaluative consequences. Sharply focused, attuned to the smallest details of behavior and performance, Haigh’s chamber melodrama is masterfully acted by the two British veterans. A simple look, a sound, a gesture is shattering. Our Review

Playing This Week:

Central Cinema:

Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974) Fri-Mon
Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993) Fri-Tues
The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983) Thurs Only

Century Federal Way:

Ip Man 3 (Wilson Yip) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien) Fri & Sat Only Our Review Our Other Review
Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones) Tues Only
Eyes of the Totem (WS Van Dyke, 1927) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones) Fri-Thurs
Stunt Rock (Brian Tenchard-Smith, 1980) Sat Only 35mm
The Sprocket Society presents Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only

Landmark Guild 45th Theatre:

Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films Fri-Thurs
Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films Fri-Thurs Our Review

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Airlift (Raja Menon) Fri-Thurs
Mastizaade (Milap Zaveri) Fri-Thurs
Saala Khadoos (Sudha Kongara Prasad) Fri-Thurs
Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Airlift (Raja Menon) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976) Weds Only
Note to Self: Psychosexual films of Nazli Dincel Thurs Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Ip Man 3 (Wilson Yip) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Everybody’s Fine (Zhang Meng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Everything About Her (Bb. Joyce Bernal) Fri-Thurs

Scarecrow Video Screening Room:

Terror Train (Roger Spottiswoode, 1980) Fri Only
The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968) Sat Only
The Jackie Robinson Story (Alfred E. Green, 1950) Sun Only
Shower (Zhang Yang, 1999) Sun Only

Seattle Art Museum:

Fellini’s Roma (Federico Fellini, 1972) Thurs Only 35mm

SIFF Film Center:

Dangerous Men (John S. Rad, 2005) Fri-Sun Only Our Review 
SOMM: Into the Bottle (Jason Wise) Fri-Sun Only

Sundance Cinemas:

Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

45 Years (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Jim: The James Foley Story (Brian Oakes) Tues Only

Varsity Theatre:

Anesthesia (Tim Blake Nelson) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

13 Hours (Michael Bay) Our Review
The Revenant 
(Alejandro González Iñárritu) Our Review
The Hateful 8
 (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review
The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams) Our Podcast
Concussion 
(Peter Landesman) Our Review
Sisters 
(Jason Moore) Our Review
Brooklyn 
(John Crowley) Our Review
Spotlight 
(Tom McCarthy) Our Review
Creed 
(Ryan Coogler) Our Review
Bridge of Spies
 (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Martian (Ridley Scott) Our Review
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2016 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films

world of tomorrow

We are living in a glorious age of animation. Some of the best programs on television are animated. From the great Gravity Falls to the always awesome Adventure Time and on to the fractured genius of Rick and Morty, animation has been fertile ground for visionary storytellers as of late. Cinema has not been ignored either. Heralded auteurs Wes Anderson and Charlie Kaufman have both made the move to stop-motion features. Kaufman’s Anomalisa is one of five films duking it out in this year’s Best Animated Feature race. For all of the flack the Academy has received for its homogenized choices this year, the Oscars should be commended for their Animated Feature field which sports five idiosyncratic films, only one with talking animals. Three of the five nominees come from foreign countries, two are stop motion and only one is completely computer generated. One! The days of dominance from the big studios like Dreamworks and Disney are over, at least temporarily.

bear story

Then why are most of this year’s five nominees for Best Animated Short so pedestrian? It’s odd that the features are more adventurous in their narratives and visual style than the shorts. There are certainly novel elements to the short films, whether it is the fluid “one-shot” look of the hand-drawn Prologue or the eye-popping color of Sanjay’s Super Team from Pixar. But some of these films feel like half an idea or their mission statement overwhelms the narrative itself. Both are the case with Bear Story from Chilean director Gabriel Osoro. The film is about a toy-making bear who builds a box that cranks out a mechanical version of his imprisonment in the circus and eventual escape back to his family. The animation is solid for the toy sequences but a little too flashy at other spots (Osoro really likes showing off the computer’s ability to generate dust floating in sunbeams) and the whole thing doesn’t quite gel.

prologue

While Osoro’s well-placed abhorrence of the circus can be seen as heavy-handed in Bear Story it’s got nothing on Prologue‘s clunky treatise on the inhumanity of war. Director Richard Williams tells a silent tale with just pencil and paper that begins with a leaf before flying across the page to a centuries-old battle with shields and swords. Naked men thrust at one another, slicing arteries and severing genitalia, all gruesome images seen by a young child who runs back to the safe confines of their mother’s dress. The end. There isn’t anything more to it than that. And while the hand-drawn style is sweeping in its motion, freezing any frame in the battle would just look like something out of that stoner kid in high school’s notebook.

We Can't Live Without Cosmos short film

 

More effective and affecting is the Russian curio We Can’t Live Without Cosmos from Konstantin Bronzit. The film is about two cosmonauts who are inseparable. They share a deep love of space and one another. The film begins with some goofy humor as the duo work their way through their rigorous training regimen before the film turns into an exploration of loss. There are some indelible images contained within, if not any impressive animation. The turn of events from the thrill of exploration to the dull of devastation is interesting but not necessarily better than the deadpan antics that came before it.

sanjay

Longtime Pixar animator Sanjay Patel gets his first directing credit on the personal Sanjay’s Super Team. The title character is a restless boy who daydreams that he teams up with Hindu gods to defeat a villain demolishing a temple. It’s no surprise coming from Pixar that the short looks fantastic. The sound design is equally stunning with a great blending of the musical score with the action onscreen. If anything Sanjay’s Super Team should have been longer than its seven minutes, as the film brings up some great possibilities that are left mostly unexplored. If you’re searching for an animated look at the complexity of Hindu culture, stick with Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues.

world of tomorrow snow

Which leaves us with Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow. Hertzfeldt’s film, about a young girl being visited by a clone of herself from the future, is the only nominee that can hold its own with the aforementioned animated features. In a mere 16 minutes World of Tomorrow manages to cram in meditations on love, identity, and loss across a distinctively designed digital landscape. There is enough narrative here for a feature. Hertzfeldt’s decision to keep it confined to a short means that it’s bursting at the seams with ideas. The film is heartrendingly sad yet it brims with a resounding sense of wonder. It’s a film of bleak humor that doesn’t much care if we laugh at it, at ourselves, or at the world. World of Tomorrow is not just the best animated short of the year, it’s one of the very best films–animated, short, or otherwise.

(The 2016 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films play exclusively at Landmark’s Guild 45th for two weeks beginning January 29. Note that the program includes an additional four shorts non-nominated that were not available for review.)

Friday January 22 – Thursday January 28

Featured Film:

Two Chinese Films at the Pacific Place

A pair of big Chinese releases open this week at the AMC Pacific Place. First is Ip Man 3 (which also plays this week at the Century in Federal Way), the latest in the series of films about the kung fu master starring Donnie Yen and directed by Wilson Yip (and not to be mixed up with the other three Ip Man films, two of which were directed by Herman Yau and one by Wong Kar-wai). In this installment, Donnie’s Master Ip defends his son’s school from an army of toughs led by none other than former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson. Also opening is Monster Hunt, the effects-driven extravaganza that last summer became the highest grossing local film in China’s history. It’s directed by Raman Hui, a veteran of Hollywood’s Shrek series and stars Bai Baihe along with a plethora of veteran Hong Kong and Mainland stars, in a story mixing wuxia comedy and adorably goofy CGI creatures. Our Reviews

Playing This Week:

Central Cinema:

Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) Fri-Tues
Grey Gardens (Albert & David Maysles, Ellen Hovde & Muffie Meyer, 1975) Fri-Tues
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) Tues Only Brain Doctors in Attendance

Century Federal Way:

Ip Man 3 (Wilson Yip) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) Fri-Thurs Our Review
How to Change the World (Jerry Rothwell) Tues Only
Eyes of the Totem (WS Van Dyke, 1927) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

World of Kanako (Tetsuya Nakashima) Fri-Thurs
Anthem of the Heart (Tatsuyuki Nagai) Fri-Sun
Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson) Sun-Weds
The Sprocket Society presents Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only
Stunt Rock (Brian Tenchard-Smith, 1980) Thurs & Next Sat Only 35mm

Landmark Guild 45th Theatre:

Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Airlift (Raja Menon) Fri-Thurs
Nannaku Prematho (Sukumar) Fri-Thurs
Express Raja (Merlapaka Gandhi) Fri-Thurs
Soggade Chinni Nayana (Kalyan Krishna) Fri-Thurs
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Airlift (Raja Menon) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2016 Jan 21-31 Full Program

AMC Pacific Place:

Ip Man 3 (Wilson Yip) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Monster Hunt (Raman Hui) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Detective Chinatown (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

All You Need Is Pag-Ibig (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs

Scarecrow Video Screening Room:

Meet John Doe (Frank Capra, 1941) Fri Only
Pandemonium (Alfred Sole, 1982) Sat Only
Vera Cruz (Robert Aldrich, 1954) Sun Only
Chris Marker Group Mon Only
Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972) Tues Only
Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988) Weds Only
The January Man (Pat O’Connor, 1989) Weds Only

Seattle Art Museum:

The Witches (Pasolini, Visconti, Rossi, De Sica & Bolognini, 1967) Thurs Only 35mm

Landmark Seven Gables:

Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Film Center:

Out 1: Noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971) Sun Only

Sundance Cinemas:

Lamb (Ross Partridge) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

13 Hours (Michael Bay) Our Review
The Revenant 
(Alejandro González Iñárritu) Our Review
The Hateful 8
 (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review
The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams) Our Podcast
Concussion 
(Peter Landesman) Our Review
Sisters 
(Jason Moore) Our Review
Brooklyn 
(John Crowley) Our Review
Spotlight 
(Tom McCarthy) Our Review
Creed 
(Ryan Coogler) Our Review
Bridge of Spies
 (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Martian (Ridley Scott) Our Review

Ip Man 3 (Wilson Yip, 2015) and Monster Hunt (Raman Hui, 2015)

Ip-Man-photo-2

The disaporic film program at the AMC Pacific Place this week features two of the hottest Chinese-language films of the past year: the latest in Donnie Yen’s series about Wing Chun Master Ip Man and the CGI monster-wuxia that took the Chinese box office by storm last summer, breaking records on its way to becoming the highest-grossing local film in the Mainland’s history. The two films represent state of the art variations on the two oldest forms of the Chinese martial arts film, kung fu and wuxia tricked out with digital manipulations and effects, packed with enough celebrity cameos and show-stopping stunts to make even the most generic or implausible story a lot of fun.

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Friday January 15 – Thursday January 21

Featured Film:

Laurie Anderson at the Grand Illusion

Extended beyond a two week run that was already an extension of a run late last year at the Northwest Film Forum, Laurie Anderson’s sprawling, funny, devastating essay film Heart of a Dog is back for four more days this week at the Grand Illusion. Ostensibly a film about her beloved dog, Anderson muses on everything from 9/11 to her own childhood memories, processing tragedy and celebrating life. Over it all, but unnamed hangs the death of her husband, Lou Reed. In conjunction, for one night only, the Grand Illusion is also playing a 35mm print of Anderson’s 1986 concert film Home of the Brave, which features William S. Burroughs.

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Playing This Week:

Central Cinema:

Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) Fri-Sun
Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977) Fri-Sun
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) Tues Only Brain Doctors in Attendance

Century Federal Way:

Nannaku Prematho (Sukumar) Fri & Sat
The Tiger (Park Hoonjung) Fri-Thurs
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Taxi (Jafar Panahi) Fri-Thurs
Labyrinth 
(Jim Henson, 1986) Fri, Sun, Mon & Weds Only
Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (Stanley Nelson) Tues Only
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson) Sun-Weds
The Man Who Saved the World (Turkish Star Wars) (Çetin İnanç, 1982) Thurs Only Our Review
The Sprocket Society presents Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only
VHS Über Alles presents Ninja: Silent Assassin (Godfrey Ho, 1987) Sat Only VHS
Home of the Brave (Laurie Anderson, 1986) Fri Only 35mm
Dreams Rewired (Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart & Thomas Tode) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Landmark Guild 45th Theatre:

Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Wazir (Bejoy Nambiar) Fri-Thurs
Nannaku Prematho (Sukumar) Fri-Thurs
Express Raja (Merlapaka Gandhi) Fri-Thurs
Soggade Chinni Nayana (Kalyan Krishna) Fri-Thurs
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) Sun & Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Theeb (Jani Abu Nowar) Fri-Tues
Sundance Native Lab Shorts Fri Only
Children of the Civil Rights (Julia Clifford) Sat Only Q & A After
Sex & Broadcasting Sun Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Detective Chinatown (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs
Mr. Six (Guan Hu) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

All You Need Is Pag-Ibig (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs
Dictator (Sriwass) Fri-Thurs

Scarecrow Video Screening Room:

Shampoo (Hal Ashby, 1975) Fri Only
Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century (Gianfranco Parolini, 1977) Sat Only
Anything Goes (Lewis Milestone, 1936) Sun Only
Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014) Mon Only
Death By Design (Peter Friedman & Jean-Francois Brunet, 1995) Tues Only
Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut, 1960) Weds Only

Seattle Art Museum:

I Fidanzati (Ermanno Olmi, 1963) Thurs Only 35mm

Landmark Seven Gables:

Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Film Center:

Nordic Lights Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program

Varsity Theatre:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) Weds Only
Band of Robbers (Adam & Aaron Nee) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

13 Hours (Michael Bay) Our Review
The Revenant 
(Alejandro González Iñárritu) Our Review
The Hateful 8
 (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review
The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams) Our Podcast
Concussion 
(Peter Landesman) Our Review
Sisters 
(Jason Moore) Our Review
Brooklyn 
(John Crowley) Our Review
Spotlight 
(Tom McCarthy) Our Review
Creed 
(Ryan Coogler) Our Review
Bridge of Spies
 (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Martian (Ridley Scott) Our Review
Sicario (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, 2015)

anomalisa

One of the last major 2015 releases to find its way to Seattle Screens opens this week at the Guild 45th (we still have 45 YearsArabian NightsIn the Shadow of Women and Knight of Cups to come over the next several weeks), with the release of the latest film from Hollywood’s favorite self-loathing narrative-tangler, Charlie Kaufman. Teamed with co-director Duke Johnson and producers Dino Stamatopolous and Dan Harmon (among others), Kaufman has adapted his own play into a stop-motion animated film about a man (voiced by David Thewlis) who travels to Cincinnati for a conference. Lonely and depressive, he first tries to reconnect with an old flame, then finds himself attracted to a woman in the hotel. She catches his ear (and eye, eventually) because, unlike everyone else (besides him) in his world, she doesn’t look like Michael Ian Black and she doesn’t talk like Tom Noonan: she’s the voice of Jennifer Jason Leigh. A touching night of human (well, puppet) connection is followed by some explicit puppet sex, followed by a nightmare and then a nightmarish world. Like all of Kaufman’s films (both as a director and a screenwriter) it’s an uneasy mix of weird humor and sadness, and like all of them Kaufman refuses to give us the happy ending.

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13 Hours (Michael Bay, 2016)

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The prospect of a Michael Bay movie about Benghazi is contemporary American absurdity at its finest. The maker of hugely successful disasters, overblown, crude, racist, misogynistic, incomprehensible, telling the story of one of the most ridiculous issues of our time, a tragedy crudely trumped up into an inane scandal by the basest elements of our political culture. After the jingoistic marketing around Clint Eastwood’s hit American Sniper a year ago (which I believe completely misrepresented that film), how could 13 Hours, in the hands of a far less sophisticated and nuanced filmmaker, hope to be anything but a wildly offensive distortion of history at best, and a piece of vile propaganda at worst? Well, I’m somewhat happy to say that 13 Hours is not nearly as racist as you’d expect it to be. It is crude, it is overblown, it does completely lack subtlety, but Bay, true to his only real belief as a filmmaker (that his movies should amass a fortune), has attempted to make a film that will appeal to all audiences, it sidesteps the kind of cartoonish racism one would expect in a war film set in North Africa and instead appeals to much deeper, much broader base instincts in the American audience: our love of firepower, our distrust of government, our isolationism.

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Friday January 8 – Thursday January 14

Featured Film:

Out 1 at the SIFF Film Center

Long a holy grail for cinephiles around the globe, Jaques Rivette’s 13 hour film serial from 1971 premieres in a new restoration at SIFF. A Balzacian tale of theatrical rehearsals and conspiracy theories, the film stars French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud, Michael Lonsdale and Rivette regulars Juliet Berto and Bulle Ogier. SIFF is presenting Out  1 in four parts, consisting of two episodes each. Part 1 & 2 play Friday night, 3 & 4 and 5 & 6 play Saturday, and 7 & 8 on Sunday, with the program starting over again Sunday night and continuing with two parts per night through Wednesday. There’ll be a marathon of the whole serial on Sunday, January 24th. So, if you’re able to spend three or four consecutive days at the Seattle Center, or can physically endure 13 hours in the Film Center, this is the program for you.

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Playing This Week:

Central Cinema:

Labyrinth (Terry Jones, 1986) Fri-Tues
Aliens (James Cameron, 1986) Fri-Tues

Century Federal Way:

The Himalayas (Lee Seokhoon) Fri-Thurs
The Tiger (Park Hoonjung) Fri-Thurs
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Youth (Paolo Sorrentino) Fri-Thurs
Barista 
(Rock Baijnauth) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson) Fri-Thurs
The Man Who Saved the World (Turkish Star Wars) (Çetin İnanç, 1982) Fri & Sat Only Our Review
The Sprocket Society presents Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only
Abstractions: The Films of Jon Behrens (Jon Behrens) Tues Only

Landmark Guild 45th Theatre:

Trumbo (Jay Roach) Fri-Thurs
Youth (Paolo Sorrentino) Fri-Weds

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Wazir (Bejoy Nambiar) Fri-Thurs
Bajirao Mastani (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Devil and Angel (Yu Baimei & Deng Chao) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (James Crump) Fri-Thurs
Noma: My Perfect Storm (Pierre Deschamps) Fri-Thurs
Kevin T. Allen presents Ear as Other Sat Only
Beach Town (Erik Hammen) Sun Only
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock) Weds Only 35mm

AMC Pacific Place:

Mojin: The Lost Legend (Wu Ershan) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Mr. Six (Guan Hu) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Kirkland Parkplace Cinema:

The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971) Mon Only

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Bajirao Mastani (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
Diwale (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs

Scarecrow Video Screening Room:

Framing Pictures: A Floating Conversation about Film Led by Veteran Critics Fri Only
Blood Feast (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1963) Sat Only
The Harder They Fall (Mark Robson, 1956) Sun Only
Taxi 3 (Gérard Krawczyk, 2003) Mon Only
Ghost Fever (Lee Madden, 1987) Tues Only
The White Bus (Lindsay Anderson, 1967) Weds Only
Family Plot (Alfred Hitchcock, 1976) Thurs Only

Seattle Art Museum:

L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960) Thurs Only 35mm

Landmark Seven Gables:

Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Film Center:

Out 1: Noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette, 1971) Fri-Weds
The Fencer (Klaus Härö) Thurs Only

In Wide Release:

The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu) Our Review
The Hateful 8
 (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review
The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams) Our Podcast
Concussion 
(Peter Landesman) Our Review
Sisters 
(Jason Moore) Our Review
Brooklyn 
(John Crowley) Our Review
Spotlight 
(Tom McCarthy) Our Review
Creed 
(Ryan Coogler) Our Review
Bridge of Spies
 (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Martian (Ridley Scott) Our Review
Sicario (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2015)

angry dicaprio.png

There is a moment in Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder where Rachel McAdams and Ben Affleck are inexplicably surrounded by a herd of bison. The pair stand at their car and are awed by the majesty of the moment. And so are we, the audience. In Alejandro González Iñárritu’s new film The Revenant there is also a scene featuring a character stumbling upon some bison. The moment strives for a similar feeling of, well, wonder, but fails to deliver. It’s the approaches of these two filmmakers that spells all the difference. In Malick’s world an experience like that feels like luck, a chance encounter with real, live animals. And it’s also fleeting, a moment in a waterfall of moments that burns in your brain because it feels so fragile. In The Revenant everything is so rigorously composed, from the camerawork (filmed by longtime Malick associate Emmanuel Lubezki) to the herd itself, a computer-generated stampede heading to the end of the frame before disappearing, literally, forever.

It’s these moments in The Revenant that manage to shoot an otherwise pretty decent survivalist Western in the foot. When González Iñárritu is committed to the straightforward nature of his simple story, which is about a trapping scout who has to brave the elements to save his life and avenge a loved one, the film works well. There is a great sense of atmosphere and the occasional thrill. But whenever he grasps at poetry or pulls out a flashy camera trick–both of which happen often–the film flounders.

The film opens with a raid on a poacher’s encampment in which González Iñárritu throws the camera right in the middle of the action with sweeping, unbroken takes. While the technique is intended to feel visceral and immediate, it comes off like playing a video game. A similar problem crops up when steam or blood appears on the camera lens. Attempting to provide a thrilling verisimilitude, these elements just remind the viewer that there is a camera there, a move more distancing than inviting.

revenant mountain

González Iñárritu is a competent director but he’s a far too confident one for his capabilities. His misplaced desire to make this film more important than it is sabotages its better qualities. The same could be said for star Leonardo DiCaprio who grimaces, grunts, and groans his way through increasingly desperate–and subsequently sillier–circumstances. DiCaprio plays the story so straight that it teeters on the brink of collapse. Early on he fights a bear and it is terrifying. Two hours later, after being chased, shot at, abandoned, and nearly frozen, he falls off a cliff with his horse. By this point it has gone from harrowing to hilarious.

All of the issues with The Revenant are best summed up by its final moments. As the film comes to its entirely expected conclusion, Lubezki’s camera lingers on a shot of a snowy bank and an icy river. There is nobody in the frame, just the frigid water and a pool of blood. It’s a perfect shot to end a movie about the harsh worlds of nature and man. Instead González Iñárritu tacks on two more shots, closing with the worst decision in the entire film. In an effort to make something serious and smart, González Iñárritu ended up with something dopier than dumb and fun.

Mr. Six (Guan Hu, 2015)

mr-6

Playing this week at the Pacific Place is Mr. Six, a gangster drama which earned star Feng Xiaogang the Best Actor award at this past Golden Horse Awards (which are held annually in Taiwan and honor Chinese-langauge film). Feng plays Mr. Six, an aging Beijing street tough, now in his late 50s, who gets caught in a rivalry with a much younger gang. With the deliberate pace of Sixth Generation realism, director Guan Hu deemphasizes the more lurid elements of the Chinese gangster film, focusing instead on Mr. Six’s character and the ways in which he interacts with a Beijing vastly different than the one he dominated in the 1980s. As such, the film provides a wonderful showcase for Feng, a director of popular comedies and occasional actor, whose best known work in the US is probably his dark and very serious 2006 Hamlet variation The Banquet, which starred Zhang Ziyi, one of the overblown period films that followed the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero early in this century. His Mr. Six is amiable and steely, a quiet authority barely concealing depths of anger and disappointment.

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