The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues, 2016)

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Sensation in film is, by definition, an event that is difficult to describe. It privileges the experience of watching, of holistically observing sight and sound work in tandem to produce something nearly indescribable. Such an concept is placed front and center in The Ornithologist, a remarkable, subtly shape-shifting film by Portugese director João Pedro Rodrigues. By turns raucous, menacing, gorgeous, and haunting, the movie is never less than throughly engrossing, moving through its surreal logic with a confidence and daring, the likes of which have been sorely missed from Seattle screens this year.

As might be expected, The Ornithologist follows the eponymous birdwatcher Fernando (Paul Hamy) as he explores a mysterious, possibly haunted forest after his kayak is destroyed by rapids. Through his perilous, somewhat meandering attempts to return to civilization, he encounters various denizens and transients, along with increasingly supernatural and surreal experiences. Impressively, this roster begins with a pair of lesbian Chinese Christian hikers, who first rescue him from the waters and then tie him up with rope and sadistic intentions, and only becomes stranger from there, including a motley cast of possible costumed cult members, bare-breasted hunters on horseback, and of course, many birds, some of which assume a strange symbolic importance.

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Friday July 28 – Thursday August 3

Featured Film:

Landline at the Uptown and the AMC Seattle

Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate’s follow-up to Obvious Child, one of the finest romantic comedies of the decade, is a more expansive film, following the cracking up of a New York family in the mid-90s as two sisters (Slate and Abby Quinn) discover their father (John Turturro) has been cheating on their mother. It’s a coming of age story in triplicate, focusing on women dealing with crises at different stages of life (along the lines of Sylvia Chang’s 20 30 40). I wrote a bit about it at SIFF this year, and this week Melissa takes a longer look at it. Landline opens at the Uptown and what we’ve apparently agreed to call the “AMC Seattle 10” (formerly the Seattle Sundance, formerly the Metro Cinemas).

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review
A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Central Cinema:

Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991) Fri-Weds Our Podcast
Bring It On (Peyton Reed, 2000) Fri-Tues
Come Drink with Me (King Hu, 1966) Weds Only Our Review Our Podcast

Crest Cinema Center:

The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Egyptian:

A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Vekh Barataan Chaliyaan (Ksshitij Chaudhary) Fri-Thurs
The Black Prince (Kavi Raz) Fri-Thurs
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Dave Made a Maze (Bill Watterson) Fri Only
Tommy (Ken Russell, 1975) Sat Only
Moka (Frederic Mermoud) Tues Only
Deconstructing the Beatles: Rubber Soul (Scott Freiman) Weds Only
Eyes of the Totem (WS Van Dyke, 1927) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd) Fri-Thurs
Fidaa (Sekhar Kammula) Fri-Thurs
Mubarakan (Anees Bazmee) Fri-Thurs
Vikram Vedha (Pushkar and Gayathri) Fri-Thurs
Gautham Nanda (Sampath Nandi) Fri-Thurs
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

City of Ghosts (Matthew Heineman) Fri-Thurs
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (Linda Saffire & Adam Schlesinger) Fri-Sun, Weds-Thurs
VIDEOJOY (Tommy Swenson) Fri Only
The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues) Weds-Sun

AMC Oak Tree:

Scales: Mermaids Are Real (Kevan Peterson) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Wolf Warrior 2 (Wu Jing) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review

AMC Seattle:

Landline (Gillian Robespierre) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd) Fri-Thurs
A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Seattle Art Museum:

People Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1951) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Mali Blues (Lutz Gregor) Fri-Sun

AMC Southcenter:

A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Thornton Place:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Uptown:

Landline (Gillian Robespierre) Starts Thurs Our Review
Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd) Fri-Thurs
The Little Hours (Jeff Baena) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Raiders of the Lost Ark/Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg, 1981/1984) Thurs Only 35mm Double Feature

Varsity Theatre:

Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
Neither Wolf nor Dog (Steven Lewis Simpson) Fri-Thurs
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982) Weds Only
Grateful Dead Meet Up 2017 Tues Only

In Wide Release:


Baby Driver (Edgar Wrighht) Our Review
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (James Gunn) Our Review

Landline (Gillian Robespierre, 2017)

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Early in Gillian Robespierre’s new film, Landline, Dana (Jenny Slate), compulsively scratching a poison ivy rash contracted in a not-so-romantic encounter in the woods with her fiancé, sits across a desk from a co-worker discussing their dates from the previous night. Effusively, the co-worker describes a romantic, hours’ long “epic conversation on the rooftop.” Dana, pausing, responds that she and her fiancé, in contrast, had spent “three hours at Blockbuster.” “We got Curly Sue,” she adds. It’s the kind of specific, funny, and evocative moment that punctuates and defines Robespierre’s work, a moment that deftly situates us in the time and space of the film’s 1995 setting, in a character’s emotional landscape, and in the thematic framework. Continue reading

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017)

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There is something to be said for the recent resurgence of a certain brand of flair in the more independently-minded multiplex films. Whether for good (Don’t Breathe) or ill (La La Land), it is refreshing to see an assertion of directorial style in films made close to the auspices of the studio system, which lends a breath of fresh air to even the most seemingly concrete and inflexible of stock scenarios.

Into this climate comes Edgar Wright, the celebrated English writer-director who, with Baby Driver, makes his American and action film debut. This is not to say that this is entirely unprecedented territory for Wright; he was originally slated to helm the United States-set Marvel’s Ant-Man before he left due to creative differences, and his 2007 film Hot Fuzz contains a substantial amount of suitably frenetic bouts of action. But there is a very different vibe and feeling at work in Wright’s latest film, something that uses the same objects of both homage and derision for something more straightforward and cool, if not altogether serious. Baby Driver is consequently both livened up and slightly weighed down by its influences, which include, among many others, The Driver, Thief, and Bottle Rocket. But they are all connected by Wright’s deft, wonderfully unsubtle touch, all beat-heavy music, tight edits, nicely executed earphone gags, and abundance of feeling.

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Meow (Benny Chan, 2017)

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From Mao to Meow: Revolution in Contemporary Chinese Cinema

Pop will eat itself.

Last summer veteran Hong Kong director Benny Chan brought us the year’s best martial arts film with the High Noon variation Call of Heroes. This year, he’s made the summer’s most improbable movie: a heart-warming comedy about a giant alien cat who befriends a mop-headed Louis Koo and his wacky family. Pudding is the greatest warrior on the distant planet Meow, a cat-world (literally: it’s shaped like a cat’s head) wracked by meteor collisions that has been hoping to colonize Earth for centuries. But none of the cat-agents sent to Earth have ever returned, though there are snippets of their successes: inspiring worship from the ancient Egyptians and modeling yoga in India. Pudding crashes on Earth and loses his MacGuffin, making him susceptible to the corrupting influences of Earth static. In a last ditch effort to save himself, he merges with the form of a fat orange house-cat, the resulting abomination being a obese, six foot tall ball of cuteness.

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Friday July 21 – Thursday July 27

Featured Film:

A Ghost Story at the Egyptian and the Lincoln Square

David Lowery’s Sundance hit is proving to be one of the more divisive art house films of the year, with critics finding its unusual mix of time-bending grief and outright silliness either deeply moving or deeply stupid. Casey Affleck plays the eponymous ghost, covered in a white sheet with cut-out eyeholes. He floats along, haunting his home, watching his wife (Rooney Mara) grieve for him, eat a pie and eventually move away, leaving him to his sad eternity. Ryan was underwhelmed by it in his review, and Evan agreed with him on our SIFF podcast, where I attempted to stick up for the film.

Playing This Week:

Admiral Theatre:

Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 1936) Tues Only

AMC Alderwood:

Devdas (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002) Sun Only

Central Cinema:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Fri-Weds
Blade (Stephen Norrington, 1998) Fri-Mon, Weds
Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968) Tues Only

Crest Cinema Center:

The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Egyptian:

A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

The Black Prince (Kavi Raz) Fri-Thurs
Kiki’s Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989) Dubbed Sun, Subbed Mon Our Podcast

Grand Cinema:

Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
The Dark Side of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) Sat Only
Manifesto (Julian Rosefeldt, 2015) Tues Only Our Review
Disturbing the Peace (Stephen Apkon & Andrew Young) Thurs Only Free Screening

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky) Fri-Thurs
The Wild Search (Shine Louise Houston) Thurs Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

A Ghost Story (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Fidaa (Sekhar Kammula) Fri-Thurs
Munna Michael (Sabbir Khan) Fri-Thurs
Vikram Vedha (Pushkar and Gayathri) Fri-Thurs
Jagga Jasoos (Anurag Basu) Fri-Thurs
Devdas (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002) Sun Only
Kiki’s Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989) Dubbed Sun, Subbed Mon Our Podcast

Regal Meridian:

City of Ghosts (Matthew Heineman) Fri-Thurs
Jagga Jasoos (Anurag Basu) Fri-Thurs
Devdas (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002) Sun Only
The Ancient Magus Bride (LeSean Thomas) Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Like Crazy (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Sun
Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (Linda Saffire & Adam Schlesinger) Starts Weds

AMC Oak Tree:

Scales: Mermaids Are Real (Kevan Peterson) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Meow (Benny Chan) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Jagga Jasoos (Anurag Basu) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
Devdas (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002) Sun Only
The Ancient Magus Bride (LeSean Thomas) Weds Only

AMC Seattle:

The Little Hours (Jeff Baena) Fri-Thurs Our Review
B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Photography (Errol Morris) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer (Irving Reis, 1947) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994) Fri-Sun

Regal Thornton Place:

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989) Sun & Mon Only Our Podcast

SIFF Uptown:

Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
The Little Hours (Jeff Baena) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Abacus (Steve James) Fri-Thurs
Landline (Gillian Robespierre) Starts Thurs Our Review
Brazil/Repo Man (Terry Gilliam, 1985/Alex Cox, 1984) Thurs Only 35mm Double Feature

Varsity Theatre:

Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
Neither Wolf nor Dog (Steven Lewis Simpson) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Our Review
The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola) Our Review
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (James Gunn) Our Review

Questions of Innovation [THE BIG SICK & A GHOST STORY]

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Just past the halfway mark of this year of 2017, it should be apparent to any attentive observer that, at best, this theatrical release year has been subpar, and at worst it appears to be the worst year for film (not to mention the United States) in living memory. Though I won’t come close to claiming that I’ve seen anywhere near every major release – I have not, for example, seen either Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver or Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV, among other presumably worthy titles – there has been a shocking dearth of any wholly satisfying films. Whether it be the usual batch of disappointingly overrated superhero films (Logan, Wonder Woman), a number of fascinating if flawed works from noted auteurs (Personal Shopper, The Beguiled, Staying Vertical), or other sundry curios (Get Out, Your Name, By the Time It Gets Dark), it is somewhat dismaying that my favorite film from this year still remains the admittedly stellar Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. This isn’t to say that certain films haven’t been very good, and I do greatly enjoy a more than a few of the films I just named, but when David Lynch is showing up the entirety of the theatrical selections every week on Showtime with Twin Peaks: The Return, there is more than a little cause for alarm.

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Friday July 14 – Thursday July 20

Featured Film:

Hermia and Helena at the Northwest Film Forum

The latest in Argentinean director Matías Piñeiro’s films inspired by Shakespeare takes A Midsummer Night’s Dream as its jumping off point. Camila (Agustina Muñoz) goes from Buenos Aires to New York as part of a special school program where she’ll work on translating the play. The Bard is less apparently central to the story than he was in Viola or The Princess of France, instead we track several of Camila’s relationships past and present; romantic, familial, and mysterious. Somewhat more conventional but no less affecting than those previous films, it was one of the highlights at last year’s Vancouver Film Festival.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Jagga Jasoos (Anurag Basu) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Central Cinema:

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984) Fri-Weds Our Podcast Subtitled Tues & Weds
Red Sonja (Richard Fleische, 1985) Fri-Tues

Crest Cinema Center:

The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Egyptian:

The Little Hours (Jeff Baena) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Channa Mereya (Pankaj Batra) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

The Wedding Plan (Rama Burshtein) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999) Sat Only
Pink Floyd: The Wall (Alan Parker & Gerald Scarfe, 1982) Sat Only
Sacred (Thomas Lennon) Tues Only
The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

SCORE: A Film Music Documentary (Matt Schrader) Fri-Thurs
Lake Street Detective (Erik Hammen) Thurs Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Jagga Jasoos (Anurag Basu) Fri-Thurs
Shamantakamani (Venki) Fri-Thurs
Mom (Ravi Udyawar) Fri-Thurs
Ninnu Kori (Shiva Nirvana) Fri-Thurs
Muramba (Varun Narvekar) Sat Only
Chi Va Chi Sau Ka (Paresh Mokashi) Sun Only

Regal Meridian:

Jagga Jasoos (Anurag Basu) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro) Fri-Sun Our Review
Anna Karenina (Angelica Cholina) Sat Only
Like Crazy (Paolo Virzì) Weds-Sun
Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984) Weds Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Our Time Will Come (Ann Hui) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Wu Kong (Derek Kwok) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Jagga Jasoos (Anurag Basu) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Little Hours (Jeff Baena) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
The Journey (Nick Hamm) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer (Irving Reis, 1947) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Glory (Petar Valchanov & Kristina Grozeva) Fri-Sun

SIFF Uptown:

Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
The Exception (David Leveaux) Fri-Sun
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Sun
48 Hour Film Project Mon-Weds
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial/Starship Troopers (Steven Spielberg, 1982/Paul Verhoeven, 1997) Thurs Only 35mm Double Feature

Varsity Theatre:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
New York Dog Film Festival Sun Only

In Wide Release:

The Beguiled (Sophia Coppola) Our Review
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (James Gunn) Our Review
Alien Covenant (Ridley Scott) Our Review

Friday July 7 – Thursday July 13

Featured Film:

Our Time Will Come at the Pacific Place

The only World War II film by a major director you need to see this summer opens this week, on a single screen at the Pacific Place. Ann Hui’s film about a small network of agents working against the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong stars Eddie Peng, Zhou Xun, Wallace Huo, Jessie Li, Deanie Ip and The Other Tony Leung. With crisp, tense suspense and action sequences and a subtly expansive view of the demographics of heroism, it’s as accomplished and assured a work of popular filmmaking as we’ve seen in Seattle this year. Don’t miss it.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis, 1988) Fri-Tues
Mission: Impossible (Brian De Palma, 1996) Fri-Tues

Century Federal Way:

9 to 5 (Colin Higgins, 1980) Sun & Weds Only
Planet of the Apes Triple Feature (Various) Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Wedding Plan (Rama Burshtein) Fri-Thurs
Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs
Xanadu (Robert Greenwald, 1980) Sat Only
TWIST Tops presents Best Short Films Tues Only
Check It (Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Night School (Andrew Cohn) Fri-Thurs
Lake Street Detective (Erik Hammen) Thurs Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs
Mom (Ravi Udyawar) Fri-Thurs
Ninnu Kori (Shiva Nirvana) Fri-Thurs
9 to 5 (Colin Higgins, 1980) Sun & Weds Only
Planet of the Apes Triple Feature (Various) Weds Only
The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999) Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Sacred (Thomas Lennon) Sun-Thurs
Stone Cold (Craig R. Baxley, 1991) Weds Only Live Commentary

AMC Oak Tree:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Our Time Will Come (Ann Hui) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
The Journey (Nick Hamm) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Mr. Lucky (HC Potter, 1943) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Czech That Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program
Ridicule (Patrice Leconte, 1996) Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

The Little Hours (Jeff Baena) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Maudie (Aisling Walsh) Fri-Thurs
The Exception (David Leveaux) Fri-Weds
The Hero (Brett Haley) Fri-Weds
The Big Lebowski/Fast Times at Ridgemont High (The Coen Brothers, 1998/Amy Heckerling, 1982) Thurs Only 35mm Double Feature
Bottom Dollars (Jordan Melograna) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

The Beguiled (Sophia Coppola) Our Review
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (James Gunn) Our Review
Alien Covenant (Ridley Scott) Our Review

Our Time Will Come (Ann Hui, 2017)

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The most anticipated, and almost assuredly the best, World War II film of the summer, by one of the greatest filmmakers of the past forty years, opens here tomorrow exclusively at the Pacific Place: director Ann Hui’s Our Time Will Come. Based on true events in the resistance against the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, the film is so effective at its generic thrills, the suspense and action sequences and quiet moments of melancholy patriotism and laments for lost comrades that form the core of the resistance/war film, everything from For Whom the Bell Tolls to Army of Shadows, that one almost doesn’t notice that she’s radically revised one of the most masculine of genres into a story about the unbreakability of women.

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