Half Magic (Heather Graham, 2018)

Image from Half Magic

This movie has the best of intentions. As a message-delivery device, it could hardly be timelier, dealing as it does with misogyny and sexism in the film industry and beyond in the #MeToo era. Deep into America’s third wave of feminism (or at the dawn of its fourth, depending on who you ask), the film’s larger messages are praiseworthy and, sadly, still deeply relevant: In the public sphere, women’s personal freedoms and access to professional opportunities continue to be unfairly curtailed; in the private sphere, women’s dignity and senses of self-worth are still continually eroded; and in the sexual sphere, women’s pleasure in heterosexual relationships is still too often disregarded as too many men still prioritize their own satisfaction over that of their partners. Heather Graham, in her debut as writer and director of a feature film, is right to try to deliver these messages by whatever means she can.

Perhaps unfortunately for Graham, however, movies are (or should be) much more than message-delivery devices. Graham aims for comedy as her spoonful-of-sugar to help the medicine go down, but her movie’s uneven tone, dated gags, and strained performances cause the whole thing to feel so bogged down that the movie ultimately lands well short of success as either commentary or comedy.

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Friday February 23 – Thursday March 1

Featured Film:

Cuban Cinema at the Grand Illusion

This week the Grand Illusion premieres the new restoration of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s 1968 Memories of Underdevelopment alongside a 35mm print of Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba. I haven’t seen Memories yet, but it sounds phenomenal (“One of the greatest films ever made. As essential as cinema gets.” says Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice.) But I have seen I Am Cuba, and I can for sure say it is one of the greatest films ever made. An episodic story about the lead-up to and the culmination of the revolution, it’s propaganda of the highest order, with Kalatozov and his genius cinematographer Sergey Urusevsky coming up with the craziest camera stunts you can think of, but all in service of a searing portrait of the people’s suffering and the glory of their ultimate victory. I don’t think it’s been seen here in Seattle since we played it at the Metro a decade ago. Don’t miss it this time.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Golden Slumber (Noh Dongseok) Fri-Thurs
Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) Fri-Thurs
The Lodgers (Brian O’Malley) Fri-Sun

Central Cinema:

Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995) Fri-Mon
Hackers (Iain Softley, 1995) Fri-Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

A Fantastic Woman (Sebastian Lelio) Fri-Weds
Kiki’s Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989) Sat Only Our Podcast

Century Federal Way:

Golden Slumber (Noh Dongseok) Fri-Thurs
Laavan Phere (Smeep Kang) Fri-Thurs
The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Concert for George (David Leland) Mon Only
2018 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts (Various) Tues Only
The Wedding Day (Lee Byungil, 1956) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968) Fri, Sun, Tues & Thurs
Scarecrow Video presents: Red Roses of Passion (Joe Sarno, 1966) Fri Only
I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964) Sat & Weds Only 35mm
The Insult (Ziad Doueiri) Sat, Sun, Mon & Thurs
Saturday Secret Matinee: Twisted Intrigues Sat Only 16mm
Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian) Sun-Tues Our Review

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (Luv Ranjan) Fri-Thurs
Awe (Prashanth Varma) Fri-Thurs
Welcome to New York (Chakri Toleti) Fri-Thurs
Padman (R. Balki) Fri-Thurs
Aiyaary (Neeraj Pandey) Fri-Thurs
Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Padman (R. Balki) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Seattle Asian American Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program
Rebels on Pointe (Bobbi Jo Hart) Weds & Next Sat Only
In Between (Maysaloun Hamoud) Starts Thurs
Legend of the Mountain (King Hu, 1979) Starts Thurs Our Review

AMC Oak Tree:

Operation Red Sea (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs
Operation Red Sea (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs
Monster Hunt 2 (Raman Hui) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
La boda de Valentina (Marco Polo Constandse) Fri-Thurs
Concert for George (David Leland) Weds Only

AMC Seattle:

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Paul McGuigan) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Shut Up and Play the Hits and Wild Combination (Will Lovelace & Dylan Southern, 2012 and Matt Wolf, 2008) Thurs Only Double Feature

AMC Southcenter:

Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Sat & Mon Only Our Review
The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

Faces Place (Agnès Varda & JR) Fri-Thurs Our Review
2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
Boy and the World (Alê Abreu, 2013) Sat Only Our Review
Concert for George (David Leland) Sun Only

Varsity Theatre:

Half Magic (Heather Graham) Fri-Thurs
Curvature (Diego Hallivis) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Annihilation (Alex Garland) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
The 15:17 to Paris (Clint Eastwood) Our Review
Fifty Shades Freed (James Foley) Our Review
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson) Our Review
Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Our Review
The Post (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

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A sparkly meteor screams across the sky and crashes into a lighthouse. Three years later, Oscar Isaac shows up in Natalie Portman’s house. He’s her husband and has been missing for three years, is acting oddly and suddenly becomes very ill. On the way to the hospital, the two are captured and brought to a secret location, the edge of a shimmering wall of. . . something. Isaac escaped from the something and Portman heads into it, part of a team of women led by Jennifer Jason Leigh and including Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny. What they find in there is both easy to figure out (stuff is mutating), beautiful and scary and weird (stuff is mutating) and inexplicable (most of the why and a bunch of other side mysteries), explored in a mostly unsatisfactory blend of arthouse stillness and genre thriller scares, part of a burgeoning subgenre of sci-fi films that I suppose function as a counterweight to the more populist nonsense of superhero sc-fi. Director Alex Garland’s last film, Ex Machina, is a prime example, along with Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (and his Blade Runner too, probably, I haven’t seen it) and so on. These films give an aura of respectability and complexity to an otherwise disreputable genre, and Annihilation is basically Predator for people who think Predator is dumb, but without any of the qualities that actually make Predator good (structure, pacing, action, coherence). Or Stalker for people who think Stalker is too arty and obscure.

While Annihilation is following its women on a weird mission plot, it’s mostly pretty good. The environment is new even if the situations are not: the group will of course be picked off one-by-one, either by unexpected creatures or their own tendency toward madness. Interspersed are flashbacks to Portman’s former life with Isaac, before he went on his mission into the unknown, which are mostly useless, designed to ground her character in the boring pyschology of Hollywood screenwriting convention, where women are only allowed to be motivated by something involving their role as wife and/or mother. These are actually flashbacks within a flashback, as the entire film is actually a dramatization of the story of her experience told by Portman to a team of radiation suit investigators led by Benedict Wong. How reliable a narrator Portman is, though, is not explored, potentially destabilizing the whole film, if not outright rendering the whole thing pointless. Is everything we’re seeing in her head, or is it what she’s telling Wong? Are the flashbacks real and the other stuff fake? Is she telling Wong about her relationship with her husband? Is it all phony, a story designed to satisfying her inquisitors but not actually the truth? I guess we’ll find out in the sequel? There are a lot of these little “mysteries” in Annihilation, things left unexplained that I suppose one could expend some brain energy trying to figure out, but I don’t know that it would be worth it, since the central mystery is both easily guessed and not that interesting, and it’s probably rendered moot by the film’s ending anyway. I’m curious about the tattoo that Portman and Rodriguez seem to share, for example, but I’d have to watch the movie again to try to solve it. But that’s probably not going to happen.

Black Panther (2018, Ryan Coogler)

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During the aftermath of a car chase in South Korea, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) cautions T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the newly-crowned warrior king of Wakanda and the eponymous superhero, warning him that “the whole world is watching.” It is a tempting and largely justifiable sentiment to apply to Black Panther, given both the lamentable societal state and the slightly more specific cultural moment. Though it is by no means the first film to have as its center a black superhero (as BAMcinématek’s excellent series demonstrated), it is the first of note since the rise of the juggernaut known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2009. As a member of this alternately prestigious and dubious enterprise, its very existence brings along a whole host of expectations and baggage in terms of overall quality and, perhaps most crucially, representation.

That Black Panther is almost certainly the finest and most distinctive entry in the MCU is one bonus, but that it genuinely grapples with these issues and its particular place in modern society is another aspect entirely. The two are certainly linked, even down to the basic motivations of narrative, and the film’s ability to sublimate this and notions of culture within the loose template of a Marvel film is, at times, genuinely invigorating.

killmonger

Part of what distinguishes Black Panther is its deftness, its ability to locate character struggles within in a world that feels genuinely engaged with the present moment – in a way that does not simply kowtow to “The Way We Live” back-patting – even as it weaves its own fantasies. The main locus is Wakanda, a fictional African nation that conceals its status as the most technologically advanced country in the world, thanks to its virtually unlimited supply of a versatile metal known vibranium. As the film begins, T’Challa inherits the crown from his dead father, only to encounter the heretofore unknown Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). A Wakandan hardened by his upbringing in Oakland, California, an extensive stint in the military, and his desire for vengeance, he seeks to usurp the new ruler and use the technological advancements of the country to trigger black uprisings against white-dominated governments around the world.

Such a description is certainly more grounded than the average MCU entry, but what is most curious about Black Panther is how it upholds and subverts its comic book origins. The decision to (pre-Marvel company credit!) open with a fantastical animated retelling of the origin of Wakanda and the Black Panther, only to move immediately into a crucial scene set in 1992 Oakland – complete with a plastic crate standing in for a basketball hoop – is an early indication, as is the bold fusion of old traditions and ceremonial wear with hypermodern landscapes.

Much of the credit for this uncharacteristic level of cultural engagement must go to director and co-writer Ryan Coogler, who appears from this effort to have a knack for negotiating his own sense of artistry within franchise efforts after both this and 2015’s Creed (although his direction here on the whole feels less balletic than in that film). But the efforts of the cast, which in itself represents a remarkable collection of black talent (from Daniel Kaluuya to Forest Whitaker to Angela Bassett to Danai Gurira to even Isaach de Bankolé), lend an immense vitality to the proceedings. Boseman and especially Letitia Wright (as his technical genius of a sister) are marvelous, but Jordan, who has appeared in all of Coogler’s films to date, is utterly magnetic, infusing his ostensible villain with genuine pain and swagger that makes his already sympathetic aims (if not sympathetic methods) become even more attractive.

Black Panther‘s spirit thrums with this continual back-and-forth, this negotiation of lore (both comic-book and tribal) and reality, personal motivations and pragmatism. I don’t have the knowledge or confidence to fully go into the occasionally questionable politics of the film, but suffice it to say that the radicalism of Killmonger is never simply undercut by the film, which continually questions Wakanda’s and its own position as the most exalted form of modern black representation. What seems to matter most at this particular moment is the film’s very existence, its ability to present customs totally outside of the mainstream with nothing less than total acceptance. (What the culture does with them is another matter entirely.)

The Monkey King 3 (Soi Cheang, 2018)

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The latest in director Soi Cheang’s saga inspired by the classic novel Journey to the West might be the strangest one yet. The franchise blockbuster has always been a weird fit for the former director of indie horror movies and slick crime dramas, and Cheang’s first Monkey King was kind of a mess, taking place in an almost parodically artificial computer-generated environment when it wasn’t populated by humans in sub-Cats animal costumes, and led by a distractingly fidgety performance by an unrecognizable Donnie Yen. The second film was a big improvement, as the effects were higher quality and more strikingly original, the acting, with Aaron Kwok taking over the title role and Gong Li playing the primary villain, much improved and the story much more in Cheang’s comfort zone. The second one was the first to follow the Journey to the West itself, with the Monkey King designated to help Xuanzang, a Buddhist monk from Tang Dynasty China, travel to India in order to bring back essential scriptures. The plot involves the Tang monk’s efforts to reform the White-Bone Demon (Li), a malevolent creature whom everyone else would prefer to simply destroy. The Monkey King must learn to submit his violent impulses to his master’s compassion, despite his firm belief that he knows best.

The third film in the series opens with an image from the second, the massive skeletal incarnation of the White-Bone Demon glowering over the Earth, and flips it, literally, as we plunge into a film wholly opposite its predecessor. Where the second film was dominated by mountain snow, dark nights, and cruel, demonic violence, this one takes place in lush green riverlands, and its concerns will be romantic and all-too human. Escaping an angry river god in the film’s first moments, the monk and his party (the Monkey King, the reformed pig demon Bajie, the blue-skinned muscle-man Sha, and their magical White Dragon Horse) are thrown, thanks to a wormhole helpfully provided by Buddha himself, into a secluded kingdom populated entirely by women. Men are banned from the kingdom, and the heroes are to be executed on sight but are saved by the young queen (Zanilla Zhao, an earnest waif last seen here in Duckweed), who has fallen in love with the monk. With a few sidetracks (including an ill-considered subplot about obtaining abortions for the men who become pregnant and some spectacular water effects as the river god reveals his own unrequited love story), the rest of the film is about Xuanzang’s desire to remain with the woman he now loves and his need to abandon her to continue his quest.

This is one of the more interesting aspects of the monk’s story, and he really takes center stage here, with the Monkey King relegated to a supporting role. William Feng builds on his strong work in the second film with his most soulful performance yet. The Kingdom of Women story in the novel plays out very differently, with the monk pretending to marry the Queen and then sneaking away, and it’s not one I’ve ever seen adapted before. Though Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons has the monk come to the same realization, that you can’t really renounce anything if you don’t have any attachments in the first place, as the final step in his enlightenment. Choosing this as the next story in the saga I think is a telling choice, especially when one might have expected a more famous subject like the Cave of the Spider Women, in which female demons lure the heroes with the promise of sex and then try to eat them. That would have been more in line with the White-Bone Demon story of the second film. But instead Cheang zigzags into completely the opposite type of story, neatly subverting the misogyny inherent in both the original Kingdom of Women chapter and the popular Spider-Women stories. Once again, Soi Cheang has utterly defied expectations within a single blockbuster film series: from goofy cartoon to bleak action horror to gorgeous romantic tragedy.

Friday February 16 – Thursday February 22

Featured Film:

Noir City at the SIFF Egyptian

Lunar New Year kicks off this week with three highly anticipated sequels from China, all of which are playing at the Pacific Place, with a couple titles playing at other theatres around town, but I’d be remiss not to declare Noir City the film event of this week in Seattle. Impressario Eddie Muller is back with his usual eclectic blend of A and B features from that perennially popular period of post-war policiers. Eighteen features in all, most of which are playing on 35mm, ranging from well-known classics like The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleepand Mildred Pierce, to relative unknowns like I Walk AloneThe Man Who Cheated Himself and Flesh and Fantasy. But you know what, I’m sure Mr. Muller wouldn’t mind if you snuck in a screening of Detective Chinatown 2 as well.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

The Gold Rush (Charles Chaplin, 1925) Fri-Mon
The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982) Fri-Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

Noir City 2018 Fri-Thurs Full Program

Century Federal Way:

Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs
Laavan Phere (Smeep Kang) Fri-Thurs
The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Paddington (Paul King, 2014) Sat Only Free Screening
Idiocracy (Mike Judge, 2006) Sat Only
2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Tues Only
The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965) Weds Only Our Podcast
The Trials of Muhammad Ali (Bill Siegel 2013) Thurs Only Free Screening
Mon oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Insult (Ziad Doueiri) Sat, Sun, & Tues-Thurs
Saturday Secret Matinee: Twisted Intrigues Sat Only 16mm
Canyon Cinema 50: Continuum Sat Only 16mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Awe (Prashanth Varma) Fri-Thurs
Toliprema (Venky Atluri) Fri-Thurs
Padman (R. Balki) Fri-Thurs
Aiyaary (Neeraj Pandey) Fri-Thurs
Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Padman (R. Balki) Fri-Thurs
Monster Hunt 2 (Raman Hui) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Through the Repellent Fence (Sam Wainwright Douglas) Sun Only
The Gentleman Bank Robber (Julie Perini) Sun Only Fundraiser, Discussion After
Canyon Cinema 50: Decodings Weds Only 16mm
The Departure (Lana Wilson) Weds Only Discussion After

AMC Pacific Place:

Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs
Monkey King 3 (Soi Cheang) Fri-Thurs
Monster Hunt 2 (Raman Hui) Fri-Thurs
Double Lover (François Ozon) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes (Jun Lana) Fri-Thurs
Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (Ayman Jamal & Khurram Alavi) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Paul McGuigan) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 1960) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Pedro Rivero & Alberto Vázquez) Fri-Sun
We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Messenger (Lynne Ramsay, 2011 and Oren Moverman, 2009) Thurs Only Double Feature

AMC Southcenter:

Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs
La Boda de Valentina (Marco Polo Constandse) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

Regal Thornton Place:

The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) Sun & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Looking Glass (Tim Hunter) Fri-Thurs
The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

The 15:17 to Paris (Clint Eastwood) Our Review
Fifty Shades Freed
 (James Foley) Our Review
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson) Our Review
Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Our Review
The Post (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

The 15:17 to Paris (Clint Eastwood, 2018)

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Apparently the latest Clint Eastwood film isn’t considered to be very good. The studio behind it didn’t bother to screen it for critics here in Seattle, and while I haven’t read any other reviews, I’ve been exposed to the usual inane twitter chatter, in this case people seem to be upset about a poster that appears a year before it should have. But the Saturday afternoon show I caught at my local mall was packed, and the audience seemed to be into it, so I don’t know. I liked it, as I’ve liked all of Eastwood’s recent work (I’ve seen all of them going back to 2011). Like his last two films, it’s specifically a look at what it means to be an American hero, more sophisticated than it appears on the surface, while at the same time pandering to the basest levels of patriotism.

The most obviously striking thing about The 15:17 Paris of course is that it is a recreation of actual events performed by the actual people involved in them, a trio of Americans (Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler), two of them serving in the military, who foiled a terrorist attack on a train in France in 2015. The film begins with the prelude to the attack, close-ups of the feet and pants of the terrorist as he walks through the terminal and gets on the train, and we’ll see flashes of the event itself throughout the rest of the movie, but first it skips back in time to when the three met as middle schoolers. This early section of the film is the least interesting, mostly because the script is extraordinarily artless (poor Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer, saddled with lines like “My God is bigger than your statistics!”, which is probably something that that character would actually say, but just sounds phony in a motion picture). But once the kids grow up and the real people take over the roles, the movie takes off.

Stone is the best of them, and his story gets the most focus. He joins the Air Force, utterly sincere in his desire to help people the best way he can, but keeps flunking out of the various specialties he tries. He never does see any action, as far as we can tell, and Skarlatos, also in the military and stationed in Afghanistan, doesn’t seem to be doing much better: the lone scene we get of his deployment is a bit of excitement caused by his leaving his backpack behind in a village. The two men agree to meet up in Germany, and Sadler goes along with them, for the adventure of seeing Europe. Despite the utter ineffectuality of his service thus far, Stone, he tells Sadler, remains convinced that he is meant to do something meaningful in the world, that his whole life has been leading him to a decisive point.

And of course it is. We know that because we know the story already (if we didn’t before walking into the theatre, those flash-forwards have explained it for us). Stone is able to be so convincing in his performance because he isn’t acting, it isn’t at this point a matter of faith or belief for him: he knows for a fact that he will accomplish something great that will save people’s lives. This is different from the kind of performance required of Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, a movie about a man who also believed he was destined to save people, but whom the means of that saving (namely shooting a great many other people) took a toll on his psyche that he himself may not have understood. It’s different as well from the performance of Tom Hanks in Sully, about a different kind of heroism, the pragmatic working class “just doing my job” non-chalance that is the ideal of a different, less faith-based American masculinity. Stone and his friends’ uniqueness is their unwavering confidence, a confidence that comes from knowing that the ending to their story will be a happy one. It bleeds into every scene in the film, whether they’re making smoothies, failing a medical training class, telling lame jokes in Italy or hungover in Amsterdam. An actor could never convey the truth of their belief, only the real people could have done it.

Eastwood doesn’t critique this ideal, this vision of ultra-confident, beneficent American masculinity, as he might have done in American Sniper, depending on who you ask, or as he’s done in films like Unforgiven or even J. Edgar. But he does capture its essence, and that’s not nothing.

Friday February 9 – Thursday February 15

Featured Film:

The Seattle Screen Valentine’s Scene

Nothing really stands out as the must-see Film to Feature this week, but there are a number of romantic options for your Valentine’s Week plans. In repertory: the Ark Lodge has a pair of criminal duos with Bonnie & Clyde and Thelma & Louise, while the Central Cinema has Moonstruck (RIP John Mahoney) and Before Sunrise, and the Grand plays Harold & Maude and Say Anything… (RIP John Mahoney). If you’re tastes are more. . . unconventional, there’s 9 1/2 Weeks at the Grand Illusion and, in wide release, The Shape of Water, Phantom Thread, and Fifty Shades Freed. And if you just want to see something great, there’s Edward Yang’s newly restored classic Taipei Story playing at the Pickford in Bellingham.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Bonnie & Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) Fri-Weds
Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991) Fri-Weds

Central Cinema:

Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987) Fri, Sat, Tues & Weds
Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995) Fri, Sat, Tues & Weds

SIFF Egyptian:

Depth Perception (Christopher Murphy & Justin Taylor Smith) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Mazinger Z: INFINITY (Junji Shimizu) Sun & Mon Only

Grand Cinema:

Harold & Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971) Sat Only
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
Say Anything… (Cameron Crowe, 1989) Weds Only
Siblings are Forever (Frode Fimland, 2013) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Insult (Ziad Doueiri) Fri-Thurs
Saturday Secret Matinee: Very Bad Deals Sat Only 16mm
Erased Etchings (Linda Fenstermaker) Tues Only 16mm & Digital
9 1/2 Weeks (Adrian Lyne, 1986) Weds Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Chalo (Venky Kudumula) Fri-Thurs
Toliprema (Venky Atluri) Fri-Thurs
Padman (R. Balki) Fri-Thurs
Intelligent (V. V. Vinayak) Fri-Thurs
Gayatri (Madan) Fri-Thurs
Bhaagamathie (G. Ashok) Fri-Thurs
Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
Mazinger Z: INFINITY (Junji Shimizu) Sun & Mon Only

Regal Meridian:

Padman (R. Balki) Fri-Thurs
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

The Cage Fighter (Jeff Unay) Fri-Thurs Director Q&A Fri & Sat
Infinity Baby (Bob Byington) Fri-Sun Editor Q&A Fri
Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2018 Sat Only
I Don’t Hate Las Vegas Anymore (Caveh Zahedi, 1994) Sat Only

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes (Jun Lana) Fri-Thurs
Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (Ayman Jamal & Khurram Alavi) Fri-Thurs

Pickford Film Center:

Taipei Story (Edward Yang, 1985) Tues Only
Nanook of the North with In the Land of the War Canoes (Robert Flaherty, 1922 and Edward Curtis, 1913) Sun Only

AMC Seattle:

2018 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

From The Alphabet to Eraserhead (David Lynch) Fri Only

SIFF Film Center:

Big Sonia (Leah Warshawski & Todd Soliday) Fri-Thurs Q&A Fri & Sat
Elvis, Evergreens, and Umbrellas: 50 Years of Seattle on the Big Screen Sun Only
Love Street (Patrice Leconte, 2002) Weds Only

AMC Southcenter:

La Boda de Valentina (Marco Polo Constandse) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

SIFF Uptown:

2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Permission (Brian Crano) Fri-Thurs
Mazinger Z: INFINITY (Junji Shimizu) Sun & Mon Only

In Wide Release:

Fifty Shades Freed (James Foley) Our Review
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson) Our Review
Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Our Review
The Commuter (Jaume Collet-Serra) Our Review
The Post (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

Fifty Shades Freed (James Foley, 2018)

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Fifty Shades Freed, the latest and supposedly final entry in the continuing story of a young beautiful sub and her filthy rich dom, sees the happy couple finally married but finding the bonds of marriage significantly more uncomfortable than the handcuffs they use in their tepid sex. Ana’s mad that the architect designing their new home has the hots for Christian and struggles to fit in at a new job (that he gave her) which doesn’t seem to involve any actual work (except for the part where she tells someone to “increase the font size two points”). Christian doesn’t really want kids but he seems to do very little else but think about screwing his wife, which tends to have certain results. You can see where this is headed. They go on several vacations and eventually the creepy stalker boss from the last movie turns up and some kidnapping hijinks ensue. In very occasional spots, with Christian’s servants adjusting to their new mistress and the young bride adjusting to her secretive, paranoid husband, it almost resembles a wannabe poptimist Rebecca, only with a completely uninvestigated, bizarrely aspirational streak. As if we were expected to find it really romantic that the new Mrs. de Winter secretly hoped Maxim would eventually shoot her too.

As mainstream sexploitation goes this series is mostly inadequate, serving up more lifestyle porn than actual sex, let alone anything that any decent pervert would consider outré. It’s sadomasochism described by someone who wouldn’t even dream of being tied up in bed. One wonders if the alleged kink on display is meant to ground the wealth of these incredibly rich blanks in something supposedly relatable or if their wealth is meant to make the kink seem in some small way exotic. Either way, it’s kind of amazing that a woman who can’t even handle someone flirting with her husband and a man who suspects he’s being abandoned after a few missed phone calls could somehow manage the serious trust required for a sexual relationship in which someone asks you to hurt them while you fuck.

Friday February 2 – Thursday February 8

Featured Film:

A Brighter Summer Day at the Pickford Film Center

The SIFF Film Center’s Thursday night documentary triple feature of Los Sures, Stations fo the Elevated and Dark Days certainly looks cool, and the Canyon Cinema series being presented by the Grand Illusion and Northwest Film Forum looks to be one of the more exciting experimental film events of the year, but it’s been awhile since we looked at our neighbor to the far north, Bellingham, and their outstanding independent theatre, the Pickford Film Center. And this weekend they’re playing Edward Yang’s monumental A Brighter Summer Day, which we talked about way back on Episode Five of The Frances Farmer Show and which I reviewed at the sadly now-defunct Movie Mezzanine (you can read the review now at The Chinese Cinema. It’s a great movie, of course, and one of the neat things about it is that its running time is longer than the time it probably takes you to drive from Seattle to Bellingham and back again. The Pickford also has Nanook of the North on Sunday, and Yang’s Taipei Story next weekend.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Weds Our Review Our Other Review
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959) Fri-Thurs
To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955) Fri-Thurs
The Violent Years (William Morgan, 1956) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993) Fri, Sat & Mon
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014) Fri-Tues Our Review

Grand Cinema:

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993) Sat Only
Django (Etienne Comar) Tues Only
Santa & Andres (Carlos Lechuga) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Vazante (Daniela Thomas) Fri-Thurs
Canyon Cinema 50: Associations (Various) Sat Only 16mm
Saturday Secret Matinee: Very Bad Deals Sat Only 16mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Chalo (Venky Kudumula) Fri-Thurs
Humble Politician Nograj (Saad Khan) Fri-Thurs
Oru Nalla Naal Paathu Solren (Arumuga Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Touch Chesi Chudu (Vikram Sirikonda) Fri-Thurs
Bhaagamathie (G. Ashok) Fri-Thurs
Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Til the End of the World (Wu Youyin) Fri-Thurs
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

The Road Movie (Dmitrii Kalashnikov) Fri & Sun Only
Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2018 Fri-Sun
Infinity Baby (Bob Byington) Starts Weds Editor in Attendance
Canyon Cinema 50: Studies in Natural Magic (Various) Thurs Only 16mm
The Cage Fighter (Jeff Unay) Starts Thurs Director Q&A Thurs-Sat

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Padmaavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) Fri-Thurs
Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes (Jun Lana) Fri-Thurs
Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (Ayman Jamal & Khurram Alavi) Fri-Thurs

Pickford Film Center:

A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991) Sat Only Our Podcast Our Review
Nanook of the North with In the Land of the War Canoes (Robert Flaherty, 1922 and Edward Curtis, 1913) Sun Only

AMC Seattle:

In the Fade (Fatih Akin) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Magician (Ingmar Bergman, 1958) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

A Ciambra (Jonas Carpignano) Fri-Thurs
Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore) Sat Only
Los Sures, Stations of the Elevated and Dark Days (Diego Echeverria, 1984; Manfred Kirchheimer, 1981; and Marc Singer, 2000) Thurs Only Triple Feature

In Wide Release:

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson) Our Review
Hostiles (Scott Cooper) Our Review
The Commuter (Jaume Collet-Serra) Our Review
The Post (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review