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)


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.