Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train (Sotozaki Haruo, 2020)

The highest grossing film in the world in 2020 was, for the first time since people have been tracking such trivia, not an American movie. It was a continuation of an anime television show about a teen-aged demon slayer set a hundred years ago, in Taisho-era Japan. The Demon Slayer movie has made well over $400 million thus far, easily surpassing Spirited Away to become both the highest-grossing anime and the highest-grossing Japanese film ever made, and the popularity of the series has rocketed the manga on which it’s based (which began in 2016) to become one of the most popular of all-time as well. It’s not hard to see why: the series is slick and bright, with exciting action sequences and compelling world-building, alongside an unabashedly earnest emotional core. That heartfelt sense of compassion is about the only thing that Demon Slayer has in common with the best anime films of recent years (Yamada Naoko’s Liz and the Blue Bird and A Silent Voice, Shinkai Makoto’s Your Name and Weathering with You, Yuasa Masaaki’s Ride Your Wave), and it distinguishes it from the kind of cynical pandering that characterizes so much of the American superhero work with which it shares certain generic similarities. The result, popular as it obviously has been in Japan, seems ill-suited to the US market: too formulaic for the slice-of-life anime fans, too openly decent for those with an unhealthy fixation on Disney’s intellectual property.

The movie doesn’t do much to contextualize the story, instead assuming that we’re all familiar with the characters and mythology that has been built up thus far across the 26 episodes of the show. In a nutshell: teen hero Kamado Tanjiro comes home one day to find that his entire family has been murdered by demons, all but his younger sister Naoko, who has been turned into a demon herself. The demons function or or less like vampires: they need to feed on human flesh, you become one by drinking their blood (well, one specific demon’s blood), and you can only kill them with sunlight or by chopping off their head with a special demon-slaying sword. The demons become stronger the more humans they consume, eventually developing strange magical powers that make every one of them unique. This accounts for some of the most clever aspects of the series: one demon rearranges the rooms in the house he lives in by beating a drum; another uses spider webs to manipulate humans like marionettes; a third dissolves into a swampy black pool that sucks unsuspecting victims underground. Tanjiro trains to become a demon slayer in order to find a way to turn Naoko back into a human, while she refrains from eating any humans and is eventually accepted as a kind of adjunct to the demon slaying corps.

The first season (the second is set to air sometime this year) follows Tanjiro as he learns various breathing and sword techniques and fights ever more dangerous demons. It’s comprised of several multi-episode arcs, which have subsequently been combined into feature-length movies. These arcs are filled with flashbacks and internal monologues, for both the slayers and demons: ultimately the conflicts are as much internal and psychological as they are about finding a weakness in an enemy’s defense and chopping off its head. In the show, Tanjiro meets a number of fascinating characters, deepening the show’s mythology and helping distinguish it from its generic forebears (it reminded me most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but without the metaphor and Whedonism). Unlike Liz and the Blue Bird, which was a spin-off of the series Sound! Euphonium and very different in both animation style and character focus, the Mugen Train movie is a seamless extension of its series, essentially one of these story extended story arcs. Tanjiro and Naoko, along with their similarly young compatriots Inosuke (who wears a boar’s head mask) and Zenitsu (who is outwardly girl-crazy, manic and cowardly but subconsciously highly competent), are assigned to assist one of the top demon slayers, Rengoku, master of the Flame Technique, in stopping a demon who has taken over a train. This demon is one of the most powerful we’ve seen, part of an elite group serving the head demon, Kibutsuji Muzan, and their ability involves controlling dreams. The slayers board the train, the demon puts them to sleep and tries to destroy their souls from inside their subconscious. Will they awaken in time?

The action and animation in Demon Slayer is bright, cartoonish, and fun (some sight gags reminded me of no less than Nichijou), although as clever as most of the demon powers are, the structure of the fights can feel repetitive (Tanjiro gets beaten badly, learns to breathe better, then gets more powerful), lacking the propulsive energy of the fighting in 2019’s Promare, to compare with one recent anime . But that’s more than made up for by Tanjiro’s great strength as a hero-figure, which is his compassion. Seemingly alone among the show’s universe, Tanjiro is able to pity and forgive the demons. He has a purity of soul that contrasts sharply with the brutal violence of the world he finds himself in. This, more than the flashy animation and reliable serialized storytelling is what ultimately makes Demon Slayer so effective, this balance between blood and grace.

2020 in Review

Mike’s photo of the burnt-down Seven Gables Theatre.

Hard to find a more appropriate image for our 2020 year in review than the burnt-out husk of the Seven Gables, once the thriving heart of the Seattle screen scene. It’s been a terrible, wasted year, but there were some things that helped us endure it.

Ryan Swen:

Ten Films That Kept Me Sane in Isolation

Quarantine was an especially strange experience for me because I can divide it into two distinctly different phases: when I was living by myself with no in-person human contact in a small apartment for the first four months, and the slowly unspooling existence I’ve since led with my parents on the other side of the country. Though the former at this point seems like a distant memory, I did manage to see many films at that time that stuck with me — certainly more than I have in the intervening time period. I’ve listed ten films from those months that helped ground my mental state in how transportive and beautiful they were, along what emotions they made me feel, ordered by when I saw them. 

Simones Barbès or Virtue (1980, Marie-Claude Treilhou)

Because hanging out with sad, lonely, impossibly cool queer people sounds like heaven.

The Love Eterne (1963, Li Han-hsiang)

Because a hidden, impossible love can be expressed with maximal means.

At This Late Date, the Charleston (1981, Kihachi Okamoto)

Because even a totally absurd community is still a community.

Femmes Femmes (1974, Paul Vecchiali)

Because it’s immensely moving to see people dealing with their own self-imposed isolation.

Sparrow (2008, Johnnie To)

Because the city is an ever-expanding, inviting, and mysterious place that I miss dearly.

Afternoon (2015, Tsai Ming-liang)

Because having a simple conversation can be the most captivating thing in the world.

Peking Opera Blues (1986, Tsui Hark)

Because finding lasting friendships in the heat of a struggle will never not be appealing.

Beijing Watermelon (1989, Nobuhiko Obayashi)

Because forming new families rooted in specific spaces is unbearably intimate.

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (2007, Adam Curtis)

Because offering the slightest bit of hope for the revolution after hours of dismay registers as an impossibly generous gesture.

Perceval le Gallois (1978, Eric Rohmer)

Because artifice can sometimes be the truest representation of all.

For good measure, here’s my actual 2020 top ten list (US release year):

1. Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello)
2. To the Ends of the Earth (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
3. Fourteen (Dan Sallitt)
4. The Grand Bizarre (Jodie Mack)
5. I Was at Home, But… (Angela Schanelec)
6. The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio)
7. Heimat Is a Space in Time (Thomas Heise)
8. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
9. Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa)
10. The Whistlers (Corneliu Porumboiu)

Sue Lonac:

I’ll preface this list by saying that I missed a lot of great media this year (e.g., Nomadland, any book that doesn’t have pictures) largely because my obsessive focus on the pandemic reduced my attention span to a point of infinite density and zero size. Below is what got me through this awful year with a portion of my sanity somewhat intact:

  1. First Cow (dir. Kelly Reichardt). I reviewed this beautiful, meditative, perfectly crafted movie for Seattle Screen Scene here as soon as it went into wide release in 2020. It’s the best indie film I’ve seen since Moonlight
  1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (dir. Eliza Hittman). As she did in It Felt Like Love (2013), Eliza Hittman here tells a painful, powerful story of a distinctively female experience—in this case, needing an abortion—in a way that’s authentic, truthful, and startlingly precise. No other filmmaker lays open young women’s minds and hearts the way Hittman does.
  1. Season 2 of The Mandalorian. I take my Star Wars very, very seriously, so I don’t lightly say that Din Djarin has the best-realized character arc of anyone in the Star Wars universe. By the end of Season 2, the whole sweep of his development—from armored-and-helmeted zealot to full-hearted person—has been made visible in three high-impact, symbolic shots. The first time that helmet comes off, someone takes it off of him. The second time, he takes it off by necessity, because he can’t save the life of his child any other way. The third time, he takes it off because he wants to take it off, in order to be face-to-face with his only family, because love is more important than hewing to the letter of the law. Beautiful.
  1. The Forty-Year-Old Version (dir. Radha Blank). Loosely based on her own life, Blank’s dramedy follows a playwright approaching midlife who attempts to reinvent herself as a rapper. Clearly influenced by the ‘90s work of Spike Lee and Cheryl Dunye yet still wholly original, the film reflects on the power and danger of nostalgia, the cruelties of youth and age, and the tensions between art and commerce. Blank makes smart and startling use of still shots, black-and-white cinematography, and jabs of color to tell her story, but it’s the music and words that ground this film in a mood. The “Queen of the Ring” rap battle scene is breathtaking, indelible, and all too short.
  1. Mujeres (Y La Bamba). This is a cheat, since this album actually came out in 2019, but its sonic inventiveness and sincere lyricism kept me going through some of the thornier patches of 2020. Portland-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Luz Elena Mendoza has done some of the most original work in the indie music world of this (old) decade. I eagerly follow her into the new one.
  1. Solutions and Other Problems (Allie Brosh). Author and artist Brosh is more forthcoming about the darker phases of her own life in this graphic novel than she was in Hyperbole and a Half, though no less piercingly funny. The hilarious story of her bizarre childhood fixation on fitting her entire body into a bucket rivals anything the great David Sedaris has ever written for pure, weird comic brilliance.
  1. Soul (dir. Pete Docter and Kemp Powers). Though not top-tier Pixar for comedy, Soul surpasses most Pixar product for maturity and humanity. (Nothing tops the silent sequence that opened Up for sheer force of feeling.) Child-friendly yet not really a children’s movie,Soul breaks new ground for CG animation in vividly realized scenes of a hyperreal “real” world, seen through the eyes of someone who’s new here.
  1. Ted Lasso. Warm-hearted, funny, earnest, and joyful, this show is the perfect antidote to irony overload, truthiness, and the crushing cruelties of this year. Jason Sudeikis’ title character is a human ray of sunshine.
  1. In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt. The opposite of escapism, this podcast confronts the scientific and human realities of the pandemic head-on. The sanity and realism of Slavitt’s guest interviews makes this essential listening.
  1. Criterion’s 4K restoration of Beau Travail (dir. Claire Denis). I reviewed this luminous masterwork for Seattle Screen Scene here. Criterion beautifully restored the sharp edges and brilliant light of the original. This is film art given the loving treatment it deserves. 

Jhon Hernandez:

I did not see many 2020 films (or many films period), but these made an impression.

MY BOYFRIEND’S MEDS

A crass sex comedy in mode of the late 80’s Blake Edwards such as SKIN DEEP and BLIND DATE, full of destruction and disintegration. Jaime Camil gives a great unashamed performance.

DA 5 BLOODS

More unruly than BLACKKKLANSMAN, wilder in its ambitions, its failures – but everything feels necessary. Spike Lee’s interventions into his material breathe life into everything, making the film resolutely of the Now. For better or for worse.

AN AFTERNOON AT THE CINEMATEQUE

Resides somewhere in the same universe as Moullet’s LES SIÈGES DE L’ALCAZAR – a cinephile work taking place in and around a cinemateque. The energy, however, is rather different  – it is a more romantic proposition with a climactic scene taking place during a screening of Ford’s THE QUIET MAN. Any film that gives that much screen time to Ford’s masterpiece and tries to communicate with it is dear to me.

Mike Strenski:

Perhaps it’s the aesthetics of the year itself but 2020 has me thinking in pairs.

Labyrinthine Literary Conspiracies

I read several great novels this year (shout out to Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half which is the best novel from 2020 that I read) but two really stuck with me. Both were about protagonists uncovering hidden worlds; were they peeling back the layers on a vast conspiracy or were they just being fucked with by sadists? Both The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and John Fowles’ The Magus sent me down rabbit holes of paranoia that were far more entertaining than the stupid conspiracies that gained traction in the real world this year.

Baseball Bookends

Getting only a third of a season this year, with no chance of seeing a game in person, meant that I shotgunned baseball like I was No-Face at the lunch buffet. And my beloved Oakland Athletics did not disappoint. First, on a belated Opening Day of July freakin’ 24th, A’s slugger Matt Olson hit a walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning to start the season off right.

The A’s handily won the American League West but because of stupid 2020 had to play in a Wild Card series anyway. The Wild Card has not been kind to the A’s who lost an absolutely maddening affair to the Royals in 2014 (I still experience anxiety when I remember that game) and losses in the previous two Wild Cards. But they won this year, beating the ascendant White Sox in a three-game series, finally brushing off the narrative that the A’s aren’t equipped for the postseason.

(We will not speak of the ALDS.)

Favorite Albums Released in 2020

The two new albums I played the most were, in their respective ways, the most reflective of the year in question. The latest Run the Jewels record was another homebrewed bottle of lightning from Killer Mike and El-P, released into the maelstrom of righteous and indignant anger to hold police accountable in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others. There is no better example of 2020’s overall vibe than hearing the guy who just five years ago wrote and performed the Grammy-winning song, literally called “Happy” appearing on RTJ4 to remind us to, “look at all these slavemasters posing on your dollar”.

Speaking of timely, who other than Sparks could churn out a catchy chorus of “put your fucking iPhone down and listen to me” without it being utterly cringe-inducing? With The Magnetic Fields releasing their worst album ever this year it was left to the Mael Brothers to gift us with another record of indelible and erudite songs with A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip. (I’m also a nerd for album sequencing that comments on itself and placing “One for the Ages” after “Self-Effacing” is just perfect.) 2021 is going to be the real Year of Sparks as Edgar Wright’s documentary about the band premieres at Sundance next month and Leos Carax’s Sparks-penned musical starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard will be hot on its heels (and I have a ticket to see Sparks in Amsterdam in May–yeah, I know that’s not likely to happen) but Sparks have been, ahem, a steady presence for five decades now if you’re paying attention.

Two Old Albums I Discovered This Year

I have always appreciated Talking Heads from a distance. More often than not, Weird Al’s ¨Dog Eat Dog¨ scratches that itch for me before I need to pull out Remain in Light. But when my dad died at the beginning of the year I drove out to Astoria for a few days to process his passing. In my hotel room one night I finally watched David Byrne’s only feature film, True Stories. I had heard the singles from the Talking Heads record before but never these alternate versions, sung by actors in the film. Somehow that re-contextualization hooked me and I have listened to that record, both the soundtrack version and the proper album, many times in the months since. “Dream Operator” will forever be linked to my dad now.

Quite possibly my favorite discovery of the year in any medium was oddball folk artist Michael Hurley’s 1971 album Armchair Boogie. The album is full of catchy songs about werewolves, insane men who think they’re English nobility, and whatever the hell the playful “Open Up” is about, with its eternal lips, winking stars, and plea to, “let me slide to sweet bye-and-bye”. The album is a ramshackle affair, with Hurley’s voice cracking and friends laughing. In a year when we lost contact with one another, it was nice to find a new old friend.

Here is a playlist of new songs by old favorites and old songs newly discovered (including those mentioned above) that took over my year.

Oh, this is a film website? Whoops. Uh, here are…

The Ten Best Films I Discovered This Year

  1. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
  2. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
  3. Om Shanti Om
  4. Shree 420
  5. To Be or Not to Be
  6. That Man from Rio
  7. Holy Flame of the Martial World
  8. The Best Years of Our Lives
  9. Baahubali
  10. Morvern Callar

Sean Gilman:

My favorite films that opened in Seattle this year (or close enough at least):

1. The History of the Seattle Mariners (Jon Bois)
2. Labyrinth of Cinema (Obayashi Nobuhiko)
3. Yourself and Yours (Hong Sangoo)
4. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
5. Undine (Christian Petzold)
6. To the Ends of the Earth (Kurosawa Kiyoshi)
7. Fourteen (Dan Sallitt)
8. Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles)
9. The Grand Bizarre (Jodie Mack)
10. Days (Tsai Ming-liang)
11. Mangrove (Steve McQueen)
12. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
13. Jallikattu (Lijo Jose Pellissery)
14. Hill of Freedom (Hong Sangsoo)
15. We Have Boots (Evans Chan)
16. Ham on Rye (Tyler Taormina)
17. Ride Your Wave (Yuasa Masaaki)
18. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee)
19. The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson)
20. The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sangsoo)
21. Tesla (Michael Almereyda)
22. Monster Hunter (Paul WS Anderson)
23. Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello)
24. Point and Line to Plane (Sofia Bohdanowicz)
25. Greyhound (Aaron Schneider)

Some of the other good things about 2020: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Farah Khan, Meiko Kaji, Bob Clark, Alan Rudolph, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek, George Eliot, Waxahatchee, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, WKCR’s Duke Ellington birthday marathon, WKCR’s weekly Across 110th Street program, reading books about jazz and Bach that I don’t understand at all, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ross MacDonald, Library of America’s American Noir of the 1930s collection, the Library of America in general, Jack Kerouac, Denis Johnson, John LeCarre, David Graeber, Herman Melville, Wuthering Heights, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gossip Girl, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Nichijou, George A. Romero, DK Metcalf, Damian Lillard, Jamal Adams, Yuen Biao, Moon Lee, Ching Siu-tung, Edward Yang, Sean Connery, Adam Sandler, Peter Falk, Samantha Mathis, Lata Mangeshkar, Imtiaz Ali, Albert Brooks, dumb superhero movies, Disneyland, Milla Jovovich, Stephy Tang, Faye Wong, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, “Murder Most Foul”, “Dhoom Taana”, Veronica Ngo, Johnny Tri Nguyen, playing Hades, Johnnie To, Meiko Kaji’s floppy hat, Gore Verbinski, Masaaki Yuasa, SS Rajamouli, and the Seattle Mariners.

Evan Morgan:

For a number of reasons that require no explanation, and for a few others that I could not explain if I tried, I find myself with very little to say at the end of this year. The art that kept me company these long lonely months will have to speak on my behalf.

Il cavaliere misterioso (Riccardo Freda) / A Ride on a Tiger (David Stacton)

“He had never coveted power. He was a libertarian. But for a young man of his spirit and address it was no mean pleasure to invade states, conquer cities and travel in pomp like a prince. He had always behaved like a Byronic hero, but to be treated like one had been another matter. To give all that up was too much like giving up youth and promise themselves. His vanity, above all else, was piqued.”

Équation à un inconnu (Dietrich de Velsa) / The Mausoleum of Lovers (Hervé Guibert)

“Saturday, March 16. C. has gone up to bed. I remain alone with T. He sucks me off, behind the shutters of a snow storm.

(The Man Without Qualities: the dream of a great work)”

Sonia (Takis Kanellopoulos) / The Hour of the Star (Clarice Lispector)

“She thought she’d incur serious punishment and even risk dying if she took too much pleasure in life. So she protected herself from death by living less, consuming so little of her life that she’d never run out. This savings gave her a little security since you can’t fall farther than the ground. Did she feel she was living for nothing? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. Only once did she ask a tragic question: who am I? It frightened her so much that she completely stopped thinking. But I, who can’t quite be her, feel that I live for nothing. I am gratuitous and pay my light, gas and phone bills. As for her, she sometimes on payday bought herself a rose.”

Let Joy Reign Supreme (Bertrand Tavernier) / Casanova’s Homecoming (Arthur Schnitzler)

“Did he regret what he had lost through his perpetual seeking and never or ever finding, through this earthly and super-earthly flitting from craving to pleasure and from pleasure back to craving once more? No, he had no regrets. He had lived such a life as none other before him; and could he not still live it after his own fashion?”

Barabbas (Richard Fleischer) / The Snow of the Admiral (Álvaro Mutis)

“These disasters, these decisions that are wrong from the start, these dead ends that constitute the story of my life, are repeated over and over again. A passionate vocation for happiness, always betrayed and misdirected, ends in a need for total defeat; it is completely foreign to what, in my heart of hearts, I’ve always known could be mine if it weren’t for this constant desire to fail.”

Am Meer (Ute Aurand) / “Reading” (Paul Willems)

“As I read this text, I was often borne aloft on a wave, the one that carries us away when we read a text that reveals one of the secrets of the world. I close my book, leap toward the door, tear down the stairs, tear into the yard. As if there, in the night, news were about to reach me from on high. It is January. The winter is damp, darkness all around in its gentle permanence. The old trees, old guardians of the old house, await, massive and unmoving. I realize that they have always been there, and it is me they are waiting for.”

Wonder Women Monster Hunting

It’s been a bad year for movies of course, and an even worse one for superhero movies. The genre that has come to dominate the Hollywood blockbuster market, devouring its competitors like Orson Welles’s planet-devouring Unicron in Transformers: The Movie, or like his equally grotesque chili-devouring Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil, has spent most of the year in frozen hibernation, waiting out the plague-induced shut-down of the nation’s multiplexes. But here at the tail-end of 2020, we have a Christmas miracle of sorts: Warners, in an apparent bid to burn down its theatrical arm in order to boost the subscription rate of its nascent streaming platform, and thus inflate the corporation’s stock value in the eyes of investors blinded by shiny things, is releasing its follow-up to 2017’s warmly-received Wonder Woman straight to HBO Max. At the same time, Sony has rolled out a hybrid theatrical/VOD release for its much-delayed adaptation of the Monster Hunter video game*, directed by the equally lauded and reviled Paul WS Anderson. Taken together, the two provide a convenient contrast of the different strains in the superhero genre: the white elephants of the MCU, Star Wars, and DC versus the termitic team of Anderson and his star/wife Milla Jovovich.

Patty Jenkins’s 2017 Wonder Woman was a solid entry in the MCU/DC wars, a reasonably deft origin-story movie that was helped enormously by the charm and absurd beauty of its two stars, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. The sequel picks up 65 years later, with Diana Prince now working in the Smithsonian and Steve Trevor long dead. Kristin Wiig and Pedro Pascal show up, along with a magic rock that grants wishes. Everyone makes a wish: Wiig for Diana’s powers, which turn her into the amoral crazy cat lady Cheetah; Diana for Steve to come back, which he does in some guy’s body (Diana alone sees him as Pine); Pascal to become the stone himself, which gives him the power to grant everyone’s wishes, but also maybe drives him crazy and makes him bleed out of his nose, ears and eyes, for some reason. It’s a Monkey’s Paw story, as the characters explain to us, several times, stretched out for an unconscionable two and a half hours. The film has only a few action sequences, including a prologue that feels like an afterthought, like a studio note to include a scene back in the land of the Amazons, and a chase down a desert highway that neatly encapsulates the film’s wrong-headed approach to both action and color.

It’s baffling that a film set in the 1980s, fueled as they were by cocaine and Day-Glo synthetics, should take as its dominant tone the color beige. Color and shadow are drained out of nearly every scene leaving a bland, flat wasteland of boring dialogue and little emotion (though Pascal does his best to chew up all the scenery left untouched by Gadot, who never appears to be occupying the same space as the other actors). Clearly this color-scheme is intentional: a labored and unfunny montage of Pine in different 80s outfits ends in him dressed in light earth tones, while Pascal has his hair dyed dirty blonde and wears a beige suit throughout. It’s like going to the beach and staring at the sand. The highway chase, set in a Middle Eastern desert (maybe simply to remind people of Gadot’s IDF past?) is so monochrome it makes the dishwater gray finale of Endgame look vibrant. But even worse is the action itself, which feels absolutely weightless and frictionless: the stunts don’t thrill because nothing tangible actually touches anything else. Diana runs around, over, and through things with no substance, her lasso expands to whatever length the effect requires, a gold line on a computer screen, at one point contracting around a lightning bolt, the impossible physics of which would be cool if it didn’t so well epitomize the flashy nothingness of the movie’s stunts. It’s just all so boring.

And then there’s the film’s subtext, which at the end of this dreadful year of politics is hard to read as anything other than liberal left-punching. Wonder Woman 1984 is about abandoning hope, about the dangers of wishing for things to be better than the way they are. Charitably, it could be read as a paean to Obamaist pragmatism, that there are no shortcuts in life and that change takes hard work which manifests itself in facing hard truths and choosing to do very little about them. It’s hard to make a superhero fantasy movie about how better things aren’t possible, so I guess this is some kind of an accomplishment (and maybe in more subversive hands this idea would in some way connect to the year chosen for the film’s title: the story of a liberal totalitarianism in which the illusion of freedom is granted in exchange for the elimination of imagination). In a way, I kind of admire the perversity of making an 80s throwback movie without using any 80s music and the audacity of making a superhero movie that only Amy Klobuchar could love.

Monster Hunter, on the other hand, has very little in the way of political subtext outside of a vague ideal of people from different worlds uniting together to, well, hunt monsters. Milla Jovovich leads a team of Army Rangers on a search and rescue mission for some other lost soldiers in a desert specified only by longitude and latitude (PWSA does love his maps) but filmed in South Africa. They get lost in a weird sand and lightning storm and end up transported to some new world filled with giant monsters, which attack them almost immediately and eventually wipe-out everyone but Milla. She’s rescued/captured by Tony Jaa, apparently a native of this world, and the two work together to get past the giant beasts blocking their way to a mysterious tower that might send Milla home and unite Tony with his friends and family.

Like all of Anderson’s work, Monster Hunter is neatly structured and rife with cinematic homages. The opening scenes of army-bonding could come out of any war movie made over the past 70 years, gentle ribbing and gun-loading meant to establish character and camaraderie in anticipation of the loss of life to come. It’s here that the corniness of PWSA’s dialogue really shines, though for once his terrible sense of humor has had real consequences as one of his lame puns was taken as a racist insult by seemingly the entire nation of China, killing the film’s box office in that country and, as a result, probably any hope of a sequel in what could have been a promising franchise (the offending joke has been cut from the movie and was not in the screener I watched). The genericness of this opening is, for PWSA fans, part of its charm: he’s one of the few directors in Hollywood today who really believes in the power of cliche. It’s what makes his films feel so refreshing: not a hint of hypocrisy in PWSA’s pumpkin patch, nor cynicism nor smirking contempt for his subject or audience.

The army scenes are followed by a terrifying underground sequence (another PWSA hallmark: he’s suggested that his fear of/attraction to confined spaces has something to do with his youth in coal-mining country) that recalls Aliens at its best. Then the movie settles down for a long middle section that reminded me of nothing less than a remake of John Boorman’s great 1968 film Hell in the Pacific, but with Jovovich and Jaa in the Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune roles. The two start out as enemies, capturing and recapturing each other between fist fights, before finally deciding to work together toward their common goal, which, true to the source material, involves killing one monster to get parts to make a weapon to kill another, bigger monster.

It’s all a great deal of fun, and despite the artificiality of it all (the monsters are of course computer-generated) the action always looks coherent and real. Jovovich and Jaa are both marvelous physical actors and they have an uncanny ability to make the audience feel every kick, punch, stab, and tail-swipe, whether it comes from stunt performers or pixels. Anderson has long been noted for the coherence of his action scenes, a skill he has not lost as he and his editor Doobie White have adopted a faster-cutting aesthetic, which began with their last film, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. It’s important to note that Anderson’s use of quick cuts is wholly different from what I’ll call the R. Scott/Greengrass/Nolan school of editing, which uses speed and shakiness to cover up deficiencies in performers, choreographers, and computers, using chaos to convey a dizziness that’s somewhat akin to the experience of watching action on film. Anderson though is working from what I’ll call the Ching Siu-tung tradition, which uses quick editing for that vertiginous effect while also staying spatially coherent and thus additionally providing the vicarious thrill of a performed stunt (physical or virtual or some combination thereof). When done well, as in Ching’s Swordsman movies, Tsui Hark’s The Blade, Neveldine/Taylor’s 2000s romps (where Doobie White got his start as an editor), and PWSA’s recent films, quick-cut action can be just as thrilling as the master-shot aesthetic of more athletically gifted directors and performers.

As the superhero film has taken over American blockbuster cinema, there’s been a lot of speculation over where this cycle fits with generic cycles of the past, for example the Westerns, musicals and noirs of the late studio era. The question is: are there superhero films that can be made in contrast to the dominant mode of the genre, thus revealing the personality of the person making them? In other words, where are the auteurist superhero films? Is it even possible, given the extent to which the monopolist conglomerates that produce them product-test and focus-group and micromanage their material, for a filmmaker to make the equivalent of Budd Boetticher’s Ranown cycle, or John Ford’s Wagon Master or Two Rode Together, or Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, or, to bring us full circle, Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil? I think Anderson’s work is the clearest example that such a thing is possible. Monster Hunter should be, I think, like the Resident Evil series before it, considered a part of the same sci-fi/fantasy genre as Wonder Woman, the MCU films and Disney’s Star Wars films. And in addition to its palpable strengths in production and execution, it certainly reveals the personality of its director in a way none of the elephantine superhero pictures do, embracing the structures and conceits of the genre while tuning them to his own idiosyncratic interests (maps, caves, helping Milla Jovovich look really cool, etc). Years ago, I wrote about Anderson and concluded that he was Lightly Likable, the George Sidney or Busby Berkeley of his time. Since then he’s made two of his finest films, Pompeii and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, and made this promising beginning to a new cycle, one which I very much hope he’ll get the chance to continue. He’s moved himself into the expressively esoteric. “Less than meets the eye” doesn’t quite seem right for the WW84s of this cycle though, if only because in them what meets the eye is already so meagre.

*I guess the VOD part of the release hasn’t actually happened. There were rumors that it would be out at the time I wrote this, but I don’t know what the deal was.

The Seattle Screen Scene Top 100 Films of All-Time Project

When the new Sight & Sound poll came out in 2012, Mike and I each came up with hypothetical Top Tens of our own. For the next few years, we came up with an entirely new Top Ten on our podcast, The George Sanders Show, every year around Labor Day. The podcast has ended, but the project continues here at Seattle Screen Scene.

The idea is that we keep doing this until the next poll comes out in 2022, by which time we’ll each have a Top 100 list. Well, I will. Mike will have only 98 because he repeated two from his 2012 list on the 2013 one.

Here are Mike’s Top Ten Films of All-Time for 2020:

To-Be-or-Not-to-Be

1. To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)

tokyostory

2. Tokyo Story (Yasujirō Ozu, 1953)

5000fingers

3. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (Roy Rowland, 1953)

shree-420

4. Shree 420 (Raj Kapoor, 1955)

aguirre

5. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)

monty-python-and-the-holy-grail

6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, 1975)

raging bull

7. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)

om_shanti_om

8. Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan, 2007)

thelimitsofcontrolmoviestil

9. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009)

Master

10. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

And here are Sean’s Top Ten Films of All-Time for 2020:

1. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)

2. Mughal-e-azam (K. Asif, 1960)

3. Yearning (Naruse Mikio, 1964)

4. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Bill Melendez, 1966)

5. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)

6. The Terrorizers (Edward Yang, 1986)

7. Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan, 2007)

8. Dusty Stacks of Mom (Jodie Mack, 2013)

9. The Midnight After (Fruit Chan, 2014)

10. Liz and the Blue Bird (Yamada Naoko, 2018)

Sound! Euphonium: The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day (Ishihara Tatsuya, 2019)

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Liz and the Blue Bird was one of the great films of 2018. A spin-off of the slice of life anime series Sound! Euphonium, it focused exclusively on two of the show’s supporting characters, digging into their psychology and relationship as the band prepared the eponymous performance piece for a competition. It’s the strongest work yet by Yamada Naoko, one of the guiding directorial voices of the Kyoto Animation studio that was devastated last year by a deadly arson attack. This new movie, originally released here for one single show last summer but now playing at the Grand Illusion as one of their virtual cinema offerings, is not like Liz and the Blue Bird at all. Instead it is a direct extension of the series, picking up right where it left off, following the same primary characters over the next school year, but squeezed into a hundred minutes rather than patiently unfolding over the course of two dozen episodes.

It’s a curious decision, one that skims over the things that made the show so great, the small moments of human connection realized through the playing of music, in favor of a whole lot of teen melodrama plotting, mostly among new characters that we don’t much care about. The Sound! Euphonium series, like any slice of life story, anime or otherwise, is about detail, the accumulation of small, everyday moments that in the aggregate coalesce into a kind of epiphany or catharsis that can be overwhelmingly emotional. This effect isn’t unique to anime or dependent on the extended length of a TV series, by the way, two of my favorite films from last year’s VIFF, Mikhaël Hers’s Amanda and Dan Sallitt’s Fourteen (which will be getting a virtual release in the next few weeks) achieve the same kind of epiphanies in much the same way, in running times of less than two hours. A Brand New Day picks up where Sound! Euphonium left off, with the show’s main character Kumiko, a euphonium player in her high school’s concert band, moving to her onto second year. The movie follows the whole year, from the initial meeting with the incoming freshman, several of whom will have interpersonal problems which Kumiko will end up helping to solve (in keeping with the structure of the series), and culminating in the band’s performance at the regional finals, where they hope to earn a spot at the national competition.

Everything about the movie is consistent with the original series. The show’s director, Ishihara Tatsuya, is in charge, and he keeps the visual style exactly the same, where in Liz and the Blue Bird, Yamada had slightly altered it, elongating the characters and muting the color palette to give the film a somewhat less cartoonishly anime appearance. The show is structured around a series of little interpersonal mysteries where Kumiko finds herself in the position of needing to figure out why Girl A is upset at Girl B so that they can both play better and the band can improve. This works in the series not because of the stories (which are mostly generic and not all that interesting) but because they merely form the structure around which hang smaller moments of beauty and because each little story ends up illuminating some aspect of Kumiko, a character who is revealed (to herself as much as to us) only through her interactions with other people and, perhaps more so, through the music she plays. A Brand New Day still does that, but because the stories are all so compressed, they have no weight. Moments that would have been incredibly powerful in the series (Kumiko’s tentative relationship with the trombone-playing boy next door Shuichi, and her much more romantic one with star trumpeter Reina are the highlights) move by too quickly, and would be all but incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t seen the series. By the end of the movie, Kumiko doesn’t seem to be all that different from when it began.

The film’s highlight, in fact, is the final concert, which is also its only extended musical sequence. And its power comes not through any of the characters we’ve focused on for the previous hour and a half, but rather in the oboe solo that was the primary focus of Liz and the Blue BirdLiz takes place somewhere in the middle of the school year depicted in A Brand New Day, and while we see the shy but brilliant oboist Mizore in the background a few times, she doesn’t, as far as I could tell, have a single line (just as Kumiko and the series’ other primary characters were sidelined in Liz). The concert in fact doesn’t feel like the accumulation of Kumiko’s story at all, or any of the other primary characters from the movie. It’s the epilogue to Mizore’s story, the only one from this school year that really seems to matter.

Seattle Screen Scene Update

As all the theatres in town continue to be closed for the foreseeable future, a couple have taken to the internet. Both the Northwest Film Forum and the Grand Illusion are hosting online screenings of films they had been planning to play before the quarantine hit. The NWFF has Bacurau and Vitalina Varela along with some Local Sightings selections and more, while the Grand Illusion has Wild Goose Lake and Saint Frances. Check ’em out and help support the theatres we love.

In other news, I don’t know if Seattle Screen Scene will be returning in its old form once the quarantine ends. When we started five years ago, it was significantly harder to find information or listings about specialty releases (art house, repertory, and Chinese/Korean/Indian movies) in the city than it is now. In that sense, the weekly listings on the site have become obsolete. We’ll still keep the site going, if nothing else for its list of links to all the theatres in town. And we’ll still have the occasional review and festival coverage (SIFF has been cancelled this year but we still have hopes for VIFF). But as a regular source of coverage of what’s playing in the area every week, the site has been slowing down for a long time and it’s time to pull the plug.

On a more positive note, here’s this scene from Om Shanti Om (which played at the Beacon a couple weeks ago).

 

 

Friday March 13 – Thursday March 19

Sonia Braga as Domingas - Victor Jucá
Featured Film:

Bacurau at the SIFF Uptown

Things are changing fast around Seattle as theatres decide whether or not to remain open, or remain partially open, or just close altogether. The Grand Illusion is closed until April beginning on Friday, as are the Seattle Art Museum’s film programs, but more are sure to follow if (when) things get worse. We encourage you to support your local theatres by buying gift cards if you’re able to. Independent movie theatres operate on a slim margin to begin with, so this pandemic could mean serious trouble. We have a lot of great independent theatres here (the Grand Illusion, The Northwest Film Forum, The Beacon, The Ark Lodge, etc) and it would be a disaster for the community were we to lose any of them.

Edit: And now (Friday afternoon) SIFF has announced that all three of its theatres (the Egyptian, the Uptown and the SIFF Film Center) are closed as well and will remain so for the foreseeable future. And the Grand Cinema will be closed but for a handful of special shows for at least the next two weeks.
On Saturday the Northwest Film Forum announced that they too were closing. The various chains and other theatres are all upping their theatre cleaning procedures and most are reducing to 50% capacity to help with social distancing.
And now (Monday) the Beacon, the Ark Lodge, the Central Cinema, all Faraway Entertainment Theatres (The Admiral, the Varsity, etc) and all Regal Cinemas are closed as well.
As of Tuesday morning, AMC, Landmark, and Cinemark have closed as well. So that’s it. There will be no Seattle Screen Scene for the foreseeable future.

Friday March 6 – Thursday March 12

SLUMBER-PARTY-MASSACRE-01-1450x878
Featured Film:

Slumber Party Massacre at the Beacon Cinema

I’m not someone who grew up on horror movies; I’m an 80s kid who basically missed the entire slasher film era when it was happening. So for the last couple of Halloweens I’ve been trying to catch up with the classics I didn’t see when I was young. This past year my favorite was Amy Holden Jones’s Slumber Party Massacre, at once a exceptionally well-made suspense thriller and engrossing hang out film, a pointed feminist critique of and tribute to the slasher genre. The Beacon is playing it this Friday night as part of their excellent Haunted Light horror film series. And next week they’ve got another of the ones I watched last Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, a bold, and arguably quite offensive, film that’s surely one of the strangest and most unsettling movies of the 1980s.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaromir Jireš, 1970) Fri-Sun 
Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Holden Jones, 1982) Fri Only 
Aparajito (Satyajit Ray, 1956) Sat, Mon, & Tues 
Brewster McCloud (Robert Altman, 1970) Sat & Sun Only 
Shaolin Temple (Chang Cheh, 1976) Sat Only Our Review
Leda – The Fantastic Adventures of Yohko (Yuyama Kunihiko, 1985) Sun Only 
Prison on Fire (Ringo Lam, 1987) Mon & Weds Only Our Review 
Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki (Lam Nai-choi, 1991) Tues & Thurs Only 
The World of Apu (Satyajit Ray, 1959) Weds & Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) Fri-Weds 
Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990) Fri-Weds 
Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011) Thurs Only 

Century Federal Way:

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
You Beautify My Life (Yan Qingxu & Yu De’an) Fri-Thurs 
Ik Sandhu Hunda Si (Rakesh Mehta) Fri-Thurs 

Grand Cinema:

Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 
Cat Video Fest 2020 Fri-Thurs 
63 Up (Michael Apted) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs 
Run this Town (Ricky Tollman) Fri-Sun, Mon & Weds 
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 
Same God (Linda Midgett) Sun Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Burden (Andrew Heckler) Fri-Thurs 
Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 
Gypsy (Raju Murugan) Fri-Thurs 
HIT (Sailesh Kolanu) Fri-Thurs 
Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal (Desingh Periyasamy) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 
Thappad (Anubhav Sinha) Fri-Thurs 
Mayabazar 2016 (Radhakrishna Reddy) Fri-Thurs 
Trance (Anwar Rasheed) Fri-Sun 
Forensic (Anas Khan & Akhil Paul) Sat & Sun Only 

Regal Meridian:

Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 
Mayabazar 2016 (Radhakrishna Reddy) Fri-Thurs 
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 
Ordinary Love (Lisa Barros D’Sa) Fri-Thurs 
Tokyo Godfathers (Kon Satoshi, 2003) Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Northwest Film Forum:

Children’s Film Festival 2020 Fri-Sun  Full Program
Flamenco Syndrome (Bijoyini Chatterjee) Sun Only 
The Hidden People of the Shadowy Rocks (Róska & Manrico Povolettino, 1982) Sun Only 
I Was at Home, But. . . (Angela Schanelec) Weds, Thurs & Next Sat & Sun Only Our Review 
The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981) Thurs Only 

AMC Oak Tree:

Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Burden (Andrew Heckler) Fri-Thurs 
Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

A Tale of Summer (Eric Rohmer, 1996) Thurs Only 

AMC Seattle:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

Premature (Rashaad Ernesto Green) Fri-Sun 

AMC Southcenter:

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs 
Beneath Us (Max Pachman) Fri-Thurs 
Las Pildoras de Mi Novio (Diego Kaplan) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

Regal Thornton Place:

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Tokyo Godfathers (Kon Satoshi, 2003) Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

SIFF Uptown:

Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 
The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio) Fri-Thurs 

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings
Becoming (Omar Naim) Fri-Thurs 
Final Kill (Justin Lee) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday February 28 – Thursday March 5

Vitalina-Varela-_2
Featured Film:

Vitalina Varela at the SIFF Film Center

Pedro Costa’s latest is another in his story of the Fontainhas, the Lisbon neighborhood of Cape Verdean immigrants, following In Vanda’s Room, Ossos, Colossal Youth and Horse Money. It’s about a woman who is finally able to fly to Lisbon to see her husband, but arrives shortly after his funeral. I haven’t seen it yet, but Evan caught it at the Toronto Film Festival last year at wrote about it at The Georgia Straight. He was mixed on the film, but noted that Costa’s “images are as striking as any in contemporary cinema; they are incredible things to witness on a movie screen”.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Woman who Loves Giraffes (Alison Reid) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975) Fri & Sat Only 
Day of the Dead (George Romero, 1985) Fri Only 
Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) Sat, Sun, Tues & Thurs 
The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, 1972) Sat-Mon 
The Church (Michele Soavi, 1989) Sat Only Pre-movie Live Set from Mortiferum
Megazone 23 (Ishiguro Noboru, 1985) Sun Only 
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) Sun, Mon & Weds Director’s Cut
Penitentiary (Jamaa Fanaka, 1979) Tues & Thurs Only 
The Zodiac Killer (Tom Hanson, 1971) Weds Only 

Central Cinema:

The Last Starfighter (Nick Castle, 1984) Fri-Tues 
Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995) Fri-Weds 

Century Federal Way:

Ik Sandhu Hunda Si (Rakesh Mehta) Fri-Thurs 
Sufna (Jagdeep Sidhu) Fri-Thurs 

Grand Cinema:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov) Fri-Thurs 
The Assistant (Kitty Green) Fri-Thurs 
Cat Video Fest 2020 Fri-Thurs 
Tales from the Hood (Rusty Cundieff, 1995) Sat Only 
Recorder: the Marion Stokes Project (Matt Wolf) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Olympic Dreams (Jeremy Teicher) Fri-Thurs 
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Doordarshan (Gagan Puri) Fri-Thurs 
HIT (Sailesh Kolanu) Fri-Thurs 
Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal (Desingh Periyasamy) Fri-Thurs 
Thappad (Anubhav Sinha) Fri-Thurs 
Bheeshma (Venky Kudumula) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 
Forensic (Anas Khan & Akhil Paul) Sat & Sun Only 

Regal Meridian:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 
Ordinary Love (Lisa Barros D’Sa) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

Children’s Film Festival 2020 Starts Thurs  Full Program
The 3rd Seattle BPP Film Festival featuring Mama C Weds & Thurs Only  

AMC Oak Tree:

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa) Fri-Sun
Election (Alexander Payne, 1999) Weds Only 

AMC Southcenter:

Las Pildoras de Mi Novio (Diego Kaplan) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

Regal Thornton Place:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Uptown:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
63 Up (Michael Apted) Fri-Thurs 
Nordic Lights Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program 
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926) Sat Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday February 21 – Thursday February 27

celine-julie-1400x788
Featured Film:

Celine and Julie and Susan at the Beacon Cinema

The Beacon this week has Jacques Rivette’s masterpiece Celine and Julie Go Boating, about two French women who meet and become friends and with the help of a magic candy become witnesses to, and ultimately deconstructors of, a Henry James-ish melodrama. They’ve paired it with a film it inspired, Susan Seidelman’s classic Desperately Seeking Susan, along with another 80s film that has a similar screwball energy, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. But if a more classic screwball is your thing, check out the SIFF Film Center on Saturday, where our pal Kathy Fennessy is dissecting Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday. Or if you want a wholly different Celine entirely, the Egyptian and the Lincoln Square have the long-awaited release of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974) Fri-Sun, Thurs 
Shock Waves (Ken Wiederhorn, 1977) Fri Only 
Journey Into a Burning Brain: A Tangerine Dream Mystery Triple Feature Sat Only 
Project A-Ko (Katsuhiko Nishijima, 1986) Sun Only 
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) Sun Only 
Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seildelman, 1985) Mon, Tues & Thurs Only 
Something Wild (Jonathan Demme, 1986) Mon, Tues & Weds Only 
Gaza Fights for Freedom (Abby Martin) Weds Only 

Central Cinema:

Bring It On (Peyton Reed, 2000) Fri-Weds 
Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) Fri-Weds 

SIFF Egyptian:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 

Century Federal Way:

Sufna (Jagdeep Sidhu) Fri-Thurs 
The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

Grand Cinema:

The Assistant (Kitty Green) Fri-Thurs 
Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968) Sat Only 
Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Goldie (Sam de Jong) Fri-Thurs  
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 
Olympic Dreams (Jeremy Teicher) Sat-Thurs 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Love Aaj Kal (Imtiaz Ali) Fri-Thurs 
Bheeshma (Venky Kudumula) Fri-Thurs 
Bhoot – Part One: The Haunted Ship (Bhanu Pratap Singh) Fri-Thurs 
Mafia – Chapter 1 (Karthick Naren) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 
The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

Northwest Film Forum:

Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Earth (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) Sun Only  
We Believe in Dinosaurs (Monica Long Ross & Clayton Brown) Sun Only  
Heedless into Night (Nifemi Madarikan) Weds Only  
Children’s Film Festival 2020 Starts Thurs  Full Program

AMC Pacific Place:

The Assistant (Kitty Green) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Boyfriends and Girlfriends (Eric Rohmer, 1987) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

The Cordillera of Dreams (Patricio Guzmán) Fri-Sun
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940) Sat Only Dissection with Kathy Fennessy 

AMC Southcenter:

Las Pildoras de Mi Novio (Diego Kaplan) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

Regal Thornton Place:

The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

SIFF Uptown:

Corpus Christi (Jan Komasa) Fri-Thurs 
63 Up (Michael Apted) Fri-Thurs 
Cat Video Fest 2020 Sat & Sun Only

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings
Standing Up, Falling Down (Matt Ratner) Fri-Thurs 
Manou the Swift (Andrea Block & Christian Haas) Fri-Thurs 
The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast