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Film Shorts

In Which We Hit It and Quit It

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recommended Anna Karenina
Prediction: Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is going to be the Speed Racer of literary adaptations­­—defended by nerds, derided by other nerds, and baffling to the public at large. It's an audacious interpretation of Leo Tolstoy that's overstuffed and overflowing with style. I can't be sure that it's a good movie—but I was so overwhelmed by its boldness that I can't deny I kind of loved it. JAMIE S. RICH Fox Tower 10.

recommended The Big Lebowski
"It's like what Lenin said... you look for the person who will benefit, and... uh...." Clinton Street Theater.

The Big Picture
A Parisian man murders the dude who was sleeping with his wife, then assumes his identity and flees to Yugoslavia. Like you do. Living Room Theaters.

The Central Park Five
A documentary—co-directed by Ken Burns—about five teenagers wrongly convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. Living Room Theaters.

Christmas in Acidland
Two and a half hours of freaky-ass Christmas clips. Hollywood Theatre.

Christmas in Space
A slew of nostalgic sci-fi Christmas junk: The utterly execrable Star Wars Holiday Special, Planet of the Apes and Star Trek toy commercials, Christmas-y musical performances from both the Ramones and Bing Crosby (feat. David Bowie), and more. Hollywood Theatre.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D
Goddammit. Various Theaters.

recommended Django
Starting with Django's blood-red opening titles, there are countless things Quentin Tarantino riffs on in Django Unchained, but Sergio Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti western is wholly its own entity, bearing a grim, despairing tone and a Catholic sense of bloody justice. A stranger (Franco Nero) wanders into town dragging a coffin, with a winsome redhead by his side (Loredana Nusciak, inexplicably playing a half Incan/half Mexican). I won't say what's inside that coffin, but let's just say a lot of people die—this was one of the most violent movies ever made up to that time. It's probably still one of dirtiest; Italian westerns always favor earthy desperation instead of American hero/gun worship, and the dour, still-shocking Django is no exception. Cinema 21 screens a digital restoration of the original Italian-language version with English subtitles. NED LANNAMANN Cinema 21.

recommended Django Unchained
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

Ekimmu: The Dead Lust
A not-screened-for-critics horror flick that includes "dark humor, raw grit, and some hot chicks." Clinton Street Theater.

The Eye of the Storm
An Australian family drama based on the novel by Patrick White. Living Room Theaters.

Film Movement: A Decade Tribute
The NW Film Center presents a series of double features, all made up of foreign and independent films distributed by Film Movement. More info: nwfilm.org. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.

Frosty Fridays Free Screenings
Free screenings of Christmas specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. See academytheaterpdx.com for specific programs and times. Academy Theater.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters
A documentary about photographer Gregory Crewdson, featuring Rick Moody, Russell Banks, and Laurie Simmons. Living Room Theaters.

The Guilt Trip
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

recommended Hecklevision: Santa with Muscles
The Hollywood presents the Hulk Hogan non-classic, in which "a protein powder magnate turned evil millionaire gets amnesia, believes he is Santa Claus, and saves an orphanage." And you can text your smartass remarks and they'll pop up onscreen! Hollywood Theatre.

Hitchcock
The making of Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 horror film Psycho is fodder for the by-the-numbers biopic Hitchcock. Making a movie about one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time is a dangerous game, and while Hitchcock is competent—and occasionally even breezily entertaining—it mostly plays like a TV movie. NED LANNAMANN City Center 12, Fox Tower 10.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." That's how proto-nerd J.R.R. Tolkien began The Hobbit, his charming children's book that inspired The Lord of the Rings, one of the most extraordinary doorstops of English literature. Compared to the gloomy, intricate Rings, The Hobbit is a short, fast-paced, goofy adventure. Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, though, is something else: Hollow, meandering, repetitive, and tedious, it covers only the first part of Tolkien's book, yet somehow feels longer than any of Jackson's excellent Lord of the Rings films. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.

recommended Holy Motors
Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) traverses Paris in the back of a massive white limousine. With faithful driver Céline (Edith Scob) at the wheel, and with the limo's cabin packed with a makeup table and more rubbery prosthetics than Cloud Atlas, Oscar goes to a number of "appointments"—and at each, he drastically changes his face, his hair, his clothes, his mannerisms, his cohorts. First he appears as a privileged businessman, then a filthy, deranged, fucked-up leprechaun; sometimes he's a decrepit, panhandling old woman, later he's a father, an assassin, a guy wearing a motion-capture unitard who goes down on a woman wearing a motion-capture unitard. Holy Motors might very well be brilliant, and it also might very well be 2012's version of the emperor's new clothes. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.

Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray can do no fucking wrong. His Franklin Delano Roosevelt obviously isn't the so-good-it's-scary, soul-deep possession of Daniel Day-Lewis's Abraham Lincoln. It's not like you ever forget that he's Bill Murray. But he's excellent anyway: He gets the president's playfulness, his condescending, patrician air, and his inherent inaccessibility, and he makes it his own. His performance is a masterful sketch that looks easier than it probably is. It's a shame Murray is stuck in the middle of such a pedestrian movie. PAUL CONSTANT Fox Tower 10.

recommended Jack Reacher
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

recommended Killing Them Softly
The story of Killing Them Softly is timeless: Here are a bunch of guys struggling to get by, fighting back despair, and screwing each other over for money. While it's based on George V. Higgins' 1974 novel Cogan's Trade, Killing Them Softly feels utterly contemporary—largely because writer/director Andrew Dominik has picked up Higgins' story and plopped it down a few decades later. Now it plays out in the gray ruins of post-Katrina New Orleans, with a soundtrack of news stories about the 2008 financial crisis leaking from every TV and car radio. Suddenly, that bunch of guys struggling to get by, fighting back despair, and screwing each other over for money is part of a bigger story. ERIK HENRIKSEN Century Eastport 16, Living Room Theaters.

recommended A Late Quartet
At the start of A Late Quartet, Christopher Walken's character explains to a group of his cello students that Beethoven's late quartet, Opus 131, is not the standard four movements but instead has seven parts and that you have to play them straight through with no breaks, which causes your instruments to go all out of tune with one another. "It's a mess," he says. It's also a metaphor about how basic entropy affects togetherness. The togetherness, say, of a musical group that's been playing together for 25 years when the oldest member finds he has Parkinson's and can't go on. Walken plays that character. Has he ever been the emotional center of a film before? It's magical. For much of A Late Quartet, the camera follows the storm of the other characters' drama—often, melodrama—until it finds a resting place once again on Walken's alien face, quietly registering the effects of old age. JEN GRAVES Laurelhurst Theater.

Les Misérables
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

recommended Life of Pi
Ang's Lee's overblown but nonetheless quite beautiful adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. Like the novel, it's a parable disguised as an adventure story; like the novel, some people will think it contains profound truths, and some will find it unbearably overwrought. Others—me!—will appreciate some of the best 3D we've seen to date, and enjoy the adventure despite its self-seriousness. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.

Lincoln
Oscar bait doesn't get much more baiting than this: Steven Spielberg directing Daniel Day-Lewis with a Tony Kushner script about the final months of America's most beloved, tragic president. By and large, Lincoln wanders many of the same paths Spielberg's other Oscar bait-y films have taken—this one feels particularly like Amistad, though there's some War Horse in here too. Lincoln is a generally well-made film, but it's also one stitched together from Day-Lewis' dramatic monologues and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's reverential sepia tones: Even when it tries to humanize Lincoln, it's mostly just here to reaffirm what a Great Man he was and how he made some Very Important History. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.

Madoka Magica
Four hours of anime—and merely "the beginning of the new story of the magical witch girls." Jesus christ. Hollywood Theatre.

recommended Miracle Mile
It's 1988. Anthony Edwards still has hair. It's kinda disconcerting. He walks by a pay phone. It rings. He picks it up. The voice on the other end lets him know that the nuclear apocalypse will have laid waste to the Earth by the time the sun rises. The movie that follows is a little-seen, highly-regarded VHS-era classic, a tense, frantic thriller whose heart pumps pure paranoia. BOBBY ROBERTS Hollywood Theatre.

Monsters, Inc. 3D
Hey, it's Monsters, Inc., except now it costs more money! Various Theaters.

A Nuclear Christmas
A double feature of Dr. Strangelove and A Day Called X. Mission Theater.

Parental Guidance
Two grandparents (Billy Crystal and Bette Midler) are tasked with taking care of their grandkids. Shenanigans ensue! We did not review this film. Various Theaters.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
1964's cult classic. Clinton Street Theater.

recommended Searching for Sugar Man
Detroit singer/songwriter Rodriguez released two obscure albums of introspective, Dylanesque agitprop-lite in 1970 and 1971, then promptly vanished. Documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul picks up his thread in South Africa, where Rodriguez's music has amassed a huge following over the decades—and where nobody knows a thing about the mysterious man behind the records. If this is the first you've heard of Rodriguez, you might choose to stop reading here, because the twist that Searching for Sugar Man reveals—while not a surprise to anyone who's picked up the recent reissues of his albums on the Seattle-based Light in the Attic label—is handled brilliantly in the film. Even if you do know what happened next, Sugar Man is still one of the most intriguing and satisfying music documentaries in a good while. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.

recommended The Sessions
Helen Hunt plays Cheryl, who's been hired to indoctrinate paralyzed writer Mark (John Hawkes) in the ways of S-E-X. Mark contracted polio as a kid, and the iron lung has seriously hindered his game—so after realizing that other disabled people still manage to have sex lives, he contacts Cheryl to figure out just what kind of experiences his paralyzed body is capable of having. The Sessions is bound to be over praised, but Hunt and Hawkes are so damn good, and the scenes between the two of them so rich in awkward, funny, premature ejaculate-y tenderness, that the strengths of this odd little true story far outweigh its imperfections. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre, Liberty Theatre.

recommended Seven Psychopaths
Martin McDonagh's feverish story about a drunk screenwriter, Marty (Colin Farrell). And the probably insane Billy (Sam Rockwell). And a charming, doddering dog thief (charming, doddering Christopher Walken), and an Amish sociopath (Harry Dean Stanton), and an exceedingly troubled man with a bunny (Tom Waits), and a trigger-happy crime boss (Woody Harrelson). Things get a bit meta, and they get impressively bloody, and there might be one or two women in it? Briefly? There is definitely a dog in it. This isn't a movie for everybody, but it's well aware of that fact. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Bagdad Theater, Edgefield, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater, St. Johns Theater and Pub, Vancouver Plaza 10.

recommended Silver Linings Playbook
As someone who's skeptical of silver linings being an actual thing, so too was I skeptical of Silver Linings Playbook, the would-be feel-good holiday release from I Heart Huckabees director David O. Russell. Midway through the trailer, I half expected a voiceover to proclaim it was "from the producers of The Blind Side of the Help." But while the path of this thing seems obvious, the film's romance sneaks up on you: Russell disguises his love story by shooting Silver Linings Playbook with the same visceral immediacy he brought to The Fighter, cloaking the courtship in the manic energy of mental disorders. JAMIE S. RICH Various Theaters.

This Is 40
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

recommended A Very Wes Anderson Christmas
See Film, this issue. Cinema 21.

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