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Film Shorts

In Which We Hit It and Quit It

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PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Not all films were screened for critics. For more info, see "Windowless World" [Film, Feb 6]; for showtimes see nwfilm.org.

recommended 4some
Polyamory is made fun and easy in this lighthearted Czech comedy about two middle-aged couples who decide to indulge in some partner swapping. The couples are neighbors, and despite their best efforts to keep their activities on the DL, their children and their elderly parents soon become suspicious. For the most part, though, the stakes stay low, and 4Some is as affable and entertaining a multigenerational exploration of polyamry as you're ever likely to see. ALISON HALLETT

recommended Chinese Take-Out
Another film about an idiosyncratic grump forced out of complacency by unexpected circumstances. The grump here is Roberto (Ricardo Darín) and the unexpected circumstance is forced cohabitation with a Chinese fellow named Jun (Ignacio Huang). There's some culture clash and a few escapes into fantasy, but this is primarily a story about two lonely, frustrated men keeping each other company. It's rather sweet. BEN COLEMAN

recommended English Vinglish
Mega-famous Bollywood superstar Sridevi shines at the center of this cute comedic drama as Sashi, an Indian housewife whose family won't stop teasing her about her poor English. When she flies to New York to help with her niece's wedding, a series of musical montages about shopping and self-discovery ensue. SUZETTE SMITH

recommended The Gatekeepers
This intense, uncomfortable documentary on Israeli internal security is essential viewing if you have—or plan on ever having—an opinion about the region. It's also an unprecedented look into how a modern state security apparatus works, and while there's a lot of information here, the production is slick and easy to follow. BEN COLEMAN

recommended Hannah Arendt
A compelling portrait of author and philosopher Hannah Arendt's coverage of S.S. officer Adolf Eichmann's trial and its controversial aftermath. Struck by Eichmann's bureaucratic mediocrity rather than any sense of violent malice, Arendt's famous theory of the "banality of evil" was born. Portraying an intellectual clash with this much tension is an achievement in itself, but Hannah also manages to be a nuanced character piece. MARJORIE SKINNER

recommended Key of Life
A heartbroken, suicidal actor gets a second chance when he assumes the identity of an amnesiac hitman—who in turn gets a second chance and falls in love with an uptight businesswoman who gets her (you guessed it) second chance while trying to find a husband before her father dies. This sweetheart of a flick may have a predictable, too-easy underbelly and run about 20 minutes too long, but its Buster Keaton-esque charms and adorable characterizations will turn you into a believer. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

recommended La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus
Every year, school districts in the United States dump—essentially for nothing—perfectly good yellow school buses. But the lucky ones go on to live glorious, tropical, and occasionally sordid second acts, shined up and pressed into service as public transportation in Central America. Mark Kendall follows a single bus from its sale in Pennsylvania to earnest Guatemalan entrepreneurs; by the time we see it lovingly and artfully resurrected in bright colors as a camonieta, we've also been introduced to the dangerous world of corruption, extortion, and murder that goes hand in hand with the transformation. DENIS C. THERIAULT

recommended Laurence Anyways
Though it's outrageously long, the love story Laurence Anyways is gorgeous and engaging. Laurence, a handsome male high school teacher, starts the transition of becoming a woman, and his decision causes no end of hardships in his passionate relationship with fiery Fred, his girlfriend of two years. While three hours seems like too long to watch Laurence and Fred scream French and make out vigorously, there are so many glamorous new-wave goings-on and surreal flights of fancy that Laurence Anyways is never tiresome. COURTNEY FERGUSON

Leviathan
A narrative-less documentary, Leviathan uses micro-cameras to capture the sights and sounds of the commercial fishing industry from otherwise inaccessible vantage points: inside the nets, in and out of the water, embedded in a flock of feeding seagulls. (My favorite hidden cam? Shower cam!) But for every bit of fly-on-the-wall realism, there's twice as much what-the-heck-am-I-looking-at? cacophony. The question is if these unadorned images and sounds, stripped of all context, add up to something more than the sum of their parts. In this case, they don't. (It's also probably the worst date movie ever made—just in time for Valentine's Day.) NED LANNAMANN

Madrid, 1987
You know the episode in every long-running sitcom where two characters get stuck in an elevator? Welcome to the Spanish film Madrid, 1987, an interminable exercise in two people stuck in a room. COURTNEY FERGUSON

recommended Masquerade
Remember that Ivan Reitman movie Dave? Masquerade is that, but set in 17th century Korea! When a dickish king (Lee Byung-hun) becomes incapacitated, his scheming advisers install a gold-hearted comedian look-alike (Lee Byung-hun). While the story is simple, the level of commitment is impressive: The costumes are gorgeous, the acting is wry, and the editing keeps things moving. It's both funny and affecting. Add this one to your list. BEN COLEMAN

One Night
Twin teenagers, Lila and Elio, run around Havana, swimming, working, and riding on Elio's bike—which sounds all carefree and idyllic, but Cuba's dirt poor, and so are Lila and Elio. When Elio falls for hunky Raul, they plan a daring escape to Miami on a haphazard raft. One Night is based on a true story, but it's clunky, never elevating itself above striking scenery and portraits of everyday Havana. COURTNEY FERGUSON

recommended Pieta
In a bleakly industrial, possibly post-apocalyptic neighborhood of Seoul, an enforcer for a loan shark spends his days maiming and crippling his debtors. One day, a sweet-seeming lady follows him home, saying she's his long-lost mommy dearest. Reluctantly at first, the violent enforcer allows the woman to mother him, reliving a childhood he never had. It's a dark, squirmy family drama with an exceptional sense of operatic tragedy. And there's some really creepy sexual stuff going between mom and son, too, so bring a date! NED LANNAMANN

Polluting Paradise
This documentary about a landfill plopped perilously close to a lush Turkish tea field will make you retch and gnash your teeth. Pitched to skeptical farmers and villagers as a high-tech answer to unregulated dumping along an otherwise beautiful stretch of the Turkish coast, the landfill has been anything but. Garbage left rotting in the open stinks so badly that wild dogs come from all around to gnaw on it. And when villagers rub the mess, and the air pollution, in the faces of bureaucrats? "The earth will sort it out," they say, like they mean it. DENIS C. THERIAULT

recommended Sightseers
Tina and Chris (Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, also earning screenwriting credit) go on "holiday" (that's British for "vacation") with their new "caravan" ("trailer") in this murderously scathing road comedy. While it's not a tour-de-force like his last film, Kill List, director Ben Wheatley masterfully combines the beauty of the English countryside with black humor and his knack for almost unbearable tension, resulting in something that's original, shocking, and hilarious. It's the "dog's bollocks" (????). NED LANNAMANN

recommended Starry Starry Night
Readjusting to the city after living in the forest with her grandfather, 13-year-old Mei forms a sweet relationship with her classmate and draws him into her imaginative world of giant paper dragons and midnight trains. This beautifully shot film is one of those Moonrise Kingdom-style fairytales where two lonely children have the presence of mind to become friends and support each other through parental and scholastic strife. It's a wonderful journey. SUZETTE SMITH

recommended Sleep Tight
Nothing creepy here. Just the concierge of an apartment building hanging out under his residents' beds, waiting to chloroform 'em. Sleep Tight is a genuine heebie-jeebie fest, mesmerizing in its levels of psychological fucked-up-ness. COURTNEY FERGUSON

The Wild Ones
Non-linear and visceral, The Wild Ones situates itself with a series of police interviews and flashbacks to the cheerful, deviant adventures of three 15-year-old friends. Is this a meditation on the capriciousness of youth, a cry for change in Spanish society, or simply a "WTF, teens?!" piece? Director Patricia Ferreira dangles the film's carrot until the very end—but there's no foreshadowing or character support for its heavy-handed resolution. SUZETTE SMITH

FILM SHORTS

Beautiful Creatures
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

Escape From Planet Earth
Some dumb kids movie that wasn't screened for critics. Various Theaters.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.

A Good Day to Die Hard
See "review" this issue. Various Theaters.

Identity Thief
I know you're kinda interested because Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is in it, and she's so damn funny and good, and you're probably still harboring some Arrested Development-based affection for Jason Bateman, even though he's done literally nothing since then to justify your ongoing interest. But just... don't even worry about it. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.

Paper Moon
Peter Bogdanovich's 1973 film starring Ryan O'Neal, Tatum O'Neal, and Shaquille O'Neal. Fifth Avenue Cinema.

recommended Portland Black Film Festival
The Portland Black Film Festival runs from Wed Feb 6 through Wed Feb 27. For more info, see "Hey White People—You're Invited!" [Film, Feb 6]; for showtimes, see hollywoodtheatre.org. Hollywood Theatre.

The Rose City Steampunk Film Festival
Two days of gears, corsets, and films celebrating what The Guild ever-so-accurately called "the Eurotrash of nerddom." More info: cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.

Safe Haven
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

recommended Side Effects
Thanks to cagey advertising, audiences will be in for a surprise as Side Effects unfolds: What starts as an intensely accurate study of a young woman's depression gradually contorts itself into something else entirely. Steven Soderbergh's calculated eye, paired with Scott Z. Burns' script, finds plenty to grab onto in the story of 28-year-old graphic designer Emily (Rooney Mara), who struggles with crippling hopelessness—a weary, bone-deep sadness. After a jarring suicide attempt, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) starts Emily on Ablixa, a new, unproven antidepressant, at which point things get even more intense. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.

recommended Snatch
"You show me how to control a wild fucking gypsy and I'll show you how to control an unhinged, pig-feeding gangster." Laurelhurst Theater.

Sound City
A Dave Grohl-directed doc about Van Nuys, California's legendary recording studio. The first half is a very interesting, well-made documentary, and the second half is a jam session with Grohl and Paul McCartney. The second half is terrible. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.

recommended Stop Making Sense
See review this issue. Bagdad Theater.

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