If you're lucky enough to have your power and internet back up and running, we recommend tucking into new streaming options like the documentary 17 Blocks, the Tag! Queer Shorts Festival, or the Stanley Tucci/Colin Firth tearjerker Supernova. But if you're still without power and you're jonesing for a cinematic experience, head to Living Room Theatres to see Chloé Zhao's Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand, or Lee Isaac Chung's indie hit Minari. Plus, don't forget that the Mercury's amateur stoner short film fest SPLIFF is accepting submissions through March 5!
LOCALLY STREAMING: NEW & NOTEWORTHY
You can't take your eyes off 17 Blocks for even a second. The raw, home video footage documentary offers an intimate view into the lives of the Sanford-Durants, a Black family struggling to find joy and stability in Southeast Washington D.C. So many of the documentaries we watch now are slick mash-ups of stylized reenactments and moody voiceovers, assuring us that history can be mapped neatly into an orderly sequence. 17 Blocks makes no such tidy promises. Instead, gritty, endearing moments rush in: A pair of brothers, 14-year-old Smurf and nine-year-old Emmanuel, play basketball in a neighborhood park. A friend helps Emmanuel put a caucasian skin tone bandage over a scrape. Their mother, Cheryl, points at an old photo of herself and says "Isn't that a pretty girl right there?" "That's you!" Emmanuel shouts. "That's not me!" Cheryl says. Emmy-award-winning director Davy Rothbart stitched these moments together, alternating between powerful portraits of poverty and warm moments of the family persevering, and cheering one another on. But, like I said, if you look away for a moment you're bound to miss some important detail to the puzzle that is this family's history. What happened to them? Well, a lot of things happened to them. SUZETTE SMITH
Buster Williams: Bass to Infinity
Screening in partnership with the Biamp PDX Jazz Festival, this film spotlights legendary bassist Buster Williams, who's shared the stage with such jazz legends as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Here, he trades stories and jams with musicians like Benny Golson, Rufus Reid, Lenny White, Herbie Hancock, and Christian McBride.
Days of The Bagnold Summer
Based on Joff Winterhart's graphic novel of the same name, this coming-of-age story is about a single mom's plight to reconnect with her Metallica-loving son. Belle & Sebastian provide an original soundtrack.
Indie Film Series: Black Voices
The first month of this new series in partnership with the Portland Film Festival will highlight Black voices in honor of Black History Month, featuring Dwayne Logan's Black Thoughts, Martin Hawk's A Litany for Survival, and Bayer Mack's No Lye: An American Beauty Story.
Portland Film Festival
The People vs. Agent Orange
After decades of losses following the Agent Orange catastrophe—an herbicide and toxic defoliant chemical introduced by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War that controls weeds in farming, forestry, parks, and playgrounds—two women (one in Vietnam and one in the States) lead a movement to hold the manufacturers accountable.
Clinton Street Theater
While other RBG docs tend to cover the broad scope of the late Supreme Court Justice's life and career, this one focuses on how exactly she rose to her position out of law school—a brilliant feat considering the overrepresentation of conservative men on the Court and her passion for gender equality and women’s rights.
Twilight's Kiss (Suk Suk)
Two closeted, married Chinese men meet in their twilight years and confide in their shared histories while contemplating a possible future together. "A story told with furtive glances and understated expressions, Suk Suk defies its potentially maudlin premise by bringing a pair of subtle and genuine performances out of its star," wrote Edmund Lee for the South China Morning Post.
50 First Dates & So I Married an Axe Murderer
Watch two unconventional romantic comedies at the Newberg drive-in with a double-feature of the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore vehicle 50 First Dates and the '90s cult classic So I Married an Axe Murderer.
This drive-in theatrical dance film chronicles Portland dance company BodyVox's iconic past productions. Opt for the Valentine's Package for priority parking and sweets.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Shaka King's Judas and the Black Messiah, a favorite of this year's online Sundance Film Festival, stars Lakeith Stanfield as FBI informant William O' Neal and Daniel Kaluuya as Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton.
Living Room Theatres and HBO Max
A film doomed by convention, Land is a competent but boring look at one woman's venture into Wyoming's wilderness that fails to go in any exciting narrative directions. The "find yourself in nature" story has become a subgenre of its own, and Land plays into nearly all of its cliches. In this case, the character finding themselves is Edee and is played by Robin Wright in what is also her directorial debut. The last time audiences would have seen Wright was briefly in last year's misfire that was Wonder Woman 1984. Thankfully, there is something more interesting going on here, with Edee running from her past, though only barely. If this film were a meal, it would be the cans of beans Edee eats over and over. The story's most compelling part is how it frankly and frequently portrays Edee as a selfish and self-centered character, though it only scratches the surface of this characterization. CHASE HUTCHINSON
Living Room Theatres
Love Stuck Drive-In
Watch crowd-pleasing romantic comedies like The Notebook, P.S. I Love You, and 10 Things I Hate About You with your lover/friend/quar pod from the safety of your car at this three-day drive-in at Washington Square, rescheduled due to last weekend's snow. What's more, admission includes a full dinner and wine selection for two.
Washington Square Mall
After the economic collapse of her company in rural Nevada during the recession, Fern (Frances McDormand) sets out across the West in her camper, guided by real-life nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells.
Living Room Theatres and Hulu
VIRTUAL FILM FESTIVALS
31st Annual Cascade Festival of African Films
This local film festival, which shows African films made by African filmmakers and encourages Western viewers to engage authentically with African cultures, will move online this year. The program, which lasts for over a month, includes buzzy new features like You Will Die at Twenty (Sudan’s first Oscar submission) and Sam Soko's Softie, about a human-rights activist and provocative photojournalist who decides to run for office in a regional election in his native Kenya.
Every year, The Stranger puts out the call to sex-havers everywhere to submit a homegrown amateur porn film depicting whatever they're into (barring poop, kids, and animals, of course). The result is an incredibly diverse representation of human sexuality in all its straight, gay, trans, queer, kinky, funny, pissy, painful, and pretty forms. Let's see what wild spins people put on their submissions that were created during the lockdown, shall we?
McMinnville Short Film Festival
Our nearby neighbors to the south will present winning films from the past decade of McMinnville Short Film Festivals, along with filmmaker Q&As.
Tag! Queer Shorts Festival 2021
Take in sexy shorts that eschew the cis/straight/white gaze by QTBIPOC directors, presented by Tag! Queer Shorts Festival.
Amend: The Fight for America
With Will Smith at the helm, this six-part documentary series unpacks the history of the 14th Amendment, which states that an American citizen is constituted by any person born or naturalized on U.S. soil—a definition that, as a country built on slavery, wasn't always so clearly laid out in the U.S. Constitution.
For All Mankind: Season 2
What would our lives be like if America established a colony on the moon in the '80s? The second season of this Apple TV+ original paints a picture of a space race that never stopped.
I Care a Lot
Tired of rewatching Gone Girl? Rosamund Pike returns with a suspiciously Amy Dunne-esque haircut as Marla Grayson, a con artist masquerading as a conservator (sound familiar? #FreeBritney) who preys on the assets of perfectly healthy old people by sticking them in nursing homes. Alas, her scheme is interrupted when an underground businessman played by Peter Dinklage catches her in the act.
It’s a Sin: Season 1
From the creator of Queer as Folk, this series follows three young men exploring their gay identities in London just as the AIDS epidemic is taking hold around the world. If you stan Neil Patrick Harris, know that he stars as Henry Coltrane, a character who sadly dies from AIDS in the first episode (sorry for the spoiler).
The Muppet Show: Complete Series
Latch onto your favorite character from Jim Henson's hippie-genius universe (we're partial to Miss Piggy) and retreat into childhood as you binge all five seasons of The Muppet Show.
Hollywood gentlemen Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth star as longtime partners who take one final journey through Northern England as one of them succumbs to dementia. If you haven't had a good cathartic sob lately, the trailer alone should get your tear ducts locked and loaded.
Amazon Prime Video and other platforms
LOCALLY STREAMING: ONGOING
I Blame Society
"Nobody wants you to make a movie as much as you want to make one yourself," says Gillian Wallace Horvat in her satirical low-budget faux documentary about a filmmaker who takes her nontraditional, female-driven murder plot into her own hands when male producers ignore it. She walks people through how she would commit the perfect murder, and in doing so walks the line between fiction and reality.
Clinton Street Theater & Cinema 21
The Changin' Times of Ike White
Released in 1974, Changin' Times was the first commercial album recorded inside an American prison by an inmate, Ike White, who at 19 was sentenced to life for murder and eventually released under the endorsement of Stevie Wonder. This documentary delves into the R&B artist's life and unconventional career.
An unflinching look at the investigative journalists of the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, Collective is a necessary examination of the corruption that can spread unchecked without a robust press to hold it accountable. It takes place following the horrifying fatal 2015 fire at the Collectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. The fire killed 27 people. Widespread government health care fraud, corruption, and greed on all levels would kill 37 more. The film shows footage of the initial fire itself, caused by a pyrotechnic effect that set alight soundproofing foam, and the chaos that ensued. It is a starkly terrible event, which only makes it more horrific that the aftermath saw more preventable death. When the fire was put out, the horror continued for the victims and their families. The focus of the documentary is journalists Cătălin Tolontan, Mirela Neag, and Răzvan Luţac, who head up the team that blows the lid off the entire scandal. It is their reporting that shakes the country to its core. CHASE HUTCHINSON
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan
You know Shane MacGowan as the wild-toothed lead singer of the Irish punk-rock band the Pogues, but Julien Temple's documentary delves into the musician's story before achieving fame, highlighting his extensive knowledge of music. Variety classifies it "in the upper echelon of recent rock docs."
A Dog Called Money
On his reporting trips to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C., photojournalist Seamus Murphy was accompanied by none other than British punk-rock icon PJ Harvey, who used what she saw to record a live album whose recording sessions were open to the public. This music-filled documentary goes behind the scenes into the studio and the lives of the people the pair met on their journey.
Clinton Street Theater & Cinema 21
For his latest work, the 88-year-old director Manny Kirchheimer (Stations of the Elevated, Dream of a City) restored 16mm footage that he and his friend Walter Hess (heard of him?) shot in New York between 1958 and 1960, which shows a different version of the city we're used to seeing—one filled with quiet "in-between moments" and architecture around the boroughs.
In this 1976 gem of the music documentary canon, filmmaker James Szalapski travels to Texas and Tennessee in search of folk and bluegrass musicians who were rejecting the mainstream Nashville sound of the day. Think Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Young, whose faces and songs all appear in the film.
Cinema 21 & Hollywood Theatre
Praised as the "Sex Pistols of the video game industry," this documentary provides an oral history of a group of highly dedicated Chicagoan geeks who created some of the most iconic video games of our time, from Mortal Combat to NBA Jam.
Love in Dangerous Times
Filmed and set in Portland during COVID, writer-director Jon Garcia's romantic comedy follows a playwright who, in the midst of struggling to finish a play (could this be its own genre? seems like it) gets in meaningful cahoots with a woman he matches with on a dating app. Dating during the pandemic is something many of us can relate to, and everyone goes about it differently, so this should be an interesting anthropological study.
MC Escher: Journey to Infinity
The instantly recognizable and kaleidoscopic work of the Dutch graphic designer M.C. Escher floats throughout this documentary (voiced by British actor Stephen Fry), which also includes insights into the artist's life and ideas through his own diary entries, lectures, and correspondence.
Andrei Tarkovsky's classic film traverses three generations of a poet’s family in 20th-century Russia, reflecting on both human memory and Russian history in what Cinema 21 calls a "hypnagogic hallucination." Don't miss a chance to see this brand-new restoration for a limited time.
There is so much to love about the sublime Minari, the reasons why could fill a film of its own. So, forgive me if I'm a little effusive. Taking place in 1980s Arkansas, it follows a Korean American family as they attempt to start a farm. It's alluded that they've previously worked somewhere in California and in Seattle, where they were making just enough of a living to get by. Now, the family has purchased land that no one else wants in a long shot at making their own Garden of Eden. Jacob (Steven Yeun), the family's somewhat naive but caring patriarch, initially gives the farm the biblical name. It soon becomes clear that he is driving the family to take the leap of faith with him. There is Monica (Yeri Han), the justifiably worried matriarch, who must balance out her husband's dreams with keeping the family whole. The film clearly comes from a personal place for writer and director Lee Isaac Chung, who delicately breathes life into every corner of the film. His down-to-earth story combines with visuals that are boldly full of wonder—from the rich reds, seen in the hat on actor Steven Yeun's head, to the tranquil greens of the natural world around them. CHASE HUTCHINSON
Cinema 21 & Hollywood Theatre (also playing in-person at Living Room Theatres; see here for details)
Hong Khaou's latest film stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as a Vietnamese-born Englishman who returns to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time since childhood to reconnect with his roots after the death of his mother. There, an online date with an American clothing designer (Southside With You's Parker Sawyers) turns into something more.
Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte narrate William Greaves's long-lost, newly-restored film about the National Black Political Convention of 1972, where 10,000 black politicians, activists, and artists went to Gary, Indiana, to forge a national unity platform.
Hollywood Theater & Cinema 21
Oscar-nominated director of Fire at Sea, Gianfranco Rosi, tells the stories of those on the borders between Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, and Lebanon in this 2021 contender for the Italian Oscars. This SIFF screening includes a special pre-recorded conversation with Rosi and fellow director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Northwest Film Center
Siblings Mimi and Luke unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord who was entombed on Earth millions of years ago after a failed attempt to destroy the universe. They nickname the evil creature Psycho Goreman (or "PG" for short) and use the magical amulet they discovered to force him to obey their childish whims.
In this psychological thriller, a pregnant woman returns home to her recently deceased grandparents' family home to spend time with her estranged mother (the terrific Julia Ormand). Creepy ghost children abound, it looks like!
Clinton Street Theater
Donna Hayes's new film Silent Voices centers nine people of color who have been killed by Portland Police over the years, with each character coming to life to tell their stories. As they speak, a chorus of words taken from comments posted online and news articles about their killings echo in the background.
Sing Me a Song
Returning to one of the subjects of his 2013 drama Happiness, Thomas Balmès's new film follows a teenage boy studying in a monastery in the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, where smartphones and other modern technology are beginning to compete with ancient practices. Zoomer that he is, the music-loving student strikes up a friendship with a singer on WeChat from the capital city of Thimphu, and he ends up selling medicinal mushrooms to raise enough money to meet her IRL.
Some Kind of Heaven
Four residents of America's largest retirement facility (Florida's gated, palm tree-lined Villages) strive for happiness and meaning in this Lance Oppenheim doc co-produced by Darren Aronofsky.
Cinema 21 & Hollywood Theatre
Song Without a Name
The newborn baby of Georgina, an Indigenous Andean woman, is stolen from the clinic at which it was born and is never returned. When she's met with indifference by the Peruvian legal system, Georgina goes to a journalist, who uncovers an epidemic of fake clinics and abductions in 1980s Peru. Melina Leon's thriller is based on true events.
Clinton Street Theater
Two of Us
Longtime lesbian lovers Nina and Madeleine have been together for decades in secret, but their relationship is put to the test when something happens that limits their ability to move freely between each other's apartments. Filippo Meneghetti's debut feature is France's official 2021 Oscar submission.
Cinema 21 & Hollywood Theatre
World of Wong Kar-wai
Let Chinese director Wong Kar-wai take you over with the sonically perfect, poetic, excruciatingly cool, often blood-soaked romantic time-jumpers and thrillers featured in this Janus Films series. It includes all his greatest hits from the late '80s to the early 2000s, including As Tears Go By, Days of Being Wild, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, The Hand, and his best-known works Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love. With many of the same actors gracing the screen in each film, we have no doubt that taking in his entire oeuvre will feel like one long, wild ride in a singular universe.
Hollywood Theatre & Cinema 21
If 2016's Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words didn't quell your obsession with the zany, occasionally cringy, ultimately very talented late rocker Frank Zappa, bust open a jar of peanut butter (Zappa's favorite tour snack) and catch this new documentary from Alex Winter, aka the guy who stars alongside Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Hollywood Theatre and various platforms