This weekend, Cinema 21 joins Living Room Theaters in the private screening club—if you rent out the theater for your quarantine pod at a relatively reasonable price, you can check out options like Possessor and the zombie apocalypse romp Save Yourselves! But if you're not ready for an indoor theater experience, there's also another Hocus Pocus and Beetlejuice double-feature at the 99W Drive-In, as well as new streaming options, like Ganja & Hess and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night at the Hollywood Theater, not to mention the Mercury's horror film fest SLAY. Read the full list below, and check out our complete guide to online film festivals this fall if you like to plan ahead.
Escape from Extinction
Helen Mirren narrates this documentary about major zoological organizations around the world combatting what scientists are calling the Sixth Mass Extinction.
Cinema 21 (private screenings)
Hocus Pocus & Beetlejuice
These family-friendly '90s Halloween classics go together like fangs and capes, like pumpkin and spice, like spiders and webs. One's about witches who crave the blood of virgins to make them young forever, and the other is about a dead man in iconic striped pantaloons. They're screening back to back at the Newberg drive-in for the second weekend in a row.
Rife with the eccentricities you'd expect from the director of The Future and You and Me and Everyone We Know, Miranda July's latest comedy stars Evan Rachel Wood as the youngest in a small family of grifters who parkours her way through Los Angeles avoiding security cameras and droning in a voice that hangs as low as her extremely long hair. The family's opposite is met in Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), an optician’s assistant who, through her endless optimism and comfort with displays of love, brings the family's insecurities to the foreground.
Cinema 21 (private screenings)
Definitely leave your impressionable offspring at home for this private in-person screening of writer/director Brandon Cronenberg's terrifying-looking new sci-fi thriller, which follows a corporate assassin who takes control of people's bodies using brain-implant technology. We're terrified of what this "uncut" version has in store.
Cinema 21 and Living Room Theaters (private screenings)
Seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, a Millennial couple (Sunita Mani and John Reynolds) decide to ~go offline~ and head upstate to Ben Sinclair's (High Maintenance) grandpa's cabin, only to be accosted by a host of deceptively cute aliens.
Living Room Theaters (private screenings)
Writer/director Cooper Raiff stars as Alex, a lonely college freshman who attempts to make friends at Shithouse, a fraternity infamous for its wild parties. There he forges a friendship with Maggie, who later ignores him, and whose attention he tries to win back again by returning to the booze-laden abode. This Grand Jury Prize Winner at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival is executive-produced by indie boy Jay Duplass.
Living Room Theaters (private screenings)
The Dark Divide
This new documentary starring David Cross and Deborah Messing is based on the true story of renowned butterfly expert Dr. Robert Pyle’s 1995 journey across one of America’s largest undeveloped wildlands.
Hollywood Theater and Northwest Film Center
Ganja & Hess
In Bill Gunn’s classic 1973 Blaxploitation horror, the protagonists combat racist cultural stereotypes through vampirism after Dr. Hess Green, an anthropologist (played by Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones), gets accidentally stabbed with an ancient cursed dagger by his assistant. "If horror reflects our terrors and traumas, it can also embody our best hopes—albeit sometimes in a negative cast," wrote former Stranger staffer Joule Zelman.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Just when you thought there was no gas left in the tank of revisionist vampire cinema, along comes A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a tale billed as “the first Iranian vampire western.” Though it’s unlikely to become a crowded field, this black-and-white Farsi-language gem is rich in allusive metaphor (blood-oil-sex-religion) and deep, dark texture. First-time writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour comes by her genre bona fides honestly, via a palette of cinematic and literary influences—Jim Jarmusch most strikingly, but also Leos Carax, Jim Thompson, and Raymond Chandler—not usually seen in horror films of any nationality. And while Amanpour doesn’t deliver the visceral scare factor of Let the Right One In, she does manage to out-Jarmusch Jarmusch’s recent vampire inversion, The Only Lovers Left Alive. In the opening scene, a lean, rockabilly-styled kid rescues a stray cat and walks languidly through the sun-blanched streets of the deserted desert town Bad City. As he crosses a small bridge, oil derricks pumping savagely in the distance, you only casually notice the ravine full of corpses below his feet, and understand that you’re in for a smart, super-creepy film that demands and rewards close attention. SEAN NELSON
A riot erupts in the suburbs outside of Paris after a young Muslim man is arrested and beaten by police. From there, three of the victim's friends walk around in the aftermath, trying to cope with their anger over the injustice. Mathieu Kassovitz's 1995 film won César and Cannes awards.
Marona’s Fantastic Tale
For a wholesome mental recharge, turn to Anca Damian's expressionistic French animated film told through the eyes of a stray dog who just wants a loving human to hang out with.
Northwest Film Center
Myth of A Colorblind France
The list of Black artists and creatives who have traveled to France (specifically Paris) to free themselves of America's racist bedrock is a long one, and ranges from James Baldwin to Josephine Baker to Augusta Savage. But to what extent was the City of Lights more accepting of people of color than the US? That's at the center of this documentary featuring interviews with French scholars Michel Fabre and Francis Hofstein, as well as contemporary artist Barbara Chase-Riboud, poet James Emanuel, hip-hop producer Ben the Glorious Bastard, and others.
When it came to adapting Richard Wright's 1940 novel Native Son into a film, ex-patriate Frenchman Pierre Chenal and Argentinian producer Jamie Prades swooped in when American filmmakers and actors at the time abandoned the project out of discomfort surrounding the deep current of racism in America that the story reveals. With Wright himself in the leading role, it's a noir thriller about a Black man trying to survive in a white world. This is a brand-new restoration.
Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin
There are documentaries, and then there's Werner Herzog turning the camera on himself to muse about all manner of existential concern. And that's what's going on here, with Nomad featuring the director/philosopher discussing his long friendship with travel writer Bruce Chatwin, who shared with Herzog an unquenchable thirst for truth.
Our Time Machine
Looking at the works of contemporary Chinese artist Maleonn, it's easy to see how much his father's former role as the artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater inspired him—Maleonn's conceptual pieces often center subjects in thespian-like costumes, surrounded by props, lit by warm spotlights. In this documentary, Maleonn undertakes a new project to connect with his aging dad through a couple of steampunk-ish mechanical puppets. "I want to use it to show my father how much I appreciate everything he's done for me," says the artist. You will absolutely sniffle and ponder your own mortality.
"Over the long course of her career, RBG repeatedly defended the rights of everyone to live free from bias, but, as Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg says, Ginsburg 'quite literally changed life for women.' With intimate interviews with family and friends, as well as RBG herself, the film captures the life of a woman with a heart none of us wants to stop ticking," wrote Katie Herzog about Julie Cohen and Betsy West's 2018 documentary. RIP, RBG.
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.
A human-rights activist and provocative photojournalist decides to run for office in a regional election in his native Kenya, determined to prevail with a "clean campaign" despite his opponents' corrupt practices.
Totally Under Control
You don't need us to tell you that the current administration is largely to blame for the miserable failure in controlling the novel coronavirus and potentially avoiding the hundreds of thousands of deaths from the virus. Together with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney explores why the system-wide collapse was possible in the first place.
Northwest Film Forum
You Never Had It: An Evening with Bukowski
A special screening of this short documentary that does exactly what it says it does: Puts you in Charles Bukowski's living room for a night as the famously grumpy poet and writer smokes about five million cigarettes, drinks, and opines on whatever the hell crosses his frontal lobe at the time.
Clinton Street Theater
Has the resurgence of vinyl in the digital age made music fandom more inclusive or more divided? This documentary traces the audio format's history and revival.
The Fungi Film Festival
As far as we know, this is the world's first short film festival dedicated to the mushrooms, lichens, and micro fungi of the Pacific Northwest. Premiering during the peak of mushroom-foraging season, the first night of the festival will also feature an event with mushroom growers, artists, and mycologists livestreamed from McCoy's Portland-based mushroom farm.
McMinnville Short Film Festival
This year, the McMinnville Short Film Festival will highlight winning films from previous years, including Jerry Eichten's "Walking Tour" from 2011, Austin Smagalski's "Wake" form 2014, Christian Bergmans's "The Plumber" from 2015, and Zach Putnam's "The Kenton Lead Blob" from 2017.
Portland Film Festival
The Portland Film Festival will bring a diverse array of independent voices together for a week of online screenings, which you can watch online, on the Comcast channel, or in-person in a reserved screening pod at the Hi-Lo Hotel.
Portland Latin American Film Festival XIV
The Hollywood Theater is moving the Portland Latin American Film Festival online, which is bittersweet. Bitter: Everyone loves a big screen, especially at this historic gem. Sweet: You'll have a full 48 hours to watch a film once you hit play. From September to November, the festival will present six movies from Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Switzerland, and Belgium that celebrate and honor the cultural diversity of Latin America. The upcoming film (starting Thursday) is Pablo Larraín's Ema, about a reggaeton dancer who "sets out on an odyssey of personal liberation."
From the freaks who brought you the HUMP! and SPLIFF Film Festivals comes something new, fun, and totally terrifying: SLAY! SLAY calls for filmmakers to send in homemade short horror films—eight minutes or less—capturing what scares them most. From classic ghost stories and slasher films to dystopian cults and political nightmares, SLAY dares you to show us your darkest fears. We know reality is scarier than fiction right now. Let’s purge our fears together. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Based on the conspiracy trial of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protest leaders, Aaron Sorkin's political thriller stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jeremy Strong as the major players in this historic case.
What the Constitution Means to Me
Heidi Schreck’s Tony-nominated and Pulitzer-finalist play What the Constitution Means to Me premiered during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings regarding the conservative Supreme Court Justice's alleged sexual assault of Christine Margaret Blasey Ford. Now, just in time for the upcoming election, the filmed version is available to stream online.