We made it to June, you guys. Nobody knows what the hell this month might possibly have in store, but it's not any of the months that are behind us now, and that's one good thing it's got going for it from the jump. This first week of June's also got a pretty solid menu full of food for your brain, candy for your eyes, liquid gold to pour in your ears, and a lot more on the menu, too. Hit the links below and load your plate accordingly
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Monday, June 1
Collide-O-Scope has been described as "half video art installation and half stoner gawkfest" and for 10 years it has been an entertainment staple for seekers of fun and hilarity, and lovers of the weird and wild. Using pop culture ephemera and obscure oddities from film, VHS, music and all forms of media as their paints and canvas, Collide-O-Scope (Mon Jun 1, 8 pm, $5-20) is an expertly crafted, mind-melting, often hilarious stream of consciousness video extravaganza.
We Are One: A Global Film Festival
Way back in March (which feels something like four or five years ago) one of the first real signs that our federal government had well and truly botched their response to COVID-19 came in the form of festivals shutting down—SXSW, Cannes, Tribeca, the New York Film Festival, they all canceled. But into this film-loving void came... YouTube? Yes! The land of failed film majors making avant-garde six-hour "video essays" about how the SJWs ruined Star Wars is looking to make amends for said crimes against cinema by hosting this online festival, screening accepted entries from all those canceled festivals (and a few more for good measure) for 10 days straight (May 29-June 7, click here for the full schedule). For 2020, not only are you going to Cannes, but to Tribeca, and the NYFF, and you never have to leave your living room. Not bad!
Folks who’ve lived around the Northwest for a while know that Brandi Carlile’s been working hard to make sure her music is heard for a long time. Fifteen years ago, the Seattle singer-songwriter started out filling nightclubs in the region with her huge voice and charisma, if not filling the rooms with bodies. A decade ago, she graduated to playing theaters on the strength of her 2007 breakthrough album The Story, which showcased Carlile’s songwriting skills and that of her longtime collaborators Phil and Tim Hanseroth. Tonight (Mon June 1, 6 pm, $10-1000) she's performing her best album, By the Way, I Forgive You, in celebration of her 39th birthday. BEN SALMON
V for Vendetta
Last week, HBO Max launched, and there's a ton of inarguably great stuff to be found there already—many of Akira Kurosawa's finest films, a huge archive of classic Looney Tunes cartoons, the epoch-defining wonder of the Critters franchise—but a lot of people are subbing solely for that sweet DC comics content. But one of the best comic book movies ever, one that came from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, isn't there! It's on NETFLIX now, and V for Vendetta has almost never gotten its proper due. Upon release, it was just an entertaining-yet-pretentious follow-up to the disappointing Matrix sequels. Less than a decade later, V was so thoroughly hijacked by "anarchist" internet brats indulging in proto-Gamergate harassment tactics, that the mask became the second-biggest marker of young male dipshittery next to the fedora. But now you can stream it on Netflix and see it for the rare flower it really is: A good adaptation of an Alan Moore comic. Even more extraordinary? It improves on the source! As a book, V is a naive and clumsy work by an angry beardo just starting to wrap his head around anarchist theory. The Wachowskis, director James McTeigue, and an amazing cast (Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt) do away with all of Moore's silliest, most immature ideas and replace his misguided rage with a more weathered, measured cynicism. Well, that and some legit stunts 'n' splosions, too.
In advance of their debuting the latest Spike Lee joint (Da 5 Bloods, a Vietnam War movie starring Chadwick Boseman, coming June 12) Netflix has just added what is probably Lee's most (for lack of a better word) "Pop" movie. That's not to say Inside Man (Begins streaming June 1) isn't thoughtful, carefully considered, and most of all very well-acted (thank you, Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Jodie Foster). It's very much all those things! But it's all those things in service of a potboiler bank heist plot. So when you stack it up against Do the Right Thing or BlackKklansman or Malcolm X or 25th Hour, it may seem sort of slight by comparison. But when you're watching it? It's a remarkably tight thriller that grabs you from frame one and tries to stop you from taking a breath until the end credits start rolling.
The latest entry into the quickly growing genre of Quarantine Albums might be the best, as J.S. Ondara, the Kenyan-born, Minneapolis-made musician, released the follow-up to his Tales of America duology, Folk 'n' Roll: Tales of Isolation. It's sort of hard to describe the ways his voice and lyrics combine to create an un-ignorable stirring in your soul, but that's the thing about this amazing internet-fueled future we occupy right now: You can just discover what a wonder this album is by clicking the play button right below this sentence.
Tuesday, June 2
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
It’s unusual to witness real cinematic magic these days, but the Fred Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Streams beginning Tues, June 2, Hulu) absolutely has it. Director Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) wisely avoids the visual slickness one might expect from a Tom Hanks-centric melodrama, instead employing a lived-in style and scene transitions that consist of miniature cities like those in the opening of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Hanks is totally committed to Rogers’ appearance and manner, but A Beautiful Day is more about Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) a fictional journalist profiling Rogers. Where Heller’s film becomes transcendent is in its cinematic pressure points: The striking slowness of the narrative (it’s meant to emulate the pace of Rogers’ show, and you get used to it), the mirroring of Rogers and Vogel in their interview styles and drawn-out reaction shots, and a profound moment of silence that grips your heart like, “Did that really just happen? Why was that so intense?” SUZETTE SMITH
Hannah Gadsby's Douglas
Last year (jesus was it really only one year ago?) Hannah Gadsby—after successfully upending the world of stand-up for a hot minute with her Netflix special Nanette—retired, then unretired, then embarked on her first world tour, which sold out every stop (including four shows at the Newmark here in Portland). Douglas is streaming now on Netflix, and it differs from Nanette in that there isn't a show-stopping ending that turns your heart inside out (Gadsby addresses that expectation pretty early on), but it's also a more finely-tailored, comfortable, and confident hour of stand-up, one that touches on the controversy of male comics completely disqualifying Nanette as stand-up at all, somewhere before she turns the whole concert into a renaissance art lecture. According to Gadsby, "It's gonna be good! Unless you don't like it! Then it's still gonna be good, and you'll be wrong."
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
There were a bunch of people who considered HBO Max having Friends at launch to be a very, very big deal—not least of which being the millionaire CEOs at Warner Bros. . But funny enough, in the short amount of time that HBO Max has been around, the beloved '90s-era sitcom warming hearts and prompting nostalgia-fueled binge-watches isn't the one with Ross & Rachel. It's The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the TV show that made Will Smith into WILL SMITH, and more importantly, gave millions of people the gift of James Avery as Uncle Phil. Oh, and the Carlton-dance, too! And the theme song! Which is now stuck in your head. You know what the only way to get that out of there is, right...
Speaking of themes, one of the best ways to enjoy HBO Max doesn't even involve having a subscription! The Studio Ghibli library being available there is a huge deal for people who like entertainment that gives you life as you watch it, and a huge part of why Studio Ghibli works do that is due to composer Joe Hisaishi, whose music for movies like Princess Mononoke and Porco Rosso is as integral to their success as John Williams is to Star Wars or Harry Potter. And sometime in the very recent past, Spotify very sneakily snuck all his Ghibli soundtracks onto their platform. Chillhop producers have been mining these chiming, twinkling scores to make blissed-out beats for years now, but if you want to give your daily soundtracks a big lift, go straight to the source.
Wednesday, June 3
Silent Reading Party
A lot of people are taking the opportunity to turn the online version of The Stranger's super-successful words 'n' vibes experience into a weekly online destination, a respite from (waves hands exasperatedly at basically everything) and an opportunity to simply... slow up, sit down, and just listen to live piano music while sinking into a good book. If you haven't tried it out yet, tonight's the night, and we'll see you at 6pm. If you have tried it out before? Welcome back. It's a damn nice oasis of low-key bliss, isn't it?
Conversations With Friends
If you're looking for a new novel to crack the spine on, why not begin at the beginning of literary phenom Sally Rooney's bibliography? Conversations With Friends (ebook available at MultCo Library w/ card; Paperback avail at Powells.com, $17)is a vibrantly-alive collection of anecdotes, theories, arguments, and even instant messages between two college friends who have a history of tearing down and reshaping the context of their own lives, getting themselves involved with an older writer and her failed actor of a husband. It's the sort of headlong tumble into other people's lives that only great fiction can really provide, and the way Rooney makes these four people that real is so engrossing you might not notice the music's been stopped and the screen went blank out of the corner of your eye hours ago.
While we're in a Sally Rooney sort of mood, why not check out the heart-breakingly beautiful-and-complicated adaptation of her acclaimed best-selling second novel, now streaming as a 12-episode miniseries on Hulu? As the title hints, there are no superheroes involved in this narrative; no sci-fi hooks to grab onto, no world-threatening scenarios to conquer. It's just a love story. A regular, low-stakes, small-town love story set in Ireland. A love story that pretty quickly stops feeling low-stakes as its two principals meet, hook up, grow, break up, leave, come back, hook up again, regress, break up again, and come to exemplify the absolutely commonplace but never-not-terrifying tightrope that you have to walk if you want to be really intimate with someone, especially when you still don't quite know who you are yet.
One of the secret ingredients to Normal People being so good? Director Lenny Abrahamson, whose style is perfectly suited to capturing the feelings radiating off an actor and translating them perfectly without needing a single word. That skill shines through beautifully in his 2014 musical dramedy Frank (Now available, Kanopy, free w/ MultCo Library Card), loosely based on the real (and really bizarre) band fronted by comedian Frank Sidebottom. It may seem like a too-twee-for-its-own-good satire of indie pretension in the first half hour or so, but as Abrahamson starts slyly adding dimensions and layers to all these quietly desperate people in his frame (Domnhall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender wearing a giant papier-mache head), it becomes one of the most uniquely touching movies to have come out that year.
Spelling the Dream
While some of you were looking to slake your thirst for sports by mainlining episodes of that 10-part Air Jordan commercial on ESPN, others—aficionados of real competition and compelling true-to-life-drama—were waiting for this documentary to hit Netflix. Spelling the Dream (Available beginning Wed, June 3) shuffles to the mic and confidently fills the void left by the 2020 Scripps National Spelling Bee cancellation, and tells the story of four children seeking to win that very championship; and through those stories, investigates how the Bee not only became must-watch television every year, but how the Indian-American community has made the Bee the national tradition it's now become.
If it seems like we're in the middle of a lo-fi hip-hop golden age, you just might be right. Chunky, sample-dusted beats, horn-kissed and and blessed by woodwinds, have been a thing since someone first let Pete Rock near an SP-12, but the last couple years have seen an entirely new generation stand on top of that foundation and share their truths in a way previous eras couldn't have allowed. One of the best currently doing it is Medhane, whose new album, Cold Water went from announcement to release in less than a week, and is as bracing and necessary as it title suggests. Splash it all over your headphones for an hour or so, it's some feel-good music that doesn't skimp at all on the depth and meaning.
Thursday, June 4
Movie Madness University Online: Suspiria
For its second online class in the curriculum, Hollywood Theatre's Community Programmer Anthony Hudson leads a seminar on Suspiria—but not the lurid fever-dream original from Dario Argento. No, this class (Thurs June 4, 7:30 pm, $10) is focused on the lurid fever-dream remake by Luca Guadagnino. Sure, the original is going to get brought up (how could you not) but Hudson will discuss what other influences are in Guadagnino's work, and investigate the mythology within the movie. Tuition cost doesn't include access to the film, but Movie Madness University films are available to rent on major VOD services for $5 or less.
Stumptown Revival: A Livestream Benefit Concert
Sendero Provisions presents this COVID-19 relief concert (Thurs June 4, 6:30 pm, Twitch, Facebook Live, YouTube) with funds aimed directly at small businesses, non-profits, and independent artists both here in Portland and statewide. And they're not playing around either, putting together a lineup of local all-stars that includes Blitzen Trapper, Ezra Bell, Charley Crockett, Houndmouth, and an interview with Portugal. The Man. They're looking to raise at least $50,000 before the stream closes down, so if you enjoy the fruits of our scene's labor, and you have the coin to kick down, why not help yourself to a damn fine concert and help Sendero reach their goal?
Let's Stay In Together
The historic Apollo Theater, home of countless all-time performances from music's most electrifying artists, is throwing itself a benefit concert (Thurs, June 4, 4 pm) in the hopes they can come through the other side of this Coronavirus crisis with the rest of us, and get back to the business of making music history on their stage. And who is coming to help the Apollo out with appearances and performances? Oh... you know... Kool & The Gang, Dionne Warwick, Doug E. Fresh, Teddy Riley, The Roots, D-Nice, Keb Mo, Gary Clark Jr., and even more surprise guests.
Holocene's 17th Birthday Party
One of the best clubs in Portland is also one of the best at converting their uptempo energy to livestream gold through Twitch and YouTube, and you'd better believe that when it comes time to celebrate their 17th birthday (Thurs June 4, 7 pm), Holocene is going to do it up properly, featuring a set from Matthew Dear spinning pure heat straight out of Michigan, with support from DJ Coast2C and Ben Tactic.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
One of life’s greatest tragedies is that Linda Ronstadt’s singing voice—a once-in-a-millennium instrument of good in this wicked world—has been silenced due to her struggles with Parkinson’s. That's made clear by directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman in Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, largely thanks to the numerous clips of Ronstadt's performances they squeeze into the documentary's 95 minutes. Emmylou Harris, in one of the film's most powerful and vulnerable moments, is reduced to tears when she’s reminded her friend can’t ever sing again. And when you hear Ronstadt performing everything from Buddy Holly to Gilbert and Sullivan, chances are you’ll cry too. This free one-week-only engagement (June 4-June 10) is made possible by the Bright Focus Foundation, and includes a special intro from producer James Keach. ROBERT HAM
It may seem an unlikely statement on its face, but there is truth to it: Not all smooth-brained reality programmigg is bad for you! They don't all have to be soul-eroding trash pageants of exploitative misery! In fact, if you're looking for a feel-good binge, check out that newfangled HBO Max thingy and click on We're Here (Now streaming, HBO Max), which is basically just taking Queer Eye and To Wong Foo and turning that up several notches, as Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela, and Eureka of RuPaul's Drag Race enhance small-town lives by letting people realize their drag queen dreams (Season finale airs Thurs, July 4, 9pm). Sure, it may sound derivative, but the word that more accurately describes the show is "transformative."
Christopher Isherwood, who wrote the novel that became a play that became the Kander and Ebb musical that became Bob Fosse's award-winning 1972 movie (now streaming, HBO Max), lived in Berlin from 1929 to 1934. He got out when he detected "terror in the Berlin air." He started having "mild hallucinations." He heard wagons pull up to the building that weren't there and started seeing swastikas in the wallpaper of his room. So what did he do? He moved. He got out of there. He relocated to Los Angeles, to the United States, where nothing like creeping autocracy would ever happen. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
Fetch the Bolt Cutters
They're not gonna fetch themselves, are they. No. No they are not.
Don't forget to check out our Things To Do calendar for even more things to stream while you stay home and stay safe!