Cinema Italian Style, SIFF's celebration of the country's vital film industry, kicks off this weekend! Other noteworthy movie options include a Basquiat-starring avant-garde fairy tale, Downtown 81, the Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, and the wicked satire Greener Grass. See all of our film critics’ picks below, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
Note: Movies play Friday–Sunday unless otherwise noted
10 Things I Hate About You
Revisit one of the great '90s rom-coms that avoids saccharinity and sexism in favor of wit and genuine chemistry. Even though it's based on the most sexist Shakespeare play! Go for Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, stay for the genuine Seattle/Tacoma filming locations.
The Battle of Algiers
Director Gillo Pontecorvo managed, along with actor, writer, and producer Saadi Yacef (who was himself a part of the Algerian liberation forces during the campaign), to re-create the revolution in the streets of Algiers with breathtaking honesty. Shot in stark black and white, the camera often handheld, the film achieves a level of realism that is really quite startling. It is not documentary-like, but something else, and that something brings me back to the word "document"; feeling as if it were living and breathing history, the film is so masterfully assembled that it is a perfect piece of cinematic art. BRADLEY STEINBACHER
Friday & Sunday
Cinema Italian Style
The Cinema Italian Style is a weeklong SIFF mini-festival featuring the best in contemporary Italian cinema. Notable films this weekend include the auteur Marco Bellocchio's mafia drama The Traitor, based on the true story of a gangster who flipped on his Cosa Nostra bosses, and Illustrious Corpses, a 1976 crime thriller by Franco Rosi, who also made Salvatore Giuliano. (These two films play Saturday.)
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Constantine is far from perfect—the pacing drags, and the often silly plot (which has something to do with a requisite powerful relic) is unabashedly secondary to the premise. But Constantine's still a viscerally enjoyable, even philosophically intriguing treatment of religion: Christianity as an action film. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Danny Torrance, the psychic kid from The Shining, is all grown up—and messed up, understandably. When he meets a girl with the "shining," the same ability as his own, the two allies must fight a cult that tries to exploit their power.
This peculiar New York punk fairy tale is an invaluable document of 1980s vanguard country, starring none other than Jean-Michel Basquiat (who was homeless during filming) and featuring his paintings. The plot is something about Basquiat wandering the city trying to sell art, looking for a strange lady with a convertible, and kissing Debbie Harry. The bands DNA, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and James White and the Blacks, as well as graffiti artists Lee Quiñones and Fab Five Freddy, also appear.
Engauge Experimental Film Festival
This experimental film festival will once again screen "films that originated on film" from artists around the world. Tired of everyone being obsessed with narrative? Take a break from it with direct animation, experiments with time, and more.
Northwest Film Forum
Escape from New York
John Carpenter’s 1981 classic sci-fi thriller film Escape from New York is a dystopian extravaganza starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, and Ernest Borgnine. After a botched hijacking, Air Force One crashes in Manhattan. The president survives, but, owing to the fact that the island has been converted into a maximum-security prison, finds himself among teeming hordes of violent criminals. A special operative named Snake is sent in to save him. Snake has a checkered past. The year is 1997.
This heartbreaking film by documentarists Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts chronicles young mother Al-Khateab's experiences in Aleppo during five years of the Syrian Civil War. Among other prestigious prizes, For Sama was awarded the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at Cannes.
Northwest Film Forum
Thursday & Saturday–Sunday
A hilarious, unsettling satire of suburban politeness, Greener Grass has my vote for this year’s unforgettable sleeper comedy, on par with films like Napoleon Dynamite or Wet Hot American Summer. But cowriters/directors/stars Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe have turned out something so much tighter than either of those films. Greener Grass is so relentlessly funny that I expect you’ll soon be hearing its lines traded around between film buffs. (“Do the children play soccer on graves? I haven’t noticed that before.”) My only criticism is in the time-honored casting of a large woman with greasy hair as one of the film’s more obvious villains, but then again, it’s suburbia—so really, they’re all villains. SUZETTE SMITH
SIFF Film Center
With Harriet, audiences are given a live-action reimagining of Harriet Tubman’s journey to self-liberation: changing her name, hiding in bales of hay, being chased by dogs, and getting cornered by armed men on a bridge before jumping into the river. Harriet shows how Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) got help from a secret network of safe houses and trusted free Blacks (Leslie Odom Jr. and Janelle Monáe) who stuck their necks out to help her cause. Throughout the film, the only music you’ll hear, gladly, are negro spirituals—songs that enslaved Blacks used to express their sorrow and joy, and to secretly communicate. (Tubman, who was nicknamed Moses, would sing “Go Down Moses” as a signal to enslaved Blacks that she was in the area, and would help anyone who wished to escape.) Harriet doesn’t subject the sensitive viewer to excessive gore or violence (though there is one particularly unsettling scene), because for once, this is a story in the “slave movie” genre about tremendous triumph, leadership, and Tubman’s unwavering faith, both in God and herself. JENNI MOORE
The latest from Taika Waititi starts off with a bright, Wes Andersonian whimsiness: Young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) joyously bounces about at summer camp, having the time of his life as he frolics and laughs with his second-best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) and his first-best friend, the imaginary Adolf (Waititi). Just one thing: Jojo is at Hitler Youth camp—their campfire activities include burning books—Adolf is Adolf Hitler, and World War II is winding down, with Germany not doing so great. Both because of and in spite of its inherent shock value, Jojo Rabbit—based on a book by Christine Leunens—is just as clever and hilarious as Waititi’s other movies, but as it progresses, the story taps into a rich vein of gut-twisting melancholy. There’s more to the complicated Jojo Rabbit than first appears, and only a director as committed, inventive, and life-affirmingly good-hearted as Waititi would even have a chance of pulling it off. He does, to unforgettable effect. ERIK HENRIKSEN
AMC Pacific Place & Thornton Place
Joker isn’t really the story of a good man gone bad; clown for hire Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is troubled from the outset. He’s barely scraping by, living with his mother (Frances Conroy), and coming undone due to cuts in social services. Sure, Phillips overdoes it with long, panning explorations of Fleck’s bruised, skinny ribs, but then again, men with insecurities about being skinny are presumably the film’s target audience. The first half hour unfolds like a dog-whistle symphony for insecure guys who think they have it bad. Fleck berates his black social worker (Sharon Washington) for not listening to him when she’s obviously doing her best. He fixates on a black single mother (Zazie Beetz) after the briefest sign of camaraderie. Yet there are a series of trap doors throughout Joker that unexpectedly drop its audience into new perspectives. Early on, an obvious foreshadow shifts Fleck onto a new path, and as that plotline plays out, Joker offers some surprisingly rewarding reflections on the relationship between the villain and Batman. (Oh yeah! This is a Batman movie, remember?) Both men, Joker suggests, might be equally deranged, making sweeping moves against the world without regard for those who become collateral damage for their respective manias. SUZETTE SMITH
Kamikaze Hearts + The Prostitutes of Lyon Speak
This double feature pairs Juliet Bashore's pseudo-documentary about the sexism and exploitation of the 1980s porn industry, Kamikaze Hearts, with Carole Roussopoulos's true documentary The Prostitutes of Lyon Speak, which witnesses the sex worker protest occupation of the St. Nizier church. The Beacon Cinema calls the latter "one of the best sex work documentaries ever made."
The Lighthouse, the second film from Robert Eggers, the director of the excellent, wildly disconcerting period horror The Witch, is... funnier than expected? Sure, it’s also fucked-up and intense and distressing, but there are significantly more fart jokes than one might expect. Robert Pattinson, with a voice like The Simpsons’ Mayor Quimby, and Willem Dafoe, with a voice like The Simpsons’ crusty old sea captain, play two lost souls manning a decrepit lighthouse on a miserable, unnamed island. Like The Witch, this is a story and a setting that feels old, and Eggers captures it in joyless black and white, antiquated dialogue, and a squarish, 1.19:1 aspect ratio. Pattinson and Dafoe squabble and fight and scream, and something is lurking on the rocky cliffs, and something else is lurking at the top of the tower, and man, this one seagull really hates Pattinson. Things get weird, and sad, and unexpectedly touching; Dafoe and Pattinson are both great, and if you’re going to descend into Eggers’s particular brand of fraught, bleak madness, one could hardly ask for better company. As we head into another dour, dark Northwest winter, Eggers’s whipping gales and damp despair are here to remind you that hey, things could always be worse. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sounds
In what's being described as an "inspiring, entertaining, epic journey" for movie-lovers (Serena Seghedoni, Loud & Clear Reviews), longtime sound editor Midge Costin directs this tribute to the underappreciated art of sound design and the people who pioneered it.
Hassan Fazili's Sundance World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award documents the filmmaker's own journey as a refugee as he is forced by the Taliban to flee his native Afghanistan with his wife and daughters. Right now, there may be few better ways to feel what it's really like to leave home under threat of death and try to resettle in safety during these xenophobic times.
Director/star Edward Norton’s decision to turn Jonathan Lethem’s postmodern neo-noir novel into a literal 1950s-set noir, with jazz music and vintage cars aplenty, is both an asset and a liability. Motherless Brooklyn is easy on the eyes, and the all-star cast conveys the sense—if not the suspense—of a twisty-turny mystery populated by crooks, dames, reporters, jazz musicians, and an ultra-powerful tycoon inspired by infamous New York City developer Robert Moses. But the movie’s overlong and unfocused, too, and there’s almost no emotional purchase, even as stakes escalate. NED LANNAMANN
Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound presents another archival screening night, this time dedicated to Seattle's history of resistance in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the World Trade Organization protests.
Northwest Film Forum
Mixed-race Vietnamese filmmaker Adele Pham explores the eight-billion-dollar nail salon industry by diving into 40 years of Vietnamese American history.
Northwest Film Forum
Night and the City
The memorably weaselly Richard Widmark stars as Harry Fabian in what many consider to be the quintessential bleak noir, where things couldn't possibly get any worse...until they do.
Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time doesn't have the self-conscious, This Is a Quentin Tarantino Film™ feel of the filmmaker's past few movies. It feels neither reliant nor focused on those obsessions and quirks. We spend the bulk of our time with three people: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an earnest, anxious, B-list actor whose career is right about to curdle; Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick's toughed-up, chilled-out former stuntman and current BFF; and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), a bubbly, captivating actress who's just starting to enjoy her first taste of success in show business. How Tarantino plays with history in Once Upon a Time is one of the more intense and surprising elements of the film—and, thankfully, it's also one of the best. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Meridian 16 & Crest
Pain and Glory
Pedro Almodóvar has long warmed his filmography with flickers of details from his personal life, but Pain & Glory brings us closer to the flame. In it, we look in on Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), a filmmaker in self-imposed exile due to a creative decline and a variety of physical ailments. Banderas stifles his melodramatic tendencies to subtly and powerfully reveal Mallo’s agonies and evolution. ROBERT HAM
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Parasite is director Bong Joon-ho at his very best. It's a departure from the sci-fi bent of his recent movies, though it's no less concerned with the state of society today. Set in Seoul, South Korea, the families and class issues at play reflect our global era, in which the disparity between the haves and have-nots seems to be widening. Parasite follows the Kim family, who secretly scam their way into the lives of the wealthy Park family. Slowly and methodically, the Kims begin to drive out the other domestic workers at the Park residence, each time referring another family member (who they pretend not to know) for the vacant position. And so the poorer family starts to settle comfortably into the grift—until a sudden realization turns their lives upside down. The resulting film offers an at turns hilarious and deeply unsettling look at class and survival, its essence echoed in the environments the characters inhabit. JASMYNE KEIMIG
In 1997, Satoshi Kon, a Japanese animator, achieved fame with the anime film Perfect Blue. It is a thriller about a retired idol (or, in Japanese, idoru). An idol is a pop star manufactured by a talent corporation. They are young, they sing, they model, they appear on TV shows, they retire. In Perfect Blue, the former idol, Mima Kirigoe, decides to become an actor, but her first role in a drama series called Double Bind fucks with her mind badly. It's hard out here for a retired idoru. CHARLES MUDEDE
Northwest Film Forum
An early outing from body-horror mage David Cronenberg, Rabid turns Montreal into an apocalyptic hellscape peopled by disease-ridden, blood-crazed biters.
Northwest Film Forum
Sundance Indigenous Shorts
Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program and Art House Convergence present six films by Indigenous and Native moviemakers from the Arctic Circle, Ho-Chunk land in midwestern America, Mi’gmaq territory in Canada, and elsewhere. Some subjects include the heritage of traditional crafts, the art of throat singing, and the Indian Pipe plant.
Northwest Film Forum
Terminator: Dark Fate
If nothing else, Dark Fate has one thing going for it: Sarah Connor. Linda Hamilton is back, which means there's a Terminator movie worth watching again. Well, it's worth watching, I guess, if you, like me, have devoted entirely too much of your ever-shrinking life span to thinking about terminators. For everyone else, Dark Fate's appeal—which largely hinges on seeing Hamilton, Arnold, and various bloodthirsty murderbots back in action—might be limited. Deadpool director Tim Miller does a lot of things right: His action sequences are messy but intense; he knows to let Hamilton, with her wry eyebrows and smoke-scratched voice, steal scenes whenever she feels like it; and he somehow pulls off the insane-sounding task of making a Terminator movie that's legitimately, consistently funny. But at the end of the day, Dark Fate is another sequel that tries, with mixed success, to reboot a rusty series, and several of the attempts it makes to feel current land with a wet thud. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Urusei Yatsura 2—Beautiful Dreamer
A gross boy saves the Earth by besting an alien princess in a weird competition, but then he has to marry her in this odd, dreamy anime by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell).
Words from a Bear
Jeffrey Palmer's film is a visual meditation on the work of Navarro Scott Momaday (Kiowa), a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who helped kick off the Native American Renaissance beginning in the 1960s.
Northwest Film Forum
Zombieland 2: Double Tap
The problem with comedy sequels is that it's hard to tell the same joke years later, but funnier. Despite the ravages of time and changing tastes, filmmakers must suplex the lightning back into that bottle. But despite lurching into theaters a full decade after the original, Zombieland: Double Tap avoids those pitfalls while delivering a suitably zany Zombieland experience with the easy charm of an off-brand Mike Judge picaresque. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone all return to banter and blast zombies, and their wry camaraderie speaks a seemingly genuine desire to play in this viscera-splattered sandbox again (rather than, as with many long-delayed sequels, simply the desire for a new beach house). Added to the mix are a spate of goofy newcomers, including a delightfully unapologetic flibbertigibbet (Zoey Deutch) and a pair of dirtbag doppelgangers (Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch). It's more a live-action cartoon than a serious entry in the zombie canon, but as a low-key genre comedy, it totally works. BEN COLEMAN
Our critics don't recommend these films, but you might like to know about them anyway.