The biggest film opening this weekend is of course Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood, his best movie in years. There will also be many great documentaries playing, like the haunting Streetwise—perhaps one of the greatest Seattle films—and the David Hockney-starring A Bigger Splash. Alternatively, spend all your time in virtual reality and digital realms at the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival. Follow the links below to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers for all of our critics' picks. If you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings (which are now location-aware!), and don't forget to see where outdoor movies are playing.
Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted
Todd Miller's superbly edited new documentary on the Apollo 11 mission, which put Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon (and sent Michael Collins around its dark side), adds no narration or talking heads, other than contemporaneous sources. Although you know how things turned out, you're plunged into the suspense of the moment, when even the slightest miscalculation could have doomed the astronauts to a lonely or fiery death. Listen to that amazing sound design! JOULE ZELMAN
Pacific Science Center
The Art of Self-Defense
The current cultural discourse has become filled with stories of aimless, lonely young men who find direction and a kind of community through toxic and bizarre means. For Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), the weedy accountant shuffling through his beige existence in writer/director Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense, that feeling leads him to a karate class. When he steps into the dojo, he is intoxicated by the eloquent yet stern Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), who describes martial arts as a pathway to inner and outer strength. Where The Art of Self-Defense goes from this point—and how its note-perfect cast handles its premise—is what gives the movie its strength. At first, Stearns leans hard into the dark comedy, with stilted, mannered dialogue and quirky scenes that come across like a hyper-violent remake of a Hal Hartley film, or maybe Jim Jarmusch's Fight Club. But soon, Sensei’s sinister intentions become clear, and the emotional and psychological impact he has on the people in his orbit—especially Anna (Imogen Poots), the steely young woman who teaches the kids’ class—becomes harder for Casey to swallow. ERIK HENRIKSEN
AMC Pacific Place & AMC Seattle 10
Barbara Rubin & the Exploding New York Underground
A precocious individual who experimented with drugs at a young age, Barbara Rubin electrified New York City’s underground-cinema community as a 17-year-old assistant to scene guru Jonas Mekas in 1963. She quickly insinuated her radical ideas about sexuality, spirituality, and formal techniques into the counterculture with Christmas on Earth and other works. Rubin later became a key figure in Andy Warhol’s Factory, shooting Uptight #3, which helped to mythologize legendary rock group the Velvet Underground. Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground also delves into Rubin’s obsessive, fraught relationship with Allen Ginsberg and her immersion in Orthodox Judaism, which shifted her from subversive art-making to what friends and colleagues viewed as subservient motherhood. This film effectively portrays her galvanizing, bewildering life. DAVE SEGAL
Northwest Film Forum
A Bigger Splash
This 1974 film stars the British painter David Hockney as himself! It was shot by Jack Hazan over three of Hockney's most creatively successful years, and the result is, in the words of filmmaker Martin Schwartz, a "document of glamor, love, sex, and creativity in early-1970s London and New York."
Northwest Film Forum
The Biggest Little Farm
Skeptics might wonder whether a 90-minute documentary on farming is better used as insomnia remedy than a night out at the movies, but John Chester's gorgeous film has been snatching up audience choice and best film awards all over the place. He and his wife, Molly, spent eight years striving to create a farm in California that was perfectly in accord with nature—despite drought, poor soil, and wildfires. Ultimately, they have to accept that they're not in control of nature and life. Come for the lovely footage of wildlife and farm animals, stay for the inspiration to fight for sustainability.
Booksmart is about Molly and Amy (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever), two accomplished girls who are currently enjoying their final day of high school—and realizing that they've alienated all of their peers by focusing only on school and each other. When Molly decides the pair needs a party experience before graduation, it kicks off an epic night of social awkwardness, attempted hook-ups, accidental drug use, and inescapable theatre kids. The love-you-to-death friendship between Molly and Amy is the heart of director Olivia Wilde's movie, and major credit is due to Dever and Feldstein for crushing that chemistry. They’re lifted up by a brilliant supporting cast of fellow teen misfits (including Billie Lourd, who steals every scene she barreled through) and fuckup grownups (Jason Sudeikis, Jessica Williams, and Mike O’Brien) who round out a laugh-inducing, cry-inducing, and utterly relatable high-school universe that I wanted to inhabit and also gave me PTSD. ELINOR JONES
Comedy Gold from the American Cinema
This summer, let the silver screen wash over you and enjoy old-school cool with comedic classics like Easy Living, starring Jean Arthur as a poor stenographer whose life is upended when a rich banker accidentally drops his wife's fur coat on her head.
Seattle Art Museum
Soooo...is this movie about gigantic bloodthirsty alligators wreaking havoc on hurricane-flooded Florida...good? According to reviews, no. But it's a lot of fun, like any dumb B-movie ought to be, says critic Jake Wilson (The Age): "It lives up to its schlock promise — delivering jokey shocks with a degree of expertise while retaining enough seeming naivety to let viewers have fun mocking its shortcomings." Aaron Yap of Flicks.co.nz is blunter: "You want big alligators attacking people? You’ll definitely get big alligators attacking the shit out of people."
Faces is considered to be the first breakout independent film, as it was nominated for three Oscars, including one for Cassel's performance. The opposite end of the spectrum from Minnie and Moskowitz, Faces is the anti-love story of an unsatisfied married couple who seek solace with others—he with a prostitute (Gena Rowlands), and she with an aging hippie (Seymour Cassel). The film is not easy to watch as the characters strip each other down emotionally, revealing painful vulnerabilities and shortcomings. The relationships of the characters feel so volatile, ranging from screaming laughter to violent rage in seconds, that it creates an unbelievable tension that is maintained through the film's two hours. M. WILLIAM HELFRICH
If you had a fatal disease, would you want to know? This question lies at the heart of a 2016 This American Life segment called “What You Don’t Know” by Lulu Wang. Her 80-year-old grandmother, known as Nai Nai, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and given three months to live. Her family decided not to tell her she was sick at all. Now Wang has written and directed a film, The Farewell, based on her family’s experience. It features Awkwafina, the wonderful rapper and actor, in her first starring role. GILLIAN ANDERSON
Gold Diggers of 1933
This Depression-era musical has all the hallmarks of a Busby Berkeley-choreographed extravaganza: jaunty songs, the old-timey charm of stars Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, and, most importantly, hallucinatory dance sequences on elaborate sets that still inspire amazement.
In the Aisles
This German festival hit wends its way into the secretive nocturnal lives of box-store stockers. The quiet Christian develops a crush on the mysterious, married Marion from the sweets department. As feelings grow between them, Christian's past threatens his equilibrium. Critics from all over the world have hailed Thomas Stuber's deceptively ordinary romance for its "quotidian magic." (LA Times).
Polaroids might seem like they should have gone the way of other analogue media, and indeed, Polaroid itself sold its last working factory. But this facility was scooped up by a group of Polaroid lovers, so the snaps live on. Dutch filmmaker Willem Baptist sets out to tell the story of the Polaroid and delve into its unkillable appeal.
Northwest Film Forum
Kiki's Delivery Service
In an unnamed European country, ambitious young witch Kiki hops on her broomstick and sets up a freelance delivery business in the city, but must grapple with the tribulations of finicky magical powers, working, and growing up. A sincere and gentle parable about overcoming self-doubt and depression with the help of your friends, featuring the cute talking kitty Jiji and one of the subtlest, most bittersweet endings you'll ever see in animation.
AMC Pacific Place
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo Vitelli, a nightclub owner who gets deep into gambling debt, and is forced by the mob to kill a Chinese bookie. Seymour Cassel plays his usual nice guy, even though he's part of the mob, eventually trying to kill Cosmo. The story is great, and the film is filled with freakshow characters and bits of comedy. M. WILLIAM HELFRICH
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Inspired by a true story, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about the city’s rapid gentrification and those crazy looks white folks give Black and brown people for daring to feel at home in their own neighborhoods. It centers on carpenter Jimmie Fails, who becomes obsessed with his massive childhood home in the city and sets out on a mission to buy it. These days, it’s going for a cool $4 million. Fails plays a fictionalized version of himself in the film, which he cowrote with his best friend, director Joe Talbot. Almost right off, there are hints the film was directed by a white person. In this San Francisco, white neighbors don’t call the cops, but rather use the threat of calling the cops as a weapon in order to get Black people to scram. A breath of fresh air: There’s no romantic subplot or “classic” nuclear family. Instead, the film’s emotions stem from Jimmie’s fixation on his childhood home, his friendship with the autistic aspiring playwright Montgomery, and his complicated relationship with his city. But after finishing the film, I was left with questions about these characters’ lives: How does Jimmie find time to make money? Where do these Black San Franciscans get their food? It adds another level of too-smooth glaze to the film to never see its main characters working or doing any other life stuff. JENNI MOORE
Magic Mike XXL
Do we need to see this same cast of beefheads grind on each other some more, but with higher stakes? Does anyone need more of this? Answers: Yes and OMG YES. FUCK YES. SO MUCH. Channing Tatum returns as Mike Lane, the stripper with a wang of gold. Three years after the first film, Mike's now running his own custom furniture business and wears shirts to his job. Then his old stripper—sorry, MALE ENTERTAINER—pals call him up for a road trip to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach! Chatum balks for all of four seconds, and then away they go. I loved every second of Magic Mike XXL because I love dancing and hot guys and glitter. But I also loved it because it's important to this moment in society. Instead of seeing women as nothing but orifices and/or nags, the dudes of MMXXL worship them. ELINOR JONES
When we meet college student Dani (Florence Pugh), she's isolated, enduring a nerve-shredding family crisis behind a mask of feminine selflessness and apparently afraid to reveal her emotions to her distant and manipulative boyfriend, Christian. But once an affection-starved Dani, along with Christian and his bros, follow their friend Pelle to his cultish village in rural Sweden for a mysterious pagan festival, Midsommar blossoms into a flower of a different color. The Americans respond to their surroundings in varying ways: Christian and fellow PhD student Josh try to probe the village's secrets for academic glory, while douchey Mark ogles long-tressed local girls. Dani, meanwhile, wavers between unease with the cult's weird rituals and attraction to its sense of unshakable fellowship. Soon, they're all swept up in rites involving dancing, feasting, and tripping out, unaware that far more transgressive acts are being prepared. The ensuing narrative is expansive, a bit funny, full of elaborate invented culture, and overall less exhausting (and exhilarating) than director Ari Aster's Hereditary. Where Hereditary is about losing a family, Midsommar is about gaining one, a process that's a lot less wholesome than it sounds. JOULE ZELMAN
In an Oscar-winning performance, Joan Crawford plays Mildred Pierce, a working mother who transforms herself into a wealthy restauranteur in order to better provide for her young daughter, Veda. Too bad Veda's a deceitful viper.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Part of Dressed to the Nines: Cinema Style
The Muppet Movie
The Muppets made their feature film debut in James Frawley's beloved, meta-inclined 1979 film, in which Kermit the Frog and friends (and hitchhikers) journey to Hollywood but are sidetracked by the nefarious restaurateur Doc Hopper. Hop on the Electric Mayhem and reaffirm the Rainbow Connection with everyone's favorite floppy puppets.
Varsity Theatre & Regal Thornton
The Neverending Story
A guileless wimp stumbles into Fantasia and finds himself head to head with the most existentially profound antagonist in all of children's literature, nothingness itself.
Rudolf Nureyev was one of the most famous ballet dancers ever, known for his powerful presence, his bisexuality, and his defection to the West from the Soviet Union. BAFTA-nominated documentarists Jacqui Morris and David Morris have crafted a documentary on this 20th-century artistic titan, using never-before-shown footage.
Northwest Film Forum
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. Make no mistake: Nobody besides Tarantino could have made Once Upon a Time—like all of Tarantino's movies, it's a singular thing, uniquely dialed in to his obsessions and quirks. But like Tarantino's best 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. Two of these people—the ones who're beginning to realize the world is no longer all that interested in what they have to offer—are fictional. The third is not, and how much you know about the real-life events that occurred in and around Los Angeles in 1969 will profoundly color your experience watching the film. 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
Remember when Quentin Tarantino was young and fresh, and everything he did felt novel, exciting, and unique? He’s arguably never been better than he was writing and directing Pulp Fiction. Remember the first time you saw it and you were like: "What the fuck just happened? Hang on a sec, I’m gonna go see that again"? Remember how Uma Thurman was so cool in that dark bob and lady suit, and John Travolta made his big comeback after years of stinkers as a sweaty, pale, overweight hit man? And Samuel L. Jackson was prime Samuel L. Jackson, all perfectly placed one-liners and righteous monologuing? Remember how the most dark, shocking, and violent scenes in the film are also some of the most hilarious, including the most epic case of instant karma in a pawnshop that has ever been imagined? I was 14 when this movie came out, and it felt like a revelation. I miss that Tarantino. A 35 mm print of Pulp Fiction is being screened at Grand Illusion in honor of the film’s 25th anniversary. LEILANI POLK
Return of the Living Dead
The campy, gleefully tawdry zombie comedy scripted and directed by Dan O'Bannon will receive a live-score treatment by punk band Cerebral Rot.
Friday only (sold out)
Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival
STIFF will spend a weekend celebrating digital storytelling, with a program exploring the cultural importance of technology and highlighting work created specifically for digital platforms—including features, video games, short films and music videos, and virtual reality. At the opening party, watch the Seattle premieres of two new fantasy TV shows.
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is the most important work of American Marxist cinema since Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer. The films have much in common. In Sleep Dealer, Mexican workers in the United States occupy en-soul machines, and this en-soulment resolves one of the GOP's defining issues: stateless labor. The labor market needs it, but the party’s white base hates any color that is not like its own. With en-soulment, brown Americans still supply their labor to the US economy, but without the physical presence of their brown bodies. They enter a factory in a Mexican city, plug their bodies into the global labor network, and remotely operate machines located in the United States. Sorry to Bother You also has a future concept of labor. It concerns WorryFree, a corporation that, like Uber, claims to be reinventing work, but is in fact extracting almost absolute surplus labor from workers. The film also has an image of a huge horse-like cock. CHARLES MUDEDE
Spider-Man: Far from Home
For those who have been salivating for a sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming—and more Spider-Man than we got in the last two Avengers movies—you can relax. Spider-Man: Far from Home is pretty freaking good! It has almost everything you loved from Homecoming, plus better action sequences. That said, while Homecoming crackled with originality, Far from Home is far from what made its predecessor so great. Sure, it’s got snappy jokes, terrific characters, top-notch action, and loads of delicious teenage awkwardness. But it lacks the one thing Homecoming had in abundance: a laser-sharp focus on the emotional horror of being a teen. And yet? I still loved it. It’s better and more emotionally resonant than the vast majority of superhero flicks, and Far from Home is an excellent sequel that will occasionally illicit ear-to-ear grins. WM STEVEN HUMPHREY
A quintessential exemplar of Seattle filmmaking is returning to the theater in a new restoration. This collaboration by Martin Bell, Mary Ellen Mark, and Cheryl McCall peered into the lives of street youth in the 1980s and stands now as a testament to a community forgotten and rejected by the rest of the world.
Sword of Trust
The charm of America's favorite deadbeat uncle, Marc Maron, is a fine line. It’s either offensive or sexy. Where you fall on that line depends on your drunkenness and/or daddy issues. What secrets does his pornstache hold? How many regrets are hidden in those hairs? I was thinking about this ’stache throughout Sword of Trust, directed by Seattle’s own Lynn Shelton. This is the first time Shelton has shot a film outside of Washington State, in Alabama, but you wouldn’t know it, as it’s set almost exclusively in a pawnshop owned by Maron’s character, Mel. There are other excellent actors in the film, and there is a loose plot about a questionable Confederate relic and the conspiracy theorists who want to buy it. But the story is so clumsy that it doesn't really matter. Go for Maron’s wry ’stache. CHASE BURNS
SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Third Wife
A young girl is wed to a rich landowner—his third bride—in Ash Mayfair's portrait of feminine sexuality in patriarchal 18th-century Vietnam.
SIFF Film Center
Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell
Thirty years after the filming of Streetwise, two of the original filmmakers, Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark, revisited one of their most memorable subjects, whom they met as a 14-year-old sex worker living on the streets. Now a mother of 10 children, Erin Blackwell ("Tiny") reminiscences on her troubled life and hopes for her family.
This action-packed monster movie is entirely silly and wholly suspenseful. The film is unfailingly intelligent in its handling of otherwise harebrained subject matter. In fact, the more time that passes, the more I realize how razor-sharp the film's humor is. And yes, in spite of all the film's faux-documentary tricks, it's certain that trolls aren't real—but Trollhunter makes you wish, just a little, that they were. NED LANNAMANN
Toy Story 4
How can Pixar continue a peerless run, without turning on autopilot or trumpeting the same themes in movie after movie? The Toy Story franchise is the best example of how Pixar has avoided those pitfalls. Each is about the adventures of a gaggle of charming kids’ playthings, but as the franchise has carried on, the ideas underpinning those high jinks have gotten richer and darker. By Toy Story 3, the first Toy Story's simple message of tolerance became, in part, an exploration of accepting death. The fourth installment eases up a bit, with a much simpler theme of not being afraid to grow up. That’s the challenge facing Bonnie, the little girl who was gifted all of these toys. But with a little help from Woody, she makes a new friend: Forky, a spork with glued-on googly eyes, popsicle sticks for feet, and a pipe cleaner for arms. This strange crafts project becomes Bonnie’s new favorite plaything—which means Woody must protect and mentor this bundle of nervous energy, which only wants to return to the trash from whence it came. ROBERT HAM
A Woman Under the Influence
If you have not seen this film, you have not seen one of the triumphs of independent filmmaking in the history of American cinema. Released in 1974 with no support or distribution from Hollywood, the movie, directed by John Cassavetes, examines the gradual mental collapse of an ordinary American housewife, played by the divine Gena Rowlands (her husband is played by the equally divine Peter Falk). In Under the Influence, we are in the home, the heart of an American humanism (an American sensitivity) that is rarely expressed on the big screen. CHARLES MUDEDE
The latest from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), Yesterday is about a musician, Jack, who, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, wakes up to a world where the Beatles never existed (but Ed Sheeran—who plays himself—does?). Jack remembers the Fab Four, however, and finds rocketing fame and fortune (and a sense of dwindling creative self-worth) performing their songs as if they were his own. LEILANI POLK
Our critics don't recommend these films, but you might be interested in them anyway.