This weekend, Seattle is hosting two great festivals: the Children's Film Festival Seattle, which you should check out even if you're a childless adult, and the brief but richly well-programmed Nordic Lights Film Festival 2020. Other weekend moviegoing options include the harrowing new Elizabeth Moss thriller The Invisible Man, the utterly charming Jane Austen adaptation Emma., and the 1996 cyberpunk treasure Ghost in the Shell. See all of our film critics’ picks for this weekend below, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
With 63 Up, director Michael Apted brings his long-running documentary series—charting the lives of 14 Britons, starting at age seven and checking in every seven years—back to the issues of class in England, something that was only alluded to in the original TV program. As he’s followed his subjects through this series, we’ve been able to see their prospects rise and fall, often due to the opportunities afforded them by their financial station. But the main issue hovering over the film is life’s finiteness. No matter how rich or poor you are or what color your skin is, you’re going to die. That’s our future. ROBERT HAM
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Legendary screenwriter William Goldman once said of the film industry, “Nobody knows anything,” and this is still mostly true, with one exception: If cinematographer Roger Deakins shot the movie, that movie is worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. Even if 1917 were solely the most impressive work of Deakins’ remarkable career—which it is—I’d be recommending it. But the World War I movie is also one hell of a stunning storytelling experience from director Sam Mendes, co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, and editor Lee Smith. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t the whole point of this movie that there aren’t any cuts? Why did they need an editor at all?” 1917’s hook (or less generously, its gimmick) is that it’s meant to unfold in a single, unbroken take. It’s one of the rare instances of a film’s marketing actually benefiting the finished film, because of the way this knowledge is both paid off... and then subverted. BOBBY ROBERTS
The Animal People
Casey Suchan's documentary tells the story of the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty campaign, a group of radical animal rights activists who target multinational corporations. This screening will feature a Q&A with SHAC defendants Jake Conroy and Josh Harper, with all proceeds benefiting the Northwest Animal Rights Network.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Bad Boys for Life
Michael Bay's absence behind the camera (although he briefly appears in a cameo that I reflexively booed) is immediately apparent. The action—still glistening, swooping, and forever circling, as directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah do some damn good Bay-raoke in their debut—is slower and mostly coherent. But even more remarkable: For the first time that I can remember, this is a Bad Boys movie primarily fueled by emotion as opposed to disdainfully rejecting it. And get this: That emotion? HUMILITY! I know. What the fuck, right? But fucks are abundant in Bad Boys for Life, and given often, flying just as freely as the one-liners, bullets, and grenades going off frequently and everywhere. BOBBY ROBERTS
Regal Meridian 16
Céline and Julie Go Boating
Jacques Rivette's fifth feature—sixth if you count both versions of his super-rare marathon Out 1—follows Julie (Dominique Labourier), a librarian with a passion for the occult, as she spies and pounces on the best friend of her dreams. Céline (Juliet Berto), the main draw in a magic act in a seedy Montmartre cabaret, acknowledges Julie's not-so-furtive attentions by sneaking into the children's section of the library and wantonly defacing a pile of books. Then, after a traumatic encounter at a mysterious mansion in the Paris suburbs, a bloodied Céline shows up at her newfound friend's apartment, ready to drive off her suitors, torture her fish with the stem of a dried daisy, and eventually lure her into a stilted wonderland. ANNIE WAGNER
Children's Film Festival Seattle
CCFS’s slate of international films features visual storytelling centered on narratives about childhood—the way that children view the world, deal with adult issues, and work as agents of change in their communities. Curated by Northwest Film Forum, the 2020 fest encompasses 175 animated, feature-length, and short films from 47 countries. For obvious reasons (read: short attention spans), the biggest chunk of offerings are shorts packaged in thematic and age-appropriate blocks. And there is just so much to see during the fest's run. Much of what you'll find on tap at the annual fest, now in its 15th year, can be experienced and enjoyed by adults—and they don't need to feel odd or out of place if they are unaccompanied by minors. LEILANI POLK
Northwest Film Forum
'The Church' with Mortiferum
Chaos ensues in Michele Soavi's film The Church when the staff and visitors of a haunted cathedral—the sight of a bloody medieval massacre—fall victim to an unsealed crypt crawling with unholy monsters. This screening will be preceded by a live set from Mortiferum, who promise to "spew forth anguished slabs of death-doom filth of the most wretched order."
When a spiritually inclined young man fresh out of juvie isn't allowed into the seminary, he takes matters into his own hands: He impersonates a priest and ministers to a church in a rural town. He's good at his job, but his past threatens his new vocation. This Polish film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Its star, Bartosz Bielenia ("a bundle of intensity with a buzz cut," according to the New Yorker's Anthony Lane), has drawn much attention for his sheer, alarming energy.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Day of the Dead
Zombies rule the Earth, and only a tiny enclave of scientists and soldiers is left, hiding in an underground bunker. One brave woman tries to hold humanity together, but she's up against the hubris and brutality of the living. George A. Romero continues his gore-dripping investigations of societal breakdown.
Part of Haunted Light
Desperately Seeking Susan
It’s an entertaining comedy of errors that follows a bored New Jersey housewife (Rosanna Arquette) who gets caught up in the life of an exciting stranger (Madonna) she discovers via the personals, and—amid a series of events that involves a case of mistaken identity, amnesia, and a pair of stolen Egyptian earrings—experiences a finding-herself moment. But the film is so good because it serves as a nostalgic snapshot of a Madonna that many of us have forgotten existed: youthful, fresh, on the come-up (the film dropped less than five months after Like a Virgin), and confident without that overinflated sense of self-importance that came with her superstardom. It also marks the debut of “Into the Groove,” arguably one of the sexiest dance songs of the era. LEILANI POLK
Dinosaurs of Antarctica
Paleoecologists study the lives of the massive bird-like creatures that traipsed around Antarctic forests and swamps hundreds of millions of years ago—and they try to understand how the southern continent transformed from a warm and bio-diverse Mesozoic to the modern-day frozen landscape we know today.
Pacific Science Center
From the moment Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) bounded down the steps of his staircase in full scowl, I wanted to see Emma. again. I went in pretty hyped up because Anya Taylor-Joy was making full use of her signature penetrating stare to play the character closer to the book—little did I expect that she would be matched frown for frown by Nighy, playing her father, whose background sighing and perpetual phobia of drafts lit up every scene with an endearing ridiculousness. SUZETTE SMITH
Fast Color is not really a superhero film, though the family of black women at its center quietly wield supernatural powers that have been handed down through generations and have compelled them to live in hiding in a remote Midwestern town. The film is set in the near future, where rain has pretty much stopped, water is scarce, and “seeing the colors,” as family matriarch Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) calls it, is more dangerous than ever. Bo is the bridge between Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the daughter who’s returned home) and Lila (Saniyya Sidney as the daughter Ruth abandoned years before). Fast Color is poignant, engrossing sci-fi with understated special effects, just enough action to draw you in, and a story that unfolds like a gently blooming flower. Simply brilliant. LEILANI POLK
Ford v Ferrari
F v F is about how corporations can’t help but crush the passion and innovation they so desperately need. In this case, the crushees are race car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driving phenom Ken Miles (Christian Bale), both of whom are forced to cajole, finagle, and manipulate the suits at Ford in an attempt to win the famed Le Mans road race. Director James Mangold (Logan) smartly avoids the emotionally manipulative tricks found in other sports biographies, and Damon and Bale are, unsurprisingly, excellent and affecting. The problem? It’s impossible to ignore the two elephants in this room: The fetishization of white male toxicity and car culture, topics which society is trying to deal with and solve… not celebrate. This makes Ford v Ferrari a very good movie that, a decade ago, would’ve been considered great. Now it feels like a brand-new film that’s already an antique. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Regal Meridian 16 & Crest
There’s an odd (and fun) sense of formality to The Gentlemen, director Guy Ritchie’s newest crime flick that trades the downtrodden, violent British grit of his former films (like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) for a classier vibe that’s still violently gritty. Matthew McConaughey is, as usual, McConaughey (that’s a good thing), Colin Farrell is a case study in unflappable hilarity, Hugh Grant is England’s greatest treasure, and The Gentlemen is a fun, twisty-turny joyride through Britain’s well-heeled drug trade. Its moments of shocking, often comical violence should pair nicely with a snifter of good cognac. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Ghost in the Shell
Forget about the whitewashed, live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson. Some things are better left alone, left as they were originally intended, left animated—and 1995’s now-classic anime sci-fi flick based on Masamune Shirow’s manga of the same name is one of those things. Everything about it is hypnotic and poetic, from the animations that transpose graceful, fluid character drawings against gritty, graphic cityscapes of a futuristic Hong Kong, to the exotic evocative soundtrack, to the story’s existential themes of consciousness and identity, to what reproduction means in a post-human body. All of this is encased within a story about a cyborg hunting a being known as “The Puppet Master,” who’s been hacking into and altering the computerized minds of cyborg-human hybrids. This version is in Japanese with English subtitles, which—if you are distracted by the inexpressive tonal quality of Mimi Woods in the dubbed version—is a very good thing. LEILANI POLK
A determined young woman in the Bronx pursues her dreams of becoming a star and tries to keep her two little sisters out of the hands of social services in this bright and beautiful film by Dutch director Sam De Jong, starring the model Slick Woods in her first role.
The Harder They Come
Featuring the best movie soundtrack of all time, this story of a wannabe singer turned outlaw folk hero stars charismatic reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. ROBERT HAM
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey is Harley Quinn/Margot Robbie’s show, and just like in the not-so-great Suicide Squad, it’s a show she clearly steals—and a show with a distinctly feminist take on the glut of male-oriented superhero cinema. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
The Invisible Man
Film students and theorists are going to be studying the career of writer/director Leigh Whannell for decades, trying to suss out how this young Australian has mined piles of gold from high-concept but low-budget popcorn fare. Whannell's been responsible for bringing two hugely successful horror franchises into the world—the sagas of Saw and Insidious—and, in 2018, turned the fairly ridiculous B-movie plot of Upgrade into a hit thanks to his stylized direction and pulpy action sequences. Whannell is about to have another hit on his hands with Blumhouse Productions’ The Invisible Man, starring an excellent Elisabeth Moss. Made on a slender budget that was likely eaten up by CGI effects, this riff on H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic is a slow, steady squeeze from a vise that doesn’t release its grip until its final shot. ROBERT HAM
I Walked with a Zombie
This is one of the haunting horror films produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur (Cat People and Night of the Demon are others) that have endured and influenced generations of subsequent artsy horror filmmakers. In this peculiar adaptation of Jane Eyre, a white nurse travels to the Caribbean to tend a wealthy white landowner's wife. She encounters black magic, voodoo, and illicit love.
Part of The Art in Horror
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. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Keepers of the Dream: Seattle Women Black Panthers
This mini-fest of five short documentaries, produced by Patricia Boiko and Tajuan LaBee, serves as an introduction to the courageous actions of women Black Panther activists, from Frances Dixon to Phyllis Noble Mobley. Local musical star SassyBlack provides the scores.
Northwest Film Forum
Knives Out [is] Rian Johnson's phenomenally enjoyable riff on a murder-mystery whodunit. The less you know going in, the better, but even those familiar with mysteries will likely be caught flat-footed. Things begin in the baroque mansion of famed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who is very, very dead. Through flashbacks, monologues, and the genteel but razor-sharp questioning of investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), we meet the rest of the Thrombeys—played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, and more, with everyone clearly having a goddamn blast—and we hear about a billion motives and a billion alibis. Somebody killed Harlan, and while Benoit Blanc is on the case, Knives Out quickly spirals into unexpected territory. In a time when filmgoing is dominated by familiar franchises, seeing an original movie executed with as much care, glee, and skill as Knives Out feels like an experience that's entirely too rare. ERIK HENRIKSEN
The Last Starfighter
In this 1984 sci-fi movie with newfangled computer-generated effects, a video game whiz (Lance Guest) ascends to the heavens to fight aliens.
I say this with my whole heart: Greta Gerwig's Little Women is wonderful. Full of wonder, inspiring wonder, embodying wonder. Which is hard to do as the eighth adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved 1868 novel of the same name. Gerwig's adaptation—which she both wrote and directed—feels neither redundant nor stale. Rather, it's a fresh, modern-feeling take on a well-trodden story, stuffed with excellent performances, witty dialogue, and gorgeous costumes. The film jumps between Jo's "present" life in a post-Civil War America and her childhood, living at home with her three other sisters and mother, awaiting the family patriarch to return home from the war as they struggle to make ends meet. The direction and sense of characters are particularly strong in this adaptation. It fleshes each sister out so that she feels real and worthy of empathy, not purely serving as a star vehicle for Ronan in the same way the Winona Ryder version arguably did. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Regal Meridian 16 & AMC Seattle 10
In this 1985 anime, a young man discovers that the city he lives in—ostensibly Tokyo—is actually a gigantic ship run by an AI. Now the military will stop at nothing to keep the secret from getting out.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Dubbed and Subtitled)
The latest installment of the anime franchise, in which Deku and his fellow heroes take on an evil villain on an island, should please fans.
Regal Meridian 16 & Regal Thornton Place
Nordic Lights Film Festival 2020
This annual film festival, supported by SIFF, celebrates the richness of Nordic culture, featuring films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and even the Faroe Islands. This year, the festival will open with the Icelandic film The County, in which a single dairy farmer named Inga tries to break the stranglehold of a corrupt local cooperative.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
I'm obsessed with the Olympic Village, the makeshift town-within-a-town where athletes live while competing in the Olympics. Rebuilt for each Olympics, the sprawling village is like a college campus for the world's most fit people. It contains condos, arcades, lounges, and—most importantly—condoms. Lots of condoms, because there's a lot of sex happening at the Olympics. Olympic Dreams, a new film starring and written by Big Mouth's Nick Kroll and Olympic runner Alexi Pappas, got unprecedented access to shoot inside PyeongChang's Olympic Village. While the film is not exactly about wild orgies—it's a run-of-the-mill rom-com—the vibe remains horny. Kroll is fine in his semi-dramatic turn as a romantically forlorn volunteer dentist, but Pappas is remarkable. She elicits a surprisingly tender performance. But the reason to see the film is its setting. There are few locations as strange and utopian as the Olympics, a place with architecture designed to project our highest aspirations. CHASE BURNS
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band
History is written by the victors—and as a corollary, winners usually become the focus of music documentaries. When it comes to the tragic tale of the Band, guitarist and main songwriter Robbie Robertson definitely has emerged triumphant. Three of the five members of this influential rock group are dead, and the other survivor, keyboardist Garth Hudson, shuns the spotlight. With Once Were Brothers, Daniel Roher presents a conventional contextualizing rock doc with marquee-name talking heads—Van Morrison, George Harrison, Bruce Springsteen, et al.—and efficiently reveals Robertson's early family life (his mother was indigenous, his father Jewish) and musical evolution. Robertson is an articulate, passionate memoirist; the film is based on his 2016 autobiography, Testimony. With equanimity, he registers the Band's soaring highs and devastating lows, while his French ex-wife Dominique adds crucial observations about the inter-band dynamics and substance abuse that dogged the members. Tracing a story of relentless, upward mobility through the music industry, the doc emphasizes Robertson's inner strength and boundless ambition, which helped him to avoid the booze- and drug-related pitfalls that afflicted his mates. DAVE SEGAL
Regal Meridian 16 & AMC Seattle 10
An older couple's seemingly comfortable marriage is derailed by a breast cancer diagnosis, and their playful arguing turns to the rehashing of long-buried resentments, in this drama starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville.
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
The Indian master Satyajit Ray's debut film is an unbelievably beautiful glimpse of a child's life, as little Apu is sheltered and overshadowed by extraordinary women and girls like his rambunctious older sister Durga and his busy mother Sarbajaya. Pather Panchali is featured on numerous "best-of" lists.
Stella Meghie's romance stars Issa Rae as a woman investigating her deceased mother's life and LaKeith Stanfield as the hot journalist she falls for.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
From Céline Sciamma (Girlhood), Portrait of a Lady on Fire is set in 18th century France, where young artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) for potential suitors to fall in love with. One thing: Héloïse does not want her portrait done, as she does not want to get married. So Marianne poses as her maid to get close to the lady, completing the painting in secret. But of course this closeness and secretiveness make them all hot for each other. Portrait was the first woman-directed film to take home the Queer Palm award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom
Loosely based on The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, this unstreamable horror art film is infamously banned in multiple countries. The reason? "Relentless sadism." As the Beacon's content warning reads: the film features torture, sexual violence and rape, coprophagia, and fascist violence. (If you're not sure what coprophagia is... why not look it up!) And yet, lovers of the film—of which there are many, including John Waters—argue that the film is beautiful! A masterpiece! A Criterion classic! I'm sympathetic to this point of view, but I think it takes a special kind of freak to program Friday and Saturday night showings of this shit show. CHASE BURNS
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I found The Rise of Skywalker, the last film in the Skywalker saga, boring. And it was not even a long movie, and I'm a fan of the director's (J.J. Abrams) work (particularly Mission: Impossible III—the best in that franchise), and many of the visual effects are impressive—particularly the haunting business of bringing the late Carrie Fisher back to life. But all together, the film is burdened by too much sentimental family stuff (you are my granddaughter, you are my son, you killed my parents, and so on), and its end did not know how to end for a very long time. CHARLES MUDEDE
Regal Meridian 16 & Regal Thornton Place
As Howard Ratner, a professional jeweler and asshole in Manhattan’s Diamond District, a great Adam Sandler rarely leaves the screen in Uncut Gems, and the plot is basically Howard and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. That isn’t a shock, considering the film comes from brothers/writers/directors Josh and Benny Safdie, who party-crashed the arthouse scene with 2017’s Good Time (in which Robert Pattinson was the one playing an asshole having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day). Uncut Gems is larger in scope, but like Good Time, it has a moral vacuum at its center—it takes place in the no-man’s-land where society’s walls crumble, and where those who look out only for themselves can best navigate the rubble. The Safdies aren’t interested in morality tales but amorality tales, and their stories’ no-holds-barred recklessness, at first freeing, steadily grows exhausting. Thankfully, the Safdies also know how to shoot, cut, and score like nobody else. There’s a twitchy, addictive energy to Uncut Gems, and the Safdies’ choppy, rapid-fire cuts coalesce into a surreal, exhilarating landscape of prismatic hues, blaring fluorescents, and sharp LEDs, all while the analog synth score by Daniel Lopatin (AKA Oneohtrix Point Never) adds to the lurid beauty. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Regal Meridian 16
Five years after Horse Money, which Charles Mudede called "a film you will remember more for its images and episodes than its story," the nonprofessional actor Vitalina Varela reprises her role as a character who shares her name, a widow who travels to Lisbon to try to piece together her estranged husband's last days. Richard Brody of the New Yorker writes, "From the start, Costa endows the tale with a pictorial majesty, rooted in a hands-on transformation of film-noir, Expressionist-rooted cinematography. His images (realized by the director of photography Leonardo Simões) feature piercing bursts of light and sepulchral shadows, striated and fragmentary illumination that blends with largely static frames to fuse space and mood, action and emotion."
SIFF Film Center
Weathering With You
Audiences seem to love director Makoto Shinkai (Your Name) and his approach of pairing an original plot with standard anime emotional blocking: boy meets girl, girl has weather powers, boy and girl reach for each another’s arms in climactic moments, a character runs until they are exhausted and then they keep running, and also someone must die. Even when Shinkai introduces some interesting ideas about an impending climate apocalypse (oh, like us!), it all feels familiar: The world isn’t saved, but the world doesn’t end. The world continues, changed. SUZETTE SMITH
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes
In 1956, just after graduating college, Anne Innis Dagg went alone to South Africa to study giraffes. She was a pioneer in the research of a single animal in the wild, bringing back amazing film footage and observational notes. After returning from Africa, she earned a PhD, published numerous articles, wrote a foundational textbook on giraffes, and got into teaching. She wanted to do more giraffe research but found her way frustratingly blocked by sexist attitudes. So she worked to expose gender bias in academia and the failure to support women’s research. There’s been an effort lately to shine a light on women whose work may not have been adequately recognized before, and this doc shows the important scientific contributions and fascinating life of a giraffe-loving feminist pioneer. GILLIAN ANDERSON
Ark Lodge Cinemas
Zodiac (Director's Cut)
Zodiac stands as director David Fincher's most impressive monolith to date, a sprawling, three-decade-spanning infodump that, for all its virtuosity, occasionally feels like being locked in the file cabinet of a conspiracy junkie. James Vanderbilt's script follows the obsessive, dogged attempts of editorial cartoonist Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and police inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) to uncover the identity of Northern California's notorious (and media-savvy) Zodiac killer. Rather surprisingly, the actual murders are dealt with in a few early scenes, leaving the lion's share of the 150-minute running time to exploring seemingly every slim theory ever generated on the subject. Thank the cosmos for the presence of Robert Downey Jr., whose supporting turn as San Francisco Chronicle reporter Paul Avery consistently finds ways to jump out of the film's predetermined groove. ANDREW WRIGHT
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.