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June 18, 2015

A trillion monkeys typing for all eternity might eventually reproduce the complete works of William Shakespeare, but it wouldn’t take them five minutes to bang out a turd like Jurassic World — a flat hash of a movie that, at every furiously empty gesture, fails to scale even the most vulgar logical requirements of crass entertainment.

Exhibit one: In the middle of a pterodactyl attack, as hundreds of people are getting viciously tossed around and torn apart, two star-crossed lovers stop to share a passionate kiss.

June 11, 2015

As Ex Machina opens, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a lanky, awkward coder of some sort, wins a staff prize. He’s whisked off to the middle of nowhere, landing in a glass-and-concrete home-slash-bunker where his company’s founder, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), is out boxing on the deck. Nathan is a man of extremes: shaven head, giant beard, either drinking himself into a stupor or working himself into a sweat. 

June 4, 2015

A fine and fascinating new documentary, Sunshine Superman provides an intimate portrait of the founder of a movement in which participants — perhaps I should say followers — commit protracted suicide in circus-like gestures that are public and grandiose and defiantly illegal. And for these gestures they are widely heralded as free-spirited heroes whose failed attempts to burst the bonds of human limitation are considered tragic evidence of their own greatness.

May 28, 2015

The fashion documentary has become a bona fide film genre. In the past decade alone, filmmakers have spun out more than two dozen docs, from the delicious Vogue insider flick The September Issue to the incredible story of a global fashion editor in Diana Vreeland: The Eye Must Travel and, of course, the quirky life of New York Times street-style photographer in Bill Cunningham New York

May 21, 2015

The apocalypse has come, and it’s the work of men. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, after three Mad Max movies that saw the world getting progressively darker (even as the third movie went to a strangely playful place that felt more Goonies than Road Warrior).

It’s unclear when, exactly, Fury Road takes place in the Mad Max timeline, but it doesn’t matter. The world is in ruins, and Max (Tom Hardy) is (still) just trying to survive in what’s left of it.  

May 14, 2015

Film has a long and fairly distinguished history of satirizing the insidious allure of televised celebrity — Being There, King of Comedy and To Die For come immediately to mind — and yet few films to date have captured the way our newly acquired addiction to selfies and social media is elevating narcissism to a collective pathology.

May 7, 2015

Even if Joss Whedon hadn’t already been telling the press that he’s (probably) done directing Avengers films, it would’ve been clear to Whedon fans that Avengers: Age of Ultron is his finale. There’s the iconic tracking shot that opens the film, nodding to each of our superheroes as it checks in with them amid a snowy forest fight. And there’s the Hellmouth, a gaping hole in the earth where a small town once stood.

April 30, 2015

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio governor called a regiment of the National Guard onto the campus of Kent State University. The troops then opened fire on a crowd of unarmed civilians — mostly students protesters — killing four and injuring nine more, including one man who was paralyzed for life.

It bears repeating: U.S. troops fired 67 rounds into a crowd of U.S. citizens exercising their right to peaceably assemble.

April 30, 2015

Festival season is upon us. No, nix that. In 2015, festival season is always upon us. Seemingly every cultural niche carves out at least four days to celebrate its existence with exorbitant ticket prices, overpriced beer, flower crowns and Honey Buckets. The ever-looping circuit has led to a new phenomenon: festival fatigue. 

Sometimes, it’s just easier and cheaper to stay home. 

April 23, 2015

If 2013’s Frances Ha seemed a little nicer than writer-director Noah Baumbach’s usual fare — fewer pointed observations, more gentleness toward his characters, no matter how self-deluded — While We’re Young is a trip back to slightly rougher territory (though not quite as rough as Greenberg). Sly and self-aware, Baumbach is a deeply fair storyteller, giving his characters room to hang themselves and room to get their shit together all at once. 

April 16, 2015

In his groundbreaking 1978 book Orientalism, the late critic Edward Said went after the West’s misconceptions about the exotic and inscrutable otherness of Asian cultures, often so lavishly and fantastically portrayed in colonial writing. “From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient,” Said wrote, “the one thing the Orient could not do was represent itself.”

April 9, 2015

It’s not often that one gets to enjoy — honestly enjoy — the seventh movie in a series, but Furious 7 is one of those times.

April 2, 2015

Kumiko is as wide-eyed and offbeat a beautiful loner as there ever was. 

Strip away the playful tenderness and uplifting score of the French film Amélie, and it has much in common with Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, the latest work by American actor and director David Zellner, known for his indie flicks Goliath and Kid-Thing.

March 26, 2015

In his groundbreaking 1996 movie Scream, director Wes Craven — with help from Kevin Williamson’s cheeky postmodern screenplay — peeled back the mask on modern horror, revealing a set of previously unspoken rules governing the mayhem in teen slasher flicks. Among those rules to avoiding murder (“Don’t do drugs!”), perhaps the most resonant for a generation living under the specter of AIDS was this: No premarital hanky-panky. In other words, when it comes to surviving a horror movie, always remember that sex equals death.

March 19, 2015

Still Alice wastes absolutely no time. Based on the novel by Lisa Genova, the movie gives you its purpose in the title; it’s an empathetic, compassionate movie about a woman desperate to remain herself, to be the person she’s created, in the face of early onset Alzheimer’s. 

March 12, 2015

Vampires: They’re just like us! They have terrible housemates who don’t do the dishes. They worry about looking good when they go out at night, even if the clubs they’re going to are dead and boring. They get twitchy when the cops come by. And they hate it when their roommates bring home uncool new friends.

March 5, 2015

Many of my colleagues wish 50 Shades of Grey had never been written. I wish it had been written thirty years ago.

I’ve been doing BDSM since we called it S/M. (In the early ’90s, someone mashed together B&D for bondage and discipline, D/s for dominance and submission and S/M for sadomasochism to coin the acronym BDSM. I liked it better when it had fewer initials.) 

February 19, 2015

A Eugene native and graduate of South Eugene High School, screenwriter E. Max Frye is nominated (along with co-writer Dan Futterman) for an Academy Award for his work on the Foxcatcher screenplay. Directed by Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball), Foxcatcher is based on the true story of John du Pont, an heir to the Du Pont family fortune who, in the 1980s, established Foxcatcher Farm, a wrestling facility on his estate where he worked with sibling gold-medalists Mark and Dave Shultz.

February 19, 2015

There are no other vampire stories like this.

In a strange, dark town — one with few residents but with a bustling drug trade, with rich young women and clever street urchins — a young man named Arash (Arash Marandi) lives with his junkie father and a cat he picks up in the film’s opening scenes. Arash is done up to recall James Dean; he’s a classic, as is the beautiful car he drives. 

February 19, 2015

Would you like to watch a movie about a woman? Or a movie not full of white faces? Maybe later.

That’s the theme of this year’s Academy Awards Best Picture nominations, which are almost entirely about Great White Men doing Great White Men Things.

February 12, 2015

If you know anything about Alan Turing — anything at all, including, say, what you might have gleaned from reading Neal Stephenson’s excellent doorstop of a novel CryptonomiconThe Imitation Game is unlikely to surprise you. As a tidy, glossy, good-for-you awards-season film about important Brits, it’s entirely watchable, and not much more.

February 5, 2015

The enormous diversity gap the Oscars tends to leave in its wake can make you want to give up on film altogether. Luckily, here in Eugene, there’s a place less mainstream films can thrive. 

Currently in its 23rd year, the Queer Film Festival, presented by the UO’s Cultural Forum, will screen 21 LGBTQ-focused films at the Bijou Metro Feb. 6-8. This year, filmmakers Christina Hurtado-Pierson (Transmilitary) and Liliya Anisimova (Love Is The Highest Law) will travel from New York to host discussions and Q&A sessions 7 pm Feb. 6 and 7.

January 29, 2015

The Oscar-nominated short films are always something of a mixed bag, but this year gives us a particularly strange crop. While there’s always at least one sentimental entry among the live-action films, the most recent nominees are notably melancholy — excepting Butter Lamp, a French and Chinese co-production set in Tibet. The camera in this poignant but funny short never moves. A photographer takes pictures of families, groups of children, a couple; he has props and backgrounds, and encounters minor officials and mischievous kids.