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December 11, 2014

You might think while watching James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything that the people who made this movie have never been in a bar. There are several pub scenes, each lit in a filmy sort of blue probably meant to evoke the smoky drinking establishments of a previous era. Instead, it suggests the faux-night of a B movie.  It’s indicative of much of the film: excellent actors, ever-so-English settings and something just not quite right.

December 4, 2014

Nightcrawler begins as a sleek, beautifully filmed portrait of desperation in uncertain times. Under Los Angeles’ flickering lights, people are desperate to keep their jobs, or to find jobs, and a degree of dubiousness is par for the course. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a small-time thief, stealing scrap metal for cash, when he stumbles onto a new career: At a crime scene, there’s a man with a camera, gathering footage for local news. Inspired, Bloom buys his own gear and hires an “intern,” Rick (Riz Ahmed).

November 26, 2014

Mockingjay, on first read, wasn’t my favorite book in the Hunger Games series — not by a long shot. A long trudge to a deadly battle, it was initially memorable for all the time Katniss seemed to spend crying in a closet, worrying about Peeta Mellark, who was captured at the end of Catching Fire’s Quarter Quell. I didn’t want crying Katniss; I wanted victorious Katniss, angry Katniss, a Katniss who would lead the rebellion against the Capital.

November 20, 2014

As Terence Fletcher, longtime character actor J.K. Simmons fuses bits of the roles he’s best known for — the warmth of Juno’s dad (Juno), the shoutiness of Peter Parker’s boss (Spider-Man) — into one glorious wreck of a man. Fletcher is the tyrannical leader of the best jazz band in the finest music school in the country: He shouts, he intimidates and he humiliates, and he does it all with the firm belief that his students (disappointingly, they’re all male) will benefit from it. There is no “good job” with him.

November 13, 2014

Alejandro González Iñárritu hasn’t directed a feature film since 2010’s Biutiful, an agonizing, overworked downer made bearable by Javier Bardem’s mournful performance.

November 6, 2014

One peek at the trailer for Listen Up Philip and you’d think it was another painfully indie, pseudo-intellectual film in which nothing happens — and, for the most part, this is accurate. The movie follows the despicably self-centered mind of aberrant Jewish novelist Philip Lewis Friedman, played by Jason Schwartzman (no stranger to neurotic roles, or even neurotic Jewish novelist roles).

October 30, 2014

Something wicked this way comes, again, and just in time for Halloween: A witch’s brew of spooky, campy, gory and/or otherwise terrifying short films made lickety-split by aspiring auteurs right here in Eugene. Upwards of 35 teams have signed up for Eugene Film Society’s 72-Hour Horror Film Competition, which should make for a fun night of fright when Bijou Art Cinemas on 13th holds its “Audience Award” screenings of the top entrants at 8 and 10:30 pm, Oct. 31. 

October 23, 2014

Let us now praise the British ensemble cast, for it is a thing of beauty and magic. The current example of this cinematic alchemy is on display in Pride, in which the likes of Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton share the screen with a whole handful of fresh young faces. Nighy stands tall and reserved; Staunton is a loving force of nature, the polar opposite of her best-known role as Harry Potter’s Dolores Umbridge. But if this movie has a star, it’s the American-born Ben Schnetzer, who plays activist Mark Ashton with a compelling mix of charisma and anger.

October 16, 2014

Every war is a failure, of course, but for this country the Vietnam War signals something profoundly shameful and unappeased in our national fiber — a colossal moral fuck-up compounded by diplomatic arrogance and political deceit, in which a generation of Americans, and every generation thereafter, came to regard the government with a cynicism from which we have never recovered.

October 9, 2014

If there’s one key flaw in David Fincher’s precise, elegant, wicked Gone Girl, it’s that it is just so precise and elegant that sometimes the wickedness struggles to come through. Likewise, Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne, the perfect, rich, beautiful wife, is so icy-gorgeous, so regal and poised, her voiceovers spoken in such flat affect, that it’s hard to imagine her ever having any fun. 

October 2, 2014

If nothing else, The Skeleton Twins taught me something I didn’t know: I might be willing to watch Bill Hader in anything. As depressed, off-kilter, semi-self-destructive Milo, Hader has a different sort of presence onscreen. His usual solidness transforms into something gawky and loose; when Milo describes himself as being built like a frog, he’s not wrong. A sturdy desperation lurks around Hader’s mild but expressive face. He’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop. In fact, he might be the one to drop it.

September 25, 2014

At once uplifting and infuriating, Alive Inside is a new documentary that can’t help but tell two stories at once. On the one hand, this film is about Dan Cohen, a former social worker who some three years ago began bringing iPods loaded with music into nursing homes, where “patients” with dementia were suddenly awakened by the simple act of hearing the songs that once brought them joy.

September 18, 2014

Terry Gilliam is never going to make Brazil again, so put that thought, that impossible comparison, right out of your head. He’s going to make mad trifles and appealing visions that don’t speak to everyone — but if you’ve seen any of his more recent films, you probably already know whether they speak to you.

September 11, 2014

Let’s keep the movies about female musicians, shall we? Yes to 20 Feet from Stardom; yes to Begin Again; a hearty punk-rock yowl of approval to We Are the Best! And a quieter, more introspective yes to God Help the Girl, a whimsical, fey, intimate movie about music, friendship and moving forward. 

September 4, 2014

I really, really, really want to tell you what happens in The One I Love, the smart and slithery new movie by director Charlie McDowell, but I can’t. To reveal the device at the center of this cinematic mind-fuck about a married couple on the skids and their surreal, disarming and ultimately transformative experiences during a weekend retreat suggested by their therapist would be tantamount to breaking the first rule of Fight Club (“Don’t talk about fight club”) or spilling the beans on Rosebud in Citizen Kane (it’s the sled).

August 28, 2014

When I heard author Jon Ronson interviewed on NPR recently about Frank, the film based on his book, I was excited. Having seen trailers featuring Michael Fassbender wearing a papier-mâché head, I was tickled to learn from Ronson that the story was inspired by a real person — Frank Sidebottom, the English musician and comedian who lead the band The Freshies as the ’70s sank into the ’80s. With Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal on the roster, how could Frank be anything but a delightful whimsical romp?

August 20, 2014

In what would become his final film role, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman inhabits a classic fictional persona, that of the downbeat institutional man. As Günther Bachmann, a career spy heading an anti-terrorism unit in Hamburg, Hoffman — who died in February of a heroin overdose — puts an ingenious modern spin on the existential anti-hero who, against all odds and caught up in a tangle of lies and deceit, tries to do the right thing.

August 13, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is, for the most part, exactly what you’d want from the Marvel Comics kind of movie in which a ragtag bunch of scoundrels save the world (or, at least, a world). The plot involves a pretty glowing purple rock that looks like something Link needs to collect in The Legend of Zelda. One character’s hideout is on a space station that is built on the severed head of a massive cosmic creature. It’s got scope and shiny effects and the kind of beautiful aerial battle sequences that give a nerd like me pretty intense goose bumps.

August 6, 2014

It’s nothing new for Richard Linklater to demonstrate his fascination with the passage of time in cinema. Dazed and Confused took place on the last day of high school; his films with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, most recently Before Midnight, skip through the years in the life of a couple, their relationship moving from young passion to a maturity that’s both prickly and graceful. 

August 6, 2014

Having all but walked away from movies in exhaustion and disgust after finishing his last full-length feature Killing Me, local writer-director Henry Weintraub now returns to the cinematic fold with The Assassin, a compact gem of shoestring filmmaking. Shot in digital black-and-white and devoid of dialogue, this surreal short film about a low-rent, grungy killer is in many ways a return to Weintraub’s roots in slam-bang, low-budget auteurism, and the joy he rediscovered in the endeavor shows in every frame.

July 30, 2014

John Carney’s Once (2007) was a lovely, intimate film, the story of two musicians whose romance played out artistically. Once is now a Broadway powerhouse, made a little tidier but no less affecting, and Carney is back with a movie that’s almost Once again: two drifting, lovelorn souls brought together through musical collaboration.

July 23, 2014

Bombastic, charismatic and iconic through and through, Roger Ebert was the Muhammad Ali of film criticism, a man whose face and voice became synonymous with our modern pastime of going to the movies. He was the champ: With a review in The Chicago Sun-Times or a little wiggle of his thumb on the syndicated TV show At the Movies, Ebert possessed the power to single-handedly revive a flailing filmmaker’s career or curse a new movie to oblivion.

July 16, 2014

Two dudes standing behind a service counter, slinging cheesecake for the masses and, during down times, brainstorming a tangle of ideas about music, movies and the end of the world: This is the genesis of Tectonic Jelly, a deliciously bizarre short film and companion comic book series that gets its first public airing Thursday, July 17, at Bijou Art Cinemas.

July 16, 2014

Fans of scary monsters and super creeps will have a lot to feast on in coming days, as the Bijou Classic Series unleashes its “Monster Blockbuster” tribute, featuring screenings of a handful of legendary films moderated by local film buffs.

Coordinated by Joshua Purvis, Bijou marketing director and founder of the Eugene Film Society, the series puts together a chilling variety of freaker classics — from Jaws to Invasion of the Body Snatchers — pairing each with a moderated Q&A and discussion that will tackle critical, historic and technical aspects of the film.