The Quest’s Spring Film Preview
Nine movies to see in theaters, three to stream, and an entire festival to explore before summer begins
Portland International Film Festival
The Reed College Office for Institutional Diversity is offering free tickets and transportation to the following selections from the 42nd Portland International Film Festival with optional free meals beforehand. There are an abundance of other great films also screening — too many to list here — that you should check out on your own:
Rafiki on Friday, March 8, 8:45 p.m.: The love story of two young women whose fathers are political adversaries in a small Kenyan town. Director Wanuri Kahiu describes the style of her debut film as “Afrobubblegum, which is fun, fierce, and frivolous African art … it’s important to see black people in joy, in hope, and see them in beautiful, loving ways.” Homosexuality is still criminalized in Kenya, and the film was banned after a limited seven-day single theatre run, long enough to qualify it for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Oscars. (English, Swahili with English subtitles.)
The Chambermaid on Wednesday, March 13, 6:00 p.m.: A maid works to have a life of her own, within a life pervaded by responsibility and labor taken for granted — all done far away from her own four year old son. Lila Avilés’ first film, set entirely inside an opulent, one-percenter Mexico City high-rise hotel. (Spanish with English subtitles).
3 Faces on Sunday, March 17, 3:00 p.m.: Jafar Panahi’s fourth features, blurring the distinction between fiction and documentary, since his ban from filmmaking by the Iranian authorities. Winner of the award for Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival. The road trip-mystery intertwines the lives of three Iranian actresses of different generations, all playing themselves, developing into an expression of community and solidarity under oppression. His narrative converses with the works of his late friend Abbas Kiarostami. (Persian, Azerbaijani with English subtitles).
Your Face on Monday, March 18, 8:30 p.m.: Master Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-Liang reimagines the “Talking Heads template” in this experimental documentary scored by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. With 13 older subjects in close-up as subjects (including mainstay lead actor Lee Kang-Sheng), Ming-Liang explores portraiture within a singularly cinematic consideration. (Min Nan with English subtitles).
Captain Marvel (Wide): Brie Larson (Room, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is Carol Danvers in the twenty-first entry in the Marvel cinematic universe, and the first to have a female lead. It’s the nineties. There’s galactic stuff going on. Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) has two eyes. How does it all relate to Avengers: Endgame? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Gloria Bell (Limited): Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman, Disobedience) directs this critically lauded English-language remake of his own rapturously-received 2013 film Gloria. It follows Julianne Moore as the titular 58-year-old woman, navigating new romance and Los Angeles dance floors. John Turturro, Michael Cera, and Sean Astin co-star.
Triple Frontier (Netflix): J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) directs this crime thriller from a script co-written by Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty). Five former special forces operatives (Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal) reunite to carry out a heist against a drug lord in a sparsely populated South American multi-border zone. Consequences are unintended and calamitous.
Us (Wide): Black Panther’s Lupita Nyongo’o and Winston Duke are a married couple, whose beach vacation is disturbed by an encounter with a group of violent strangers who look exactly like them. Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated follow up to Get Out. Will it inspire the critical and cultural discourse on par with its predecessor? Time –– and a fair number of twists — will tell for this “social thriller.”
Dumbo (Wide): Tim Burton completes his Circus Trilogy (Batman Returns, Big Fish) with this live-action remake of the 1941 Disney animated classic. At twice the length of the original’s 64 minutes, Burton’s “reimagining”, starring Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Eva Green, and Danny DeVito, has ample space to be something all of its own and create something genuinely inspired atop its source’s framework. That’s the hope anyway.
The Beach Bum (Limited): Harmony Korine wades further into the trashy Floridean aesthetic undulation that marked Spring Breakers, with this comedy about the adventures of a stoner poet named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey). Also starring Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, Snoop Dogg, Jonah Hill, and Jimmy Buffett as himself.
The Highwaymen (Netflix): John Lee Hancock (The Founder, The Blind Side) directs Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the retired Texas Rangers who, when the FBI couldn’t, tracked down and killed Bonnie and Clyde. Kathy Bates and John Carroll Lynch also star.
Shazam! (Wide): The second movie about a Captain Marvel in four weeks – from DC this time – takes you back to a time when superheroes got to simply be excited about being superheroes. Asher Angel stars as Billy Batson (ah, alliteration), a fourteen year old foster kid who’s the ability to transform into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) by saying the eponymous magic word. Working to figure out his powers with the help of his foster brother (Jack Dylan Grazer), he finds himself facing a villainous industrialist — aren’t they all? — played by Mark Strong.
Teen Spirit (Limited): Were you a fan of E.MO.TION. Ball? Do you have an affinity for the music of Robyn, Tegan & Sara, Grimes, and Carly Rae Jepsen? Hollywood is targeting your oddly specific demographic. Elle Fanning performs the music of those and similar artists as a contestant of the eponymous international singing competition in this niche Cinderella story.
Unicorn Store (Netflix): Before putting on a super suit, Brie Larson made her directorial debut in this comedy co-starring Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Whitford, and Joan Cusack. She plays Kit, an art student who receives a mysterious invitation that would fulfill her childhood dreams.
Hellboy (Wide): Remember Hellboy? He’s uglier and allowed to curse now. David Harbour (Stranger Things) takes over from Ron Perlman in this R-rated reboot that trades the gothic fantasy of Guillermo Del Toro’s films for a more grotesque action-horror. Expect blood and sorcery galore. Neil Jordan (The Descent) directs a cast rounded out by Daniel Dae Kim, Milla Jovovich, Sasha Lane and Ian McShane.
Avengers: Endgame (Wide): The second Marvel Cinematic Universe film in seven weeks and official start to the summer movie season finds the surviving Avengers finding a way to deal with Thanos (Josh Brolin) decidedly succeeding in his goal of erasing half of all life in the universe at the end of last year’s Infinity War. The culmination of an 11 year, 22 movie comic book blockbuster saga will mark Chris Evans’ last appearance as Captain America –– for lack of anything else.