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January 22, 2015

I’ve been to hundreds of movies over the years, but I’ve never experienced anything remotely like the solemnity that settled over the audience at the end of Clint Eastwood’s latest film, American Sniper. Absolute quiet. Not a person rose to leave. It wasn’t until the real-life footage of the memorial motorcade for murdered Navy SEAL Chris Kyle bled into a stream of rolling credits that the souls in that movieplex rose, still in silence, and filed out like a funeral procession.

January 15, 2015

Ava DuVernay’s Selma starts off so calmly that, despite what history promises, it’s a shock when the first moment of violence arrives. Four little girls walk down the stairs of a church. You know what this means. But what happens next occurs in a flash, a moment never explained. 

What’s to explain? They’re there, and then they’re gone. It’s like the bottom drops out of the world. At that point, a man in my theater began to cry and I’m not sure he stopped. 

January 8, 2015

At the heart of most Hollywood films, from The Wizard of Oz to World War Z, is some perceived threat to the domestic tranquility of the nuclear family. Whether it’s a tsunami, invading aliens or a stampeding horde of zombies, the danger that rattles our cinematic daydreams is the impending chaos of social disintegration, and it typically befalls an unlikely hero (usually dad, sometimes mom) to suddenly acquire a spine and ward off the forces of evil.

December 31, 2014

Tim Burton’s Big Eyes falls firmly into the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up camp, which seems appropriate for a director best known for making all kinds of wonderful things up.

December 24, 2014

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is a story in which many of us can find a hook that reaches out and sinks into our skin, whether it’s the delicately imploding marriage, the rage, the grief, the attempts to find a way out of oneself, the knowledge that you’ve lost your way or the satisfaction that comes from letting go. 

December 23, 2014

Editor's note: EW was informed by Bijou Art Cinemas after the paper went to press Tuesday that The Interview will start screening at Bijou Art Cinemas (492 E. 13th Ave.) 10:30 pm Thursday, Dec. 25. City Lights Cinemas in Florence has informed EW that they will begin screening The Interview noon Thursday, Dec. 25.


December 18, 2014

Who — or, rather, what — is the Babadook? And why is it that, once you let the Babadook in, you can never get rid of it?

First and foremost, The Babadook is an Australian horror film by writer-director Jennifer Kent, a former actor who apprenticed with Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier during the making of his 2003 film Dogville before going on to make her own short film, Monster, upon which The Babadook is based.

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.