Cinema 21 Program Notes

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Program Notes


Two Weeks: December 9 - 22 (plus various shows thru December 29)

SARAH SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGIC

Premiere (2005, 72 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

"When God gives you AIDS (and God does give you AIDS, by the way) make LemonAIDS!" advises stand-up comic Sarah Silverman in her first feature film, a record of her one-woman show. Silverman was one of the standouts in the recent documentary The Aristocrats, but she is also a comic who treads a difficult line of humor and irony. In the tradition of Martin Mull, Andy Kaufman, Albert Brooks, and Steve Martin, her shtick is just as much a meta-level critique of comedy as it is downright funny. Like her "lemonAIDS" joke, Silverman's humor is meant to make you uncomfortable, make you think, and make you question what humor is in the first place, much like Kaufman's surreal public exercises in street theater. Directed by Liam Lynch (Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny), JESUS IS MAGIC comprises Silverman's performance before a live audience interwoven with stylish musical numbers and backstage intrigue. Bob Odenkirk, Brian Posehn and Silverman's comedian/actor sister, Laura Silverman, make appearances along with Silverman's band, The Silver Men, and in the film she takes on such pitch-black topics as September 11th, unwanted body hair, and the Holocaust, and spins them into decidedly un-politically correct comedic gold. The L. A. Weekly deems Silverman to be "hands down the funniest comedian in town," while Variety calls JESUS IS MAGIC "explosively funny, unnervingly shocking, and perversely adorable."

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One Night Only: Friday, December 23

MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS

Free w/ food donation (2005, 103 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

Mrs. Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) may be a widow but she is by no means going to spend the rest her days playing bridge. The Windmill Theater becomes her game and the infamous showman Vivian Van Dam (Bob Hoskins) becomes her partner and fiercest opponent. The Germans are bombing London but the roar of the Windmill is all that can be heard, as Laura convinces Lord Cromer (Christopher Guest) to allow her actresses to be the one thing no one could ever imagine: Nude. Brought to its knees by war, what "Mrs. Henderson Presents" brings a nation to its feet in applause. According to Rex Reed in the New York Observer, HENDERSON director Stephen Frears is "a master of symmetry and narrative coherence, has come up with another jewel." Michael Rechtshaffen of the Hollywood Reporter finds that MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS is "an absolute delight from start to finish."

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12 Days: December 25 - January 5

BALLETS RUSSES

Oregon Ballet Theatre Presents (2005, 118 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

If you are of a certain age, you probably associate the phrase Ballets Russes with a line from the theme song of the Patty Duke Show. But of course, the Ballets Russes is much more than that, with a long history that this film attempts to summarize. Unearthing a treasure trove of archival footage, filmmakers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine have fashioned a dazzlingly entrancing ode to the revolutionary 20th century dance troupe. What began as a group of Russian refugees who never danced in Russia became not one but two rival dance troupes who fought the infamous "ballet battles" that consumed London society before World War II. BALLETS RUSSES maps the company's Diaghilev-era beginnings in turn-of-the-century Paris, when artists such as Nijinsky, Balanchine, Picasso, Miro, Matisse, and Stravinsky united in an unparalleled collaboration, to its halcyon days of the 1930s and '40s, when the Ballets Russes toured America, astonishing audiences schooled in vaudeville with artistry never before seen, to finally its demise in the '60s when rising costs, rocketing egos, outside competition, and internal mismanagement ultimately brought this revered company to its knees. A O Scott The New York Times writes that Ballets Russes is "a graceful and fascinating documentary," while Moira MacDonald of the Seattle Times predicts that, "Dance fans will be dazzled by its treasure trove of archival dance footage." Scott Foundas of Variety found it "enormously absorbing."

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Two Weeks: December 30 - January 12 (No longer December 16 - 22)

PROTOCOLS OF ZION

Premiere (2005, 93 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

Despite all the evidence, millions around the world continue to blame the Jews for 9/11. This belief is a modern-day incarnation of the infamous The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the century-old forgery that some people claimed to be the Jews' master plan to rule the world. Filmmaker Marc Levin (Slam), in what John Anderson of Variety calls a "peripatetic meditation on anti-Semitism," sets out to understand why The Protocols has been revived and to challenge one of the most insidious of modern conspiracy theories. In the course of his explosive journey, Levin finds himself delving into the heart of hate, facing those who would traffic in bigotry, all in the name of God. On the one hand, Levin takes to the streets, engaging in a free-for-all dialogue with Arab-Americans, Black nationalists, Christian evangelicals, Aryan skinheads, Kabbalist rabbis, Holocaust deniers and survivors, and parading peaceniks. On the other hand, his research takes him to the battlefields of Iraq; to an Arab television station that broadcast a dramatization of The Protocol; to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, who claims the Jews rule the world by proxy; and to events around the release of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Ed Gonzalez of Slant finds that PROTOCOLS OF ZION "powerfully conveys the despicably fictitious ways in which scapegoats are manufactured."

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One Week: December 30 - January 5

Plus Late Shows January 6 - 7, 13 - 14

GAY SEX IN THE '70s

Premiere (2005, 72 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

Documentary producer/director Joseph Lovett focuses his lens on the unbridled sexual passion and exploration that marked the 12 years from Stonewall riot in 1969 to the first reported cases of AIDS in 1981. With access to a treasure trove of stills and footage of the erotic life on New York's West Side Piers, trucks, bars, dance clubs, baths and beaches, Lovett's cast of storytellers takes us from the remarkably repressed pre-Stonewall period to an era of sexual excess unparalleled since ancient Rome. Straightforward, funny and titillating at the same time, these men tell their stories with remarkable wit, humor, and perspective. John Anderson of Newsday notes that "Lovett employs bittersweet but blissful recollections of men who can only be described as survivors." And Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly finds that" Lovett, wants us to ask if there's such a thing as too much freedom, and he has the sobriety to say yes – and no."

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One Week: January 6 - 12

WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE

Theatrical Premiere (2005, 98 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

Documentary director Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed) continues his expose of evil corporate doings with this documentary, released as part of Wal-Mart Week, a nationwide activist initiative to bring the company's business practices out into the open. From Wal-Mart's disturbing morning cheer to its minuscule benefits packages and sweatshop-labor conditions, the documentary addresses the simple question: does America benefit from the presence of this low-priced chain? Employee testimony and statistics make Greenwald's case clear and effective, and the stories of enforced, unpaid overtime and the death of mom-and-pop businesses can hardly fail to leave viewers both saddened and enraged. "Viewers may not be surprised to learn of Wal-Mart's horrific track record, but they can't deny Greenwald's airtight advocacy," proclaims James Crawford of the Village Voice, while Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times observes that "Greenwald has shrewdly chosen not to go with classic talking head types like economists, academics and journalists. Instead he talked to current and former Wal-Mart employees, including several with a dozen or more years with the company." Richard Roeper of Ebert and Roeper points out that, "Wal-Mart says director Robert Greenwald's film is misleading and inaccurate, but it's hard to dispute the personal accounts from former Wal-Mart employees who speak from experience." Anita Gates of the New York Times asserts that, "Robert Greenwald's documentary makes a devastating case against the largest retailer on the planet," while Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly concludes that, "with little fanfare, Robert Greenwald has become one of the most incisive activist filmmakers in America."

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One Week: January 6 - 12

NAKED IN ASHES

Premiere (2005, 108 minutes)

IMDB Entry

What are India's holy men like? What are their beliefs? How do they survive? What do they do all day? Director Paula Fouce attempts to answer these and other questions in this documentary, which examines the everyday lives of Hindu mystics. "The world wouldn’t run without saints and yogis," declares Shiv Raj Giri, one of the handful of subjects whom Fouce follows. These are men who smear their bodies with ash ("Ashes are the wife of fire," explains one yogi), live in improvised dwellings on the margins of society, and subject their bodies to extreme ascetic practices. One has been standing upright for 12 years. Another uses unlikely body parts to haul a piece of heavy machinery as a form of social protest. Dana Stevens of the New York Times calls it "intimate … heartfelt," and Marrit Ingman of the Austin Chronicle finds that the film "clearly conveys the importance of spirituality within Indian culture, even as the landscape becomes increasingly modern and urban. Elizabeth Zimmer of the Village Voice determines that Naked in Ashes is "utterly sincere about the practices it depicts," and John McMurtrie of the San Francisco Chronicle cheers it as "an inspirational and cautionary film."

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One Week: January 13 - 19

FILM GEEK

Premiere (2005, 78 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

Portland filmmaker James Westby turns his attention onto film fans themselves in this independently made comedy. It's about Scotty Pelk (Melik Malkasian), a socially inept video stork clerk who, after getting fired from his job, becomes a sensation as an online film critic. Pelk has an encyclopedic knowledge of film – but little else in his life. He runs a website, www.scottysfilmpage.com, that receives zero traffic. He annoys his customers. He annoys his co-workers. And when he is inevitably fired from his video store job, Scotty finds refuge in Niko (Tyler Gannon), a downtown hipster who teaches him a thing or two about love and life. But Niko's smarmy ex-boyfriend Brandon (Matt Morris) won't go away quietly. As Scotty's first love turns to obsession, his life begins to change in profound ways. Animator Bill Plympton praises Film Geek, calling it "the perfect film for anyone who loves movies – touching and wonderful." And Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me, admits plainly, "I loved this movie, and if you're a movie geek like me, then so will you." And get your lips in hissy fitness: local film pundits Shawn Levy (The Oregonian), David Walker (Willamette Week), and D. K. Holm (KBOO, and www.moviepoopshoot.com) appear playing the only thing they can – themselves!

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One Showing: Sunday, January 22 @ 2 PM

Independent America

Benefit for Sustainable Business Network of Portland

Official Site View Trailer

Independent America: The Two Lane Search for Mom & Pop follows filmmakers and married couple, Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes, as they hit the road and travel 13,000 miles through 32 states in search of .Independent America.. It.s a place populated by hardy souls fighting for the right to remain independent in a land smothered by Big Box stores and fast food-chains. The documentary uncovers a growing discontent across the country. A Starbucks is vandalized in Colorado. Supporters of an anti-big box law in Arizona are compared to Nazis. A rebellious Texan city forces Borders Books into retreat. Patriotic residents of America's 'Fourth of July' capital in Nebraska start to turn on their new super center. And an entire town in Wyoming goes into business for itself after it's abandoned by its chain department-store. The filmmakers frame a snapshot of America as they speak to economists, activists, political leaders, union members, entrepreneurs and concerned Americans from all walks of life. They also have a frank conversation with a top Wal-Mart executive... They do it all by abiding by two simple road rules:. No interstates: They can only travel on secondary highways and country roads.. They can only do business with Mom & Pop. No McDonalds. No Best Westerns. No Wal-Marts. This film encourages North Americans to think hard about how they spend their money. And it offers others a rare view of a complex nation at loggerheads with the free market it so proudly mastered. This screening is a benefit for the Sustainable Business Network of Portland's Think Local First campaign and there will be one showing only. For more information, please visit www.thinklocalportland.org.

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Nine Days: February 1 - 9

THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN

Premiere (2005, 82 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

Special Preview Screening Saturday, January 28, at 5:00, more info on tickets available here soon!!

At a time when farms all across the country are in trouble, this film is the epic true tale of a maverick Midwestern farmer. Castigated as a pariah in his community, Farmer John bravely transforms his farm amidst a failing economy, vicious rumors, and even arson. He succeeds in creating a bastion of free expression and a revolutionary form of agriculture in rural America. Directed by Taggart Siegel, THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN, which won the Audience Award for best documentary feature at Slamdance, grew out of a 20-year friendship between Siegel and John Peterson, an Illinois farmer who fancies himself a writer and performance artist, and who regards the tension between art and agriculture as one of the defining forces of his adult life. Joshua Tanzer, of Offoffoff, laments that, "If we were better people than we are, we'd all be interested in a documentary about the difficulties of farming life — and the central character wouldn't have to be a cross-dressing, movie-making, play-writing, hippie-loving free spirit." Scott Foundas of Variety asserts that FARMER JOHN "effectively tells the story of America itself during those same turbulent seasons, with the farm providing a model of a nation wrestling with conflicted notions of identity."

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One Week: February 10 - 16

WHY WE FIGHT

Premiere (2005, 98 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

He may have been the ultimate icon of 1950s conformity and postwar complacency, but Dwight D. Eisenhower may well go down in history as an iconoclast, a visionary, and the Cassandra of the New World Order. Upon departing his presidency, Eisenhower issued a stern, cogent warning about the burgeoning "military industrial complex," foretelling with ominous clarity the state of the world now with its incestuous entanglement of political, corporate, and Defense Department interests. In Why We Fight, made for the BBC's Storyville, Eugene Jarecki (The Trials of Henry Kissinger) explores such questions as these: is American foreign policy dominated by the idea of military supremacy? Has the military become too important in American life? To that end, he interviews such figures as neo-con Ken Adelman, Eisenhower heirs John S.D. Eisenhower and Susan Eisenhower, historian Chalmers Johnson, columnist William Kristol, Senator John McCain, neo-con Richard Perle, and novelist Gore Vidal, among many others. Jason Alexander of the Eye Weekly says "what makes Why We Fight so devastating is that it stands as a plea for reason in an age that expresses little use for it." IoFilms praises it as "a level-headed account of how the US public have been duped by their government and, fired by blind patriotism, marched into a war that never ends." To James Greenberg of the Hollywood Reporter, WHY WE FIGHT, the winner of the best American documentary prize at Sundance, "captures the price of the military-industrial complex in human terms."

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One Week: February 17 - 23

TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY

Premiere (2005, 91 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

It's been called the "unfilmable novel." Laurence Stern's Tristam Shandy (1760) is serpentine, digressive, and whimsical. It doesn't really tell a story, takes 750 pages just to get its main character out of the birth canal, and ends with a pun. In fact, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, its full title, is all about digression: putting things off, getting distracted. The wit is in the denial of completion. So how do you make a movie out of that? Michael Winterbottom (Jude, Wonderland) came up with a solution. What begins as a seemingly straightforward attempt to recreate the frenetic novel, with Steve Coogan as the title character and Rob Brydon as his Uncle Toby, quickly derails into a behind-the-scenes document of the film's actual production. Working triple time (he also plays Tristram's father), Coogan is also the insecure "Steve Coogan," a shallow actor who is more interested in his cute assistant (Naomie Harris) than the mother of his newborn child (Kelly Macdonald). Meanwhile, "Rob Brydon" is trying desperately to convince "Steve Coogan" that his role is a co-lead, not merely a supporting one. As the production threatens to spin out of control, the filmmakers hire Gillian Anderson (playing herself) to fill a much-needed role. Coming off like a madcap collision of Barry Lyndon and 24 Hour Party People, Winterbottom's film is a hilarious and surprisingly tender ode to fatherhood and moviemaking in general. Shlomo Schwartzberg of Boxoffice finds that Winterbottom's "risk-taking is exhilarating," while Aaron Hillis of Premiere, calls the film "diabolically clever and nothing short of hilarious." The Eye Weekly asserts that "it's faultlessly true to the spirit of the book, taking up Sterne's call to hold a candle to the creative process."

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One Week: February 24 - March 2

Neil Young: HEART OF GOLD

Premiere (2005, 103 minutes)

Official Site

Get director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia) together to film a great band, as he did with Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense, and you have the recipe for movie and music magic. In this concert film, Demme capture Neil Yong over two nights at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, a former church and former seat of The Grand Ol' Opry. Accompanied by Emmylou Harris and others, Young sings of death (his father and the mother of his first child both died recently) and doubt (such as in the song, "When God Made Me," in which the lyric asks 10 questions about what was going through the deity's mind). Formerly titled Prairie Wind, after the album the concert was supporting, HEART OF GOLD finds Young in a country mode. Young plays acoustic guitar only as well as harmonica, piano, and banjo, while backing him up are Spooner Oldham on keyboard, Rick Rosas on electric bass, Karl Himmel and Chad Cromwell on drums, among others, all the players on stage dressed in Nashville drag, the women in cowboy boots and shirt-waist, full-skirted dresses, the men in varying hats and suits. Reviewing the original album, Angela Panciaza of the Edmonton Sun wrote that Young's "weighty songs have a gentleness entirely appropriate for an album where Young tenderly recalls his upbringing." Edward Helmore of the London Independent noted that "Prairie Wind stands in good company with two of his acoustic-centered stand-outs, Harvest and Harvest Moon." And John Metzger of Music Box praises Young's "strikingly emotional lyrics, which arguably are the most revealing and intimate that he has penned since Tonight’s the Night."

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One Week: March 3 - 9

THE GREAT WARMING

Premiere (2005, 78 minutes)

Official Site

(Friday 6:30PM Show - Q&A with panel afterward!)

We are living at the dawn of a new epoch, notes filmmaker Michael Taylor. Year by year, degree by degree, Earth is growing warmer, a legacy of the Industrial Revolution, population growth, and our addiction to technology, speed and power. Just as other generations spoke of a Great Plague and a Great Depression, our children will be compelled to endure The Great Warming, and find a way to conquer its consequences. Filmed in eight countries on four continents, endorsed by dozens of the world's leading scientists, THE GREAT WARMING is the most factually accurate, visually stunning, and wide-ranging production ever mounted about this complex, fascinating subject. Among the facets of the crisis it covers are the looming crisis in California's water resources, the emerging voice of the American Evangelical community urging action on climate change, and the new and unsettling science about the reality of the challenge we are facing. Hosted by Alanis Morrisette and Keanu Reeves, and loosely based on the book Storm Warning: Gambling with the Climate of Our Planet, by science writer Lydia Dotto. Of Dotto's book, the Globe and Mail said, "Lydia Dotto takes us on a timely guided tour through the brave new world we have made for ourselves: the era of violent weather ... An impressive overview."

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One Week: March 17 - 23 (Held over until April 6)

THE BOYS OF BARAKA

Premiere (2005, 84 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

In what Lou Lumenick of the New York Post calls "an uplifting documentary," filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady follow a remarkable experiment in social change. On September 12, 2002, 20 "at risk" 12-year-old boys from the tough streets of inner-city Baltimore left home to attend the 7th and 8th grade at Baraka, an experimental boarding school located in Kenya, East Africa. Here, faced with a strict academic and disciplinary program as well as the freedom to be normal teenage boys, these brave kids began the daunting journey towards putting their lives on a fresh path. The Boys of Baraka focuses on four boys: Devon, Montrey, Richard, and his brother Romesh. Through extensive time with the boys in Baltimore and in Africa, the film captures the kids' amazing journey and how they fare when they are forced to return the difficult realities of their city. Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews.com writes that, "With echoes of such films as Born Into Brothels and Lost Boys of Sudan, The Boys of Baraka makes its own strong statement about the impact of environment on human development. " Ken Turner of Film-Forward.com says that The Boys of Baraka "generates its own disquieting form of suspense with its ambiguous open ending." "This rich documentary proves that inner city boys have a better chance of thriving if removed from their poor neighborhoods," concludes Stephen Holden of the New York Times.

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