This weekend, you could sob yourself into an Aretha Franklin-induced transcendence with Amazing Grace, enter a world of time-bending black holes with Claire Denis’s High Life, and revisit classics like the 1959 sword-and-sandal film Ben-Hur and Clueless. Follow the links below to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers for all of our critics’ picks, and, if you’re looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted
The double-platinum album Amazing Grace was recorded live, at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, in 1972. The singer was 29-year-old Aretha Franklin, returning to her gospel roots for two nights, and the shows she put on were electrifying. That album was the soundtrack to a documentary by Sidney Lumet that never got released for various reasons, some more understandable than others. After Ms. Franklin’s recent passing, Lumet’s film is finally available, and 2019 audiences can effectively pull up a pew and bear witness to how she put in work across those two days in the January of 1972. If you are not already familiar with the term “transcendent,” you should practice its usage—you’ll need it if you’re hoping to speak on what got captured in this film. BOBBY ROBERTS
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Todd Miller’s superbly edited new documentary on the Apollo 11 mission, which put Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon (and sent Michael Collins around its dark side), adds no narration or talking heads, other than contemporaneous sources. Although you know how things turned out, you’re plunged into the suspense of the moment, when even the slightest miscalculation could have doomed the astronauts to a lonely or fiery death. Listen to that amazing sound design!
Ash Is Purest White
Cinema is often at its best when it places characters in a social and cultural world that is rapidly changing. The grandeur of the latter infuses the little events of the former (drinking in a bar, dancing in a club, walking down a street) with the force of an epic. This is Ash Is Purest White, a crime drama by the highly regarded Chinese director Jia Zhangke. The background is China’s recent and still-occurring economic inflation; in the foreground are two lovers, one of whom is a small-time gangster in a town that’s becoming a huge city. Their love is tested and twisted by the world-historical experience. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Beach Bum
The Beach Bum is a movie that, for better or worse (mostly better? I think?) feels pieced together from ad-libbed sequences—it’s not hard to imagine Korine renting a mansion and a yacht and then just dumping all these people—along with a very high number of unnamed, topless women who are given neither personalities nor lines—in front of some cameras and just seeing what happens. Like Korine’s equally insane Spring Breakers, The Beach Bum looks simultaneously gorgeous and garish—all radioactive sunsets, fluorescent clothes, and light shimmering along waves and guns and bongs—and also like Spring Breakers, big chunks of the movie are basically music videos. There are Snoop songs, and Jimmy Buffett songs, but there’s also the Cure, and Van Morrison, and Gordon Lightfoot. Matthew McConaughey as Moondog jams and slurs and mumbles poetry and relaxes in a bunch of boats, and he rounds up a slew of homeless buddies for an impromptu pool party, and at some point he may or may not win a Pulitzer. ERIK HENRIKSEN
The one thing you have to enjoy in a movie like Ben-Hur, produced 60 years ago, is the enormous number of extras. When watching these kinds of films—in this case, a sword-and-sandal film—in the 21st century, one has to marvel not at the story (dumb) and acting (dumb), but at all of the actually human beings who fill this and that scene. It’s fucking insane. So many bodies. Real bodies. Bodies not generated by computers. Wow. Ben-Hur. CHARLES MUDEDE
Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall doc The Brink follows Bannon from 2017 to 2018, after Donald Trump, who lost the popular election by 2,864,974 votes, renamed him “Sloppy Steve” and booted him from the White House. Undeterred (and insisting he didn’t even like working in the White House anyway), Bannon embarks on a worldwide tour to, as he explains to Brexit bullshitter Nigel Farage, “knit together this populist/nationalist movement throughout the world.” “It’s a global revolt,” Bannon proclaims. “We’re on the right side of history.” Bannon does his usual weird, gross schtick—dog whistles! conspiracy theories! wearing multiple button-up shirts at the same time!—but the most interesting things in The Brink are his unexpected gregariousness and his even-more-unexpected self-consciousness: He tries, and fails, to laugh off what people say about his face. Beneath Bannon’s cruel, backwards, bigoted bluster, Klayman finds glimpses of a guy who who knows he’s hated but just can’t stop being intensely hateable. ERIK HENRIKSEN
AMC Seattle 10
British Comedy Classics: The Lavender Hill Mob
The finest British comedies of the 1940s and ’50s—Green for Danger, The Man in the White Suit—have aged marvelously well, thanks to understated, funny scripts and endlessly watchable professionals like this week’s The Lavender Hill Mob, about a naughty gold-delivery bank supervisor who plots to smuggle a load of bullion out of the country.
Seattle Art Museum
Cadence Video Poetry Festival
Video poetry has been around since the late 1970s, but it’s been enjoying a slight revival in a world where three-minute videos on the internet serve as our primary mode of media consumption. Local fiction writer Chelsea Werner-Jatzke is curating the second iteration of this festival, which will include video poems from Shaun Kardinal, Catherine Bresner, and Sierra Nelson. Bresner will lead a workshop on Saturday for those who want to learn to create their own cinepoems. RICH SMITH
This week’s main event is Full Cadence on Thursday, which will feature Shawn Levy, John Bresland, Sarah Minor, and Claudia Castro Luna
Northwest Film Forum
Thursday & Saturday
What you need to know is that Captain Marvel is a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and MCU movies are generally good-to-excellent, and Captain Marvel is no different. It’s smart, funny, and deliriously self-aware, and there’s a bunch of cool explosions. There’s also a young Agent Coulson, an explanation of how Nick Fury lost his eye, and a goddamn kitty-cat named Goose. It is an all-around successful comic book movie, like the 5,000 MCU movies that came before it. “But wait,” you say. “It is different. Aren’t you going to mention… [points at boobs, from one to the other, back and forth, maintaining eye contact, making things weird]?” Ugh, FINE. I’ll say it. Yes, Carol is a woman, and this is the first Marvel movie centered on a woman. I’ve really enjoyed my Bruce Bannerses and Steve Rogerses, but I liked my Carol Danvers even more. It was great to see someone who looked like me straight-up destroy alien bad guys. ELINOR JONES
Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival
This festival in the small, artsy city of Bellingham showcases women’s filmmaking every year. Don’t miss Edge of the Knife, the first-ever feature exclusively filmed in the Haida language. The special guest will be Oscar-winning director Freida Lee Mock.
Pickford Film Center
“My buns don’t feel nothin’ like steel,” “I am totally butt crazy in love,” and “Oh my god, I am totally buggin'” are a mere few of the top-notch one-liners of Clueless, the classic ’90s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.
An Elephant Sitting Still
The tragically deceased Bo Hu’s almost four-hour epic, a take on the myth of Jason and the Argonauts set in modern China, is being hailed as a masterpiece. After accidentally badly injuring a bully, a teenage boy encounters various characters beset by everyday pains and tribulations, while all are pulled toward the center of the city of Manzhouli and its mythical, stoic elephant. Richard Brody of the New Yorker calls the film an “act of resistance” that “conveys a mighty, universal human despair,” while other critics have compared Bo to Béla Tarr, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Jia Zhangke.
Northwest Film Forum
The Fate of Lee Khan
A badass army of female warriors hunts an official of the Mongol Court, who’s stolen a map of the Chinese resistance’s bases, in King Hu’s 1973 wuxia classic.
Northwest Film Forum
Anybody who’s seen Gloria—the 2013 Chilean film from A Fantastic Woman director Sebastián Lelio—will feel some major déjà-vu watching Gloria Bell, a remake set in Los Angeles and starring Julianne Moore, in which Lelio recreates the original almost shot-for-shot. As someone who’s seen both, I’m going to be honest: I didn’t like Gloria Bell as much as Gloria. But it’s still great! Gloria works at an insurance company by day, spends her nights dancing at a disco-themed singles bar, and struggles to cede control in her relationships with her adult children. But Moore’s portrayal of the divorcée reveals the nuances of her personality and the complexity of her seemingly unremarkable middle-aged existence, whether she’s doing laughter therapy, dunking her boyfriend’s phone in soup, or walking barefoot through Caesars Palace. (Throughout the film, Gloria’s mood can be gauged by whether she’s belting along to ’80s hits in her car or driving in silence, along with her willingness to coexist with a Sphynx cat that keeps mysteriously appearing in her apartment.) Though Gloria ostensibly centers on a new romance, the reality is far more interesting: Lelio’s film captures an internal tide change with unexpectedly transformative results, and is a joyful celebration of the world’s countless Glorias. CIARA DOLAN
There isn’t much I can say about The Godfather that hasn’t already been said, or that you probably don’t already know from seeing Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful crime film adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name (about the leaders of a fictional New York mob family), or watching any other mob-oriented films and shows that followed (Goodfellas, The Sopranos), or even being exposed to prevalent pop-culture references to it or one-liners drawn from it ( “Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”), or impressions of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone (my favorite is still Dom DeLuise in Robin Hood: Men in Tights). What you need to know is that it’s such a big part of the fabric of cinema for a reason, and it’s one of the few movies that I’ll admit, despite its nearly three-hour run time, needs no editing. LEILANI POLK
A notable example of Spielberg-style “old-fashioned adventure” cinema, complete with pirates, treasure, and that signature peril-and-fun-in-equal-parts recipe you’ve come to love.
Meridian 16 (Regal)
Claire Denis’s High Life is the French art-house director’s first science-fiction film and her first English script. It depicts outer space in a way we’re not used to seeing on-screen: through the utter absence of visual information. The spaceship is a clunky rectangular box, its interiors are shabby and grimy, and the cosmos is represented by a few sprinkles of light on a black background. Denis’s story is abstract and nonlinear, and her characters function like allegorical symbols rather than humans. Some will be impressed by the weightiness of Denis’s jag into zero gravity, but for me, High Life was a frustrating experience, a collection of half-developed ideas being sucked into an unfocused void. The nature of Denis’s provocations is clear: With High Life, she’s drawing a parallel between the desperate boredom of life and its ceaseless ability to perpetuate itself, even amid the most dire of circumstances. NED LANNAMANN
SIFF Cinema Uptown
In November 2008, members of the radical terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba laid siege on Mumbai, India, and killed 174 people. Many of those deaths happened inside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, an immense luxury hotel where guests and staff were trapped for days. Hotel Mumbai dramatizes these events from the point of view of those stuck inside. In other words, it’s a fairly traumatic thing to sit through—a story of prolonged, extreme, senseless, and very real violence. The movie fulfills its duty by honoring the memories of those who were killed, and it’s well-made and acted (performers include Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, and Counterpart’s Nazanin Boniadi). And western audiences ignorant of this horrific event could maybe stand to be educated about it. Just know what you’re getting into. NED LANNAMANN
In Search of Greatness
In a refreshing-looking deviation from corny sports docs, director Gabe Polsky has gathered archival clips of some of today’s most inspiring athletes like Michael Jordan and Serena Williams, focusing on their drive and knowledge as opposed to just their skills.
SIFF Film Center
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Chinese filmmaker Bi Gan likes to experiment with form, time, and space. This melodrama about a man searching for the woman he loves in Southwest China is divided into two parts: one chronological, one dreamlike and nonlinear.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Featuring international star Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead, Rust and Bone, Far from the Madding Crowd) and directed by Laure Clermont-Tonnerre (Time Regained, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), this film is about a convict in Nevada in a rehabilitation program where he comes face to face with a nearly untameable horse. Despite its reported predictability, The Mustang has moved critics with its heartfelt study of masculinity and redemption.
The latest from Hillsboro-based stop-motion studio Laika is astonishingly beautiful. From the secluded, cerulean glens of Pacific Northwest timberland to the jaunty, slate-topped roofs of Victorian London, every scene represents artwork on the highest level from an army of masters in their craft. But despite its visual splendor and charming premise—a lonely bigfoot recruits a hard-luck cryptozoologist and a feisty adventuress to transport him to what he hopes will be a welcoming tribe of Himalayan yeti—it’s perplexing that a studio that’s had trouble with cultural representation in the past (“Why is the movie’s main cast so white?” asked BuzzFeed about 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings) would pick a colonialist gadfly to serve as Missing Link’s protagonist. BEN COLEMAN
Pr0n 4 Freakz
ScumTrust Productions and NWFF are partnering to bring you queer and trans smut every two months. Arrive early to hang out with freaky new friends and shop the “sexy witch market.” Stay on after the dirty movie for a Q&A on sex, pleasure, queerness, and gender.
Northwest Film Forum
Rewind: 1999 Film Series
Revisit some pre-Y2K classics on their 20th birthday, like Run Lola Run and Fight Club (Fri), Election, The Iron Giant, and The Blair Witch Project (Sat), and Galaxy Quest, Magnolia, and Eyes Wide Shut (Sun).
Ruben Brandt, Collector
Milorad Krstic’s first animated feature follows a psychiatrist (an “art therapist,” actually) who is literally attacked by his beloved stolen paintings he hangs on his walls—a twisted inversion of surrealist painter René Magritte’s famous addendum to his painting “The Treachery of Images.”
A 14-year-old foster kid can turn himself into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) by shouting the title word. If you’re sick of every superhero movie’s intention to plumb the DARK SIDE, you may enjoy this relatively simple, light, and charmingly acted story.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
Mashing up the bombast of Marvel with the glory days of Pixar, Spider-Verse feels decidedly different—funnier, weirder, more daring—than most American animated movies. This is almost a meta, post-modern take on Spider-Man: Instead of being all about Peter Parker, Spider-Verse stars Miles Morales (excellently voiced by Shameik Moore), a kid who also gets bit by a creepy spider and also gets creepy spider-powers. But Miles—a Afro-Latino teenager who, for all his cleverness and heart, feels out of place at his fancy Brooklyn school—not only has a different perspective on the whole “great power, great responsibility” thing, but has his own obstacles to becoming a hero. Luckily for Miles, a whole slew of other spider-people from alternate dimensions show up to help him out. This is a big, fun blockbuster, but it’s also the rare big, fun blockbuster that dares to have a strong point of view and a fresh, exciting personality. As Spider-Verse dazzles and twists, thumping to a hip-hop soundtrack and glimmering with every color in the universe, it captures the thrill, smarts, and irreverence that mark Spider-Man‘s best stories. ERIK HENRIKSEN
They Shall Not Grow Old
Peter Jackson has led a team of restorationists and lip-readers (!) to snatch back moments of World War I in living detail. Archival films from the era were colorized and repaired, and experts were called in to decrypt what the people in the shots were saying. The results, bolstered by interviews and reminiscences, are history as you’ve never seen it.
A man is on the run from a fascist army that’s occupying France. He jumps onto a train heading to Marseille and toward his very last chance to get away: a Mexico-bound cruise ship that’s leaving the Mediterranean port city soon. The man is Georg (Franz Rogowski), a Jewish German radio technician. His bag contains the manuscript of a dead but famous Communist author. Also in the bag: the dead man’s papers for Mexico. Georg is assuming the writer’s identity. The film, by the great German director Christian Petzold, is based on a 1942 novel of the same name about a Communist rebel who escapes from a Nazi concentration camp in Paris, heads down to Marseille, and ends up waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a transit letter. Petzold, however, sets this World War II story in present-day Europe, though it is a strange intersection between the past, present, and future—the Jews who fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and early 1940s meet and interact with Muslims fleeing a new fascist regime. The Jews in the movie are ghosts from the past, and the Muslims are ghosts from the future. These are the specters haunting Europe today. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Us is a movie about doppelgängers—our evil twins that, according to folklore, must be killed, lest they kill us and assume our identities. But Us is also about shadows emerging from their own darkness; the illusory depths of mirrors; the fear we project onto the “other” instead of examining our own brutality; and, more abstractly, the barbaric history of slavery and mass genocide that America has unsuccessfully tried to bury, how the country is actively destroying itself, and what it’ll look like when its chickens finally come home to roost. The unfortunate recipients of all this horror are the Wilsons—Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o, who deserves a billion awards), Gabe (Winston Duke), and kids Zora (Shahadi Wright) and the perpetually masked Jason (Evan Alex)—who are just trying to enjoy a nice summer vacation in the warm California sun. As a horror exercise peppered with moments of comic relief and images that prove surprisingly unnerving, Us is an exceedingly great slasher movie. But there’s a lot going on here, and Us suffers for it. CIARA DOLAN
Olivia Wilde stars as a woman hunting down her abusive husband as she helps other women escape their partners. Tough, harsh, and featuring a role finally worthy of Wilde.
Woman at War
A chorus teacher, Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), is also Iceland’s most notorious eco-terrorist, and we follow her skulking around the countryside and taking out the country’s power lines, in protest of the government’s alignment with the foreign interests that are plundering Iceland’s natural resources. It’s a fun, funny movie whose two extended sequences of Halla in action are suspenseful and terrific—Jóhann Sigurðarson as her accomplice (and possible cousin) steals every scene he’s in—but the rest of the movie sags in comparison. (A subplot about Halla’s identical twin sister also feels like a reach.) But there’s a lot to like here, including the musicians and singers who appear onscreen, providing a live soundtrack and wry visual commentary. NED LANNAMANN
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Our critics don’t recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.