This weekend offers plenty of 4/20-friendly moviegoing options, not least our own brand-new festival of stoner filmmaking, SPLIFF, a 4:20 screening of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and the always eye-popping Anime Film Series. For some classic laughs, opt for Life of Brian or Rifftrax Live: Octaman. With Earth Day coming up, you may also want to check out the beautiful and endearing Arctic doc Penguins, and perhaps follow it up with the utterly charming-looking anime Penguin Highway. 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
Anime Film Series
It’s back! Time to treat your eyeballs to some of the most beautiful and otherworldly images ever projected on a (huge) movie screen. Selections this weekend include Studio Ghibli masterpieces like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service; cyber- and spacepunk thrillers like Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and Paprika; the lovely fantasy The Red Turtle; and the heartbreaking war drama Grave of the Fireflies.
Set in Brixton—which is to London what Harlem is to New York City—and starring Rasta singer Brinsley Forde (the frontman of reggae band Aswad), and cowritten by Martin Stallman (who also wrote the cult film Quadrophenia), Babylon is a feature-length film about black life, black music, and black struggles in the early 1980s in Britain. The economy is in the toilet, Margaret Thatcher has begun her assault on labor, and city after city is becoming what the Specials classically described as “a ghost town.” The film is simply amazing. Every minute is rich with cultural information of a period and milieu that’s rarely seen on film. Babylon also has a dub score that’s dark, crackly, and deep. Those echoes, those old Brixton buildings, the dreads, the factory smoke, the street markets, the old ladies, the thick accents—all of this and more is just utterly wonderful. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Film Center
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 Man in the White Suit
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 Alec Guinness in this week’s The Man in the White Suit. Guinness plays a naive young scientist who invents a cloth that can’t be soiled or torn. Convinced that his creation will benefit humankind, he’s aghast when industry and labor try to suppress it. It’s a deceptively charming comedy about scientific progress, disruption, and the non-inevitability of advancement.
Seattle Art Museum
Burn, Witch, Burn!
A rationalist college professor is disgusted with his wife’s witchy habits and forces her to destroy her paraphernalia—what a jerk! But the laugh may be on him—was she actually protecting him from curses cast by his professional rivals? Based on the novel by Fritz Leiber, this 1962 film opens with a “chant to dispel evil” and is hailed by classic British horror fans as a little-known gem.
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 event is Refrain Cadence on Thursday, which gathers cine-poetry from other festivals around the world, including Nudo, festival de poesía visual in Barcelona, Spain; Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition in Cork, Ireland; and International Video Poetry Festival in Athens, Greece.
Northwest Film Forum
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
David Byrne’s True Stories on 35mm
Talking Heads leader David Byrne took stories and headlines from tabloid magazines and gave them new life in True Stories, which Northwest Film Forum will be showing in 35 mm. In the 1986 film, Byrne plays a nameless narrator in a giant cowboy hat as he observes the fictional town of Virgil, Texas, prepare for its sesquicentennial (150th) “Celebration of Specialness,” which is sponsored by computing manufacturing plant Varicorp Corporation. The film explores creativity, culture, and the strengthening grip of consumerism in the flyover states, featuring an early John Goodman performance and wide empty Texas skies. The film itself is like a dream, surreal and beautiful. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Northwest Film Forum
Mary Kay Place plays a dogged yet self-denying middle-aged woman who, suppressing her own need for happiness, throws everything into her efforts to keep her son off drugs. Kent Jones won the “Directors to Watch” award at Palm Springs International Film Festival, while the film snagged Best Cinematography, Best Narrative Feature, and Best Screenplay at Tribeca. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post calls Place’s performance “quietly astonishing.”
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Drone Cinema Film Festival
Ambient music producer and past David Lynch collaborator Kim Cascone runs this festival combining experimental, non-narrative film, video, and animation with drone music, aka an external representation of the inside of your stoner brain.
The Eyes of Orson Welles
Critic and historian Mark Cousins explores the inner life of the filmmaking enfant terrible Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Touch of Evil), using newly accessible paintings, sketches, and drawings by the auteur. A must for anyone wanting to revisit a titan of 20th-century American cinema.
Northwest Film Forum
It’s not a great day for Craig (played by Ice Cube)—he got fired on his day off, and now he and his best friend Smokey (Chris Tucker) owe $200 to a violent drug dealer for smoking all his weed. But with no job, how will they pay up? This comedy meanders through a rough day on the tough side of LA, complete with drive-bys, religious pamphleteers, neighborhood psychopaths, and a scary dude named “Big Worm.” Come for the antics, stay for the Mo-town and old-school rap soundtrack, featuring the Temptations, James Brown, Dr. Dre, Funkdoobiest, and Tha Alkaholiks.
Saturday only (sold out)
Slow, cruel, and ghoulishly beautiful, Hagazussa chronicles the deterioration of an outcast woman in 15th-century Austria. Shunned single mother Albrun, haunted by her own mother’s death from plague, lives in a mountain hut and farms goats. One day, she lets down her guard to a seemingly kind villager named Swinda, a mistake with catastrophic results. The story is not as dramatically satisfying as The Witch, a comparison that seems inevitable. But first-time director Lukas Feigelfeld’s concept is as scary as anything: religious persecution spurring its victims to ever-greater masochistic transgressions. JOULE ZELMAN
I can’t pretend to know anything about the Satanic Temple, but its tenets—which include compassion toward all of earth’s creatures, the pursuit of justice, respect for the freedoms of others (including the freedom to offend), belief ruled by a scientific understanding of the world, making amends for any harm you have done—are surprisingly benign and sensible. My guess is Hail Satan?, the new documentary from Penny Lane (Our Nixon, Nuts!) that sheds light on the origins and grassroots political activism of the temple, will include a lot of other enlightening details you probably didn’t already know about the Satanic Temple. Not to mention offering a look at the intriguing people who “practice satanism,” which is less about worshipping the devil and more about using satanic imagery to promote egalitarianism, social justice, and the separation of church and state. These people take issue with the privileged position of the Christian right, and it’s hard to fault them for that. LEILANI POLK
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
The Seattle Asian American Film Festival will co-present this beautifully dumb classic on your favorite holiday (at 4:20, no less). “You’ve been out cold for the past half hour, I figured if I did some gay shit you’d wake up.”
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 & AMC Seattle 10
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
Indigenous Showcase X yəhaw̓: Mosquita y Mari
Two Chicana teenagers—one a dutiful college-bound student, the other a street-smart daughter of undocumented immigrants—develop unexpected feelings for one another in this film by Aurora Guerrero, screened for free as part of Indigenous Showcase. Guerrero herself will attend.
Northwest Film Forum
Life of Brian
We love to talk about our past favorites in terms of how well they have “held up.” In the case of Monty Python, that can be a tricky standard to measure, except in the case of Holy Grail and this deathless masterpiece, which is as smart, silly, and overpoweringly hilarious as it was in 1979. Life of Brian’s ingenious production design (by Terry Gilliam, no less) and whole-cloth satirical takedown of religious/ideological idiocy gives it the nod as the most essential of Monty Python’s features. SEAN NELSON
SIFF Cinema Uptown
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 & Grand Illusion
No showing Friday
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
Regal Meridian & AMC Seattle 10
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Join the valiant Knights of the Round Table in their struggles with deadly rabbits, sorcerous riddlers, castle-bound sexpots, and Terry Gilliam’s delightfully disturbing animated sequences.
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.
Meridian 16 & AMC Seattle 10
Night of the Living Dead
The George Romero classic that spawned a thousand zombie flicks—not to mention essays on race relations in America. The ravenous dead besiege a group of white survivors, who are led by a determined African American man (the Sorbonne-trained Duane Jones, who should have been a big star). Low-budget, occasionally laughable…and still a punch in the gut. JOULE ZELMAN
Nocturnal Emissions: ‘Slumber Party Massacre II’
Local horror queen Isabella Price hosts this series of classic slashers and supernatural chillers with a burlesque performance before every screening. Wear your most stylish jammies to the final screening, The Slumber Party Massacre II, a ridiculous slasher with two distinctions: 1) a woman director and 2) rock ‘n’ roll.
Northwest Film Forum
In this adorable-looking anime by Hiroyasu Ishida, a boy genius sets out to solve the mystery of an influx of penguins in his little inland town.
A cute Adélie penguin named Steve pals up with emperor penguin Wuzzo in this new nature documentary film from the Disneynature studio, narrated by Ed Helms. The footage looks gorgeous, at the very least, so this should be an excellent pre-Earth Day celebration.
Pints & Public Lands Film Fest: An Earth Day Celebration
At this Earth Day event, watch the film Run Wild, Run Free, which relates how the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was created. Peddler will donate $1 per pint to Washington Wild’s Brewshed Alliance.
Peddler Brewing Company
This film should complement Seattle’s current ramen-mania. A young Japanese man travels to Singapore to search for recipes from his mother’s family there. Along the way, he tries to reconnect with his grandmother, despite the fact that the family is still riven by Japanese brutality in Singapore during World War II.
Northwest Film Forum
Rifftrax Live: Octaman
The hosts of RiffTrax will offer their comedic roast of B-movie classic Octaman. The plot of the 1971 horror flick is about how science is a bad idea, because it can lead to octopus-human hybrids that kill. (This is a live broadcast; the MST3K crew does not appear in person).
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.”
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
SPLIFF Film Festival
A new vibe of stoner entertainment is emerging—witness the rise of Broad City, High Maintenance, and basically every TV show created on Viceland. And now, most importantly, The Stranger presents SPLIFF, your new favorite film festival created by the stoned for the stoned. We received films (four minutes and twenty seconds or less!) from all around the world. Our inaugural lineup is hilarious, weird, sexy, trippy, and unlike any stoner films you’ve seen before. There are spaceships, Rihanna-inspired blunt tutorials, dancing boobs, Australians, puppets, ASMR candy sandwiches…Unfortunately, because of LAWS, you can’t smoke inside the theater, and you’re not supposed to smoke outside of it, either. CHASE BURNS
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
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.
AMC Pacific Place & Crest
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
The Venerable W.
The renowned documentary filmmaker Barbet Schoeder, who in the past has created portraits of Idi Amin and the legal defender of Nazi butcher Klaus Barbie, has created a new work with more frightening insights into fascism and bigotry. The Venerable W. refers to Wirathu, a violently Islamophobic Burmese Buddhist monk who’s made it his mission to incite persecution of Myanmar’s miniscule Muslim population (known as the Rohingya). Upsetting but informative viewing, no doubt. At the Friday screening, you can hear from CAIR-Washington State Executive Director Masih Fouladi, Emmanuel N. Muvunyi of the Rwandan Community State of Washington, and Professor Mary Callahan about the Rohingya and ethnic cleansing.
Northwest Film Forum
Friday & Sunday
Our critics don’t recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.