Posted in: 2000 Eyes, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes

There’s a 1948 movie with the wonderful title Night Has a Thousand Eyes. What beauty, mystery, and resonance that promises — not even considering that the film’s cast included lambent-eyed Gail Russell, who elsewhere inspired Ray Milland to compose “Stella by Starlight.” How regrettable that the movie isn’t very good. And yet that title. A few decades back in the previous millennium some enterprising New Yorkers borrowed part of it for a lively movie journal, The Thousand Eyes. If they hadn’t, it’s doubtful Parallax View would have hit upon 2000 Eyes as the name for our project commencing this Friday — a lookback twenty years to the dawn of this millennium, to remind ourselves what movies were coming out that year and what we wrote about them.

You could say — all right, we could say — that this collaborative action is a quest for beauty, mystery, and resonance we didn’t necessarily recognize while living out the year. But we needn’t be so hi-falutin. The reviews to be posted here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday over the next few months encompass first-time sightings of classics-to-be, and of some films that two intervening decades have effectively confirmed as great. There are also first sightings of pictures no one has given a second thought, and not without reason. Yet being reminded of the movies in the latter category, their sensations, derelictions, and sometimes woeful shortfall, is almost as worthwhile as nodding respectfully before the crowning achievements. They were part of the texture of filmmaking and filmgoing in 2000 A.D., part of our lives.  

All these reviews are contemporaneous; nothing newly written, apart from the occasional 2020 afterword. All were composed or dashed off innocent of any awareness that Gladiator, for instance, was going to be in contention for a slew of Academy Awards and win the big one, or that Alejandro González Iñárritu, neophyte director of Amores Perros, would emerge as a master of both intimate art cinema and the Hollywood epic. That’s refreshing. What’s just as satisfying is to stumble across in-passing mention of a new performer, more often than not in a subsidiary role, whom we now take for granted as a mainstay of screen acting (Peter Mullan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, to name three); or to be reminded of the career window within which certain previously respected players were, let’s say, finding it a challenge to be taken seriously. In a related phenomenon, casual, in-the-moment references to social or pop-cultural events or trends everyone was plugged into now verge on mystifying (totally mystifying for anyone born since our landmark year). How did that ever get to be ephemeral?

We’ve enjoyed resurrecting these reports on the passing movie scene, as witnessed by 2000 eyes. We hope you enjoy reading them.

All 2000 Eyes reviews here

Posted in: by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Lynn Shelton

Your Sister’s Sister

[originally published in The Herald in 2012]

One thing everybody could agree on at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival was the rightness of the opening night movie. It was Your Sister’s Sister, directed by Seattle resident Lynn Shelton, and it set the tone for the Northwesty slant of the festival that followed.

It makes an even better story that Your Sister’s Sister happens to be a highly enjoyable film, perhaps Shelton’s best yet. This one shares the semi-improvised method of Shelton’s Humpday, and also the sneaky sense that there really is a structure underlying the apparently easygoing story.

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Posted in: by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Lynn Shelton

My Effortless Brilliance

[originally published on GreenCine in 2008]

Is there something in the misty Northwest air that makes its filmmakers incline toward the dreamy, the open-ended, the unresolved? Seattle has had no slick Hollywood “breakthrough,” instead turning out poetic little movies that seem embarrassed about conventional storytelling.

This can be a good thing. Case in point: Lynn Shelton’s My Effortless Brilliance, a 2008 feature that browses through the delicate business of broken friendship. After a brief prologue, the film travels to a forest cabin where the grandly-named, once-promising novelist Eric Lambert Jones (played by Harvey Danger frontman Sean Nelson) has gone to maybe patch things up with the testy Dylan (Basil Harris), an old friend who got fed up with Eric’s narcissistic ways. For a day and a night, they drink, chop wood, talk around it.
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Posted in: by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Lynn Shelton

We Go Way Back

[originally published in The Herald in 2008]

For some reason, the local area has been a haven for filmmakers who prefer an experimental mode to traditional storytelling. Feature-length experimental films are a notoriously tough sell, but a few recent items, such as Gregg Lachow’s Money Buys Happiness and Robinson Devor’s Police Beat, have broken through to national attention.

Now you can add Lynn Shelton’s We Go Way Back to that list. This film was shot hereabouts, including Seattle and Whidbey Island, and produced by The Film Company, a Seattle non-profit film studio. Earlier this year it won Best Narrative Film at the Slamdance Film Festival—that’s the hip fest that serves as an alternative to the better-known Sundance.

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Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews, Lynn Shelton

‘Touchy Feely’: Lynn Shelton’s Low-Key Charmer

[Originally published in Seattle Weekly, September 2013]

What compelling mysteries might be quietly thrumming inside the world of the dentist’s office? It is characteristic of the wistful, daydreamy universe of Lynn Shelton’s films that this unlikely question (has anyone outside the dental profession ever asked it?) makes up part of her latest project. Touchy Feely is the stubbornly—and, I think, wonderfully—low-key follow-up to Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister, the partly improvised comedies that put Shelton on the indie-movie map. This new one is again shot in Seattle, Shelton’s hometown. Two siblings experience unexplained eruptions in their professional skills: Massage therapist Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt, from Your Sister’s Sister) is suddenly repulsed by the touch of human skin, and dentist Paul (Josh Pais) develops magical healing powers that can cure his patients’ jaw problems.

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Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews, Lynn Shelton

Review: Outside In

Reviewed by Robert Horton for Seattle Weekly

“You are to stay within Snohomish County,” the man says sternly. These words—not often uttered in the cinema—are spoken by a parole officer to a newly released ex-con in Outside In.

They are also taken to heart by the film’s director, Lynn Shelton, who creates a beguiling mood piece by staying close to her local roots. This film is especially evocative in its sense of place: There’s an unmistakable familiarity in the way the camera sees the evergreen-lined byroads east of Everett and the homey storefronts of Granite Falls. I spotted the little smear of green mold that develops around car windows when they haven’t been cared for during a Northwest winter (something I might possibly have some experience with). Outside In is about feeling like an outsider on your own home turf, but it’s been made with a native’s view of the landscape.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews, Westerns

Silverado

This is the uncut version of a piece I wrote for the September 1985 Film Comment. Richard Corliss didn’t normally cut my stuff, but as usual I had written late and long, and at the last minute he needed to cede some space to the ads. —RTJ

I said I liked Silverado and the editor said mostly he didn’t. I said it had given me a grand time; he grumbled something about structural problems. I allowed as how it bordered on the miraculous that some wised-up, thoroughly contemporary filmmakers had managed to rediscover the pleasures of the pure Western without parodying, tarting up, or otherwise condescending to the genre. He said he only liked Westerns that transcended the genre, and as far as he was concerned the genre needed all the transcending it could get. I said, “I like Westerns. I grew up with Westerns!” He chuckled, pleasantly: “Ken Maynard?” “Among others.” That put the discussion on hold for about two weeks.

Well, I did grow up with Westerns — Jack Randall and Hopalong Cassidy on Saturday-afternoon TV, occasional Technicolor excursions with Audie Murphy, Alan Ladd, Jimmy Stewart at the moviehouse. Something other than nostalgia accounts for my continuing fondness for those youthful experiences. Some of those Westerns would turn out years later to be films de Anthony Mann or “the George Stevens classic, Shane“; others would recede in the memory as simply movies with Audie Murphy or Jack Randall in them. Cumulatively, all left their mark. In some fundamental ways, my pleasure in the ultrastylized look, movements, and behaviors of Westerns shaped my sense of what movies at large ought to be, what sorts of texture, ritual, and discovery we should require of them.

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Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, Contributors, Film Reviews

‘Contagion’ Doesn’t Want to Reach Out and Touch You

Kathleen Murphy’s review of Contagion was written for Movies/MSN at the time of the film’s original release.

Steven Soderbergh’s super-creepy Contagion does for pandemic what the Oscar-winning director did for drug Traffic back in 2000. Mimicking the insidious spread of coke-related ills, he tracks a lethal little virus—bat-borne, then transmitted to a piglet—as it metastasizes out of a friendly handshake to world-killer. A panic-worthy journey for sure, but no need to buckle up for fast-cutting, tension-building, apocalyptic action­­—or anything else that might significantly raise your blood pressure. Less hysterical than hushed, more numbing than terrifying, Contagion‘s closer to documentary—an imagined record of how global citizenry might realistically react to monumental crisis.

Says Soderbergh: “We were looking for something that was unsettling because of the banality of the transmission. In a weird way, the less you trump it up, the more unsettling it becomes.”

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Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

Trouble in Mind

[originally published in The Weekly, March 26, 1986]

“When I wrote the script it was never as exotic. It was more a straightforward kind of movie. Which it still is. It just takes longer to get straight.”

That’s Alan Rudolph talking about his movie Trouble in Mind, which he wrote “with Seattle in mind” and shot here a year ago this month. How well you take to its exoticism and how patiently you wait for the straightforwardness to assert itself will depend on your tolerance of, or enthusiasm for, Rudolph’s highly stylized brand of filmmaking. I happen to consider him one of the most dynamic, and certainly most distinctive, of modern American filmmakers, and find that his latest feature combines the haunt and vibrancy of Choose Me with the fleetness and wit of Songwriter. That opinion may be disputed. What no one will dispute is that Trouble in Mind makes more exciting use of Seattle as a movie location than any other film ever shot here.

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Posted in: by Andrew Wright, Contributors, Film Reviews, Science Fiction

Forced Closure: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, it sure was a whole lot easier to put a damned bow on a franchise. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, director J.J. Abrams’ return to the trilogy he kicked off with The Force Awakens, is clearly facing some monumental pressures in its quest to deliver a satisfying ending, with a litany of production woes ranging from the passing of Carrie Fisher, the dismissal of the original director, and the ire of random goons on the internet. Given all of the agita, the fact that the final movie comes off as something other than a clear victory lap is less than surprising. What’s odd, though, is how much of the narrative chaos feels self-inflicted. This is a finale that somehow registers as both flabby and rushed, expending at least as much energy in rubbing out perceived past snafus as in moving forward. I mean, it’s still better than Attack of the Clones, but the line is perilously close at times.

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