After a certain point—we're going to say it's this Saturday, Feb. 18—the trickiest part of navigating the Portland International Film Festival is summoning the will to get out of bed. 

Don't take this the wrong way: The second week of PIFF offers some very good movies, and even a couple of great ones. (It also promises the first weekend of the PIFF After Dark genre-film showcase, a recent fest high point, but neither Headhunters nor Let the Bullets Fly were screened by WW press deadlines.) 

It's just hard to read the program clearly when you're helplessly weeping. 

No way around it: PIFF 2012 is hellbent on selecting movies so gloomy they'll make you long for the sweet release of Mayan apocalypse. But we continue, undaunted, on our quixotic and pissy quest to identify how each of these pictures might be slightly improved. Chin up. We have a lot of stages of grief to get through.

 
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15
Habemus Papem
Critic’s Score: 66
[ITALY] Filling a void left since 1991’s The Pope Must Diet, papal satire Habemus Papam is a rare film shot at the Vatican. It finally answers the burning question: What would a Top Gun-style volleyball tournament between the College of Cardinals look like? They’ve got leisure time because the newly elected Pope has gotten cold feet and fled. We follow His Holiness as he cruises around Rome for self discovery, and kick it with the Cardinals as they screw around and wait for him to return. It’s lighthearted fun, but tonal shifts toward the serious derail the film’s spirit.

It'd be better if: Father Guido Sarducci was among the reporters covering the story from outside the Vatican. AP KRYZA. LT, 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15. C21, 6 pm Friday, Feb. 17.


Bonsai
Critic’s Score: 56
dude
 

It'd be better if: The women had fully developed personalities—though if they did, they would not be sleeping with this guy. AARON MESH. LM, 6:15 pm Wednesday and 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 15 & 18.

Trailer:


The Orator
Critic’s Score: 70

It'd be better if: We maybe got to smile once in a while, just a little. But if it's all a bit weighty, what's the director gonna do? He's Samoan. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. LM, 8:45 pm Wednesday and 2:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 15 & 18. PP, 2:30 pm Monday, Feb. 20.

Trailer:


Surviving Life
Critic’s Score: 79
South Park
Surviving Life
Greedy Guts

It'd be better if: Oedipus were less complex. AARON MESH. WH, 8:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Trailer:


THURSDAY, FEB. 16

Patagonia
Critic’s Score: 82
Patagonia

It'd be better if: The viewer didn't nonetheless see it all coming. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. CM, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 16.

Trailer:



Postcard
Critic’s Score: 66
ing his message so bluntly.
Postcard
is not his first antiwar film—he’s spent much of his six-decade career contemplating the fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki—but it’s allegedly his most personal. Best known stateside for his ’60s excursions into supernatural horror, Shindo looks at war as a kind of evil spirit, taking up residence in the home of a widow whose husband died in combat. The movie doesn’t have the masterful atmosphere of
Onibaba
or
Kuroneko
, but it does feature an oddly slapstick-y fight scene in which one combatant busts out an old-school airplane spin, so, y’know, that’s pretty cool.

It'd be better if: It contained more of the elemental flair Shindo brings to his best films. MATTHEW SINGER. LT, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 16. C21, 5:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.


Rose 
Critic’s Score: 62
 

It'd be better if: Having shattered the record for most graphic rapes in a motion picture, the director had decided 40 was enough. Overachiever. AP KRYZA. WH, 6:15 pm Thursday and 7:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 16 & 19.

Trailer:


Clown: The Movie
Critic’s Score: 85
Hangover

It'd be better if: …Oh, who cares? Quality is an almost unethical consideration here. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 8:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 16. LM, 5:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. PP, 8 pm Monday, Feb. 20.


FRIDAY, FEB. 17

The Kid With a Bike
Critic’s Score: 74
[BELGIUM] Another slice of lower-class life from the Dardenne brothers, The Kid with a Bike focuses on Cyril (Thomas Doret), an 11-year-old whose future abandonment issues we witness being seared into him. Disregarded by every male figure in his life—his father, his foster mother’s boyfriend, the slick-haired street tough who recruits him for a robbery—he is left to survive alone in a boy’s school until literally falling into the arms of a local hairdresser. International cineastes already know of the Dardennes’ warm, realist touch, but the revelation here is Doret. He plays Cyril as a bomb not waiting to explode but silently begging to be defused. I’ve already seen a few powerful performances from child actors at this year’s PIFF; his might be the best.

It'd be better if: It were a bit longer. These are characters you want to spend more than 80-something minutes with. MATTHEW SINGER. WH, 6:15 pm Friday, Feb. 17. LM, 7:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.

Trailer:



Woman in the Septic Tank
Critic’s Score: 26
Habeas Corpus
The Player
Family Guy

It'd be better if: Anything progressed beyond the initial joke. AARON MESH. WTC, 6:15 pm Friday, Feb. 17. WH, 8 pm Monday, Feb. 20.

Trailer:



The Silver Cliff
Critic’s Score: 41
The Silver Cliff
 

It'd be better if: One of Violeta's sob sessions became the most dour episode of Cash Cab ever. AP KRYZA. CM, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 17. C21, 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.

Trailer:


SATURDAY, FEB. 18

Gerhard Richter
Critic’s Score: 76

It'd be better if: It were at all possible to capture the textural qualities of Richter's painting—especially the side-to-side trompe l'oeil of his black-and-white portraits—in film. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.


How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?
Critic’s Score: 83

It'd be better if: We got to see some chinks in the shiningly heroic armor. What is public here was already public, no matter how beautifully captured. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WTC, 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. C21, 3 pm Monday, Feb. 20.

Trailer:


The Turin Horse
Critic’s Score: 75
[HUNGARY] Bela Tarr concludes his notoriously snail-like career with a 146-minute meditation on the eventual fate of the whipped horse that Friedrich Nietzsche hugged in the street just before going mad from syphilis. This death rattle is a black-and-white beauty, beyond Bergman parody, with a wind that pounds sand into the grimacing faces of the two doomed peasants who own the dirt-caked plow animal. There is a recognition that all life will be snuffed by darkness. There are several minutes of a woman just looking at potatoes. There are two positions you can take on this. “In the history of art, late works are the catastrophes,” said Theodor Adorno. “Why would anybody want to watch a movie where a horse is just dying?” asked one of my passing co-workers. Why would anyone do anything?

It'd be better if: You wanted to watch a movie where everything is just dying. AARON MESH. C21, 8:15 pm Saturday and 7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 18 & 21.

Trailer:


Footnote
Critic’s Score: 80
Wonder Boys

It'd be better if: Cedar had remembered to write a third act. The anticlimax here rivals that of the Torah. AARON MESH. WH, 8:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. C21, 5 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.

Trailer:


SUNDAY, FEB. 19

Pelotero
Critic’s Score: 72
Field of Hoop Dreams
peloteros
Pelotero

It'd be better if: It delved more into the subjects' daily lives. Poverty is the backdrop, but it should be in the foreground. MATTHEW SINGER. WH, 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.


Qarantina
Critic’s Score: 47
Qarantina

It'd be better if: The hit man and his college buddies decided to lay down their guns and finally take that spring-break trip to Cancun. AP KRYZA. LM, 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.


Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Critic’s Score: 95
 

It'd be better if: The subtitles offered more nuanced summary of the night's stream of conversation. AARON MESH. C21, 7:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.

Trailer:


MONDAY, FEB. 20

El Sicaro, Room 164
Critic’s Score: 76
 

It'd be better if: It weren't real. AP KRYZA. C21, 12:45 pm Monday, Feb. 20.

Trailer:


Elena
Critic’s Score: 72
Elena
 

It'd be better if: Philip Glass' stabbing, Bernard Herrmann-inspired score was more present. AP KRYZA. CM, 5:15 pm Monday, Feb. 20.

Trailer:



Aurora
Critic’s Score: 24
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
 

It'd be better if: It were 140 minutes shorter. AP KRYZA. LM, 6 pm Monday, Feb. 20.

Trailer:


TUESDAY, FEB. 21

Life Without Principle
Critic’s Score: 71
[HONG KONG] Who’d like the global economic meltdown to feel more like an ’80s erotic thriller? Yeah, me too. So would bullet-symphony conductor Johnnie To (Triad Election, Vengeance), who has made a financial message movie that bemoans bank speculation and investor greed—until it gets distracted by the slaying of a loan shark with a greasy comb-over. It’s brassily lurid and characteristically overblown (the title pun could be Unnatural Interest or Toxic Assets), but that’s also its virtue: Instead of pious speeches about how “this country used to make things,” we get a broker screaming at the stock market to keep dropping, while he clutches the bejeweled fire poker stabbed through his heart.

It'd be better if: The soundtrack was all synth and Mario dying sounds. AARON MESH. LM, 6:15 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Trailer: