Portland film goes deep. We get to claim big-name directors and Sundance award-winning movies, plus abstract animation and experimental comedies about funerals. Since our favorite Portland-made feature-length movies and extended shorts of the year include everything from big-budget narrative dramas to small-scale documentaries, we decided not to rank the movies within the top 10. These are the Portland made that we couldn't stop thinking about this year.
Buzz One Four
Much like the artist behind it, Buzz One Four resists genre. The latest quasi-documentary from Portland filmmaker Matt McCormick traces the history of the B-52 bomber and how a plane carrying two nuclear weapons crashed just outside of Barton, MD, in 1964. For McCormick, the incident is a family affair: his grandfather was flying the plane. Told through a mixture of military history and footage from McCormick's grandfather's home movies, the tale is as tall as it is true. DANA ALSTON.
Watching people converse with a corpse for nearly an hour and a half doesn't sound like a great night at the movies. But working from an original screenplay that he wrote with Amber Bariaktari, Tigard-based filmmaker Edward Martin III weaves an eccentric, often moving tale of a dead comedian and the colleagues, neighbors, friends and lovers who show up at his wake. The film is a series of scenes featuring people pouring their hearts out to the comedian's unseen body, none of which resort to catharsis. Martin just lets everyone say their piece and then closes the casket once and for all. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON.
Experimental filmmaker Pam Minty spent the summer of 1994 doing laundry and cleaning rooms at Diamond Lake Resort. In this documentary, she returns to Diamond Lake to craft an elegiac meditation not only on the dreary work undertaken by the resort's current cleaning staff, but on the economic upheavals that have convulsed America throughout the twenty-first century. But High Lakes isn't overtly political. Minty trusts us to find the harsh truths that lurk between her beautifully composed images. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
A rickety flea market near Wilsonville, spooky pine trees and the interior of a Grocery Outlet provide the decrepit backdrop for Macon Blair's directorial debut, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. Filmed entirely in and around Portland, I Don't Feel initially appears to be a deadpan comedy about Ruth, a nurse mired in everyday existentialism. But it veers off the rails and becomes a backwoods crime story when she decides to solve a home robbery and teams up with her neighbor Tony—a twitchy loner who has a rattail, nunchucks and a dog named Kevin. It's a movie that just keeps getting darker and weirder, but it never ceases to be funny. SHANNON GORMLEY.
North of Blue
An hour's worth of abstract animation is a lot to ask of an audience. But North of Blue, by veteran Portland animator Joanna Priestley, is so transfixing, it's easy to lose your sense of time. It smoothly morphs from one colorful, pulsing image to the next—trees that look like disassembled Mondrian paintings, lines that swarm in and out of form to create moving patterns and shapes that look like Rorschach tests made of colorful paper cutouts. It's an opportunity to watch Priestley's endless humor and imagination evolve in real time. SHANNON GORMLEY.
Cornelius Swart's powerful documentary should be required viewing at Oregon DMVs. Priced Out breaks down the phases of revitalization, gentrification and a housing crisis in North Portland, reaching back into history for context of our changing city. Comparative photos of the neighborhood over the last 20 years are narrated with interviews that highlight the complicated dynamic between the newer, whiter neighbors and the black community with roots going back to the 1940s. LAUREN TERRY.
Shut Up Anthony
Few films this year featured a protagonist more neurotic—or as awkwardly relatable—than Shut Up Anthony. Writer-director Kyle Eaton's cringe dramedy follows the titular artist (Robert D'Esposito), a miserable 30-something who feels lost after being sort-of-dumped and for-sure-fired. Eaton's debut is at its best when it roasts Portland's definition of "hip." As Anthony tries (and fails) to look past a partygoer's enormous Amish-style beard, you can almost see Eaton winking at us through the fourth wall. DANA ALSTON.
We Have Our Ways
Dawn Jones Redstone's extended short hints at a dystopian future of water shortages and curfews. But like Get Out, it's not a genre study. Ways employs sci-fi suspense to convey a clever call to action for women to survive and rebel against the increasingly dehumanizing oppression of a misogynist, corporatized government. LAUREN TERRY.
The first kids movie in Portland based director Todd Haynes' (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) long and illustrious career is deeply feel-good. It follows the parallel stories of two deaf 12-year-olds who run away to New York. There's Ben, who explores a gritty, sweltering city in the summer of 1977. In 1927, there's Rose, whose tale is told in black and white, and is silent accept for an orchestral score. Wonderstruck conveys its familiar message about finding wonder in everyday life with such heart and careful detail that it was impossible to leave the movie theater without a heightened appreciation of the world around you. SHANNON GORMLEY.
In his follow-up to his remake of Purple Rain, Portland filmmaker and ethnomusicologist Christopher Kirkley once again proves his creative ambition. Ahmoudou Madassane, the movie's star and composer, leads us through a journey from his town in the Sahara—where only flies seem to mind the carcasses of dead dogs in the streets—to a mythical city deep in the desert, where his brother is held captive. Halfway through, it suddenly twists from a meditative hero's journey to some kind of psychedelic fever dream, packed with striking, strange imagery drenched in magnificent colors. SHANNON GORMLEY.