High Cinema

Pot's legal! Grass explores a time when it wasn't.

It's time! After years and years of abstaining, we finally get to see what happens when you mix the joy of going to the movies with what medical patients, assumed chronic masturbators and criminals say smoking a marijuana cigarette feels like. It's a strange, exciting, terrifying time. 

Not that I've ever tried it, mind you. But my friend once told me that if there's something that people high on the reefers really love, it's watching documentaries about issues they care about, then spouting out whatever they hear as gospel at parties. And if there's another thing they love, it's more marijuana. And if there's a third thing, it's watching old videos about how squares used to perceive the pots on the YouTubes. 

Ron Mann’s 1999 documentary, Grass (Clinton Street Theater; 9:30 pm Wednesday, July 1), is the perfect mix of a pot documentary and greatest-hits reel of old marijuana propaganda. Narrated in a stony warble by noted weed enthusiast Woody Harrelson, the documentary covers the history of pot prohibition from the 1910s—when Mexican migrants brought it over the border—through drug czar Harry Anslinger’s war against the devil weed, 1967’s Summer of Love, the Carter period of lax controls, the ’80s “Just Say No” era, all the way up to a surprisingly stringent 1999. 

The brisk film uses everything from animation to archival footage to condemn the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the war on drugs, plus the millions of lives ruined by laws that included mandatory sentencing for the tiniest amount of possession. It's infuriating, really, to look back just 20 years to see how out of touch the country's leaders were. 

What isn’t is the barrage of old-school propaganda that Mann’s film unearths. There’s a bit insisting that marijuana use will make you so lucid you’d gladly chew glass, and classic black-and-white reels of dopers as deranged rapists and violent lunatics. The clips are hilarious, especially when you consider how effective they were. And by “hilarious” I mean extremely troubling, but in a way that gives you the giggs. 

If there's a complaint to be made about the film, it's that Mann rushes to a conclusion, covering everything from the Reagan era to 1999 in a few brief minutes while going into extreme detail about other periods. But perhaps that's because the film is only a chapter in what will be a very long road to full-on legalization. 

If all goes well, by the time the director gets around to making Grass II, we can all watch it in Portland's first weed-friendly movie theater. Provided, of course, weed and movies really do mix. I have high hopes they do. 

Also showing: 

  1. Another thing stoners like watching? Cheech & Chong smoking a gigantic log of dog shit. Thank God, then, for Up in Smoke. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Wednesday, July 1. 
  1. Maybe I’m just bleary eyed, but based on his performance in The Hustler, Jackie Gleason would have played a hell of a Larry Flynt. Pix Patisserie. Dusk Wednesday, July 1.
  1. Before he was antagonizing censors with Bad Lieutenant, Abel Ferrara was antagonizing people’s heads with power tools in 1979’s trashy Driller Killer. Joy Cinema. 9:15 pm Wednesday, July 1.
  1. First of all, hell yes to the Hollywood’s monthlong rock opera series. Second, fuck yeah to kicking it off with Purple Rain. Hollywood Theatre. July 1-3. 
  1. Gene Wilder’s most chilling performance as a prolific child murderer operating in full public view in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Laurelhurst Theater; July 3 and 5-9. Hollywood Theatre; 3 and 7 pm Saturday-Sunday, July 4-5. 
  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark is and forever shall be the perfect way to spend two summer hours. Academy Theater. July 3-9. 
  1. Of all the films from the ’90s rap-movie craze, none holds up as well as Belly, a violent, kinetic film that feels like a long-form music video with an actual story featuring Nas, Method Man, DMX and T-Boz. 5th Avenue Cinema. 7 and 9:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 3 pm Sunday, July 3-5. 
  1. Fun fact about American Psycho: Christian Bale is so Method, he actually ate a kitten to better understand the film’s ATM machine. Cartopia. Dusk Sunday, July 5.
  1. The Clinton kicks off “Gun Van Sant: 30 Years,” focusing on his genuine crowd pleasers that superfans wrongfully dismiss as “too mainstream.” First up, the whimsical Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Sunday, July 5. 
  1. B-Movie Bingo unleashes a barrage of gunfire, spin-kicks and uncomfortable political hindsight with Chuck Norris’ Invasion USA. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Tuesday, July 7. 

 Party Like It's 1934 The Future of Drug Testing | Portland's Oldest Head Shop

The Triumph Return of the World Famous Cannabis Cafe 

Historic Cannabis Landmarks In Oregon | Weed War II: The Battles to Come

Blending Buds and Learning Terps | Pick Your Loose-Leaf Vaporizer 

What You Need to Know to Grow | A Directory of Dispensaries

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