This Week's Attractions

By Hook or by Crook, The Hard Word, The Impure Glance, Jet Lag, The Legend of Suriyothai, and Spellbound.

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK

Fri., June 27-Sun., June 29 at Little Theatre In this worthy "buddy" flick by the editing/writing/producing/directing team of Silas Howard and Harry Dodge, resilient loner Shy (Howard) is a gender-bending Midwestern dyke who blindly sets off into the world when faced with the threat of losing her childhood home. ("I was like Dorothy," she says in soberly funny, Days of Heaven-ish narration, "but with biceps and no dog.") Intending a bit of larceny, Shy runs into Valentine (Dodge), a manic-obsessive fellow butch she rescues from an ass-kicking. What follows is a scruffy, confident commingling of Midnight Cowboy, Warhol Factory laissez-faire, and any number of fugitives-on-the-make moviesCrook certainly meanders but never lets its low-rent bravado become junky. The film is like a scrapbook of woozy snapshots bristling with life. Crook screens as part of the five-day "The New Gay" series that also includes a performance cabaret; curator Bill Taylor's rare collection of campy (and probably very eerie) anti-gay educational films; and the Seattle premiere of Estranged, the new live-action short from Todd Downing (the mischievous guy behind the hilarious horny-gay-dolls lark Jeffrey's Hollywood Screen Trick). (NR) STEVE WIECKING THE HARD WORD

Opens Fri., June 27 at Metro After a series of bland mediocrities (The Time Machine, Till Human Voices Wake Us, The Count of Monte Cristo), it's good to have Guy Pearce back all tattooed, feral, and bent on crime. He plays the oldest and smartest of three Australian brothers with an ingenious method for pulling robberies: They're already in jail, which gives them an airtight alibi for their perfectly timed, blood-free heists, done with the assent of their crooked attorney and the corrupt Sydney cops. I have no idea what the title of this raggedly derivative but undeniably entertaining crime flick means, but it may perhaps refer to the (subtitled) Aussie dialect the Twentyman boys use to disguise their fraternal conferences from unwanted ears. This band of brothers trusts nobody but themselvesand with good reason. Their lawyer's a blow-dried weasel who's shagging the trashy, coked-up wife (Rachel Griffiths) of ringleader Dale (Pearce). There's no point pretending Word is anything but Quentin Tarantino meets Guy Ritchie Down Under, but it works for that reason. Sometimes a lack of ambition is good for a movie, particularly with lowlifes like these. Visiting Dale in the pen, Griffiths' Carol feels herself up and paints a little smiley face on the Plexiglas with her secretions. Hotheaded baby brother Shane has got a serious breast fixation, while amiable middle brother Mal is, literally, a butcher who wouldn't mind employing his cleaver on different cuts of meat. Double crosses, shoot-outs, car chasesyes, all the he-man movie food groups are covered here. It takes a lot of setup to advance comparatively little plot (a Melbourne race-track score), but Word comes garnished with plenty of garish Aussie kitsch. One guy gets offed with a Lava lamp, and a key plot point involves a giant inflatable cow. All the actors look like they're having fun slumming it, perhaps none more so than Griffiths, whose peroxide moll declares, "I know I'm a cunt, but I'm not a psychopath." Somehow it makes perfect sense. (R) BRIAN MILLER THE IMPURE GLANCE

Fri., June 27-Thurs., July 3 at Grand Illusion Suffused with family, Catholicism, and sepia-toned nostalgia, this year-2000 Italian coming-of-age flick filters 1954 Naples through the perspective of an unnamed boy of 8 or so. Many POV shots alternate with close-ups of his eyes, which then alternate with close-ups of the orbs of a grown man. His voice, too, blurs together with the recollections of an older narrator, and what the kid sees is thus doubly understoodor misunderstood. He lives with his mother and their bickering extended family in a big, dusty old house. Dad's away on business (or has abandoned them), and the lad is constantly spying on their maid and her lover partly jealous, partly curious about sex, always worried about mortal sin. His favorite nun gives a hilariously stern and oddly convincing lecture on the Antichrist, who seems as real and close as the statues of saints and martyrs (which indeed come to life in the boy's feverish imagination). Although frequently clumsy, slow, and disjointed, Glance evokes a lost era (and innocence) with the mournful conviction that the past can only be recalled fleetingly and imperfectly. The original title translates as Pictures Deep in One's Eyes, appropriate, since it's less about voyeurism than memory. (NR) B.R.M. JET LAG

Opens Fri., June 27 at Guild 45 This leaden piffle grounds two fine actors more completely than the air traffic controllers' strike that throws their mismatched characters together. Ditsy, over-made-up beautician Juliette Binoche, heading for Acapulco to get away from a jealous boyfriend, is stranded along with Jean Reno's businessman at Charles de Gaulle airport. The idea may have been a light-hearted American-style romance, but it's fizzless chemistry until more than halfway into the film when these polar opposites get togetherin a conveniently shared hotel room, of course! Foodie Reno fixes them a midnight supper from the conveniently closed hotel kitchen; she washes off the layers of makeup, and they finally connect. Separated in the morning, especially by the arrival of her boyfriend, the rest of the film nudges them together via passionate, crystal-clear trans-Atlantic cell phone calls. For anyone with a cell phone, it's the picture's most hilarious idea. (R) SHEILA BENSON THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI

Opens Fri., June 27 at Seven Gables Francis Ford Coppolawho lent a friendly producer's handpresents this historical epic directed by a Thai prince, and why not? It boasts a Coppola-esque megalomaniacal reach, and its story is more vast and confusing than Apocalypse Now. In a way, it's a throwback to the David Lean era: It's got a cast of thousands (plus 160 warrior elephants), and the royal palaces where the potentates royally screw one other over are the real thing. Legend captures an alien yet Hollywood-traditional sense of great events that sweep away everyone in their path. And while you'll feel lost at first as two dynasties slug it out amid smallpox outbreaks, eventually the story becomes a more comprehensible one: Heroic 16th-century princess Suriyothai and her childhood best friend, Piren, unite to thwart a usurping concubine-turned-queen and wicked Burmese invaders. The battle scenes are cool, and while you can tell the prince has watched the classic movie epics, you don't feel like you've seen this one before. (R) TIM APPELO SPELLBOUND

Fri., June 27-Thurs., July 3 at Varsity Or, Revenge of the Nerds. The octet of eighth-graders whom we follow to the 1999 National Spelling Bee in this endearing documentary come decked out in full geek paraphernalia. Virtually all wear glasses and braces. The boys have faint downy mustaches and voices prone to sudden three-octave jumps. The girls stuff their unformed legs into too-short shorts, twist and fidget in interviews, with dogs propped in laps. Acne looms uncomfortably near. Yet each of the eight is, in his or her own way, a star. And as Spellbound tracks them from local competitions to the final round of 249 "spellers" (the noun is used seriously, like "athlete"), you'll inevitably root for one of these fierce, driven, prepubescent competitors, including Nupur, the daughter of Indian immigrants living in Tampa, who observes, "You don't get any second chances in India, the way you do in America"; sullen Missouri redneck prodigy Ted, who raises peacocks and despises his dumb classmates; and lovable, bubbly Ashley, who declares, "My life is like a movie, because I go through different trials and tribulations, and then I finally overcome them." Spellbound does bog down in bee history and past champions (all of whom seem rather bizarrely perky, wholesome, and way too invested in the bee; where are the boozers and cranks who peaked before adolescence?); and each of the eight central familial-cultural profiles could've been an hour longer. I suspect there's something neurochemical about the subjects' willingness to study the dictionary for up to nine hours per day, something only possible for preteens not yet in the throes of puberty. Several are the children of first-generation immigrants; all share a certain premature gravity that comes from being the brightest kid in the classroom. Their sheer glorious dorkiness is wonderful to watch. The 2002 Oscar-nominated doc isn't great, but each kid is a winner. (G) B.R.M. info@seattleweekly.com

 
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