Legendary trumpeter shows the way in ‘Keep on Keepin’ On’
The heralded film “Whiplash” depicts—realistically, I expect—a world of hungry aspiring jazz musicians who are easy prey for a brutal, sadistic conductor who deliberately pits them against each other, feeds and then assaults their fragile egos, and continually moves success just beyond their reach.
Surrender to a mood of appreciation
Something about the idea of a class of immortal beings, lurking in the shadows and choosing victims among the living because they must, persists in our collective imagination, fascinating terrain for exploring our own shadow regions.
Human spirit refuses to be crushed in ‘Timbuktu’
Gorgeous, poetic, pointed, and profound, this story of a small African community's experience of jihad manages to tell a political story without polemics, to portray with depth and insight how its victims actually experience religious extremism, and, at the same time, to unforgettably illustrate how the human spirit resists attempts to crush it.
My top 10 films of 2014
Judge Darleen Ortega eschews the whitest Oscar's in recent history and chooses her own top 10 of year.
My best to worst favorites at PIFF
Judge Darleen Ortega goes through what's hot and what's not at the 38th Portland International Film Festival.
International Film Festival an opening to the world
Every February, I travel the world--and so can you, or virtually so, because the Portland International Film Festival offers the most culturally diverse film event of the year, beginning this week.
‘Selma’ wisely depicts struggle for civil rights
What a treat, then, to watch “Selma”—and by a treat, I mean that I was riveted and inspired, and that I wept through most of it. For once, I found an insightful depiction of what working for social justice looks like. And what it looks like is broken bodies, fear, treachery, risk, mistakes, choices between terrible options, and unthinkable sacrifice. And it involves many heroes, not just one.
Third world drama ‘Metro Manila’ one of the best films of 2014
I saw "Metro Manila" back in February at the Portland International Film Festival and was so blown away by it that I hoped, against hope, that this taut and carefully constructed tale of a Filipino family trying to survive the harsh realities of life in Manila might actually get a U.S. theatrical release, though the commercial prospects for a tale in Tagalog seemed doubtful. My hopes failed to materialize, but the film is now available on Netflix and iTunes and Amazon, and I'm determined that everyone should see it. It's one of the best films I saw in 2014.
Film short on believability and promotes stereotypes
Is this a movie or an endurance test?
“Dear White People’ takes on privilege, identity and race
When was the last time you saw a film that challenged your assumptions about identity? Or one that depicted anything like the variety and complexity of identity struggles and micro-aggressions experienced by people outside the dominant culture(s)? Or one that managed both to make you feel understood and to make you squirm?
'A Wrinkle in Time' invites self-acceptance and discovery
Oregon Shakespeare Festival's "A Wrinkle in Time," invites audiences to travel through worlds of imagination and meaning.
A priest’s faith is tested as life hangs in the balance
Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega on the film 'Calvary', "This film deals with the question of faith in a challenging way, which also involves dealing with the question of fairness."
Biopic on James Brown gets it right
From the sheer energy in the musical performances, to capturing some of the harder parts of the cultural icon, the biopic on James Brown, 'Get On Up' "makes you feel it," says our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega.
Capturing the soul of growing up
"Never has a film so poignantly captured the sweet ache of family life, of parenting, and of the passing of childhood." Our Opinionated Judge reviews the film Richard Linklater film, "Boyhood".
Rock musical brings outsider voices to art and relationships
Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews Oregon Shakespeare Festival's premier production of "Family Album," a rock musical that tackles the struggles for authentic expression in art and relationships.
Play about broken relationships and other works highlight Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Our 'Opinionated Judge' takes on the Oregon Shakespeare festival play 'Water By the Spoon' examining the sometimes messy and beautiful connections that make family relationships.
Film ‘Ida’ keeps its focus on a family’s history
Our 'Opinonated Judge' reviews the film 'Ida'
Mindful curiosity to an odd and ordinary life
Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega critiques the film "Finding Vivian Maier''--that probes mysteries about the human experience with a vigorous curiosity that may be deemed obsessive.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival revives play by African American playwright
Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega reviews Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of the late Lorraine Hansberry play "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window".
‘In Bloom’ has teenage friends dealing with the world on their own terms
Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega reviews "In Bloom", a film that sees teenage friends dealing with the world on their own terms.
Some wonderful films get the attention they deserve
Our 'Opinionated Judge' Darleen Ortega reflects on her 10 favorite films of 2013 in preparation for this years upcoming Oscars
It’s the final stretch for Portland International Film Festival
Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews films from the final stretch of this year's Portland International Film Festival.
Screenings get past weather warnings
The Portland International Film Festival trudges on through all kinds of weather -- and I found a decent turnout at the screenings I attended
Diverse lineup promises another great run
It's time for one of Portland’s highlights of the year: The Portland International Film Festival. For the last 37 years, the Northwest Film Center has been hosting PIFF and its diverse array of films to screen over two glorious weeks in February. It's such a brilliant opportunity to see films from all over the world, most of which you won't ever see in wide release and many of which may be hard to find after the festival runs its course.
Joaquin Phoenix navigates technology in search for love
A lovely and heartfelt film
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ renews Mary Poppins charm
Opinionated Judge Darleen Ortega reviews the Disney blockbuster
‘American Hustle’ delivers on laughs, characters and fashions
Our 'Opinonated Judge' reviews the David O. Russell film, "American Hustle"
'Inside Llewyn Davis' rich in storytelling and music
Joel and Ethan Coen have another hit with 'Inside Llewyn Davis' their feature film about the struggles of a young folk singer who navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
Hannah Arendt’s riveting search for the truth
A riveting and inspiring film about a visionary thinker with the courage to rigorously examine hard questions and to express and then hold to her perspective on those questions, even in the face of withering criticism.
Stellar cast gives ‘Out of the Furnace’ much to savor
Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews the film 'Out of the Furnace' starring Christian Bale.
‘Nebraska’ uncovers a father and son’s humanity
Our 'Opinonated Judge' reviews Alexander Payne's new film Nebraska.
Documentary “Let the Fire Burn’ painful and riveting
"Sometimes it seems the most appalling episodes in history are the ones most destined to fade into obscurity. Only if we are lucky does some skillful writer or filmmaker find the means to bring such neglected stories to our attention," says our Opinionated Judge on the film 'Let the Fire Burn'
Focused and realistic film enriches a neglected truth
" It's hard to imagine a film that the world needs more profoundly than "12 Years a Slave." For the first time --150 years after the abolition of American slavery -- a major motion picture devotes focused and realistic attention to an American slave narrative, without mitigating the story with a white hero or cheapening it with overly easy, dramatic resolutions of the problems served up by that story. It’s the most important film to be released this year and a master class in how film can enrich and deepen understanding of a neglected subject." --Opinionated Judge, Darleen Ortega
‘Wadjda’ offers windows into Saudi (and American) life
Our 'Opinionated Judge' reviews a film with a rare window into everyday life for Saudi women and girls
Inspiring film deserves an audience
" "In the Family" (#10 on my list) played in Portland for less than a week. First-time director Patrick Wang, who also wrote and stars in the movie, distributed the film himself and now has self-released it on home video. The lack of a distributor makes me really sad because this careful film so deserves an audience." ---Our Opinionated Judge, Darleen Ortega on the movie "In the Family"
Our Opinionated Judge on the poetic film ‘Museum Hours’
I despair of conveying just how rich and profound an experience watching "Museum Hours" can be.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival wades in where angels fear to tread
"It's hard to imagine a setting for a play more challenging and complex than the slave trade. It's a history that we as a culture carry in our collective DNA; our very economic system was built, quite literally, on the backs of human beings who had been kidnapped and transported under unimaginable conditions into lives that explicitly denied their status as human beings. We have barely begun to scratch the surface in our collective consciousness about the implications of this past for our present. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has waded in where angels fear to tread with a new play this season, "The Liquid Plain."
Our Opinionated Judge examines 'The Tenth Muse'
The play centers on three young women who find themselves taking refuge in the convent: Jesusa, a Mestiza (half-Spanish and half Amerindian) who has come to care for an ailing nun; Tomasita, a timid Nahua Indian who has come to serve in the kitchen; and Manuela, a noblewoman whose arrival is occasioned by circumstances that are not immediately explained. The three are relegated to the basement storage room and are instructed not to open a locked armoire that sits in the corner. Oppression and class fuel the story.
Film strikes a chord in African-American experience
The story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant who was killed lying face down by Oakland police in 2009 is the star of the film "Fruitvale Station". The movie will be released this week to a country knee deep in the conversation of racism; how will it affect the debate?
Outrageous Military Conduct
Why you should care about this documentary
Encouragement for those who feel they are outsiders
Our Opinionated Judge brings light to a highly under-recognized film.
Our Opinionated Judge on the 'Central Park Five'
Movie strikes a chord on the wrongfully convicted
Our Opinionated Judge on how the movie 'Lincoln' addresses slavery
‘Django Unchained’ raises the conversation on race