On Screen: Scary Clowns, Desolation Center, Picnic at Hanging Rock, First Love


The big release this week is Joaquin Phoenix’s bid for Oscar gold in the role of DC’s least funny clown. I have yet to see Joker, but as with anything, the wonders of Cinerama’s big screen, chocolate popcorn, and projection of a 70mm projection almost make a movie that I’m already dreading from the already-exhausting squabbles between stans and skeptics seem at least mildly tolerable. (Cinerama and thousands of screens across the country).

I suppose that given the state of play at multiplexes, credit to SIFF for a funny bit of counter programming: they have Wrinkles the Clown, Michael Beach Nichols’s documentary about a creepy clown (aren’t they all?) hired by parents in Southwest Florida (of course) to terrify their misbehaving children who “went viral” after a surveillance video of his antics hit YouTube. (SIFF Uptown)

Although I’m stumped for more recommendations beyond using this lull to catch up on past recommendations and prepping for the Orcas Island Film Festival, Tony has a few more films to spark your fancy this first weekend of October.

Tony’s Picks

Desolation Center: Untethered creativity wasn’t exactly prized in the buttoned-down, stifling cultural atmosphere of the Reagan Years. So when Stewart Swezey began organizing art and music events in the ‘80s, it was straight-up subversion, and it transformed the topography of alternative culture. This doc should be a treasure trove of footage showcasing music (Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, and more) and performance art (Survival Research Labs), imbued with just enough energy and straight-up weirdness to bypass toothless nostalgia. Swezey (who also directed this doc) and cast member Sandy Glaze will be on hand for the Oct 10 show, with Seattle band Masculinity Crisis doing a pre-screening set that night.  (Northwest Film Forum, Oct. 4, 9, 10) 

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Peter Weir’s eerie, ethereal 1975 film about the disappearance of a small group of female college students at the turn of the 20th century is much more a mesmerizing, uneasy mood piece than a straight mystery. Which is precisely why it’s best viewed on a big screen, where its dreamy headiness can work its dark magic most effectively.  (The Beacon, Oct. 4, 6, 7, 8, 10) 

First Love: The work of Japanese auteur Takashi Miike resurfaces at a local indie theater for the second time in as many weeks with this brand-new (and reportedly pretty awesome) neo-noir about a boxer, the drug-addicted hooker with a heart of gold that he’s protecting, and the pack of angry Yakuza pursuing the both of them.  (SIFF Egyptian, Oct. 4 – 9)