The Weekly Wire: The Week’s Recommended Events

Film: Scratches Left Intact

Straddling the line between documentary and performance art, the 1967 Portrait of Jason is like a stream-of-consciousness character study of Jason Holliday (aka Aaron Payne), a gay black hustler filmed by Shirley Clarke in an all-night extemporaneous monologue. With his round Coke-bottle glasses and collegiate blazer, Jason plays to the camera and skeleton crew (heard just off-camera, though never seen), telling stories and doing impressions. It is an act, all performance and outsized personality, with Jason playing the raconteur and would-be nightclub headliner. Yet between his paroxysms of laughter, puffs of a joint, and endless glasses of vodka, he offers a glimpse of how one grows up and survives as a flamboyant queer in ’60s America. It’s a scruffy little movie that got scuffed up over the decades. Milestone’s new 35 mm restoration, built on materials found in a worldwide search, recovers lost footage and visual detail but leaves the rough texture of the original 16 mm shoot intact. “You’re always walking a fine line between cleaning up too much and leaving in too many scratches,” explains Milestone’s Amy Heller, to which partner Dennis Doros adds: “There is still a lot of dust and scratches . . . because it was that way on the opening premiere.” (Through Thurs.) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, $6–$10. 7 & 9 p.m.

Fairs: Spin and Bare It

Whether or not you care for—or participate in—tomorrow’s naked bike ride, the 42nd annual Fremont Fair offers far more than this critical mass of body-painted cyclists (who are not an official part of the solstice parade). The three-day event, which claims to attract over 100,000 souls, also features a dog parade, group yoga (for the solstice, of course), tonight’s pre-party with live music and lots of Redhook (4–11 p.m.), art activities for the kids, and an art-car show. Another art vehicle on display this year is the Sierra Club’s “coal train,”a living float populated with performance artists, solar panels, puppets, and costumes—intended to “Stop Coal and Make Art.” For environmental-minded fairgoers, nothing’s more worrisome than the thought that our Emerald City might one day be sooty, not green. The parade starts 3 p.m. Saturday; the fair continues through Sunday. Downtown Fremont, free,

Saturday 6/22

Comedy: Full of Him

Bill Maher has been around long enough, and pushed himself forward with such serene egotism, that opinions about him tend to be polarized. He’s full of himself, yes, not like his self-deprecating rivals on The Daily Show. He’s a louche libertarian liberal, someone Seattle fans may find politically sympathetic even while cringing at his Playboy Mansion antics. Maher is never short of opinions, never lacks confidence in those opinions, yet he also puts his money where his mouth is—famously giving $1 million to a pro-Obama super-PAC during the last campaign. He delivers, he’s not a dabbler, and his comedy is likewise red-meat direct. It’s not enough, as in his recent movie Religulous, to mock organized religion—he’s got to crush organized religion, to make its adherents look like fools. He wields his wit and influence like a hammer, but that’s how he survived the ’80s comedy boom and its post-Seinfeld collapse. He then invented a left-wing cable-TV persona for himself, much as Bill O’Reilly and Stephen Colbert today play exaggerated characters. It’s worth remembering, too, that Maher’s Politically Incorrect debuted on Comedy Central in 1993—six years before Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show. His present perch on HBO’s Real Time may not reach so many households, but it has clout, as proven by his roster of A-list guests. His influence can also be measured by other numbers: two million Twitter followers, which you don’t get by being subtle. A recent sample: “Battle is to #JohnMcCain what pussy is to #LarryFlynt—he can’t do much about it anymore, but’ll race U to the car if he thinks ur gettin some.” He said it, not me. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 877-784-4849, $31–$81. 8 p.m.

Monday 6/24

Film: Refuse Routines

In 2009, Austin choreographer Allison Orr had one of those ideas that can sound awful and condescending. She went for ride-alongs with that city’s sanitation workers, wore the DayGlo uniform, helped pick up trash, and gained their trust. Then she, the privileged white artist among this entirely black and Latino group, asked them to perform a truck-and-worker dance she based on their movements and routines. She called it The Trash Project. And, amazingly, it worked—over 2,000 people came to watch the nighttime spectacle in the rain. Andrew Garrison’s documentary Trash Dance follows her through the process; both artists were granted intimate access and cooperation by the city of Austin (of course, being the self-professed capital of weirdness). Bubbly and sincere, Orr treats these blue-collar men and women as her equals, and she soon enlists about two dozen to perform her choreographed truck maneuvers—some with big mechanical arms—and group formations, which resemble Army marching drills. Orr’s star discovery is Don Anderson, a very personable barbecue lover and the crane operator. He starts the film by joking, “That lady’s crazy!”, but is soon converted by Orr’s enthusiasm. “We’re not just these dirty people,” he says, “There is some grace to what we do.” And there is: the ritualized gestures and efficient motions of the workplace; the practiced grabbing and lifting and dumping of the discards we don’t want to touch. Orr’s Trash Project is a winning example of the sort of populist art we don’t often see in Seattle, where terms like access and community actually have some meaning. (The film screens as part of NWFF’s N-E-X D-O-C-S series, which runs Friday through Thursday.) Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380, $6–$10. 8 p.m.

Tuesday 6/25

Books: Defeating Hitler, With Oars

With the story of gold-medal rower Joe Rantz (1914–2007), local author Daniel James Brown has found in the annals of Northwest history a hero of Potteresque proportions. As Brown relates in The Boys in the Boat (Viking, $28.95), Rantz is all but an orphan when he leaves Sequim to enroll at the UW,  just as the Great Depression sets in. He’s far from the campus’ privileged elite, but there’s one place where all that matters is your grit and determination: the Quidditch field . . . er, Lake Washington. During the ’30s, the UW and Berkeley became staunch rivals of Ivy League oarsmen. Rantz’s eight-man team celebrates its victories in Hogwarts fashion, with “mountains of ice cream, as much as they could eat.”  Then the rowers set their eyes upon that most evil of opponents: Voldemort . . . er, Hitler. Chosen to represent the U.S. at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, our homegrown boys would give Adolf one more thing to scowl at. Brown’s book sometimes reads like something based on a true story rather than nonfiction. That’s mostly to his credit, as his florid prose brings to life a dour city in an especially dour time. (Though it also means taking Rantz’s own memoirs as complete truth to spin a tale unencumbered by citations.) And while his book has a strongly sentimental streak, Brown has a historian’s relish when it comes to drawing out choice details about everything from the philandering of the man who designed Germany’s Olympic Stadium to the weather of 1934. The Boys in the Boat is a fully realized epic of a forlorn young athlete who does great things against great evil. And just like Harry Potter, a movie’s planned to celebrate him. Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., 366-3333, Free. 7 p.m.

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