Pomo Picks

Oregon-Made Content to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Week: Sept 16

The Beaver State stuff in our queues, from Stand by Me to Blind Pilot

By Portland Monthly Staff September 17, 2020

On top of everything else, our state is on fire. We’ve been bringing you a weekly roundup of the books, albums, films, podcasts, TV shows, and articles getting us through this hellish year for a few months now, and this week, we decided we should focus on the homegrown: stuff that reminds why Oregon is so special, and stuff that (perhaps painfully) reminds us of how beautiful it is.

Blind Pilot

Blind Pilot is the epitome of feel-good music for me. Hailing from Astoria, the indie band is comprised of six members, Israel Nebeker leading with his folky voice. I’ve been an avid listener since their first album dropped in 2008 and caught them at a free show at Music Millennium in 2016. Nebeker played crowd favorite “3 Rounds and a Sound” as the last song, which resulted in a 200-person sing-along. Other favorites of mine: “Poor Boy,” “The Colored Night,” and “Seeing is Believing.” —Ainslee Dicken, editorial intern

The Essential Portland Bookshelf

Image: Michael Novak

There have been many cracking new additions to the Oregon canon since we compiled this list four years ago—Omar El Akkad's American WarMitchell S. Jackson's Survival Math, Karen Russell's Orange World and more—but it's not a bad place to start if you're looking to take a deep dive into all things local and literary. —Fiona McCann, senior editor-at-large

The Hazards of Love

You hang around me long enough and you’ll start to hear endlessly (and obnoxiously) about how much I love albums. I love thematic albums. I love concept albums. I love anything that foregoes the hit for songs that fit together within a conceptual framework, albums that work as a collective whole, piecing together a narrative, a tone, an atmosphere. It’s annoying, I know. And one of my favorite albums is The Hazards of Love by Portland’s own The Decemberists. (Fun idea: The Decemberists should play a Halloween show as The Dismember-ists. Maybe next year.)
The Hazards of Love is a rock opera (there I said it!), and it follows a woman named Margaret who falls in love with a shape-shifting forest dweller named William who’s got a jealous and angry mommy known as the Forest Queen. As the two fall deeper in love, trouble arises when the Rake, a villainous widow and child murderer, kidnaps Margaret and steals off into the forest. It’s a mystic journey that evolves from a single drone in the distance to a chorus of dead children singing to their murderous father, to a gentle acoustic ballad, to freaking harpsichord for some reason, to Zeppelin-esque riffs, to orchestral interludes. All the way through, I’m excited by the movements and how they unfold into this beautiful and deeply strange narrative. —Gabriel Granillo, digital editor

Mean Creek

Filmed throughout Oregon, predominantly in Estacada, the film Mean Creek didn’t get much attention when it hit theaters in 2004. It played Sundance and Cannes, but beyond the few small art houses it was released into, the flick doesn’t get much mention with movies about teens in bad situations. But it really should.
Mean Creek (streaming on Showtime and rentable on Amazon) centers around a group of young kids in a small Oregon town. Sam, a short, quiet boy, has been held at the hands of a troubled and insecure bully named George for some time when the story picks up. When Sam’s older brother finds out about his brother’s torment, he devises a plan to get payback on George with a prank. But when the prank goes wrong, the story pivots to analyzing guilt, fear, and a misunderstanding of morals.
Mean Creek could serve as a preachy piece on anti-bullying, but it never comes across that way. The film instead chooses to highlight the risks of bullying in a thoughtful and poignant story of friends dealing with a traumatic event they caused and big decisions that will alter their lives. —Riley Blake, editorial intern

Night Moves

As the proud owner of a First Cow mug and a general Kelly Reichardt obsessive, I have been coping with the chaos on our shores by turning to the few titles I haven’t seen from the filmmaker who’s made this state her perennial muse.

Night Moves, streaming now on Hulu, is a straight-up thriller: a rare full-on genre piece from someone who prefers to work in languid, ambiguous shapes. In its first act, it follows a hazy-eyed environmental fundamentalist (Jessie Eisenberg) who teams up with a young woman (Dakota Fanning) and an ex-Marine (Peter Sarsgaard) to blow up a hydroelectric dam in Southern Oregon. This section is sparse and tense and bracing, harnessing Reichardt’s trademark narrative economy for jolts while it teases out some tantalizing moral questions. Then, after what would be the climax of a lesser film, Reichardt’s opens up: her characters have to wrestle with what they’ve done, and Night Moves becomes less methodical and more anxious as it picks apart the fallout from extreme direct action and really asks how we can push against a system that prizes profit over planet. 
About halfway through the movie, when the tension reached a fever pitch, my friend turned to me and said, “Dude, I could never blow up a dam.” It was funny, but it was also an illustration of Kelly Reichardt’s power: simple, straightforward expression that makes you turn inward and dig out hidden parts of yourself. Maybe a movie about climate anxiety and the destruction of rural Oregon is not to everyone's taste right now—I admit that I watched it just before the fires really took off. But if you’re responding to the moment by asking what we can do to stymie climate change, Night Moves asks that too, with stellar performances, breathtaking photography, and a catch in its throat. —Conner Reed, arts & culture editor

Stand by Me

In the 1980s, Oregon did not have cool cred. Those of us from here knew we had it going on, but the outside world had yet to take note. So I love to remind people at parties (when we had those) that many of their childhood classic films came to them thanks to Oregon. I mean, there’s The Goonies, obviously. A film so iconic that decades later, people still journey just to see a house. There’s Kindergarten Cop, which was so catchy people said “It’s not a tumahh” in a faux-Schwarzenegger for years.
And, of course, there is Stand by Me (streaming now on Hulu). The film follows four childhood friends—Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell—on a trek to view a dead body, but really to prove to themselves they are brave. The boys wandering through Oregon playing with sticks, talking big dreams, and just killing time is the stuff of eternal nostalgia for people of every generation. And this week, as we watch our sweet state suffer immense destruction, seeing it look so pretty hits a little different. —Eden Dawn, style editor