Movies for the Week of January 20, 2006

Life is crazy. I don’t have time this week to pontificate about movies, so I’ll just go directly to this week’s comments and recommendations:

Recommended: The Best of Youth, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 3:00; also ongoing at the Balboa. If you live in the East Bay, Friday may be your only chance to see the best two-part, six-hour movie since Godfather I and II. At least, your only chance to see it on the big screen without crossing water. Yes, six hours is a long time to spend in a movie theater, but in those six hours you’ll make new friends, fall in and out of love, learn a lot of recent Italian history, and marvel at just how wonderful a story-telling medium motion pictures can be. The PFA will screen Part I at 3:00, and Part II, after a dinner break, at 7:00.

Recommended: Capote, Parkway, ongoing engagement starts Friday. I can’t think of a historical figure more challenging for an actor than Truman Capote–you can’t do that voice without it sounding like a broad comic impersonation. Yet Philip Seymour Hoffman makes it work in a Golden Globe-winning performance. The story sticks to the years that Capote researched and wrote his last and most-praised book, In Cold Blood. Hoffman creates a witty and self-centered Capote, utterly unable to handle an emotional attachment to a cold-blooded killer, or the sudden literary success of his research assistant, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee (Catherine Keener).

Noteworthy: NoirQuake, Palace of Fine Arts, Saturday, 3:00. A literary as well as a cinematic event. Local notables will read from the novels that inspired Film Noir, followed by clips from the film versions of the books. Part of the Noir City festival.

Noteworthy: Sean Penn Night, Palace of Fine Arts, Saturday, 7:00. Sean Penn is an actor, an activist, a film director, and, apparently, a film noir fan. Penn will screen his 2001 directorial effort, the neo-noir The Pledge, then present his favorite classic-era noir–whatever that may be. Another Noir City event.

Noteworthy: Wings of Desire, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. Another one I’ve seen too long ago to be entirely confident recommending. But when I saw Wim Wenders’ fantasy about an angel who longs to be mortal, I liked it.

Recommended: This is Spinal Tap, Parkway, Tuesday, 9:15. On a scale of one to ten, This is Spinal Tap rates an eleven. And if you didn’t get that joke, you haven’t seen the parody that put all “rockumentaries” in their place. The Parkway is presenting Spinal Tap as a benefit for HEROES (Helpers Engaged in Reaching Oakland’s Excelling Schools).

Noteworthy: Darwin’s Nightmare, Red Vic, Tuesday and Wednesday. I haven’t seen this documentary on the disruptions and destructions caused by the wrong fish in Lake Victoria, but it looks worth seeing.