This Week’s Movies

Since last week’s newsletter, I filed a Johnny To Report, told you about the summer’s Silent Film Festivals, and mourned Precious Prints Lost to Fire.

Both the Black Film Festival and Another Hole in the Head continue through the week, although the Black Festival takes a two-day break Monday and Tuesday. I haven’t seen anything at either festival, so I can’t recommend any particular movie, but I’m sure they all have excellent films lined up.

Found Footage Festival, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday; Parkway, Sunday, 5:00. If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you’re going to love this show. Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett collect the garbage of our video-saturated culture. Every year they take a selection of public access TV shows, home movies, outtakes, instructional videos, and other oddities on the road in a combination of video montage and live standup comedy. I haven’t seen their latest edition, but the last one, which included an exercise video montage with appearances by Marky Mark (Wahlberg), Pat Boone, and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, had me laughing so hard I could barely breath.

Charlie Chaplin Days, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday and Sunday, 11:00am-4:00. The museum celebrates the biggest name to ever set up shop and shoot movies in Niles with a two-day celebration. Expect Chaplin shorts, a carnival, and costume contests both afternoons.

The Kid, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:00. Charlie Chaplin’s first feature lacks the confident story sense of The Gold Rush and City Lights, and it occasionally wallows in almost painful moralizing and sentimentality. but it also contains some of his funniest scenes. Even the sentimentality works as often as it annoys. The evening–part of the above-mentioned Charlie Chaplin Days celebration, also includes two Chaplin shorts–A Night Out and The Rink. With piano accompaniment by Bruce Loeb.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Rafael, Wednesday, 7:00. Corrupt political bosses appoint a naive, young idealist (James Stewart) senator because they think he’s stupid. The second and best film in Frank Capra’s common man trilogy, Mr. Smith creeks a bit with patriotic corniness today, and seems almost as naive as its protagonist. But it has moments–Stewart’s speech about how “history is too important to be left in school books,” for instance–that can still bring a lump to your throat. And it’s just plain entertaining. Part of the Rafael’s James Stewart 100th Birthday Celebration.

Double Bill: Safety Last & The Cocoanuts, Stanford, Wednesday, 7:30. Harold Lloyd’s iconic image–hanging from a large clock high over a city street–comes from Safety Last, a boy-makes-good-by-risking-his-neck fairytale. Lloyd made better pictures, but even mediocre Lloyd is funnier than most movies. And when he starts climbing that building, the laughs–and the thrills–don’t stop. With Dennis James at the Wurlitzer pipe organ. Like many early talkies, The Coconuts, is little more than a stage play performed for an unmoving camera. Luckily, both the play and the movie were Marx Brothers vehicles–their first experiment with a long narrative form, and their first motion picture, respectively. All of the brothers except Harpo seem uncomfortable with the new medium (maybe he didn’t worry about standing next to a hidden microphone), and The Coconuts, while funny, doesn’t live up to the wonders they would soon unleash.

Sydney Pollack Tribute, Lark, Friday through Thursday. The Lark will screen The Way We Were, Tootsie, and Out of Africa at different times on different days throughout the week. I’ve never seen Out of Africa and wasn’t too impressed with The Way We Were, but I loved Tootsie when I saw it many, many years ago.

The Iron Giant, Cerrito, Saturday, 3:00; Sunday, 2:00. The young hero of Brad (The Incredibles) Bird’s first feature befriends a massively-huge robot from outer space. Hey, Steven Spielberg’s Elliot only had to hide the diminutive ET. The robot seems friendly enough, but there’s good reason to believe he was built as a weapon of mass destruction. Using old-fashioned, hand-drawn animation with plenty of sharp angles, Bird creates a stylized view of small-town American life circa 1958 that straddles satire and nostalgia, and treats most of its inhabitants with warmth and affection. A good movie for all but the youngest kids. Presented by the Poop.

Live Music Before Sex & City, Balboa, Saturday, 8:45. Jazz and pop singer Sony Holland will perform at the Balboa before the evening screening of Sex and the City.