What’s Screening: December 12-18

Double bill: The African Queen & Sabrina, Stanford, all week. That A is for The African Queen. Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. According to Huston’s autobiography, he didn’t intend the film to be funny, but during production he realized that Bogart and Hepburn’s chemistry was inherently comic. His chemistry with a young Audrey Hepburn in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina isn’t nearly as good. The work of a great master who doesn’t appear to be trying very hard, Sabrina just floats along, nice and friendly, occasionally funny, never challenging, and moving towards a resolution as predictable as a full moon.

Short Subjects Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. Once again, the Museum will screen comic shorts from Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Laurel & Hardy. I can vouch for Keaton’s Cops and L&H’s Big Business as among their best.

Short Films from the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Rafael, all week. The name is self-explanatory.

The Wizard of Oz, Elmwood, Saturday and Sunday, noon. I don’t really have to tell you about this one, do I? Well, perhaps I have to explain why I’m only giving it a B. Despite its clever songs, lush Technicolor photography, and one great performance (Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion), The Wizard of Oz never struck me as the masterpiece that everyone else sees. It’s a good, fun movie, but not quite fun enough to earn an A.

Happy-Go-Lucky, Roxie, opens Friday. There’s no excuse for Happy-Go-Lucky working as well as it does, and not only because the term “Mike Leigh comedy” sounds like an oxymoron. This movie has no real plot, no significant conflict, and not an overwhelming supply of laughs. But it has a bubbly, upbeat, outgoing, loving, caring and extremely happy protagonist named Poppy (Sally Hawkins in a glowing performance). Nothing truly horrible happens to her in the course of the entire film, aside from a few sessions with a truly obnoxious driving instructor (Eddie Marsan). Leigh’s films have always observed everyday life, and this one observes the everyday life of a very happy person. Read my full review.