What’s Screening: May 22 – 28

CounterCorp, “Anti-Corporate Film Festival,” opens Friday at San Francisco the Victoria Theater for a three-day run. This one wears its political heart on its sleeve–it’s left sleeve. In other festival news, I Wake Up Dreaming: the Haunted World of the B Film Noir continues through the week at the Roxie.

John Wayne Western Double Bill: Rio Bravo and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stanford, Friday through Sunday. As much as any other artist, John Ford defined and deepened the myth of the American West. But in his lastlibertyvalance masterpiece, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ford tears that myth down, reminding us that a myth is, when you come down to it, a lie. Avoiding beautiful scenery and even color (a black and white western was a risky investment in 1962) Ford strips this story down to the essentials, and splits the classic Western hero into two: the man of principle (James Stewart) and the gunfighter (John Wayne). Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo is a much lighter and entertaining western, with Wayne and a few friends (Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan) holding a frontier jail against the well-financed crooks who want to free the murderer inside. Funny, suspenseful, and largely character-driven, with some great action, Rio Bravo is the ultimate escapist western. Wayne’s scenes with Angie Dickinson border on Hawks’ other specialty–screwball comedy.

Classic Laurel and Hardy Shorts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Thursday, 7:30. Well, who wouldn’t enjoy this? Laurel and Hardy are among the funniest comics ever to work in front of a camera, and they did their best work in shorts. I can verify that at least two of the shorts promised, “Liberty” and “Busy Bodies,” are among their best work.

Strange Sinema 13, Oddball Film + Video, Saturday, 8:30. RSVP recommended to 415-558-8117 or info@oddballfilm.com. I’ll just quote from the announcement: bizarrebill “Oddities from the Oddball Archives featuring new finds, buried junk and avant garde gems featuring films such as The Movie Palaces(1987), depicting the history of the great movie theaters, the brilliant animator Bill Plympton’s The Face, a 1958 profile of culture and geography Himalaya-Life on the Roof of the World, John Whitney ‘s Arabesque, the 1975 seminal computer film utilizing Arabic architectural forms, “Pop Art Picto-Sculptoramas” in the Academy-Award winning film Red Grooms: Sunflower in a Hothouse, dumbo teenage stoners in Pill Poppers and swingin’ 70s commercials like Sexy Socks!”

Medicine for Melancholy, Red Vic, Wednesday and Thursday. One could describe this low-budget indi as the African-American version (and the Bay Area version) of Before Sunrise. We discover the two characters as they discover each other, maneuver around their mutual attraction, and talk about their very different attitudes about life and race. Wyatt Cenac (of the Daily Show) and Tracey Heggins make attractive and likable leads, and for the first hour they’re completely worth spending time with. But two-thirds of the way through the movie takes a wrong turn to nowhere. Beautifully shot with a color palette so desaturated it often looks like black and white. I saw Medicine for Melancholy at the 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival. Read my more in-depth report.

Milk, Castro, opens Friday for yet another one-week engagement.Yep, I’m always a sucker for a historical epic, especially one set in a time and place that I can remember. Sprawling without ever being boring, and inspiring without getting preachy. I’ve always known that Sean Penn was a great actor; it’s nice to know that he can do “happy” as well as less pleasant emotions. James Franco is also very good as the main man in his life. On a double-bill with the documentary version: The Times of Harvey Milk..