What’s Screening: February 26 – March 4

Cinequest continues down in San Jose.

Balboa Birthday Bash, Balboa, Sunday, 7:00. The anniversary celebration will include a new, silent short subject shot at the Balboa, magician James Hamilton, singer Linda Kosut, a birthday cake, and a screening of the 1926 haunted house comedy The Cat and the Canary, accompanied live by Dave Miotke.

A Precious, Red Vic, Thursday (and continuing through the following Saturday).  Few film-going experiences match this one for intensity. And it’s not the intensity of a good precioushorror film or thriller (although it’s more horrifying and suspenseful than most of them). This is the intensity of of life at its most relentlessly depressing and hopeless. The title character, played by newcomer Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe, is 16 years old, extremely obese, illiterate, and pregnant with her second child. She’s also regularly abused physically, emotionally, and sexually by her parents. And yet, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, manages to find hope. Where there is life, that life can be improved. Read my full review.

A+ Double Bill: Ikiru & One Wonderful Sunday, Stanford, Wednesday, Thursday, and the following Friday. One of Kurosawa’s best films co-billed with one of his worst. ikiruThe A+ goes to Ikiru, arguably the greatest serious drama ever projected onto the screen. Takashi Shimura gives the performance of his lifetime as an aging government bureaucrat who discovers he’s dying of cancer. Emotionally cut off from his family–including the son and daughter-in-law that live with him–he struggles to find some meaning in his life before he dies. You can read my Kurosawa Diary entry here. But the second feature, One Wonderful Sunday, is one terrible movie. A young couple who have been dating for years (and still haven’t gotten to first base) try to have a fun day on the town despite a lack of cash or, quite frankly, chemistry. Think Before Sunrise without good dialog, interesting characters, or real sexual tension. I discuss it briefly in this Kurosawa Diary entry.

A+ Rashomon, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 3:00; Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. I know that I’ve reviewed Kurosawa’s first masterpiece–the film that opened Japanese cinema to the world. But according to a search of this blog, I’ve never reviewed it. How could I remember it one way, when the WordPress search engine remembers it differently? I could check Google, but what if its memory contradicts both? If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, you haven’t seen Rashomon, and that’s a real shame. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry. The PFA screening is part of it’s class and series, Film 50: History of Cinema. The Stanford engagement is a double bill with Scandal, the truly wretched movie Kurosawa made just prior to Rashomon. And you can read my Kurosawa Diary entry on that, as well.

B+ Double Bill: Fight Club & Donnie Darko, Castro, Friday, 7:00. Fight Club is one  strange flick. Edward Norton wants to be Brad Pitt. Who wouldn’t? Pitt’s not onlydonniedarko shagging Helena Bonham Carter, he’s also a free-spirited kind of guy and a real man. Or maybe he’s just a fascist? Or maybe there’s something stranger going on. Along with everything else, Bonham Carter gets to say the most shocking and hilariously obscene line in Hollywood history. And speaking of the unspeakable, Donnie Darko may be the only alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedy that’s also horrific and surreal. It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun.

B+ Up, Castro, Saturday. When compared to WALL-E or Ratatouille, Pixar’s first 3D feature comes off as a bit of a disappointment. But Pixar’s best is a hard target to hit. Up is still very good story well-told, although the bulk of the movie never equals the brilliance of its sweet, sad prologue. Besides, it’s yet another Pixar technical leap forward, and it’s the first cartoon with talking dogs who really seem like dogs. In digital 3D.

A+ The Seven Samurai, Stanford, Saturday through the following Friday. If you think all action movies are mindless escapism, you need to set aside 3½ hours for 7sam_thumb[1]Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece. The basic story–a poor village hires warriors to defend them against bandits–has been retold many times since, but Kurosawa told it first and told it best. This is an action film with almost no action in the first two hours. But when the fighting finally arrives, you’re ready for it, knowing every detail of the people involved, the terrain that will be fought over, and the class differences between the peasants and their hired swords. One of the greatest movies ever made. For more on this masterpiece, see Kurosawa Diary, Part 10: Seven Samurai.