Oscar Night, Sunday evening (exact times vary from one theater to another). Don’t want to be alone as you watch James Cameron lose to his ex-wife? Join a live Oscar screening party at the Balboa, Cerrito, Lark, Rafael, or Roxie. Many are encouraging costumes. Hmmm, perhaps a giant, blue alien defusing a bomb.
A Double Bill: Stray Dog & Drunken Angel, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. Here are two excellent, early Akira Kurosawa/Toshiro Mifune collaborations. In Stray Dog a young, rookie detective (Mifune) loses his gun to a pickpocket. Tortured by guilt, he becomes obsessed with finding the stolen Colt, which is getting used in a series of violent crimes. Takashi Shimura plays his mentor in his sensitive fatherly mode. The title Drunken Angel refers to an gruff, short-tempered, and alcoholic doctor (Shimura) who runs a small slum clinic next to a filthy sump. Mifune plays one of his patients, a tubercular gangster who cannot fight the disease and keep his high-living, macho lifestyle. Read my Kurosawa Diary entries for Stray Dog and Drunken Angel.
A Double Bill: High and Low & I Live in Fear, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday. High and Low is one of the best crime thrillers of the 1960’s. Toshiro Mifune stars as a successful businessman who thinks he’s off the hook when a kidnapper snatches the wrong boy, leaving his own son safe. But the kidnapper still insists on receiving the ransom (large enough to destroy Mifune’s tenuous hold on his company), forcing the man into a moral dilemma. I Live in Fear (also known as Record of a Living Being), while a good film, is easily the worst work from Kurosawa’s best period (1952 – 1965). The story concerns an aging industrialist (Toshiro Mifune, made up to look twice his 35 years) driven insane, or at least irrational, by his fear of the the atom bomb. His family is trying to declare him mentally incompetent before he ruins them financially. You can read my Kurosawa Diary entry for I Live in Fear, but it will probably be a few months before I post one for High and Low.
A+ Double Bill: Ikiru & One Wonderful Sunday, Stanford, Friday. One of Kurosawa’s best films co-billed with one of his worst.The A+ goes to Ikiru, arguably the greatest serious drama ever projected onto a 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 Precious, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday; Roxie, Friday through Sunday. Few film-going experiences match this one for intensity. And it’s not the intensity of a good horror film or thriller (although it’s more horrifying and suspenseful than most of them). This is the intensity 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.