What’s Screening: April 2 – 8

I’m trying to get back into the swing of things after my mother’s death. Expect this newsletter to be short.

I missed the San Francisco International Film Festival press conference on Tuesday, but I have the press kit. I’ll get to it probably on Sunday.

B+ The President’s Analyst, Castro, Wednesday. This little comedy from 1967 deserves recognition, even if its extremely out-dated. The White House hires a psychiatrist (James Coburn) to help the president deal with his emotional burden. Trouble is, no one can help the psychiatrist. He’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown when spies from every country in the world converge to kidnap him (and stop other spies from kidnapping him). Although the movie shows its age in almost every way, the film’s surprise ending seems remarkably prescient. On a double bill with Kelly’s Heroes, a war comedy I liked when I saw it as a teenager, but doubt I would today. Part of the Castro’s tribute to jazz composer Lalo Schifrin.

A- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stanford, Saturday through Tuesday. 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. On a double bill with Come Live with Me, which I have never heard of.

A- Crazy Heart, Red Vic, Thursday (and the following Friday). Jeff Bridges earned his Oscar for this role as an alcoholic once-famous country western singer on the skids. His Bad Blake drives from town to town in an old truck, playing in small bars and enjoying the occasional company of aging groupies. Not that he’s without friends. His still considerable charm help him win the love of a young reporter and single mother who knows better (Maggie Gyllenhaal). And a now-successful former protégée (Colin Farrell doing a believable  American accent) tries to help rejuvenate his career. But alcohol and self-loathing make him a difficult man to help. With excellent songs by T-Bone Burnett.

A+ Annie Hall, Pacific Film Archive, Wednesday, 3:00. Almost every Hollywood film deals on some level with romantic love, but very few accurately capture the complex, dizzying ups and downs of that common experience. And no other captures it as well, or as hilariously, as Annie Hall. Part of the series, and class, Film 50: History of Cinema.

A Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. Not quite as funny as Holy Grail (but still hilarious), the Pythons’ second (and last) narrative feature digs a little deeper than its predecessor. Its story of a hapless citizen of Roman-occupied Judea, mistaken for the messiah, satirizes faith, fanaticism (both religious and political), and the human tendency to blindly follow leaders. The religious right attacked it viciously when it came out, which is kind of funny since the movie’s strongest satire is aimed at left-wing radicals.

B Bullet, Castro, Saturday. San Francisco detective Steve McQueen plays it cool as he investigates a crime that the police force would rather he didn’t investigate. Nothing really exceptional in the script (unless you count its being one of the first Hollywood movies with the word bullshit, which brought audience cheers in 1968), but McQueen exudes McQueen cool in nearly every scene. And it contains a great car chase on the streets of our hilly city. On a double bill with Dirty Harry, another detective movie about a cool cop with uptight superiors. I haven’t seen this one in ages, so I won’t offer an opinion. Part of the Castro’s tribute to jazz composer Lalo Schifrin.