No festivals this week.
A Double bill: Chinatown & L.A. Confidential, Castro, Thursday. Roman Polanski may be a rapist, but you can’t watch Chinatown and deny his talent as a filmmaker. (Not that that in any way excuses his actions as a human being.) Writer Robert Towne fictionalized an actual scandal involving Southern California water rights to create this neo-noir tale of intrigue and double-crosses set in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Polanski turned it into the perfect LA noir period piece. Speaking of LA noir period pieces, L.A. Confidential – a tale of corruption in the LAPD in the early 1950s – makes a perfect second feature.
A Inside Job, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. Once again, I have to ask myself if I liked this documentary because it was well-made, or because I believe in the filmmaker’s point of view. My answer: both. Let me put it this way: Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job covers much of the same ground as Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, and from a very similar point of view. But while Moore grandstands, preaches, and stages funny scenes, Ferguson digs deeper into the problems that caused of the financial crisis, the reasons those problems have not been solved (short answer: They still make the rich richer), and the serious consequences they have for the future of this nation. Moore concentrated on entertaining; Ferguson on being clear and making a case.
A Metropolis, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 6:00. The first important science fiction feature film still strikes a considerable visual punch,and with the latest restoration, tells a compelling story, as well. The images–workers in a hellish underground factory, the wealthy at play, a robot brought to life in the form of a beautiful woman–are a permanent part of our collective memory. Even people who haven’t seen Metropolis know them through the countless films it has influenced. Recently-discovered footage, which restores it to something very much like the original cut, elevates the story of a clash between workers and aristocrats from trite melodrama to grand opera. Read my longer report. Digitally projected, and using the recorded score rather than live accompaniment..
A The Dark Knight, Castro, Wednesday. As far back as Memento, the Nolan brothers have seen evil as an influence very likely to corrupt those dedicated to fighting it. Here no one, including Bruce Wayne/Batman himself (Christian Bale) gets away without moral compromises. But what can you expect when fighting the Joker, who is absolutely nuts in Heath Ledger’s almost-final performance. For more details, see my full review. Playing with Zodiac as the last of three Fincher-Nolan double bills.
Shoah, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, Part 1, 11:30am; Part 2, 5:15. I admit that I have never seen this much-acclaimed, epic Holocaust documentary. When I was offered me a review copy recently, I turned them down. I couldn’t imagine spending more than nine hours watching a series of interviews about mass genocide. I’m not proud of that decision. But I thought I should note that the film contains no historical footage, is a recent addition to Roger Ebert’ Great Movies series, and has been restored for its 25th anniversary.
B Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday. Did Warner Brothers rip-off Potter fans by splitting the last book into two films so they could get in an eighth movie? Or did they rightfully see this as the best approach for adapting a very long book? Whether they did it for commercial reasons or not, it was the right decision. The movie is fun, scary, and suspenseful, although like most of the Potter films, it does little but visualize what most of us have already read. The fact that you go in knowing there will be no resolution is kind of annoying, but it’s better than finding that out in the theater.
B Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Cerrito, Friday and Saturday, Midnight. Tim Burton’s first feature revels in its own silliness. Pee-Wee Herman, before children’s television and indecent exposure, is a strange, almost neurotically innocent creature. The movie is uneven, and most of the jokes are extremely dumb, but the oddball charm cannot be denied. Besides, the last sequence, reworking the plot as a Hollywood action film, is alone worth the price of admission.
B+ The Oscar-Nominated Live-ActionShort Films, Aquarius, opens Friday for one week. In theory, these are the best five short, live-action, narrative film to play in American theaters in 2010. That brings up a question: Did any short subjects play in American theaters last year? However they qualify, they’re overall a worthy selection, with one remarkable gem, three good little pleasures, and only one near-turkey. Read my full review.
B The Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films, Aquarius, opens Friday for one week. This collection of seven short cartoons (the five nominees and two that should have been nominated) range from conventional to creative, hilarious to poetic, and masterful to mediocre. "The Lost Thing" and the not-nominated "Urs" are the best. If you’re thinking about bringing your kids, all of these shorts are child appropriate, and most of them are child-entertaining. Some may even be child-enlightening. Read my full review.
B Bedlam, Stanford, Friday. A good, fun little low-budget horror film from 1946, set in the legendary madhouse. With Boris Karloff, of course. On a double bill with The Body Snatcher.