What’s Screening: March 18 – 24

The Asian American Film Festival continues through Sunday, and the Dance FIlm Festival opens Thursday.

Battleship Potemkin, Castro, Friday through Sunday. It’s been too long since I’ve seen Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 agitprop masterpiece for me to assign it a grade. I potemkinremember being at times impressed with its technique and at other times annoyed by it. Beyond technique, it’s just Communist propaganda. On the other hand, Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir makes a good argument that it’s a ground-breaking and influential action movie. Whatever it is, Kino recently restored it to something approaching the long-lost original version. With recorded instead of live musical accompaniment, based on Edmund Meisel’s original score.

A The Illusionist, Red Vic, Sunday and Monday. Nearly 30 years after his death, Jacques Tati has finally made a new film. Okay, animator Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) made the movie, but he started with a never-produced Tati script, and his illusionist2010protagonist not only looks like the great comedian but moves like him, as well. The story, about a magician in a world that no longer values his craft, and a young girl so naïve she believes his tricks are real, is sadder and more wistful than Tati’s own work. But it still manages to be very funny, as well as almost entirely free of dialog (there are no subtitles and you won’t miss them). This is the best film I’ve seen that was released in 2010. Not to be confused with the Edward Norton/Paul Giamatti indiewood movie of a few years back.

B+ The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2011, Red Vic, Friday and Saturday. The Red Vic will screen the Live Action and Animated shorts at different times, with separate admissions, and not as a double bill. The live-action collection is overall a worthy selection, with one remarkable gem, three good little pleasures (one of which won the Oscar), and only one near-turkey. Read my full review. The animated collection includes the five nominees and two that should have been nominated. They range from conventional to creative, hilarious to poetic, and masterful to mediocre. Read my full review.

B Worst in Show, Elmwood, Thursday, 7:00. There’s one thing you know going into a documentary about Petaluma’s Ugliest Dog Contest: You’re going to see an awful lot of adorably ugly dogs. (Believe it or not, even the one shown here looks lovable when cuddling with his owner.) What’s surprising is how involved the human contestants become, and why. There’s a real shot at fame and modest fortune by having your dog win this contest, which is covered by media from all over the world. And there are controversies. Should dogs qualify who are ugly because disaster or disease have disfigured them–opening up charges of exploitation–or just those who come by it naturally. But even here, the Chinese Crested are arguably bred for ugliness, giving them an unfair advantage. The festival web site lists Worst in Show as a 90-minute movie, but the review screener sent to me by the festival runs just under an hour. Part of IndieFest.

Satan Met a Lady, Stanford, Thursday and next Friday. I haven’t seen this one, but I know that it’s the second film version of The Maltese Falcon, Only this time, the character’s names have been changed and it’s not a falcon. The third version–the John Huston one with Humphrey Bogart–was the one they got right. On a double bill with something called The Golden Arrow.

F Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, United Artists Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. Oh, how Terry Gilliam has fallen! Monty Python’s token Yank made three of the best movies of the 1980’s, then his career collapsed and took his talent with it. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas reeks; a confused, ugly, and meaningless exercise–which would be forgivable, if it also wasn’t boring and witless.