What’s Screening: May 13 – 19

The Crossroads Festival continues through Sunday. The Roxie‘s Noir series, I Wake Up Dreaming—2011 : The Legendary and the Lost, opens Friday for a two-week run. And the Anti-Corporate Film Festival opens Thursday.  Gee, I wonder what that one is about.

A The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Castro, Saturday. Considering the unethical behavior of the three leads, Sergio Leone’s epic Civil War western should have been called The Bad, the Worse, and the Totally Reprehensible. But morality is relative when armies are slaughtering thousands, and besides, it doesn’t really enter into Leone’s tongue-in-cheek point of view. While the war rages around them, three outlaws battle lawmen, prison guards, and each other for a fortune in stolen gold. Check your scruples at the door and enjoy the double- and triple-crosses, the black comedy, the beautiful Techniscope photography of Spain doubling as the American west, and Ennio Morricone’s legendary score. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef are fine, but it’s Eli Wallach’s performance as the half-bright, devious Tuco who steals the picture. On a double bill with Aquirre, the Wrath of God, which I haven’t seen in decades but loved back then.

A Chinatown, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 8:00. Roman Polanski may be a rapist, bchinatownut you can’t deny his talent as a filmmaker. (Not that that in any excuses his actions as a human being.) And that talent never shown better than in this neo-noir tale of intrigue and double-crosses set in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Writer Robert Towne fictionalized an actual scandal involving southern California water rights, mixing a few personal scandals in, as well, and handed it over to Polanski, who turned it into the perfect LA period piece.

A The Band Wagon, Stanford, Saturday through Monday. Singin’ in the Rain’s producer and writers teamed up with director Vincente Minnelli to make the one great Fred Astaire vehicle without Ginger Rogers. Their trick? They blended a small dose of reality into the otherwise frivolous mix. For instance, Astaire’s character, an aging movie star nervously returning to the Broadway stage he abandoned years before, is clearly based on Astaire himself. The result is a sly satire of Broadway’s intellectual aspirations, lightened up with exceptional songs and dances including “That’s Entertainment” and “I Love Louisa.”

B Dead Man, Red Vic, Tuesday and Thursday. A very different type of western. The plot, concerning a timid accountant from Cleveland (Johnny Depp) who becomes a wanted outlaw within a day of getting off the train, sounds like a Bob Hope comedy. But Dead Man was written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, which by definition makes it a very weird flick. And it earns its weirdness with the quirky humor, sudden horror, and strange occurrences we associate with Jarmusch. The supporting cast includes John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne, and Robert Mitchum.

C- Roberta, Stanford, Wednesday through next Friday. Generally considered an Astaire/Rogers musical, Roberta actually stars Irene Dunne. True, Fred and Ginger get billed above her love interest, Randolph Scott, but they’re not onscreen enough to turn this dull musical love story into a winner. On a double bill with Funny Face, which I haven’t seen.

B The Big Lebowski, Castro, Thursday. Critics originally big_lebowski[1]panned this Coen Brothers gem as a disappointing follow-up to their previous endeavor, Fargo. Well, it isn’t as good as the Coen’s masterpiece, but it’s still one hell of a funny movie. It’s also built quite a cult following; The Big Lebowski has probably played more Bay Area one-night stands in the years I’ve maintained this site than than any three other movies put together. On a double bill with another Coen comedy, Raising Arizona,