What’s Screening: October 12 – 18

The Mill Valley Film Festival continues through Sunday. Taiwan Film Days starts its three day run today, while the Arab Film Festival plays San Jose Saturday and Sunday.

A Mary Poppins, Kabuki & various CineMark Theaters, Wednesday.  marypoppinsThe best live-action movie Walt Disney ever made, and one of the great all-time children’s pictures. Julie Andrews may have won the Oscar through a sympathy vote, but she really lights up her first movie appearance, managing to upstage Dick Van Dyke and some wonderful special effects. So what if it takes liberties with the books?

A Airplane!, United Artists Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00. They’re flying on instruments, blowing the autopilot, and translating English into jive. So win one for the Zipper, but whatever you do, don’t call him Shirley. Airplane! throws jokes like confetti–carelessly tossing them in all directions in hopes that some might hit their target. There’s no logical reason why a movie this silly can be so satisfying, but then logic never was part of the Airplane! formula. I’d be hard-pressed to name another post-silent feature-length comedy with such a high laugh-to-minute ratio.

Vampyr, Roxie, Monday. I haven’t seen Theodor Dreyer’s silent horror film in many years. I remember it being not quite as creepy as Nosferatu. Steven Severin will  accompany the film live with a new score.

C Side By Side, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Thursday, 7:30 (with two additional screenings next week). How do today’s leading filmmakers feel about the seemingly inevitable transition from a photochemical, film-based cinema to a digital one? Short answer: Many have enthusiastically embraced digital cinema, and the rest accept that physical film’s days are numbered. For most of this doc’s runtime, narrator/producer Keanu Reeves interviews high-profile directors and cinematographers, along with a few editors, timers, and technicians, as they discuss the current revolution. The film gives room to people on both sides of controversy (in other words, George Lucas and Christopher Nolan), but the picture seems weighted in favor of going digital. Concentrating almost entirely on the issue of how movies are shot,  it completely ignores the many problems and controversies arising from the move to digital projection. Read my full review.

Invaders from Mars (1953 version), Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00. I haven’t seen this paranoid 50s sci-fi movie since I was in college, but I remember it fondly. Like the much better Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the aliens plan to conquer the world by taking over our minds…one person at a time. Luckily, one little boy sees through the plot. Directed by the great production designer (and mediocre director) William Cameron Menzies, it makes full use of three-strip Technicolor in that format’s last days. Later that night, the PFA will also screen Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street. I’ve never seen that one, and I hope to rectify that Friday night. Both are part of the series An Army of Phantoms: American Cinema and the Cold War.

C Jayne Mansfield’s Car, Rafael, Sequoia, Sunday, 5:00. This southern gothic about the long-range mental effects of war provides little more than a chance to watch great actors struggle with a shallow script. Robert Duvall stars as Jim Caldwell, the aged, stern, remote, and possibly loving patriarch of a prosperous, small-town Alabama family. Two of his three sons, deep into middle age, still live with him–one of them with a wife and son. Then Jim’s ex-wife dies, and her second husband and his grown children arrive with mommy’s body in tow for a culture clash funeral. It’s like Death at a Funeral without the laughs. Thornton wanted to make a great drama about war and the 1960s (the film is set in 1969), but he didn’t succeed. Sold out; rush tickets will be available at showtime.  Part of the Mill Valley Film Festival.