What’s Screening: November 30 – December 6

Sorry I haven’t been writing much, lately. Alas, professional and family matters have been getting in the way of blogging. I hope to get back to more Bayflicks posting soon.

Despite my absence, the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival continues through this week and beyond.

Also, this week I add the New Parkway to my theater list. Their web site promises that the theater will open today (Friday, October 30), but as I write this, I have no idea if they’ll make that deadline or what they’ll be screening of they do.

So with those out of the way, here’s what I can tell you about this week.

Alice in Wonderland (the 1976, X-rated version), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Thursday, 7:30. I haven’t seen Alice in close to 30 years, but I have fond memories of this innocently perverse comedy–probably the best of the X-rated sex parodies of the 1970s. I saw the original, soft-X version twice at the UC Theatre (of blessed memory). I loved it both times, and so did my dates. A few years later, soon after I got my first VCR, I rented the hardcore home video version (apparently Alice was shot hardcore, but originally edited soft to play in more theaters). A lot of the warmth and humor was lost in the close-ups of what appeared to be hairy, fleshy piston engines. Fortunately, the YBCA will screen the original, softcore version.

B+ The Truman Show, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 5:20. Before reality television reared its mediocre head, writer Andrew Niccol and director Peter Weir foresaw it in this comic fable about a man raised unknowingly in a giant television studio. Although prophetic in many ways, The Truman Show takes the concept way beyond plausibility, suggesting a television show that goes way beyond economic and legal possibilities (which is why I call it a fable). A few months after this picture came out, The Ed Show offered a far more realistic prophesy of reality TV. Hosted by David Thomson.

A Pulp Fiction, in a great many multiplexes, Thursday. Quentin Tarantino achieved pulpfictioncult status by writing and directing this witty mesh of interrelated stories involving talkative killers, a crooked boxer, romantic armed robbers, and a former POW who hid a watch in a very uncomfortable place. Tarantino entertainingly plays with dialog, story-telling techniques, non-linear time, and any sense the audience may have of right and wrong.

A- A Christmas Story, Alameda, Tuesday and Wednesday; Kabuki & various CineMark Theaters, Wednesday. Sweet, sentimental Christmas movies, at least those not authored by Charles Dickens or Frank Capra, generally make me want to throw up. But writer Jean Shepherd’s look back at the Indiana Christmases of his youth comes with enough laughs and cynicism to make the nostalgia go down easy. A holiday gem for people who love, or hate, the holidays.

B- Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death and Technology, Rafael, Sunday, 7:00. Tiffany Shlain had Tree-of-Life-level ambitions for her documentary about life, human evolution, networking, her father’s terminal cancer, and her own difficult pregnancy. She reached for profundity, but achieved only entertainment. Like most autobiographical documentaries, much ofConnected Connected comes off as self-centered. But more of it is Daddy-centered, as the movie worships her father (surgeon and best-selling author Leonard Shlain) to the point of idolatry. While this is emotionally understandable—she made the film while he was dying—it’s not good filmmaking. When not dealing with family health problems, Connected looks at the networks human beings have created, and the essential connectedness of everything. In doing so, it offers no insights that a reasonably educated and curious person would not have found elsewhere. Some clever, informative, and often funny cartoons (animated by Stefan Nadelman) and some amusing old movie clips  make Connected enjoyable. Filmmaker Shlain in person.

C Sing-Along Sound of Music, Castro, through Sunday. Many people love it, but I find the biggest money maker of the 1960s lumbering, slow, and dull. Not funny or romantic enough to be light entertainment, yet lacking the substance to be anything else. And most of the songs give the impression that, by their last collaboration, Roger and Hammerstein had run out of steam. On the other hand, the Todd-AO photography of Alpine landscapes makes this one of the most visually beautiful of Hollywood movies. I’ve never experienced a Sing-Along Sound of Music presentation, however, so this might be something entirely different.