What’s Screening: December 14 – 20

If the holidays are putting you into a festive mood, sorry. No festivals this week.

But we do have movies.

A The Central Park Five, Embarcadero, Shattuck, opens Friday. A white woman was brutally raped and left for dead in Central Park. NewYork’s finest arrested five black and Puerto Rican teenage boys, all of whom confessed under police interrogation, even though there was no physical evidence linking them to the crime and considerable evidence for their innocence. Ken Burns sets aside his usual historical style to examine this far more recent story of five young men convicted of a horrible crime that they did not commit. Most Ken Burns documentaries help us understand how we, as Americans, got where we are. This one shows us exactly where that is. Read my full review.

A- Found Footage Festival, New Parkway, Friday, 10:00; Roxie, Saturday & Sunday, 8:00. The world is full of unwanted VHS cassettes, which is a good thing for Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett. They mine comic gold from the unwanted dregs of the video universe. In their sixth installment of the Found Footage Festival, they have masturbation instruction videos, a very stoned man who thinks he’s Jesus, proper care of your pet ferret and opossum, a mock game show involving extremely graphic body wounds, and the entirely bizarre Dancing With Frank Pacholski. Definitely not for kids, or the easily offended. But a real treat for everyone else. Read my longer report.

A Short Subject Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. Four comedy shorts by masters of the genre, and I can vouch very enthusiastically for three of them. "The Goat" is my all-time favorite Buster Keaton short. "High and Dizzy" is my favorite Harold Lloyd short. And "Big Business" is pretty much everybody’s favorite silent Laurel and Hardy film. If I’ve ever seen Charlie Chaplin’s "His New Job," it didn’t stick in my memory.

Noir City Xmas, Castro, Wednesday, 7:30. The Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller, but together this double-bill to help damper the holiday spirit. I’ve never seen The Lady in the Lake, but I know its reputation as an oddity–a film shot entirely in the main character’s point of view. I’ve never even heard of Holiday Affair. The evening will also include the official announcement of this year’s Noir City festival lineup.

A The Apartment, Castro, Thursday. How do you top Some Like It Hot? Billy Wilder found the answer in this far more serious comedy about powerful men exploiting both women and their male underlings. Jack Lemmon gave the best of his many great performances as a very small cog in the machinery of a giant, New York-based insurance company. His small desk sits in a sea of other small desks that disappear off the horizon. In order to gain traction in the rat race, he loans his apartment to company executives—all married men–who use it for private time with their mistresses. With Fred MacMurray as the top exploiter and Shirley MacLane as the woman he exploits. Read my Blu-ray review. On a double bill with Three Days of the Condor, which I haven’t seen.

A+ It’s A Wonderful Life, Kabuki and various CineMark Theaters, Wednesday. There’s a rarely-acknowledged dark wonderfullifeside to Frank Capra’s feel-good fable. George Bailey (James Stewart) saves his town and earns the love of his neighbors, but only at the expense of his own dreams and desires. Trapped, frustrated, and deeply disappointed, Bailey needs only one new disaster to turn his thoughts to suicide. The extremely happy (some would say excessively sappy) ending works because Bailey, whose main problems remain unsolved, has suffered so much to earn it.