What’s Screening: November 14 – 20

A lot of festivals this week, most of which will be closed by the end of the week.

Whether in festivals or not, there aren’t many films playing this week for which I can give an honest opinion. But here are the opinions I can give:

A+ The Thief of Bagdad, Rafael, Sunday, 4:30. One of the greatest fantasy adventures ever made, thiefbagdad1940and made decades before Star Wars clones glutted the market. The special effects lack today’s realism, but they still pack an emotional punch (my daughter, when she was young, found this giant spider scarier than the ones in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings). The sets are magnificent, the dialog enchanting, and the story’s randomness gives it a true Arabian Nights flavor. And all in glorious Technicolor. Since there are no available 35mm prints, and it hasn’t been prepared for DCP, the Rafael will screen it from an HD CAM tape previously used at the Film Forum. Part of a series hosted by Dennis Muren, the Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic,.

Made in Niles, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30. To celebrate the Museum’s 500th Saturday imagenight show, they’re screening six short subjects made in Niles, mostly by the Essanay Film Company. These will, of course, include starring turns by Broncho Billy and Charlie Chaplin. But they’re also screening a brand-new short made by Niles enthusiasts, Broncho Billy and the Bandit’s Secrets. Frederick Hodges will accompany on piano.

A Metropolis, Castro, Saturday. The first important science fiction feature film still strikes a considerable visual punch,and with the latest restoration, tells a compelling story, as well. The images–workers in a hellish underground factory, the wealthy at play, a robot brought to life in the form of a beautiful woman–are a permanent part of our collective memory. Even people who haven’t seen Metropolis know them through the countless films it has influenced. Recently-discovered footage, which restores it to something very much like the original cut, elevates the story of a clash between workers and aristocrats from trite melodrama to grand opera. Read my longer report and my Blu-ray review. With the recorded score rather than live accompaniment.. On a double bill with the newly-restored Robocop, which I haven’t seen in a long time but remember liking.

B When Comedy Went To School, Oshman Family JCC, Sunday, 4:00. This sweet, nostalgic documentary looks at the culture, traditions, and humor that defined the Catskills from the 1930s through the 1960s, and in doing so created the art of standup comedy. Like all documentaries covering recent history, When Comedy Went to School contains a lot of interview footage, but this time around, the interview subjects are amongst the funniest people alive. This very short feature moves at a good clip and covers a lot of ground, but ignores one important side of the story: What did these comics learn in this "school." Read my full review.

A- Force Majeure, Aquarius, opens Friday. The carefully controlled, not-quite-natural outdoor experience of a fancy ski resort becomes a metaphor for the veneer imageof a troubled marriage in this Swedish drama set in the French alps. When an avalanche threatens his family, Tomas fails to protect them as he should. Soon his wife loses all respect for her husband, and Tomas losses all respect for himself. All this is set within a resort that appears to be just a bit more realistic than Disneyland.  Force Majeure studies courage and fear, and the destructive behavior that can destroy a marriage. But it’s about the artificial worlds we create for our own enjoyment. See my full review.

Mystery Science Theater 3000, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30. Regular readers know that I’m a fan of the classic bad-movie-with-commentary TV show, Mystery Science Theater 3000. I have never seen an episode on the big screen with a full audience, but I suspect I’d enjoy it–especially if it’s a really good episode. I hope this will be a good episode, no one is telling us which one will be screened.

C- Gone with the Wind, Stanford, continues through the week. I love big historical epics, but the biggest of them all just leaves me flat. First, there’s the blatant white supremacy. I’m used to racism in old movies, and generally just wince.But the racism in Gone with the Wind makes me cringe. The entire story depends on assumptions of white masters and black slaves as the natural order (you can read my in-depth comments). Leaving racial issues aside, the first part is pretty good, but boredom sets in after the intermission. The picture has one thing going for it: It used color far more creatively and effectively than any previous movie. 35mm print.