What’s Screening: June 19 – 25

In festival news, Frameline continues through this week. But, in a push against Frameline, Outside the Frame opens today and runs through Sunday. No, it’s not a Republican homophobic festival, but one that “challenges Frameline’s complicity with Israeli apartheid,” under the banner “Queers for Palestine.”

Akeelah and the Bee, Roxie, Sunday, 10:30am

A talent for spelling gives Akeelah—a poor, eleven-year-old African American—a shot at escaping the ghetto. But first, she’s going to have to learn about more than words from her mentor, played by Laurence Fishburne. Yes, it’s inspirational, but that’s not always a bad thing. A family movie screening at the Frameline LGBTQ festival.

Comedy Short Subject Night, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

The monthly collection of two-reelers includes one of Buster Keaton’s best, One Week. I can also recommend the Laurel and Hardy entry, You’re Darn Tootin’–not they’re best silent but very funny. I haven’t seen the Chaplin short, Shanghaied, or the Charley Chase entry, No Father to Guide Him.

B+ Godzilla, Bal Theatre, San Leandro, Saturday, 7:00

Made in a country with recent memories of horrific bombings and destroyed cities, the original Godzilla presents the emotions of mass terror far more vividly than any of Hollywood’s giant monster movies of the same decade. Without English dubbing or added scenes with Raymond Burr, it’s a much better movie than you’d expect. It’s also, of course, the seed of one of cinema’s most popular and long-lasting franchises. The cast includes Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura. Also on the bill: A new documentary on Japanese horror films called Kaiju Gaiden.

A+ Jaws, various CineMark Theaters, Sunday and Wednesday

People associate Jaws with three men in a boat, but the picture is more than half over before the shark chase really begins. For that first half, Jaws is a suspenseful, witty variation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, An Enemy of the People, but with a central character more conflicted and less noble (Roy Scheider). Then the three men get on the boat and the picture turns into a hair-raising variation on Moby Dick. Jaws’ phenomenal success helped create the summer blockbuster, yet by today’s standards, it’s practically an art film–albeit one that could scare the living eyeballs out of you. See my Blu-ray review and Book vs. Movie article.

A+ Casablanca, Clay, Friday and Saturday, 11:55PM (just before midnight)

You’ve either already seen the best film to come out of the classic Hollywood studio system, or you know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece; it was just another sausage coming off the Warner assembly line. But somehow, just this once, everything came together perfectly. For more details, see Casablanca: The Accidental Masterpiece.

A- Harold and Maude, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

The 1971 comedy Harold and Maude fit the late hippy era as perfectly as Pink Floyd and the munchies. At a time when young Americans embraced non-conformity, free love, ecstatic joy, and 40-year-old Marx Brothers movies, this counterculture romance between an alienated and death-obsessed young man and an almost 80-year-old woman made total sense. The broad and outrageous humor helped considerably. But I do wish screenwriter Colin Higgins had found a better ending. See my full discussion.

C+ Serenity, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30

Like many superb, original shows that somehow made it onto a weekly network schedule, Joss Whedon’s Firefly failed to find an audience and died after only a few episodes. This big-screen spin-off is a gift from the series’ creators to the handful of people who saw the show and wanted more. And while it’s nice to see all of the characters again, the movie’s attempt to close the story is a bit of a let-down. So if you haven’t seen Firefly, skip the movie and see the show; it’s streaming on Netflix.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

Absolutely the worst Indiana Jones movie ever. First, Spielberg and company tried to make it dark and atmospheric, but only succeeded in making it unpleasant. Second, leading lady Kate Capshaw, now Spielberg’s wife, gives a performance about as enticing as nails on a chalkboard. And finally, the movie is horribly, irredeemably, D.W. Griffith-level racist. Two years after Attenborough’s Gandhi, Spielberg and Lucas assure us that India needed white people to protect the good, child-like Indians from their evil, fanatical compatriots.

B+ Clouds of Sils Maria, opens Friday

A great actress (Juliette Binoche) reluctantly accepts a part in a revival of the play that made her famous long ago. But this time, she’ll be playing a different, older character. To prepare for the role, the actress and her personal assistant (Kristen Stewart) take up residence in a remote house located in an astonishingly beautiful part of the Swiss Alps. As they run lines, they almost unconsciously work through their own complicated relationship, which only  slightly echoes the play’s characters. This isn’t quite a two-person film, but Binoche and Stewart truly carry the picture. Read my full review.