What’s Screening: August 28 – September 3

No festivals this week. But a very, very special event happening Sunday:

A+ The Crowd, Castro, Sunday, 7:00

If you get to one movie this week, this is the screening you should attend!
A young man comes to New York, dreaming of success and wealth. But reality refuses to live up to his dreams–perhaps because he dreams too much– in King Vidor’s 1928 masterpiece. Told with daring photography, real locations, surreal sets, and subtle pantomime, The Crowd brings you through dizzying joy and wrenching tragedy as it follows the story of an ordinary man who refuses to accept that he’s ordinary. As a rule, the silent cinema was weakest with straight drama, but The Crowd is the glorious exception. It’s a rare film and difficult to see; unavailable on disc and currently not streaming anywhere (at least legally). Read my longer appreciation. Bruce Loeb will accompany The Crowd on the Castro’s Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. And here’s another reason not to miss the screening. This is the very last time a silent film will be accompanied by the Wurlitzer before it will be replaced with a high-tech imitation.

A The Killing, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30

Stanley Kubrick started his Hollywood career with this crackerjack noir heist thriller. A career criminal (Sterling Hayden) orchestrates a complex racetrack robbery likely to net two million 1956 dollars. But he needs collaborators, and each one of these collaborators (none experienced in crime) has to do his job perfectly. Needless to say, human frailty is going to get in the way. Hayden’s rat-a-tat-tat delivery does wonders for snappy, pulp-heavy dialog like “You’d be killing a horse – that’s not first degree murder. In fact it’s not murder at all. In fact I don’t know what it is.” I wrote about The Killing in more detail in 2014.

A Stop Making Sense, New Parkway, Friday, 10;30

The Talking Heads and film director Jonathan Demme and realized that a concert film doesn’t have to be a documentary. They barely show us the audience and never the backstage in this lively concert film (actually compiled from three different concerts). But what an amazing piece of rock and roll performance art they provide! Strange dance moves, great riffs, puzzling and possibly profound lyrics, and a very big suit, all backed by a beat that makes Stop Making Sense the most danceable motion picture ever to receive a theatrical release. And with its living room-like décor, the New Parkway just may be the best movie theater for dancing.

A The Apartment, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

Billy Wilder won a Best Picture Oscar for this serious comedy about powerful men exploiting both attractive women and their male underlings. Jack Lemmon gave one of his best performances as a very small cog in the machinery of a giant, New York-based insurance company. 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 and Lemmon loves. Read my Blu-ray review.

A Airplane!, various CineMark Theaters, Sunday (matinee only) and Wednesday

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. Surprisingly enough, most of them do. 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.

A Apu Trilogy, Lark, Sunday, full trilogy starts at 11:00am

Epic in scope, Satyajit Ray’s three-film masterwork follows the life of poverty-born Apu from birth through young adulthood. None of the films has a plot in the conventional sense, but they all brim with drama, laughter, joy, suspense, and heart-breaking tragedy. In other words, they’re about life–specifically life in early 20th-century India, and that means life in a society where dying of old age is rare. Subrata Mitra’s atmospheric photography, Ravi Shankar’s wonderful score, and a terrific cast (four actors of different ages play the title character) make this an exceptional cinematic experience. Read my longer article.

A+ Some Like It Hot, Oakland Paramount, Friday, 8:00

The urge to sleep with Marilyn Monroe comes head to head with the urge to keep breathing in Billy Wilder’s comic masterpiece. After witnessing a prohibition-era gangland massacre, two struggling musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) hide from the mob by dressing in drag and joining an all-girl orchestra. But can they stay away from Ms. Monroe and her ukulele? There are comedies with higher laugh-to-minute ratios, and others that have more to say about the human condition. But you won’t find a better example of perfect comic construction, brilliantly funny dialog, and spot-on timing. Read my Blu-ray review.

C The Sound of Music, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

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–in a picture postcard kind of way.

A Listen To Me Marlon, Roxie, opens Friday

I’ve seen a lot of documentaries about movie stars. But I’ve never before seen one quite like this. Brando recorded his thoughts and feelings into tape recorders over the course of his life, and director Stevan (not a misspelling) Riley used these recordings in place of the usual voice-of-God narration. You won’t get as many facts in Listen to Me Marlon as you would in a conventional documentary, but you’ll get a far stronger sense of exactly what made this great actor tick. Read my full review.

A The End of the Tour, New Parkway, opens Friday

Based on a true story about the meeting of two brilliant minds, The End of the Tour provides something rare in movies–intellectual discussion. In 1996, journalist and budding novelist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) spent several days interviewing suddenly respected novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel). They bond, sort of, but Lipsky wants access to Wallace’s private thoughts, and Wallace is reluctant to open up. Segel turns Wallace into a fascinating character–deeply troubled and, despite his fame, deeply insecure.

A- Best of Enemies, Lark, opens Saturday

In the tumultuous year of 1968, the ABC television network put the reactionary William F. Buckley Jr. and the progressive Gore Vidal on TV to debate the issues of the day. They were both erudite, east-coast intellectuals, and their world views were as different as they could get. This breezy and entertaining documentary offers a plausible argument that those debates changed American TV news, and thus changed America. If you’re at all interested in recent American history, see this film. Read my full review.