The festivals are coming on strong this week:
- The San Francisco Irish Film Festival closes Saturday
- The Matatu Film Festival opens its four-day run on Wednesday
- The San Francisco Latino Film Festival opens tonight and runs through the week and a bit beyond
And now this:
A Diary of a Teenage Girl, New Parkway, opens Friday
Minnie (Bel Powley in an amazing breakthrough performance) isn’t just any teenage girl. She’s an inspiring cartoonist with an irresponsible hippie mother in 1977 San Francisco–and she’s just lost her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend. The movie bursts with conflict, absurdities, and underground-comic-style animation as it captures San Francisco in the late 70s flawlessly (I was there). But even better, it captures the rocky emotions of a young woman overwhelmed with hormones and not sure what to do with them.
A- Grandma, Balboa, opens Friday
Here’s a star vehicle in every sense of the word–a movie that’s based entirely on showing off Lilly Tomlin’s talent. Fortunately, Tomlin’s talent could easily fill eight movies. As an aging poet trying to raise money to help her granddaughter pay for an abortion, Tomlin is acerbic, touching, unpredictable, outrageous, angry, concerned, and–of course–very funny, The story and the supporting players, especially Julia Garner as the granddaughter, are really there for Tomlin to have people to talk to. But her poet is such a wonderfully unique, real, and funny person (if not always a very nice one) that it makes the movie more than just worthwhile.
B+ Midnight Cowboy, Balboa & Castro, Thursday
The only X-rated film to ever win Best Picture (it was eventually re-rated R without changes), Midnight Cowboy also made Jon Voight a star and proved that Dustin Hoffman was more than The Graduate. Voight plays a naïve Texan who comes to New York thinking he’ll make a lot of money as a prostitute. As I said, he’s naïve. Hoffman plays a grifter who becomes his only friend. A gritty study of two lost souls in the heartless city. The Castro will screen it on a double bill with The Falcon & the Snowman, which I vaguely remember liking.
A+ Lawrence of Arabia, Castro, Friday through Sunday
Presented in 70mm!
Lawrence isn’t just the best big historical epic of the 70mm roadshow era, it’s one of the greatest films ever made. Stunning to look at and terrific as pure spectacle, it’s also an intelligent study of a fascinatingly complex and enigmatic war hero. T. E. Lawrence—at least in this film—both loved and hated violence, and tried liberating Arabia by turning it over to the British. No, that’s not a flaw in the script, but in his character. This masterpiece requires a very large screen and excellent projection–either 70mm or 4K DCP–to do it full justice. The Castro is an excellent theater for seeing it. For more on Lawrence, read The Digital Lawrence of Arabia Experience and Thoughts on Lawrence of Arabia.
A Psycho, various CineMark theaters, Sunday (matinee only) and Wednesday
You may never want to take a shower again. In his last great movie, Alfred Hitchcock pulls the rug out from under us several times, leaving the audience unsure who we’re supposed to be rooting for or what could constitute a happy ending. In roles that defined their careers, Janet Leigh stars as a secretary turned thief, and Anthony Perkins as a momma’s boy with a lot to hide. I’ll always regret that I knew too much about Psycho before I ever saw it; I wish I could erase all memory of this movie and watch it with fresh eyes.
B- The Birds, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00
Alfred Hitchcock’s only out-and-out fantasy has some great sequences. The scene where Tippi Hedren calmly sits and smokes while crows gather on playground equipment, and the following attack on the children, are classics. The lovely Bodega Bay location adds atmosphere and local color, and many of the special effects were way ahead of their time. But the story is weak, the ending unsatisfactory, and that lovely scenery plays side-by-side with obvious soundstage mockups. Worse yet, new-comer Hedren doesn’t provide a single believable moment. She’s beautiful, but utterly lacking in acting talent or charisma.
A Tangerine, Castro, Tuesday
Sometimes a new movie blows apart every concept you had about what a motion picture can be. Sean Baker’s tale of a transgender prostitute out for justice creates just that sort of magic. Fast, frenetic, funny, and sad, Tangerine looks like no other movie I’ve ever seen, in part because it was shot entirely on iPhones. And yes, that works, allowing the filmmakers to capture the tarnished glamour of today’s Hollywood (the neighborhood, not the industry). The most exciting and original new film I’ve seen this year. Did I tell you it’s a Christmas movie? Read my full review. On a double bill with Magic Mike XXL.
A Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine, Lark, opens Friday
Director Alex Gibney starts this multifaceted documentary with a difficult question: Why did so many people who never met Steve Jobs mourn his death? Jobs was brilliant, mercurial, and charismatic. He made technology friendly for the average person, and significantly changed the world. But he was also a jerk that cheated friends, let his daughter grow up on welfare while he became incredibly wealthy, and parked his sports car in handicap spaces. Gibney offers us an excellent, no-holds-barred, yet empathetic biography of a man utterly lacking in empathy. Read my full review.