What’s Screening: June 10 – 16

This week we have a Martian, lots of Chaplin, and the two weakest Indiana Jones movies–although only one of them is really bad.


Promising events

Science on Screen & The Martian 3D, Rafael, Thursday, 6:30

Dr. Pascal Lee will discuss the planning and preparation for the first human mission to Mars. That will be followed by a 3D screening of The Martian. You can read my comments on the film.

The Big Broadcast, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 5:00

The early thirties were the golden age of Hollywood revue movies. These had paper-thin plots that were mere excuses for vaudevillians to do their shtick. I haven’t seen this one since the 1970s, but I remember it fondly–if vaguely. With Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, the Mills Brothers, Kate Smith, and Burns and Allen.

Cereal Cinema, New Parkway, Saturday, 10:00am
The New Parkway’s website promises “family-friendly fun, accompanied by an all-you-can-eat cereal bar. We’ll have classic cartoons from decades past on the screen, none announced until the day of the event, but all of a PG or G equivalency.”

Olivia de Havilland & Errol Flynn double bill: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex & Santa Fe Trail, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

I saw The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex ages ago, and liked it well enough. It was based on Maxwell Anderson’s play Elizabeth the Queen, and Bette Davis is the real star. If I recall correctly, Flynn’s acting chops weren’t up for the challenge. Santa Fe Trail covers the story of John Brown from a very southern point of view, with considerable Gone with the Wind-level racism. It argues that the Civil War could have been avoided if only those foolish abolitionists had understood the upsides of slavery. With Ronald Reagan as George Custer.

Recommended revivals

C+ The Gold Rush (1942 narrated version), Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

In his 1942 re-release of his epic comic masterpiece, Charlie Chaplin desecrated his own work to a degree that would shame George Lucas. He removed all of the intertitles, and added a near-constant, over-explaining, and extremely annoying narration that he wrote and performed himself. Voice work was not his strength. Annoying as it is, this lesser Gold Rush still offers some of cinema’s funniest set pieces, including the Thanksgiving dinner of boiled shoe and the fight over the rifle that always points at Charlie. Read my Blu-ray Review, which discusses both versions. Also on the bill: two shorts, The Bond and Police, accompanied by Bruce Loeb on piano. Part of Charlie Chaplin DaysNote: I found out that they’d be screening the 1949 version, and changed this description accordingly, after this newsletter went live.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Balboa, Thursday, 7:30

The best film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton examines a dysfunctional marriage held together by mutual denial. This was the first big-screen adaptation of an Edward Albee play, director Mike Nichols’ first film (his second would be The Graduate), one of the last black-and-white films made before they all but disappeared, and–with its age restriction–an important precursor to the rating system. Aside from being a record breaker, it’s also a very good film.

A- La Dolce Vita, New Mission, Saturday, 4:00

Yes, this story of a gossip journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) living on the outskirts of the rich and decadent has many great moments. Consider the opening shot of Jesus flying through the air via helicopter, or the climactic out-of-control party. The famous fountain scene is absolutely stunning. The entire film makes brilliant use of the Cinemascope frame. But the story doesn’t really go anywhere, and there are long, dull areas in between the brilliance. I can’t quite call it a masterpiece.

B The Great Race, Rafael, Wednesday, 7:00

In 1908, six automobiles set out on a New York-to-Paris car race. That’s history. In 1965, Blake Edwards took the basic idea, created new and very broad characters, and turned it into a very long (160 minutes) slapstick comedy starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Jack Lemmon at his hammiest. It’s the sort of farce where the villain wears black and the hero wears white. One of the best roadshow comedies of that era; although that isn’t saying much.

A- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00am

Easily the best entertainment to come out of the once-reliable Lucasfilm since, well, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Don’t worry about the plot, which is as implausible as the hero’s luck. Like all Indiana Jones flicks, this one is about clever lines, period costumes, self-referential jokes, and ridiculously exciting action. See my full review.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)