What’s Screening: Dec 2 – 8

This week we have Elf and Die Hard and Elf and Die Hard and Elf. Also The Front Page, The Life of Brian, and a rare, wonderful, largely forgotten comedy from the 1960s.

Also a full day of silent movies.


We’ve got two one-day festivals this weekend. And unless I’ve missed something, these are the last two festival of 2016.

  • A Day of Silents takes over the Castro Saturday with Chaplin shorts and five features–all with live accompaniment.
  • On Sunday, the Roxie celebrates programmer Elliot Lavine (he’s moving to Portland) with Lavine On The Lam.

Promising events

Howard Hughes pre-Code talkies restored, Rafael, Friday and Saturday

The Motion Picture Academy recently restored two comedies, both produced by Howard Hughes, and the Rafael will screen them. On Friday at 7:15, they’re show the first film version of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s classic stage play, The Front Page. I saw this long ago and liked it, although I didn’t like it anywhere near as much as the second film version–Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday. On Saturday, at 2:00, they’re screening Cock of the Air. I’ve never even heard of that one.

Las Vegas gangster double bill: Bugsy & Casino, Castro, Sunday, 5:30

I haven’t seen either of these films in quite a while. I remember liking Barry Levinson’s Bugsy, starring Warren Beatty as the gangster who invented Las Vegas. I also remember liking Martin Scorsese’s Casino, even though part of me felt that he was trying (unsuccessfully) to regain some of the Goodfellas
magic. It is, I believe, the last film he made with Robert De Niro.

Recommended revivals

A Life of Brian, Castro, Friday

Not quite as funny as Holy Grail (but still hilarious), the Pythons’ second (and last) narrative feature digs a little deeper than its predecessor. Its story of a hapless citizen of Roman-occupied Judea, mistaken for the messiah, satirizes faith, fanaticism (both religious and political), and the human tendency to blindly follow leaders. The religious right attacked it viciously when it came out, which is kind of funny since the movie’s strongest satire is aimed at left-wing radicals. On a double bill with History of the World, Part I.

A- Ixcanul, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:30; Sunday, 2:00

Cinema can take you into cultures you would otherwise never experience. This Guatemalan film brings us into the world of Maria, a teenage Mayan living with her family near an active volcano. Poisonous snakes threaten their farmland. The big bosses couldn’t care little. And, as teenage girls often do, she falls for a handsome jerk and must suffer the consequences.

B+ The President’s Analyst, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

This little comedy from 1967 deserves recognition, even if it-s extremely outdated. The White House hires a psychiatrist (James Coburn) to help the president deal with his emotional burden. Soon spies from every country on Earth converge to kidnap the unfortunate doctor (and stop other spies from kidnapping him). Although the movie shows its age in almost every possible way, the film’s surprise ending seems remarkably prescient. Introduced by graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. Archival print.

B+ The Golden Coach, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 4:00

Jean Renoir’s 1952 Technicolor comedy deals with arrogant aristocrats, starving artists, and, yes, a horse-drawn coach gilded with gold. Anna Magnani stars as a member of a commedia dell’arte troupe, stranded in a remote outpost of 17th-century South America, where she juggles a dashing soldier, a famous and egotistical matador, and the aristocratic viceroy of the colony. Her life soon reflects her art. A very fun and funny movie. The final screening in the series Anna Magnani: Eternal Soul of Italian Cinema.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)

One thought on “What’s Screening: Dec 2 – 8

  1. I wonder if I’m alone in my inability to watch either “Casino”, or “Goodfellas” again? The reason is, quite simply, that Scorsese, more than any other film director, manages to evoke the very real horror of one person murdering another. Whereas films like “Die Hard” (ironically, one of my favorite “Christmas movies”), and Tarantino’s movies, full of uncaring slaughter, portray murder in cartoonish ways, often drawing laughter from the audience, Scorsese makes us feel that this is, actually, the way it’s done; this is the way it feels, to kill or to be killed. That his characters so often murder casually, without feeling, (the “ice pick” scene, in “Goodfellas”, for example) makes it even more horrible, because they seem to violate something we believe to be true about being a human being. Simply put, we don’t want to believe that death can come so quickly and casually, and we don’t want to believe that people can commit such acts, and then go and laugh with their buddies at a bar; just another murder.
    “You think I’m funny?” No, not at all. Not in the least.
    In other words, they give me the creeps. Happy Holidays.

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