What’s Screening: Jan 13 – 19

Here’s what’s happening in Bay Area movie theaters during what feels like the last week of American democracy.


  • SF Sketchfest continues through this week and beyond
  • Three double features over the course of three days isn’t quite a festival, but this is as good a place as any to mention the Roxie‘s Paul Verhoeven Weekend

Promising events

Sundance Film Festival 2016 Short Film Tour¸ Rafael, Saturday through Monday, 1:00

Eight shorts from last year’s Sundance fest, “including some award winners.” Among those winners are Bacon & God’s Wrath (Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction), Edmond (Short Film Jury Award: Animation), and The Procedure (pictured above; Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction).

‘The Kentucky Fried Movie’ 40th Anniversary screening, Castro, Sunday, 10:00

I have warm memories of this collection of sketches disguised as a feature film. Obscene, silly, and very funny, in a very much 1970s way. The film will be followed with Q&A with filmmakers John Landis, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; moderated by Marc Hershon.

Recommended revivals

A+ Coming of Trump comedy double bill: Duck Soup & The Great Dictator, Castro, Thursday

I couldn’t think of two better movies to watch as a (hopefully) would-be dictator moves into the White House. The A+ goes to the Marx Brothers’ masterpiece, Duck Soup. The comedy is set in the top offices of a 1930s European government, and you couldn’t find a better setting for attacking the self-important and the pompous. The brothers at their sharpest, most satirical, and funniest. Read my appreciation. Charlie Chaplin’s takes down the Nazis in his first talkie, The Great Dictator. Chaplin plays dual roles as a Jewish barber (basically the tramp with a voice and an ethnicity), and Der Fooey, Adenoid Hynkel, Dictator of Tomania. I give it an A-.

A To Be Or Not To Be, Stanford, Friday through Monday

More anti-fascist comedy. The Nazis conquered Poland with frightening speed. But they prove no match for Carol Lombard and Jack Benny in Ernst Lubitsch’s World War II comic masterpiece. As a married pair of egotistical stars of the Warsaw stage, Lombard and Benny lead a theatrical troupe of slightly lesser egos as they outwit the gestapo. The rare screwball comedy that’s willing to get serious when the story demands it. Read my Blu-ray review. On a double bill with Casablanca, which I list below in the Lebowskies.

A The African Queen, Castro, Wednesday

Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately-attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. See my Blu-ray review. On a double bill with River of No Return.

A Spotlight, Rafael, Thursday, 7:00

A quartet of dogged and determined journalists at the Boston Globe blows open the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. Most of the characters are nominally Catholic, complicating their feelings about the work. Based on a true story, Spotlight celebrates real investigative journalism, backed up by an editor and publisher who are willing to take chances. An excellent cast–headed by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Liev Schrieber–brings drama to a story whose ending we already know. A benefit for Sunny Hills Services.

A- Pan’s Labyrinth, Cerrito, Saturday, 10:00

Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) lives in fascist Spain with a cruel and powerful stepfather–a very dangerous and scary place to live. But so is the fantasy realm into which she frequently escapes. At least the fantasy world, which may or may not be a figment of her imagination, contains the possibility of hope. Guillermo del Toro fashioned a nightmare inside of a nightmare, filled with dark, gruesome, and often gory imagery, a child’s fantasy that’s appropriate only for adults.

A- The Docks of New York, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

Josef Von Sternberg’s strength has always been his visual style, but in silents, that style soars with a freedom that talkies couldn’t match. Docks feels like the seamy underbelly of On the Town. A stoker on shore leave saves a suicidal prostitute and then marries her on a whim. Full of atmosphere, eroticism, and a lead character whose motivations are never clear, but whose surprising actions are always believable. With the short subjects Over the Top and The Best Man. Frederick Hodges accompanies on piano.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)