What’s Screening: Feb 17 – 23

Aristocrats, dogs, charming thieves, oil speculators, hippies, and Hell’s Angels appear on Bay Area screens this week.


Promising events

A Thousand Cuts: the Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies, Roxie, Thursday, 6:30

I have yet to read Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph’s book about film collectors and how they saved cinema history. (I’ve bought a copy, but my to-read stack is very high.) Both authors will be there to present rare and unusual clips.

The Exterminating Angel, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Thursday, 7:30

Luis Buñuel took down the upper classes with a sharpness that the Marx Brothers might have envied in this surreal satire. The hosts and guests at a formal dinner find that they can’t leave. The door can open, but for some unexplained reason, no one can step through it. Trapped for days, they run out of food, water, and civilization. It’s been years since I’ve seen The Exterminating Angel, but I recall it being funny and well pointed. Part of the series A Crack in the World: Cinema of Chaos and Transcendence.

The NY Dog Film Festival, Roxie, Sunday, Lark, Monday

This isn’t really a film festival. It’s simply two separate collections of shorts about dogs. The films will cover canine cures for human PTSD, finding new homes for discarded dogs, and an animated comedy about a cowardly canine. Admission prices are $15 for humans and $5 for dogs (yes, they’ll be allowed inside).

The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:30

Hand-Tinted and Toned 35mm Print. Eleven years before Walt Disney made Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, Lotte Reiniger used cut-out silhouettes to make what is probably the first animated feature. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Adventures of Prince Achmed, but I remember a magical experience. Piano accompaniment by Judith Rosenberg. Part of the series Movie Matinees for All Ages 2017.

Recommended revivals

A Trouble in Paradise, Stanford, Thursday and next Friday

What’s so fascinating and entertaining about witty, sophisticated crooks that makes us want to root for them? I’m not sure, but this near-perfect pre-code screwball proves that whatever it is, it works. Yet another wonderfully amoral Ernst Lubitsch comedy about sex, love, money, and larceny. Starring Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, and Herbert Marshall. On a double bill with another Lubitsch movie, One Hour With You.

A There Will Be Blood, New Mission, Thursday, 7:00

Paul Thomas Anderson’s small, character-driven films feel like epics, so there’s no surprise that he’d eventually try the real thing. Or that he’d get it right. Based on an Upton Sinclair novel called Oil! (the name change makes no sense), There Will be Blood is big, sprawling, and spectacular, and captures not just a moment in history but a 30-year transition. Read my full review.

A MilkNew Parkway, Sunday, 3:00

Yep, I’m always a sucker for a historical epic, and it’s such a rare treat to see one set in a time and place where I actually lived. Sprawling but never boring, and inspiring without preaching, Milk tells the story of America’s first openly gay elected official, from his closeted time in New York to his Castro activism, his all-to-brief service in City Hall, and his tragic assassination. I’ve always known that Sean Penn was a great actor; it’s nice to know that he can do “happy” as well as more downbeat emotions. James Franco is also very good in what is basically the “chick” part.

A- Gimme Shelter, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 7:00

The dark side of Woodstock. Merely four months after the ultimate festival of hippy utopia, the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont showed how easily sex, drugs, and rock and roll could slip into a nightmare. The Maysles brothers caught the disastrous concert, where hippies and Hells Angels fought violently and sometimes fatally just offstage, and turned it into a requiem for the death of flower-child idealism. Part of the series Hippie Modernism: Cinema and Counterculture, 1964–1974.

A- Birdman Live, Rafael, Saturday

This isn’t just a screening of the 2014 Oscar winner. Composer Antonio Sanchez will perform the score live while, onscreen, Michael Keaton plays a has-been movie star who may or may not have superpowers. Like Hitchcock’s Rope, Birdman pretends it was shot in a single take. But unlike Rope, the gimmick works this time around–better technology, I suppose. Much of the film is hysterically funny, but the picture is just a bit too long, and in the end, it doesn’t quite satisfy.

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)