What’s Screening: June 23 – 29

Samurai, dancers, Mary Pickford, and alienated teenagers light up Bay Area movie screens this week. Also two film festivals.


New films opening

Maudie, Embarcadero, opens Friday

Here’s a love story, set on the beautiful Nova Scotia coast, about two people unlikely to find love. Maude (Sally Hawkins) suffers from severe arthritis. To escape her family, she takes a job as a live-in maid with Everett (Hawkes) – a loner who lives in a tiny house outside of town. Everett is emotionally repressed, outwardly macho, filled with inner pain, and deeply sad. They eventually marry and learn to love each other. But it’s never easy. As Maude gains fame as an artist, Everett can’t handle the changes. A lovely, heart-wrenching biography of Canadian artist Maud Lewis. Read my full review.

Festival Screenings

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Broncho Billy Silent Festival, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

Mary Pickford, actually 25 but playing a teenager, moves in with two overly-strict maiden aunts, and livens up the entire town. Thus 1917 adaption of the classic novel is episodic, charming, and funny. I’ll be introducing the screenings. Bruce Loeb will accompany the movie, and two shorts, on piano.

A- A Date for Mad Mary, FramelinePiedmont, Saturday, 4:30

The story is as old as romantic comedy, and yet, this Irish charmer doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. Mary (Seána Kerslake) goes directly from jail to preparing for her best friend’s wedding (the friend has turned into Bridezilla). Mary’s to be maid of honor, and that means she needs a date. But who would want her? She’s angry, alcoholic, acerbic, judgmental, immature, and occasionally violent. Not surprisingly, she’s also deeply sad and lonely. Warning: Screening this movie in a LGBTQ festival is already a spoiler.

Promising events

Freshflix Film Festival, Roxie, Thursday, 7:00

No, it’s not really a film festival – at least not in the Bay Area – but it still may be worth attending. The Roxy will screen 14 shorts from the real, Austrian-based Freshflix Film Festival. The shorts screened look at taxi drivers, astronauts, teachers, and human-bird relationships.

Riffer’s Delight: Footloose, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Thursday, 9:00

I never saw 1984’s teenage party flick, that also doubles as an attack on the religious right. Horrible reviews kept me away. But I strongly suspect it will be much better with comedians Nato Green, Natasha Muse, and Kaeli Quick adding their own commentary.

Recommended revivals

A+ Seven Samurai, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 7:00

If you think all action movies are mindless escapism, you need to set aside 3½ hours for Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece. The basic story–a poor village hires warriors to defend them against bandits–has been retold many times since, but Kurosawa told it first and told it best. This is an action film with almost no action in the first two hours. But when the fighting finally arrives, you’re ready for it, knowing every detail of the people involved, the terrain to be fought over, and the class differences between the peasants and their hired swords. One of the greatest movies ever made. See my Kurosawa Diary entry. Part of the series Samurai Rebellion: Toshiro Mifune, Screen Icon.

A- Sullivan’s Travels, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

Preston Sturges bit the hand that fed him caviar with this satire of Hollywood itself. Joel McCrea stars as a successful director tired of making light-hearted comedies like Ants in Your Pants of 1939. To prepare himself for making a serious drama about the depression, he disguises himself as a hobo and rides the rails. The movie turns surprisingly dark in the last act, and ends with a stirring speech proclaiming Sturges’ message: “Movies shouldn’t have messages.” On a double bill with Billy Wilder’s directorial debut, The Major and the Minor.

A- Dazed and Confused, Balboa, Saturday, 10:00

Think American Graffiti set in the stoned ’70s. As the school year ends in a small Texas town, students and recent alumni head out looking for pot, parties, and sex. Some of them find it. But Richard Linklater isn’t George Lucas (thank God), so Dazed and Confused finds greater depths in the many characters than the earlier film. The young, largely-unknown cast includes such future stars as Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and Matthew McConaughey. A Balboa Beer Movie.

B+ East of Eden, Castro, Wednesday

James Dean electrifies the screen and becomes a star and a legend in this John Steinbeck adaptation. He plays an alienated teenager at odds with his strict and religious father and his ever-so-upright younger brother. An updating of the Cain and Abel story set in early 20th-century rural California, Eden occasionally steers towards the over-dramatic, but for the most part it’s an effective story about a generation gap, made a decade before that term was coined. On a double bill with The Outsiders.

Fantastic Mr. Fox, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Monday through Wednesday

There’s a cartoon-like quality to a lot of Wes Anderson’s work, so it isn’t surprising that he would eventually make a real cartoon. Based on a story by Roald Dahl, Fantastic follows the adventures of a very sophisticated but not altogether competent fox (voiced by George Clooney) as he tries to outwit a farmer and keep his marriage together. Children and adults will find different reasons to enjoy this frantically-paced comic adventure. A Kids Camp presentation.

Continuing engagements

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)