What’s Screening: October 13 – 19

How appropriate! We’ve got a Friday the 13th in October. But hey, who needs scary movies when Trump is in the White House.

Anyway, this week we’ve got five film festivals, a great new film, and an awesome Frankenstein triple bill – all in Bay Area movie theaters.


New films opening

A- The Florida Project, Embarcadero, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, opens Friday

Cheap motels, filled with desperate people, abound on the edge of Disney World. Sean Baker’s touching film concentrates on children staying in these motels – especially Moonie (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a little girl living with her fun, free-spirited, but irresponsible mother. The kids run around unsupervised, and every time they run through the parking lot or a busy street, your heart misses a beat. The motel manager (Willem Defoe) watches over the kids the best he can, which isn’t much. An amazing journey into a part of America you’ve probably never experienced.

Festival Screenings

A In Syria, Arab Film Festival, Roxie, Sunday, 7:45

I hope that this film is the closest you’ll ever get to being a civilian in a warzone. An extended family – including a young married couple with a baby – are trapped in their once-comfortable apartment as war rages around them. Snipers, looters, and rapists threaten everyone. Leaving the apartment is extremely dangerous, but staying isn’t much safer. The suspense never lets up, and it’s not the fun sort of suspense you expect from Hollywood. This is an extremely difficult film to watch, but it’s one that every adult should see.

? Performance, Modern Cinema, SFMOMA, Friday, 6:00

This exceptionally weird film from 1970 stars James Fox as a very violent criminal and Mick Jagger as a burned-out rock star living a decadent life of drugs and sex with two beautiful women (one played by Anita Pallenberg). I liked it when it was new, but at that age I pretty much liked anything that was weird and rated X. Just don’t even try to follow the story. Co-directed by Nicolas Roeg, who never made a not-weird movie in his life.

Promising events

Apollo 13, Lark, Tuesday through Thursday

Sometimes it’s hard to get down to Earth. I remember liking Ron Howard’s fact-based thriller about the back-luck trip that didn’t get to the moon, but I never got around to seeing it again. John Sayles did an uncredited rewrite on the screenplay. All three pay-what-you-can screenings benefit Harvey Arts Recovery.

Friday the 13th
(original, 1980 version), New Parkway, Friday, 10:15

Back in the 1980s, very few teenagers lived long enough to make the closing credits. Here’s the movie that started the franchise. I didn’t care for it much, but a lot of other people loved it.

Recommended revivals

Boris Karloff Frankenstein triple bill: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, & Son of Frankenstein, Castro, Sunday

No one played Dr. Frankenstein’s nameless creation like Boris Karloff, who took the role in three movies from the 1930s. He played the monster as a child in a too-large body, the ultimate outcast torn between his need for love and his anger at the society that rejects him. All three are good, but the middle one, James Whales’ Bride of Frankenstein, is a masterpiece, opening up the monster’s poetic soul. With Colin Clive as the mad scientist, Ernest Thesiger as a delightfully over-the-top madder scientist, and Elsa Lanchester as both Mary Shelley and the monster’s mate. Basil Rathbone plays Mad Scientist Jr. in the third film.

B+ Our Man in Havana, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 5:45

In one of the best espionage comedies to come out of the cold war, Alec Guinness plays an English shopkeeper in pre-revolution Havana, trying desperately to make ends meet–a difficult task with his shopaholic teenage daughter. So he takes a very lucrative side job in the British secret intelligence, even though he has no idea what he’s doing. Luckily, his bosses back in London (led by a very funny Ralph Richardson) are stupid enough to believe him. Read my earlier report. Part of the series Fallen Idols: Graham Greene on Screen.

B+ Comedy Shorts Night¸ Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

I’ve seen, and liked, all four of this month’s selection of short comedies. Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street is a comic gem, with the Tramp becoming a cop and cleaning up a bad neighborhood. Harold Lloyd’s Haunted Spooks is an effective and funny haunted house comedy…if you can get passed some very offensive racist jokes. Fatty Arbuckle’s The Bellboy (co-starring Buster Keaton) is uneven, but often very funny. The early Laurel and Hardy short, Do Detectives Think, is one of the first where their classic characters are beginning to crystalize. Greg Pane provides piano accompaniment.

B The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, New Parkway, Sunday, 3:05

This important piece of German expressionism is an easier film to admire than to like. The story is very conventional–at least until the end. But visually speaking, this must be one of the weirdest commercial films ever made. It’s strange design and way over-the-top acting keeps the audience at an arms-length. The constant intensity can be exhausting. But the atmosphere can also have a powerful hold. The New Parkway isn’t advertising any live music, so I’m guessing that they’ll use a recorded score.

Continuing Revivals

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)