What’s Screening: February 9 – 15

So many great movies screen this week in the Bay Area it’s daunting. And that doesn’t include the five film festivals

I had to create a whole other post just about films at the New Parkway.


It’s not really a festival, but the New Parkway is bringing out a lot of classic romantic movies as part of Love Week. Check out my recommendations.

Promising events

Ivan the Terrible, Part I & Part II, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 2:00, Part II at 4:30

It’s been decades since I’ve seen Sergei Eisenstein’s last two films – two thirds of an uncompleted trilogy. A celebration of the birth of the Russian monarchy, the Ivan series (or perhaps the Terrible series) was intended to celebrate a strong and ruthless leader (just like Stalin). Unfortunately, the then-current Communist czar didn’t like Part II, which had to sit in the vaults for 12 years before it could be publicly seen. Its strengths come from the photography and the music, not from the story. Part of the series Sergei Eisenstein: Films That Shook the World.

Recommended revivals

A+ Cries and Whispers, Pacific Film Archive, Thursday, 7:00

No horror movie can come close to the fear, dread, and dark hatreds of Ingmar Bergman’s deep chamber drama. To watch it is to face the end of a slow and painful death by cancer. But that’s not all. This film, centered around four women and set almost entirely in one house, forces you to face the neglect and out-and-out cruelties with which we treat those who should be closest to us. How do you face the death of someone you love? Or worse yet, someone that you think you should love, but there’s very little love in your soul. This is not escapist entertainment. Read my Blu-ray review.

A+ Hoop Dreams, Rafael, Thursday, 6:30

I’d be hard put to name another documentary that feels so much like a narrative feature. This cinéma vérité story of two inner-city teenagers hoping to win basketball scholarships, offers charismatic protagonists, interesting and likeable supporting players, plot twists, joy, disappointment, and suspense–just like the best narrative features. The filmmakers followed both boys through high school, and over the nearly three-hour running time (and the five years of shooting), you become completely invested in their story and their families. The picture is really about the American dream, and the people whom society all but disqualifies from attaining it. Read my Blu-ray review.

A Science Vs Cinema: Alien, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Monday, 7:00

An extremely adaptable predator gets onboard a cargo ship in deep space, and soon the seven crew members are fighting for their lives. The movie provides more than extremely well-crafted suspense and action. For the first time in cinema, space travelers are portrayed not as heroic astronauts, but as blue-collar truckers. They complain about the food and their pay. And as the story unfolds, you realize just how expendable these people are in the eyes of the corporation that employs them. This is the film that made Sigourney Weaver a star. In this Science Vs Cinemas presentation (the first of a month-long series), science communicator Kishore Hari and astrophysicist Jeffrey Silverman will discuss what the filmmakers got wrong and what they got right.

A The Hitch-Hiker, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 8:00

This three-person tale, directed by Lupino, is taut and suspenseful throughout. Two men on a fishing vacation pick up a hitchhiker, who turns out to be a psychotic killer wanted by the police. Holding them at gunpoint, he forces his prisoners to drive into Baja California, where he hopes to cover his tracks and be safe forever. They know quite well that he only intends to keep them alive until he no longer needs them. William Talman doesn’t bring nuance to the killer, but he brings a menace that could curdle water. Part of the series Ida Lupino: Hard, Fast, and Beautiful.

A Life Itself, Rafael, Tuesday, 6:30

This totally biased, yet entertaining and informative documentary examines the life and death of Roger Ebert–the brilliant writer, passionate cinephile, and overweight alcoholic who became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, and then the most influential film critic of all time. But be prepared. This film spends a lot of time looking at a man without a jaw. It’s pretty disturbing at first, but Ebert’s upbeat and joking personality helps you adjust. And, of course, there’s a lot about movies here. Read my full review. Filmmaker in person.

B+ A Matter of Life and Death, Rafael, Wednesday, 7:00

This funny and charming movie from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger follows a British bomber pilot who should have died after bombing Germany (David Niven). His survival creates a serious problem for heaven’s bureaucrats – there’s one extra person on Earth and one missing soul in the afterlife. Newly in love, the pilot refuses to join the dead, and must plead for his life in a celestial court. The great cinematographer Jack Cardiff mixed color and black and white in ways that seem impossible with 1940s technologies. New 4K digital restoration.

B Cabin In the Woods, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, Tuesday, 7:30

By the 21st century, the only way to approach this sort of dead teenager movie was to make it an ironic comment on the genre (like Scream). This time around, a group of corporate white-collar workers control, watch, and bet on the fate of four teenagers who leave town for a weekend and find only horror. By showing us the kid’s suffering through the uncaring eyes of the office workers, filmmakers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon force us to confront the voyeuristic nature of the genre. But the movie’s ending just didn’t do it for me. A SF Beer Week presentation.

B- Alexander Nevsky, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 4:30

Sergei Eisenstein’s first talkie (after a decade with no complete films) is a big, spectacular patriotic ritual–a call for the Russian people to band together and fight the Teutonic invaders. (Not surprisingly, Stalin banned the film in the days of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and then brought it out again after the Germans did invade.) As spectacle, few movies equal Alexander Nevsky, but there’s something dead on the inside. A film more to be admired than loved.

Continuing Engagements

Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)