Astaire and Rogers, Powell and Loy, Harryhausen and Disney, and the Wrath of Khan. Also Beatles, Chaplin, exploitation, five (count ’em, five!) film festivals, and love amongst the autistic – and all available this week on Bay Area movie screens.
- Modern Cinema/Black Powers: Reframing Hollywood continues. Read my preview.
- Charlie Chaplin Days opens tonight and runs through the weekend at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Read my preview.
- Cinema Santa Fe takes over the Lark Saturday. I have a preview of that, as well.
- The San Francisco Frozen Film Festival hosts its opening party and screening Wednesday. The rest of this celebration of short films happens next week.
- And finally, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival opens Thursday. I have three articles on this one (so far).
Sleaze Apocalypse: Exploitation Trailer Trash, Roxie, Wednesday, 7:00
Grind houses, theaters that played double and triple bills of cheap exploitation movies, died with the coming of home video. Curator Joel Shepard has put together a threesome of disreputable cinema for your enjoyment.
Boots Riley in person with Sorry to Bother You, Grand Lake Theatre, Wednesday, 10:00
Telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) rises quickly in the company (thanks to his “white voice”), while his co-workers go on strike, creating a wedge between him and his friends (and lover). Writer/director Boots Riley creates a very dark view of current American society, where poor people will do anything to keep a roof over their heads. I gave the movie an A- (you can read my full review), and it’s playing in several theaters right now. But at this screening, Riley will be on hand for a Q&A session after the movie.
Catch it again
A- Keep the Change, Lark, opens Friday
In some ways, this remarkable romantic comedy feels conventional. David is rich; Sarah is poor. She’s upbeat; he’s sour. His mother disapproves. But here’s the big difference: She excepts her autism, and he doesn’t except his. That’s going to make for a rocky relationship. It’s worth noting that most of the actors, including those playing David and Sarah (Brandon Polansky and Samantha Elisofon), have mental disabilities very similar to their characters. Rachel Israel created a funny and warm comedy that may open your eyes to the people around you. Read my Jewish Film Festival report.
Great double bills
A+ Top Hat & B+ The Thin Man; Stanford, Friday through Sunday
Top Hat: If escapism is a valid artistic goal, Top Hat is a great work of art. From the perfect clothes to the absurd mistaken-identity plot to the art deco sets, everything about Top Hat screams “Don’t take this seriously!” But you don’t need realism when Fred Astaire dances his way into Ginger Rogers’ heart with those Irving Berlin songs. Read my A+ appreciation.
The Thin Man: Here we have a murder mystery, a screwball comedy, a wallow in classic MGM glamour, and a 93-minute commercial for alcohol as the secret to a happy marriage. Also the start of a very long franchise starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
A Jason and the Argonauts, Castro, Sunday, 3:50 (full double bill starts at 1:30)
No other movie so successfully turns Greek mythology (or at least a family-friendly version) into swashbuckling adventure, while remaining true to the original spirit of the tales. As the gods bicker and gamble on the fates of mortals, Jason and his crew fight magical monsters and scheming human villains. Todd Armstrong and Nancy Kovack are unbearably stiff in the lead roles, but Nigel Green shines as cinema’s most articulate Hercules. But the real star, of course, is Ray Harryhausen’s hand-made special effects. On a double bill with Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which screens first at 1:30); I’m very much looking forward to seeing that again.
A Big Screen Science: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, New Mission, Monday, 7:00
The most-loved Star Trek movie gives us everything that its predecessor failed to deliver: an exciting and entertaining adventure starring the seven actors and characters that we learned to love from the original TV show, along with a chance for several of those actors to shine. This has almost everything you would want in a Star Trek movie. After the screening, Kishore Hari, Jeff Silverman, and Rachael Livermore will discuss the science used and abused by the filmmakers.
A- Yellow Submarine, Castro, Sunday through Wednesday, 6:00 & 8:00; Rafael, Sunday, 4:15; Sebastiani, Monday, 7:00
The Beatles’ only animated feature, which they had almost nothing to do with, is probably the best movie for watching in a chemically-induced altered state. I recently saw it stone-cold sober, and it’s still a lot of fun. The wacky comedy-adventure plot trips along towards a very hippy dippy moral. Meanwhile, the movie entertains you with bad puns, psychedelic imagery, and what we now call music videos. The imaginative design and hallucinatory visuals help distract you from the very cheap animation.
A- Milk, Roxie, Sunday, 7:00
I’m always a sucker for a historical epic, especially one set in a time and place that I can remember. Milk manages to be sprawling but never boring, and inspiring without preaching. I’ve always known that Sean Penn was a great actor; it’s nice to discover that he can do “happy” as well as more tragic emotions. James Franco is also very good in what you can call the “chick” part. On a double bill with Gus Van Sant’s feature debut, Mala Noche.
Lebowskies (frequently-revived classics)
- Mystery Science Theater 3000, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30
- The Room, Clay, Friday & Saturday, 11:55pm (just before midnight)
- Rocky Horror Picture Show, Albany Twin, Saturday, 11:55pm (just before midnight) MY REPORT.
- Spirited Away, Balboa, Sunday, 10:00am (dubbed); Monday, 7:30 (subtitled)