What’s Screening: November 30 – December 6

Going through FilmStruck withdrawal? Perhaps you can relieve the symptoms by watching movies where they should be seen – in a theater. Consider these mostly old movies screening in the Bay Area this week.


I’ve previewed all three of these festivals in this one article.

Promising events

Thunderball, Oakland Paramount, Friday, 8:00

I saw Thunderball on a date nearly 40 years ago. I was disappointed. But it’s reputation as one of the best Bonds, and the biggest ticket seller remains high. Maybe I should see it again.

Home Alone, Alameda, Wednesday

This 1990 comedy was savaged by the critics, but I took my then seven-year-old son to see it, anyway. Watching it in a theater filled with children, youthful laughter proved that it works very well for its target audience.

Another chance to see

A- Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, New Parkway, Tuesday, 6:30

I rarely read fiction anymore, but this PBS documentary on the important fantasy novelist brought me back to the days when I devoured sci-fi. Using extensive interviews with Le Guin, her family, friends, and admirers, filmmaker Arwen Curry tells and shows us how the author changed a very macho genre into a female-friendly and intellectual one. Curry keeps the film visually interesting by animating book and magazine covers as well as scenes from Le Guin’s work. One thing really surprised me: Her parents worked closely with the native Californian Ishi.

B+ From Baghdad To the Bay, Rafael, Monday, noon

You can’t watch this documentary about Ghazwan Alsharif’s life without loving him. He has experienced tremendous cruelty, and yet, he can smile, laugh, and love. When we occupied Iraq, Alsharif offered his services to the American army as an interpreter. When they were done with him, they threw him into prison and tortured him. Under the agony, he blurted out his one big secret: He’s gay. Now living in San Francisco with a good career as a chef, he misses the country he can never return to and the family nearly ruined by his public outing.

Great double bills

A Sons of the Desert & C+ Way Out West, Stanford, Friday through Sunday

Sons of the Desert: Feature films weren’t Laurel and Hardy’s strong point; their best works were short. But Sons of the Desert is an exception. This simple tale of two married men trying to have a good time away from their wives is loose, absurd, and very, very funny.
Way Out West: Many fans count this western parody amongst Laurel and Hardy’s best, but I’m not one of them. It has its funny moments, including a very famous dance routine, but in too many places the film drags.
Also on the bill: One of their best shorts, Helpmates.

Recommended revivals

A Shame, BAMPFA, Thursday, 7:00

Ever wonder what a Bergman action film would be like? He made one, and it slaps you in the face like few movies do. It’s set in a war, and we never know who is fighting who or for what reason. That’s not the point. Both sides are equally cruel and authoritarian. We see this catastrophe through the eyes of a married couple living on a small farm (Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow). Like so many Bergman films, it’s really about the stress on a two-person relationship. But few Bergman couples must suffer the way these do.

B+ Speedy, Rafaelm Sunday, 4:15

Set and partially shot in New York, Harold Lloyd’s last silent provides plenty of laughs, even if it isn’t amongst his best. The story involves his struggle to help his girlfriend’s father keep his small streetcar line, but that’s just an excuse to do Lloyd routines in Big Apple locations. We get a sequence in Cony Island, a cameo with Babe Ruth, and (of course), a great streetcar race. Read my Blu-ray review. Musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

B+ The Man Who Fell to Earth, Castro, Friday

Movies were pretty weird in the ’70s, but they didn’t get much weirder than this—at least with a major director and stars. David Bowie plays an alien who comes to Earth in search of water, but instead discovers capitalism, TV, alcohol, and human sex. It’s not entirely clear what the film is about, but the images are intriguing, the central characters are puzzles that cry out to be solved, and the sex scenes are very sexy. If for no other reason, see it to rediscover what science fiction films could be like in the years between 2001 and Star Wars. On a double bill with Pink Floyd The Wall.

Continuing engagements

  • Black Panther, Rafael, Saturday, 11:00am. Free! Followed by a pre-recorded Q&A with director Ryan Coogler.

Frequently-revived classics