What’s Screening: February 1 – 7

What’s playing in Bay Area movie theaters this week? Laurel and Hardy, Jackie Chan, epic Fritz Lang, and two film festivals. But here’s what’s really strange: Only one theater is playing Groundhog Day.


The Week’s Big Event

Another Nice Mess: Restored Laurel & Hardy Shorts, Elmwood, Saturday, 11:00am

From the last silent years to the late 1930s, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made some of the funniest short movies in history (their features were usually not as good). They played two men of exceptionally low intelligence, living in a world where everyone (including them) are slow, methodical, and prone to bizarre and outrageous vengeance. These four shorts, Helpmates, Their First Mistake, The Music Box, and The Battle of the Century, are among their best.

New films opening

C+ Tito and the Birds,
Opera Plaza, opens Friday

This Brazilian cartoon has two important messages for young children: We need to overcome pointless fears, and we should listen to the birds – especially pigeons. Despite the beautiful visual style and a theme that’s very relevant to Trump’s USA (and, for that matter, Bolsonaro’s Brazil), it never really pulls you into its story of a raging epidemic. The lead character, Tito, is just another animated child hero – smart, brave, and ethical. Most of his friends are similarly uninteresting. Read my full review. Check for subtitled and dubbed versions.

Promising events

Police StoryPolice Story 2, New Mission, Friday through Wednesday

Believe it or not, I don’t think I ever saw either of these classic Jackie Chan action comedies. And if I did, they were probably dubbed, renamed, cut, or at best badly subtitled. Chan is the closest thing to Buster Keaton in my generation, and this 1988 action comedy shows him off in his prime. Unfortunately, tickets are sold out for the Friday screening of Police Story.

The Nibelungen, Part I: Siegfried’s Death, BAMPFA, Saturday, 4:30

I first saw Fritz Lang’s two-part epic tale, based on old German myths, in the early 1970s. It blew me away. Of course, I was only 18, so I was easily blown over. But I saw it again about 20 years ago and I still liked it. I’d probably like it again. Siegfried kills a dragon, wins a nation, marries Kriemhild, and is murdered. Judith Rosenberg will accompany this silent film on piano. Note: I mistakenly put this on last week’s newsletter.

The Nibelungen, Part II: Kriemhild’s Revenge

In part two of Lang’s epic, Siegfried’s widow does everything she can to punish the evil men who murdered her beloved. If I remember properly, a lot of innocent people die as well, but they’re mostly just extras. Kriemhild is such a badass that she seduces Genghis Khan and tricks him into helping her. Once again with Judith Rosenberg on piano. But I do wish they had done these two films as a double bill.

Recommended revivals

A+ Groundhog Day, New Parkway, Friday, 10:30; Saturday, 12:40

Spiritual, humane, and hilarious, Groundhog Day wraps its thoughtful world view inside a slick, Hollywood comedy. Without explanation, the movie plunges its self-centered protagonist into a type of purgatory, living the same day over and over until he finds enlightenment. Bill Murray’s weatherman goes through stages of panic, giddiness, and despair before figuring out that life is about serving others. And yet not a frame of this movie feels preachy. Fast-paced and brilliantly edited, it’s pure entertainment. For more on this great comedy, see my essay.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics

  • The Princess Bride, New Mission, Friday, 4:00; Wednesday, 7:00; Thursday, 7:16 (sold-out). As part of this Movie Party, the audience will be encouraged to repeat famous lines. Inflatable swords will be on hand.