What’s Screening: November 29 – December 5

It’s Black Friday, but that doesn’t mean you have to fight the crowds in the malls. Why not go to the movies? This week in Bay Area cinemas we have James Cagney, Aretha Franklin, Cary Grant, and a sleek, black-and-white thriller you’ll probably never get to see again.


The Week’s Big Event

A- The Man with the Silver Case, New People Cinema, Monday, 7:00

This may be your only chance ever to see this strange and entertaining thriller. Imagine a James Bond movie shot in sleek, silvery black and white. Like a Bond flick, it starts with an extremely impressive and expensive stunt that has little to do with the story. But this time, you don’t know if the “hero” is working for the good guys or the bad guys. He has substance abuse problems and a metal brief case handcuffed to his wrist. He’s not bothered by killing people. We root for him because movies do that to us, and because he’s not as evil as the people who are trying to kill him. And like a good Bond flick, it’s extremely entertaining – sometimes in a gruesome way. Part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Fest.

Promising events

Each Dawn I Die, Stanford, Thursday and next Friday

James Cagney plays a courageous newspaper reporter framed for a crime he didn’t commit. While in the big house, he befriends a real criminal who may be able to prove him innocent (George Raft). I liked this film decades ago; I don’t know how I’d feel about it now. On a double bill with Blondie Takes a Vacation. Part of the series 80 Years Ago in This Theatre: The Films of 1939.

Another chance to see

A- Amazing Grace, BAMPFA, Sunday, 7:00

Aretha Franklin, belting out some of the greatest Gospel music ever recorded, and performed at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts. How can you get better? The concert was filmed in 1972 by Sydney Pollack, but due to technical problems, it wasn’t released until last year (the LP was released decades earlier). Try to get catch Mick Jagger in the audience.

Recommended revivals

A Only Angels Have Wings, Stanford, Saturday & Sunday

Cary Grant heads a team of mail plane pilots in a remote corner of South America. There’s little plot here, just a study of men who routinely fly under very dangerous conditions, and how they cope with death as an every-day part of life. The only non-comedy out of the five films that Grant made for director Howard Hawks. On a double bill with John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, which I remember liking long ago. Another part of the series 80 Years Ago in This Theatre: The Films of 1939.

A- The Adventures of Prince Achmed, BAMPFA, Saturday, 3:00

Hand-Tinted 35mm Print! The earliest known animated feature looks like no other movie ever made. The characters are neither drawings nor puppets, but black, opaque, cut-out silhouettes. As such, it lacks the detail we expect from classic Disney or today’s Pixar, but it’s non-the-less beautiful and enchanting. It also enhances the viewer’s imagination. The story is a common hero’s journey, with a brave protagonist, an evil magician, and a good witch. Aladdin pops up, as well. Judith Rosenberg will accompany this silent film on piano. Part of the never-ending series Movie Matinees for All Ages.

A- Christmas Story, Alameda, Wednesday, 2:10, 4:45, 7:00

Sweet, sentimental Christmas movies – at least those not authored by Charles Dickens or Frank Capra – generally make me want to leave the room. But writer Jean Shepherd’s look back at the Indiana Christmases of his youth comes with enough laughs and cynicism to make the nostalgia go down easy. A holiday gem for people who love, or hate, the holidays.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics