What’s Screening: March 13 – 19

Note: Something went wrong with this article soon after it went live. It disappeared. So I’m posting it again.

If you’re brave enough to go into a crowded theater this week, you can see movies by Ken Loach, Vincente Minnelli, Billy Wilder, George Cukor, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Neil Jordan, and a not-yet-famous Carlo Mirabella-Davis. Also, three festivals.

Theaters closed for the pandemic


New films opening

A- Sorry We Missed You (2019), Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

Imagine a food that you absolutely hate, but you eat it anyway because it’s good for you. That’s the experience of seeing Ken Loach’s grim but necessary attack on the gig economy. A man struggles to make money delivering packages. In theory, he’s an independent contractor, but he’s much worse off than an employee. His wife, a nurse, is also in the gig economy. Neither of them has time to take care of their children. With almost no happy moments, Sorry We Missed You is like an empathy bomb, forcing you to care for the working poor. Read my full review.

A- Swallow (2020), New Mission, opens Friday; New Parkway, opens Saturday

What makes a pregnant woman hurt herself so badly? Bit by bit – or perhaps I should say bite by bite – Hunter (Haley Bennett) physically tortures herself. She swallows things: a marble, a pin, a battery. It gets worse. Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ fine drama slowly shows what causes Hunter’s deepening mental problems, as layer upon layer is revealed. Meanwhile, her handsome and filthy-rich husband – along with his parents – make everything worse. Read my full review.

Great double bills

Kirk Douglas Double Bill: B+ The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) & B Ace In the Hole (1951), Castro, Sunday

Both films in 35mm
The Bad and the Beautiful: In Vincente Minnelli’s attack on Hollywood, Douglas plays a talented, seemingly nice Hollywood producer. But the more you get close to this guy, the more you realize you hate him.
Ace in the Hole: Billy Wilder tells us that we’re all evil in this reasonably good melodrama. A once-great, now washed-up newspaper reporter (Douglas) turns a cave disaster into a big carnival to resurrect his career, putting the victim into more peril.

Recommended revivals

A King Kong (1933), various theaters, Sunday

The first effects-laden adventure film of the sound era still holds up. It’s not just Willis O’Brien’s breathtaking special effects–technically crude by today’s standards but still awe-inspiring. It’s the intelligent script by Ruth Rose, the evocative score by Max Steiner, and the wonderful cast headed by Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. But most of all, it’s the title character. Kong is the stuff of nightmares, utterly terrifying as he grinds people into the ground or bites them to death, but also confused, loving, majestic, and ultimately doomed. Pretty good for an 18-inch model covered with rabbit fur. Sure, the story is silly, but so are dreams.

A A Star Is Born (1954), New Mission, Monday, 3:45

The second film with this title and basic story was the first to be a musical, and one of the best. Judy Garland plays a singer who breaks into Hollywood as a singing and dancing star. But this is not the sort of musical where people simply break into song because they feel like it. As in real life, they only sing when rehearsing or performing. In fact, the joyful songs in the films-within-the-film play a strange counterpoint to the serious story, reminding us of the artifice of Hollywood make-believe.

A Touch of Evil (1958), Alameda, 2:404:457:00

Orson Welles’ film noir classic, and his last Hollywood studio feature. He lacked the freedom he found in Europe, but the bigger budget – and perhaps even the studio oversight – resulted in one of his best works. As a corrupt border-town sheriff, Welles makes a bloated, scary, yet strangely sympathetic villain. Janet Leigh is a lovely and effective damsel in distress. As the hero, a brilliant Mexican detective, Charlton Heston is…well, he’s miscast, but not as badly as some people say.

B+ The Departed (2006), New Mission, Tuesday, 6:40

35mm! Martin Scorsese’s intense police thriller, and his one big Oscar winner, carries you along like a river, offering fascinating characters, moral ambiguity, graphic violence, and surprising plot twists that heighten the suspense. A remake of the Hong Kong police thriller Infernal Affairs, it follows two undercover moles: one a cop pretending to be a gangster, the other a gangster pretending to be a cop. It’s full of plot holes, but you probably won’t notice them until you’re leaving the theater.

B+ The Crying Game (1992), Castro, Tuesday, 6:30

The only thing most people remember about Neil Jordan’s Irish thriller is the Big Surprise, which admittedly was a major shock to audiences in 1992. (It was also a big shock to Stephen Rea’s protagonist, as well.) That’s a pity, since the story – about an IRA operative who’s too decent a human being to be an effective terrorist – carries considerable punch and moral strength. On a double bill with Miller’s Crossing, which I liked when I saw it a long time ago.

B- Goldfinger, New Mission (1964), Monday, 7:00

I’ve been a James Bond fan, on and off, for much of my life. But I never understood the huge appeal of the series’ third outing–and the one that really popularized Bond in the United States. True, Sean Connery was wonderful in the role he created. But Gert Frobe’s title character is a dull and uninteresting villain. Even worse, Bond spends way too much of the story as a prisoner and does very little to help save the day. A Big Screen Science presentation with Kishore Hari and Jeffrey Silverman, although I can’t imagine what science they’ll be talking about.

Frequently-revived classics