In Bay Area Virtual Cinema: June 26 – July 2

This week, through closed Bay Area movie theaters and into your home, you’ve got Stanley Kubrick, Ray Harryhausen, Spike Lee, Charlie Chaplin, Ella Fitzgerald, and some talented artists you’ve never heard of. And a few conversations over the Internet.

Virtual Festivals

Bay Area theaters with virtual cinema

Special online events

Ray Harryhausen: Master of Cinema Magic, Rafael, Monday, 7:30

Ray Harryhausen, the only special effects expert to be considered an auteur, would have been 100 Monday. In this online discussion, four top filmmakers who’ve worked in fantasy and science fiction – Craig Barron, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Phil Tippett – will talk about his work and inspiration. Sign up for the discussion.

A+ Dr. Strangelove, New Parkway, discussion Saturday, 3:00

The film: A deeply dark, hilarious comedy about the end of the world. General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders his men to bomb the USSR and start World War III. But have no fear! The men responsible for avoiding Armageddon (three of them played by Peter Sellers) are almost as competent as The Three Stooges. Stanley Kubrick’s “nightmare comedy” reminds you just how scary things were back in the ’60s. Read my Blu-ray review.
The event: See the film before Saturday afternoon; you can stream it on Amazon, Youtube, Google Play, Apple, or Vudu. Then at 3:00, join the Zoom discussion.

A- Popcorn PopUp/ Stay at Home Movie: Da 5 Bloods, Balboa, Saturday, 4:00-9:30

The movie: Spike Lee’s Vietnam adventure sags a bit early on, but turns into an exceptional adventure tale on the level of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  Four Vietnam veterans, along with the adult son of one of these adventurers, go to modern day ‘Nam in search for gold they left behind long ago. But as every movie lover knows, gold changes people for the worse.
The event: From 4:00 to 7:00, you can go to the Balboa and buy beer, popcorn, and other treats (outside of course, and keeping social distancing). Then go home, and at 7:30 watch Da 5 Bloods on Netflix while discussing the film in the Chat Room.

New films available

A- Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things, Balboa, Cerrito, Elmwood, Rafael, Vogue

Ella Fitzgerald was all about the sound. Heavy set, she wasn’t conventionally beautiful. She couldn’t be successful at her childhood ambition as a dancer. But when she sang, everyone listened. This documentary isn’t entirely about the music. It’s also about being a black woman in most of the 20th century. Even when she was rich and famous, she was still locked out of clubs. Fitzgerald herself avoided discussing race issues publicly until the Civil Rights era. Read my full review.

B- The Last Tree, Balboa, Lark, New Mission, Rafael, Roxie, Vogue

A young boy suffers through exceptionally difficult transitions early in this coming-of-age drama. He’s thrown out of a loving and safe environment into one much more frightening and cruel. It’s stomach-turning. You can see how this childhood turns the boy into the sort of young man no parent wants to have. Once the protagonist is in a street gang, writer/director Amoo uses a bit too many clichés from past gangster movies. Read my full review.

B- Quarantine Cat Film Fest, Balboa, Rafael, Roxie, Vogue

This almost 90-minute collection of cat videos can’t help but be adorable. But after awhile it gets boring. It would have worked better if the 16 chapters (Kittens, Brave Cats, and so on) were presented as episodes in a Netflix or Hulu mini-series.

Not quite new

A Picture of His Life (2019), Balboa, Cerrito, Vogue

Amos Nachoum, a veteran of Israel’s Yom Kippur war, turned his PTSD into something incredible, magical, and insanely dangerous. As an underwater wildlife photographer, Nachoum photographs sharks, sea lions, and other giant predators of the deep, often very, very close (you should check out his photography). This documentary by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir follows him as he sets out to do something no one else has ever done; photograph a swimming Polar bear from inside the water. For more information, see my SF Jewish Film Festival report.