In Bay Area Virtual Cinema & Drive-ins: Sept 24 – Oct 1

Talk about Kubrick, or go to the drive-in with Billy Wilder or Martin Scorsese. Also, a farewell to a great American in virtual cinema.

In Memorial

A- RBG (2018), BAMPFA, Cerrito, Elmwood, New Mission, Roxie

There’s nothing objective about this documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The filmmakers clearly believed that the Supreme Court’s progressive hero was a rock star, a superhero, and a major bulwark protecting American democracy. I believed that, too. But I didn’t know until I saw this film that young women not only see Ginsburg as a role model but tattoo her likeness on their bodies. An entertaining and enlightening film about someone I’m devastated to lose. Read my full review.

Help a theater (or two)

The Cerrito and the Elmwood

If you live in the East Bay, you’ve probably enjoyed one or both of these theaters. Along with new movies, they provided monthly classics, live theater on the screen, and Oscar ceremonies. Hopefully they still will. The Cerrito also sold real food along with the usual popcorn and candy. Rialto Cinemas, the company that owns the theaters, has also offered their theaters to help raise money for good causes.

But they haven’t screened a movie since March. They have a couple of loans, and they generate some income via gift cards and virtual cinema, but nothing compared to rent, insurance, and utility expenses they still have to pay. If you can spare some cash, give them some help via Rialto’s GoFundMe page.

Special online events

B- Thrillville Movie Club: The Shining (1980), New Parkway, Saturday, 3:00

Watch the film before Saturday’s 3:00pm Zoom discussion.
For once, the cliché is true; Stephen King’s novel The Shining, is beter than the movie. Stanley Kubrick, brilliant as he was, missed the main character’s love for his family – without which it’s little more than a sequence of scares. The sense of a good man struggling with his inner demons entirely disappears. Kubrick added some surprising and effective touches, but all in all, he turned a brilliant novel into a pretty good film. Read my longer article.

Drive-in movies

A+ Some Like It Hot (1959), Lark Drive-in, Friday, 7:00

I’m not sure if this gender-bending farce is the best American film comedy of all time. It certainly belongs in the top 10. There are comedies with a higher laugh-to-minute ratio, and others that have more to say about the human condition. But I doubt you could find a more perfect example of comic construction, brilliantly funny dialog, and spot-on timing. There are no random gags here; every laugh comes from the characters and the tightly-built situations. Read my latest Blu-ray review.

A+ The Last Watz (1977), Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 9:15

The Band played their final concert on Thanksgiving night, 1976. Their guest performers included Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and Joni Mitchell. Martin Scorsese brought a crew of talented filmmakers to record the show and created the greatest rock documentary ever made. Scorsese and company ignored the audience and focused on the musicians, creating an intimate look at great artists who understood that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Read my A+ appreciation.

The Empire Strikes Back
(1980), Alameda Point, Friday & Saturday, 7:30

Note: This is not the original 1980 version, but George Lucas’ most recent revision. Since I haven’t seen this version, I’m not giving it a grade. The capsule review below is for the original.
The story turns darker and deeper in the middle chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy. The fight sequences have a real feeling of dread that’s absent in the first movie. By keeping CP3O and R2D2 apart for much of the movie, the film tamps down the comedy (although there’s a humorous romance bubbling up). With Lando, we have a character who may be a hero and may be a villain. And, of course, the climax has one of the biggest surprises in cinema history, leaving us to worry if Luke will go to the dark side.

Frequent Drive-in movies:

New to me

C Healing from Hate (2019), Roxie

I hate writing about a film with an important message, but isn’t really all that good – it’s even worse with a documentary. Healing from Hate follows a handful of members of Life After Hate, an organization that helps people step away from white supremacist organizations. They know what they’re doing; the organization is led by recovering bigots. It did tell me a few things I didn’t know, such as that almost all neo-Nazis were abused in childhood. But it never showed the step-by-step experience of bringing back from evil. And besides, it left you feeling helpless, when its intention was to leave inspired.