There’s not much in the drive-ins this week, or at least not much that I can recommend. But if you like Scorsese, you can join a conversation about Goodfellas this Saturday. I can recommend three new, streaming documentaries, and you can revisit two of the best films of the 1990s.
Special online events
A+ Thrillville Movie Club: Goodfellas, New Parkway, discussion Saturday, 3:00
The Event: Watch Goodfellas (there are plenty of options) before Saturday afternoon. Then, at 3:00, join in on the Zoom discussion. A few weeks ago, I attended and enjoyed a Thrillville discussion.
The Movie: Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) was just another crook working for the mafia, until he went too far. Martin Scorsese’s brilliant retelling of Hill’s life follows him from his enthusiastic, adolescent leap into crime until, 25 years later, he rats on long-time friends to save his neck (no, that isn’t a spoiler). Liotta narrates most of the film as Hill, who clearly loved his life as a “wise guy.” But while the narration romanticizes the life of crime, Scorsese’s camera shows us the ugly reality. Goodfellas is dazzling filmmaking and incredible storytelling. Read my A+ essay.
New docs streaming – and all about youth
A Between the World and Me (2020), HBO Max
You can feel the difficulty and terror that is a major part of raising African-American children in this documentary, which was based on a stage play adapted from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book. Black parents, many of them famous, talk about their problems and fears in a society where their lives, and their children’s lives, are considered less valuable than those of white people. And no, it never becomes repetitive. The cast includes Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Angela Davis, Wendell Pierce, Oprah Winfrey, Joe Morton and, of course, Coates himself.
B+ I Am Greta (2020), Hulu
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg narrates her own documentary, where she travels around Europe and crosses of the Atlantic by sail to tell her point. Yes, this is another climate crisis documentary that will only be seen by people who already know how serious the problem is (although it may help some people to do more about the issue). What makes this climate crisis doc unique is that it allows you to get to know and understand Thunberg, and how it’s like to become a controversial figure while still a teenager and living with Asperger’s.
B+ Us Kids, New Mission, FREE!
Do you remember Florida’s Parkland high school massacre? Don’t feel bad if you don’t; there have been so many of these bloodbaths. Kim A. Snyder’s documentary follows several of the survivors turned gun control activists. What makes the film worthwhile isn’t the argument for gun control, but how the filmmakers get into the thoughts and emotions of teenagers who witnessed the massacre and how that changed them.
A+ Lone Star (1996)
On one level, my favorite John Sayles film works as a murder mystery, with the twist that the murder happened 38 years ago. But it’s also a study of a single Texas border town. The Hispanic majority will soon take over local government. But the Jim Crow past isn’t far behind, and some still pine for the days when people didn’t “want their salt and sugar in the same jar.” And even the more enlightened citizens can’t escape their community’s dark past, with its oral history about good and bad sheriffs. Read my full report.
A Babe, New Mission
This Australian fantasy just might be cinema’s greatest work of vegetarian propaganda. It’s also a sweet, funny, and charming fairy tale about a pig who wants to be a sheep dog. This was the film that made audiences and critics recognize and appreciate character actor James Cromwell. It also broke considerable ground technically in the category of live-action talking-animal movies. Warning: If you take your young children to this G-rated movie, you may have trouble getting them to eat bacon again.
A- Lady Bird, Fort Mason Flix, Thursday, 8:30
As you would expect from Greta Gerwig, this coming-of-age film is both touching and funny. Every character seems real and worthy of our sympathy, and yet their foibles make us laugh. Christine, who prefers the nickname Lady Bird, is a senior in a Sacramento Catholic high school. She hates Sacramento and hates her money-obsessed mother. Class issues play a major part here, since Lady Bird’s family is on “the wrong side of the tracks.” Many of her friends and potential boyfriends live in mansions. The story is set in 2002, as America is about to invade Iraq. Read my full review.
B+ The Wizard of Oz, Fort Mason Flix, Sunday, 5:00
I don’t really have to tell you about this one, do I? Well, perhaps I must explain why I’m only giving it a B+. Despite its clever songs, lush Technicolor photography, and one great performance (Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion), The Wizard of Oz never struck me as the masterpiece that everyone else sees. It’s a good, fun movie, but not quite fun enough to earn an A.