The drive-ins are closing for the winter, and the recently opened hard-top theaters have suddenly been shut down. So, this week I’m doing something unusual for the newsletter. Instead, I’m focusing on recommending movies via virtual cinema – where you can watch a movie safely at home while helping your favorite theater.
Our own Roxie has been selected to be a Sundance Satellite Screen for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s almost certain that the festival will be virtual, in which case it doesn’t really matter what theater you’re not going to. More information later.
Ongoing and worthwhile virtual cinema
Stream these movies and help your local theater.
A The Artist’s Wife (2020), New Mission
Alzheimer’s hurts not only the initial victim, but perhaps even more the friends and family members who must watch a loved one’s mind slowly recede. As the film’s title tells you, the film is not about a famous painter with serious dementia, but about the woman who loves him. It’s her story; not his. Lena Olin and Bruce Dern both give excellent performances. If you’re lucky enough to grow old with someone, something like this may be in your future. Read my full review.
A- RBG (2018), BAMPFA, Cerrito, Elmwood
There’s nothing objective about this documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who was still alive when the film was released). The filmmakers clearly believe that the Supreme Court’s progressive hero was a rock star, a superhero, and a major bulwark protecting American democracy. I believe 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 whose death may still ruin our country. Read my full review.
B+ Lucky Grandma (2019), New Mission
It’s rare for a comedy to turn into a thriller – especially a thriller that forces you to feel the violent losses. And yet, writer/director Sasie Sealy manages that task with surprising flair. Veteran actress Tsai Chin, with a stone face almost like Buster Keaton’s, plays the chain-smoking Grandma of the title to perfection. When a stash of gang money drops into her lap, she hires a large but kindly bodyguard (Hsiao-Yuan Ha) who becomes her best friend. And with that, this comedy turns into a thriller. Read my full review.
B- Collective (2019), Rafael, BAMPFA, Cerrito, Lark, Rafael, opens Friday
In 2015, a Bucharest nightclub called Colectiv (not a spelling error) caught fire during a crowded rock concert. The building lacked emergency exits, and 27 people died immediately. Far more were seriously injured and died later. But that was only the start of the scandal uncovered in this documentary. Investigating reporters found deep problems in the country’s medical services, including diluted disinfectants. An important story worth telling, but the doc often fails to keep your interest. Read my full review.
A+ Jaws (1975), New Mission
People associate Jaws with three men in a boat, but the picture is more than half over before the shark chase really begins. For that first half, Jaws is a suspenseful, witty variation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, An Enemy of the People, but with a central character more conflicted and less noble (Roy Scheider). Then the three men get on the boat and the picture turns into a hair-raising variation on Moby Dick. Jaws’ phenomenal success helped create the summer blockbuster, yet by today’s standards, it’s practically an art film–albeit one that could scare the living eyeballs out of you. See my Blu-ray review.
A Nosferatu (1922), New Mission
Forget about sexy vampires; the first film version of Dracula doesn’t have one. In this unauthorized rip-off that got the filmmakers into legal trouble, Max Schreck plays Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This 1922 silent isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it just might be the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Read my Blu-ray review. With a new musical score by Brown Whornet that I haven’t yet heard.
C+ La Strada (1954), Balboa, BAMPFA, Vogue
Back when I was in high school, this became the first old, black-and-white, European, subtitled film I ever loved. But it turned out to be one of those loves you eventually outgrow. Giulietta Masina brilliantly plays a simple, innocent girl sold by her parents to a coarse, crude, and violent traveling strongman (Anthony Quinn in another strong performance). But for all the great acting, Fellini’s 1954 heartbreaker comes off now as shallow. Even worse, it manages to romanticize child abuse. (Or is it spouse abuse? The movie is never too sure about that.) Why do I recommend a film I don’t like? Because so many people disagree with me about it.
? Trading Places, Fort Mason Flix, Saturday, 8:00
I haven’t seen this Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd comedy since 1983, but I remember liking it very much. As a bet, two filthy rich brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) destroy the life and career of their young protégée (Aykroyd) and replace him with a panhandler (Murphy). Jamie Lee Curtis plays the prostitute who gets connected with both of them.