What’s Screening: December 18 – 24

It’s a short newsletter this week, but it will allow you to run away to the circus (virtually, of course). You can watch a Jack London story Italian style, cinema’s most adorable pig, and troubles in transport. Plus, a continuing, but scary film festival.


Special online events

Circus Part 3 and More Holiday Fun, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, various events, Saturday and Sunday

Via Zoom, you can discuss circuses with a selection of experts, including Sam Gill, author of Clown Princes and Court Jesters, along with silent film expert Richard M. Roberts. There will be a focus on performers who left the circus for the movies. The show also includes the feature, The Circus Kid (I suspect this was a rip-off of Chaplin’s The Circus), and a series of shorts called Circus Daze.

Virtual Cinema new to me

A- Martin Eden (2019), Rafael

An almost epic story about a would-be writer, told in ways that surprise you one scene after another. At times, you’re not sure where you are, which make sense for an Italian film based on a Jack London novel, set in the second half of the 20th century. When we first meet the title character, he’s a handsome, kind young man, a sailor, barely literate, but prone to settling disagreements with his fists. Over the years, he slowly becomes more respectable but less kind. Different photographic techniques, including sepia tone and muted color, help create the film’s different moods.

Theatrical revivals

A Babe (1995), San Rafael Regency 6, century At Pacific Commons & XD, Sunday, 3:00

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 show this G-rated movie to your young children, you may have trouble getting them to eat bacon again.

Virtual revivals

A- Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), New Mission

John Hughes mixes side-splitting slapstick comedy with sentimentality, and surprisingly, the mix works. Two badly matched men get thrown together as they desperately try to get from Manhattan to Chicago before Thanksgiving dinner. And, of course, everything goes wrong. Steve Martin plays the button-down executive, while John Candy plays the goofball who manages to make everything worse (and things are bad enough without him). Slowly, the two men warm to each other.

Continuing engagements