What’s Screening: March 19 – 25

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted what I thought might be my last What’s Screening newsletter. After all, how could I write about films in local theaters when the theaters were all closed? I ended up writing about movies set in medieval times. I knew this newsletter would have to change.

For almost a year, I’ve been writing about virtual cinema, Zoom discussions on cinema, and pop-up drive-ins – which have replaced revival houses as a way to watch old movies outside of the home.

Slowly and hopefully, the old art houses are beginning to open up. Perhaps by summer, I’ll be writing about what’s physically (not virtually) at the Stanford, the BAMPFA, and the Castro.

Festivals

Theaters opened & opening

Special online events

A- Thrillville Movie Club: Office Space, New Parkway, Saturday, 3:00

The movie: Work…there’s a reason they have to pay you to show up. In this broad and funny satire by Mike Judge, three young men struggle with their jobs in a soul-killing tech company. They conspire to fool the computers and skim enough money off the top to allow for early retirement; hopefully, the amount will go unnoticed. Jennifer Aniston plays the waitress whose job is as soul-killing as theirs but pays considerably less. Stephen Root steals the movie as the employee whose soul was crushed long ago. 
The event:
First, watch Office Space between now and Saturday afternoon. Then, at 3:00, join the Zoom discussion.

A Tribute To Al Christie, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, different virtual events through the weekend

Through my many years of watching and reading about silent films, I occasionally came upon the names The Christie Film Company and Christie Comedies. I may have seen one or two of them. Maybe I should watch some of them. The Museum will stream movies and provide Zoom discussions on this almost forgotten part of the silent era.

Another chance to see

A- Two of Us (2019), Balboa

A stroke tears apart a long-term relationship in this very realistic tearjerker. Retirees Nina and Madeleine have been lovers for decades, but to the rest of the world, they’re just friends and neighbors. Madeleine can’t dare to tell her family the truth. But when Madeleine can no longer communicate with the rest of the world, Nina has trouble taking care of her beloved, since no one else knows about the relationship. Madeleine’s family (which has its own problems) can’t understand why the neighbor acts so strangely, while Nina acts out in some destructive ways.

Classics at the drive-in

A+ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Pop Up Drive in, Alameda

By adding more humor, less racism, a smidgen of character development, and some of the best action scenes in the series, the third Indiana Jones flick outdoes even the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. Much of that comes from Sean Connery as the hero’s bookworm father, and a prologue with River Phoenix as the teenage Indy. The plot, which is simply an excuse to insert jokes and action sequences, has the Joneses trying to find the Holy Grail before the Nazis get it. You can read my A+ appreciation.

A+ Goodfellas (1990), Fort Mason Flix, Saturday, 8:30

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.

A Airplane! (1980), Lark Drive-in, Friday, 8:30

They’re flying on instruments, blowing the autopilot, and translating English into Jive. So win one for the Zipper, but whatever you do, don’t call him ShirleyAirplane! throws jokes like confetti – carelessly tossing them in all directions in hopes that some might hit their target. Surprisingly enough, most of them do. There’s no logical reason a movie this silly can be so satisfying, but logic never was part of the Airplane! formula. I’d be hard-pressed to name another post-silent feature-length comedy with such a high laugh-to-minute ratio.

A Frozen (2013), Saturday, March, 8:30

By the time this Disney animated feature came out, my kids could go to the movies by themselves, and therefore I missed a real treat. Yes, it follows the conventional formula for Disney animated features – with a fairyland princess, a handsome hunk, songs, and adorable animals. But this time, you’ve got two princesses, one becoming queen, both basically good but with a sibling rivalry that could destroy the kingdom. And you don’t know which handsome hunk will marry the ingenue we really care about. It’s also beautiful to look at.

B+ Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Fort Mason Flix, Thursday, 8:30

You have to understand three things about this movie: 1) It’s basically two long motor vehicle chases broken up with short bits of dialog. 2) It’s surprisingly feminist for this sort of movie; the plot involves a woman warrior rescuing a tyrant’s enslaved harem. 3) The title character is basically a sidekick, although we see the story through his eyes. The movie is filled with crashes, weapons, hand-to-hand combat, acts of courage, close calls, and fatal errors. It’s fast, brutal, and for the most part very well-choreographed.

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