What’s Screening: April 23 – 29

In this week’s Bay Area movie news: More theaters are opening up! You can talk about Cuckoo’s Nest. You can learn about John Lewis and/or Sesame Street. And you can enjoy old movies by streaming, going to a drive-in, and in an actual, hard-top movie theater. Also two film festivals and something on TV called the Oscars.


The Week’s Big Event

In Oscar week of a normal year, I’d be telling you what theaters you can go to if you want to watch the Academy Awards with a crowd (I had a great time last year at the Roxie). So, I’ll tell you that you can see the event live Sunday at 5:00 Pacific time on ABC channel 7.

Theater openings

Don’t get too optimistic, but it looks like the Castro Theatre may be opening in the near future. A Castro representative told me that “we’re working on it.  We need to be able to accommodate 500-600 guests to make things work. The first step for us is the timing.”

Meanwhile, the Elmwood will reopen May 7.

And you can still help pick the Roxie’s reopening movie.

Special online events

A Thrillville Movie Club: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, New Parkway

The movie: Ken Kesey’s novel offered a perfect opportunity for Milos Forman to explore his favorite topics: totalitarianism and rebellion. What’s Nurse Rachet’s mental ward but a dictatorship in miniature? While the movie belongs to Jack Nicholson, the entire cast is letter perfect. In fact, supporting players like Danny De Vito and Christopher Lloyd hardly seem to be the unknowns they were in 1975.
The event: First, watch the movie at home. Then, Saturday at 3:00, join in the Zoom discussion.

Matti Bye Ensemble Masterclass, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Sunday, 12:00 noon

Free! Want to know the tricks of creating music for movies? This online lesson is headed by film composer Matti Bye, who has been the Swedish Film Institute’s resident silent-movie pianist since 1989. Bye’s quintet will be involved, as well.

New films opening

B+ Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (2021), Embarcadero Center, Shattuck, Rafael, opens Friday

This documentary about the creation of the well-loved children’s show is a joy to watch – going from the original concept in the late 1960s to Jim Henson’s far-too-early death in 1990. We learn how experts on childhood educational, comedy, and advertising worked to sell children their ABCs. As years go by, the Street dealt with issues like loneliness and death. It’s a conventional documentary, but one that’s as entertaining as it is illuminating. Read my full review.

Another chance to see

B+ John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020), New Mission

It’s easy to worship John Lewis, the former civil rights hero turned senior congressman. He claimed that he was arrested 40 times during the civil rights era, and five times more since he’s been in Congress. With Lewis narrating, we learn about the lunch counter protests, the Freedom Riders, the March on Washington, the church bombing in Birmingham, and so on. He’s a real hero, but the documentary makes him too good to be true. Since I wrote my full review, Lewis has passed on, making the film more poignant.

Theatrical revivals

A Shrek (2001), AMC Bay Street 16, Richmond Hilltop 16, AMC Metreon 16; Sunday, 3:00, 7:00; Wednesday & Thursday, 7:00

Enough bad sequels can make us forget how much we loved the original, and in the case of Shrek, the original is very lovable indeed. This story of an ogre on a reluctant quest to save a princess turns both traditional fairy tales and their Disneyfied adaptations inside out. The evil prince’s castle looks like Disneyland, familiar characters make odd cameos, and that old song “Have You Seen the Muffin Man” turns very gruesome (in a very funny way). In the third act, Shrek rips apart one of the worst lessons that children learn from these old stories, providing a happy ending that neither Grimm nor Disney could have imagined.

Virtual revivals

A The Cranes Are Flying (1957), BAMPFA

Free for BAMPFA members. This story of love and war is one of the best films to come out of the Soviet Union. It starts with a common sight: two young people delightfully giddy in love. But World War II interrupts the lovers, as the boy must go off to fight. There’s very little warfare in the film; the film is mostly about a young woman whose lover is taken away from her. She doesn’t always make the right choices, but often they’re the only choices she’s got. Sergey Urusevskiy’s cinematography is both horrifying and beautiful.

A- Dazed and Confused (1993), New Mission

Think American Graffiti set in the stoned ’70s. As the school year ends in a small Texas town, students and recent alumni head out looking for pot, parties, and sex. Some of them find it. But Richard Linklater isn’t George Lucas (thank God), so Dazed and Confused finds greater depths in the many characters. The young, largely-unknown cast includes such future stars as Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and Matthew McConaughey.

Drive-in movies

A+ Stop Making Sense (1984), Fort Mason Flix, Saturday, 8:15

Great films can affect you in different ways. Some make you laugh, cry, or think. But the Talking Heads concert movie, Stop Making Sense, makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance (problematic in a drive-in during a pandemic). More than any other concert film I’ve seen, Stop Making Sense is a visual experience. The band is constantly dancing, moving in strange ways that look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Read my A+ appreciation.

A Mary Poppins (1964), Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 8:15

The best live-action movie Walt Disney ever made is, not surprisingly, one of the great all-time children’s pictures. Julie Andrews may have won the Oscar through a sympathy vote, but she really lights up the screen in her first movie appearance, managing to upstage Dick Van Dyke and some wonderful special effects. So, what if it takes liberties with the books?

B+ Bullitt (1968), Fort Mason Flix, Sunday, 8:30

Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word bullshit marks the first time that word was heard in a Hollywood movie.