What’s Screening: June 25 – July 1

What’s happening in Bay Area cinema this week? Silent movie fans can choose between Charlie Chaplin and Dinosaurs (you can actually have both). For something more modern, you can watch and discuss The Dark Knight. You can also view Muppets, gay cowboys, and strange creatures looking for love.

Also two film festivals.


Special online events

Charlie Chaplin Days, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum

For the second year in a row, the Museum’s weekend-long celebration of The Little Tramp is virtual. Among the events:

  • Five shorts from Chaplin’s Essanay period, all with introductions. You can stream them anytime throughout the weekend.
  • Tillie’s Punctured Romance: Chaplin played the villain in what is probably the first feature-length comedy, in a new restoration by Lobster Films. Also available through the weekend.
  • The Kid: Chaplin’s first feature that he had complete control, with a discussion with Sarah Biegelsen.
  • And several Zoom discussions about Chaplin and his work.

Thrillville Movie Club: The Dark Knight (2008), New Parkway, Saturday, 3:00

The Movie: In what is by far the best Batman movie I’ve ever seen, no one – including Bruce Wayne/Batman himself (Christian Bale) – gets away without moral compromises. But what can you expect when fighting the Joker (Heath Ledger), who believes that everyone can be turned to evil, and knows how to prove the point. The action scenes use very little CGI, making the mayhem all the more frightening.
The Event:
Make sure you watch the movie in time for the event. Then, on Saturday, 3:00pm, enter into the Zoom discussion.

Another chance to see (virtually)

B+ Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, New Mission

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.

Theatrical revivals

A Brokeback Mountain (2005), Balboa, Sunday, 12 noon

Heath Ledger turns the stereotype of the strong, silent cowboy on its head, playing a man so beaten down and closed off from the world that every word is a struggle. Unable to come out of the closet, he can’t openly acknowledge who he really is without rejecting another, equally important part of his identity–the strong, manly cowpoke. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams are also brilliant as his lover and his wife. One of only a handful of films that significantly changed society for the better.

A The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30

35mm! You spend more time scared for the monster than of it in James Whales’ masterpiece. Boris Karloff plays the nameless creature as a child in a too-large body, the ultimate outcast torn between his need for love and his anger at the society that rejects him. With Colin Clive as the mad scientist, Ernest Thesiger as a delightfully over-the-top madder scientist, and Elsa Lanchester as both Mary Shelley and the monster’s mate (although, technically speaking, Valerie Hobson plays the real Bride of Frankenstein).

B+ The Story of a Three Day Pass (1968), BAMPFA

Melvin Van Peebles, a pioneer in African-American filmmaking, started his career with this warm, sweet, sexy romance. A Black, U.S. soldier stationed in France gets a three-day pass and meets a French girl. They have a wonderful time…until things go wrong. And some of what goes wrong is, not surprisingly, about race. Van Peebles livens the simple story with cinematic tools such as comic sound effects emphasizing the awkwardness of sex with a new partner. A terrific jazz-inflected score helps considerably.

B+ The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Balboa, Saturday, 11:00pm; Sunday, 1:00am

This is in no way, shape, or form a great movie. It’s cheaply shot. The songs, while catchy, are hardly great rock. The characters are broad clichés and the plot almost non-existent. But it’s a crazy, funny, absurd celebration of everything sexual, with Tim Curry carrying the movie as a cross-dressing mad scientist. Also starring a very young Susan Sarandon. Read my report.

Drive-in revivals

B- Rocketman, Lark Drive-in, Friday, 9:00

The Elton John biopic–made while the singer was looking over everyone’s shoulder – starts pretty good as we learn about his childhood (or a fictionalized version of it) and his breaking into the top of popular music. But soon the movie becomes a by-the-book story of the rock star ruined by alcohol and drugs; something I’ve seen too many times before. On the plus side, Taron Egerton makes an excellent Elton John, and the film creates a very sweetly platonic relationship between John and lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). The structure, set during John’s first visit to an AA meeting, felt clichéd.

Virtual revivals

B The Lost World, San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Free for Festival members. Hollywood’s first man vs. dinosaur epic isn’t that different from today’s blockbusters. Like them, it uses special effects to prop up what’s otherwise an extremely silly movie. The silliness is of the 1920s variety–overacting and fake-looking facial hair, and the FX are technically crude by today’s standards. But model animator Willis O’Brien (who would later make King Kong) infused his dinosaurs with weight and thought, which sells them to the viewer. New, complete restoration from Lobster Films.

Frequently-revived classics