What’s Screening: September 17 – 23

What’s happening in Bay Area cinema? Four theaters are opening up! We’ve also got a documentary about a little-known but important activist. There’s found footage at the BAMPFA. And you can see Citizen Kane in a big, indoor theater. You can also see Putney Swope or The Force Awakens on big screens.

And one more thing: If you’re not vaccinated, none of the theaters will let you in.

Theaters opening

New Parkway: Among the films playing this week include Cruella, Cryptozoo, Pig, the Green Knight, Black Widow, and Prisoners of the Ghostland. And that’s just Friday.

New Mission: This week, they’re playing Cry Macho, Copshop, and the very entertaining Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Albany Twin: My neighborhood theater opens today with The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Who You Think I Am.

Piedmont: The theater isn’t in Piedmont, but it’s on Oakland’s Piedmont Ave. It’s playing Blue Bayou, along with the Tammy Faye movie.

New films opening

B My Name Is Pauli Murray, Embarcadero Center, Shattuck, Piedmont, opens Friday

I had never heard of Pauli Murray until I saw this documentary. Murray was an African-American scholar, lawyer, civil rights activist, professor, women’s rights activist, author, and Episcopal priest. She was also transgender – an unknown word in her life. Filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West are trying to make her as famous as she should be. The documentary is conventional, but the subject is worth learning about. Read my full review.

New to the big screen

A- Cryptozoo (2021), New Parkway, Friday, 5:00; Sunday, 9:30; Monday, 6:30; Wednesday, 6:45; Thursday, 7:20

This beautiful, animated feature about people trying to save mythological creatures is absolutely not for children. Set in the 1960s, poachers hunt for rare and sometimes magical animals. Meanwhile, the Pentagon wants them for war. A handful of heroes attempt to bring them to a special zoo, where they might be saved…but also imprisoned. The hand-drawn animation is not Disney-standard but strikingly dramatic. The film contains sex and some very grisly violence. Read my full review

Promising events

(In)appropriation: A Program of Found Media, BAMPFA, Wednesday, 7:00

This set of found footage isn’t intended to be laughed at (I think). The BAMPFA’s website tells us that “The raw material for the artists’ work ranges from official state and commercial archives to vernacular collections, home movie repositories, and digital databases.” In conversation with Jaimie Baron, Scott Stark, and Phoebe Tooke.

Theatrical revivals

A+ Citizen Kane (1941), Fathom Events & TCM, check theaters, dates, and times

How does any movie survive an 80-year reputation as the “Greatest Film Ever Made?” One obvious reason is that it’s very, very good. But that’s not enough. True, there are films more perceptive about the human condition, pictures more dazzling in their technique, and movies more fun. But I’d be hard pressed to name any film this insightful that’s also as technically dazzling and fun to watch. As Orson Welles and his collaborators tell the life story of a newspaper tycoon through the flashback memories of those who knew him, they also turn the techniques of cinema inside out. Read my A+ appreciation.

B+ Putney Swope (1969), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30

Before actor Robert Downey, Jr., there was his father, auteur Robert Downey, maker of absurd, offensive, and very independent comedies. In this 1969 feature, the single, token black executive in a Madison Ave. ad agency accidentally becomes the top dog. Suddenly, this meek “negro” becomes a militant black, and things get very surreal. Even Mel Brooks gets into the cast.

Drive-in revivals

A Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lark Drive-in, Saturday, 7:40

J.J. Abrams understands Star Wars far better than he ever understood Star Trek. In fact, he understands it better than George Lucas ever did. He knows that a Star Wars movie must be big and exciting, with mind-blowing action sequences and special effects. Abrams also knows that Star Wars needs bigger-than-life characters, some comic, and a simplistic view of good and evil. And most important, he understands that Star Wars isn’t science fiction; it’s Tolkien-style fantasy with sci-fi hardware.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics