What’s Screening: February 25 – March 3

As a 50-year-old masterpiece gets back into theaters, last year’s best film finally comes to big screens! It’s an offer you can’t refuse. You can also see movies by Barry Jenkins, Nicolas Roeg, F. W. Murnau, and Samuel Fuller. But if you’re tired of great auteurs, you can watch MST3K on the big screen for the first time in two years.

Festivals & Series

  • WinterFest, a short version of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, opens Saturday and continues into next week.

New films opening theatrically

A Cyrano, Alameda, Albany Twin, Elmwood, Grand Lake, Sebastiani, Sebastopol, opens Friday

Finally! The best film of last year is out! Peter Dinklage plays the title character as a man certain to know he will never find love. Instead of a too-big nose, this too-short Cyrano desperately loves Roxanne (Haley Bennet). But she loves the handsome, but not-too smart Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). This celibate triangle can only end in tragedy. It’s also a musical, although the songs will never hit top 40. But they fit the story so perfectly you might not even notice that the characters are singing. Read more on this film.

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A Ascension (2021), Rafael, Tuesday, 7:00

If you think America is the land where people desperately fight for a piece of the pie, you should see how it works in so-called “socialist” China. Jessica Kingdon’s spellbinding, narration-less documentary shows the People’s Republic as a country of paupers scrambling to raise themselves financially – or at least to create the image of wealth and good breeding. But it’s an impossible dream for most, and even those few who gain the dream find only environmental disaster. Read my full review.

Theatrical revivals

A+ The Godfather (1972), many AMC theaters, opens Friday through Thursday

50-year anniversary. Francis Coppola, taking the job simply because he needed the money, turned Mario Puzo’s potboiler into the Great American Crime Epic. Marlon Brando may have top billing, but Al Pacino owns the film as the son who does not want a life of crime – but proves exceptionally well-suited for the job. A masterpiece of character, atmosphere, and heart-stopping violence. Read my A+ list essay.

A Moonlight (2016), New Mission, Monday, 3:00pm; Wednesday, 7:15

Barry Jenkins’ surprise Oscar winner follows a resident of the inner city from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, examining three stages of his life. Three different actors play the main character, a young man unsure of his sexuality but who must act macho to survive in the tough streets. Mahershala Ali carries the first act as a drug-dealer who is also a gentle and kind father figure. Read my full review.

A I Am Not Your Negro (2016), Balboa, Monday, 7:30pm

The African-American experience, summed up in the words of James Baldwin, read by Samuel L. Jackson, while director Raoul Peck provides visual context from old news footage, talk shows, and scenes shot for this powerful documentary. Every American should see I Am Not Your Negro; unfortunately, only those already sympathetic to its message will likely catch it. Read my full review.

A To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), New Mission, Saturday, 3:15pm

The film version of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel manages to be both a nostalgic reverie of depression-era small town Southern life and a condemnation of that life’s dark and ugly underbelly. Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch is the ultimate decent and moral father, a character so virtuous he’s only believable because the story is told through the eyes of his six-year-old daughter. (It’s worth noting that in the long-awaited sequel to the novel, the now-grown daughter discovers her father’s flaws.)

A- Walkabout (1971), Rafael, Thursday, 7:00pm

Nicolas Roeg takes us to Australia and the line between civilization and the wild. As with all Roeg films, you shouldn’t try too hard to understand the story; just feel it. A white teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her much younger brother (Luc Roeg – the director’s son) get stranded in the outback. Luckily, they meet a lone, teenage aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil in his first film) who knows how to survive. While the two teenagers feel a sexual spark, the child finds ways to bridge the cultural and linguistic gaps. Walkabout is masterly shot, creating senses of beauty and danger. Warning: A great many animals were harmed in the making of this movie, and their deaths are all onscreen. Part of the series David Gulpilil: Between Two Worlds.

B+ City Girl (1930), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00

Sunrise wasn’t Murnau’s last word on rural vs. metropolitan life. In this very late silent, a young man from a Minnesota farm goes to the big city on business and falls in love with a waitress. He marries her and brings her home, where he must face his harsh, cruel, unbending father. The city scenes are fine, but once the story returns to the farm, the film becomes exceptional. The conflicts between the newlyweds, and the cruel patriarch at the heart of their problems, create a strong sense of suspense. Ernest Palmer’s photography turns the wheat fields into a biblical landscape. Part of the series F. W. Murnau: Voyages into the Imaginary.

B+ Forty Guns (1957), BAMPFA, Saturday, 7:00pm

Samuel Fuller’s Cinemascope western is best remembered for its shocking ending (which isn’t anywhere near as shocking as what Fuller intended). But it has a lot more than that going for it, especially with the female leads. Barbara Stanwyck plays a wealthy rancher who’s used to getting what she wants (the title refers to her army of gunfighters). You’re never quite sure what side she’ll land on. Lesser-known Eve Brent plays a beautiful gunsmith who’s a wonderful person yet not at all a proper lady. A lot of fun.

B+ Princess Mononoke (1997), New Mission, Tuesday, 6:00pm.

Subtitled. For much of its runtime, this Japanise, animated, action fantasy takes you on a wild and exciting ride. The hand-drawn characters, the strange animals, and the amazing moments of fear, struggle, and love are surprisingly powerful. But the climactic battle between animals and people drags on too long, seemingly just for the point of making things big. The environmental message is both obvious and shallow. Too extreme for young children.

B The Lost World (1925) & groundUP Music and Snarky Puppy, New Mission, Wednesday, 2:15pm

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. Along with the movie, there will be music, but I’m not sure if the music and the movie will play together.

Frequently-revived classics