Four of the greatest films ever made are playing in Bay Area movie theaters this week – one of them through the whole week. The other three movies are pretty good, too. Plus three film festivals.
Festivals & Series
- The East Bay Jewish Film Festival continues through this week and beyond
- Noir City opens Thursday, and also goes into next week.
- The Sonoma International Film Festival opens Wednesday and, sure enough, goes into next week.
New films opening
A CODA (2021), Sebastopol, opens Friday
You rarely find so much in such a conventional story. Teenaged Ruby (Emilia Jones – very good) is the only non-deaf person in her family. That makes her the translator between her parents and the rest of the fishing town in which they live. She even must translate to a doctor about her parents’ sex life (a very funny scene). That’s not a good job for a teenage girl interested in music and boys. Meanwhile, economic problems threaten to destroy the family’s small business. But Ruby wants to become a singer – she has the voice – and her family can’t even understand what music means. In one brilliant scene, Ruby’s family attends her first concert (and their first concert), without hearing anything.
[[Correction made 3/18]] Mothering Sunday is not opening today (Friday), as I thought it was. It will open two weeks ago on April 1.
A+ Seven Samurai (1954), Roxie, Thursday, 7:00pm
35mm! If you think all action movies are mindless escapism, you need to set aside 3½ hours for Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece. The basic story – a poor village hires warriors to defend them against bandits – has been retold many times since, but Kurosawa told it first and told it best. This is an action film with almost no action in the first two hours. But when the fighting finally arrives, you’re ready for it, knowing every detail of the people involved, the terrain that will be fought over, and the class differences between the peasants and their hired swords. One of the greatest movies ever made. Read my essay.
A+ The Godfather (1972), Alameda, Cerrito, Sebastopol, throughout the week
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+ 8 1/2 (1963), BAMPFA, Saturday, 7:00
Funny, exhilarating, perplexing, and tragic, 8½ is not only the greatest film ever made about writer’s block. It’s also the ultimate cinematic statement on the male midlife crisis. 8½ is about making a movie, and the movie it’s being made appears to be 8½. Filled with one memorable and unique scene after another, Fellini’s autobiographical surreal comedy lacks nothing except a coherent plot, and it has no use for that. Read my A+ appreciation. Part of the series Federico Fellini at 100.
A+ Do the Right Thing (1989), Balboa, Sunday, 9:30pm
Spike Lee’s masterpiece just may be the best fiction film ever made about race relations in America. For a 30-plus-year-old film, it feels very much like the here and now. By focusing on a single block of Brooklyn over the course of one very hot day, Lee dramatizes and analyzes everything wrong (and a few things right) about race relations in America. And yet this beautifully made film is touching, funny, warm-hearted, and humane. Read my Blu-ray review.
A- Valley Girl (1983), Balboa, Saturday, 9:30pm
35mm! Intended by investors to be just another teenage sexploitation comedy, writers Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane and director Martha Coolidge turned Valley Girl into a semi-classic – a very funny update of Romeo and Juliette. It stars Nicolas Cage in his first major role (before he got weird) and makes some of the best use of rock ‘n’ roll ever in a movie that isn’t about music.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, New Mission, Saturday, 10:45pm; Sunday, 10:15am; Wednesday, 2:20pm
- Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, BAMPFA, Sunday, 4:00pm
- The Blues Brothers, Vogue, Sunday, 7:30pm
- Evil Dead II, New Mission, Monday, 7:00pm
- The Song Remains The Same, New Mission, Monday, 9:30pm
- The Heroic Trio, New Mission, Wednesday, 7:30pm