What’s Screening: April 8 – 14

Want to see an old movie the old way – in a theater? Here’s what classics are playing this week in the Bay Area. But remember to wear your mask and carry proof of vaccination.

Also, three film festivals are running this week.

Festivals & Series

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A+ Five Easy Pieces (1970), Roxie, Wednesday, 6:50pm

35mm! Call it the Great American Loosely-Plotted Character Study. In his first starring role, Jack Nicholson brilliantly plays a relationship-averse blue-collar worker with a surprising family history. Of course, he goes on a personal, emotional, and physical journey in the film, but there’s nothing redemptive in it; he’s not a better man for having gone through the experience. Little happens in Five Easy Pieces, but what happens is more than worth following. See my A+ appreciation.

A+ 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), New Mission, Saturday, 11:30am; Tuesday, 6:00pm

35mm! Stanley Kubrick’s visualization of Arthur C. Clarke’s imagination tells you little, but it shows you a lot. Unlike any other science fiction movie (or any other big-budget blockbuster), it offers a daring story structure, striking visuals, breathtaking use of music, and a refusal to explain what it’s all about. As prophesy, 2001 failed. But as fantasy, adventure, mystery, and even theology, it’s brilliant. Read my report and my Eat Drink Film article on how it should best be shown. 2001 will screen in the giant, immersive auditorium. Too bad they’re using 35mm. It’s much better in either 70mm or 4K digital; this theater has both.

A+ Singin’ in the Rain (1952), various theaters, Sunday & Wednesday

In 1952, the late twenties seemed like a fond memory of an innocent time, and nostalgia was a large part of Singin’ in the Rain‘s original appeal. The nostalgia is long gone, so we can clearly see this movie for what it is: the greatest musical ever filmed, and perhaps the best work of pure escapist entertainment to ever come out of Hollywood. Take out the songs, which are easily the best part of the movie, and you still have one of the best comedies of the 1950′s, and the funniest movie Hollywood ever made about itself. Read my A+ appreciation.

A The Big Lebowski, New Mission, Saturday, 9:30pm; Monday, 4:00pm

The Coen Brothers’ most beloved film takes a Raymond Chandler-type story and replaces the tough, street-smart private detective with a drunken pothead slacker who cares only for bowling and calls himself The Dude (Jeff Bridges). The concept, and the execution, is damn near perfect. Aside from genre parody, there’s a thin, barely grasped sense of Zen to the movie. It’s as if you could throw yourself out into the universe and everything will come out okay…unless it doesn’t. Read my Blu-ray review.

A- Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Roxie, Friday, 9:20; Saturday, 7:30pm

35mm! Jim Jarmusch didn’t so much as burst upon the scene than casually stroll onto it with this strange, low-key, black-and-white road picture. Two men and a woman drive from New York to Cleveland to Florida with very little money or motivation. This may be the world’s most unhurried movie, with every scene consisting as a single shot ending with a short fade out. Funny and touching in its quiet, odd little way, and unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.

B+ Cabaret (1972), Sebastiani, Monday, 7:00pm

Back in the spring of 1973, I was angry (but not surprised) when the “obviously commercial Godfather beat Bob Fosse’s Weimar-era musical for the Best Picture Oscar. Time proved me wrong, and while I wouldn’t today put Cabaret in the same class as The Godfather, this story of decadence in pre-Nazi Germany is still a dazzling piece of style with an important message about the loss of freedom.

B+ Apocalypse Now, Balboa, Friday, 9:30pm

I don’t know which version of Apocalypse Now will be screened, but I suspect it’s the recent Final Cut. The original version, an adaptation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness set in the Vietnam war, is brilliant. Well, at least until Martin Sheen reaches his destination and the whole movie collapses under its (and Marlon Brando’s) weight. I give that version an A-. But since then, Coppola has recut the film twice. The second cut, Apocalypse Now Redux, made everything worse. I give it a B-. Final Cut is better than Redux, but it’s still not as good as the original. I give it a B+.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics