What’s Screening: April 15 – 21

I’ve changed the format of this weekly newsletter. Hopefully, it will make choosing a theater or a screening time easier to find.

And among these easy-to-find classics are works by Federico Fellini, Milos Forman, Roman Polanski, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Linklater, the Coen Brothers, and Monty Python – all on big screens. But first, we have giant, man-eating rabbits.

Festivals & Series

Promising events

Night of the Lepus (1972)

I have never seen this low-budget horror movie, which attempts to make giant bunnies scary. But among those who enjoy very bad movies, it’s something of a classic.

Theatrical revivals

A- 8 1/2 (1963)

Funny, exhilarating, perplexing, and tragic, is not only the greatest film ever made about writer’s block. It’s also the ultimate cinematic statement on the male midlife crisis. is about making a movie, and the movie that’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 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Ken Kesey’s novel offered a perfect opportunity for Milos Forman to explore his favorite topics: totalitarianism and rebellion. What’s Nurse Rachet’s mental ward but a dictatorship in miniature? While the movie belongs to Jack Nicholson, the entire cast is letter perfect. In fact, supporting players like Danny De Vito and Christopher Lloyd hardly seem to be the unknowns they were in 1975.

    • Friday, 4:30pm
    • Sunday, 4:00pm

A The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Coen Brothers’ most beloved film takes a Raymond Chandler-type story and replaces the tough, noirish private detective with a drunken pothead slacker who cares only for bowling and prefers to be called 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 Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

Not quite as funny as Holy Grail (but still hilarious), the Pythons’ second and last narrative feature digs a little deeper than its predecessor. A hapless citizen of Roman-occupied Judea (Graham Chapman) is mistaken for the messiah. It’s a great vehicle for satirizing faith, fanaticism (both religious and political), and the human tendency to blindly follow leaders. The religious right attacked it viciously when it came out, which is kind of funny since the movie’s strongest satire is aimed at left-wing radicals.

A Chinatown (1974)

Roman Polanski was at his best when he made this neo-noir tale of intrigue and double-crosses set in 1930s Los Angeles. Writer Robert Towne fictionalized an actual scandal involving southern California water rights (which actually happened decades earlier), mixed in a few personal scandals, and handed the whole story over to Polanski, who turned the script into the perfect LA period piece. Yes, Polanski got away with child rape, and you must make up your own mind about whether you would watch one of his films.

    • Friday, 7:30pm
    • Sunday, 7:00pm

A- What’s Up Doc (1972)

How did I miss this laugh fest in 1972? Maybe I was too caught up in “serious cinema” to notice that Peter Bogdanovich had made one of the funniest movies in years. It’s like a Howard Hawks screwball comedy with physical slapstick reminiscent of Buster Keaton (but with stunt doubles). The plot isn’t likely: Four people go to the same hotel, on the same day, with identical bags. Two of these bags contain things that powerful and ruthless people desperately want. Written by Buck Henry, David Newman, and Robert Benton – the screenwriters of The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. Barbra Streisand plays the crazy dame to perfection and Madeline Kahn as the luckless fiancée. Even Ryan O’Neal is funny.

A- Dazed and Confused (1993)

With cast reunion. Think American Graffiti set in the stoned ’70s. As the school year ends in a small Texas town, students and recent alumni head out looking for pot, parties, and sex. Some of them find it. But Richard Linklater isn’t George Lucas (thank God), so Dazed and Confused finds greater depths in the many characters. The young, largely unknown cast includes such future stars as Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and Matthew McConaughey.

    • Monday, 3:45pm
    • Tuesday, 4:30pm
    • Wednesday, 4:30pm

A- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

An accountant (Tim Robbins), convicted for a murder he didn’t commit, receives a life sentence. In the stir, he discovers that at least some of his skills have their benefits inside. Taking place over decades, this surprisingly optimistic prison movie makes a satisfying tale of winning over impossible odds.

B+ Amarcord (1973)

Federico Fellini’s nostalgic, autobiographical, yet decidedly weird comedy about village life is always enjoyable. Set in the late 1930’s, Fellini celebrates horny teenagers, confused adults, and distracted clergy, while treating fascists as comic opera buffoons. Amarcord succeeds frequently but not consistently, and it succeeds best when it’s just trying to be funny. Read my full review. Part of the series Federico Fellini at 100.

Frequently-revived classics