What’s Screening: May 13 – 19

This week opens on Friday the 13th – not just the date but also two sequels. And what else is available in Bay Area theaters? A new film from Iran. A popular event returns to the Castro. Also, classics by Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Bob Fosse, and George Lucas. Plus, four festivals that I’m not going to even try to cover.

Festivals & Series

New films opening theatrically

B Hit the Road (2021), Opera Plaza, Rafael, Shattuck, check theaters for times

This Iranian family road movie starts out well. Father has a cast on one leg, keeping him stuck in the back seat. Mother can be strict, but she can burst into song and jokes. The adolescent son does most of the driving and seems to be worried about something – perhaps the police. (We never know their destination.) The young boy, maybe about 5, is adorable but uncontrollable – as young kids in cars usually are. But as the movie goes along, the story gets less fun and more serious.

Promising events

Sing-A-Long Sound of Music, Castro, Sunday, noon (doors open 11:00am)

Before COVID, this was a popular and frequent event at the Castro. I never attended it, mostly because I’m no fan of the movie. But many people loved those sing-a-long events, and if you’re one of them, you can now return to a beloved celebration. Hosted by Laurie Bushman and Sara Toby Moore.

Another chance to see (theatrically)

B+ Crazy Rich Asians (2018), New Mission, Saturday, 12:20pm

Brunch! The setup suggests a ’30s or ’40s screwball comedy: When the boy brings his girlfriend home, she discovers his family is filthy rich and his mother doesn’t approve of the match. But the comedy never reaches the madcap intensity of screwball. In fact, if you’re only looking for laughs, Crazy Rich Asians will disappoint you. The film’s pleasures come from the likable characters; especially the super-smart heroine (Constance Wu) who must overcome the formidable and snobbish mother (the great Michelle Yeoh).

Theatrical revivals

A+ Rear Window (1954), New Mission, Tuesday, 4:00pm

Alfred Hitchcock at his absolute best! James Stewart is riveting as a news photographer temporarily confined to his apartment and a wheelchair, amusing himself by spying on his neighbors (none of whom he knows) and guessing at the details of their lives. Then he begins to suspect that one of them committed murder. As he and his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) investigate, it slowly dawns on us – but not on them – that they’re getting into some pretty dangerous territory. Hitchcock uses this story to examine voyeurism, urban alienation, and the institution of marriage, as well as treating his audience to great entertainment. Read my A+ Appreciation.

B+ Cabaret (1972), Roxie, click to get dates and times

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+ American Graffiti (1973), Cerrito, Thursday, 7:00pm

A long time ago, in a Bay Area that feels very far away, George Lucas made an entertaining (and extremely profitable) comedy without a body count, a big budget, or special effects. Talk about nostalgia. You can also talk about old-time rock ‘n’ roll. American Graffiti makes great use of early 60s music in one of the most effective and creative sound mixes of the ’70s.

B+ The Shining (1980), Vogue, Friday & Sunday, 7:30pm

For once, the cliché is true: Stephen King’s novel, The Shining, is much better than the movie. Stanley Kubrick, brilliant as he was, missed the main point of the book – that the protagonist loves his family, and is a good man struggling with his inner demons. Without that, it’s little more than a sequence of scares (all good scares, but just scares). Kubrick added some surprising and effective touches, but overall, he turned a brilliant novel into a simply very good horror flick. Read my longer article.

B Inglourious Basterds (2009), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30pm

I can’t deny the modest pleasures of Quentin Tarantino’s Holocaust revenge fantasy. A group of Jewish American soldiers enter occupied France to disrupt the Nazis. Even as I thought of the plot’s inherent absurdity (why would Jewish Americans do better than the French resistance?), I enjoyed the clever dialog, some good performances, the references to other movies, and the sheer audacity. The movie contains Christoph Waltz’s breakout performance, and Brad Pitt with a southern accent that wouldn’t fool a cow.

B Lost in Translation (2003), Roxie, click to get dates and times

Sophia Coppola introduced us to Scarlett Johansson and gave Bill Murray his best performance since Groundhog Day in this strange meditation where almost nothing happens. Murray plays an American movie star in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey commercial. Johansson plays the bored wife of a photographer. They sense a bond, but what you expect to happen never does. That’s okay, because it probably wouldn’t happen in real life, either. Coppola allows us to enjoy these people’s company, and their reaction to a foreign culture, for 104 minutes.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics