What’s Screening: May 20 – 26

Science fiction takes over Bay Area cinema this week with Star Trek, RobCop, and the original Star Wars trilogy. There’s also a David Lynch/David Cronenberg double bill, a French thriller by Henri-Georges Clouzot, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn epic.

Another cinema bites the dust

Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinema will close on June 1. When I moved to the East Bay in 1978, downtown Berkeley was filled with theaters, mostly controlled by  the Landmark Theatres art circuit. Soon there will be only two cinemas in Berkeley: the UA Berkeley 7 – a big soulless multiplex run by Regal, and the East Bay’s gem: the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).

Ironically, as the Shattuck will close for good, BAMPFA will open it’s summer season. More on that soon.

Festivals & Series

The Week’s Big Event

Original Star Wars Trilogy, Rafael. Dates and times below.

Well, it’s not exactly the original trilogy, but it’ the current altered version of it. Anyway, Star Wars isn’t really science fiction. It’s sword-and-sorcery fantasy – Tolkien with a high-tech gloss. The first film, originally called Star Wars but eventually renamed A New Hope, is silly and extremely entertaining. The second, The Empire Strikes Back, takes the story into darker territory. The third episode, The Return of the Jedi, manages to balance between the lighter and darker aspects of the other two while heading towards a rousing happy ending. Read my essay.

  • Star Wars: A New Hope
    • Friday, 7:00pm
    • Saturday, 4:15pm
  • The Empire Strikes Back
    • Thursday, 7:00pm
  • You’ll have to wait for next week for Return of the Jedi.

New films opening theatrically

A American Justice on Trial, Grand Lake, Wednesday, 6:30pm

Director Andrew Abrahams made an incisive, 40-minute, and powerful documentary about Oakland, Huey Newton, and the Black Panthers. But mostly it’s about Newton’s trial for killing a policeman in 1968. Abrahams sets the scene with how Oakland created a ghetto through police pressure during World War II. The filmmakers keep old footage to the minimum and use modern technology to turn courtroom illustrations into a sort of 3D animation – and does it well.

Double bills

David Lynch vs. David Cronenberg Double Bill: A- Eraserhead (1977) & ?Videodrome (1983), Roxie, Friday, 7:00pm

Eraserhead: Weird and extremely gross, David Lynch’s first feature has a ridiculously commonplace story. Henry meets his girlfriend’s parents. They have a baby, she leaves him, and the not-too-bright Henry must take on all the parental responsibilities. And yet it’s entirely unlike anything you’ve seen before. 35mm!
Videodrome: I saw this very sexy horror movie a very long time ago. I vaguely remember that it had some good scenes, and more bad ones.

Theatrical revivals

A Boogie Nights (1997), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30pm

Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic tale tells the stories of porn stars with delusions of talent – including Mark Wahlberg’s nice, well-endowed young man, and Julianne Moore’s porn queen/mother hen. Set in the late 70s and early 80s, Boogie Nights tracks porn’s fall from gutter chic to soulless video. The excellent cast includes Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, Burt Reynolds, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

B+ Diabolique, Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm

The wife and mistress of a truly despicable man plot together to murder him, and dispose of the body in a way that should make it look like an accident. Of course, things don’t go as planned. But the real difficulties come up when the body isn’t found where they left it. Then odd occurrences suggest that the husband is still alive. But how could that be? They killed him! From Henri-Georges Clouzot, director of The Wages of Fear.

D- Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition, various theaters, check dates & times

The first big-screen Star Trek movie, the one that I call Star Trek: The Motionless Picture, is one of the most boring science fiction films ever made by a Hollywood studio. The movie contains about 45 minutes of plot and action. The other 90 minutes or so contain slow, stately special effects, and close-ups of actors looking worried. Read my essay.

? RoboCop Director’s Cut (1987), New Mission, Sunday, 6:00pm

When I first saw ads for this sci-fi dystopian action flick, I thought “I can skip this one.” Then I read the reviews, and I had to see it. I remember it being sharp, funny, satirical, and a very strong commentary on America in the Reagan years. I also recall it being very violent, and not advisable for the weak of stomach. But then, it’s been a very long time since I’ve last seen it.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics