The Castro Theater’s 100th Birthday Celebration

Maybe it was the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, but Another Planet Entertainment (APE) seems to realize that the Castro Theater should be what it always was: a movie palace.

Next month, APE will give us the Castro Theatre 100th Birthday Celebration. From June 3 to 12, the Castro will run classic films. Each day, the theater will screen films from one decade. For instance, the first day will show films from the 1920s. The last day will screen movies from the 2010s. (There is one exception.)

An early swashbuckler, The Mark of Zorro, plays opening day

APE isn’t advertising how they’re projecting the movies. That almost certainly means DCPs instead of 35mm. That doesn’t bother me, although many cinephiles don’t like digital projection. Also missing: APE doesn’t tell us about the musical accompaniment for silent films.

If you want to spend a whole day at the Castro, I recommend one of these decades:

  • The 1950s (Monday, June 6)
    • From Here to Eternity
    • Some Like it Hot
    • All About Eve
  • The 1970s (Wednesday, June 8)
    • Star Wars: A New Hope
    • Chinatown
    • The Godfather
  • The 1980s (Thursday, June 9; scroll down a bit)
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark
    • Amadeus
    • Blade Runner
  • The 2010s (Sunday, June 12)
    • Black Panther
    • A Star is Born
    • Bohemian Rhapsody
    • Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

I’m not saying these were the best films from those decades, but someone at APE thought they were. You can go to any one of these all-day affairs and enjoy every movie.

If you want to see one great movie instead of four very good ones, here are the best films screening in this festival (in my opinion, of course).

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), Saturday, June 3, 9:45pm

Haunting, romantic, and impressionistic, F. W. Murnau’s first American feature turns the mundane into the fantastic and the world into a work of art. The plot is simple: A marriage, almost destroyed by another woman, is healed by a day of reconciliation and romance in the big city. Yet it’s the execution – with its stylized sets, beautiful photography, and expressionist performances – that makes it both touchingly personal and abstractly mythological. This late silent film was originally released with a music-and-effects soundtrack, and I assume it will play at the Castro. Read my Blu-ray review.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Saturday, 4:45pm

This 1938 Errol Flynn swashbuckler brings you into a world where virtue – graceful, witty, rebellious, good-looking, and wholeheartedly romantic virtue – triumphs completely over grim-faced tyranny. Flynn was no actor, yet no one could match him for handling a sword, a beautiful woman, or a witty line, all while wearing tights. The great supporting cast includes Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Technicolor–a name that really meant something back then. Read my essay.

Casablanca (1943), Sunday, June 5, 9:30pm

You’ve either already seen the best movie to come out of Hollywood’s studio-era sausage factory, or you know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece. They thought it was just another moderately-budgeted flick coming out of Warner’s assembly line. Yet this time, the machine turned out a masterpiece–one of the great American films. Perhaps it’s the million monkeys on a million typewriters theory. Somehow, just this once, the sausage came out perfect. For more details, see Casablanca: The Accidental Masterpiece.

Some Like it Hot (1959), Monday, June 6, 6:30pm

I’m not sure if this gender-bending farce is the best American film comedy of all time. It certainly belongs in the top 10. There are comedies with a higher laugh-to-minute ratio, and others that have more to say about the human condition. Yet I doubt you could find a more perfect example of comic construction, brilliantly funny dialog, and spot-on timing. There are no random gags here; every laugh comes from the characters and the tightly built situations. Read my latest Blu-ray review.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Tuesday, June 7, 4:30pm

As much as any other artist, John Ford defined and deepened the myth of the American West. In his last masterpiece, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ford tears that myth down, reminding us that a myth, when you come right down to it, is a lie. Avoiding beautiful scenery and even color (a black and white western was a risky investment in 1962), Ford strips this story down to the essentials, and splits the classic Western hero into two: the man of principle (Stewart) and the man of action (John Wayne). Read my report.

The Godfather (1972), Wednesday, June 8, 9:20pm

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 doesn’t want the life of crime that is so clear his destiny. A masterpiece of character, atmosphere, and heart-stopping violence. Read my essay.

But someone made a big mistake when giving the Wednesday, 9:20pm slot to The Godfather. An atmospheric three-hour movie needs to start earlier than that.