New and old movies are playing in San Francisco theaters; and a lot of them are already streaming. Looking for old-time movie stars on the big screen? This week you’ve got Clark Gable, Steve McQueen, Henry Fonda, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and Daniel Day-Lewis.
If that list is a bit too male-centered, there are real cowgirls, German lesbians, and Jeanette MacDonald (not in the same movie). When it comes to directors, there are works by John Ford, Steven Spielberg, F.W. Murnau, Paul Thomas Anderson, John Cassavetes, and Mike Nichols. (Hmm, that’s also pretty male-centric.)
Festivals & Series
- Frameline continues
The Week’s Big Event
Wednesday is the Castro Theatre’s 100th birthday party. To celebrate, Another Planet Entertainment will play five features throughout the day, all set or made in San Francisco. Here are some of these films:
B- San Francisco (1936), Castro, Wednesday, 10:30am
Yes, there were big, silly, melodramatic special effects vehicles in the 1930s. This one creates the 1906 earthquake and fire on the MGM lot – and does it well. But it’s more than that. San Francisco is a classic example of code-era Hollywood, where we can enjoy the sins of the flesh as long as we get redemption. Clark Gable plays the hedonistic saloon owner who falls for Jeanette MacDonald’s beautiful but Christian singer. Along with all the Christian moralizing, you get a crumbling metropolis, and the best song ever written about a city.
B+ Bullitt (1968), Castro, Wednesday, 8:15pm
Age hasn’t been altogether kind to this once cutting-edge police thriller. But it has its pleasures, especially Steve McQueen’s exceptionally cool charisma and the best car chase ever shot on the streets of San Francisco. To my knowledge, McQueen’s single use of the word bullshit marks the first time that word was heard in a Hollywood movie.
These other films will also screen the Castro on Wednesday:
New films opening theatrically
A- Bitterbrush, Opera Plaza, Rafael, opens Friday
Yes, there are still real cowgirls. Hollyn and Colie travel through the least populated parts of the American West, doing seasonal, temporary work – mostly herding cattle. And these women know what they’re doing. Bitterbrush is worth watching just for the scenery, with majestic mountains, beautiful valleys, springtime flowers, and prairies covered with snow. But the real joy comes from getting to know these young women, along with their dogs and the horses. Read my full review.
New films opening streaming
B+ Cocoon, should be streaming by Friday
This coming-of-age drama starts out weak, as three teenage girls run around the city, act wild, and look for a party. But soon the film focuses on Nora, the younger of the three, and the film gets much more interesting. Her alcoholic mother provides neither support nor a role model. Nora’s older sister does what she can to help her, but she’s still a teenager, herself. Meanwhile, Nora’s sexuality is budding (her first period happens in school), and her desires aren’t conventional.
A+ My Darling Clementine (1946), BAMPFA, Sunday, 5:pm
35mm! By all rules of the western genre, this John Ford masterpiece shouldn’t work. Yet it’s a masterpiece. The plot, the primary motivations, and the action all but disappear for the whole middle part of the movie. And yet it’s one of the greatest horse operas ever made. An extremely fictious version of the shootout of the O.K. Corral, the film becomes myth through a stunningly photographed Monument Valley. Even though the story feels like legend, the characters seem down-to-earth, and can surprise you with their all-too-human frailties and contradictions. Read my Blu-ray review. Part of the series Indelible Moments: May I Have This Dance.
A+ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1981), New Mission, Saturday, 2:40pm
By adding more humor, less racism, a smidgen of character development, and some of the best action scenes in the series, the third Indiana Jones flick outdoes even the original Raiders of the Lost Ark. Much of that comes from Sean Connery as the hero’s bookworm father, and a prologue with River Phoenix as the teenage Indy. The plot, which is simply an excuse to insert jokes and action sequences, has the Joneses trying to find the Holy Grail before the Nazis get it. You can read my A+ appreciation.
A Nosferatu (1922), Lark, Thursday, 7:30pm
Live musical accompany by Invincible Czars! Forget about sexy vampires; the first film version of Dracula doesn’t have one. This unauthorized rip-off got the filmmakers in legal trouble, where Max Schreck played Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This 1922 silent isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it just might be the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Read my Blu-ray review.
A There Will Be Blood (2007), New Mission, Monday, 6:00pm
Paul Thomas Anderson’s small, character-driven films always felt like epics, so there’s no surprise that he’d eventually try to do the real thing. Or that he’d eventually get it right. Based on an Upton Sinclair novel called Oil! (the title change makes no sense), There Will be Blood is big, sprawling, and spectacular, and captures not just a moment in history but a 30-year transition. Read my full review.
A- Shadows (1959), BAMPFA, Friday, 7:00pm
Restored 35mm Print! Men are jerks. That’s the big takeaway of John Cassavetes’ 1959 feature debut. With no main plot but multiple subplots, Shadows follows several young Manhattanites, mostly male, as they drink, argue, fight, talk about culture, and try to get laid. But it’s a woman, Lelia Goldoni, who steals the film with her outward bravado and inner vulnerability. The dialog, like Charles Mingus’ score, is entirely improvised. Part of the series Film Preservation: Celebrating The Film Foundation.
B+ The Birdcage (1996), New Mission, 11:30am
Brunch The American movie version of La Cage Aux Folles is warm and loving entertainment. And when it’s appropriate, it’s side-splittingly hilarious. A middle-aged, very gay couple must pretend at they’re not only straight but culturally conservative (Robin Williams and Nathan Lane). Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest play the conservatives they must trick. Directed by Mike Nichols from a screenplay by the amazing Elaine May.