What’s Screening: Sept 2 – 8

Movie ticket prices will go down to $3.00 – but only this Saturday. On Friday and the rest of the week, you’ll have to pay the regular price. It’s worth it, with movies on the big screen from Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Steven Spielberg, the team at Pixar, David Lynch, and Monty Python.

Festivals & Series

The Week’s Big Event

This Saturday is National Cinema Day. To get people back into the habit of going to the movies, theaters will be selling tickets at only $3.00. I can’t say that all theaters will be part of this event. I know the big chains are doing it, which means you can watch a movie in Imax for the price of two Snack Pack Pie Pudding Cups. Other theaters that I know will sell bargain tickets include the Albany Twin, Cerrito, Elmwood, New Mission, Opera Plaza, and the Roxie.

Promising events

C- Vertigo (1958), Castro, Saturday, doors open 6:00pm; show starts 7:00pm

70mm!! For many cinephiles, this isn’t just Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece; it’s the greatest film ever made. Not me. Neither the story nor most of the characters make any sense, and I don’t believe anyone’s motivations. The film contains one wonderful, believable, and likeable character, Barbara Bel Geddes’ Midge, although we don’t see much of her. Yes, the film is very atmospheric, but that’s just not enough. I don’t need to stare at a screen to experience San Francisco’s fog. Hosted by Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, with special guest Diane Baker (of Marnie). Ignoring National Cinema Day, the people running the Castro are charging a $25 ticket price.

Theatrical revivals

A+ The General (1926), Stanford, Friday, 7:30pm

Buster Keaton’s Civil War opus just might be the most beautiful and spectacular comedy ever filmed – a perfect blending of comedy and epic adventure (even though the good guys are the confederates). Loosely based on an actual Civil War event, Keaton mixed slapstick comedy with battlefield death. He hired thousands of extras and filmed what may be the single most expensive shot of the silent era – then used that shot as the setup for a gag in close-up. read my full article. With the Laurel and Hardy short Big Business. Live musical accompaniment with Dennis James on the Wurlitzer organ.

A+ Jaws (1975), Find theaters and times

Screening on IMAX, 3D, or the original version. People associate Jaws with three men in a boat, yet the picture is more than half over before the shark chase really begins. For that first half, Jaws is a suspenseful, witty variation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, An Enemy of the People, but with a central character more conflicted and less noble (Roy Scheider). Then the three men get on the boat and the picture turns into a hair-raising variation on Moby Dick. Jaws’ phenomenal success helped create the summer blockbuster, yet by today’s standards, it’s practically an art film–albeit one that could scare the living eyeballs out of you. See my Blu-ray review.

Soul (2020), Rafael, Saturday, 1:00pm; Monday, 7:00pm

My children are all grown, and I don’t have to go to every Pixar movie anymore. I’m glad I saw this one. Soul is one of Pixar’s best, and in many ways one of its most adult. It’s about Jazz, New York, dreams, teaching, the afterlife, and fitting your soul into your body. Jamie Foxx voices the main character, a middle school music teacher and jazz pianist possibly on the brink of fame. But most important of all, it’s about enjoying life and caring for others. Technically and artistically, it’s damn near perfect. Tina Fey voices a soul without a body. Oakland’s Edna Brewer Middle School jazz band provides the middle school band music. Part of the Pixar Family Series.

A- The Mark of Zorro (1940), Stanford, Friday, 7:30pm

After Douglas Fairbanks and before Antonio Banderas, Tyrone Power wore the black mask to save early California from tyranny – and did it with panache. Power, who was bisexual in real life, plays Don Diego as an effeminate fop, and his masked alter ego as dashing masculinity. The movie is witty, fun, politically progressive (for its time), and includes one of the best sword fights ever to kill off Basil Rathbone. A remake of Douglas Fairbanks’ first swashbuckler, and better than the original. On a double bill with the 1985 version of A Tale of Two Cities, which I never saw.

A- Eraserhead (1977), New Mission, check dates and time

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. The extremely high-contrast black and white photography makes everything and everyone look ugly. The sound effects are disturbingly loud and frightening. Ugly, living things seem to be growing everywhere. And the baby…well, you’ll have to see it for yourself. A deeply disturbing and very funny experience.

A- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), check dates and theaters

The most-loved Star Trek movie gives us everything that its predecessor failed to deliver: an exciting and entertaining adventure starring the seven actors and characters that we learned to love from the original TV show, along with a chance for several of those actors to shine. This has almost everything you would want in a Star Trek movie.

B+ Princess Mononoke (1997), New Mission, Sunday, 3:30pm

Dubbed. For much of its runtime, this Japanize, animated, action fantasy takes you on a wild and exciting ride. The hand-drawn characters, the strange animals, and the amazing moments of fear, struggle, and love are surprisingly powerful. But the climactic battle between animals and people drags on too long, seemingly just for the point of making things big. The environmental message is both obvious and shallow. Too extreme for young children.

B+ Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Balboa, Tuesday, 7:30pm

You must understand three things about this movie: First, it’s basically two long motor vehicle chases broken up with short bits of dialog. Second, it’s surprisingly feminist for this sort of movie; the plot involves a woman warrior rescuing a tyrant’s enslaved harem. Finally, the title character is basically a sidekick, although we see the story through his eyes. The movie is filled with crashes, weapons, hand-to-hand combat, acts of courage, close calls, and fatal errors. It’s fast, brutal, feminist, and for the most part very well-choreographed.

B Roman Holiday (1953), Stanford, Saturday & Sunday, 3:40pm & 7:30pm

Gregory Peck and “introducing” Audrey Hepburn fall in love through an extremely contrived plot in this entertaining romantic comedy. She’s a runaway princess, and he’s a reporter hoping for a scoop. But the real star is Rome; shooting Hollywood films in overseas locations was a new thing in the early 1950s. Directed by William Wyler, from a story by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. On a double bill with Bread, Love and Dreams, which I know nothing about.

B- Foreign Correspondent (1940), Lark
*Monday, 7:00pm
*Tuesday, 2:15pm
*Wednesday, 10:00am

Not one of Hitchcock’s best, but it’s fun, with a couple of great Hitchcockian set pieces. It’s also an anti-Nazi film from a time when such a thing was still controversial in America (it was only Hitchcock’s second American film, made at a time when his native England was fighting for its life).

Drive-in revivals

A Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Lark Drive-In, Saturday, 8:10pm

Bump your coconuts and prepare the Holy Hand Grenade, but watch out for the Killer Rabbit (not to mention the Trojan one). The humor is silly and often in very bad taste, and the picture has nothing of substance to say beyond ridiculing the romantic view of medieval Europe. But the Pythons’ first feature with an actual story (well, sort of) keeps you laughing from beginning to end. Arguably the funniest film of the 1970s, and certainly the funniest of the Middle Ages.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics