We’re deeper into October, yet we’re not seeing as many horror films this week as last. Instead, Bay Area theaters are screening two political documentaries, Robert Altman’s unusual western, Jean-Luc Godard’s first and best movie, one of the greatest dance routines ever put on film, and part two of Richard Linklater’s brilliantly romantic trilogy.
If you still want some horror, theaters are projecting a Swedish vampire, a German vampire, and vampires hanging out on a California beach.
Festivals & Series
The following festivals are all open now and through the week.
- The Mill Valley Festival
- The Green and Environmental Film Fest
- The San Francisco Short Film Festival
A American Justice On Trial (2022), New Parkway, Tuesday, 7:00pm
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.
C Riotsville (2022)
*Sebastopol, Friday, 12:50pm; 2:50pm; 7:20pm
*Elmwood, Friday, 12:30pm; 4:45pm
You need something special if you want to make a documentary about race in America these days. Director Sierra Pettengill’s gimmick is spicing old TV clips and U.S Army training films. The army footage comes from a fake town called Riotsville – made in the 1960s to train the army to tamp down riots. That concept isn’t enough for a full feature documentary, so Pettengill shows us clips from 60s television news, talk shows, old commercials, and even static. The narrator is bland and monotoned. As far as I can tell, the army never created a fake town called Riotsville.
A+ McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Roxie, Sunday, 5:40pm
With all his great work, Robert Altman never made anything as brilliant as his rethinking of the western genre. The plot sounds like a western cliché: A lone rider with a rep as a gunfighter comes to town (Warren Beatty), He doesn’t act like a killer. He launches a peaceful business – a whorehouse. He knows nothing about the business, and that’s where Julie Christie comes in. But when a big, criminal-run organization wants to take over his now-successful company, he makes a very bad choice. What makes the film a masterpiece is Vilmos Zsigmond’s golden cinematography, Leonard Cohen’s atmospheric music, and…well, just everything else about this film. Read my essay.
A Let the Right One In (2008), New Mission, Tuesday, 7:00pm
This is one of the great vampire movies. After all, what better place for a vampire than a Swedish winter? The nights are very long, snow covers everything, and people drink heavily and seem depressed to begin with. It’s like Bergman, only with undead bloodsuckers. Let the Right One In is also a coming-of-age story, about first love between a boy about to turn 13 and a girl who has been twelve “for a very long time.” Read my full review.
A Fantasia (1940), Lark, Friday, 4:00pm
Decades before rock videos and popular marijuana, Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski turned music into funny, surreal, and frightening images. Countless visual artists took major works of classical music and created something very special. Of course, they had plenty of help from some famous composers, including Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky (the only one who lived to see the movie). Not every piece is brilliant, although even the weakest parts are still worthwhile. A great achievement and an entertaining two hours.
A Nosferatu (1922), New Parkway, Sunday, 2:30pm
With live music by Sleepbomb! 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 Breathless (1960), Roxie
Jean-Luc Godard broke all the rules and created something dazzling in his very first film. There’s nothing special about the noirish plot: Young lovers go on a crime spree, the man murders a cop, and now they’re on the run. The wild and energetic camerawork, the crazy editing (I believe it’s the first film to cut within a shot), and the sexual energy of stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg are like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Godard never again made a film this good.
B+ Stormy Weather (1943), Lark
There’s no real plot, even though there are several attempts to create one. Stormy Weather isn’t about story. The movie is simply an excuse to showcase some of the greatest African American entertainers of its time. The all-Black cast include Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and Dooley Wilson. Louis Armstrong is sadly missing. The Nicholas Brothers close the picture with one of the greatest dance performances in cinema history. Warning: There’s a scene with black entertainers in blackface.
B+ Before Sunset (2004), Monday, 7:30pm
Nine years after they met, the not-so young couple meet again – this time in Paris. They talk, joke, and occasionally flirt. They both have found disappointment in their lives. The film is set in real time – its 80-minute runtime matches the 80 minutes in the life of the characters. Best seen after watching Before Sunrise. Read my full article.
B+ The Lost Boys (1987), New Parkway, Saturday, 10:10pm
This clever and funny teenage vampire movie was shot in Santa Cruz, and is clearly set there (even though they give the town another name). So, you have the undead partying in the summer nights on the beach, on the boardwalk, and dealing with teenage angst. But then, what do you do when peer pressure tells you to become an immortal bloodsucker? Hey, all the cool kids are doing it! A lot of fun in a horror movie that refuses to take itself seriously. It’s even occasionally scary.
C+ Django Unchained (2012), Balboa, Thursday, Thursday, 7:30pm
35mm! Typical Tarantino – clever, entertaining, way over the top in its gruesome and entirely unrealistic violence, and utterly hollow on the inside. Like Inglorious Basterds, this one uses a great crime against humanity as an excuse for a splatter-filled revenge flick that’s also a tribute to a particular kind of action movie. In this case, the crime is American slavery and the genre, the spaghetti western. Ridiculous, but I must admit that I occasionally found it enjoyable.
- The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Balboa, Saturday, 9:30pm
- The Fellowship of the Ring, Balboa, Tuesday, 7:00pm
- Beetlejuice, New Mission, Wednesday, 7:00pm. Movie Party! Vogue, Wednesday, 7:30pm
- Poltergeist, check times and theaters, Friday through Wednesday
- The Thing (1982 version), New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30pm