What’s Screening: February 3 – 9

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Okay, I’ll tell you more. There’s a new, sexy film from France and a documentary about Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe. There are three films about African American life. Also, Chinese food (with American music), Japanese animation, Peter Sellers and Hal Ashby at their best. Also, a noir by Robert Altman and a hilariously screwball comedy by Peter Bogdanovich.

Festivals & Series

New films opening theatrically

B+ One Fine Morning (2022), Elmwood, Opera Plaza, opens Friday

This French romance has no real plot. But it works as a collection of minor and important events in a young woman’s life. Sandra lives with her young daughter (there’s no papa to be seen). She works as an interpreter. Her father is suffering from a degenerative disease, and she must find a good place for him. There’s a big and joyful Christmas party. But then a male friend becomes a lover – one with a wife and children. I have no idea why the film is called One Fine Morning; it takes place over several days.

New films opening streaming

B Shtetlers (2020), various streaming options

A shtetl is a small Jewish town in Eastern Europe – in this case, in Ukraine. Most were wiped out in World War II, but some have survived. This documentary interviews people who still live in these mostly empty towns, along with those who have moved to New York or Israel. Many of those who stayed are very religious, either Jewish or Catholic. There’s little or no animosity between the two religious groups – a sign of why this mostly Catholic country could elect a Jewish president. Keep in mind that this documentary was made before the current war. Clever animation gives us wonderful opening and ending credits.

Another chance to see (theatrically)

A Get Out (2017), Balboa
֍ Wednesday, 7:30pm
֍ Thursday, 5:30pm

Writer/director Jordan Peele took the concept of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and turned it into a comic horror movie. When a young, successful, and Black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) meets his white girlfriend’s parents, he finds something very strange about every African American he encounters. Soon trapped, he must find a way to escape from the privileged folks who want to turn him into yet another zombie slave. Funny, scary, and with a very sharp point.

A Soul (2020), 4-Star
֍ Saturday, 11:00am
֍ Sunday, 11:00am

My children are all grown, and I don’t have to go to every Pixar movies anymore, but 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, desires, teaching, the afterlife, why different babies have different personalities, and getting your soul back into your body. Jamie Foxx voices the main character, a 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.

B+ Judas and the Black Messiah (2021), New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30pm

If anyone is the hero of this movie, it’s Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), the charismatic leader of the Chicago Black Panther Party. He was willing to fight for his people and risk his life for them. But the movie isn’t really about Hampton. It’s mostly about Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), a thief turned FBI informant who will eventually help the G-men murder Hampton. J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen under a lot of makeup) didn’t want Hampton behind bars; he wanted him dead. No one here is completely innocent, including Hampton; and the film discusses killings done by the Party.

Theatrical revivals

A Being There (1979), Lark
֍ Sunday, 10:00am
֍ Monday, 8:00pm

Peter Sellers gave the best performance of his life as a mentally deficient TV addict in this biting satire. An accident brings him into the halls of wealth and power, where his idiotic comments are interpreted as sage advice, courageous honesty, or brilliant wit. Funny and biting. Directed by Hal Ashby.

A The Long Goodbye (1973), 4-Star, Thursday, 7:30

Philip Marlowe in the 1970s? That’s exactly what screenwriter Leigh Brackett and director Robert Altman did with excellent results. Marlowe (Elliott Gould) still lives in a crummy apartment, but now he has a bunch of hippie chicks next door, constantly offering him brownies. The movie starts as a comedy, with Marlow trying to find the only cat food his feline will eat. But as you’d expect in an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel, it turns into a labyrinth of fear and violence. A not-yet-famous Arnold Schwarzenegger shows up briefly. Read my Blu-ray review.

A Chungking Express (1994), New Mission, Sunday, 12:45pm

A strange and inexplicable movie…mostly in a good way. Chungking Express contains two separate boy-meets-girl stories, one told after the other. The men in both stories are police officers obsessed with food and looking for love. One woman is a master criminal who carries a gun and is willing to use it. The other is an eccentric waitress who loves The Mamas and the Papas. Writer/director Kar-Wai Wong and cinematographer Andrew Lau Wai-Keung find ways to tell a story and make cinema new all over again.

A- My Neighbor Totoro (1988), New Parkway, dubbed
֍ Friday, 4:00pm
֍ Saturday, 12:00 noon; Popcorn Party
֍ Sunday, 11:00am
֍ Wednesday, 6:20pm
֍ Thursday, 4:00pm

This Studio Ghibli feature may be one of the best cartoons ever for very young children. Adults can enjoy the beautiful animation and their children’s delightful reactions. Two children and their father (mother is in the hospital) move into a rural house that turns out to be haunted – in a good way. The magical creatures, including the powerful Totoro, make friends with the new people in the neighborhood. Warning: You should tell your kids beforehand that it takes place before everyone has a phone in their pocket.

A- What’s Up, Doc? (1973), Sebastopol, Elmwood, & Cerrito, Thursday, 1:00pm; Free!

Free! How did I miss this laugh fest in 1972? I remember it being in theaters. Maybe I was too caught up in “serious cinema” to notice that Peter Bogdanovich had made one of the funniest movies in years. It’s like a Howard Hawks screwball comedy with physical slapstick reminiscent of Buster Keaton (but with stunt doubles). The plot isn’t likely: Four people go to the same hotel, on the same day, with identical bags. Two of these bags contain things that powerful and ruthless people want. Written by Buck Henry, David Newman, and Robert Benton – the screenwriters of The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. Barbra Streisand plays the crazy dame to perfection and Madeline Kahn as the luckless fiancée. Even Ryan O’Neal is funny.

Continuing engagements

Frequently-revived classics