a highly-opinionated selection of things happening around town, and sometimes out of town. this month's page here.

sun. dec. 4

mondo cane 6 PM @ egyptian theatre
the jade tiger 7 PM, the romance of book and sword @ ucla film archive
calvin johnson, lavender diamond @ the smell
the most typical avant-garde: woman filmmakers II 7 PM @ filmforum @ egyptian theatre

mon. dec. 5

FREE crouching tiger, hidden dragon 1 PM @ aero theatre
FREE 2046 4 PM @ aero theatre
sarah silverman & friends @ largo

tue. dec. 6

chromatics @ the smell

wed. dec. 7

dirty ho 7:30 PM @ ucla film archive
FREE* children of leningradsky 7:30 PM, tarnation @ ucla film archive @ pickford center
nicholas gessler 8 PM @ telic gallery
the loons @ kim fowley's stars of tomorrow @ knitting factory

thu. dec. 8

qui @ il corral
jon brion/nels cline @ largo

fri. dec. 9

thumbsucker, junebug @ new beverly theatre
my young auntie 7:30 PM, once upon a time in china @ ucla film archive
the african queen 7:30 PM @ aero theatre

sat. dec. 10

around the world in 80 days 5 PM @ egyptian theatre
thumbsucker, junebug @ new beverly theatre
the valiant ones 7:30 PM, clans of intrigue @ ucla film archive
mary burns fugitive 7 PM @ starlight studio

sun dec. 11

hans dreier exhibit closes @ MPAA
the five venoms 7 PM @ ucla film archive
the jolson story 6 PM, cobra woman @ egyptian theatre
silver daggers @ the echo
the films of joseph cornell @ la filmforum, egyptian theatre
zur chronik von grieshuus 2 PM @ skirball center

mon. dec. 12

films of 1905 7:30 PM @ pickford center
joseph cornell: film constructions and fantasies 8 PM @ REDCAT theatre
lavender diamond @ 3 clubs

wed. dec. 14

elevator to the gallows, bob le flambeur @ new beverly theatre
badlands 7:30 PM @ aero theatre
the abyssinians @ the echo
tokyo story 8 PM @ 7 dudley cinema

thu. dec. 15

elevator to the gallows, bob le flambeur @ new beverly theatre
the squaw man 7:30 PM @ hollywood heritage musuem

fri. dec. 16

elevator to the gallows, bob le flambeur @ new beverly theatre
son of kong 7:30 PM, i'm king kong @ egyptian theatre
jarrett silberman @ il corral

sat. dec. 17

elevator to the gallows, bob le flambeur @ new beverly theatre
mighty joe young 5 PM @ egyptian theatre
king kong 8 PM 10:15 PM @ egyptian theatre
princess bride MIDNIGHT MOVIE @ rialto theatre
cafe society 7 PM @ starlight studio
hepcat, ocean 11 @ house of blues
kraig grady, open city @ il corral

sun. dec. 18

mighty peking man 6 PM, konga @ egyptian theatre
mae shi @ troubadour

tue. dec. 20

silent night deadly night, black christmas @ new beverly theatre

wed. dec. 21

gremlins 7:30 PM @ aero theatre

thu. dec. 22

the lady eve 7:30 PM, the palm beach story @ egyptian theatre

fri. dec. 23

el crimen perfecto, bad education @ new beverly theatre
bringing up baby, his girl friday @ egyptian theatre

sat. dec. 24

el crimen perfecto, bad education @ new beverly theatre

sun. dec. 25

my man godfrey 5 PM, twentieth century @ egyptian theatre

mon. dec. 26

topper 7:30 PM, mr. blandings builds his dream house @ egyptian theatre
the pope @ the smell

tue. dec. 27

ninotchka 7:30 PM, heaven can wait @ egyptian theatre

dec. 28

rare and unseen orson welles film clips, the trial @ new beverly theatre

dec. 29

rare and unseen orson welles film clips, the trial @ new beverly theatre

dec. 30

a history of violence, straw dogs @ new beverly theatre

dec. 31

a history of violence, straw dogs @ new beverly theatre


2046, 2004, Sony Pictures Classics, 130 min. Director Wong Kar-Wai's moody, dreamlike saga of blurring times, destinies and dimensions. Tony Leung Kar-Fai symbolically reprises his role from Kar-Wai's IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, but this time is an embittered soul in the near future of 2046, a kind of romantic-reincarnated-as-cynical-libertine, breaking the hearts of various women, including Bai-Ling (Ziyi Zhang.) With Gong Li, Takuya Kimura and Maggie Cheung. Admission is first come, first served, the day of the screening.

THE AFRICAN QUEEN, 1951, Paramount, 105 min. Dir. John Huston. Gin-soaked captain Humphrey Bogart decides to take pity on skinny, psalm-singin-g spinster Katharine Hepburn after her brother is killed in a German attack during WWI – and instead, winds up falling in love, and ferrying her downriver to launch a suicidal assault on a German warship! Brilliantly adapted from the C.S. Forester novel by Huston and James Agee (with uncredited help from Peter Viertel, whose novel White Hunter, Black Heart was inspired by his time in Africa during filming), and photographed by legendary British cinematographer, Jack Cardiff.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, 1956, Warner Bros., 183 min. Dir. Michael Anderson. This winner of five 1957 Academy Awards (one for Best Picture) adapts Jules Verne’s world-famous classic following turn-of-the-20th-Century gentleman adventurer, Phileas Fogg (David Niven) and his manservant, Passpartout (Cantinflas) as they circle the globe in a hot air balloon. Complete with an astounding cast (some in blink-and-you-miss-‘em cameos) that includes Noel Coward, Charles Boyer, John Gielgud, Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Colman, Buster Keaton, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Newton, Peter Lorre, George Raft, Gilbert Roland and more!
An Egyptian Theatre Exclusive! Rare Original Road Show 24 fps Version In 4-track Magnetic Stereophonic Sound!

(from IMDB)
In the early 60s, two boys - Ignacio and Enrique - discover love, movies and fear in a Christian school. Father Manolo, the school principal and Literature teacher, both witnesses and takes part in these discoveries. The three characters come against one another twice again, in the late 70s and in 1980. These meetings are set to change the life and death of some of them.

BADLANDS, 1974, Warner Bros., 95 min. The first feature from visionary maverick Terrence Malick, based on the Charles Starkweather-Carol Fugate murder spree of the late 1950’s, stars Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as a pair of innocent, amoral young killers flashing across the desolate American landscape like brushfire. A violent folk-tale for the modern age, brilliantly written and directed by Malick, and photographed by Brian Probyn, Tak Fujimoto and Stevan Larner. Brand New 35mm Print!

BRINGING UP BABY, 1938, RKO (20th Century-Fox), 102 min. Dir. Howard Hawks. Perhaps the greatest and most influential screwball comedy of all time, with Katharine Hepburn letting her hair down as a madcap heiress and Cary Grant putting his up as an absent-minded zoologist she’s decided she’s in love with. It just doesn’t get any more frantic or funnier than this. With Charlie Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald, May Robson, Walter Catlett, Fritz Feld and Asta as George.

(from IMDB)
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain an estimated four million children have found themselves living on the streets in the former countries of the Soviet Union. In the streets of Moscow alone there are over 30,000 surviving in this manner at the present time. The makers of the documentary film concentrated on a community of homeless children living hand to mouth in the Moscow train station Leningradsky. Eight-year-old Sasha, eleven-year-old Kristina, thirteen-year-old Misha and ten-year-old Andrej all dream of living in a communal home. They spend winter nights trying to stay warm by huddling together on hot water pipes and most of their days are spent begging. Andrej has found himself here because of disagreements with his family. Kristina was driven into this way of life by the hatred of her stepmother and twelve-year-old Roma by the regular beatings he received from his constantly drunk father. "When it is worst, we try to make money for food by prostitution," admits thirteen-year-old Artur. The pair of Polish filmmakers in this raw and very effective documentary even succeeded in filming an incident where the police patrol beat one of the street children and smear an entire tube of glue into his hair and onto his face. It is precisely this sniffing of the glue fumes that gives these children the possibility to at least for a little while escape the unforgiving world around them. It is a life of fleeting possibilities and danger.
Academy/Contemporary Documentaries screenings through the end of 2005 will take place at the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, 1313 North Vine Street in Hollywood. Parking is available behind the building through the entrance on Homewood Avenue.
Admission to all programs is free. Filmmakers will be present at screenings whenever possible.

Chu Yuan continued his cinematic transmutation of the Gu Long literary oeuvre with this gripping wuxia "whodunnit" set in the timeless realm of martial chivalry. Famed swordsman Chu Liuxiang (Di Long) is framed for the murder of three clan chiefs. Leaving behind leisure and connoisseurship—a resplendent houseboat and poetry-spouting friends—Chu embarks on an investigation that leads him from a mystery woman to Buddhist monks and a grotto-dwelling clan of female fighters led by a lesbian (Betty Bei Di). Gradually he uncovers a convoluted conspiracy that culminates in an unforgettable gender-bending twist. Fantastical and fringed with risqué sexual flourishes, CLANS OF INTRIGUE is echt Chu, a baroque martial arts saga replete with artifice and larger-than-life archetypes engaged in elegantly choreographed mortal combat.

COBRA WOMAN, 1944, Universal, 71min. Dir. Robert Siodmak. The mid-40s Universal kitsch quotient spills over-the-top in this gonzo saga of island maiden Maria Montez slugging it out with her newly-discovered evil twin sister!! With Jon Hall, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Sabu. Another nitrate Technicolor gem from the vaults. Discussion in between films with actress Betty Garrett (Larry Park’s widow). "Eye-Popping" Nitrate Technicolor Double Bill!

Fighting without seeming to fight—that's the ingenious premise at the heart of this dazzler by martial arts grandmaster Lau Kar-leung. The director's mainstay Gordon Liu plays a prodigal prince (and hyper-cultivated epicurean) targeted for assassination by his elder brother. Enter Wang Yu (not to be mistaken for the star of ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN) as the eponymous Ho, a boisterous ruffian who reluctantly apprentices himself to the expert Liu. With the killers disguised as a wine merchant and an antiques dealer, the prince finds himself parrying dangerous kicks and blows while in art appreciation mode. The climactic fight-back-to-the-palace pitting prince and apprentice against a battery of swords and arrows is a set piece for the ages. Like the title it belies, this movie about the art of the martial arts brilliantly distills its director's penchant for discoursing on the beauty and rigor of a genre that's clearly more than chopsocky.

The Academy salutes the year 1905 and its developmental contributions to motion pictures with a program of selected films, “A Century Ago: The Films of 1905,” in the Linwood Dunn theater at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Vine Street. After years as a technological novelty programmed as added attractions in vaudeville line-ups and presented at fairs and in contained machines called kinetoscopes, motion pictures finally began to find a home of their own in 1905 with the appearance of local storefront nickelodeons that would multiply quickly worldwide over the next few years. Filmmakers were shooting films both in studios and on location while continuing to push the boundaries of narrative storytelling. “A Century Ago: The Films of 1905” will reflect a partial survey of turn-of-the-twentieth-century international filmmaking with trick films, actualities, primitive dramas and gag films. It will be highlighted by the one-reel “feature” films The Palace of the Arabian Nights (a hand-tinted extravaganza from George Mèliés presented with live narration), The Little Train Robbery (the Edison company’s ambitious follow-up to The Great Train Robbery (1903), this time starring children) and The Kleptomaniac (an Edison film of social commentary involving theft among different classes). The program will also feature such popular box-office hits as Peeping Tom in the Dressing Room, Airy Fairy Lillian Tries on Her New Corset, Rube in an Opium Joint (all Biograph), The Whole Dam Family and the Dam Dog and Coney Island At Night (both Edison). Most prints will be in 35mm and are drawn from the collections of the Academy, the Library of Congress and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Live musical accompaniment will be provided by Michael Mortilla.

Long a favorite of martial arts movie fans, THE FIVE VENOMS was the defining showcase for late-career, all-male-ensemble Zhang Che. The dying master of the Venoms House tasks his one remaining disciple to bring to justice the young man's five predecessors, now dispersed and fallen into ignominious criminality. The elder Venoms quintet, however, possesses formidable skills, each in a distinctive fighting style: scorpion, snake, centipede, gecko and toad. The youngest Venom locates them in a small town, and in this nexus of gold loot, shady cops and corrupt judges, a suspenseful mystery plot unfolds, punctuated by some of the most lucidly articulated and imaginative fight sequences of the martial arts cinema. Uncharacteristically—and unlike even the previous Heroic Grace selection, BLOOD BROTHERS—Zhangian brotherhood is rent asunder by greed and betrayal among men.

HEAVEN CAN WAIT, 1943, 20th Century Fox, 112 min. Dir. Ernst Lubitsch. No, not the one with Warren Beatty, but the Glorious-Technicolor fantasy in which newly-deceased Don Ameche arrives in Hell and reviews his life to learn if he’s going to remain Down There or not. With Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Eugene Pallette (Did this guy ever take a vacation?), Spring Byington, and a marvelous turn by Laird Cregar as a very genial…could it be Satan???

HIS GIRL FRIDAY, 1940, Columbia (Sony), 92 min. Dir. Howard Hawks. For decades considered the fastest comedy ever made, this frenzied remake of Hecht and MacArthur’s THE FRONT PAGE switches ace newsman Hildy Johnson to a woman (Rosalind Russell at her peak), while Cary Grant does a complete 180 from BABY as cynical editor Walter Burns. If you were teaching film comedy, this would be Lesson #1. The unparalleled cast includes Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Porter Hall, Ernest Truex, Roscoe Karns, Cliff Edwards, John Qualen, Billy Gilbert and tons more.

I'M KING KONG - THE EXPLOITS OF MERIAN C. COOPER. 2005, TCM, 57min. Dir. Kevin Brownlow & Christopher Bird. This brand-new documentary, produced by Patrick Stansbury for Turner Classic Movies covers KING KONG filmmaker, Cooper's breathless life with a pace to match. From his life-or-death struggles as an aviator in the First World War to the flying sequences that helped launch Cinerama in the 50s, it ties together his three great passions: motion pictures, flying and his country. Interviewees include Ray Harryhausen, Fay Wray, and the voices of Cooper and Schoedsack

Chu Yuan's penchant for labyrinthine plotting reaches its zenith in this dizzying adaptation of the Gu Long source novel. Di Long heads an all-star cast as a Zhou warrior catapulted by the threat of his father's decapitation, delivered on his wedding day, into the middle of a no-holds-barred war between his clan and the Tangs. The outrageous characters, exotic weapons and proliferating layers of subterfuge are hyperbolic even by the standards of an already excess-saturated subgenre. Chu's characteristic visual splendor contributes to the air of delirium, but a self-conscious pathos about the futility of martial rivalry lends the film thematic ballast and anticipates the reflexive tone adopted in the melancholy wuxia by the Hong Kong New Wave of the '80s.

THE JOLSON STORY, 1946, Columbia (Sony), 128 min. Dir. Alfred E. Green. This smash hit from 1946, nominated for 6 Oscars (it won two, for Best Music Scoring and Best Sound Recording) is a terrific example of "Glorious Technicolor." Don't come to this expecting Jolson's "true" life story; this is Hollywood gloss all the way. It contains some of the best music of the first part from the 20th century, including "Swanee," "California, Here I Come," "There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" and dozens of others. And the late, great, Larry Parks as Al Jolson shouldn't be missed! This film hasn't been seen in dye-transfer Technicolor on the Big Screen in decades. Don't miss this once-in-a -lifetime chance to see an original nitrate British Technicolor print! Discussion in between films with actress Betty Garrett (Larry Park’s widow). "Eye-Popping" Nitrate Technicolor Double Bill!

"As much as Maya Deren, the progenitor of American avant-garde film." J. Hoberman
Famous for his unique shadowboxes and found-object collages, Joseph Cornell also made a remarkable collection of films between the mid-1930s
and the early ’60s. His landmark film Rose Hobart (1936, 19 min., b/w), possibly the first-ever experimental film made entirely from found
footage, was profoundly influential in the 1950s for emerging filmmakers such as Jack Smith and Ken Jacobs. This program of rarely seen
works--many of which are screened for the first time in Los Angeles--includes recently-discovered collage films as well as pieces shot by
Stan Brakhage, Rudy Burckhardt and Larry Jordan under Cornell’s direction.
In person: filmmaker and film historian Jeanne Liotta 

(from LA Weekly)
Director Phil Morrison’s Junebug unfolds amid an impromptu family reunion: Prodigal son George (Alessandro Nivola) has returned to his North Carolina home following a lengthy absence­ — so long, in fact, that he’s gotten married in the interim to Chicago art dealer Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz), who accompanies him on the journey. It’s a premise that makes the film sound like yet another in an endless line of formula pictures about big-city folk descending upon the sticks. But in Junebug, the bonds of family and community flow (like almost everything else about the film) from a deep respect for the people and culture of the South, and a hard-gotten understanding of the perils of going home again. No character risks cliché. Each is as intricately detailed as a woodcut: the doting mother (Celia Weston) subtly betrayed by her son’s departure; the younger brother (Benjamin McKenzie) as terrified of fatherhood as he is enraged by his lack of ambition; and the very pregnant sister-in-law, Ashley (Amy Adams), whose wide, bulging eyes are such beacons of optimism and joy — even in the throes of labor pains — that we yearn to see the world though them. Ensemble casts like this are not easy to come by. Adams is something more than that — a brilliant young comedian bursting into bloom.
Morrison likes to cite the Japanese master filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu as an influence, and you can feel his guiding hand throughout this remarkable debut feature. It’s there in the loving, patient way Morrison films people, objects and landscapes, and the way his camera lingers over empty rooms at the beginning and end of scenes, as though he might catch an errant bit of conversation between the drapes and an armchair. And that gentle, measured style is precisely matched by the rhythms of playwright Angus MacLachlan’s script. Like Morrison, he hails from North Carolina himself, and his writing is dense and viscous as molasses and lazy as a summer afternoon. Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor would be proud. A more potent antidote to The Dukes of Hazzard can hardly be imagined.

KING KONG, 1933, Warner Bros., 100 min. Dir. Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. 72 years after it first premiered, KING KONG remains the 8th Wonder of the World, a marvelous, mysterious blend of awesome prehistoric monsters and new-fangled technology (including airplanes, subway trains and the Empire State Building). Fay Wray lights up the screen as the Beauty who drives the Beast to distraction, with support from Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot and the astounding visual effects work of Willis O’Brien. Join us for this special screening of the classic that started it all, a celebration of Warner Brothers’ hot-off-the-presses November 22 release of their collector’s DVD of the newly-restored film (from rare nitrate film elements and digitally mastered.) Their 2-disc Special Edition also features a documentary with director Peter Jackson (KING KONG (2005), THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy); commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Ken Ralston with Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray; and a feature length documentary on Kong creator Merian C. Cooper, directed by Kevin Brownlow.

KONGA, 1960, MGM/UA, 90 min. Dir. John Lemont. Psychotic botanist Michael Gough injects a gorilla with super-growth serum, in an attempt to impress one of his female biology students and take over England. Wildly deranged monster-ape madness ensues, featuring one of the all-time great "I-hate-mankind-so-why-don’t-you-love-me?" performances from Gough. New 35mm Print!!

THE LADY EVE, 1941, Paramount (Universal), 97 min. Dir. Preston Sturges. Henry Fonda is dim-witted ale heir "Hopsy" Pike ("Snakes are my life."); Barbara Stanwyck is Eve, cardsharp and con artist par excellence. Can this relationship work? Savage but never mean-spirited, this is Sturges at his best, blending violent slapstick, zesty dialogue and genuine romance into a peerless masterwork. With Charles Coburn, William Demarest, Eugene Pallette and Eric Blore.

(from IMDB)
A young woman who owns a coffee shop falls for a handsome young customer, unaware that he is a gangster. The association results in her being tried and sentenced to a long prison term. However, the authorities permit her to escape, hoping that she will lead them to her boyfriend.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, 1949, Warner Bros., 94 min. Dir. Ernest B. Schoedsack. Inspired as a boy by the pioneering stop-motion work of Willis O’Brien on KING KONG, Ray Harryhausen got the chance to work with his hero years later – along with KING KONG co-director Ernest B. Schoedsack – on this marvelous adventure/fantasy story about a beautiful young woman (Terry Moore) and her best friend, a giant, kindhearted gorilla named Joe - ! In the end, Harryhausen wound up handling the majority of the visual effects for the film, including spectacular scenes of Joe destroying a nightclub. Academy Award Winner for Best Visual Effects. FAMOUS MONSTERS MAGAZINE creator Forrest J. Ackerman to introduce the screening, plus, a DVD giveaway! Discussion following with actress, Terry Moore.

MIGHTY PEKING MAN (HSING HSING WANG), 1977, Miramax, 90 min. Dir. Ho Meng-Hwa. Disappointed-in-love explorer, Johnny (Danny Lee of John Woo’s THE KILLER) agrees to lead a Himalyan expedition for unscrupulous promoter, Lu Tien (Feng Ku) who is searching for the giant ape known as the Mighty Peking Man. They not only capture the gargantuan creature to return to Hong Kong for exhibit, but also discover blonde, leopard-skin-bikini-clad Samantha (Evelyn Kraft), a female Tarzan (!) stranded in the jungle as a child after an airplane crash. What ensues is an absurd catalogue of Shaw Brothers Studio antics on a cut-rate-epic scale, as the Mighty Peking Man escapes his stadium confines and goes on a building-toppling rampage through the streets. "I am awarding MIGHTY PEKING MAN three stars, for general goofiness and a certain level of insane genius…" – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun - Times

MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE, 1948, RKO (Warners), 94 min. Dir. H.C. Potter. Another classic that’s been endlessly recycled: Cary Grant and wife Myrna Loy buy a fixer-upper out in the wilds of Connecticut, only to quickly discover they’re in way over their heads. Melvyn Douglas and Reginald Denny co-star in this side-splitting farce by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank; photographed by James Wong Howe! And remember: "If you ain’t eatin’ Wham, you ain’t eatin’ ham!"

MONDO CANE, 1962, 105 min. Were there ever two more controversial Italian filmmakers than Gualtiero Jacoppetti and Franco E. Prosperi? Both continued on as partners after losing Paolo Cavara (the third co-director on MONDO CANE and a critic of the pair later on), making shocking pseudo-documentaries on such subjects as African poverty, exploitation & anarchy (AFRICA ADDIO) and the history of colonialism and American racism in the New World (GOODBYE, UNCLE TOM). But for every aspect of their crusading personas, the filmmaking duo often also attracted poisonous vilification, accused of manipulating real-life events for the camera – accusations they vehemently denied and refuted in court. Who knows where the truth lies? The films speak for themselves as fascinating documents. The first - and some consider best - is a case in point, offering a colorful, bizarre catalogue of weird customs and rituals from all over the world. It also began a prolific, if brief, fad in the 1960s of ‘mondo’ movies by all variety of filmmakers (most nowhere near as talented). With a beautiful score and theme song by Riz Ortolani (both of which were nominated for 1964 Academy Awards).
An Egyptian Theatre Exclusive!

Falling Lessons (Amy Halpern, 1992, 64 min.)
Soft Fiction (Chick Strand, 1979, 54 min)
Though the first feminist film journal (Women & Film) was founded in Los Angeles and though the city was central to the emergence of feminist art, the achievements of women and feminist filmmakers here have never received appropriate recognition. In fact, women
in Los Angeles have produced an extremely rich and diverse body of films. Though, like feminist films elsewhere, some of these stand as feminist replies to male filmmakers, including those of the avant-garde, in most cases they developed fundamentally original aesthetics.

MY MAN GODFREY, 1936, Universal, 94 min. Dir. Gregory La Cava. "You people have confused me with the U.S. Treasury!" barks Eugene Pallette to his spoiled, filthy-rich family, including daughter, Carole Lombard, who acquires tramp William Powell during a scavenger hunt and makes him her butler, whereupon he teaches her a few lessons about being human. Comeuppance for the wealthy was sure-fire material during the Depression, and no film ever did it better than this one. With Alice Brady, Mischa Auer, Gail Patrick and Alan Mowbray.

A young widow (Kara Hui) arrives in Guangdong to deliver a fought-over deed of inheritance to the rightful heirs, her crotchety nephew-by-marriage (Lau Kar-leung) and his westernized son (Xiao Hou). Age and gender role reversals allow for a wealth of kung fu funny business: the nephew is easily twice as old as the aunt but still bound to respect family hierarchies; the fetching aunt has serious warrior chops despite her traditionally feminine appearance. Freely mixing martial arts moves with allusions to popular Hollywood genres (musicals, swashbucklers and even war movies), MY YOUNG AUNTIE is an unalloyed triumph of kung fu comedy. Hui delivers a winning performance as the woman who unsettles the standard teacher-student paradigm of Lau's oeuvre.

NINOTCHKA, 1939, MGM (Warners), 110 min. Dir. Ernst Lubitsch. "Garbo Laughs!" screamed the ads, and so will you, as a stuffy Russian commissar (Greta Garbo) assigned to Paris matches wits with bon vivant Melvyn Douglas. She never had a chance. The second and last time Billy Wilder worked with his idol; his script (with Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch) is inspired, and The Lubitsch Touch is in full force. With Ina Claire, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart and—no kidding—Bela Lugosi!

New 35mm print from Columbia Repertory
Tsui Hark takes on the popular Wong Fei-Hung (Huang Feihong) legend in this rousingly revisionist film, the first in a six-part series that re-imagines the martial arts paragon for the wuxia-meets-kung fu "wire-fu" action of the '90s. A Jet Li in peak form summons a whirling arsenal of "shadowless kicks," somersaults and leaps to repel the incursion of opium and slave trading by corrupt Westerners into China in the 19th century. The film makes room for grand historical drama and slapstick comedy, sumptuous period décor and whimsical romance, but is best remembered for its virtuosic choreography of combat, most famously the breathtaking fight to the death atop bamboo ladders.

THE PALM BEACH STORY, 1942, Paramount (Universal), 88 min. Dir. Preston Sturges. Though Claudette Colbert still loves failed-architect hubby Joel McCrea, she nonetheless leaves him for greener pastures. Enter Rudy Vallee as a mild-mannered zillionaire and Mary Astor as his nympho sister and, well, the possibilities are just endless. Another hysterical Sturges classic, highlighted by the all-star Ale & Quail Club and the unforgettable Wienie King!

Ann Hui's moving historical drama (the first of a two-part release) is based on a novel by arguably the most illustrious martial arts writer working in the Chinese language today, Jin Yong (aka Louis Cha). Set in turbulent 18th-century China, the epic tale revolves around two Han Chinese brothers who grow up on opposing sides: one is raised as the Manchu emperor while the other becomes the leader of a secret society dedicated to overthrowing Manchu rule. ROMANCE was one of the first Hong Kong productions to be shot on location in Mainland China, and it uses the country's imposing geography, ranging from desert to mountain and ocean, to create a rich visual texture without sacrificing stirring action or the intricate narrative thread of the source material. Focused on fraternal conflict and political intrigue, ROMANCE was interpreted by many contemporary viewers as an allegory of relations between Hong Kong and China pre-1997.

SON OF KONG, 1933, Warner Bros., 70 min. Dir. Ernest B. Schoedsack. Although not possessed of the same pulse-bounding cliffhanger thrills of its predecessor, this sequel has charms all its own. Fast-talking promoter, Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) and Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher) are blamed for King Kong’s swath of death and destruction, and are virtually hounded out of New York City. Deciding to put together a cargo business in the East Indies, the pair are sidetracked in Dakang by a stranded singer (Helen Mack) and a villain named Hellstrom (John Marston) who has a treasure map – for old Kong’s home, Skull Island! Once there, the cast find Kong’s lonely son instead of riches, as well as an assortment of other giant wild beasts. KING KONG stop-motion wizard, Willis O’Brien, returns to animate this sweet-natured, whimsical adventure-fantasy with the kids in the audience definitely in mind.

THE SQUAW MAN (1914) is the first feature length film shot in Hollywood, which Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse Lasky used as a studio.

(from IMDB)
Upon moving to Britain to get away from American violence, astrophysicist David Sumner and his wife Amy are bullied and taken advantage of by the locals hired to do construction. When David finally takes a stand it escalates quickly into a bloody battle as the locals assault his house.

(from LA Weekly)
Beauty and terror chase one another like frightened orphans through Jonathan Caouette’s extraordinary account of his own life in a destroyed Texas family. Worked up in montage from a video diary he’s kept since the age of 8 — plus musical theater, plus movie clips — Tarnation is told in the third person in the manner of a fairy tale by Grimm. Except that in Caouette’s vision, loving and generous perhaps to a fault, there are no witches or monsters, only the mad, beautiful mother whom he adores, and the grandparents who raised him after a fashion and who, in their old age, have sunk into resolute denial. Ruined by either prolonged electroshock treatments or an abusive childhood, very likely both, Renée trips out on lithium, rushing between rage and a horrifying child’s giggle, while her only son, commuting between Houston and a loving boyfriend in New York, struggles to care for her and repair his own fractured identity. If anyone has reason for self-pity, it’s Jonathan. In one unforgettable piece of home movie, we see him at age 11, in drag and tugging obsessively at a lock of dyed hair as he acts out a monologue that clearly addresses the violence his mother suffered at the hands of his deadbeat father. Yet Caouette lifts his story clear out of the victimized whine that bogs down so many confessional memoirs and offers the viewer instead an intimate look inside his ravaged yet loving head, at once street-smart and haloed by the naiveté of a young saint. The movie’s lyrical artistry bears witness to the magic that can be conjured from 200 bucks and some IMovie software, and Caouette’s ethereally sensitive face now peers out from every magazine cover. I’m glad his startling original talent has been discovered, but I hope it won’t be discovered to death.
Academy/Contemporary Documentaries screenings through the end of 2005 will take place at the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, 1313 North Vine Street in Hollywood. Parking is available behind the building through the entrance on Homewood Avenue.
Admission to all programs is free. Filmmakers will be present at screenings whenever possible.

(from LA Weekly)
American independent movies about awkward adolescence are never in short supply, but this highly assured first feature by commercials and music video director Mike Mills is the first since Donnie Darko to view the latter stages of teenagerdom as fodder for a phantasmagorical odyssey of Lewis Carroll–like distortions. Set in a leafy Oregon suburb, the film follows one Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci) as he makes his way through his senior year of high school and a series of addictions that range from the movie’s titular obsession to anti–Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder drugs (after taking his first dose, he reads the entirety of Moby-Dick in one sitting) — to those far more seductive narcotics known as success and popularity. Not that the adults of Thumbsucker are immune to such fixes — Justin’s downtrodden mom (Tilda Swinton, fully stripped of her Derek Jarman exoticisms) hankers to win a date with a preening TV star (Benjamin Bratt), while his dad (Vincent D’Onofrio) loses himself in the memory of his high-school sports-star glory days and a New Agey dentist (a hilariously self-effacing Keanu Reeves) drones on about finding your inner “power animal.” In adapting Walter Kirn’s novel, Mills has made a thoughtful study of our collective search for magic pills and other panaceas, that, in tandem with the jingle-jangle melodies of The Polyphonic Spree, sometimes comes close (or at least much closer than Garden State) to attaining a generational pop lyricism. All the more unfortunate, then, that Mills feels compelled to didactically spell out his thesis statements in the movie’s final third — it’s as if he wanted to make a generation-defining work, but didn’t believe strongly enough in the intelligence of his intended audience. But Pucci’s sensitive loner performance — a prizewinner at the Sundance and Berlin festivals — is inviolable.

TOKYO STORY ('53,135m) Yasujiro Ozu's masterpiece follows an aging couple on their journey from their rural village to visit their two married children in bustling, post-war Tokyo, reprising one of the director's favorite themes -generational conflict, quintessentially Japanese and yet so universal.

TOPPER, 1937, Hal Roach (Hallmark Entertainment), 97 min. Dir. Norman Z. McLeod. Thorne Smith’s timeless tale of a banker (Roland Young) whose existence is turned upside down by a married pair of wise-cracking ghosts (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett) who decide he needs a little more life in his life. Two sequels, a TV series and countless knock-offs later, the original still shines as brightly as ever. With Billie Burke (two years before she became a good witch), Eugene Pallette, Alan Mowbray, Arthur Lake and Hedda Hopper.

(from IMDB)
This is probably Welles' most complete masterpiece since CITIZEN KANE. Not that it's better than AMBERSONS or TOUCH OF EVIL, but there's a wholeness, a freedom from interference, a focusing of vision that's complete. It's also a relief to be able (for once)to enjoy a Welles performance from this period, rather than laughing with him at its crass silliness. Akim Tamiroff is (as ever) extraordinary, while Anthony Perkins captures the mixture of nervousness and arrogance central to Welles' K.

TWENTIETH CENTURY, 1934, Columbia (Sony), 91 min. Dir. Howard Hawks. The granddaddy of all screwballs, as egomaniacal Broadway producer John Barrymore makes a star of shopgirl Carole Lombard (as this picture did in real life), then goes berserk trying to win her back after she leaves him. Totally uncompromising in every respect, this is a flat-out masterpiece. Hecht and MacArthur’s blistering script is marvelously made flesh by the two stars, as well as Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Charles Lane, Edgar Kennedy and Etienne Girardot.

King Hu's kinesthetic poetry gets distilled to its essence in a late masterpiece suffused with a deep sense of melancholy. Set characteristically for Hu in the Ming Dynasty (14th-17th centuries), THE VALIANT ONES refers to the crack team—including a coolly enigmatic swordsman (Bai Ying) and his taciturn wife (Xu Feng)—assembled by military strategist Roy Chiao to defend the Chinese coast against Japanese pirates. Tantalizingly abstract in its fight choreography—action is expressed in calligraphic strokes such as the brief clanging of blades, the whizzing-by of arrows and the rhythmic flight of bodies—the film is nevertheless majestic in its evocation of landscape. But unlike the preternaturally gifted heroes of most swordplay films, Hu's valiant ones are mortal. His "Picture of Valor" (the film's Chinese title) is ultimately ironic; its somber resolution undercuts any triumph in victory.

Silent with live piano accompaniment by Robert Israel
The story of the prodigal son is revisited in Zur Chronik von Grieshuus (The Chronicles of Grey House), directed by filmmaker Arthur von Gerlach. When their father dies, two noble brothers (Arthur Kraussneck, Paul Hartmann) battle for control of the family estate. This beautiful and sweeping historical drama has influenced countless movies and novels that have followed. (1925, 110 min.)