Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jason Wiener Only has Two Eyes

It's impossible for any pair of eyes to view all of Frisco Bay's worthwhile film screenings. I'm so pleased that a number of local filmgoers have let me post their repertory/revival screening highlights of 2011. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from cinephile Jason Wiener, who blogs at Jason Watches Movies; most of the following links take you to his reviews on that site.

Okay, here's my list of my favorite repertory/revival (ya know, "old movie") screenings of 2011. I must stress that these are my favorites and mine alone. I'm in fact sure I saw better movies over the year, but for one reason or another these are the movies that entertained me in a special way. These are also approximately in order, although I could probably move any of them up or down a spot or two. With that said, here we go:

10. THE MOONSHINE WAR (1970) at the Vortex Room, which means I was pretty drunk on Manhattans (my New Year's resolution last year was to drink fewer martinis and more Manhattans--first time I've ever kept my resolution all year). So what I remember most is Alan Alda doing a bad hillbilly accent. That, and the whole town showing up just to watch the final showdown, like this was their weekly entertainment.

9. THE TIME MACHINE (1960) and FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) at the Stanford Theatre. Aka, the "dumb blondes in sci-fi double feature." Seriously, Yvette Mimeaux and Anne Francis respectively are given nothing to do in these movies other than look pretty and be really dumb (or charitably, really naive). The moral here is that little girls in the 50's and 60's didn't need role models.

8. SOYLENT GREEN (1973) and SILENT RUNNING (1972) at the Vortex Room. Again, I was full of booze, so I kinda snoozed through a bit of the middle of SILENT RUNNING, but they were still both very cool. And the fact that I put dystopian future sci-fi above dumb blond eye candy sci-fi probably says something about me.

7. GASLIGHT (1944) at the Castro, as part of Noir City. Really, I could list all of Noir City here, but part of the fun is picking my favorite. For all the mental torture of Ingrid Bergman, for me I couldn't take my eyes of saucy little 19 year old Angela Lansbury. Something about finding out I'm attracted to Angela Lansbury makes this movie unforgettable.

6. THE KILLERS (1964) at the Roxie, as part of Not Necessarily Noir II. A cool story and I just love seeing Ronald Reagan playing a gangster. Also, let this serve as a plug for this year's Noir City, where it will play on Saturday Night, January 21st, with Angie Dickinson in person.

5. HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) at the San Jose Women's Club (as part of the Beanbag Film Festival) and again at the Red Vic (as part of its closing weekend). I feel like I should enter a Bay Area cinephile's confessional and say, "Forgive me Father, for I only made it to the Red Vic a few times, and only after I knew it was in a lot of trouble." In any case, HAROLD AND MAUDE has been one of those weird films that I've seen many times, but always far enough apart that I've managed to forget large parts of it (like Maude is a Holocaust survivor) before I see it again. Until 2011, when I saw it twice in a year. Not only did I finally manage to watch it with the knowledge that Maude is a Holocaust survivor, but...well, you can read my review and see that I managed to read a Maude/Hitler romance into her past.

4. THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928) at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Again, I could put pretty much everything I saw at Niles on this list, but I had to choose one, and this is it.

3. WORLD ON A WIRE (1973) at the Roxie. Rainer Werner Fassbinder did the MATRIX some 26 years before the Wachowski brothers came up with it. And he did it as a 4 1/2 hour epic made for German TV. Awesome.

2. NOSFERATU (1922) at the California Theatre, with Dennis James on the Wurlitzer organ, as part of Cinequest. I'm generally against the concept of favorites--I think it calcifies an element of my character that should remain fluid. My favorite movie varies with my mood, what I've seen recently, etc. But with that said, NOSFERATU is very often my favorite movie ever. And seeing it on the big screen with Dennis James on the organ is a tremendous treat.

1. THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE (1924, using footage from 1911-12) at the Castro Theatre, as part of the Silent Film Festival. Again, I could've listed the whole festival, but this was far and away the one that impressed me the most. Just looking back and seeing documentary footage from 100 years ago is pretty amazing, and the story of Robert Falcon Scott's fateful attempt on the South Pole is likewise amazing. The King allegedly wanted this footage shown to all English schoolboys to instill in them the strong sense of adventure and British spirit. My snarky half wants to make a crack about how inspiring children onto adventures that end in death isn't necessarily the smartest thing for the empire. But having seen the movie, I understand what the King was thinking.

And that's my top ten. And now for a few (dis)honorable mentions. You can decide for yourself whether they're dishonorable or honorable. These are in no particular order

SUNRISE (1927) at the Castro, again part of the Silent Film Festival. Murnau's masterpiece, of course. The reason it doesn't make my regular list is that the soundtrack was done on solo electric guitar...and that just doesn't work right. But it was interesting, and you can read from my review that it led me to a new interpretation wherein it was a supernatural succubus story. In fact, the full title for this love triangle is SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS. Makes you wonder which one of the three is not human.

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959) first colorized and in 3-D at the San Jose Rep as part of Cinequest, then in black and white 2-D at the Roxie to end Not Necessarily Noir II. The first time was in fact the world premiere of the 3-D version, and I was there dressed as Vampira (it wasn't pretty, and no I don't have pictures). The second time was with Johnny Legend presenting a whole Ed Wood tribute (including GLEN OR GLENDA, which also could've made this list). I'm pretty sure there wasn't anything all that honorable about either screening, but damn it was fun.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) at the Dark Room, on Bad Movie Night, a traditional part of their War on Christmas. Call me a Grinch, but drunk and cracking wise is the only way I ever want to see this movie again. If I ever have to move away from the bay area, I'd want to live in Pottersville. At least it's better than Cleveland.

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