Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ben Armington Has Two Eyes

The Frisco Bay repertory/revival scene cannot be taken in by a single pair of eyes. Thankfully, a number of local filmgoers have agreed to share their favorites from 2009. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Ben Armington, Frequent Film Festival Box Officer:

1. THE LAST COMMAND (Pacific Film Archive)

Co-Starring William Powell, this emotionally devastating epic flashback through flip-flopping power struggles, love-hate triangles and stinging humiliation was my favorite in the PFA's wonderful series on the cinema's premier fool-for-love, Josef Von Sternberg.


One of the most surprisingly rewarding pairings of the year. I really enjoyed how both films used their carefully chosen locations to heighten the emotional kick of their characters' meanderings. Seen on an exceptionally dour, rainy Sunday, which may have helped.


Shown on a new 35 print with the original Japanese language with English subtitles, this afternoon screening of Miyazaki's early masterpiece was an absolute delight that defies any attempts at explanation. Since it was a "matinee for all ages", the theater staff served complimentary ice cream after the film.

4. BLACK CHRISTMAS (4 Star, Thrillville)

Hosted by the couple Will the Thrill and Monica Sugar-Mama (& Tiki-Goddess) of Thrillville, it dawned on me while sitting down for the self-consciously crap-tastic introduction (sample joke: "the alternate title for this movie is 'African-American Christmas'") and that this might be a screening where the audience was supposed to lob MST3K-style witticisms and gummy candies at the woefully stupid movie darting across the screen in front of us...not my cup of coffee. so i was happily surprised when the audience, after some initial outbursts, calmed down and settled into what was one of the most terrifying and disturbing moviegoing experiences of the year. I especially enjoyed Margot Kidder's foulmouthed turn as the house drunk. A cult movie that lives up to and even surpasses it's reputation.


George A. Romero is a master filmmaker and a very tall man. Like BLACK CHRISTMAS, this is a film that comes highly recommended and it delivered magnificently, both as an urban/ gothic thriller and an evocation of the awkwardness and loneliness of adolescence. Sexier than TWILIGHT.

6. THUNDERCRACK! (VICTORIA, Frameline Film Festival)

The various film festivals I work for were too busy for me to sneak off to sample the goods oftentimes this year, but I did clear my schedule for this sweaty little gem. Highlights include a woman puking into a toilet, dropping her wig into the toilet, putting the wig back on. George Kuchar and his mustache gave one of the most insanely committed performances I've ever seen. I'm still kind of in awe.


I usually pull over the car when I see Dan Duryea's name on the marquee, so i was delighted to find the man in the lead role in the demented fever dream that is THE BURGLAR...a film in which no bedpost goes unclenched when our hero is overcome by memory and/or emotion! WITNESS To MURDER proved to be a delicious double, with a game Barbara Stanywk outwitting the diabolically Nietzschen George Saunders, who, when not menacingly reciting German, appears to be in danger of taking a nap. Excellent!


Fritz Lang's thriller, known for it's Freudian subtexts, begins with the heroine almost impaled by a stray knife (an experience that kind of excites her) then dares us to follow her whirlwind courtship with an obviously untrustworthy architect, whose hobbies include obsessively recreating historical "death rooms" in his palatial estate. People in the audience jumped during the climactic suspense sequence.

9. LIQUID SKY (CASTRO, Midnites for Maniacs)

This was a tough call, because, out of all of the great m4m programs this year, this was the one I least enjoyed. NEAR DARK, ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, RED DAWN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and ICE CASTLES were all much more gratifying experiences. I dozed off a bit towards the end of SKY. But...this is the one that stuck with me the most and i really feel like it's some kind of berserk masterpiece. Was it the trippy, witchy visuals or the obscure narrative logic? Beats me. Priceless dialogue bit: "I take quaaludes like you take aspirin!"

10. LABYRINTH (PIEDMONT, midnight series)

This was a hugely enjoyable midnight screening that reminded me why I like going to movies so much in the first place. Jim Henson's puppetry is still dazzling. Complete with Bowie karaoke before the show.

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting, Ben, that we picked two of the same films in our top ten. I like your Thundercrack! description.