Will Groucho go the way of his namesake Karl into the dustbin of
history? Not as long as there are New Year's Day hangovers and Marx Brothers
Triple Features at the Brattle Theatre. Some quotes to savor are "You can't
fool me! There ain't no sanity clause!" from A Night at the Opera (1935 | 1:30
+ 7:30 pm) ; "If I hold you any closer, I'll be in back of you," from A Day
at the Races (1937 | 3:30 + 9:30 pm); and "Don't worry - this isn't the first
time I've been in a closet," from the rarely screened A Night in Casablanca
(1946 | noon + 5:45 pm).
For more information or to view the full First Night schedule, click here or visit firstnight.org.
WFNX Presents: Rock
& Roll Films | at the Stuart Street
Playhouse, 200 Stuart St,
Boston | "Back at
You! . . . Punk Vids from the KINODV Archive" (classic punk and
new wave footage) | 2 + 6:30
+ 8:40 pm | Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam
| 3:30 pm | Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt
and the Magnetic Fields | 5 pm
| Do It Again: One Man's
Quest to Reunite the Kinks | 7:15
pm | Who is
Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everyone Talkin' About Him?) | 9:15 pm
I'm pleased to report that this has been a good year for
roles for women, and the Academy will have its hands full trying to narrow the
field down to only five nominees for Best Actress and Supporting Actress. That's
progress: hurray for Hollywood!
On the other hand, it wasn't such a good year for animals. In fact, there were so few noteworthy roles for animals in this year's releases that in
choosing the competition for the "Where's
Whitey?" Award for Best Animal Performance I've had to resort to nominating performances
in films I haven't seen, and even in one case a performance by an entrée.
As in previous years I've asked my Phoenix colleagues to contribute their Ten
(or Five) Best and (optional) Five Not Best lists, along with
comments if they are so inclined.
They have generously complied and I think you'll find their
insights into the past year in film enlightening and sometimes provocative.
Here is the first batch of lists
If he's not the best contemporary Chinese
director, he's at least the most controversial. The Museum of Fine Arts'
retrospective of the films of Lou Ye continues with Purple Butterfly (2003), which is set in Shanghai during World War II. A woman is
dismayed when her Japanese lover joins the Imperial Army and her brother is
murdered by Japanese fanatics, so she joins the resistance group of the title,
only to have fate put her loyalties to the test.
Not that it should surprise anyone after Pia Zadora won
their Best Actress Award in 1981 for her performance in “Butterfly” and Sharon
Stone won in 1999 after buying everyone a gold watch, but this year’s Golden
Globe nominations for the films "The Tourist" and “Burlesque,” derided by just
about everyone including the star of the former, Angelina Jolie, might not have
been exactly on the up and up
One of the biggest boons of the Dogme 97 movement, Danish
actress Paprika Steen is as intense and piquant as her name would suggest. In
Martin Zandvliet's Applause
(2009), she plays Thea Barfoed, an actress just out of rehab. With her life in
ruins, Thea tries to get it back together by playing Martha in a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
- a role that proves an inspired, if unwise, choice.
Jonathan Kesselman's The Hebrew Hammer (2003) might be the
cinematic equivalent of Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song." Adam Goldberg plays
the super-agent of the title, a kind of circumcised Shaft who's hard pressed to
take out Santa's evil son (played by Andy Dick) after the would-be Kringle
knocks off his dad, takes his place at the sleigh, and vows to ruin the
holidays for Jew and gentile alike.
If the holidays are getting you down, rest assured that
life is treating you better than Michael Haneke treated his characters in
Time of the Wolf (2003). Isabelle Huppert stars as a materfamilias who returns home from
vacation and finds that the social order everywhere has broken down and people
have resorted to barbarism.
Master of the screwball comedy Preston Sturges
gets in the Yuletide spirit, sort of, with Christmas in July (1940), in which an office clerk thinks
he's won $25,000 in a slogan-writing contest for Maxford Coffee. (His entry: "If
you can't sleep, it isn't the coffee - it's the bunk.") Friends and neighbors
rejoice, and he spends a fortune on gifts.
Slowly but surely, Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984) is becoming a
holiday classic alongside It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and Bad Santa. A
dotty inventor goes Christmas shopping for his son and buys an adorable
creature in Chinatown. But when the operating
instructions are violated, what was once cute becomes very dicey indeed.
Jean-Luc Godard seemed to have buried himself in a Marxist
ideological hole until he lit up the screen again with his weird, poignant, and
lush Every Man for Himself/Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980). Ostensibly a film about sexual and economic relationships as well as
every other aspect of human life, it contains perhaps the most hilarious and
disturbing depiction of sex in the age of mechanical reproduction in cinema.
The Golden Globes, regarded as a bellwether of the Oscars
is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? Who
are these people? No one ever answers), came up with their nominations today,
and on the plus side five of the six Boston-accented performances I noted as
potential Academy nominees got nods: Mark Wahlberg for Best Actor, Melissa Leo
and Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress and Christian Bale for Best
Supporting Acto -- all from "The Fighter"
(like its subject Micky Ward, a powerful late round contender, also getting in
the Best Picture and Best Director races).
Özer Kızıltan's Takva
(2006), an exquisite drama about how money corrupts the pious property manager
of a Sufi temple in Istanbul,
is one of the finest cinematic explorations of the uneasy truce between the
secular and spiritual worlds. It screens as part of the Goethe-Institut's "Across Borders: The Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris,"
and that's reason enough to check out this presentation and panel discussion on
film education featuring local academics and representatives of that renowned
European graduate film program.