If your last-minute shopping takes you to Harvard Square and you're looking for
some yuletide relief, head over to the Harvard Film Archive's Fourth Annual
Vintage Christmas Show. It's a kid-friendly event featuring two hours of shorts
including a George Kuchar video diary, some comedy classics, and a murder
As we arrive at the Mayan deadline for the end of the world,
one of our last regrets is that the Coolidge chose Michael Bay's
Armageddon (1998) as its @fterMidnite
send off. Or maybe not; the gleeful absurdity of the premise (bunch of space
jockeys try to detonate deadly asteroid), the explosive special effects, and
Ben Affleck's Animal Crackers scene,
make this a dumb but entertaining way to spend the end.
The face of foreign cinema, and the icon of suffering beauty
and sublime longing, is celebrated at the MFA in "The Cinema of Juliette
Binoche." It opens with Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy (2011; 5 pm) and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue (1993; 7:15 pm). In
the latter she gives what might be her best and most wrenching performance.
After proving himself one of Hollywood's best comic
performers in films like Meatballs and
Ghostbusters, Bill Murray established
himself as one of the screen's most appealing dramatic actors, refining his
sardonically tragic persona in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003; 7:15 pm) and Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers (2005; 5 + 9:30 pm).
Cinema genius and convicted pedophile Roman Polanski bounced
back from ignominy to film glory with The
Pianist (2002), which may be the crowning achievement of his career. He won
a Best Director Oscar, and Adrien Brody took Best Actor for his portrayal of
real life Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, who evaded capture by the Nazis
in occupied Warsaw.
Not a moment too soon comes Terry Zwigoff's sublimely black
comic and cynical Bad Santa (2002) to
cut through the obligatory holiday cheer and treacle. In it Billy Bob Thornton
plays the title role of a department store St. Nick who sidelines as an asshole
and a thief. Best movie Santa since Dan Aykroyd donned a beard and a salmon in Trading Places (1983).
What happened to independent cinema? It's alive and well at
Focus Features, which has kept the indie torch alive with films such as Cary
Fukunaga's Jane Eyre (2011; noon and
5 pm), Joe Wright's Atonement (2007;
2:30 + 7:30 pm), and Rian Johnson's Brick
(2006; 10 pm), all screening Saturday, December 22 at the Brattle as part of their Focus
Features 10th Anniversary Retrospective.
Two trademarks of Michelangelo Antonioni's career, obscure
plots and visual beauty, reach their peak in his penultimate film, Identification of a Woman (1982). Oh,
and beautiful naked women, too. It's got a lot of that.
Harvard Film Archive, 24 Church St,
Cambridge :: Friday, December 14 @ 7 pm :: $9; $7 students, seniors :: 617.
The tony, uppercrust ambiance of Downton Abbey comes to the big screen, as does one of the show's
stars, Elizabeth McGovern, in Donald Rice's Cheerful
Weather for the Wedding (2012). Set in a British country manor in 1932,
it's a drawing-room comedy in which McGovern plays the mother of a bride
(Felicity Jones) who is having second thoughts.
Take a look at the giant shoes that Elton John wears as the
"Local Lad" singing "Pinball Wizard" in the movie version of Tommy (1975), and you get an idea of
what a loss the death of director Ken Russell last year was to the movie world.
His joyously kitschy and surreal excess nearly upstages the Who's
groundbreaking 1969 rock opera.
Has anyone been paying attention to the rapid approach of
the end of the world on December 21, as per the Mayan calendar? The Brattle
has, and they're celebrating the impending event with Cinemapocalypse, which
screens what they claim to be three of the best doomsday movies ever. It starts with a film we're not sure qualifies, Roland Emmerich's 2012 (2009; 8:30 pm), followed the next day
by one we definitely agree belongs on the list, Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995; 4:30, 7, 9:45 pm).
Before his magic act of turning The Dark Knight Rises into cinema gold, Christopher Nolan made The Prestige (2006), the story of two
rival magicians in Victorian London and their relationship with wizard Nikola
Tesla (David Bowie), the eccentric genius who invented pretty much everything
It's 1980 in pre-fall-of-the-Wall East Germany, and the eponymous
character in Christian Petzold's Barbara (2012),
a pediatric surgeon in a backwater hospital, makes plans with her West German
beau to escape to freedom. But then there's Horst, the appealing head of her
department - is he wooing her or spying on her, or both? Top-notch suspense and
melodrama from one of Germany's
It's not as good as George Romero's 1978 original, but it
does have Sarah Polley blowing away zombies with a shotgun and one of the last
uses of found-footage horror that actually is scary. Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (2004) uses the same
premise as Romero - a random group of strangers holed up in a shopping mall
fending off hordes of zombies - except here the zombies are superfast and the
cultural commentary minimal.