Has anyone not yet seen The Big Lebowski (1998)? How about
twice? A hundred times? For those in the know there is no limit to how often
one should experience this quasi-religious comic epic by the Coen Brothers in which
Jeff Bridges plays the sui generis, White Russian-sipping, bathrobe-clad geek
demi-god, the Dude.
Billy Wilder was a master at combining heart-wrenching
romanticism with brutal cynicism, as is the case in The Apartment (1960). Fidgety Jack Lemmon plays an office drone who seeks
advancement by lending out his title digs to the company bigwigs. All goes well
until he falls for the hapless cast-off (Shirley MacLaine at her most winsome)
of the big boss (Fred MacMurray at his most loathsome).
The best way to conquer fear is to confront it, so if
you suffer from Arachnophobia (1990) you might try enduring Frank Marshall's
black-comic horror flick. In it, a giant man-eating spider finds its way to the
suburbs where it mates with the local species, producing a smaller, but just as
nasty, rapidly proliferating hybrid.
One of Joe Dante's most underrated films, The
'Burbs (1989) manages to offer a lesson in tolerance - or is it about
the evils of apathy and social irresponsibility? - and still remain a creepy
black comedy. Tom Hanks spends a lot of time in his pajamas as a vacationing,
harried suburbanite who finds himself becoming the voice of reason when his flaky
neighbors get into a lynch-mob mentality about the creepy new family next door.
that Tim Burton's best film is still his first, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985),
an adaptation for the big screen of the then-popular children's TV show
starring Paul Reubens - a kind of latter-day Harry Langdon - as the
simple-minded man-child of the title. The material touched something childlike
and magical in Burton's
imagination, inspiring in him a delight in the surreal and absurd that he has
not quite equaled since.
At a certain
point in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), directed by Robert Rodriguez from a
script by Quentin Tarantino, you have to surrender to the absurdity, excess,
and campiness, and just go with the flow. That flow is mostly blood, as a pair
of outlaw brothers, played by Tarantino and George Clooney, hole up with their
hostages - including a minister played by Harvey Keitel - in a roadside strip club that proves to be
infested with vampires.
When one corpse is just not enough, treat yourself to House
of 1000 Corpses (2003), Rob Zombie's gruesome homage to the trashy
slasher horror films of the '60s and '70s. A couple of teenagers driving
through Texas visit a creepy sideshow, pick up a spooky hitchhiker, and end up
at the title domicile where. .
popularity of silent movies brought on by the Oscar-winning The Artist since faded to black? Perhaps
this screening of E.A. Dupont's lushly noirish Piccadilly (1929) will
restore some of the magic. The stunning Anna May Wong plays an impoverished
scullery maid whose sultry dancing proves a hit on the stage of a fancy London
So, the ultimate
cinema celebration of callow youth has itself entered late-middle age, marking
its 45th anniversary. Mike Nichols's The Graduate (1967) retains its
youthful vulnerability and optimism, a spirit that embodied the nascent '60s
culture from which it sprang. With Dustin Hoffman brilliantly cast against type
as the title naïf about to confront all the now-familiar clichés about
conformity, the middle class, generational conflict, and true love, it has
As anyone who's had a couple of drinks and tried to do
it can testify, freestyle rapping isn't as easy as it looks. Turns out that the
process involves some unique brain functioning, or so Charles Limb, MD
tells us, and he's got the MRIs to prove it. He's a hearing specialist, a
surgeon at Johns Hopkins, and a lifelong musician.
Doesn't anyone realize that The Wizard of Oz (1939)
is the most horrifying movie ever made? The flying monkeys, the dismembered
Scarecrow, the inexorable tornado - these images have curdled the nightmares of
generations of unwitting children. But now we are older and can be campy and
ironic about the film that tells us that there's no place like home - which is
a dismal black-and-white Kansas
populated by scary old people - because everything else is a fevered illusion.
Not to put
down the big budgeted CGI animation of Pixar, Disney, and the like, but
sometimes all that fancy stuff detracts from the essence of the medium. Not so Don Hertzfeld's hilarious, absurd, and exacting
stick figure masterpieces. He'll be at the Coolidge in person this evening to
present It's a
Beautiful Day, the just
completed, culminating episode of his epic trilogy.
Before the Republicans officially make intolerance a
plank in their campaign platform, they might want to drop by tonight's Science
on Screen program. It will be screening Alain Berliner's Ma
Vie en Rose (1997), a bittersweet comedy about a little boy who
dresses up like a girl and can't wait to marry the boy next door.