September’s Must-See Cinema in San Francisco

September 1st – 3rd: Vertigo (Castro Theatre)

I’ve seen quite a bit of Alfred Hitchcock films and this one doesn’t even crack my top 5.  I’m not saying that this is in any way a bad film, just that there are 5 of his which are better.  But ever since Sight & Sound magazine named this the new greatest movie of all time, overthrowing Citizen Kane, I’ve been meaning to give this classic another chance.  Maybe seeing it on a large screen will change my mind as to where it ranks in my top 5 Hitchcock films, but I doubt it.  As good as Vertigo may be, I can’t see it overthrowing my current favorite Hitchcock films; Psycho, Rope, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, or The Lady Vanishes.  But who knows, after the Castro screening I could change my mind.

September 7th: Reservoir Dogs/Hard 8 AKA Sydney (Castro Theatre)

This month my beloved Castro Theatre is rolling out the red carpet for two of today’s most original filmmakers working within the Hollywood system, Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino.  These two talents stand out above most other contemporarily popular filmmakers in that both of them have written all of their scripts as well as shot all their films on actual film, if you discount the Tarantino digital short he did for Four Rooms, that is.

In Quentin Tarantino‘s debut Reservoir Dogs, most of the action takes place between a colorful bunch, in name and character, who find themselves holed up in a warehouse after a jewelry heist gone bad where they are faced with the decision of which one amongst them is a rat.  And you thought Tarantino’s follow-up Pulp Fiction was the epitome of cool?  When it comes to exuding cool, I’ll take Res Dogs over the Pulp any day.  Exhibit A: The execution of Tim Roth‘s well rehearsed speech.  I can list at least 10 other exhibits, but I’m trying to keep these brief.

Of all the movies that have followed in the wake of Pulp Fiction, PTA’s debut feature Hard Eight AKA Sydney, is perhaps the only one to hold any cinematic worthwhile weight to it.  John C. Reilly plays a naive gambler who gets taken under the wing of the more experienced father figure type of Phillip Baker Hall, who unquestionably gives his best performance to date.  To say anymore would surely ruin the fun of seeing this for the first time, as I’m sure that this is PTA’s least seen film, especially amongst mainstream audiences.  However, I will add that elements such as violence, guilt, redemption, dark humor, and blackmail exist in an impressively smart script.  Little funny side note, the last element, blackmail, gets introduced by a character in the film played by Samuel L. Jackson, who, as it turns out, happens to be, you guessed it – a black male.

September 8th: Pulp Fiction/Boogie Nights (Castro Theatre)

Jules: Tell that bitch to be cool! Say ‘bitch be cool’!
Pumpkin: Be cool honey!
Jules: Say bitch be cool! Tell that fuckin’ bitch to chill!
Pumpkin: Be cool Honey Bunny!

This film has been highly praised countless amount of times by reviewers and film essayists alike, often with far more descriptive and detailed observations that the simple ones that I shall now give.  Yeah, it’s extremely influential – duh.  More importantly, Pulp Fiction is cool!  The dialogue is cool.  The situations are cool.  The timeline in which it is told, for its time, is cool.  John Travolta has never seemed cooler.  Samuel L. Jackson is über cool.  Pulp Fiction, after 18 years, is cool because it still holds up as being one bas ass mother fucking movie!  As for the plot… you don’t need to know that.  Just knowing how cool it is should be enough to make you want to see it in an actual theatre.  You cool?

As far as opening single-take scenes go – an element of film to which I am a sucker for –  Boogie Nights easily makes my top 3.  But besides the fantastic technical achievements of that and many other scenes, I challenge any movie buff out there to name another film where multiple characters are as fleshed out or have been given such satisfyingly complete character arcs as the ones in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 turn of the century, “Goodbye 1970’s, Hello 1980s” behind the scenes look at the porn industry.  How have I gone this long without seeing this, my favorite PTA film, on a proper screen?

September 9th: Jackie Brown/Magnolia (Castro Theatre)

As it stands now, Tarantino’s Jackie Brown may be my favorite of his films.  This loving homage to 70’s soul cinema not only stars the genre’s queen, Pam Grier, but has a crime laden plot penned by novelist Elmore Leonard involving a couple of arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro), a couple of cops (Michael KeatonMichael Bowen), a love struck bounty hunter (Robert Forster) and Pam Grier as the flight attendant stuck in the middle of it all.

It’s odd that my favorite Tarantino film would be screening alongside my least favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film.  Having first seen Magnolia in the wake of Boogie Nights I was more than disappointed.  As much as I enjoyed the acting ensemble, especially Tom Cruise‘s motivational speaker character, I thought the whole affair was – at the risk of sounding redundant – overly self-indulgent.  Hearing PTA, himself, express on a Charlie Rose interview his own disdain for the film didn’t exactly make me want to give it another chance either.  But, since it’s playing next to this great Tarantino film I figure I should try to give it another shot.

September 10th: Brief Encounter (FREE SCREENING – SFPL Golden Gate Valley Branch)

Having never seen what many have called the greatest romance ever filmed, and having the brief running time of only 86 minutes, I figure I have the time to check out David Lean‘s Brief Encounter.  IMDB’s brief description of the film is; Meeting a stranger in a railway station, a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband.  Sounds good to me.  Plus it’s a free screening.  As for the format, well, I’m assuming it will be on DVD, but hey, it’s free.  The worst case scenario, it sucks and I go borrow a book instead.

September 10th: Suspicion (FREE SCREENING – SFPL Excelsior Branch)

Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine and Cedric Hardwicke get their noir on – Hitchcock style!  The time out Hitchie delivers the suspense by way of paranoia when a young Englishwoman (Fontaine) begins to suspect her husband of being a murderer.  Sort of like So I Married an Axe Murderer, but without Mike Myers and that irritating song “There She Goes”.

September 15th: Indiana Jones Quadrilogy (AMC Van Ness)

In celebration of the long-awaited Blu-ray release of Raiders of the Lost Ark (that’s the first Indiana Jones film, for those handful of people out there in movieland who don’t already know that) AMC theatres will be screening all four Indiana Jones movies back-to-back.  Raise your hand if you plan on staying around for the fourth installment.  Why do I have the feeling that even if I posed that question to a room full of readers via live Skype chat that I still wouldn’t see a single hand go up?  I plan on seeing at least the first two films, being that I was only four-years-old when ROTLA came out in 1981. Everybody sing the lyrics to the iconic theme song with me now “Har-i-son Ford, is the man/He has a whip/and he hates all snakes/All you Nazis should be scared/Cause he’s Indi, a bad-ass, and he like to use his whip!”

September 15th: Kill Bill Vol.1 and 2 (Castro Theatre)

With a running time over 4 hours, Kill Bill had to be broken down into 2 volumes in order to be released theatrically and please the masses.  Stupid masses.  Well, here’s our chance to see QT’s vengeance saga as one complete film, with an intermission in between films, of course.  This martial arts/spaghetti western/rape and vengeance epic is on a whole other level as far as homages are concerned.  In the canon of quality and respectful homage moments in films I would rank these two volumes well near the top.

September 16th: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory/Death Proof/Punch-Drunk Love (Castro Theatre)

Oh hell yeah!  For the life of me I can’t seem to find a common theme between these three films, other than they are all darkly comedic gems which warrant more than one re-watch, which is why I chose to highlight these films on this Must-See list.  I have seen all these movies several times, having just watched Punch-Drunk Love 2 days ago, and plan on seeing each of them at least a few more times before I day.  With that being said, I would be a fool to pass up seeing all three of these for the price of one ticket, and my mamma didn’t raise no fool.

September 17th – 18th: Moonrise Kingdom (Castro Theatre)

Another Wes Anderson movie of course means another script loaded with dry humor, another stellar cast – this time Francis McDormandHarvey KeitelBob BalabanEdward Nortonand Bruce Willis join Anderson regulars such as Bill Murray,Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman, but most of all, it means another almost guaranteed enjoyable time to be had in a theatre.  As for the film’s actual plot, not that it really matters, IMDB says it’s about “A pair of young lovers who flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.”

September 21st: The Master (Embarcadero)

Having had the opportunity to catch a sneak peek of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s latest masterpiece (his 3rd in a filmography of 6 movies, as far as I’m concerned) the only words I can think of to give The Master it’s just deserved accolades is wow, holy wow, and fucking wow!  As it stands I’m well on my way to seeing over 400 films this year, and The Master is going to be a hard one to knock out of that #1 spot.  The plot?  Trust me, it doesn’t matter, as the film doesn’t follow any Hollywood conventional plot, rather it’s more of an observational relationship study of an alcoholic suffering from PTSD and his relationship with an egomaniac cultish figure.  Both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are at the top of their acting games here.

September 24th: The Red Shoes (FREE SCREENING – SFPL Golden Gate Valley Branch)

Over 2 hours of drama, romance and music in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger‘s 1948 The Red Shoes.  The screening is free, and it’s considered by just about every film critic to be one of Powell’s best.  I’ve yet to see this film, or, I must admit, any film by director Michael Powell, nor have I ever stepped foot in the Golden Gate Valley library branch.  So, this September 24th, will be a day of more than one firsts for me, provided of course I can find the library without the aid of one of those fancy-schmancy smart phones these kids are carrying nowadays.

September 25th – 26th: Pina/Crazy Horse (Castro Theatre)

Nothing like ending the month with some tantalizingly titillating dancumentaries!

If you have not had the chance to see Pina this in theatres yet, you can not miss this opportunity.  Those with strong dislike for 3D movies, I urge you to experience Wim Wenders‘ documentary of famed dance choreographer, Pina Bausch.  This film is entrancing in not just its 3D capturing but in its power to make you a part of her dances.  Finally, a filmmaker using 3D as a tool of enhancement not as a gimmick.

Crazy Horse is the added bonus for me.  I meant to check out this cinéma vérité documentary by Frederick Wiseman, upon its initial release last year but just never got around to it.  Wiseman has made a career out of filming documentaries about such locales as boxing gyms, schools,  zoos, gardens, etc.  In Crazy Horse, Wiseman observes the everyday comings and goings of life within the famous Paris nude dance club. Hubba hubba.

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Categories: Monthly Movies

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