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YOUR WEEKLY MOVIE TO-DO LIST
AFI FEST BEGINS
Friday, Nov. 9
AFI Fest has descended upon our fair city, bringing international master filmmakers into conversation with emerging talents. Keep an eye on the World Cinema lineup, where prestige pictures such as Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (this year’s Palme d’Or winner) and László Neme’s Sunset (which took a prize at Venice) keep company with two episodes of the hotly anticipated series My Brilliant Friend, which premieres here ahead of its HBO debut. The lines are long but the tickets are free. afi.com/afifest.
Saturday, Nov. 10
Jia Zhangke, perhaps China’s most impor- tant contemporary filmmaker, will visit the Billy Wilder Theater for a screening of his new film, Ash Is Purest White. It follows a gangster’s moll (Zhao Tao) as she serves time for being complicit in a job turned deadly. Jia will do a Q&A with UCLA profes- sor Michael Berry after the screening. It’s part of the China Onscreen Biennial, in its fourth year, of which Jia is artist-in-resi- dence. UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Sat., Nov. 10, 3 p.m.; $10. (310) 206-8013, cinema.ucla.edu.
To the avid film buff, there is something irresistible about a famous movie set. For some, to stand where a celebrity has stood is a transporting — perhaps even spiritual — experience. This is the central conceit of Sad Hill Unearthed, a documentary about the volunteer effort to restore the sprawling
cemetery set from Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (which screens at 7:30 p.m.; Sad Hill ticket holders will be admitted free to that show pending availability). “Sad Hill” sat moldering for nearly five decades until a group of cinephiles vowed to return the land to its original splendor. Director Guillermo de Oliveira and producer Luisa Cowel will do a Q&A after the screening. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Sat., Nov. 10, 5 p.m.; $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.
Tuesday, Nov. 13
Jean Harlow, the original blonde bombshell, skyrocketed to fame in the early 1930s with a series of sexy roles before dying at age 26 of a cerebral edema. The underrated Frank Capra comedy Platinum Blonde finds her at her wisecracking best as an heiress who lures a reporter into a romantic web. Harlow is the star of the month at LACMA’s Tuesday Matinees series, where $4 buys you a seat at the Bing Theater. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Tue., Nov. 10, 1 p.m.; $4. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.
Thursday, Nov. 15
Disney’s 1982 blockbuster Tron was a trailblazing blend of computer-generated imagery and conventional quest narrative, and a rare example of that anomalous breed: the big-budget experimental film. Laemmle brings it back into theaters for a day as part of its Throwback Thursday series in partnership with Eat/See/Hear. Dress as your favorite computer program to enhance the experience. Laemmle NoHo, 5420 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thu., Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m.; $12. (310) 478-3836, laemmle.com. —NATHANIEL BELL
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RIVER RUNS RED A pair of racist galoot cops pull over and then shoot down the son of a city’s only black judge in the opening moments of River Runs Red, an earnest indie drama. The acting is stiff, the pacing sluggish, the framing uncertain, the music an intrusive mush and the scenario sche- matic. But it’s an interesting schematic, at least, complete with thoughtful/exhaustive discussion of the difference between justice, revenge and forgiveness. And Taye Diggs, who plays the judge, is commanding enough a lead that I’d love to see him play this role again in a movie that wasn’t so often a shambles or that didn’t collapse, in the end, into dreary fantasies of violent revenge. This starts as a shoe-leather thriller about a man who has achieved success within a corrupt system now seeing his child murdered and smeared by that system. What change can he bring from
the inside? What trespasses of law does the greater justice demand? You’ll have plenty of time to consider such questions during the final third’s indifferent action sequences, including one fight where every cut, compositional choice and sound effect seems crafted to emphasize the fact that nobody on set actually got punched. George Lopez shows up as a mechanic whose son was killed by the same galoots; too bad his scenes with Diggs play as though the filmmakers couldn’t get a second take. The car chase has
a good gag, but why does this movie have a
car chase? Also, points must be deducted for playing a tender R&B ballad over the judge’s romantic takeout dinner with his police officer wife (Jennifer Tao) rather than, like, letting us hear what these two talk about. (Alan Scherstuhl)
SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN Here’s something you probably didn’t know. Ingmar
Bergman screened Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor for his grandson at his theater on the island
of Fårö but kept making the projectionist skip ahead to the action sequences. That’s one of the most charming revelations in Margarethe von Trotta’s cheery portrait Searching for Ingmar Bergman, a film with contents that belie its curious title. The filmmakers and everyone they interview know precisely where the great Swedish director is now (interred on Fårö) and was all through his life, following his career from Stockholm to his tax exile in Munich and
at last to his quiet island off Sweden’s south- east coast. Von Trotta is not searching for Bergman; the director of Rosenstrasse, Rosa Luxemburg and Sheer Madness is tracking Bergman, toasting him and his work with his collaborators and some high-profile fans. As the song claims about Kansas, Searching for Ingmar Bergman is a home where seldom is heard a discouraging word. But Von Trotta is persuasive in cheering it, as are directors Mia Hansen-Løve, Olivier Assayas and Carlos Saura, who appear in chatty interviews. The film’s tone is reverent, its subject so grand that, at times, the encomiums occasionally are unburdened by detail. It’s most exciting in its particulars: when she spends more time on the sensual, para- noid, lesser-known Marionettes than she does on Wild Strawberries, or when we’re treated
to rehearsal footage and on-set stories from Scenes From a Marriage. Little here will surprise cineastes but much of it will charm them. (Alan Scherstuhl)
THEY FIGHT If you watch They Fight, you’ll most likely pray all through that the three young boys in the middle of it — Peanut, Quincey and Twin —
Nov. 9-15, 2018 ❖ Daily 1:00, 4:00, 7:00 & 10:00 Sat & Sun also 10:00 AM Monica Film Center
1332 2nd Street. ❖ Santa Monica, CA 90401 310-478-3836 ❖ laemmle.com
end up OK. These lads are the stars not just of the documentary but of the Washington, D.C., boxing program for at-risk young boys the film surveys. Hell, the ferocious Peanut is already a five-time champ. As they train to knock out fel- low youngsters in the Junior Olympics, you may also find yourself worrying about their coaches, too. First, there is Coach Walt, a hard-working family man (he has a way-too-adorable little boy named Wop Wop) whose mission is to keep these boys from not turning out like he did in his younger days of drug and jail time. Meanwhile, his assistant coach Scoop, who’s also had trou- ble with drugs, is trying to get more guys out
of the streets and into the ring. Together, they work to make this club a full-fledged, city-sup- ported operation. Stylishly directed by Andrew Renzi and produced by conscious rapper extra- ordinaire Common, They Fight is another poi- gnant, achingly hopeful look at inner-city youth looking for a way out of their dire surroundings, and the adults who want the same, for the kids and themselves. While some may see boxing as too violent and barbaric a sport for kids to at- tempt, I would rather see these young pugilists slap on gloves and dish out two-pieces then get caught up in D.C.’s mean streets. Trust me when I say you’ll spend most of this movie thinking the same thing. (Craig D. Lindsey)
WEIGHTLESS Jaron Albertin’s mix of crisp realism and oblique dream logic results in a haunting ex- perience: Watching Weightless feels like being trapped in the first moments of wakefulness, when the dreamscape is receding and half-
formed impressions linger in the backwash. Still, while his first feature (shot by Darren Lew) may be gorgeous, the characters in this rural family drama prove so amorphous that their struggles engender detachment instead of empathy. Joel (Alessandro Nivola), a lost soul who just wants to vanish from his unsatisfying life, is reunited with his son Will (Eli Haley) after the 10-year- old’s mother vanishes. Albertin and co-screen- writer Enda Walsh (Hunger) treat this disappear- ance as an excuse for Will to stare placidly at the (inexplicably acquired) cashier surveillance footage of her last traceable moments. Both Joel and Will have serious emotional problems that are barely addressed, let alone defined. Swinging between stultifying passivity and ag- gression-triggered rages, Joel is poorly suited to care for an abandoned, bullied boy with obesity- related health issues. (Albertin makes the only non-white residents in their upstate New York community social service employees whom
Joel deems the “enemy.”) Nivola has stripped his character to bare bones, sinking into Joel’s protective despair, but some of Nivola’s usual charisma emerges in scenes with newcomer Haley, who beautifully expresses wariness with a dose of hope. Julianne Nicholson (as Joel’s ma- ternal girlfriend) and Johnny Knoxville (playing Joel’s paternal supervisor at work) give rich, naturalistic performances. They hint at the ex- pectations and compromises of working-class life, which Albertin would rather coat in glorious autumnal imagery and a gossamer folk-tinged soundtrack than recognize its hard-won dignity. (Serena Donadoni)
FIRST PATIENT
Nov. 9-15, 2019 ❖ Daily 1:00, 3:10, 5:30, 7:50 & 10:10 Sat & Sun also 10:10 AM
Monica Film Center
1332 2nd Street. ❖ Santa Monica, CA 90401 310-478-3836 ❖ laemmle.com
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