They always say in the summer that the best way to keep cool is to duck into a movie theater. What do they say you should do when the weather is as cold as it’s been in years? Well, why not warm up inside a movie theater? You could do a lot worse than taking in some of these screenings this week. (And if you’re concerned about staying warm, pack a blanket. I’ve done it, and it was worth getting strange looks.) Here are some of my picks for the best movie viewing options this week.
Wednesday, Jan. 23: Terror Train (Trylon Microcinema)
Trash Film Debauchery gets relatively mainstream this month with a screening of the precise moment Jamie Lee Curtis went from being slasher cinema’s foremost scream queen to being its most omnipresent check casher. Eventually Trading Places came along and all was forgiven, but this Wednesday, go back in time to relive the reviled rock bottom of Curtis’s early years. A bunch of despicable college kids board a party train but forget to pack along the Gap Band. The result? A bunch of interchangeable cast members get Swiss cheesed. That’s pretty much it. At least Prom Night had the spectacle of Leslie Nielsen busting a few disco moves.
Thursday, Jan. 24 through Saturday, Jan. 26: Bill Morrison At WAC (Walker Art Center)
Bill Morrison’s films are the ultimate zombie flicks, albeit in avant-garde form. Morrison works in the realm of found footage, only his interests lie with the physical form of cinema. That is to say, his work is fascinated by the decomposition of ancient prints. The magnum opus Decasia is his Citizen Kane, but he has a whole body of shorter works that dance around the many forms of death cinema is capable of not only simulating, but full-out embodying. In gorgeous, ethereal films like Light is Calling, death becomes a stepping stone toward a gorgeous form of reincarnation. Morrison will be on hand this week to discuss his body of work at the Walker Art Center. I interviewed him in anticipation of the series, and will post our discussion in the next couple days.
Friday, Jan. 25 through Thursday, Jan. 31: Beware of Mr. Baker & Only the Young (St. Anthony Main)
The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Frozen Docs series continues with two more can’t-miss titles. One of the titles I didn’t get to screen in time for last year’s Sound Unseen Fest, Beware of Mr. Baker showcases the life and times of Ginger Baker — rock drummer, co-founder of the influential trio Cream, patron saint of ornery recluses. This doc doesn’t shy away from Baker’s less valiant qualities. In fact, it seems built around them. Watch the preview here. (Note: Language NSFW.) On the flip side, Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims’ Only the Young lovingly details the confusing, invigorating, scary, heightened experience of adolescence, as seen through the eyes of SoCal teens sorta kinda coming to the realization that they might sort of be in love or something. Boasting gorgeously evocative cinematography and music cues, Only the Young ought to have all but the most intractably old at heart feeling like they’re living a teenage dream.
Friday, Jan. 25 through Sunday, Jan. 27: All That Heaven Allows & Written on the Wind (Trylon Microcinema)
Douglas Sirk’s fierce and frothy 1950s melodramas seem to work on any number of audiences. Be they film students on the hunt for the social resonance Sirk smuggled deep beneath the overt soap operatics, or be they hipsters primed to snicker with each campy gesture and outmoded social custom, Sirk’s movies are gifts from Hollywood’s silver age that just keep on giving. This weekend, the Trylon is presenting movies for both sides of the ironic-sincere divide amongst Sirk’s fan base. Written on the Wind is Sirk’s most outlandish entertainment, a study in more-is-more excess. Conversely, underneath the double-underlined moments of social commentary, All That Heaven Allows is a surprisingly sympathetic plea on behalf of dissatisfied housewives everywhere, and was a hit nearly a decade before Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique dropped the bomb on patriarchal suburbia. Some may laugh, some may cry, all should attend.
Friday, Jan. 25: The Room (Uptown Theater)
The phrase “so bad it’s good” has been robbed of its value in this post-Birdemic epoch. But The Room is so real deal that it alone could resuscitate the tag. What I wrote a few years ago still applies: “If Coleman Francis has an antecedent, it’s Tommy Wiseau. In just the last few years, The Room has achieved the sort of near-instant cult cachet Francis never really managed. It’s not difficult to see why. Wiseau’s movie is astonishingly out of touch with how human beings interact with each other. A blind alien working from a dog’s crib notes would come up with a more convincing description of how a dinner party evolves than Wiseau. Worse, he wrote his screenplay apparently after having read only the chapter on exposition. Each scene features characters either coming back from or about to head off to do something much more interesting than whatever happens in the movie. Maybe it’s all some sort of avant-garde experiment.” Catch a midnight screening of it this weekend at the Uptown.