We are in the 100 percent thick of the year-end prestige madness. Already, I’ve been carted off to the snake pit twice this month over the sheer number of long-deferred must-see titles that are suddenly and simultaneously available. Some have been in theaters for a few weeks (e.g. Cannes winner Blue is the Warmest Color, Robert Redford-reviving All is Lost, presumptive Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave), whereas others are trickling in over the impending holidays (e.g. Philomena, Nebraska, Out of the Furnace, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks … oops, there went my sanity once again). As if that’s not enough, there’s also the ongoing “Images of Africa” film fest to consider. Oh, and the Trylon just released its winter schedule. The mind boggles, but the cinephile rejoices. Here are this week’s best bets.
Wednesday, Nov. 20: The Big Lebowski (Theaters at Mall of America)
Criticism and commentary seem beside the point now. The film abides. More than almost any movie from my generation, Lebowski — a comedy about American emasculation sung in the key of White Russians — is a cult phenomenon among the millennial set, and almost certainly the movie that will be etched into their tombstones, even over their Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men (which would make a nifty alternate title for Lebowski, come to think of it) and Fargo. The film, anchored by Jeff Bridges’ most beloved performance and ferocious support from John “You’re Out Of Your Element, Donny” Goodman, is screening this week as part of Theatres at Mall of America’s Movember series.
Friday, Nov. 22: Mother Of George (St. Anthony Main Theater)
The closing film of the “Images of Africa” festival will see a one-week engagement at St. Anthony Main starting this Friday. The story of an infertile Nigerian couple who are living in Brooklyn and feeling pressure to produce children, fellow movie blogger Jonathon Sharp reviewed Mother of George last week and said: “The tragedy simmers, wrapped in silky shots by acclaimed cinematographer Bradford Young (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pariah). The slow burn ends with a climax that leaves you with far more questions than answers.”
How do you pick a performance to cite as the best from an actor who was, above all, so consistent? I don’t know that you technically can, but still, consider Birdman of Alcatraz for the title. Lancaster plays real-life prisoner Robert Stroud, who in the film goes from the frying pan into the fire after killing a guard while behind bars. Lancaster’s work is both sensitive and ferocious (though not, apparently, as ferocious as it probably should’ve been, given the true subject’s notoriety), and director John Frankenheimer keeps his cool, modernist gaze. Birdman screens along with another of Frankenheimer’s collaborations with Lancaster, the war epic The Train.
OK, this isn’t exactly a movie, per se, but I think there’s enough cross-pollination on the Venn diagram of hardcore film geeks and Dr. Who nuts out there to mention this event — the Parkway is celebrating 50 years of Dr. Who with a trivia contest, a costume contest, and a screening. Organizers promise a whole host of other surprises, so don’t hold back.