Movie Blog: This Week’s Best Bets
We’re just putting our finishing touches on our list of the top 10 films of 2013 over here at WCCO’s movie blog. Tune in tomorrow to see which movies we think you should add to your to-watch list. (Happily, a number of them are still in theaters, and quite a few of the others are available to stream online.) It’s been a fantastic year, and there’s a lot out there to catch. But if your New Year’s resolution is, like mine unto perpetuity, to see a bunch of older and/or more obscure movies, here are your best bets for the forthcoming week:
Monday, Dec. 30: Escape from Tomorrow (Trylon Microcinema)
Last week, I hard-sonned the Trylon’s send-off film in its otherwise invariably fantastic “Trylon Premieres” program for 2013. “Unlike the other Disney-centric movie you could be taking in at the local multiplex, at least this one’s a fascinating failure. You may have already heard about Escape from Tomorrow‘s central trick — filming guerilla style and without permits in Disneyland. Unfortunately, the publicity stunt is far more interesting than the resulting film.” To be fair, this defense of the film’s position in the marketplace is a far more compelling read than my take. (Or, for that matter, the movie itself, which I still say is incredibly bad.) To wit: “It’s likely Disney executives hoped this weird movie would just go away. But there’s an infinitesimally small chance they were intentionally making a larger statement. Maybe they, too, are tired of living in a world where people are literally faced with branding at every turn and are silenced if they express apposition to it. Maybe someone very high up, in one of the most influential corporations on the planet, thought: I’m tired of forcing the idea of what we are, let’s allow our captive audience to be freely inspired; let’s allow them to define us. Wether [sic] we like Escape from Tomorrow as a movie is irrelevant. Right now it is freely roaming our world of corporate ownership, protected by forces unknown, opening doors that have been slammed shut on artists for decades. And that fills my heart with magic.” Word.
Wednesday, Jan. 1: Holiday Inn (Heights Theatre)
The holidays aren’t over until the last person to put their wilting boughs of holly in the dumpster says so. So say the programmers at the Heights, where they’re welcoming in the new year with a 35mm screening of Holiday Inn, the decent Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire musical that was later cannibalized for the more widely-known and infinitely inferior musical bonanza White Christmas (also known as the most boring holiday movie in all Christendom). With at least a half dozen decent songs — including, yes, the first incarnation of “White Christmas,” but also “Easter Parade” — and some game hoofing from a still very much in-his-prime Astaire, Holiday Inn promises to “Start the New Year Right.”
Wednesday, Jan. 1 & Thursday, Jan. 2: Alien (Parkway Theater)
Why do I keep returning to the first Alien when the rest of the series has left me more or less cold? (Yes, even James Cameron’s much-lauded testosterone-jacked 1986 sequel.) It’s summed up right in the tagline: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” It’s the fear of the unknown — not to mention the fear of being so deep in “the unknown” that no one from the outside world knows what’s even happening where you are — that fueled the 1979 sci-fi classic’s engine, built as it was around screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and creature designer H.R. Giger’s Lovecraftian solitary death machine. And within the movie’s magisterially slow build, and amid the plasma-dripping chains of the Nostromo, lie some of mainstream horror’s most sexually repulsive imagery. A legendary shocker.
Thursday, Jan. 2: New Year’s Evil (Theatres at Mall of America)
Theatres at Mall of America continue their ingenious series of holiday-themed horror films with this utterly anonymous early ’80s cash-in, which arrived in theaters mere months after Friday the 13th kicked off the genre’s regrettable renaissance. Not a whole lot of meat on these bones, but it does feature Kip Niven, the cute-vulnerable seismologist whose predictions of the Big One go unheeded in the 1974 trash classic Earthquake.
Friday, Jan. 3 through Sunday, Jan. 5: L’avventura (Trylon Microcinema)
If you’ve ever pretended to love someone by running the back of your hand across a white stucco wall, or if you’ve ever looked up and realized how rare it is that you trace the outline of buildings against the sky, or if you’ve ever negotiated your soul out of its modern ennui by squaring your shoulders against the frame of an asymmetrical doorway arch, or if you see a universe of emotion behind the grey gauze of Monica Vitti’s eyes … if any of the above are true, you’re already a convert. Two years after it was made, the venerable Sight & Sound critics’ poll ranked L’avventura as the second greatest film ever made. It’s impossible now to realize just how volcanic its revisions to the cinematic rulebook were at the time. It operates under an entirely different center of gravity.