Nope. Still haven’t caught Ride Along. Apparently that’s almost everyone in America wants to see. But if you’re reading this column, I know you’re not “almost everyone in America.” This week has a full slate of classic cinema, enough to keep any film fan more than busy. Here are my best bets:
Monday, Feb. 3: Baby Face (Heights Theater)
Nothing keeps you warm on a cold winter’s eve quite like a delightfully amoral Pre-Code Hollywood movie. The Heights kicks off a new series of naughtiness this evening with a screening of Baby Face, which isn’t about Baby Face Nelson but rather about Lily Powers. Played by Barbara Stanwyck, Lily is practically a riot grrrl born a couple generations before her time. Using sex as a weapon in ways that would soon be stifled by the ludicrous Hays Code, Stanwyck’s performance established her as one of the silver screen’s foremost and, more importantly, most dangerous bombshells of the era.
Monday, Feb. 3 & Tuesday, Feb. 4: Badlands (Trylon Microcinema)
It’s sort of an offbeat diva week here in the Twin Cities, isn’t it? Over at the Trylon, they’re kicking off a month-long series devoted to one of the most introspective, unpredictable actresses to ever headline American movies: Sissy Spacek. They begin with Badlands, the first big break not just for her but also for director Terrence Malick. Spacek and co-star Martin Sheen play Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather, who much like Bonnie and Clyde captivated the nation with their crime spree (in this case, a series of murders, not bank robberies). Spacek’s ethereal quality is a preternatural fit with Malick’s form.
The Animated and Live Action Oscar-nominee programs are being held for another week in Uptown, and the documentary short program will begin at Riverview on Friday. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that all programs are recommended if only for the sake of their convenience and to get a well-rounded picture of what’s in the Oscar conversation this year. But there’s always the chance that this year’s Award-winning short filmmakers are tomorrow’s hot new director. In any case, Jonathon Sharp and I have made our predictions for what’s most likely to win this year, though these three categories are undoubtedly the most difficult to guess based on their relative obscurity. Our picks are available here.
Wednesday, Jan. 29 & Thursday, Jan. 30: Metropolis (Parkway Theater)
Fritz Lang’s gorgeous futuristic sci-fi epic was one of the most extravagant productions of the silent era this side of D.W. Griffith’s bank-breaking Intolerance. (Both films are covered extensively in Stuart Klawans’ crucial book Film Follies, which I cannot recommend highly enough.) Resplendent in German expressionism and at least thematically prescient, if not scientifically, Metropolis is unquestionably one of cinema’s incontestable masterpieces.
Friday, Feb. 7 thru Sunday, Feb. 9: Dune & Mulholland Drive (Trylon Microcinema)
To paraphrase Sesame Street, one of these films is not like the other. One is David Lynch’s very best film, his piece de resistance. The other is a maladroit, unwieldy, embarrassing adaptation of a rather un-filmable novel. One is a dark and majestic Phoenix rising from the ashes of a failed TV series pilot. The other is a movie that nearly put Lynch’s career on the skids. One is tormented silencio. The other is bombastic noise. Compare and contrast the two for yourself this weekend at the Trylon. Or, you know, just watch Mulholland Drive twice.