Maybe you haven’t caught the Oscar nominated shorts yet. Well, they’re still available for at least another four days, and they come highly recommended (even if I think the quality ebbs and flows pretty sharply between individual entries). Otherwise, there aren’t many options that aren’t The LEGO Movie (which is awesome and worth a second viewing) or a slew of remakes of ’80s movies (which are absolutely not awesome and shouldn’t be seen even once). Stray along the road less traveled and check out this week’s best bets among limited release and repertory screenings:
Monday, Feb. 17: Search for Beauty & Murder at the Vanities (Heights Theater)
The Heights Theater is undressing two naughty code-breaking films this evening in a positively scandalous double feature. (The Production Code, in case you weren’t aware of it, was instituted by the Hayes Office when the powers that be decided that movies were too powerful a medium to let loose unregulated. Hollywood decided to clean up its own act or risk handing the reigns over to the government or Catholics.) Search for Beauty stars male ingénue Buster Crabbe and features no shortage of nearly-nudies nattering about in their naked nudity — check out the nutty bare-chested musical number below. The same goes for the musical-mystery Murder at the Vanities, which is directed by perpetually underrated Mitchell Leisen and features some quite ahead-of-their-time marijuana references — check out the other nutty musical number below.
Wednesday, Feb. 19: The Defenders: Rob Nelson (Trylon Microcinema)
Word on the street is that Trylon’s magnificent “The Defenders” series this month is a can’t miss. It ought to, it was hand selected by the venerable Rob Nelson, former film critic for City Pages, contributor to countless critical magazines and journals, and still sitting member of the National Society of Film Critics (i.e. the best critics’ group). As per usual, the title is a secret until the screening begins, but organizer Jim Brunzell (who is himself about to head to Austin for six months to program direct the Polari film fest) says that Nelson’s choice is a local premiere that people will be buzzing about for weeks and months to come.
Wednesday, Feb. 19 & Thursday, Feb. 20: A Fantastic Fear of Everything (Parkway Theater)
I’m not entirely sure that it’s possible any longer to make a genre film in Britain that’s not also a comedy, and I’m not sure it’s possible to do so without Simon Pegg in your cast. Case in point, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, a British horror-comedy that stars Simon Pegg, playing a children’s author who becomes obsessed with serial killers.
Friday, Feb. 21: The Stuart Hall Project (Walker Art Center)
As part of Black History Month, the Walker Art Center is presenting a sadly very timely screening of The Stuart Hall Project. Hall, a pioneering member of the New Left who founded the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies and was called one of the most influential theorists in Great Britain, died just days ago. Director John Akomfrah’s film about his life and ideas boasts a soundtrack filled with Miles Davis, whose music Hall is quoted as saying represented “the sound of what cannot be.” (Akomfrah, by the way, is a former Walker artist-in-residence.)
Friday, Feb. 21 thru Sunday, Feb. 23: Blue Velvet (Trylon Microcinema)
While I’d argue that Eraserhead is the better date movie, the best episodes of Twin Peaks are a better plunge into the dark heart of a peculiarly American small town mentality, and Inland Empire features a better performance from Laura Dern, there is simply no point in denying what a game changer David Lynch’s Blue Velvet was. A disturbing cross between ’50s camp and out-of-time bugged-out insanity, Blue Velvet forever changed the way we view our own white picket fences. There are many severed ears strewn about.