I’m not exactly surprised to see the box office receipts for this holiday weekend. Specifically, I’m not surprised to see that Godzilla is off by 77 percent of its opening weekend totals. Word of mouth has not been particularly kind, and I suppose for the blockbuster-craving audience, yes, that means we really do need to see Godzilla early in the movie, after all! And if that means the vocabulary of our event movies continues to get more and more short-attention-spanned, I guess then so be it. (Sigh.) If like me you’re a little bit jaded now about the assembly line regularity of summer sensationalism, then maybe it’s time to get familiar once again with the far more unpredictable pleasures of limited and/or retrospective screenings around town!
Monday, May 26 through Thursday, May 29: The Immigrant (Lagoon Theater)
James Gray (Two Lovers) needs more respect than he’s getting. His latest film The Immigrant earned predominately rave reviews when it played in last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and now it’s getting rather unceremoniously dumped in just a few theaters sprinkled throughout the States this week. (Still, that’s better than the straight-to-streaming plan that was rumored to be in the works for it.) Do yourself a favor and luxuriate in the analog rhythms of one of America’s under-heralded masters.
Wednesday, May 28: Blood Diner (Trylon Microcinema)
Every time I see the title of this cult black comedy — ripped, as it were, from the resilient bones of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — I flash back to Bart Simpson telling Homer, regarding his blood pudding: “The secret ingredient … is blood!” This week, the secret ingredient is Trash Film Debauchery, closing out a wet spring with an even more drenched bit of tongue-in-cheek ’80s horror.
Thursday, May 29: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (Heights Theater)
An absolute filibuster parfait from Frank Capra, and maybe the finest performance of Jimmy Stewart’s career, pre-Hitchcock at any rate. “I guess this is just another lost cause Mr. Paine. All you people don’t know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for and he fought for them once. For the only reason any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today of great hatred a man who knows that rule has a great trust. You know that rule Mr. Paine and I loved you for it just as my father did. And you know that you fight harder for the lost causes than for any others. Yes you’d even die for them. Like a man we both knew Mr. Paine. You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well I’m not licked. And I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody will listen to me.” Drops mic. Drops to the floor.
Friday, May 30: The Room (Uptown Theater)
The phrase “so bad it’s good” has been robbed of its value in this post-Sharknado 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.
Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1: Lawrence of Arabia (Trylon Microcinema)
I admit with shame that I have yet to see Lawrence of Arabia on a large screen. I’ve seen a number of other classics that have to be seen in theaters to appreciate their grandeur, from Gone with the Wind to Titanic, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Gravity. But to hear fans tell it, there are few other films that require being seen on as large a screen as possible as David Lean’s 1962 historical epic, for which words like “sweeping,” “massive,” and “panoramic” scarcely seem adequate. The life of T.E. Lawrence is brought to life by a small nation’s worth of film technicians and extras, set to a symphony of Maurice Jarre motifs and camel belches. But holding the entire undertaking together is Peter O’Toole, his piercing blue eyes as calm and mysterious as an oasis in the middle of the desert sand dunes.