Pre-Codes, the 80s and Biblical Epics: March 2013 in Films
March started out pretty good as far as films in theatres go with the Roxie’s annual Pre-Code festival. I saw a few new-to-me films (see below) and I also got to see longtime favorites Shanghai Express, Waterloo Bridge (the original) and Safe In Hell. I only managed to see two films at the Castro this month, though; one of my favorites from last year: Cloud Atlas, and one I’ve been wanted to see on the big screen foreverrrr: The Ten Commandments. Yesterday I rewatched Ben-Hur for the millionth time (I saw it on the big screen a few years back). As you will see when you get to my list for the month, I watched A LOT of films from the 1980s this month. This is because Netflix has an amazing selection of films owned by MGM streaming right now and I just cannot get enough. I saw a handful of 2013 releases (finally), but nothing that I think will last til the end of the year. Anyways, you can see this list below, as well as a look at my favorites for the month.
- Trouble in the Glen
- Code of the Prairie
- Torch Singer (Pre-Code festival)
- Blueberry Hill
- Night World (Pre-Code festival)
- Cutter’s Way
- Mabel and Fatty’s Married Life
- Fatty’s Reckless Fling
- Fatty’s Chance Acquaintance
- The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946)
- Santa Fe Trail
- Echo Park
- Teen Wolf (1985)
- The Southerner
- The Rosebud Beach Hotel
- Valet Girls
- Like Someone In Love
- Upside Down (2013)
- The River’s Edge (1957)
- Lovin’ The Ladies
- The Fugitive (1947)
- Desert Hearts
- Chasing Amy
- My American Cousin
- Mar adentro (The Sea Inside)
- Longtime Companion
- Warm Bodies
- In Which We Serve
- Bunny O’Hare
- Anastasia (1956)
- Jackie Brown
- Side Effects
- April Fool’s Day
- The Silence
- My Pal Trigger
- O.C. and Stiggs
Some of the 80s films I watched this month were not that great at all, but most of them I enjoyed immensely. That’s a decade I wish more people would reconsider. You’ll also discover below that there are two films from 1997. I caught up on two films from that year that I had been meaning to watch for ages and it’s about damn time that I did!
Valet Girls, 1987 (dir. Rafal Zielinski)
I don’t know if anyone has seen this film but me and it’s sure a shame. It’s got a really low rating on IMDb, but don’t let that fool you; there is a lot more going on in this film than you would expect. It revolves around three girls who work at a valet agency. One is a wanna be rockstar, another is a Ph. D. candidate doing some research masquerading as a bimbo and the third is a slightly clueless wanna be actress from the south. The three find themselves working at this sexist valet agency and attending various parties trying to break into the industry. What I loved so much about this film was that none of the women were putting up with the sexist situations they found themselves in. It’s lipstick feminism at its finest and great commentary on the sexist nature of show business. The biz could learn a lot from this film even now.
Chasing Amy, 1997 (dir. Kevin Smith)
I cannot believe I waited so long to see this film. I can see why some might find the film problematic, but for me it’s a really heartfelt and insightful look at the fluidity of human sexuality and one of the few films to tackle the subject of pansexuality (whether Smith knew that’s what he was tapping into here or not, I don’t know). It’s equally as funny as it is heartbreaking and probably the most honest film Smith will ever produce.
Longtime Companion, 1989 (dir. Norman René)
This film broke my heart. It spans nearly a decade in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic and how it affected a group of friends. At times it is a bit overly melodramatic, but mostly it’s just an honest and heart-wrenching look at a disease few understood and how it mercilessly hit people of every socio-economic class. There are a handful of death scenes in the film that will haunt you for a long time after the film is over and you probably will want to have a box of tissues handy.
Jackie Brown, 1997 (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Why on Earth I waited 16 years to watch this film is just beyond me. While I still think Reservoir Dogs is Tarantino’s most perfect film, this might be a close second for my favorite. The characters in this film all come to life in a much more real way than most of Tarantino’s films. What really got me in this film was the relationship between Jackie and Max. These are two amazingly lived-in performances and the payoff in the final scenes will break your heart in the best way. Robert Forster received an Oscar nomination for his work in this film (losing the Best Supporting Actor award to Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting) and part of me thinks he was robbed. It’s one of the most subtle, perfect performances I have ever seen. Kudos to you Forster and kudos to you Tarantino for finding the perfect player for the perfect part.
Alligator, 1980 (dir. Lewis Teague)
So while raving about my new-found love of Robert Forster a follower on Twitter (Sean Baker, who also happens to be an indie filmmaker) recommended I watch this film and I am so glad that I did. Written by Academy Award nominee John Sayles, this film is far wittier than your average monster flick. It’s also gorgeously photographed. It’s one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t think it’s on DVD, but you can find it on YouTube and I think it’s definitely worth your time.
So that was March. For the month of April, I have big Castro Theatre plans (Pretty in Pink! The Last Unicorn! Almodóvar double feature!) They’re also showing Barry Lyndon, but because they hate me they are showing it during the TCM Classic Film Festival, so I will miss it. But, I will be seeing many, many amazing films in Hollywood during my third year at TCMFF. Follow me on Twitter from April 22nd-28th for updates during my trip and see you at the movies!