Sunday, January 1


Looking ahead to 2006, part II: Independent Movie Theatres

It's wonderful that there are still a healthy number of repertory theatres running great, adventurous programs in and around Frisco, and I only hope that audiences will resolve to be equally adventurous in exploring what's made available in the coming year. Here's a sample of what local popcorn-munchers can expect to see in 2006:

My friendly neighborhood Balboa has announced some of the items it will be bringing in early 2006 in addition to Noir City. Carol Ballard's Duma opens January 6 (also at the Rafael). A double-bill of Barbara Stanwyck pre-codes (the much-better-than-its-title Night Nurse and the restored Baby Face) play for a week starting February 2. My favorite current Hong Kong action auteur, Johnnie To, finally will see his 2004 Cannes sensation Breaking News released theatrically here on February 10. And, perhaps in anticipation of a rumored French film noir series, Classes Tous Risques is scheduled for Feb. 17. Another Balboa rumor concerns a tribute to Janus Films (which has distributed films by Kenji Mizoguchi, Ingmar Bergman, and countless other foreign auteurs since the 1950's) featuring new prints sometime in the fall or winter. Depending on the size and scope of the tribute, this could be the film highlight of 2006.

Since I've recently learned how easy it is to use Golden Gate Transit to get from downtown Frisco to downtown San Rafael, a short walk from the Rafael Film Center, I expect to take advantage of the programs offered there more often in 2006. The highlight of the year's first calendar for me is the series of selected submissions to the Academy Awards' Best Foreign Film category called For Your Consideration. Most of these films are completely unknown quantities for me, but I notice that Jonathan Rosenbaum put the Chilean film Play on his best-of-the-year list. I'm also curious to see Thailand's the Tin Mine, Romania's the Death of Mr. Lazarescu, and the student activist biopic Gie, the biggest-budgeted Indonesian film of all-time and subject of Amir Muhammad's most unusual "making-of" documentary the Year of Living Vicariously. The series runs Jan. 13-26. Other Rafael calendar items of note include the Real Dirt on Farmer John, opening Jan. 27 (when it also comes to the Presidio Theatre), and a revival of Oh! What a Lovely War Mar. 24-30.

Every year I promise myself to visit the Parkway more but in 2005 I only made the trip to the Oakland venue twice. They're starting this year's special events series with a strong January line-up including the 7th Voyage of Sinbad Jan. 12, Time Bandits Jan. 17, This is Spinal Tap Jan. 24, and Cannibal Holocaust Jan. 26. The last time I went to the Red Vic, they were asking for community support for a license to sell alcoholic beverages. I've often wondered why there wasn't a place on this side of the bay doing what the Parkway and other theatres in places like Portland, OR and Austin, TX do to attract customers through the enticement of beer, and the Red Vic seems like the most logical candidate.

Rounding-up the rest of the area's cinephile-friendly theatres, I recently wrote about the developments at the Roxie Film Center and the Four Star Theatre here and wish both venues the best of luck in the coming year. I also hope Oakland's Paramount Theatre can bring back its classic movie series in 2006; it's depressing to think that the last film shown in that priceless movie palace might be You've Got Mail last March. The Stanford Theatre hasn't released its new calendar yet, but promises to bring Ronald Colman films in 2006. The Landmark theatre chain is of course busy exhibiting Oscar bait early in the year, but all expectations point to them still hosting the occasional reissue or midnight movie series. For example, Jan. 27 & 28 brings Live Freaky! Die Freaky! to the Lumiere, as well as to the Act 1 & 2 as a kick-off to a 10-week series of midnight movies there, including 1980's special effects films like Back to the Future (Feb. 3-5) and Tron (Mar. 3-4), more recent comedies like the Big Lebowski (Mar. 24-26) and Wet Hot American Summer (Mar. 10-11) (an inspired midnight movie choice), and even a rare East Bay appearance from Peaches Christ, who brings Pee-Wee's Big Adventure Feb. 25. And Jesse Ficks promises to continue bringing monthly midnight movies to the Castro as part of a $12 triple-bill package called "Freeky Fridays". The first one on January 27th features Scott Baio, Maureen McCormick and Patrick Swayze in Skatetown, U.S.A., capping off an evening of roller-disco excess featuring Roller Boogie and Xanadu.

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