Popcorn & Candy: Corporate Music Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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(Gunpowder & Sky)

HEARTS BEAT LOUD

Frank (Nick Offerman) is at a crossroads; he has to shut down his Brooklyn record store, and his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is about to head to UCLA for a pre-med program. But she’s also a talented musician, and when dad records a “jam sesh” and uploads the results to Spotify, can magic strike? Director Brett Haley (I’ll See You in My Dreams) pushes a lot of well-meaning buttons that should play me: the vinyl resurgence, parental loss, musical chemistry, and his script, co-written with Marc Basch, namechecks lots of bands that I like. But the longer and louder these hearts beat,  the more it feels pandering, like a feature-length TV commercial version of heartfelt indie rock. The strong performances don’t make up for what is ultimately an unconvincing fantasy — and  remember, this is coming from someone who likes the Step Up movies.  Despite actors who mostly seem like real people, they’re placed in situations that seem like so much daydreaming, with a few mourning grace notes for realism. But that realism is stymied by the ridiculous suggestion that Frank’s record store needs “better flow.” Have these people ever been to a neighborhood record store? Most independent record stores DREAM of that much space. Hearts Beat Loud is a sweet Father’s Day movie, but it makes my bullshit detector beat louder.

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at Landmark E Street Cinema, The Avalon, ArcLight Bethesda, and Angelika Mosaic. 

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BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY

I wrote about two of this year’s AFI Docs titles for the Washington City Paper preview, but the film I’m most looking forward to wasn’t available for critics. First-time director  Dava Whisenant tells a story near and dear to my heart: vinyl obsession. But this isn’t your ordinary music documentary. The movie follows comedy writer Steve Young, who had a gig looking for strange records for Late Night with David Letterman when he stumbled on a most unusual subgenre: the industrial musical, which generated cast recordings commissioned by such corporations as McDonald’s, Ford, DuPont, Xerox, and General Electric.

Saturday, June 16 at 3 pm at the AFI Silver and Sunday, June 17 at 8 pm at Landmark E Street Cinema. $15. Get tickets here.

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(Cohen Media Group)

DOUBLE LOVER

Chloé (Marine Vacth) isn’t feeling well, and on her gynecologist’s advice begins to see  Paul, a psychoanalyst (Jérémie Renier) who soon becomes a lover. In need of a new shrink, she starts seeing an analyst (Jérémie Renier) who claims to be Paul’s twin brother. Things get hairy! The most recent film from François Ozon (Swimming Pool) got mixed reviews and was barely released in D.C. , but the Avalon brings it back for one night only next week as part of its French Cinematheque series (I’m still kicking myself for missing their screening of Bruno Dumont’s Joan of Arc musical last month). The New York Times’ Glenn Kenny, in one of the film’s more positive reviews, wrote that despite being “freely adapted” from  Joyce Carol Oates’ Lives of the Twins, the movie, “spins its influences into a frenzy that ultimately reveals the story to be very much its own thing. And a crazy, and eventually strangely moving, thing it is. ”

Watch the trailer.
Wednesday, June 20 at 8 pm at the Avalon.

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LE SAMOURAI

My Critic’s Pick in this week’s Washington City Paper. I wrote, “One of the screen’s great sex symbols, Alain Delon was an aloof pretty boy who brought a cool confidence to stylish French gangster movies. As part of its tribute to director Jean-Pierre Melville, the AFi Silver is screening this 1967 masterpiece that provided the actor with one of his signature roles—and one of his coolest. Delon plays Jef Costello, a Paris hitman who survives by refusing to form attachments—hence the title, explained by a fictional quotation about the loneliness of the samurai. But when a bold assassination in a swanky jazz club goes wrong, Jef is forced to evade the cops and his employers. Even if you’ve never seen Le Samourai before, if you’ve seen enough action movies you’ve seen its influence in such directors as Walter Hill, John Woo, and Quentin Tarantino. Delon and Melville defined the cinematic myth of the alienated assassin, and this is where it began.

Watch the trailer.
Tuesday, June 19-Thursday, June 21 at the AFI Silver.

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YOG: MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE

Next week the Washington Psychotronic Film Society screens this 1970 exploitation aka Space Amoeba. In my program notes for a 2007 screening at the Mary Pickford Theater, I wrote, “Three monsters … they are scary!’ So goes the trailer for this widescreen meditation on the crossroads of science and real estate. Developers uncover a hidden island in the South Pacific and make plans for a family resort. Meanwhile, a satellite falls from the sky bearing the titular organism and her transformative powers. This is how the island is taken over by three giant creatures: a cuttlefish, a crab and a snapping turtle. ‘Who will win? Man or monsters?’ This was the penultimate film by director Ishiro Honda, who unleashed Godzilla on an unsuspecting world and said of his terrifying creations, ‘Monsters are born too tall, too strong, too heavy; that is their tragedy.'”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, June 18 at 8 pm at Smoke and Barrel.

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Popcorn & Candy: Young Thieves and Visionaries Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters (The Orchard)

AMERICAN ANIMALS

Based on the true story of four college buds who in 2004 almost pulled off a $12 million  rare book heist, this lively if derivative crime drama is framed by documentary interviews with real-life thieves who share their unreliable and often conflicting memories of what really happened. It’s an apt sophomore project for writer-director Bart Layton, whose first feature, the 2012 crime documentary The Imposter, used reenactments to tell the story of a French on artist who convinced a grieving Texas family that he was their missing teenage son. If this movie too often becomes a game of spot-the-reference, that’s by design–the culprits watched old heist movies before planning one of their own. American Animals is consistently watchable and has fun playing with genre tropes and needle-drops, but it doesn’t quite make the best use of its resources, from Barry Keoghan, who was a revelation in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, to Udo Keir, who was wickedly funny in Downsizing and is just wasted here.

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at Landmark E Street Cinema, Landmark Bethesda Row, and Angelika Mosaic.

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(eOne)

You know you’re in for a hard slog when a director’s idea of an exciting opening set piece involves a (slow) file transfer computer screen. The latest Nicolas Cage straight-to-VOD thriller plays like a channel-surf through at least three different duds, weaving together the story of a financial deal-gone-wrong in Afghanistan, a successful banker, a bullied high school student, and finally, a veteran police officer (Cage) who’s about to be forced into retirement. Naturally, the officer’s normally uneventful beat becomes a day that changes everybody’s lives. Writer-director York Alec Shackleton made his name as a young snowboarding and skateboarding whiz, but unlike the great explorer with whom he shares a name, he comes up empty on this expedition.

Watch the trailer.
Available Friday on VOD platforms.

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(Venice Film Festival)

THE ROAD TO MANDALAY

Two illegal immigrants from Burma struggle to survive in Bangkok Thailand, and fall in love in this 2016 drama. .Part of the Freer’s series devoted to Taiwanese director Midi Z, who will appear at the screening. Also screening this weekend is City of Jade (Saturday, June 9 at 2 pm), a documentary that follows the director’s attempt to reconcile with his older brother, Zhao, who abandoned the family when Midi Z was just five years old; after rumors that Zhao had found fortune in a mythical city, he showed up at their father’s funeral as an impoverished opium addict.

Watch the trailer.
Friday, June 8 at 7 pm at the Freer Gallery of Art. Free.

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MASARYK

As part of its Lions of Czech Film Series, the Avalon Theatre screens this 2016 drama about Czech diplomat and politician Jan Masaryk, who as Ambassador to Britain tried to save his country from Nazi occupation but was betrayed by Allied forces. Also known as A Prominent Patient, the movie shuttles between London, Prage, and a psychiatric hospital in New Jersey where he fled after the war. The Hollywood Reporter writes, “With all that going on, one would think there was ample material for a fascinating pre-war thriller…but the screenplay is missing a lot of pieces and the humdrum staging looks numbingly like jazzed-up Euro TV fare.”

Watch the trailer.
Wednesday, June 13 at 8 pm at The Avalon.

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THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY

Next week the Washington Psychotronic Film Society screens this 1988 drama from New Zealand director Vincent Ward, who in the ’90s specialized in an ambitious sort-of-magical realism with such films as Map of the Human Heart (which I loved at the time  but kind of cringe to think of now). Set in 14th century England, the movie follows a visionary young boy who instructs villagers to dig a tunnel to escape the Black Plague–leading his people into the future.

Watch the trailer.
Monday, June 11 at 8 pm at Smoke and Barrel.

Popcorn & Candy: Vital Vitali Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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Leon Vitali (Kino Lorber)

FILMWORKER

Leon Vitali was a well–regarded character actor who was thrilled to get a part in Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 adaptation of Barry Lyndon. After a taste of working with the maestro, Vitali essentially ran away to join the circus, working long hours for Kubrick doing everything from casting the boy in The Shining to checking print quality for thousands of reels to such mundane tasks as cleaning the billiard room and monitoring the director’s sick cats. Director Tony Zierra found a terrific documentary subject in a man who looks like an aging rock star but was for decades a tireless, underappreciated assistant. Unfortunately, most of the talking heads  are terribly photographed, completely washing out everyone from Ryan O’Neal to the  late R. Lee Ermey (curiously, Eyes Wide Shut‘s Marie Richardson is one of the few to benefit from professional, flattering light, though her even lighting seems to come from within an uncomfortably confined box). The shoddy cinematography doesn’t completely detract from Vitali’s creative bromance, and there’s plenty of on-the-set footage (much of it on commercial grade video) from several late-career films. Maybe the movie’s technical shortcomings prove how crucial Vitali was to a film set. But just a little more effort (and really, a coupla hundred bucks, tops!) could have made this good documentary a much better one.

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at E Street Landmark Cinema

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(Peter Beard/IFC Films)

THAT SUMMER

Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale and her mother Big Edie became documentary superstars thanks to the 1975 film Grey Gardens, directed by the Maysles brothers with Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer. But three years earlier, in the Summer of 1972, photographer Peter Beard descended upon the Beales’ run-down Long Island home, capturing the estate that was falling apart even among glitterati such as Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, and Truman Capote. Director Göran Olsson (The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975) assembled this long-lost footage for a film that sheds new light on these fallen aristocrats.

Watch the trailer.
Wednesday, June 6 at the Avalon.

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A lampshade at Bemelman’s bar, an all-too-brief historical detour in this 90-minute hagiography (Good Deed Entertainment)

ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE

Director Matthew Miele’s ode to the iconic New York hotel is starry-eyed in the worst way. Why is this puff piece even playing here? In my Spectrum Culture review, I wrote that, “the movie is dominated by fanboy fawning, announced from the start by commemorative photos of famous guests President John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana and Frank Sinatra. Copious testimonials come from frequent guests such as George Clooney, Sofia Coppola and a heavily accented European visitor whose accent turns her praise of ‘atmosphere’ into what sounds for all the world like ‘utmost fear.’ Worst is the endorsement of author Fran Lebowitz, who laments that the Carlyle is an emblem of a dying city, one in which visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art are forever marred by ‘a billion people from Kansas,’ as if the movie didn’t already wear its class consciousness on its sleeve.”

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at Regal Gallery Place.

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FRIENDLY PERSUASION

This weekend the AFI Silver screens a 35mm print of director William Wyler’s 1956 drama about a Quaker patriarch (Gary Cooper) who tries to hold on to his pacifist beliefs during the Civil War. Co-starring Dorothy Maguire and a pre-Psycho Anthony Perkins, who earned one of the film’s six Oscar nominations (although blacklisted screenwriter Michael Wilson could not appear on the ballot). At a 1988 summit meeting in Moscow, President Ronald Reagan gave Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev a VHS copy of the film. The screening will be followed by a  Q&A with Catherine Wyler (daughter of director William Wyler) and Maria Cooper Janis (daughter of star Gary Cooper).

Watch the trailer.
Saturday, June 2 at 2 pm at the AFI Silver.

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SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES

Finally, the Washington Psychotronic Film Society presents this Italian exploitation from 1964, written and directed by King of Kong Island auteur Roberto Mauri. As the WPFS programmers explain, “Hidden in the bowels of a wine cellar, a vampire spreads a rat-like black death throughout a castle and into the minds of the women living there who accept his fanged attacks with rapture. One of the most stylish Italian Gothic horror films, this moody and terrifying story of undead lust will have you clutching your neck long after the final scream!”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, June 4 at 8 pm at Smoke and Barrel.

Please check out my recent music reviews at Spectrum Culture, which cover a two-disc set of sacred flute music from New Guinea and an album by a jazz cellist who collaborated with frogs in the Florida Everglades.

Popcorn and Candy: Luv and Hat Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

My Critic’s Pick in this week’s Washington City Paper, where I wrote, “The AFi Silver’s tribute to Robert Mitchum continues with this dreamlike 1955 thriller that gave the actor one of his most iconic roles. Mitchum stars an ex-con who poses as a preacher in order to  sweet talk a seemingly helpless widow (silent screen legend Lilian Gish) out of the 10 grand that her bank-robbing husband hid before he was executed. With the words “LOVE” and “HATE” tattooed across his fingers, Mitchum’s charismatic performance created one of that rarefied group of cinema villains who has earned pop culture immortality in a Simpsons episode. In his sole credit as a director, actor Charles Laughton adapted David Grubbs’ Southern Gothic novel, inspired by the true story of  a lonely hearts killer who killed two widows and three children in West Virginia in 1931. The Night of the Hunter was a critical and commercial failure upon its release, but it has since become one of the most beloved movies of the era.”

Watch the trailer.
Friday, May 25 and Sunday, May 27-Thursday, May 31 at the AFI Silver.

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(Barn Owl Pictures)

SAVING BRINTON

One of my favorite films from the 2017 AFI Docs lineup is finally getting a commercial run. As I wrote last year, “Frank and Indiana Brinton were entertainment pioneers who put on magic lantern and early motion picture programs in America’s heartland in the late 19th century. This wonderful documentary by Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne provides an impressive glimpse of what was then a newfangled spectacle. But as the title suggests, the real subject of this film is the quest, and its quixotic dreamer, the endearing Michael Zahs, who discovered the Brinton collection in a basement and spent 32 years trying to find someone who thought it mattered (disclosure: part of this documentary was shot at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, part of the Library of Congress, where I work, but I was not involved in the projects depicted in the film.) . Watching this documentary, you wonder why it took him so long to persuade anyone; he’ll have you eating out of his hand as soon as you learn that he takes in stray animals on his Iowa farm (this revelation appears about 30 seconds into the movie). As someone who tries to keep readers informed of 35mm film screenings in town, of course I would say this ode to film preservation is a must-see. But that’s thanks to Zahs and his remarkable character, gentle but persevering in the face of indifference.”

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at the AFI Silver.

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(courtesy Collectiv Jeune Cinéma)

LE LIT DE LA VIERGE

The National Gallery of Art’s series on Philippe Garrel and the French underground film collective Zanzibar continues with a 35mm print of this biblical allegory made when Garrel was just 20 years old. Pierre Clémenti (Sweet Movie) stars as a hippie Christ figure and Zouzou (Chloe in the Afternoon) as both Mary and Mary Magdalene. Shown with a 16mm print of the behind the scenes featurette “On the Set of Le Lit de la Vierge.”

Saturday, May 26 at 2 pm at the National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium.

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GYMKATA

The Washington Psychotronic Film Society describes this sort-of-much-loved 1985 action movie: “The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate! The U.S. govt. wants to put a satellite monitoring station in the remote, not-at-all-made-up country of Parmistan. But before they can do so, Olympic gymnast KURT THOMAS must survive THE GAME, an international winner-takes-all competition where he’ll face ninjas, unsportsmanlike competitors, a village of insane criminals, a traitorous strongman, and even more ninjas. If only there was a pommel horse in the middle of the town square.”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, May 28 at 8 pm at Smoke and Barrel.

Popcorn & Candy: The Killer Inside Me Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn (Kerry Brown/30WEST-Roadside Attractions)

BEAST

Moll (Jessie Buckley) lives with her mum and ailing father on the island of Jersey in the English Channel. She sings in the choir and seems to lead a good life, but after running away from her 27th birthday party, she meets troublemaker Pascal (South African musician Johnny Flynn) and begins an uneasy romance. The tension doesn’t just stem from her new beau’s crude manners; a serial killer is targeting young girls on the island–and he’s a prime suspect. Writer-director Michael Pearce pulls a few corny tricks in this tale of trust and belated-coming-of-age, and the thread gets a bit lost in the third act. But Buckley and especially Flynn effectively play their roles of troubled and not entirely sympathetic people who are willing to love each other even at their worst.

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at Landmark E Street Cinema, Arclight Bethesda, Angelika Fairfax, and AMC Shirlington.

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Moritz Bleibtreu and his three-legged friend (Film Movement)

BYE BYE GERMANY

It’s 1946. Frankfurt businessman David Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu of Run Lola Run) and his friends dream of leaving for America, and become door-to-door salesmen to raise money for their trip. But how did David manage to be the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust? When a U.S. military investigator presses him for answers, he reveals the bitterness behind his humor. The script, which novelist Michel Bergmann adapted from his novel (with an assist by director Sam Garbarski) could have used a more cynical eye behind the camera–you can imagine Billy Wilder going even darker with this material.  But Garbarski (Irina Palm) still navigates this darkly comic tale with a minimum of sentiment, despite the fact that the movie opens with a three-legged Jack Russell terrier, of all things. It’s probably far better than The Day the Clown Cried will turn out to be.

Watch the trailer.
Opens Friday at Landmark E Street Cinema.

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Robert Mitchum and Susan Hayward

THE LUSTY MEN

The AFI’s Robert Mitchum tribute continues next week with this 1952 drama directed by Nicholas Ray. Mitchum stars as a retired rodeo champ who teaches newcomer Arthur Kennedy the ropes. Bosley Crowther’s New York Times review commends “candid use of camera that would stand out in the documentary field,” so this would be useful to compare to the excellent The Rider, still playing at Landmark Bethesda Row.

Watch the trailer.
Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20 at the AFI Silver.

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Clotilde Hesme and Louis Garrel (Senses of Cinema)

REGULAR LOVERS

In the late ’60s, Philippe Garrel was involved with the cinema collective Zanzibar, made up of Paris filmmakers whose underground work is largely lost and forgotten. As part of its series, Paris, May ’68: Zanzibar and Philippe Garrel, the National Gallery of Art is screening a 35mm print of Garrel’s 2005 dramatization of the era, starring his own son. This screening will be preceded by the director’s short film “Actua 1,” an 8-minute documentation of May 1968. This weekend the Gallery also presents Garrel’s rarely screened  1972 film The Inner Scar (May 20 at 4:30 pm),  starring singer Nico, his then partner and co-scriptwriter, as a woman wandering through the desert. If memory serves, there was a scratchy clip of this in the 1995 documentary Nico Icon, and it was not good, but where else are you going to see it?

Watch the trailer.
Regular Lovers screens Saturday, May 19 at 2:30 pm at the National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium.

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PANDEMONIUM

Next week the Washington Psychotronic Film Society screen this 1982 comedy starring Tom Smothers and Paul Reubens as Canadian Mounties hunting down a killer at a cheerleader camp. Co-starring Carol Kane, Tab Hunter, and Judge Reinhold, whom I sometimes mix up with Judd Hirsch. Try not to think about that when you’re watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Watch the trailer.
Monday, May 21 at 8 pm at Smoke and Barrel.

Also opening this week, stay tuned for my Washington Post review of Show Dogs, starring Will Arnett as an FBI agent who reluctantly partners with a Rottweiler (the voice of Ludacris) to go undercover at a Las Vegas dog show. Yes, it’s a talking animal movie, and not bad as these things go!

 

Popcorn & Candy: Watch All The Things Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week. 

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Juliette Binoche (IFC Films)

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

In this sort-of romantic sort-of comedy from director Claire Denis (Bastards), Juliette Binoche stars as Isabelle, an artist struggling with her work and, even more so, with her boorish and mostly married lovers. While this may all sound like a tedious French non-non, this talky drama has something of the elegance of Alan Rudolph, a jazz score by Tindersticks’ Stuart A. Staples setting a tender, compassionate mood for characters that just can’t seem to get it together.

Watch the trailer.
Opens today at Landmark West End Cinema 

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(Kino Lorber)

GRACE JONES: BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI

Come for the hats, stay for the intimate backstage and family footage in director Sophie Fiennes’ profile of the androgynous disco diva. The movie could use a tighter edit, but  seeing Jones behind the scenes–whether chiding a French production team for setting her performance of “La Vie en Rose” in what looks like a brothel, or attending a tent revival in her Jamaican hometown–makes her more human. Can somebody put her in a remake of Johnny Guitar?

Watch the trailer.
Opens today at Landmark E Street Cinema.

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Kim Min-Hee and Isabelle Huppert (The Cinema Guild)

CLAIRE’S CAMERA

Set in Cannes during the film festival, the latest from prolific Korean director Hong Sang-soo (Right Now, Wrong Then) is at least the third of his films to not-so-obliquely address his scandalous off-screen affair with actress Kim Min-hee (The Handmaiden). Here, she plays a production assistant who’s just been fired. She befriends a vacationing high school teacher (Isabelle Huppert) who takes Polaroids of the people she meets–people who may well know each other in the biblical sense.  Somebody should program a triple-bill of Claire’s Camera, Let the Sunshine In, and Choose Me, each of which navigates a complicated romantic web with varying degrees of goofy charm.

Watch the trailer.
Opens today at Landmark West End Cinema.

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Samantha Robinson (Oscilloscope)

THE LOVE WITCH

As part of its celebration of Oscilloscope Laboratories, the truly-indie film studio founded by the late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, the AFI Silver offers a selection of its greatest hits, including director Anna Biller’s gorgeous homage to Technicolor horror. In my Washington Post review in 2016, I wrote that “it’s a stunningly photographed, fascinating reinterpretation of classic melodrama.”

Watch the trailer.
Saturday, May 12 at 10:30 pm and Thursday, May 17 at 9:45 pm at the AFI Silver.

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ROLLER BLADE

The Washington Psychotronic Film Society describes this 1986 sci-fi comedy thusly: “The Sisters of the Cosmic Order of Roller Blade, worshipers of the Smiley Face, guard a crystal of power, and the evil Dr. Saticoy will do anything to have it. While his minions kidnap the good marshal’s gun-happy son, another is sent to infiltrate the sisterhood. Will she join the rollerskating sisters in their fight? Will the hand puppet giving orders finally get some? And just how many nuns will get naked before the film ends?”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, May 15 at 8 pm at Smoke and Barrel.

Popcorn & Candy: Troubled Teens Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.

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SCAFFOLDING

This week I wrote capsule reviews for the Washington City Paper of three films from the Washington Jewish Film Festival, and this was by far my favorite. I wrote, “Asher (Asher Lax) is at a crossroads. The 17-year-old works with his gruff father Milo(Yaacov Cohen) in his scaffolding business, but he is also getting ready for his high school matriculation exams with the help of literature teacher Rami (Ami Smolartchik). The hot-tempered student ends up in the principal’s office far too often, but even though Asher acts up in Rami’s class too, sometimes it’s just because he’s impatient to find out what happens at the end of that Greek tragedy. Israeli writer/director Matan Yair uses a naturalistic touch on this classroom drama, so much so that the movie’s central metaphor and on-the-nose literary references feel absolutely organic. That’s thanks to a uniformly strong cast and an especially sensitive performance from Lax, who was one of Yair’s students and in fact inspired the movie. The young actor comes across as a feral James Franco; volatile, impressionable, and finally heartbreaking in his struggle to communicate with his emotionally distant father—and to be receptive to an education that may open up a very different vocation. While many of the area’s film festivals promise far-flung stories but simply deliver the usual crowd-pleasers, Scaffolding is the kind of breakout drama that should find life outside the festival circuit.”

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, May 6 at 5:15 pm at Landmark Bethesda Row; and Wednesday, May 9 at  8:30 pm at Landmark E Street Cinema.

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HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS

My Critic’s Pick for this Week’s WCP, where I wrote, “With a name that conjured sex and violence, four teenage girls in London teamed up in 1976 to form the first all-female punk band. The Slits, led by then-14- year old singer Ari Up, admitted that they were not musicians, but on tracks such as “Typical Girls,” their uninhibited energy brought shape to chaos. By the time they made their first album, Cut, released in 1979, they had developed a punk-reggae hybrid that was as original as it was influential. Director William E. Badgley, who will appear at the screening for a Q&A, combines vintage footage and contemporary interviews with the surviving members to paint a spirited picture of the short-lived group in this fascinating history of a lesser-known side of the punk movement.”

Watch the trailer.
Thursday, May 10 at 7:15 p.m. at the AFI Silver. 

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VINYL GENERATION

As part of the EUROBEATS Music Festival, the House of Sweden will screen three music documentaries, including this 2016 film about the music culture that emerged in Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s–a scene that gave rise to a revolution. Also screening are The Punk Syndrome, about Finnish band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, and Sonica Sequence, which follows Swedish musician Lisa Nordström on musical journeys  to Cuba, Japan, Cyprus, and Indonesia.

Watch the trailer for Vinyl Generation.
Sunday, May 6 at noon at House of Sweden, 2900 K St NW, Washington, DC. Free. RSVP here.

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711 OCEAN DRIVE

The Mary Pickford Theatre at the Library of Congress continues its monthly repertory series with a 35mm print of this rags-to-riches crime drama from 1950. Edmond O’Brien stars as an telephone lineman hired by the mafia to run a wire service for off-track betting. Directed by Joseph M. Newman (This Island Earth),  711 Ocean Drive tapped into a real concern at the time, so much so that the filmmakers received death threats before production even started, and producer Frank Seltzer even went on to testify before a U.S. Senate committee on organized crime. The movie’s promotional efforts were something of an experiment; this was one of the first movies advertised on the medium that many at the time considered a death sentence to cinema: television.

Watch the trailer.
Thursday, May 10 at the Mary Pickford Theatre, third floor of the Madison Building, Library of Congress. Free. Seating is on a first-come first-serve basis. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

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SHREDDER ORPHEUS

In this 1990  rock opera adaptation of the Greek myth–on skateboards–a post-apocalyptic Hades (Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi) runs the Euthanasia Broadcast Network (there’s still TV after the apocalypse?) and wants Eurydice (Megan Murphy) to join his mind-control operation. The heroic, guitar-playing Orpheus (Robert McGinley, who also directed), whose charges listen to some kind of vaguely industrial punk, descends into the media abyss for the rescue. In a Letterboxd review, Matt Lynch writes, “Probably the last descriptor the filmmakers wanted or expected to be applied to this is ‘adorable,’ but all there is to it is the admittedly charming DIY aesthetic and a slightly abstracted finale.”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, May 7 at 7 pm at Smoke and Barrel.