Run the Gamut of Cinema with Russ Meyer and Abbas Kiarostami

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

(Janus Films)


Of what would be his final project, the late Abbas Kiarostami wrote, “I decided to use the photos I had taken through the years. I included four minutes and thirty seconds of what I imagined might have taken place before or after each image that I had captured.” This weekend the Freer’s annual Iranian Film Festival screens this experimental work, which contains no dialogue and consists entirely of 24 shots brought to life with computer animation. The movie is not currently scheduled for commercial release in the Washington area, so this may be your only chance to see it on the big screen.

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, February 18 at 2 p.m. at the Freer Gallery of Art. Free.

(British Film Institute)


The National Gallery of Art launches a series of recent restoration work from the British Film Institute with this 1929 crime drama about a repentant IRA man who turns in a his best friend into the police and is then pursued by the organization. Based on the novel by Liam O’Flaherty, the film was remade by John Ford in 1935. The restoration includes a new score by Irish composer Garth Knox.

Sunday, February 18 at 4:30 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium.



The AFI Silver is bringing back highlights from the Freer’s Iranian Film Festival, and this weekend screens this 2016 drama that I blurbed for the City Paper. Drector Narges Abyar’s film drama, I wrote, “follows a nine-year-old girl who imagines that her poor family inhabits the beloved folktales she reads. Set during the Iranian Revolution of the ’70s and the start of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, Breath captures a pivotal time in the nation’s history through a child’s hopeful eyes, conveyed with animated vignettes that are inspired by the nation’s art and calligraphy.”

Watch the trailer.
Wednesday, February 21 at 7:15 p.m. at the AFI Silver. $13.



Russ Meyer may be best known for violent cheesecake, but the director cut his teeth as a combat photographer in World War II (you can see some of his footage in Patton), so his formative experience as a filmmaker required a technical prowess in often desolate locations. This 1965 exploitation action-comedy is the pinnacle of Meyer’s California Gothic period, its tale of three go–go dancers on a wild rampage filmed mostly in a desert, suggesting the American West as a arid landscape of sex and cars. If only he had lived to adapt J.G. Ballard’s Crash. The Washington Psychotronic Film Society promises, “drag races, catfights, murders, straining blouses, and lots of torrid action.”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, February 19 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel. 

Don’t miss my coverage of this year’s DC Independent Film Festival in the Washington City Paper.


War is Hell at the Movies This Week

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

(Sony Pictures Classics)


A grieving father mourns for his son in Israel’s entry for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. This controversial drama made the Oscar short list but fell short of a nomination, but the DCJFF gives you a chance to catch it before the Oscars and the film’s March opening. Note: advanced tickets are sold out, but a line for rush tickets will form one hour before showtime.

Watch the trailer.
Tuesday, February 13 at Edlavitch DCJCC,

(Celluloid Films)


The Freer’s 22nd annual Iranian Film Festival continues this weekend with this animated feature from German-based expat Ali Soozandeh, who uses rotoscoping to create a portrait of Tehran that goes where no live-action film will.  According to the gallery, in “weaving together the stories of a prostitute, a musician, and a party girl engaged to a violent brute, Soozandeh reveals the resourcefulness with which Tehranis seek out illicit pleasures, whether it be scoring drugs, sneaking a prostitute into a dorm, or dancing the night away in secret nightclubs. But he also shows the steep price to be paid after indulging. Intended for mature audiences.”

Watch the trailer.
Friday, February 9 at 7 p.m. at the Freer. Free.

From “Dog Star Man,” screening in Program 2, February 10 at 4 p.m. (The Criterion Collection)


In conjunction with a new edition of avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage’s 1963 book Metaphors of Vision, the National Gallery of Art presents three programs of his films in 16mm prints. “Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic.” That’s how Brakhage began his book, and his challenging films followed suit. All programs will be introduced by Thomas Beard of the Brooklyn film and electronic art venue Light Industry.

February 10-11 at the National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium. Free.

(The Criterion Collection)


Look for my City Lights pick for this landmark of African cinema In this week’s Washington City Paper.

Sunday, February 11 at 7 p.m. at Suns Cinema 3107 Mt. Pleasant St., N.W. $5.

Also opening this week, the struggling musician-drama Becks. See my review in The Washington Post.


Popcorn & Candy: From Art House To Swamp House Edition

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

Courtesy of the Freer


The Freer’s Iranian Film Festival continues this weekend with this 2017 drama from  actor and television host Rambod Javan. Negar Javaherian  (Javan’s wife) stars as the daughter of a wealthy man who dies soon after filing for bankruptcy. As the loyal daughter tries to get to the bottom of her father’s death, the action ramps up. I can’t find any English-language reviews of the movie, but it should be worth a look as a more pop-minded offering from a film industry that usually exports art house drama.

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, February 4 at 2 p.m. at the Freer Gallery of Art. Free.

(Sean Lyness/PBS Distribution)


The Avalon’s weekly documentary series offers one of this year’s Oscar nominees, a look at the 2008 financial crisis from director Steve James (Hoop Dreams). The movie paints a picture of  Abacus Federal Saving loan founder Thomas Sung as a successor to It’s A Wonderful Life‘s George Bailey. As I wrote in my Washington Post review, “it’s a story of family, immigrant communities and scapegoating — as well as a rare case in which you end up rooting for the bank.” But, “by comparing the case to an almost universally admired movie, however, the film seems to argue that justice is best served by sympathy.”

Watch the trailer.
Wednesday, February 7 at 8 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre.



Cinematographer Freddie Francis lensed such classics as The Innocents and The Elephant Man; as a director, he shunned the art house for grind house fare like Trog and this West-German-produced horror comedy from 1971. The Washington Psychotronic Film Society writes, “It’s a case of mistaken identity when American actress Betty Williams gets confused with her vampire grandmother. Betty has inherited grandma’s castle in Transylvania and accidentally sets her loose from her tomb. What follows is a sex comedy that you can really sink your teeth into, complete with a bloodsuckers’ ball orgy featuring top vamp Dracula himself.”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, February 5 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel.

(Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot)

Streaming Pick: SWAMP COUNTRY

Amazon Prime Video is a seemingly bottomless pit of strange B-obscurities, from forgotten noirs to low-budget Juvenile Delinquent exploitation to Kim Jong-Il’s Godzilla ripoff. Most of the older titles have suffered the vagaries of time and poor film preservation, but the producers of this 1966 crime drama had Technicolor stock on their side, so the vivid colors of Southern Gothic exploitation have survived intact. Thus we have a curious document of life on the Okefenokee (the film was shot on location near Waycross, Georgia) . Rex Allen stars as a small-town sheriff who chases down traveling businessman Dave (Dave Wetzel, in his only screen credit) accused of a murder he didn’t commit. When the police close in on the businessman after he finds himself in the hotel room of a freshly killed Southern belle, Dave overpowers the deputies, anticipating by decades a similar scene in Tak3n. Allen was a popular country singer, but musical duties are left to Baker Knight (who penned songs for Elvis and Ricky Nelson) , playing himself as a troubadour who provides a running commentary in song. If you’ve wondered what a mafia-infused, musical Liam Neeson action movie set in swamp country might be like, see Swamp Country.

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Also on the big screen this week, look for my Critic’s Pick of Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night in this week’s Washington City Paper.

Popcorn & Candy: You’re Tearing Me Apart, Balthasar! Edition

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



The AFI Silver has hosted The Room and related events for years, including the fascinating train-wreck of a stage adaptation that I wrote about here. Actor-author Greg Sestero returns to Silver Spring next week for a special event that includes a reading from the book, The Disaster Artist; a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of The Room; a live staging of unfilmed scenes from Wiseau’s first draft; a preview of Wiseau and Sestero’s upcoming feature, Best Friends; and finally, a screening of The Disaster Artist, which I reviewed here.

Watch the trailer for The Disaster Artist.
Thursday, February 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the AFI Silver.

(The Criterion Collection)


Director Robert Bresson wrote that, “painting taught me to make not beautiful images but necessary ones.” This weekend, The National Gallery of Art, which has hosted the complete works of the challenging and beloved filmmaker, screens a 35mm print of Bresson’s 1966 masterpiece told through the eyes of a donkey passed from owner to owner. Co-starring Anne Wiazemsky, who was 18 when the film was made and went on to become a novelist; she would marry Jean-Luc Godard and act in a number of his films. Wiazemsky died last year at the age of 70, succumbing to breast cancer.

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, January 28 at 4 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium. Free.



Fashion models are stalked by a serial killer in director Mario Bava’s 1964 thriller, a heavy influence on Italian giallo, slasher movies and Quentin Tarantino. In 1966 the movie played the Tivoli, already a 14th St. grindhouse, and next week DJ Pharaoh Haqq brings it back to the neighborhood in the less lurid setting of Suns Cinema.

Watch the trailer.
Wednesday, January 31 at 8:30 p.m. at Suns Cinema, 3107 Mt. Pleasant St., NW



The Washington Psychotronic Film Society continues its celebration of character actor Conrad Brooks with this 1961 exploitation film starring Plan 9‘s Tor Johnson as a Russian scientist on the run from the KGB who turns into a monster after wandering too close to a nuclear test site.

Watch the trailer.
Monday, January 29 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel.


Also in theaters, see my Washington Post review of the Nicolas Cage horror-comedy Mom & Dad; and my Spectrum Culture review of Gintama, adapted from the popular manga.

Popcorn & Candy: Extreme Dashboard Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week. In the event of a federal government shutdown, screenings at the Freer and the Library of Congress will be affected; please confirm that they’re still happening before venturing out.



The appropriately-named Dimitrii Kalashnikov directed this 67-minute collage assembled from footage taken by the dashboard-mounted cameras popular on Russian roads. While you may morbidly await and then grimace at the inevitable car crashes captured by these ubiquitous lenses, the movie is most intriguing in its look at the driving habits of ordinary Russians. Take the example of two cars forced to  navigate the single lane of a narrow snow-banked street from opposite sides. You could cordially allow the other car to pass; or you could hop out of the car, reach into the trunk for a sledgehammer and take charge of the situation. Also noted: Russian drivers curse like sailors! A little of this goes a long way, and the movie is most watchable when this casual  technology meets art, when rainy windshields briefly turn everything and everyone in sight into a warped highway dream.

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



Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement plays a struggling playwright forced to move back in with his father (Elliott Gould) in this 2016 comedy. the first feature from Sam Hoffman (“Old Jews Telling Jokes”). Variety writes that the movie is, “plenty endearing, and packed to the gills with wonderful AARP-aged actors who are clearly in tune with Hoffman’s old-school, Borscht Belt sensibilities,” but that it, “manages to earn its audience’s indulgence, if never its full affection.”

Watch the trailer.
Monday, January 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Edlavitch DCJCC, 1529 16th Street NW.

(Abed Abest)


Barring a government shutdown, the Freer’s 22nd annual Iranian Film Festival continues this weekend with the directorial debut of actor Abed Abest, who starred in the 2013 horror movie Fish & Cat. Simulation tells the story of what happens when three young men pay an unexpected visit to the home of an elder; what distinguishes the film is that it takes place in a black space with chroma-key green furniture, and like Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, it’s told in reverse chronology.

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 1 p.m. at the Freer. Free.



Again, barring a federal government shutdown, the Mary Pickford Theatre at the Library of Congress will continue its bi-monthly repertory series with this 1946 crime drama from director Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy). Stephen Geray, whose prolific credits include the Hitchcock classic Spellbound and episodes of I Dream of Jeannie,  stars as a Paris detective who takes a vacation in the countryside, where he falls in love with a hotelier’s young daughter; yet on the night they are to be engaged, the girl and her father disappear. Preceded by the 1948 short “A Day at CBS,” an episode from Columbia’s celebrity magazine series “Screen Snapshots” featuring Gene Autry, Harry James, Dinah Shore, the Andrews Sisters, and Howard Duff.

Watch the trailer.
Thursday, January 25 at 7 p.m. 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.

Popcorn & Candy: Iranian Blues Edition

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


Courtesy of The Freer


The Freer’s 22nd annual Iranian Film Festival launches this weekend with this drama from director Mohsen Gharaie about a civil servant in charge of inspecting sttreet vendors in Tehran. Screen Anarchy writes that the film,  is just the latest in a long line of contemporary Iranian dramas whose tightly woven narratives succeed both in pulling the veil back on life in modern-day Iran, while simultaneously transcending their cultural roots to tell universal stories of desperate individuals just trying to get by. The results are engrossing, despairing and all-too-familiar.” Stay tuned later in the festival for 24 Frames (February 18),  the final work from director Abbas Kiarostami.

Watch the trailer.
Friday, January 12 at 7 p.m. at the Freer. Free.


Courtesy of Sam Pollard


The Washington Jewish Film Festival continues it’s year-long programming with this 2017 music documentary. For DCist’s 2017 guide to FilmFest DC, I wrote, “In 1964, a number of young white blues fans (including Takoma-born guitarist John Fahey) journeyed to Mississippi in search of lost blues legends. But their difficult musical journeys coincided with the “Freedom Summer” that electrified the Civil Rights movement. Director Sam Pollard weaves together animated reenactments of the musical journey along with news footage of the Civil Rights movement along with interviews with both blues fans and musicians like Buddy Guy, Lucinda Williams and Gary Clark, Jr.”

Watch the trailer.
Tuesday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Edlavitch DCJCC. 



Courtesy of Bistro Bohem


Bistro Bohem‘s monthly Film and Beer series starts off the new year with a 1938 comedy about the high jinks that ensue when an anonymous student criticizes a teacher in the school paper. Series favorite Martin Frič directed the film, whose plot keywords on the IMDb promise a hilarious “chemical accident.”  The screening includes a complimentary beer and an introduction by a representative from the Czech Embassy.

Tuesday, January 16 at 7 p.m. at Bistro Bohem, 600 Florida Ave NW. Free, but make reservations at 202/735-5895 or Guests must arrive by 6:45 pm to keep their reservation. 




Next week the Washington Psychotronic Film Society pays homage to the late Baltimore character actor Conrad Brooks, who died in December at the age of 85.  Brooks got his start in such exploitation films as The Beast from Yucca Flats and the early work of legendary schlockmeister Ed Wood, including Monday’s feature, perhaps the original so-bad-it’s good cult movie. Plan 9 will be preceded by a selection of highlights from Brooks’ career, which grew into that of a B-movie regular in such titles as A Polish Vampire in Burbank (1985) and  Jan-Gel, the Beast from the East (1999)

Monday, January 15 at 7 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel.

Popcorn & Candy: See a Movie on 35mm and Don’t Pay Edition

Popcorn & Candy was DCist’s selective and subjective guide to some of the most interesting movies playing around town in the coming week.  If like me, you resolve each year to see more movies on 35mm, you’re in luck; with a bit of jostling, next week you can see three movies on celluloid, including Paul Thomas Anderson’s highly anticipated Phantom Thread, opening in 70mm at the AFI Silver Thursday night (check showtimes here). Even better, the repertory screenings of Grand Illusion and Autumn Leaves are free!



Next week the Mary Pickford Theatre at the Library of Congress (n.b.: I work there, but wasn’t involved in this programming) offers an archival 35mm print of this 1956 melodrama directed by Robert Aldrich. Joan Crawford stars as a middle-aged woman who falls for a younger man (Cliff Robertson) with “a disturbing past.” Upon its release, The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther dismissively called it “a new agonizer,” but a 2004 Slant piece encourages readers to put aside preconceptions of camp; “Aldrich brings all his hard edges to this woman’s picture. The collision of his tough style with the soapy material makes for a film that never loses its queasy tension. ”

Watch a clip.
Thursday, January 11 at 7:00 p.m. 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.



Jean Renoir’s 1937 antiwar masterpiece was one of the first movies screened at the Old Greenbelt Theatre when it opened 80 years ago. As a part of the venue’s anniversary festivities, this Sunday they’re screening a 35mm print of the film – for free! The late Roger Ebert called it, ” a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization. Perhaps that was always a sentimental upper-class illusion, the notion that gentlemen on both sides of the lines subscribed to the same code of behavior. Whatever it was, it died in the trenches of World War I.”

Watch the trailer.
Sunday, January 7 at 12:30 p.m. at the Old Greenbelt Theatre, 129 Centerway, Greenbelt, Maryland. Free.


FRANK SERPICO Post-screening Q&A with composer Bredan Canty (Fugazi)

New York City police officer Frank Serpico blew the whistle on institutional corruption in the ’70s, inspiring the classic film starring Al Pacino. In this 2017 documentary directed by Antonino D’Ambrosio, the reformer tells his story in his own words. Part of the Avalon’s Film in Focus series, the screening will be followed by a Q&A with Fugazi’s Brendan Canty, who composed music for the film.

Watch the trailer.
Wednesday, January 10 at 8 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Avenue NW.



Next week the Washington Psychotronic Film Society offers this 1989 comedy-horror from director Michael Fischa (Death Spa). Susan Blakely stars as a bored housewife who meets a handsome  stranger (B-movie icon John Saxon) who, according to Psychotronic programmers, sends her “down an emotional and biological roller coaster, growing fur, fangs, and more than a bit feisty. It’s up to daughter Tina Caspary to save mom from a life of marital infidelity, domestic chaos, and house training.” Shown with the charming short Witch’s Night Out, an animated Halloween special from 1978 that features the voice talent of Gilda Radner and Catherine O’Hara.

Watch the trailer.
Monday, January 8 at 8 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel.