Hail the New Puritan
Charles Atlas directed this “post-punk ballet” film in 1987, choreographed by Michael Clark as a representation of the way he thinks. Spoilers: Michael Clark thinks about things like weird fucking, and fucking weirdly. Be prepared (as well as you can be, that is) for a blend of the strange and the sultry. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
Did you miss the festival of amateur smut we put on in 2016? Wish you could have borne witness to porn in its most creative forms? Well lucky little filthy little you, we’re bringing the best of last year’s films about fucking back to the big screen! You have one weekend to get your fill, but after that—just like Keyser Soze—poof, they’re gone. Cinema 21.
Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett’s gritty 1977 portrait of a Watts ghetto, has a lot to live up to—namely, its own hype. Burnett made Killer of Sheep as a UCLA film student for $10,000, using friends and neighbors as actors and shooting on weekends for over a year. The resulting film has been heralded by the National Society of Film Critics as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time. Not only does Killer of Sheep live up to its own mythology, but transcends it as a fascinating, melancholy, and entertaining work of art and social realism. CHAS BOWIE Hollywood Theatre.
Did you forget that this is the movie where the Flying Nun crashes a fifth grader’s birthday party that the genie from Aladdin has populated with a whole bunch of farm animals eating and shitting in a San Francisco living room? All set to House of Pain? With Robin Williams dancing on a table wearing a sideways hat and a flannel shirt with only the top button buttoned? You’ll remember. Quickly. Co-starring James Bond, Matilda, and Marty, David’s boss from Independence Day. Academy Theater.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
It’s a little unclear what Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) actually does. He’s a broker of sorts, but he doesn’t broker deals—he brokers relationships, collecting contacts and business cards like a hoarder. When a fortuitous encounter with an Israeli politician (Lior Ashkenazi) opens doors, Norman’s network of Manhattan businessmen catches fire. Director Joseph Cedar has made a very odd, wholly unique film that examines the ties between Jewish New York and Israeli politics; notably, most of the American Jews—like Gere, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Sheen—are portrayed by gentiles. But Norman is unsatisfying, and relies on visual gimmicks to depict what is essentially two hours of cell phone conversations. If it had chosen to be more of a political thriller, or comedic satire, or heartfelt character study, Norman could have been something pretty remarkable. But those elements compete with each other too loudly, and the movie grows dissonant. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This 1975 adaptation of the novel by Oregonian Ken Kesey was Miloš Forman’s big splash in American mainstream cinema, and won about a bazillion Oscars. Filmed in Salem, it’s an incredibly bleak satire dealing with distribution of power; Forman, an exiled Czech, is preoccupied with the oppression of the individual at the hands of those in control—in this case, the nurses and doctors at an insane asylum. But it’s a comedy, isn’t it? Jack Nicholson mugs it up as a con artist posing as a lunatic to avoid hard time; his skewed mindset and goofball antics inject some life into the other crazies. Sure, it doesn’t end well, but the movie isn’t afraid to entertain even as it asks tough questions. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
QDoc: The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin
The long-running queer documentary festival presents a screening of The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, with Maupin and filmmakers in attendance. See next week’s Mercury for more on QDoc. Hollywood Theatre.
A Quiet Passion
Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion doesn’t do Emily Dickinson justice. The dialogue is strange, uncomfortable, and robotic. Watching the characters interact is akin to watching someone perform a choreographed dance with arms full of cucumbers. You just want it to stop. You need it to stop. At one point, a teenaged Dickinson (Emma Bell) informs her aunt that “Poems are my solace for the eternity that surrounds us all.” WHAT? Sure, it was the 1840s, but I’m pretty sure Emily Dickinson was a human, not a poetry automaton. The adult Dickinson is played by Cynthia Nixon, who does what she can to resuscitate Davies’ otherwise cold, lifeless script. Her attempts are mostly successful, and she does a good job at capturing the poet’s inner storms and contradictions. Dickinson was complicated, and Nixon portrays both her genius and flawed righteousness with equal fervor. Though it’s boring as hell, at least A Quiet Passion isn’t another one-dimensional biopic about a woman. CIARA DOLAN Cinema 21.
Repressed Cinema: The Incredible Two Headed Transplant
This month the Hollywood’s showcase for forgotten underground film features a 16mm screening of 1971’s The Incredible Two Headed Transplant, starring Bruce Dern as a doctor who is benevolent and thoughtf—ha, wait, nevermind, it’s Bruce Dern, he’s playing a fucking nutjob experimenting with head transplantation. Too bad for his son, who gets a murderer’s head grafted onto his body in the name of science. Thanks Bruce Dern! You dick. Also starring Casey Kasem. Hollywood Theatre.
Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity, Jumper) directs this war thriller starring Kick-Ass and John Cena, which was not screened for critics but will answer the question: How can one shoot John Cena, if one can’t C him? Various Theaters.
MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, May 12-Thursday, May 18, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.