Hollywood Theatre curators Greg Hamilton and Nick Wells present their annual holiday showcase of rare short films and televised treats on both 16mm and VHS, with appearances from characters like Frosty the Snowman, Mr. Magoo, and more.
★ THE BIG LEBOWSKI
At first it was just a weird, low-key almost-misfire in the Coens’ canon. And then it was an underrated work of layered comedic genius. And then it became this whole culty thing complete with festivals and cosplayers and idiots in bathrobes blocking traffic with marching bands playing jazzy versions of “Hotel California” on their way to the theater. And now? Now, it’s just The Big Lebowski again, a properly-rated work of layered comedic genius. BOBBY ROBERTS
From David Ayer, the director that allowed Jared Leto to mail his co-stars dead animals and sex toys as the Joker, and Max Landis, the insufferable douchebag patron saint of Hollywood nepotism, comes Netflix's expensive action-adventure allegory for race relations—starring Will Smith as a cop and Joel Edgerton as an Orc, who are ostensibly fighting to save the world, but who are really fighting to help Netflix further prove that you don't need to go to a theater to enjoy a moviegoing experience.
The good things you’ve heard about Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill biopic are true: Gary Oldman is incredible as Churchill, and the movie takes the actor’s powers of transformation to another level. But I’m not sure this is the right moment for another slice of great-man-with-flaws hagiography. Churchill was a heavy-drinking, cigar-stinking, privileged white guy who didn’t treat his employees very well and got very lucky with the Dunkirk evacuation, but Darkest Hour sees him as rascally old genius beleaguered by those pesky wimps in the Labour Party. And the movie elicits groans during a fictionalized sequence that has Churchill mingling with the common rabble on the Tube, getting the inspiration for his famous “fight on the beaches” speech. Still, there’s some pleasure in the narrative’s concision, which condenses complicated military strategies into a punchy, talky script. NED LANNAMANN
★ THE DISASTER ARTIST
Don’t come to The Disaster Artist looking for answers. James Franco’s film about the making of The Room probably won’t resolve your biggest questions about Tommy Wiseau, the writer/director/producer/star of that infamously bad 2003 movie. Rather than craft an exposé, Franco embraces Wiseau’s inscrutability while drawing a vivid emotional portrait. At first you think it’s going to be a sniggering, get-a-load-of-this-guy takedown, but Franco’s Wiseau—while enormously funny—is given surprising depth and complexity. Despite all the jokes it cracks at The Room’s expense, it eventually becomes clear that everyone involved in The Disaster Artist has deep affection for Wiseau’s weird, wretched movie. NED LANNAMANN
Is there any better evidence of the fact holiday miracles exist than a Christmas film where Katt Williams and Terry Bradshaw are in the same cast?
I knew I’d cry at Ferdinand, an adaptation of the 1936 children’s book. Published nine months before the Spanish Civil War, The Story of Ferdinand is famous for its themes of pacifism and being true to oneself. Ferdinand shouts its progressive message even louder. With a legitimately funny cast of animals (like a “calming goat” voiced by Kate McKinnon), the movie uses the massive, sweet bull Ferdinand (John Cena) to explore the impacts of toxic masculinity. Surprisingly, Ferdinand also includes the trauma that bulls endure for man’s gain: forced violence, separation from their families, and the ultimate fate of the chop house. It might create a generation of vegetarians. JENNI MOORE
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN
How in the hell did it take until the last days of 2017 before someone put Hugh Jackman in a gaudy, giant-sized, showtune-fueled sassy-as-all-hell musical? One where he's playing P.T. Barnum, no less? It's highly likely this isn't historically accurate at all, but that's obviously not the point here. Look at all the unbelievably pretty people singing and drink it all in.
★ HOME ALONE
A Christmas thought experiment: On one side of you sits an incontinent Cousin Fuller, guzzling Pepsi and shooting you a deranged look that strongly suggests—if not outright promises—he plans to purposefully urinate on you in your sleep. On the other side, a pair of dangerous burglars threatening their own brand of sadistic and unnecessary wetness. How to avoid that hot urine? How to dodge that felonious drenching? And how to do it all while discovering some real shit about Christmas? This is young Kevin McAllister’s burden. Come, marvel as he shoulders it. (Involves shooting a guy in the dick.) DIRK VANDERHART
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
The holiday classic beloved by those valiantly fighting the slow, crushing, and inevitable truth that their lives have not mattered at all.
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ morality play uses the myth of Iphigenia—who was sacrificed by her father to appease the gods—as a springboard, but it’s the mythology of cinema that Lanthimos is intent on exploding as he uses sterile, slow, almost Kubrickian imagery to interrogate the story. The surreal hilarity of Lanthimos’ last film, The Lobster, is totally absent here; Sacred Deer is, in the moment, an unpleasant experience. But as the director is careful to announce early on, this is not a film about what you see—it’s about what you realize hours, maybe days, after you’ve left the theater. Lanthimos gets under your skin and stays there. NED LANNAMANN
★ LADY BIRD
Watching Lady Bird is kind of like reopening your high school yearbook for the first time in years, wincing and smiling in equal measure. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is sweet, tragic, and sentimental, which is exactly how a coming-of-age movie should be. CIARA DOLAN
MARCEL PAGNOL’S MARSEILLE TRILOGY
Long before Star Wars made everyone believe everything had to be a trilogy, there was Marcel Pagnol. He didn't traffic in space opera or other greasy kid stuff, but he did create one of film's first great trilogies—a generation-spanning love story set on the waterfront of Marseille, adapted from his plays Marius, Fanny, and César, shot in a manner that helped give birth to the French New Wave.
★ THE SHAPE OF WATER
Guillermo del Toro’s latest is strange, sweet, and wonderful, and easily the greatest film ever made about a mute cleaning lady who falls in love with an amphibious fish man. Also see “Guillermo del Toro Discusses the Tragedy and Delight of The Shape of Water,” Film, Dec 13. ERIK HENRIKSEN
★ STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Nostalgia can only get you so far, even when wookiees are involved. While 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens succeeded in its designated task of rescuing the venerable franchise from the doldrums of its prequels, it also practiced a frustrating form of risk aversion, putting the next generation of characters through some very familiar paces. (Now coming up on your left: another Death Star!) Thankfully, The Force Awakens’ thunderously hyped sequel, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, takes a much more proactive tack, fully honoring the touchstones of the series while zigging and zagging in satisfying, provocative ways. If the previous entry presented a respectably staid melding of old and new, this one wires everything up, cranks the juice, and lets her rip. It’s escapism on a grand scale—the kind of experience that reminds you why you fell in love with movies in the first place. Believe the hype, and then some. ANDREW WRIGHT
★ THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Let’s talk about Sam Rockwell for a minute. There’s a lot of other talent in the awkwardly, memorably titled Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Frances McDormand is predictably, fiercely awesome; Woody Harrelson demonstrates unexpected nuance; and writer/director Martin McDonagh takes his patented mixture of profanity and profundity to new levels. But I’d argue that Three Billboards is Rockwell’s movie. He takes a character who at first seems to be little more than a cartoon of a bumbling, racist cop, and transforms him into the moral center of a powerfully moral film. MARC MOHAN
★ MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, December 22-Thursday, December 28, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.