Monday, January 5, 2009

Milk Returns to the Castro

Drawing from my own experience and what I've read & heard, Milk had a triumphant run at the Castro in December. The crowds were big and that's saying a lot if your theater can seat more than 1,000 people. I read on the Castro website that Milk is returning in February. I didn't put any special significance in seeing the film in the Castro District although it was fun to see a few scenes filmed a few hundred feet from where I was sitting. Undoubtedly, the allure of seeing Milk in the neighborhood that Harvey Milk lived and worked is strong to many people in the area.

I was in Las Vegas for part of the Christmas break and Milk wasn't on too many screens. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino was even screening. A quick search on the internet reveals that Milk has grossed $17 M and its widest release was 356 theaters. Those are very "modest" numbers and probably says something about the film going public (inside & outside of the Bay Area).


The last film I saw in 2008 was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The plot involves two boys in Nazi Germany. One is the son of a SS officer who is the commanding officer at Auschwitz (presently Poland) and the other is a Jewish boy interned at the camp. The two boys strike an unlikely friendship which ends horribly. Beyond that I won't go into much detail. The film was entertaining although I don't know if I think as highly of it as some critics. I certainly became engaged with the characters and cared what happened to them but I could never quite fully commit to the film. My father called it the best film he saw in 2008. I'm not quite sure which film I would give that superlative but it wouldn't be The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. David Thewlis as the father turned in a strong performance although most reviews laud Vera Farmiga's performance as the mother.


I've seen three films since the last post.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas; (2008) - Official Site
Charade starring Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn and George Kennedy; directed by Stanley Donen; (1963)
Experiment in Terror starring Glenn Ford, Lee Remick and Ross Martin; directed by Blake Edwards; (1962)

The latter two films were part of the Castro's Legendary Composers program. The featured composer this month is Henry Mancini; probably best known for the theme to the Pink Panther films.

I've seen Charade many times and never tire of it. Part of the reason is that I'm madly in love with Audrey Hepburn. George Kennedy chews up the scenery like a mad dog (using his hook prosthesis to great effect) & James Coburn speaks with a Texas drawl that makes LBJ sound like a Yankee. Hepburn plays the ingénue who seems to have a daddy complex judging by the way she pursues Cary Grant despite catching him in repeated lies.

The discovery was Experiment in Terror which is a film I had never heard of. Filmed in San Francisco (the City hasn't changed that much since 1962), the movie seems to be the nexus between classic noir and modern pyscho killer movies. The opening is an extended scene with the asthmatic Ross Martin (in shadows) terrorizing Lee Remick. The plot has to do with Martin threatening Remick and her younger sister (played by Stefanie Powers) unless Remick helps him rob the bank she works at. The plot is secondary to the real stars of the film - Martin's evil genius character and the San Francisco locations - Fisherman's Wharf, Candlestick Park, North Beach, etc. I noticed that the film gets the locations right - the street names match the images. Frequently, films set in San Francisco jump from neighborhood to neighborhood. A character will say "Meet me at Polk and Bush" but they really meet somewhere on Potrero Hill.

As for Martin, his wheezing killer will stop at nothing - he puts on a dress and eyeglasses that are decidedly reminiscent of Anthony Perkins in Psycho and later he wears a hood and sunglasses that makes me think the UnaBomber saw this film when he taught at Cal. There is also a nicely done scene where Martin orders Powers to take off her skirt & sweater that gave me the creeps (which is saying a lot). Also, The Fan must have been influenced by Experiment in Terror. Kudos to the Castro programmers for unearthing this gem.

Blake Edwards must have been in love with the City by the Bay as he filmed Days of Wine and Roses (1962) here as well.


I also noticed Midnites for Maniacs is screening The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) on February 6. Undoubtedly inspired by the reviews Mickey Rourke is getting in The Wrestler, Jesse Hawthorne Ficks has chosen one of my favorite films from the 80's.


For 2009, I decided that just listing the films is not exciting enough. Now, I'm going to indulge my anal retentive tendencies even more by listing the running average of the price per film admission! Charade and Experiment in Terror were a double feature so my 2009 average cost (YTD) is $4.75/film. I'm hoping to keep that number below $6.

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