By Justin Marble
November begins the yearly onslaught of studio-groomed Oscar bait, and the amount of coverage that these films will get will probably kill off several small forests. Yet the art house theaters in Boston have, as always, put together a varied and compelling dose of counter programming. These films probably won’t hear their names called by the Academy in March, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth your time.
November 4th-15th: Boston Jewish Film Festival across Boston and Massachusetts: The Boston Jewish Film Festival begins November 4th at the Coolidge Corner Theatre with Ori Ravid’s “Eli and Ben,” the first of many films by Jewish filmmakers scheduled at theaters both in Boston and suburban Massachusetts. Although all films included explore Jewish themes, expect a strong diversity in genre and tone among the many screenings.
November 6th: Found Footage at the Coolidge: The bane of the auteur, found footage is comprised of the weirdest and often most hilarious bits of instructional videos, home movies, and forgotten commercials. Get ready to laugh as two “curators” present and pick apart bizarre filmic obscurities, starting at 9 PM. Think of it as the cinematic equivalent of picking through a garage sale.
November 7th: Python-A-Thon at the Brattle: And now for something completely different. It’s the fortieth anniversary of everyone’s favorite comedy troupe, and the Brattle is celebrating by hosting a daylong retrospective of all the Monty Python films. Each film is available for single screenings, but an all-day pass is available at a discount. Rediscover the Pythons’ absurdist brilliance, or *gasp* introduce somebody for the first time.
November 12th-15th: “Bicycle Thieves” at the Brattle: Vittorio de Sica’s Italian neorealist masterpiece is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. The simple story of a man who loses his bike provides the background for a complex exploration of the human spirit in postwar Italy. “Bicycle Thieves” also happens to be the perfect starting point for anybody interested in the neorealist movement.
November 13th and 14th: “Black Dynamite” at the Coolidge: Practically born to be a midnight movie, Black Dynamite both parodies and fits right into the blaxploitation genre. The action-comedy follows the awesomely-named “Black Dynamite” as he brings his own brand of justice against “The Man.” The Coolidge is screening the film at midnight on both nights, but expect additional screenings as buzz builds around this soon-to-be cult classic.
November 14th: Free “Pickpocket” Screening at the Brattle: Vaunted French director Robert Bresson’s 1959 masterpiece The Brattle celebrates “Pickpocket”’s 50th anniversary with a free screening at 11 AM the Brattle. Although less overtly spiritual than his other films, Bresson still approaches this uncomplicated tale of a petty thief with a transcendental style. Since this screening is free of charge, there’s really no reason to miss a master at work.
November 18th: Free “Wings of Desire” Screening at Harvard Film Archive: Those without a lot of cash to spend can continue their journey into classic cinema with Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire,” screening at 7 PM at the Harvard Film Archive. An angel tires of her immortal existence watching over the city of Berlin and decides to become human. Wenders’ magnum opus is a rare mix of a promising premise with flawless execution.
November 18th: “Big Man Japan” at the Museum of Fine Arts: The Museum of Fine Arts kicks off their series of contemporary Japanese cinema with “Big Man Japan,” a wacky parody of the famous Japanese monster movie genre. Like the other films the MFA is screening, expect a uniquely Japanese aesthetic as the giant man Daisato tries to defend Tokyo from a revolving door of similarly large beasts.
November 20th: “Manhattan” with cinematographer Gordon Willis at Harvard Film Archive: “The Man Who Shot the Godfather,” cinematographer Gordon Willis, is in Boston for screenings at the Harvard Film Archive of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” on Friday and “Pennies From Heaven” on Saturday. Both screenings are at 7 PM and will include a Q+A with Willis, preceding the following weekend where the HFA will be screening both “Godfather” films (sans-Willis).
November 20th: “Precious” opens at Coolidge and the Embassy in Waltham: Although the premise seems to be geared toward the Academy crowd, “Precious” has gained a serious amount of indie cred after a successful run on the festival circuit. An illiterate inner-city high school girl deals with her second pregnancy and the domination of her mother (played by Mo’Nique, who pretty much has the Oscar already). You could do worse for studio system films.