By Justin Marble
Various Films at Stuart Street Playhouse
This isn’t so much a ringing endorsement of the current offerings, the biopic Coco Before Chanel or the British comedy Pirate Radio, as much as it is a plug for the brand-new Stuart Street Playhouse. Located in the heart of the city, the fantastic new venue offers a constantly rotating duo of films in a fresh new setting. Independently-owned theatres are the lifeblood of any city’s film scene, so supporting them when they pop up is as important as what they’re showing.
Fri, December 4th at 8PM: Husbands at the MFA
Part of their retrospective on American maverick director John Cassavetes (which lasts from the 2nd to the 5th), the MFA offers a screening of Husbands on the 4th at 8 PM. Just recently released on DVD, the film follows three middle-aged husbands (Cassavetes himself, Ben Gazzara, and Peter Falk,) as they flee their domestic responsibilities and fly off on an impromptu trip to London. What separates this screening from the rest of the films being shown is the presence of leading Cassavetes scholar Ray Carney, who offers tremendous insight into both the work of Cassavetes and film in general.
Fri, December 4th and Sat, December 5th at Midnight: Bottle Rocket and Virgin Suicides at the Coolidge
The Coolidge presents the cinematic debuts of Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola as back-to-back midnight movies on the 4th and 5th, respectively. Anderson’s Bottle Rocket tells the story of two ne’er-do-well brothers (Luke and Owen Wilson) attempting to pull off a heist, while Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides focuses on strictly religious and sheltered girls pursued by teenage boys after their sister commits suicide. After seeing one film, the Coolidge is offering a discount on tickets purchases for the second, so this is a chance to see two stylistically intriguing directors at the beginning of their careers.
Mon, December 7th at 7PM: American Beauty at the Coolidge
“I rule!” declares mid-life crisis-ridden Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacy) in Sam Mendes’ satiric take on suburban life. This screening of American Beauty features a guest speaker in the form of Daniel Gilbert, author of the book “Stumbling Upon Happiness,” as he examines the film in the context of personal fulfillment. If that’s not enticing, the Coolidge is raffling off a free massage as a means of finding happiness. So there’s that.
Thu, December 10th at 7:50 PM: Strongman at the MFA
If The Wrestler was shot by the Maysles, you might end up with something resembling Zachary Levy’s oddly-touching yet bizarre Strongman, a cinema-verite documentary centering around the trials and tribulations of a man known as “Stanless Steel.” Steel can bend pennies and pipes with his bare hands, but has less luck bending the will of the people around him, or coming to terms with his weakening body. The film screens all week, but the screening on the 10th features an appearance by Levy himself.
Fri, December 11th- Sun, December 13th: It’s A Wonderful Life at the Brattle
Sure, you could save some dough and watch it for free at home on Christmas Eve, but you’d miss the experience of catching this classic on the big screen. Frank Capra’s validation of the human spirit may not technically be a Christmas film, but it has become an annual tradition nonetheless. It’s a Wonderful Life reminds us of what the holiday season is all about before it became a cliché to remind us what the holiday season is all about.
Sun, December 20th: Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Lost in La Mancha at the Brattle
Before you seek out his new film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, check out the Brattle’s retrospective on Terry Gilliam. Adventures of Baron Munchausen showcases his trademark fantasy style, while Lost in La Mancha offers a behind-the-scenes look at Gilliam’s attempts to get an adaptation of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” on the big screen. If you can’t make it Sunday, several other of Gilliam’s films are being screened over the weekend.
Bonus Stocking Stuffer: AK100 Box Set
For those who prefer their cinema from their armchairs (and who haven’t had to sell said armchairs because of the economy), there’s Criterion’s AK100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa. You can’t go wrong with all the masterpieces included here, but it’ll set you back about 300 bucks. Still, if you’re looking to show a cinephile in your life that you truly care, there’s nothing better.