Saturday, July 20, 2024

Film Ahead is a weekly column highlighting special events and repertory programming for the discerning Camberville filmgoer. It also includes capsule reviews of films that are not feature reviewed. 

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Local focus

Over at The Brattle Theatre, the Rick Dalton Memorial Screenings kick off with “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” Friday through Sunday. No, no one named Rick Dalton died; he was a fictional 1950s TV Western star in that Quentin Tarantino retro redo of 1960s Tinseltown released in 2019. The gag is that Tarantino said in a May podcast, “We are saddened by the news of the passing of actor Rick Dalton, best known for his roles in the hit TV series ‘Bounty Law’ and ‘The Fireman’ trilogy. Rick passed away peacefully in his home in Hawaii and is survived by his wife Francesca. RIP Rick Dalton 1933-2023.” So now you know.

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For a “100 Years of Warner Brothers” celebration it’s Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino in the Raoul Walsh-directed, resort-heist thriller “High Sierra” (1941) on Monday and a double shot of Edward G. Robinson in “Larceny, Inc.” (1942) and “Confessions of a Nazi Spy” (1939) on Tuesday. Honors for the groundbreaking editor Dede Allen are also ongoing with Warren Beatty’s Academy Award-winning passion project “Reds” (1981), about John Reed, chronicler of the Russian Revolution. Beatty stars as Reed (nominated but did not win, losing to Henry Fonda for “On Golden Pond”) and directs (won). Allen was nominated that year for her editorial work (but Michael Kahn won for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) and the great Vittorio Storaro (“Apocalypse Now,” “The Last Emperor”) won for his gorgeous cinematography. For the theater’s Thrill Ride Horror Thursday, it’s “The Conjuring” (2013), a take on the eerie adventures of real-life Connecticut-based paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) helmed by James Wan (“Saw”).

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For the Alfred Hitchcock Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema on Tuesday it’s “Rear Window” (1954), what many consider Hitch’s best – and many also consider to be the best American film ever. Professional photog (James Stewart), chair-bound by a broken leg, thinks he’s witnessed a murder across the way from his Greenwich Village apartment complex. It’s a Grade A thriller and cutting-edge in the way the grim and gruesome details make their way onto the screen. Hitchcock’s use of the building’s courtyard, its windows and the POV of his hobbled protagonist is brilliant. Grace Kelly stars as the skeptical girlfriend and Raymond Burr plays the creepy guy across the way who may or may not be a killer.

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The Saturday midnight show at the Somerville Theatre is the hardboiled B classic “Road House” (1989), starring Patrick Swayze as a well-toned Texas bar bouncer who ends up on the opposite side of things with a businessman (Ben Gazzara) with a platoon of goons for Swayze’s NYU philosophy grad named Dalton to cut through. Kelly Lynch and the golden baritone himself, Sam Elliott, co-star as those who have Dalton’s back. The film is being remade with Jake Gyllenhaal in the Swayze role. 

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The “Ozu 120: the Complete Ozu Yasujiro” rolls on at Harvard Film Archive with several seasonal and family-turmoil films, beginning with “The End of Summer” (1961) Friday (and a second showing on Sunday) about an aging sake brewery head and his family’s concern over his financial management. The film stars Ozu regular Setsuko Hara (“Tokyo Story,” “Late Spring”) as the widowed daughter-in-law. The season changes Saturday with Ozu’s final film, “An Autumn Afternoon” (1962), starring another Ozu regular, Chishû Ryû (Hara’s father in “Tokyo Story”), as a former naval officer trying to get his daughter married (a theme throughout Ozu’s work). Not quite Ozu is Wim Wenders’ “Tokyo-Ga” (1985), a cinematic essay of all things Ozu with Ryû and the ever-provocative Werner Herzog in tow. It plays Sunday, and on Saturday and Monday there are encore screenings of “Equinox Flower” (1958) and “Early Spring” (1956).

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In theaters and streaming

‘War Pony’ (2022)

While filming “American Honey” in South Dakota in 2016, Riley Keough and Gina Gammell met Pine Ridge Reservation residents and were taken by their anecdotes and stories of struggle. The result of those conversations and friendships is “War Pony,” depicting life on The Rez through the eyes of two young Oglala Lakota men – well, one’s a young teen struggling to make it out of middle school and into high school. The co-directed film, which won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes, marks the filmmaking debut of Keough (“Zola,” “Mad Max: Fury Road”) and Gammell, who share script credit with Pine Ridge residents Bill Reddy and Franklin Sioux Bob. Poverty at Pine Ridge is rampant: Near 80 percent of the population doesn’t have jobs, and we get that quickly as we embed with 23-year-old Bill (Jojo Bapteise Whiting), amiable and laid-back but with two toddlers with two women and in need of money. Part hustler and part slacker, Bill gets involved with Tim (Sprague Hollander), a rich turkey farmer who has dark dealings on the side. The dynamics of entitlement, race, the tragedies of perpetuated harm for past actions against the people who were here first, and a background of murdered and missing people pop up subtly but deftly. The nonprofessional actors – Pine Ridge residents – come off as polished and natural, especially Whiting, who is asked to do much and delivers frame after frame, and LaDainian Crazy Thunder as Matho, that sullen teen with learning disabilities, an abusive father and a proclivity for trouble. The profile of hard lives lived by young people absent of adult guidance and with their backs against a wall carries echoes of films such as “American Honey,” Larry Clark’s “Kids” (1995) and Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” (2017). There are some notable lags in the pacing, but overall “War Pony” is a gripping tale of personal strife and a mirror reflecting American shame. At Apple Cinemas Cambridge, 168 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands near Alewife and Fresh Pond, and on Amazon Prime Video.


Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.