Thursday, July 18, 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. 

The Oscars are upon us. Though its fanfare diminishes yearly, it remains the gold standard for excellence in film. Of the 10 Best Picture nominees, the Day had five of them on our Top 10 Films List for 2023. Below are the 10 Oscar-nominated films with links to the Day’s review for each.

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Local focus

Speaking of Oscar, as part of a Columbia at 100 celebration, The Brattle Theatre screens “Some of Columbia’s Best (Picture Nominees)” featuring a bevy of double bills. The slate kicks off Sunday with “It Happened One Night” (1934), Frank Capra’s classic rom-com starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and then “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” (1941) pairs with “Born Yesterday” (1950) on Monday, two quirky comedies remade decades later: as 1978 Best Picture nominee “Heaven Can Wait” starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie; and the 1993 “Born Yesterday” with the unlikely trio of Don Johnson, John Goodman and Melanie Griffith in for William Holden, Broderick Crawford and Judy Holliday (who would win the Actress Oscar). 

On Tuesday it’s a reunion weekend in “The Big Chill” (1983) for former college mates (Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger and William Hurt) who gather for a friend’s funeral (Kevin Costner, whose face you never see); things gets heavy and hip. It’s on the same bill with Peter Bogdanovich’s tender adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s love letter to Texas, “The Last Picture Show” (1971). On Wednesday period pieces take over the screen with Ang Lee’s 1995 spin on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and Greta Gerwig’s shot-in-Concord telling of Louisa May Alcott’s female empowerment anthem, “Little Women” (2019). “Sense” star Emma Thompson, pulling double duty, won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for her script; Gerwig’s latest (“Barbie”) is up for Best Picture on Sunday. The Brattle Best Pic nods end their run Thursday by getting Meta and meeting Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard in the David Fincher-directed exposé “The Social Network” (2010). The great opening scene – in which Rooney Mara’s BU coed dumps Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg, leading to the creation of Facebook through nerd rage – was shot at the Thirsty Scholar on Somerville’s Beacon Street.

Director Martha Coolidge gets an extended run of the groundbreaking 1976 movie that put her firmly on the map, “Not a Pretty Picture,” a bold hybrid of docudrama, testimony and personal history that takes an unflinching look into date rape and domestic assault. The new restoration runs for three days beginning Friday. As part of the hat tip to Coolidge, The Brattle also plays some of her lighter fare, including (a young) Nic Cage amid the big ’80s in “Valley Girl” (1983) on Friday, Val Kilmer as a college kid scooped up by the CIA in “Real Genius” (1985) on Saturday and the more serious but disarming “Rambling Rose” (1991) on Saturday. In that one, Laura Dern stars as a fallen Southern belle escaping a life of prostitution in Depression-era Georgia.

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The New Hollywood Retro Replay on Tuesday at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema is Sam Peckinpah’s hardboiled “The Getaway” (1972), based on Jim Thompson’s pulp novel about a bank robber who gets sprung by his wife via shady means only to be trapped into setting up another job. Double crossings and payback are plentiful in this hardboiled pulp noir that pairs the iconically cool Steve McQueen with Ali MacGraw as husband and wife; the pair sparked romance on set and married in real life. The film also stars Peckinpah regulars Ben Johnson, mentioned here last week for his Oscar win in “The Last Picture Show,” and Slim Pickens, the cagey codger who rides the nuke in “Doctor Strangelove” (1964), as crime syndicate head and an avuncular passerby, respectively. The cool era score is by Quincy Jones, and the script is by future “48 Hrs.” director Walter Hill. McQueen would make two films with Peckinpah that year, the other being “Junior Bonner,” in which he plays an aging rodeo rider with Johnson as his father.

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In theaters and streaming

‘Problemista’ (2023)

Julio Torres plays a frustrated artist getting the immigrant experience – make that nightmare – in a droll satire that revels in absurdity as it delivers truth. The film’s somewhat autobiographical, as Torres, a stand-up comic and former SNL writer making his directorial debut, immigrated from El Salvador like the character he plays, Alejandro, a dreamer in the most demonstrative sense. Ale, as he’s referred to, has acute artistic skills and know-how and wants to be a toy designer for Mattel or Hasbro (maybe for Will Ferrell’s CEO from “Barbie”?), but there’s the matter of his visa status, valid employment and cash flow: Get paid or get deported. To remain in New York, Ale takes a gig at a cryogenics lab, but that doesn’t last too long after a significant fail on his watch. Where one door closes another one opens, though. The cryo lab caters primarily to artists, and one such future prospect is a painter (RZA) going through an existential crisis about his legacy and his art (bad egg art that’s not too bad, but draws your eye for slightly aesthetically askew reasons) and needs coddling, curation and the retrieval of one of those space egg paintings from a former lover (Greta Lee, “Past Lives”) as it’s the missing pane of a portfolio-defining triptych. Ale doesn’t deal with the artist so much as his wife Elizabeth, played by Tilda Swinton bringing incomparable relish to the hot mess boss, fire-engine red hair (you can practically see the roots growing out ), vintage, secondhand chic and a constant tic of anxiety that fuels high expectations and unstated demands. She powers the movie even though it’s Ale’s journey, which doesn’t detract; their relationship and Ale’s Catch-22 snags hold the intrigue. It’s an impressive debut, something not too far from the mind of Charlie Kaufman (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”) with a dash of Wes Anderson twee. At Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, 355 Binney St., Cambridge..


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.