Thursday, June 13, 2024

June is Pride Month, and you can kick off the festivities with a pair of groundbreaking classics of queer cinema. The Brattle Theatre closes out its Reunion Week series Thursday with Jamie Babbit’s beloved rom-com “But I’m a Cheerleader” (1999), starring a young Natasha Lyonne and Clea Duvall as a pair of teenage girls who fall in love at a gay conversion therapy camp. Released the same year as “American Pie,” “Cheerleader” feels like its polar opposite, its equally outrageous sense of humor balanced by a frank and sensitive view of teen sexuality (it also features a killer supporting cast, including cult movie icons Mink Stole and Bud Cort as Lyonne’s parents and an out-of-drag RuPaul as an “ex-gay” counselor).


The Landmark Kendall Square Cinema kicks off its weekly Pride Month series Tuesday with Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). Lee’s tale of star-crossed cowboys in love remains a rare work of Hollywood beauty, and features career-best performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger. American audiences weren’t quite ready for either of these movies at the time of their release – “Cheerleader” was threatened with an NC-17 rating and dumped to home video, and “Brokeback” had the even greater indignity of losing Best Picture to “Crash” – but both now stand as shockingly ahead of their time.

This weekend The Brattle will see two local premiere runs: one new release, the other a new remix of some much older material. Fresh off its selection at this year’s Boston Underground Film Festival is “Omen,” the directorial debut of Congolese rapper Baloji. Mild-mannered Congolese-Belgian expat Koffi brings his white fiancee back to his home country for the approval of his family, only to find himself embroiled in family squabbles and accusations of demonic possession. “Omen” is not a horror movie by any stretch – it is, at its core, a deeply felt story of shifting culture and generational heartache – but it features some stunning moments of magical realism, such as a falsetto-singing cemetery attendant and an eerie modernization of the “Hansel and Gretel” story.

If you’re looking to take those flourishes of surrealism and make a meal of them, The Brattle will also run a newly assembled program titled “Man Ray: Return to Reason.” The program compiles the four silent shorts directed by the legendary Dada artist between 1923 and 1929, restored by Janus Films and featuring an all-new soundtrack by avant-rock combo Sqürl, featuring filmmaker and noted cool person Jim Jarmusch. “Return to Reason” and “Omen” will run with multiple showtimes Friday through Monday.

On the midnight movie tip, the Somerville Theatre will screen Yasuharu Hasebe’s delirious cult classic secret agent picture “Black Tight Killers” (1966) on Saturday. Released at the height of global James Bond-mania, Hasebe’s film plays like a cracked pop-art parody of the international superspy picture: bullets made of bubblegum, ninja stars made out of sharpened 45 RPM records and more Technicolor rock ’n’ roll freakouts than a season’s worth of “Batman” reruns. Hasebe previously worked as an assistant to filmmaker Seijun Suzuki, whose “Tokyo Drifter” (1966) and “Branded to Kill” (1967) offered a similarly off-kilter take on the yakuza gangster film. Hasebe clearly learned much from his master, and spy films don’t come much cooler.

Next week sees the kickoff of The Brattle’s “Peele Apart” series, which pairs each of horror maestro Jordan Peele’s three features with a selection of films that inspired them. First up, naturally, is “Get Out” (2017), Peele’s instant-classic debut about a young Black man who realizes his white girlfriend’s family has more nefarious plans for him than their seemingly progressive facade would let on. On Tuesday, “Get Out” plays in a double feature with Bernard Rose’s “Candyman” (1992), which, like “Get Out,” transmutes America’s history of institutionalized racism into literal supernatural horror, as the vengeful spirit of an ex-slave haunts the would-be gentrifiers of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. “Get Out” screens again Wednesday, this time paired with Roman Polanski’s horror all-timer “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). Both Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse and Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris Washington find themselves enmeshed in a vast conspiracy of well-to-do elites, and both are gaslit into thinking that they might be the crazy ones – after all, are either of their plights that far removed from the everyday tribulations faced by a woman in the 1960s or a Black man in the 2010s? Peele is one of our smartest and most exciting working filmmakers, and this series proves that his films are in conversation with some of the genre’s very best.

Oscar Goff is a writer and film critic based in Somerville. He is film editor and senior critic for the Boston Hassle and his work has appeared in the monthly Boston Compass newspaper and publications such as WBUR’s The ARTery and iHeartNoise. He is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Online Film Critics Society.