Monday, July 22, 2024

This week marks The Brattle Theatre’s annual Recent Raves series, a collection of some of the year’s best films (so far) that begins Friday and runs through June 27. Tom Meek has already reviewed most of these titles for the Day, so here are some of my top picks. 

Rose Glass’ “Love Lies Bleeding” is my easy pick for film of the year so far, a wonderfully perverse and strangely heartfelt lesbian bodybuilder pulp-romance; it screens Saturday in a double feature with Ethan Coen’s screwball comedy “Drive-Away Dolls.” Sunday sees Wim Wenders’ sublime “Perfect Days,” a simple and achingly emotive story of a quiet Japanese toilet scrubber’s daily rituals. Then, on Monday, there’s a psychotronic double feature of the Sydney Sweeney nunsploitation fright show “Immaculate” and the ’70s-flavored TV exorcism film “Late Night with the Devil.” These are just a few of the dozen films in the series, making it a perfect chance to play catch-up before the end-of-the-year awards-season bonanza.

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The Somerville Theatre’s 70 mm and Widescreen Film Festival continues through the weekend, and Friday sees one of the biggies of the format: Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). “2001” is a mind-blowing experience no matter how you watch it, but it is absolutely transcendent on 70 mm: The monolith looms to gargantuan proportions, and the famous final sequence, in which astronaut Keir Dullea rockets through the Technicolor infinite, will make you feel like you’re touching the void yourself. Other highlights from the remainder of the fest include a rare IB Technicolor 35 mm print of “Ben Hur” (1959) on Saturday, and a just-announced 70 mm screening of Wolfgang Petersen’s Clint Eastwood vehicle “In the Line of Fire”  (1993) on Sunday. The big screen doesn’t get much bigger than this.

If you’re looking for slightly scuzzier fare, you can check out the Somerville’s Midnight Special selection on Saturday with David Cronenberg’s “Scanners” (1983). “Scanners” is, of course, best remembered for its grisly special effects, including what is surely the greatest exploding head ever committed to celluloid. But it’s also a surprisingly fun little genre thriller from a filmmaker for whom “fun” is not always on the menu. This is essentially Cronenberg’s take on the X-Men, in which a team of psychic-powered youngsters are assembled by a shadowy professor (a wonderfully soused Patrick McGoohan) to take down a telekinetic renegade (the equally great Michael Ironside). It’s a gonzo take on the superhero flick, with the most splatter you’ll find this side of a Gallagher show.

If that’s not enough gruel for your dollar, The Brattle on Friday hosts a 25th anniversary screening of Antonia Bird’s “Ravenous” (1999) presented by Strictly Brohibited, a local organization dedicated to amplifying female- and gender-expansive voices in film. For those who haven’t seen it (which I suspect is many, as it was a notorious flop at the box office), “Ravenous” is a dark fantasy inspired by the unfortunate real-life case of the Donner Party. Pioneer Colquhoun (Robert Carlyle) is the sole survivor of an expedition in the snowy Sierra Nevada. Inevitably, we learn that he sustained himself on the flesh of his ill-fated party; more surprisingly, this new diet has bestowed Colquhoun with superhuman strength – and a hunger for more. “Ravenous” is a blackly comic delight, with a devilish premise and a terrific cast (which includes Guy Pearce, Jeremy Davies and David Arquette). It’ll either make you swear off red meat for good or run to the nearest steakhouse.

One of the joys of living in a city with such a diverse cinematic ecosystem is the opportunity to see local premieres of films one might not be afforded the chance to see otherwise. On Monday, the Somerville hosts the East Coast premiere of Alan Kryszak’s documentary “The Religion Move” (2024). Per the Somerville’s website: “The film is driven by LGBTQ perspectives on religion & faith, as well as moving testimonies by an Iranian cellist, Passamaquoddy, Christian, Islamic, Judaic, Palestinian, Hindu, Buddhist, LGBTQ+ & other witnesses to religion & theocracy.” Kryszak, a filmmaker and composer based in Maine, will be on hand for a discussion after the film.


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.