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June 13-19, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Airplane!
(1980) The annual series of outdoor free screenings known as Cinema San Pedro begins with an inspired, 1,000-joke burlesque of a bunch of doomed-flight movies, from the Airport series to less-well-remembered white-knucklers like Zero Hour and Fate Is the Hunter. Airplane! spawned a litter of terrible satires, but this original has Robert Stack, Peter Graves and Leslie Nielsen parodying the strong-jawed characters that previously made their fortunes. Everyone has a favorite joke in this one: mine is the parody of Helen Reddy's singing-nun bit in Airport 1975, with an actual Peter, Paul and Mary song used to make matters worse. (Plays Jun 20 at sundown in San Pedro Square in San Jose. Bring a lawn chair.)

Movie Times Alien: The Director's Cut
(2003) Despite the lofty subclause in the title, it's almost what it was in 1979. The fates of Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Dallas (Tom Skerritt) are slightly more explicit. Director Ridley Scott claims that the opening scenes have been trimmed 10 seconds here or there; the change in rhythm isn't particularly noticeable. And the Nostromo is starting to show its age, with computer commands conducted in what looks like a combo of ASCII and Pac-Man graphics. Still, the film is deservedly remembered for its art direction, an amalgam of H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb and Moebius, as well as for the then-innovative way the ship is warmed by the hominess of cigarettes and beer, wind chimes and Hawaiian shirts. As for the central love story, time cannot stale it. The tall, dark leading man is a 9-foot-tall cephalopod with molecular-acid blood and titanium teeth. "Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility," observes science officer Ash (Ian Holm). The creature's dance partner is Sigourney Weaver, whose structural perfection is matched only by her hostility. But she's not the emotionless action-man-in-drag heroine, like the ones (such as Ms. Jolie) who began turning up in the field years after Alien became a hit. Alien made a star out of Weaver, and the Alien saga is a success due to her and her evolution: as a motherly macha in Aliens, as the shaven-headed prisoner in the honest, if thoroughly depressing AIDS allegory Alien³ and as the spawning hum(alie)n in Alien Resurrection. The morals of the story, both useful, are "Don't trust corporations" and "Don't let the cat out!" (Plays midnight Jun 15 in Campbell at Camera 7 and midnight June 16 in San Jose at Camera 12.)

Movie Times Bringing Up Baby/The Solid Gold Cadillac
(1938/1956) Fine-boned Connecticut heiress (Katharine Hepburn) with a taste for practical jokes encounters a dead-earnest paleontologist (Cary Grant) in search of a brontosaurus clavicle. Sliding on the greased-rail logic of this film, both end up hunting leopards in the forest at midnight with a croquet mallet and fishnet. Jailed by rural bumpkins, Hepburn worsens the situation by posing as "Swinging Door Susie" the notorious Chicago outlaw. "Constable! She's all making this up out of motion pictures she's seen!," protests Grant, but he goes unheard. Howard Hawks' genius was in realizing that movies are made up out of the motion pictures we've all seen, and that the casual bits can be more cause for delight and remembrance than the way they're arranged. In Hawks, it's Bacall scratching her leg in The Big Sleep, Ann Dvorak playing "The Wreck of the Old 97" in Scarface, or the drinking scenes in Only Angels Have Wings or Rio Bravo. As far as the chemistry between Grant and Hepburn, it's like what Kingsley Amis said about sex—that it reminds an animal that is pretending not to be an animal that it is an animal. To remind us, Hawks poses two civilized people against a menagerie: the panther in the car, the bad dog with the valuable bone, and regarding the unspoken attraction of these two tremendously attractive people, the elephant in the room. BILLED WITH The Solid Gold Cadillac. Judy Holliday plays a minor stockholder who plots a takeover of a mismanaged company with the help of the company's pushed-aside founder (Paul Douglas). (Plays Jun 15-17 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Long Day's Journey Into Night
(1962) See review. (Plays June 20-21 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Niles Essanay Film Museum
Regularly scheduled silent movies at the Edison Theater. Tonight: the swashbuckler The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), directed by Rex Ingram, one of the more elegant talents of the silent era; this version has Lewis Stone in the dual lead role, the suave Ramon Novarro as Rupert, Stuart Holmes as Black Michael, Ingram's wife Alice Terry as Princess Flavia. Also: Beauty Spots in America: Castle Hot Springs, Arizona (1916); and the filmed- in-Niles The Tramp (1916) with Charles Chaplin. Jon Mirsalis at the piano. (Plays Jun 16 at 7pm in Niles, 37417 Niles Blvd.;

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