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June 28-July 4, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Best in Show
(2000) At the 125th Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia, contestants use their dogs as a temporary passport into show business. Quite the cast in this savage mockumentary by Christopher Guest: Guest as a Southern oddball with a bloodhound; comedic masters Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as Gerry and Cookie Fleck, a couple transporting their Toto-oid Norwich terrier to the show. Scott (John Michael Higgins) and his boyfriend, Stefan (McKean), are hairburners who raise Shih-Tzus. Hamilton and Meg Swan (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) are the most savage caricature of grasping, infantile yuppies since the Booth-Braines in High Hopes. Jennifer Coolidge plays a bimbo (of course) who does a really disturbing thing with her lips to imply a collagen job that's overpressurized. The funniest of the lot is Fred Willard as Buck Laughlin, an obtuse TV reporter covering the show. The best-in-show Laughlin has the most tantalizing backstory. Was he some sportscaster busted down to the dog-show beat? An ex-anchorman whose Percodan addiction caused him to compliment a weather-girl's boobs on the air? Inanities spring from him without effort: tired baseball metaphors and gouts of instant poignancy. When a vicious dog is hauled out of the ring, Laughlin intones, "She's being led off in disgrace, but she's still a champion." Guest contrasts the wisdom of dogs, all natural performers, with the vainness of the people who try to pervert their dogness into a human-pleasing spectacle. (Plays Jul 5 at sunset in San Jose at the Cinema San Pedro Square; free; please, no outside food or drink.)

Movie Times A Double Life
(1947) Often filed under film noir—and deservedly so. Ronald Colman's late-period performance about a cracked actor named Anthony John; his ex-wife (Signe Hasso) can't slow him as he heads down a corridor of madness. Colman is excellent embodying the sadness of a thespian who can't remember who he really is any more. Still, the movie has its creakier side; composer Miklos Rosza always was a bulldozer, and so was Shelley Winters, even from the time of this, her debut as a sleazy waitress. Later, director George Cukor intimated that Colman may not have had enough of a really demonic side to be Othello—in fact, Colman was legendary for what Othello denounces, that "soft part of conversation that chamberers have." In any case, it's a great happiness to hear that voice doing those lines, and this film is essential viewing for anyone studying acting. (Plays June 28-30 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Evil Dead 2
(1987) "Dead by dawn! Dead by dawn! DEAD BY DAWN!" When will you idiots learn not to monkey with the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred's forbidden book, Necronomicon, you mortals who are baffled by the occult mystery of the Fortune-Telling Fish, you fools whose souls are torn by the lurking pale Lovecraftian madness of Harry Potter and the Hormones of Hermione? Bruce Campbell—stern jawed and fatuous, worthy of an old Monocle Studios serial—plays the unhappy camper battling gibbering invisible demons that thirst for his blood. Each curse is worse! Memorable for early use of the "shakeycam"—director Sam (Spider-Man) Raimi's brilliant invention of a camera fastened to a board and used to swoop between trees, while Campbell gets more severe treatment than Jerome "Curly" Howard ever endured. "Who's laughing now!" (Plays Jun 29 at 9:30pm in Los Gatos Cinema, Jun 30 in Campbell at Camera 7 and Jul 1 in San Jose at Camera 12.)

Movie Times Lost Horizon/Random Harvest
(1937/1942) Frank Capra adapted James Hilton's famous novel about the lost Tibetan kingdom of Shangri-La, where the wise rule, and lives can last centuries. To this paradise comes a great British politician (Ronald Colman) sickened by the prospect of upcoming war. Perhaps this film is most valuable as an early example of New Age art, as it was The Celestine Prophecy of its day: here we see the usual vagueness, the disquieting imperialist undertones, the implicit threat underneath the offer of spiritual awakening and longevity. Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton and Sam Jaffe co-star. BILLED WITH Random Harvest. Greer Garson and Ronald Colman star in a drama of an amnesiac soldier's return and his love for a music-hall singer who's so hard to remember and so easy to forget. A popular upper-lip stiffener. (Plays Jul 4-7 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times The Masquerader
(1933) Ronald Colman stars as a journalist who impersonates his cousin, an important member of Parliament who is a slave to booze and the needle; but once the nation is saved, there's the matter of dealing with the drug addict's wife (Elissa Landi). (Plays Jun 28-Jul 1 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times The Rescue
(1929) Ronald Colman does Joseph Conrad—a natural team (wouldn't he have been the perfect Lord Jim?). In Java, an English brig captain (Colman) is aided by a rajah (John Davidson). The Englishman's plan to repay his new acquaintance is troubled by the arrival of a British MP on a yachting expedition—as well as the politico's tempting wife (Lily Damita). The only known print of the film is missing one reel, but the eternal triangle plot is all too easy to follow. Filmed off Santa Cruz Island in Southern California. Dennis James is at the Stanford's Wurlitzer. (Plays Jul 1-2 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

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