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July 19-25, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Babes in Arms/Andy Hardy Meets Debutante
(1939/1940) When an older generation of vaudevillians bombs out, their children—"They call us babes in arm, but we're babes in armor"—assemble to put on a show that'll benefit their impoverished parents. Andy Rooney and Judy Garland lead the cast; it's based on a hit-laden Rodgers and Hart show of which only the songs "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Where or When" were retained. The Busby Berkeley direction is loaded with ultrapatriotic wowserism, drawing heavily upon Berkeley's time in military school; the blackface number is evidence that it's good that they don't make them like they used to. BILLED WITH Andy Hardy Meets Debutante. Diana Lewis as the deb in question; meanwhile, lovelorn as always Judy Garland sings "I'm Nobody's Baby." (Plays Aug 1-3 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times The Blues Brothers
(1980) The passage of time has made John Landis' excessive car-crash-laden comedy look a little better, if only by contrast with the 8 million Saturday Night Live spinoffs since. One still misses John Belushi's comedy, the insouciant way he threw an automobile cigarette lighter out of the car, as if it were a spent match. And maybe you have to have been stranded on the roadside many times by those lousy Detroit clunkers of the 1970s to truly appreciate the spectacle of their punishment: watching them get blown up, smashed and dropped. There is no forgiveness for the underuse of John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and James Brown, all of whom make Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's silly but unbelievably popular tribute act look as minor as it was. Henry Gibson is memorable playing an Illinois Nazi. (Plays Jul 26 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square; free; please, no outside food or drink.)

Movie Times Love Finds Andy Hardy/Pigskin Parade
(1938/1936) That date-crazed Andy Hardy pursues a pair of babes; someone should have pounded the slogan "Chase two rabbits, catch neither one" into his freckled noggin. Judy Garland (nice) and Lana Turner (naughty) are the two girls in question. BILLED WITH Pigskin Parade. Jack Oakie and Patsy Kelly as married football coaches who discover a hayseed marvel who can throw the ball good enough to defeat Yale on its own field. It's in the trad of the original Million Dollar Legs, no doubt, with Oakie—a Jack Black-oid slob, airing out jokes that even Granddad would have rebelled against. But Judy Garland is in it as a hillbilly gal, and the young Betty Grable is in it somewhere, as are singing sensations the Yacht Club Boys. "It's beyond belief—atrocious and yet funny and enjoyable."—Pauline Kael. (Plays Jul 25-27 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.)

Movie Times Pink Floyd: The Wall
(1982) The alienation of a rock star, as revealed in director Alan Parker and animator Gerald Scarfe's images; how school, the English class system and fame made Pink (Bob Geldof) a shivering recluse in a hotel. Timely, now that the great tragedy in Pink Floyd's career—the insanity of Syd Barrett—is at the front of the public's mind. Still, this drug-addled version of a backstage musical is as self-pitying, thick and blatant as any of Parker's films. Scratch Parker's slick surfaces and you find the stickiest worst of classic-era movies (see Evita and Bugsy Malone). (Plays Jul 27 at midnight at Los Gatos Theater, Jul 28 at midnight at Camera 7 in Campbell and Jul 29 at midnight at Camera 12 in San Jose.)

Movie Times The Poseidon Adventure
(1972) "They had to remove the word 'adventure' from the title of the remake, because it violated truth in advertising laws"—Mike Monahan. Capt. Leslie Nielsen, in his pre-ZAZ brothers days as a serious actor, sees an enormous wall of water heading for the ship and comments, "I don't believe it—an enormous wall of water heading for the ship." Believe it, or don't—soon the SS Poseidon is ass over teakettle, and the passengers are seeking daylight and God, in that order, and meeting the kind of grisly fates they don't warn you about in the travel brochures. Stars Stella Stevens—always a pleasure, regardless of the waterlogged circumstances; Ernest "the Oscar's Lodestar" Borgnine; Gene Hackman as a mod priest with mod doubts, Shelley Winters as the former swim champion turned orca, etc. It's not a chalky-looking computerized cheat like the remake, and the grisly stunt work kicked off a genre of its own. Killing off subprime celebrities by the dozen was a great sport of 1970s cinema, and we bad bastards lined up to see them die horribly again and again in The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, The Swarm and others. (Plays Aug 2 in San Jose at sundown in San Pedro Square; free; please, no outside food or drink.)

Movie Times Roman Holiday/Sabrina
(1953/1954) Audrey Hepburn stars as a Ruritanian princess on the run in Roman Holiday; reporter Gregory Peck is on her trail. This trifle is energized by the location photography of Rome—a great novelty at the time and a feat to pull off during the middle of a heat wave. The film made Hepburn a star. Henri Alekan, the great cinematographer, co-photographed. BILLED WITH Sabrina. A chauffeur's daughter falls for a pair of wealthy brothers, in sequence: a playboy (William Holden) and his more sedate older brother (Humphrey Bogart, playing the type of upper-cruster that he once was). Bogart was irritated at the essence of this romantic floss—he gave Audrey Hepburn a hard time and he kraut-baited director Billy Wilder, according to biographer Jeffrey Meyers—but the end result was one of his most romantic films. (Plays Jul 25-27 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

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