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August 9-15, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Broadway Melody of 1938/Babes on Broadway
(1937/1942) Memorable for Judy Garland singing "Dear Mr. Gable"—a musical love letter. Not nearly enough remembered for Eleanor Powell and George Murphy's dance in the flooded grass of a city park (it doesn't have the solitary grace of the title number in "Singin' in the Rain," but it certainly looks a lot more difficult). White blues shouter Sophie Tucker is aboard, as is Buddy Ebsen in his gusty hayseed days and Robert Benchley saying something suave about it all. BILLED WITH Babes on Broadway. The one where Mickey Rooney imitates Carmen Miranda singing "Mama Yo Quiero." Directed by Busby Berkeley, it concerns young and out-of-work actors banding together to put on a show; Judy Garland sings "How About You"; there's a yokel number and yet another tragic blackface sequence. (That's Blackface! is not an MGM anthology we'll be seeing on KQED, but there's at least 90 minutes' worth of material for such a film.) In a haunted theater sequence, Rooney and Garland do their impression of now-forgotten stage greats of the past like George M. Cohan and the Scottish dialect singer Sir Harry Lauder; the Irish number is Cohan's "Mary Is a Grand Old Name" sung by Garland. (Plays Aug 8-10 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Galaxy Quest
(1999) Trusting Thermians, sort of humanoid meerkats (one, a frightfully beaming Missi Pyle, is a standout), monitor Earth's TV broadcasts, see a Star Trek-like show and believe its stars to be galactic champions. The aliens teleport the cast out of the sci-fi convention morass they're in and take them to deep space to help them fight a genocidal nemesis: a dinosaur/scorpion-fish cross called Gen. Sarris. (And here's to the noble custom of naming villains after film critics: Gen. Kael in Willow, Bob Balaban's Farber in Lady in the Water). Currently being plagiarized on the "Got milk?" ads, this appealing satire counts as the kind of movie that can be watched a dozen times. The top-drawer cast must have loved the show-must-go-on message. Tim Allen is the captain, an easygoing slouch; Sigourney Weaver is Galaxy Quest's eye-candy; she plays Gwen DeMarco with the genuine 1,000-yard stare of the aging actress (who hasn't seen that look on the faces of the celebs at a Comics Convention?); Alan Rickman is genuinely stirring as the British thespian, soul-dead from playing Spock, though he rediscovers the Shakespearean in himself during battle. A delight. (Plays Aug 9 at sunset in San Jose; free; please, no outside food or drink.)

Movie Times Ghostbusters
(1984) How could Ivan Reitman have gone from this comedy hit to the dog-egg that is My Super Ex-Girlfriend? Easy: See how sketchily put together this hit is and envision a sloppily failure to come 20 years later. Pro: the lissome Sigourney Weaver, the frightening Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the furtive Rick Moranis and Bill Murray's blissful sneakiness. Con: Ernie Hudson, practically wearing a T-shirt that says "Black Sidekick," who has the dreary task of occult-proofing the movie for the Bible Belt. ("I like Jesus' style," he exclaims, apropos of nothing.) And then there's Ray Parker's criminally repetitious theme song, a penicillin-resistant earache of the day. (Plays Aug 16 in San Jose at sunset in San Pedro Square; free; please, no outside food or drink.)

Movie Times Girl Crazy/Listen, Darling
(1943/1938) Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland's eighth film together. Sick of his playboy son's constant canoodling, a wealthy dad packs the runt (Mickey Rooney) off to an all-boys school in Arizona, but the dean of the school has a spunky daughter named Ginger (Garland), and when the school turns up broke, they put on a show to raise funds. The dynamic duo work through the Gershwin brothers catalogue: "Embracable You," "But Not for Me," "I Got Rhythm." The laster is performed as a musical rodeo—two types of cruelty for PETA members who hate showtunes. The late June Allyson co-stars, and she and Rooney duet on "Treat Me Rough." The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra turns up. Busby Berkeley directed the musical numbers; Guy Kibbee, avatar of Elmer Fudd, co stars. BILLED WITH Listen, Darling. Mary Astor and Walter Pidgeon are a couple that need to get together, but they're too blind to see it. Enter Judy Garland, who prompts them with "Zing, Went the Strings of My Heart." Alan Hale is the movie's Ralph Bellamy, and the excellent kid actor Freddie Bartholomew tags along. (Plays Aug 15-17 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Notorious/Casablanca
(1946/1942) Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia, a woman who—like Bogart in Casablanca—doesn't care about the war and is made to care, forcibly, by the pressure of a highly authentic secret agent, Devlin (Cary Grant). Against her will, Alicia becomes an agent, too, insinuating her way into a lethal circle of unreconstructed Nazis in Rio de Janeiro. It's a devious, sophisticated pre-S&M adventure with the handsome, dark undertones common to Hitchcock's first-rank work. Moreover it's full of pathos earned by Claude Rains, as the man unlucky enough to fall in love with Alicia. BILLED WITH Casablanca. You must remember this. In a remarkable backlot re-creation of North Africa, an elaborate story of wartime loss and love is played out in Casablanca. Club owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is confronted by his old lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband (Paul Henreid), who try to shake the isolationist Rick into action against the Nazis. Not a movie, but the movies, as Umberto Eco argued—in Casablanca, every film genre is sampled and merged, played by a cast that included 34 nationalities. Remembering Casablanca, it's the individual moments that persist. There's Peter Lorre's squeal as he's dragged away by the Gestapo—a more horrible exit than anything in Schindler's List, probably because it has less dignity. There's Claude Rains' offhand delivery of the famous line that sums up a corrupt, lazy policeman's methods. And, of course, who could forget Bogart's obstinacy and Ingrid Bergman's soft tears. (Plays Aug 11-14 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
(2005) Pale, frail Victor (Johnny Depp) finds himself in the embarrassing position of having affianced one woman, Victoria (Emily Watson) while being unwillingly married to another (Helena Bonham Carter doing the voice of the most beautiful cadaver since David Lynch's Laura Palmer). The corpse in question is a knockout, count the ways: the fine-boned hand, the flush mark of a rotted spot on her cheek, the azure shadows under her eyes. In a stop-motion-animated film where the color is muted as close to black-and-white as possible, this bride is radiantly blue. The film has the charm and uncanniness of an antique toy. And it provides sudden surprises, too—as when the bride's tattered veil stirs in a studio-made evening breeze. (Plays Aug 10 at 9:30pm Los Gatos at Los Gatos Cinema, Aug 11 at midnight in Campbell at Camera 7 and Aug 12 at midnight in San Jose at Camera 12.)

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