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August 23-29, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

Movie Times Everybody Sing/Thoroughbreds Don't Cry
(1938/1937) A theatrical family on the skids (Reginald Owen and Billie "Glinda" Burke) is bailed out by a talent show, thrown by their servants (one of whom is Fanny "Funny Girl" Brice). BILLED WITH Thoroughbreds Don't Cry. Judy Garland's first top-billed film, and her first with Mickey Rooney. A racetrack story, with renunciation in it, as well as white blues singer Sophie Tucker. (Plays Aug 22-24 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (Richard von Busack)

Movie Times Gilda/Laura
(1946/1944) Gelid, rhinestone-studded film noir, a comedy of insinuation featuring the premier sex symbol of World War II, Rita Hayworth. She is what they used to call a woman with a past, tramping around Argentina; she has no other real occupation than wreaking havoc in the beautiful friendship between feral Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) and Ballin Mundson (George Macready). Mundson is a Heidelberg-scarred tycoon and casino owner; when not making thugs say "Hello" to his little friend (a sword cane), Mundson dreams of being the emperor of tungsten. His other "little friend"—a business partner, a cicisbeo, a gunsel, ah, what's in a word?—is the young and oddly Johnny Carson-like Ford, hardly recognizable as the concrete-tough figure he became in the 1950s. Apparently, what happens in Buenos Aires stays in Buenos Aires. Gay people cherish Gilda for its double-jointed romance and for Hayworth's flamboyance. Singing "Put the Blame on Mame," the titian-maned temptress credits girl power as the force that leveled San Francisco and burned Chicago. Between songs, costume changes and bouts of troublemaking, Hayworth utters some bar-nothing epigrams that have been quoted by sympathetic men to one another over cocktails for many decades. Let's take the minority view and say the film is latently heterosexual. Farrell's awe of Ballin may not be a lover's passion but perhaps an Ayn Rand-like swoon over the power of capitalism. Off-camera, Ford and Hayworth were rumored to be getting it on. And lastly there is plenty of breeder interest in the lady of the title. Gilda does a dance that would have got her kicked off any stage but the ones in Montevideo, and she does the prelude to a striptease in a black-satin gown that must only have been held up by the moral force of the Catholic Legion of Decency. Print restored by the UCLA archives. BILLED WITH Laura. This high-toned mystery exerts a mesmerizing effect on many people, even though it seems to hang on one good gimmick and one memorable theme song. Clifton Webb has some fine moments, though, as Waldo Lydecker, a wizened-up version of Walter Winchell, and Judith Anderson and Vincent Price also make amusing suspects. Gene Tierney stars as the lady whose portrait burns a hole in Dana Andrew's resolve. (Plays Aug 25-28 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times North by Northwest
(1959) The grandfather of the James Bond adventures, with ever-traveling hero, gentlemanly villain and untrustworthy woman—and smashing set pieces scored to ominous music (Bernard Herrmann), music that's like a whole separate layer of the film. When an ad man stands up at the wrong moment at the Plaza Hotel, he's mistaken for one Irving Kaplan, an American superagent; from this point on he's pursued by agents of the spymaster Van Damm (James Mason at his silkiest). The movie summed up Alfred Hitchcock's American films, according to the director. Those sniffing around the subtext of Hitch can find some meat in the Taming of the Squire sequences, in which the suave ad man, Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), gets treated like a trick who won't leave by Eva Marie Saint. But mostly, the film is a surreal version of the pioneers' American journey, full of frontier tall-tale elements: from the Temperance fantasy of the city villains who force you to drink to the perilous train trip to the prairies, where a single biplane stands in for thousands of locusts. (Plays Aug 23 at sundown in San Jose at Cinema San Pedro; free; please, no outside food or drink.) (RvB)

Movie Times Office Space
(1999) A most amusing and sometimes cringe-worthy examination of the petty horrors of life in a tech business (although any large organization would do). Ron Livingston plays Peter, who decides to opt out of the daily grind. "You've been missing a lot of work," asks a snarky John McGinley at an employee evaluation. "I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob," quips Peter. Gary Cole is chillingly familiar as the overbearing manager, Lumbergh ("Oh, and next Friday ... is Hawaiian shirt day ... so, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans"). Also stars Jennifer Aniston as a chain-restaurant-indentured servant forced to wear "flair." It is, without a doubt, her finest moment on the big screen. (Plays Aug 30 at sunset in San Jose at San Pedro Square; free; please, no outside food or drink.) (Michael S. Gant)

Movie Times Strike Up the Band/Little Nellie Kelly
(Both 1940) A high school band polishes up its act to compete in a national contest to be judged by famed band leader Paul Whiteman. Mickey Rooney is torn, as custom has it, between a rich girl (June Preisser) and Judy Garland. The film includes the Gershwin title song, a typically outré Busby Berkeley interlude of stop-motion animated fruit performing as a miniature orchestra (purportedly the work of an uncredited George Pal, and it sure looks like it) and a parody of Victorian melodrama with Garland and Rooney performing a number of vintage songs, including "Heaven Help the Working Girl" and "I Ain't Got Nobody." BILLED WITH Little Nellie Kelly. Garland in the film version of a George M. Cohan musical of the 1920s. She plays, subsequently, the wife and the daughter of a big-hearted New York policeman (played by hoofer and later U.S. Sen. George Murphy). (Plays Aug 29-30 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.) (RvB)

Movie Times Tron
(1982) Disney's pioneer computer-animated film back in new print. Jeff Bridges plays a game designer sucked into the playing field of his newest video game, where he matches wits with ever popular villain David Warner. At the time, I was underwhelmed by the effects as well as the kid-movie simplicity of the plot and the dialogue. Still, driving at night, I never see one of those purple neon license plate frames and undercarriage lights (as per New Jersey Drive) without thinking of the light-cycles in Tron, and the soundtrack by Wendy Carlos was plenty alienating. It can only look better in hindsight, and it's obviously a stepping stone to the Matrix trilogy. I would suggest turning up early for this one. (Plays Aug 24 at 9:30pm in Los Gatos at Los Gatos Theater; plays Aug 25 at midnight in Campbell at Camera 7; plays Aug 26 at midnight in San Jose at Camera 12.) (RvB)

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