The Big Trail (US, 1930) John Wayne had his first starring role in this western, which has just been restored. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story (US, 2009) A portrait of Disney's sibling songwriting duo, Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, the guys responsible for the tunes in Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8.
Carry It On (US, 1970) Arrested by federal marshals after dodging the draft, peace activist David Harris was the rare radical who could speak eloquently about revolution and heroism. No wonder folk singer Joan Baez, his wife at the time, was drawn to him. This film documents the Baez's concert tour in the wake of his arrest. Singing staples like "We Shall Overcome," Baez was as articulate as her husband when it came to speaking about social change. The film collects numerous performances as well as behind-the-scenes footage of Baez at home and preparing to go on The Joey Bishop Show. What the film lacks is a clear narrative: It comes off as a haphazard collection of old home movies, albeit ones that feature several inspiring musical performances. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 5. ** 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)
Departures The surprise winner of this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Yojiro Takita's tale of yuppie redemption is a lot better than expected. When his symphony orchestra goes belly-up, newly unemployed cellist Daigo (the likable Mashahiro Motoki) takes a job as assistant to the local mortician (Tsutomo Yamazaki, terrific). Because of Japan's cultural stigma about working with the dead, Daigo is soon ostracized by friends and even abandoned by his social-climbing wife (Ryoko Hirosue). Despite its frequently overbearing soundtrack and a few too many strained sitcommy gags, particularly in the exposition-heavy first half, the film is ultimately quite touching and, yes, life-affirming. As the formerly callow Daigo learns the tools of his new trade, he finally grows into manhood, even making peace with the father who abandoned him as a boy. Since an American remake is all but inevitable (starring Zach Braff, perhaps?), it's probably a good idea to check out the award-winning original version first. Cedar Lee Theatre. *** (Milan Paurich)
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Britain, 1964) During the depths of the Cold War, director Stanley Kubrick wanted to make an anti-nuke doomsday statement that would blow away films with similar ambitions but which had come across as solemn, stodgy, geopolitically correct dramas. Kubrick and writer Terry Southern cleverly bought rights to a serious novel, Red Alert, and repurposed the whole nightmare scenario of global thermonuclear war into black comedy. Paranoid American general, Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) flips out and orders USAF bombers to vaporize Russia. His trembling British RAF colonel hostage, a wimp U.S. president and a mad ex-Nazi Pentagon advisor (all played by Peter Sellers) try to find solutions before the unseen but understandably angry Reds launch a world-ending counterstrike. Sellers dearly wanted to play a fourth character, a cowboy pilot aboard a heavily armed flying fortress, but the iconic part went to Slim Pickens instead. Even with the fall of the U.S.S.R., Kubrick's satire has lost none of its bite in the era of the Bush Doctrine and pre-emptive strikes as official policy. The perfectionist filmmaker did ultimately shoot a colossal pie fight, but it seemed too flippant for the climax. The title character of Strangelove, the wheelchair-bound mad doctor who has to beat his one-gloved hand from snapping into the Hitler salute, was said for ages to be based on nuclear think-tank strategist Herman Kahn, but the late, great conspiracy author Robert Anton Wilson has written that Henry Kissinger was actually the model. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, and 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9. (Charles Cassady Jr.) ***
G.I. Joe Reviewed at clevescene.com.
Hausu (Japan, 1977) This Japanese horror movie was made more than 30 years ago, and while it's now become a cult classic, Nobuhiko Obayashi's film doesn't hold up. Even by B-movie standards, the special effects are cheesy and the acting is generally shoddy. The story surrounds Oshare (Kimiko Ikegami), a young Japanese schoolgirl who recruits six screeching friends to go on vacation with her to her aunt's house in the countryside. Of course, the place turns out to be haunted, and it's not long before an angry ghost comes after them. The ghost chops off one girl's fingers when she plays the piano and and hurls pillows at another girl, suffocating her. The campy film is more strange than scary and shouldn't be confused with all the contemporary Japanese horror movies that have received much-deserved stateside attention. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7. ** (Niesel)
A Perfect Getaway Reveiwed at clevescene.com.
Surveillance (US, 2008) Given that Jennifer Chambers Lynch's last movie, 1993's Boxing Helena, was so severely dismissed by critics, it's not surprising that it took her 15 years to follow it up. The grisly, often-offensive Surveillance isn't likely to jumpstart her career. The film takes place in a small desert town where corrupt local cops half-heartedly try to apprehend a serial killer. Things take a turn, however, when a couple of FBI agents (Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond) roll into town and take over the case. They proceed to interview their witnesses, yet it's not long before even the dim-witted cops realize the FBI agents aren't quite who they claim to be. Ormond and Pullman are solid as two shady FBI agents, but the rest of the cast is forgettable, and the entire film seems like a bad imitation of a movie by Lynch's father, David Lynch. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 8. ** (Niesel)
Tulpan (Germany/Kazakhstan/Poland/Russia/Switzer-land, 2008) Ethnography never tasted as sweet as it does in first-time feature director Sergey Dvortsevoy's charming fable set against the otherworldly backdrop of Kazakhstan's forbidding Hungersteppe. After being discharged from the Russian Navy, twentysomething Asa (Askat Kuchinchirekov) moves in with his married older sister, her taciturn husband and their three young children. Determined to become a proper herdsman and find himself a wife, Asa begins courting headstrong local beauty Tulpan, who rejects him out of hand because his ears are too big. The anecdotal narrative is highlighted by some astonishing sequences featuring livestock, including the real-time birth of a baby lamb. Yet the most remarkable aspect of the film is not how alien Asa and his family seem, but how recognizably human they are, even to jaded western audiences. Winner of the top prize in the 2008 Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard section. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, and 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9. *** (Paurich)