December 10, 2019: The comedy that deserves “Christmas Classic” status

THE THIN MAN (1934) / MR. SOFT TOUCH (1949)

dir. W.S. Van Dyke / Henry Levin & Gordon Douglas

December 20, 7:30 PM

The Thin Man

Aero Theatre

Join us in the push to crown The Thin Man as the new not-exactly-traditional Yuletide classic. The story in this noirish comedy doesn’t matter too much; it’s mostly an excuse for good-natured and hard-drinking socialites Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) to indulge in ten-martini holiday parties, suffer the best Christmas morning hangover captured on film, and, oh yeah, work on solving a murder. There’s more personality in any single scene of this ’30s franchise-starter than in entire years of some studio outputs. (None of the five sequels that followed could match the original film’s verve, but many are pretty good!)

And while Mr. Soft Touch will probably never be enshrined as a holiday classic, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it as an offbeat discovery. Glenn Ford stars as a veteran who clashes with the gangsters who took over his old nightclub and has to go into hiding when his plot to get even attracts police attention. The story spans December 24 and 25 and, with a blend of genuine noir stylization and earnest comedy, it’s a departure from any other classical Hollywood holiday film you might know. While we’re on the subject, care to guess what the most-played Christmas movie is in L.A.? To our surprise, it is Elf, by a long shot. There have been more than 20 screenings of the Will Ferrell movie scheduled this month. Sorry, Die Hard.

DCP / 35mm |  INFO + TICKETS



dir. Céline Sciamma

Now Playing — Arclight Hollywood

Last day! Writer/director Céline Sciamma contrives a strangely effective story to draw two isolated young women together: Marianne is an ambitious painter brought to a remote island to paint the portrait of Héloïse, who mustn’t know that her image is being captured. So Marianne observes her subject closely as they grow closer, painting furtively at night, considering every detail like an obsessive suitor. In the two lead roles, Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are a luminous pair; their energy is sensuously tense. Their relationship can be electric, but Sciamma is just as interested in those hours where Marianne and Héloïse play-act a quiet home life, all captured in rich light by cinematographer Claire Mathon. (If you miss this one now, it will play a longer run in February 2020.)



dir. Guy Hamilton

December 14, 2:30 PM – Alamo Drafthouse DTLA

The Agatha Christie whodunnit is a specific pleasure: gently witty and glamorous, and oddly low-stakes despite the constant threat of murder. This was Peter Ustinov’s second of six turns as Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot. As always, the actor used the role as an opportunity to exercise a combination of verbal agility and soft physicality that is very much not Poirot as Christie wrote him; and yet he is absolutely convincing as the investigator. This, despite being lesser known than Death on the Nile, Ustinov’s debut in the role, might be the best of his run.



dir. Don Siegel

December 14, 1:30 PM – Autry Museum of the American West

In Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, we see the same movie theater marquee multiple times. The final time, the title on display is this elegiac Don Siegel film, in which John Wayne plays a gunfighter who, having shot his way through the lawless days of the West, has lived long enough to crave a peaceful death. Stricken with cancer, and confronted by the destruction he’s left in his wake, he might not get that chance. The Shootist was Wayne’s final film, and it reunites him with Jimmy Stewart, making a fine bookend to their 1962 pairing, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which helped set the stage for many revisionist Westerns that came after — including The Shootist.



dir. Noah Baumbach / Jim Jarmusch

December 15, 7:30 PM – Egyptian Theatre

There are a number of different ways to see Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story on the big screen this month, and while, admittedly, few will feature Adam Driver in person (as this screening will), the real appeal here is the chance to see Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson projected. Driver stars in the low-key 2016 drama as a bus driver and poet whose small, relatively drama-free daily life becomes a rich microcosm of artistic inspiration and persistence. Driver will appear for a conversation between the films.



dir. William Peter Blatty

December 21, 11:59 PM – Aero Theatre

Maybe you’ve ignored the Exorcist sequels because there’s a common acceptance that William Friedkin’s original stands alone, follow-ups be damned. And, sure, the camp charms of Exorcist II: The Heretic are not for everyone. But William Peter Blatty, author of the original novel, directed this third film, and it’s a compelling horror in several ways, with flashes in which it is exceptional. The Exorcist III features a jump scare that is rightly considered to be one of the best ever on film. The bizarre plot imagines the Zodiac killer — who called Friedkin’s movie “the best satirical comedy” he’d seen — as a supernaturally-powered criminal. And there’s a great tête-à-tête between George C. Scott  (taking over the Lieutenant Kinderman role played by Lee J. Cobb in the original film) and Brad Dourif, who plays the mysterious killer with a particularly nasty spirit.



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