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.



November 27, 2019: A fantastic, under-appreciated ’70s mystery!

SLEUTH (1972)

dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz

December 11, 8:30 PM


Alamo Drafthouse DTLA

In a low-key way, Sleuth is one of the strangest and most surprising movies made in the ‘70s. This two-hander stars Michael Caine as Milo Tindle, the younger lover of a woman who is married to the pompous and successful novelist Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier). We never see her; instead, the film leans in to observe the men engage in a battle of wits, determination, and violence. Sleuth defies classification as it gives Olivier and Caine two hours to tear into a dense script, each trying to assert dominance over the other.

The film plays as part of the Alamo Drafthouse’s series dedicated to movies that inspired Knives Out. The program also includes Deathtrap (which is like Sleuth’s fraternal twin, with Caine stepping into something like the Olivier role) and Robert Altman’s magnificent Gosford Park, among others. It’s worth noting, too, that Sleuth is not the easiest movie to see, and this is a restored print from the Academy Film Archive which has only been run once before.

35mm |  INFO + TICKETS




dir. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn

Opens November 29 — Array

A bold single-take style fosters an exploration of the effects of trauma in this real-time story about two very different Indigenous women who spend an uneasy afternoon together. Pregnant 19-year old Rosie flees her abusive home life and is offered help by 30-something Áila (played by co-director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers). Theirs is not an easy pairing, as their different backgrounds and perspectives add tension to what began as a well-meaning intervention on Áila’s part. This is playing at distributor Array’s own space, a terrific new campus in Filipinotown with an intimate 50-seat screening room. Check Array’s page for a variety of screenings which will be followed by conversations with filmmakers Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn and star Violet Nelson.



dir. David Cronenberg

November 29, 2:00 PM – New Beverly Cinema

Considering how perceptive David Cronenberg has been about media and technology and their effect on human interaction (in films like Videodrome, The Fly, and Crash), of course he made the defining video game movie. eXistenZ seems, at first, like a baffling set of nested narratives, but ultimately becomes a commentary on all the weird factions and brand worship that define a significant section of the gaming community. Basically: Cronenberg made the Gamergate movie 15 years before that culture war kicked off — and since many of the tactics and camps of Gamergate have come to define the cultural-political landscape of 2019, eXistenZ might be among the director’s most important films.



dir. Toshiya Fujita

December 4, 7:30 PM – Arclight Hollywood

At birth, Yuki Kashima is charged with avenging the many injustices endured by her mother. She goes about this task with limb-severing gusto, which makes for Grand Guignol entertainment that has influenced many filmmakers, most notably Quentin Tarantino. But Lady Snowblood is focused on a lot more than the visual allure of violence, and this is a film in which revenge is not nearly as simple as striking down the people who have done wrong: It is a revenge movie crafted as a stark, gory tragedy.



dir. Penelope Spheeris

December 6, 11:59 PM – Nuart Theatre

Mid-’80s teen killer movies with a strong musical influence (a sub-sub-genre that Netflix should include in the ol’ algorithm) are typically represented by River’s Edge. Penelope Spheeris’s The Boys Next Door also deserves to be a standard-bearer. This grim crime story has a matter-of-fact style that lends an air of uncomfortable authenticity to the violent actions of two just-graduated young men. The lead performances from Maxwell Caulfield and Charlie Sheen are among each actor’s best, working in concert with Spheeris to make the malcontent outsiders interesting without demanding unjustified sympathy.


September 27, 2019: Martin Scorsese + Roger Corman & All-Night Horror Marathons

Once each week, Marquee L.A. highlights exceptional films, screenings, and film events in the Greater Los Angeles area. Click here to sign up for future email newsletters.
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All-Night Horror Marathons

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker

October 12, 19, and 26 at Dynasty Typewriter, New Beverly Cinema, and Aero Theatre

It’s that time of the year again! Three venues are prepping for Halloween with marathons of horror films. Two of the lineups — Reels From the Crypt at the Dynasty Typewriter on October 12 and the All-Night Horror Show at the New Bev on October 19 — are secret, but we know that Reels From the Crypt will be comprised entirely of horror anthologies, all projected on 16mm. That helps narrow down the field a bit.

The Aero, meanwhile, has made its lineup public. The October 26 program features Critters, Halloween II, Ruby, Lisa and the Devil, Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker, Demonoid, and The Crazies. All are on 35mm except for Lisa and the Devil. If past policies hold true, the Aero will have a standby line going throughout the night, for people who want to get into specific films. So if you can’t do the entire marathon, consider showing up at whatever ungodly hour in which Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker plays: That movie— which tracks a woman’s unhealthy love for her high school-age nephew, for whom she acts as guardian — is absolutely insane. It’s got an all-timer performance from Susan Tyrrell and an early turn from Bill Paxton.



dir. Joan Twekesbury

September 28 at 7:30 PM at the Aero Theatre

We mentioned Old Boyfriends when it played at the Billy Wilder back at the beginning of the year, but this presentation — on a new 35mm print — merits another mention. That’s because director Joan Tewkesbury and stars Talia Shire and Keith Carradine will be in attendance to discuss this road movie which tells the story of a psychiatrist (Shire) dealing with her own identity by reconnecting with three former flames. The new print might also be a good showcase for the score by David Shire, who was married to Talia when they made the film.



dir. Andrew Patterson

September 30 at 3 PM at the The Huluween Theatre at the Egyptian

This free Beyond Fest screening, a new micro-budget thriller in the mold of original Twilight Zone episodes, is the debut movie from filmmaker Andrew Patterson. It follows two teens — a switchboard operator and a radio DJ — who live in a very small town in 1950s New Mexico. Despite not having the budget to visualize an extraterrestrial encounter, the director depicts the characters’ interaction with aliens via an inventive sonic palette and superb production design, not to mention a particularly well-executed mid-movie tracking shot.

ZODIAC (2007)

dir. David Fincher

October 1-3 at 7:30 PM at the New Beverly Cinema

When it’s all said and done, Zodiac could well be David Fincher’s greatest film, as it captures the frustrations, dead-ends and psychological damage of pursuing a years-long murder investigation, with the sort of detail typically reserved for modern television productions. (In that respect, it is a stylistic prelude to Fincher’s two-season Netflix procedural Mindhunter.) The New Beverly ran two sellout matinees of Zodiac on Labor Day, so we’re happy to see it get a few more nights on the big screen.


dir. Martin Scorsese

October 2 at 9:00 PM at the Alamo Drafthouse DTLA

Martin Scorsese’s second dramatic feature is a Roger Corman production with Barbara Hershey and David Carradine (yep, we’re going for two Carradine pictures this week) starring as a doomed criminal couple in the Depression-era South. What might have been an exploitative knock-off of Bonnie and Clyde becomes something more, thanks to Scorsese’s intuitive understanding of character and tone. It doesn’t always look and feel like the movies the director would make soon after, but one could argue that he might not have pulled off Mean Streets two years later without going through the Corman school of down-and-dirty filmmaking.


THE OUTLAW (1943/1946)

dir. Howard Hughes & Howard Hawks (uncredited)

October 5 at 1:30 PM at the Autry Museum of the American West



dir. Charles Crichton / Fred Schepisi, Robert Young

October 6 at 7:30 PM at the Aero Theatre

The Aero celebrates the 50th anniversary of Monty Python with a short series of screenings, including this “Python-adjacent” double bill. A Fish Called Wanda is more like an updated Ealing Studios comedy than a Python film — that’s because it is the final movie from director Charles Crichton, who made formative British comedies like Hue and Cry and The Lavender Hill Mob at the legendary London studio. Crichton developed the film with John Cleese, who wrote the script as his first solo screenwriting effort, although by all accounts Cleese was extraordinarily open to input from cast and crew. Regardless, we’re really pointing out this screening because Kevin Kline’s performance as a dumb and terminally insecure con man (which won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) is too good to pass up. Plays with a Blu-ray presentation of the serviceable but inferior spiritual sequel, Fierce Creatures.

35mm / Blu-ray | INFO + TICKETS

September 6, 2019: L.A.’s Best Genre Fest, and a 16mm Rarity

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Beyond Fest

Beyond Fest 600x200

September 25 – October 8 at the Egyptian Theatre

Beyond Fest returns for a 14-day run at the Egyptian. The genre and horror-heavy lineup boasts 39 feature films, including what for many L.A. audiences will be the first chance to see Bong Joon-ho’s amazing Parasite (a film which gets our unqualified endorsement) and Taika Waititi’s satire Jojo Rabbit. Elliott Gould will turn up for a showing of The Long Goodbye, and the fest has the first-ever theatrical screenings of Mooch Goes to Hollywood, a weirdo “dog becomes friends with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Vincent Price while trying to make it as an actor” not-classic.

A repertory program includes Jennifer’s Body, The Exorcist director’s cut, and Natural Born Killers, all with directors in the house. There are more esoteric choices, too, like Paganini Horror and The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. Richard Stanley’s new Color Out of Space — which adapts H.P. Lovecraft’s story of the same name with Nicolas Cage in one of the lead roles — also comes to L.A. straight from the Midnight Madness program at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, while Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Daniel Isn’t Real and Judy & Punch by Mirrah Foulkes also migrate to the city from other successful festival runs. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and if past years are any indication, high-profile events will sell out quickly.




dir. Ann Hui

September 15 at 6:00 PM at the Bootleg Theater

The Projections group specializes in presenting 16mm prints of films that can’t easily be found on home media or streaming (if at all) such as Joseph Pevney’s Shakedown and the magnificent Les jeux sont faits, from 1947. The group’s next presentation is Ann Hui’s rarely-seen autobiographical / generational drama, based on the filmmaker’s own relationship with her mother. Hui is no fool: She cast the luminous Maggie Cheung in the role inspired by herself. The actress plays Hong Kong-born Cheung Hueyin, whose relationship with her Japanese mother is strained by layers of cultural and political friction. We have to wonder if the success of this year’s The Farewell helped influence this programming choice, which is presented in conjunction with Vidiots and LACMA. Plays with Daniel Barnett’s 1978 short The Chinese Typewriter.



dir. Charles Burnett

September 7 at 10:30 AM at the Vista Theatre

We try not to write up the same films more than once in the span of a year, but, yes, we did highlight Killer of Sheep back in January. However, this is a 35mm presentation of Charles Burnett’s incredible network of vignettes set in and around South Central Los Angeles. To repeat: “Superficially, it looks like the photography of Robert Frank, feels like the minimalism of Robert Bresson, and sounds like the pop-soundtracked movies of Martin Scorsese. But Killer of Sheep, shot in the early ‘70s and never commercially distributed until 2007, is wholly unique.”



dir. René Clément

September 7 at 4:00 PM at the Aero Theatre

René Clément’s sensual, ultra-cool film is one of several adaptations of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. Depending upon which version of the story you encountered first, it might rank as the best. Certainly, with Alain Delon in his first major role as murderous social grifter Tom Ripley, there’s every reason to be seduced by this version — even with an ending that is a bit too soft to stand up to Highsmith’s original plotting.


dir. Thomas Ince / Unknown

September 12 at 7:00 PM at the Ray Stark Family Theatre, USC

Two short films produced by Tom Cochrane in 1911 are presented as an intro to discussion of the book The Cochrane Brothers and the Making of Universal Pictures. Cochrane made these movies in Cuba after fleeting the controlling hand of the Thomas Edison Trust, as Edison aggressively tried to stamp out competing production outfits such as Cochrane and Carl Laemmle’s Independent Motion Picture Company, which eventually morphed into the first incarnation of Universal Pictures. Mary Pickford starred in Artful Kate prior to her work with D.W. Griffith and eventual superstardom.


dir. Satoshi Kon

September 13 at 7:30 PM at the Aero Theatre

Outside of occasional dalliances with Akira and the films of Hayao Miyazaki, most L.A. theaters leave anime to the big chains and Fathom Events. So the Aero’s September program, featuring a sort of get-acquainted greatest hits package of anime highlights, is a welcome sight. Every film in this lineup is excellent (fair warning: we’ll talk about Grave of the Fireflies next week) but this program, with two of the late filmmaker Satoshi Kon’s four features, is really the special one. You won’t see anything else like Perfect Blue, which whips ideas about celebrity and identity into a swirl of narrative hallucinations and graphic slasher violence.


August 30, 2019: See the greatest film trilogy of the ’90s

Once each week, Marquee L.A. highlights exceptional films, screenings, and film events in the Greater Los Angeles area. Click here to sign up for future email newsletters.

BLUE (1993) / WHITE (1994) / RED (1994)

Three Colors Red 600x200

dir. Krzysztof Kieślowski

September 8 at 5:00 PM at the Egyptian Theatre

The stories of the Three Colors trilogy sound unassuming enough. A woman (Juliette Binoche) comes to terms with difficult truths after the deaths of her husband and daughter. A wronged man (Zbigniew Zamachowski) returns home from France to Poland, where he plots revenge against his arsonist ex-wife. A woman (Irene Jacob) hits a dog with her car, which leads to an encounter with a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who has dedicated himself to quiet, God-like observation of the lives around him.

And yet it is mystifying that the three final films by Krzysztof Kieślowski, which are among the greatest movies of the 1990s, are not more consistently honored. (In truth, they’re among the best films, period.) Perhaps that’s because Blue, White, and Red, which follow heartbroken characters down intense emotional pathways, do not appear from the outside to be as funny, engaging, and dynamic as they are. This series is bound together, barely, by theme. Each film represents a virtue of the French tri-color: Liberty, equality, and fraternity. Ultimately, the true unifying factor is humanity. The patient and ultimately optimistic Kieślowski allows his characters to expand and grow in ways that are not forced by formula or expectation. All three films are visually striking; each is as rich and surprising as a genuine life, lived fully. (This program plays as part of a Kieślowski retrospective at the Egyptian Theatre.)

35mm/35mm/DCP | INFO + TICKETS


Shin Godzilla 600x200

dir. Hideaki Anno

September 1 at 10:30 AM at the Vista Theatre

Leave it to Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno to dream up one of the most unique kaiju movies ever made. Shin Godzilla takes place primarily in government board rooms as a panicked and paralyzed bureaucracy stalls while trying to deal with the landfall of a massive creature. As the monster evolves into something that looks more or less like the Godzilla we know, the Japanese government struggles to formulate a plan of attack while also coordinating with an increasingly worried international community. Despite being visually matter-of-fact when the creature is not on screen, Shin Godzilla is riveting and blackly funny. It’s the only Godzilla film, other than the original, to feel genuinely new.



dir. Issa López

Now Playing at the Alamo Drafthouse DTLA, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Noho 7 and Playhouse 7

We came to this movie late, but fortunately its Los Angeles run has been extended before it moves to stream on Shudder in September. Issa López’s film follows a group of children who are orphaned by cartel violence in a Mexican city, as they confront human monsters and ghosts which may be more literal than figurative. López tells a very adult story without losing sight of her characters as children, and in doing so puts this film in the company of Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone and Victor Erice’s magnificent The Spirit of the Beehive. Also opens at the Laemmle Music Hall and at Arena Cinelounge on September 6, may be playing at other L.A. theaters as well.



dir. Takashi Miike

August 30 at 11:59 PM at the Vista Theatre

There was a point when prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike’s breakneck filmmaking pace was matched only by his total fearlessness with respect to ideas. That’s how The Happiness of the Katakuris — a remake of Kim Jee-woon’s more conventional thriller The Quiet Family — came into being. This musical con artist comedy features claymation sequences and a plot driven by murder and suicide, all wrapped in a brightly-colored coating. It’s an absurd movie, which often feels like a late-night session of channel-flipping (that metaphor might be totally useless in 2019), but there’s just enough internal logic to string together the increasingly bizarre setpieces.


dir. Stanley Nelson

Opens August 30 at the The Landmark

There are a great many films about him, but no film yet approaches iconoclastic trumpeter Miles Davis in a way that mirrors his work. Where’s the Miles version of Bob Dylan film I’m Not There by Todd Haynes? Regardless, while this straightforward documentary doesn’t break ground from a storytelling perspective, it is an exhaustive chronicle of the musician’s stormy life, his creative spirit, and his inexhaustible allure. Even die-hards will likely be surprised by a few things here.


dir. Dennis Hopper

September 7 at 7:30 PM at the Ahrya Fine Arts

We’ll likely see more Peter Fonda films pop up on the calendar soon in the wake of his August 16 passing. (May we humbly request The Limey, Nadja, and Fonda’s own directorial debut, The Hired Hand?) The obvious place to start when revisiting Fonda’s career, however, is Easy Rider. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen this counterculture road movie, you might think of it primarily as a watershed moment in the business and culture of Hollywood. In that case, now is a good time to be reminded of the film’s vivid vision of America — one which has a renewed relevance. Also plays the Aero on September 29.