You'll have heard that Martin Scorsese, 67, and Roman Polanski, 76, both happen to have new movies in theaters this weekend. The entries have been off and running since the premieres at the Berlinale: Shutter Island and The Ghost Writer, and therein you'll find a few critics riffing on the coincidence, comparisons and contrasts. As for what else is opening, let's start first with various local scenes, beginning with the west coast, sweeping eastward and eventually skipping across the Atlantic.
If you're in Los Angeles, Dennis Cozzalio has all your repertory action through February 24. To add just one more event, happening this weekend: "The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts is putting on a 3-day festival of films titled Contemporary Japanese Cinema: Outside, Elsewhere, In the World...," notes Chris MaGee at Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow.
Up to San Francisco: "This past weekend I spent a few hours at SFMOMA, enjoying the 75th anniversary show," blogs Michael Sippey. "I especially loved seeing Richter's Lesende, Diebenkorn's Ocean Park #54, the huge canvases from Sigmar Polke, and room-sized fridge from Matthew Barney. The piece I absolutely fell in love with, though, is Bruce Conner's new video projection piece, THREE SCREEN RAY."
"Seattle loves its noir," writes Sean Axmaker in the Stranger. "Seattle Art Museum's annual autumn Film Noir Series, at almost 30 years old, is the longest-running film-noir series in the world. And four years ago, Seattle welcomed the first road-show edition of [Eddie] Muller's San Francisco-based Noir City Film Festival (14 movies, all shown in 35 mm prints, in seven double bills over the course of a week). Unlike the Hollywood cliché, there is room in this town for both. They complement and supplement one another." Noir City: Lust and Larceny opens tonight and runs through Thursday.
"Stuart Sherman (1945 - 2001) is best known for his tabletop Spectacles, dramas performed by inanimate objects," notes the Chicago Reader's Ed M Koziarski. "But he was also a prolific film and video artist, many of his works portraits of friends from the New York art scene. Co-presented by Hopscotch Cinema, The Nightingale screens 25 of Sherman's films, made between 1977 and 1986, on Sunday 2/21."
Smashing the Rules: Films of Oshima Nagisa is the Austin Film Society's series of six films screening on six Tuesdays, beginning next week. Marc Savlov has an overview in the Chronicle.
Durham's Carolina Theatre stages the Nevermore Film Festival this weekend. For the Independent Weekly, Zack Smith presents "a tip sheet on some of the 23 films at this year's festival, which offer laughs, scares and even a Cusack."
Up to New York, where Film Comment Selects opens tonight and runs through March 4. The entry on that, covering the coverage, too, of Jessica Hausner's Lourdes, has been rolling since Wednesday.
IFC Center's Base Instincts: Verhoeven in the USA draws to a close this weekend with midnight screenings of Starship Troopers. David Phelps for the L Magazine: "That Verhoeven is the Verhoeven of Showgirls and Basic Instinct; the Verhoeven of Total Recall and Starship Troopers (and also Showgirls) seems closer to the hall of mirrors of Frank Tashlin [than Douglas Sirk's] incarnating capitalist fantasies as apocalyptic song-and-dance routines: both make an ass of a country's ideals simply by staging them in Platonic Form, as genre."
Michael Atkinson will be moderating a discussion with Bong Joon-ho on Thursday, February 25, at the Korea Society in New York. That same day, Monsters & Murderers: The Films of Bong Joon-ho opens at BAMcinématek (through March 1), featuring all his films, long and short, and two nights of Q&A. The director will then be heading to Cambridge for the Harvard Film Archive's series, Bong Joon-ho: The Pleasures and Terrors of Genre, running February 28 through March 6.
The HFA series that precedes that one is Night Visionary, Philippe Grandrieux's Adventures in Perception, running Sunday through February 27. Michael Atkinson in the Boston Phoenix: "An acquired taste in French cinema, Philippe Grandrieux is an abstractionist who does narrative features, a post-punk artiste as comfortable making Marilyn Manson music videos as he is war-zone documentaries. But his three major features... revel in a dangerous minimalism."
To London. Mat Collishaw has an exhibition opening next week at the BFI Southbank Gallery in response to the work of Sergei Paradjanov, which'll be screened from March 1 through 15. The BFI is presenting "the nearest-to-complete survey yet of the work of a rogue master."
While we're in the UK, by the way, Raoul Ruiz's new film, A Closed Book, is opening there this weekend. Adapting his own novel, Gilbert Adair's written the screenplay and the film features Tom Conti and Daryl Hannah. Short reviews: Xan Brooks (Guardian), Kevin Maher (Times) and Anthony Quinn (Independent).
Paris: Michael Ballhaus, cinematographer, most famously for Fassbinder and Scorsese, "is getting his due at the Cinémathèque française, in a retrospective that begins this week and runs until the end of February," notes Criterion's Current.
"Because they're crafted outside the Hollywood system, you might assume that this year's Oscar-nominated live-action and animated shorts stand in sharp defiance to conventional mainstream cinema," writes Tim Grierson in the Voice. "But the best of these 10 entries are, in some ways, the most familiar — their most radical element being that they operate in popular genres that usually don't get much Academy Award attention." More from Tim Appelo, Cindy Fuchs (Philadelphia City Paper), Robert Horton (Herald) and AO Scott (New York Times). Click here to find out when and where they'll be at a theater near you.
"In Happy Tears, a comedy about the unhappy topic of family dysfunction, the writer and director Mitchell Lichtenstein (Teeth) struggles to find the humor in a host of horrors, including encroaching parental dementia," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Unfortunately, to judge from the many awkwardly handled passages, Mr Lichtenstein does not possess the requisite filmmaking skill or certainly the delicacy, to balance the different, often jarringly contrasting moods, jokes and intimate revelations squeezed into this erratic, belabored movie." More from David Fear (Time Out New York), Noel Murray (AV Club), Nick Schager (Slant) and Ella Taylor (NPR).
"The 1970 murder of Henry 'Dickie' Marrow and the protests and resistance that flowed out of it into the streets of Oxford, NC, and the rest of the state, still packs a wallop 40 years later," writes Neil Morris, reviewing Blood Done Sign My Name in the Independent Weekly. "[F]or all its explosive content, [writer-director Jeb] Stuart's directorial presentation is as rudimentary as a made-for-TV movie, down to John Leftwich's stock musical score. All the de rigueur genre tropes — the Klan rally, the racist cops, the sporadic N-word — pop up on cue." The NYT's AO Scott finds it "a curious, somewhat ungainly movie. But it is also rich and fascinating." More from Sam Adams (AV Club), Melissa Anderson (Voice), Bill Weber (Slant) and Geoffrey Cheshire has background on the film's making in the NYT.
"Whatever suspense Julio DePietro's The Good Guy seems to think it's generating is predicated upon the supposedly surprising twist that its central Wall Street wannabe tycoon is not, in fact, a standup guy," writes Michael Koresky for indieWIRE. "Though all of the details of his cretinous behavior come as a slap in the face to the film's central looking-for-love character, Beth (Alexis Bledel), it's doubtful they'll pull the rug out from under any viewer who may have previously seen a film about hotshot traders fast-talking whilst pressing a phone to each ear — or indeed anyone who may have previously seen a film." More from Chuck Bowen (Slant), David Fear (TONY), Stephen Holden (NYT) and Ella Taylor (Voice). Aaron Hillis talks with Anna Chlumsky for IFC.
Andrew Grant in Time Out New York on The Last New Yorker: "An ode to the last remnants of a pregentrified New York, photographer-turned-filmmaker Harvey Wang's debut feature is visually sumptuous, and there's a subtlety in its depiction of the rapidly changing landscape. Yet Wang's geriatrics don't quite ring true as representatives of the Gotham that once was, and [Dominic] Chianese's scenery-chewing performance doesn't temper an outrageous take on contemporary city life. Still, The Last New Yorker offers not just a rare portrait of urban septuagenarians, but one without a hint of dewy-eyed nostalgia." More from Christian Blauveit (Slant), Aaron Hillis (Voice) and Stephen Holden (NYT).
"Whenever the filmmaker Cindy Kleine pondered her parents' quarrelsome, 59-year marriage, her most frequent thought was, 'What are they doing together?'" Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT: "Hoping that movie audiences would be equally inquisitive, Ms Kleine embarked on a 12-year journey through photographs and home movies, love letters and long-kept secrets to produce Phyllis and Harold, an impossibly self-involved portrait of a union far more commonplace than its offspring seem to believe." More from Andrew Schenker in Slant; and James van Maanen talks with Kleine.
Update, 2/24: "Aside from 'Ideas and Metaphors,'" writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice, "the signature attribute of Bong's three movies is a tendency to balance a scene between tragedy and farce, as when Park arrives at Memories' first crime scene to the traveling-shot chaos of underfoot kids and evidence-eroding tractors, or in the breast-beating mass wake of The Host (which later reprises Memories' best gag: pratfalling officials). Twiddling comedy and tragedy isn't unheard of — currently, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), if less relevant, is a hell of a lot funnier. But there is the sense — and this is rare enough — that Bong Joon-ho hasn't done his best work yet."
Updates, 2/25: Mike Hale on Bong Joon-ho in the New York Times: "From his first feature, Barking Dogs Never Bite, in 2000, he has done justice to the storytelling demands of a variety of genres — the paranoid thriller, the police procedural, the scary-monster movie — while wrapping them in his bone-dry, perfectly calibrated wit. For American audiences it’s an unusually friendly combination."
Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix: "In Mother, Bong synthesizes not only a host of generic conventions but also the elements unique to Bong himself: mentally disabled scapegoats, victimized women, bureaucratic stupidity, suspicious vagabonds, umbrellas. It's the finest work yet by a filmmaker who knows how to turn the toxins poisoning our lives into a figment of savage power and delight."
More from Steve Dollar for Paste.