The Cine-Files

, by Gus Spelman,

They say this is the most wonderful time of the year. That may be true when it comes to family, food, presents, and presents, but the maxim rarely holds for movies. Unfortunately, December tends to be the dumping ground for films whose sole soulless purpose is either winning Oscars or getting cold families into warm theaters. Pretentious “high-brow” fare like Blue Valentine (NC-17, selling its risqué rating as a piece of art), inane children’s movies like Yogi Bear (with Justin Timberlake as the voice of Boo Boo), and big name blockbusters like The Tourist (with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, “The two sexiest people alive, finally together!”) take up most of the screens. Very few of Hollywood’s holiday offerings show hints of promise—maybe Black Swan, True Grit, The Fighter, Tron: Legacy (shut up, I really want to see it)—but even these seem poised to disappoint.

But never fear! The film series is here with three great movies guaranteed to beat anything you’ll see in theaters this break. These films perfectly complement your wintry frame of mind, from the cold distance of Robocop to the bleak and white despair of Throne of Blood. And they’re short, all coming in at under two hours! So get a cozy study break together in the Goldsmith this week and let the light from the projector warm you for one last time in 2010.


1987. USA. Dir: Paul Verhoeven. With Peter Weller, Nancy Allen. 102 minutes. TOMORROW, Dec. 8, 8 p.m., $5.

In the future, Detroit is apparently a really crappy place to live. Plagued by crime and in complete financial ruin, the city decides to outsource its law enforcement to a private corporation, Omni Consumer Products, who have exciting new ideas about using robots and cyborgs programmed with three prime directives—“To serve the public trust. To protect the innocent. To uphold the law.”—and, of course, one additional secret directive that the private company won’t tell anyone about. Finally, we can all feel safe.

Film Studies Department Open House

One hour. THURSDAY, Dec. 9, 8 p.m., FREE.

The Open House is always one of my favorite events. First of all, they have really yummy cookies. Second, it’s a great chance to meet and talk more casually with the professors. But best of all, they play old senior thesis films. This time, we’re showing three films from the last two years which used the tools of cinema to illustrate the border between reality and fantasy: Ting Liu’s “Passion, Fruit,” Ted Feldman’s “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and Tyler Byrne’s “Extension.” When I was first considering the film major, watching awesome senior theses from the recent past totally sold me on the program. Now that I’m working on my own thesis film, I want to go back to the good ones for inspiration. But whether you’re a freshman or a senior, there will still be cookies. So you should probably go.


1993. USA. Dir: Henry Selick. With Danny Elfman’s voice. Animated. 76 minutes. FRIDAY, Dec. 10, 8 p.m., $5.

What’s this?! A Tim Burton movie not directed by Tim Burton, and all the better for it, in my opinion. Burton has a great imagination and a cool visual sense, but with a few notable exceptions (Batman Returns, 1992; Beetlejuice, 1988), I think his movies tend to be clunky and heavy handed. With this film, though, Burton focused his attention in front of the lens, on the beautiful, creepily-crafted world of Halloweentown, and let someone with a subtler, cleaner touch sit behind the camera. The result, accompanied by one of Danny Elfman’s best and most original scores, is one of the most beloved Christmas movies of the last 20 years.

—Pick of the week!—


1957. Japan. Dir: Akira Kurosawa. With Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura. 110 minutes. SATURDAY, Dec. 11, 8 p.m., FREE.

I’m going to make what might seem an outlandish statement, but I promise you, it’s not: This is the best performance or adaptation of Shakespeare ever to be put on film. That’s right. Including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Kurosawa truly found a way to take the bard’s language and turn it into images, to take the poetry and make it move before our eyes. Starring Mifune as the weak, raging, haunted Macbeth, this samurai epic will blow you back to English class with a final scene that I would sell my soul to see in 3D.

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