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2019 Spring Cinema Series

Wednesday nights in the Carole L. Ellis Auditorium
SRJC Petaluma Campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway
Optional pre-film lecture at 6pm
Film screening at 7pm
Post-screening discussion until 10pm

Click here to view the trailers.

   

   

Jan 30:  GREEN BOOK


Peter Farrelly, 2018, USA

Convinced that he can change people’s hearts with his music, an accomplished Jamaican American musician (Mahershala Ali) hires a driver/bodyguard (Viggo Mortensen) to go on a concert tour in the Segregated South. His talkative and poorly mannered chaperon performs his duties well, but his lack of education, sensibility, and good manners are exasperating. Based on the real story of musician Don Shirley and his bodyguard Tony Vallelonga, Green Book is the first attempt of comedic writer/director Peter Farrelly at drama. As a result, his approach to a sensitive issue such as racism shows the same irreverent and icononocastic style previously used in his mainstream comedies (Dumb and Dumber or There’s Something About Mary)Winner of several awards including three Golden Globes for best screenplay, motion picture, and acting performance in a supporting role (Mahershala Ali). 130 mins.

   

   

   

   

Feb 6:  THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES

Lauren Greenfield, 2012, USA

Unaware of the imminent subprime mortgage crisis, David and Jackie Siegel decide to build a 90,000 square-foot house, modeled on the French palace of the title, because their current 26,000 square-foot mansion makes them feel “a little squeezed.” If this sounds like the thin premise of a comedy under development is because the events are not fictional and the drama is still developing. The Queen of Versailles is a documentary on the ambitions, lifestyle and eccentricities of the 1%, epitomized by the self-proclaimed “King of Time Share,” his queen Jackie, and the architectural monstrosity that they plan to erect. When the subprime mortgage crisis of 2018 hits home, Versailles is put on sale and the family embarks in the difficult project of cutting down expenses and adapting to a new lifestyle. At that point, what started as an exploitative look into the life of the rich becomes an allegory of the current status of the American Dream. In the pre-lecture professor Breck Withers will place the film in its historical and economic context. 100 mins.

   

   

   

   

Feb 13:  SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

Boots Riley, 2018, USA

Set in Oakland, in an alternative present, this original and inventive comedy tells the story of a young African-American telemarketer who uses a white accent to improve his sales. While the method proves to be successful, once he raises to the top of the company, he learns of the existence of a plan that offers lodging and food in return for a lifetime contract with no wages. Written and directed by Boots Riley, the front man of the Oakland funk-punk-soul collective The Coup, Sorry to Bother You is based on Riley’s experience as a telemarketer, telefundraiser and as political anti-corporate organizerWith Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Forest Whitaker, Danny Clover and Patton Oswalt. 105 mins.

   

   

Feb 20:  MATILDA

Danny DeVito, 1996, USA

Matilda (Mara Wilson) is a smart and kind little girl who can read books, newspapers, and make complex calculations at a very young age, but neither her self-absorbed mother (Rhea Perlman) nor her father (a shady car-dealer played by Danny De Vito) seem to be impressed by her skills. When they reluctantly allow her to go to school, Matilda makes many friends and finds the affection and the support that she never had in her teacher, Miss Honey (Embed Davidtz). Based on Roald Dahl’s eponymous children’s book, Matilda is one of the most charming, funny, and personal films directed by Danny DeVito (Hoffa, The War of the Roses, Throw Momma from the Train) and it features a wonderful music score by Academy Awards nominated composer David Newman. Join us at 6pm for a conversation with David Newman, covering the practice of film scoring, his personal journey into composition, and his long-time collaboration with director Denny Devito. 98 mins.

   

   

Feb 27:  A STAR IS BORN

Bradley Cooper, 2018, USA

In this fourth remake of A Star is Born, Bradly Cooper and Lady Gaga take up the roles previously played by Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, Judy Garland and James Mason, Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson—each generation has had its own version of the film. The story is similar (a famous, alcoholic man’s career fades right as the career of the woman he loves takes off) and the themes are the same (the myth of ambition, self-destruction, the unpredictability of fame, the cruelty of the starmaking machine). What distinguishes this version from the others is that the leading actor was not a professional singer and leading actress, despite a few small roles in television was not a professional actress. After months of vocal training for Cooper and method acting for Gaga, the two were able to sound like a professional singer and act like a seasoned actress respectively. A Star is Born also marks the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper, who manages to navigate the difficult waters of a classic’s remake with the skills of a consummate filmmaker. Winner of the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actress (Lady Gaga). 135 mins.

   

   

Mar 6:  REAR WINDOW

Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, USA

Recovering from an accident, professional photographer L. B. Jefferies (James Stewart) is confined to a wheelchair in his own apartment. His rear window looks out onto a courtyard and several other apartments, whose windows are open due to a powerful heat wave. Convinced that one of his neighbors (Raymond Burr) has murdered his own wife, he asks his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) to help him investigate the case. The film was shot entirely on a stage, where Hitchcock reconstructed an entire courtyard located in New York’s Greenwich Village. By confining the cameras in Jefferey’s apartment for the entire film, Hitchcock forces us to reflect on our condition as spectators in front of a movie: confined to a chair and spying, like peeping toms, on someone else’s narrative. 112 mins

   

   

Mar 13: GRAVITY

Alfonso Cuarón, 2013, USA

During a routine space walk, two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) find out that a rapidly expanding cloud of space debris is moving at high speed towards their shuttle and that they need to return to earth immediately. The shuttle is destroyed before they can re-enter it, and any communication to Mission Control is lost. Their only hope is to reach a space station located several miles away, before their oxygen reserve runs out. Director Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, Roma) conceived Gravity as a theme (adversity) and developed a few hypothetical scenarios with his son Jonas (who co-wrote the film), where human beings find a way to survive in hostile, isolated locations. The film took 4 years in post-production and cost $100 million.  Winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects. The film will be introduced by Astronomy professor Laura Sparks. 91 mins.

   

   

Mar 27:  ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER

Pedro Almodóvar, 1999, Spain

Manuela is a hospital worker and a single mother whose life is transformed by her son’s accidental death. Devastated, she decides to move to Barcelona, where she makes new friends and gets reacquainted with old friends, including a retired prostitute (Antonia San Juan), a pregnant nun (Penélope Cruz), a famous actress (Marisa Paredes) and her lover (Candela Peña).
Renown Spanish director Pedro Almodovar conceived this film as a tribute to women, actresses, mothers, “actresses who have played actresses, women who act, men who who act and become women,” and a homage to films and plays whose female protagonists have marked his adolescence. The outcome is a sincere and touching journey through the different aspects of femininity and womanhood and a heartfelt exploration of universal themes of strength, vulnerability, and solidarity. The film won several awards, including the Academy Award and the Gold Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. 101 mins.

   

   

Apr 3:  MULHOLLAND DRIVE

David Lynch, 2001, USA/France

Conceived by David Lynch as a television series entitled Mulholland Dr., the project found its first incarnation in a TV pilot that tells the story of a young aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Emily Watts) who meets an amnesiac woman named Rita (Laura Herring) who is recovering from a car crash. Rita has a large sum of money in her purse and a mysterious blue key.
When ABC executives asked Lynch how the story ended, the director replied that they would need to buy the pitch in order to find out. The pilot was dropped and Lynch expanded the script and added new characters and interconnected stories. Backed by the French production company StudioCanal, he shot the new sequences in 4 weeks. The result has been categorized as a neo-noir, mystery film, psychological thriller, and the ending has been debated and discussed by countless film and media scholars. And yet, the question of the aforementioned ABC executives is still largely unanswered. (Note: the screening of this film will start at 6:30pm). 147 mins

   

   

Apr 10:  MOONSTRUCK

Norman Jewison, 1987, USA

Loretta Castorini (Cher) is a repressed 37-year old widow engaged to a man she does not love named Johnny (Dennis Aiello). Before leaving for Sicily to visit his sick mother, Johnny asks Loretta to get in touch with his estranged brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage) and invites him to the wedding. The invitation is extended and Loretta and Ronny fall in love at first sight. On the backdrop of this love story Moonstruck paints the portrait of the Castorini family that survives all sorts of crises, extramarital affairs, and strengthens itself from one generation to the next.
Written by an Irish screenwriter as the story of an Irish-American family, Moonstruck owes most of its “Italian” charm to the remarkable performances of Armenian singer/actress Cher, Russian actor Feodor Chaliapin Jr, and Greek actress Olympia Dukakis. The most authentic Italian American aspect of the film might as well be a 10-second cameo of Charles and Catherine Scorsese entering a bakery, but the enduring popularity of the film as a quintessential Italian American Comedy is testament to Hollywood’s extraordinary ability to conjure out enchanting dreams and make them look more real than real. Winner of the Silver Bear for best director (Norman Jewison) at the Berlin Film Festival. Winner of two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for Best Actress (Cher) and Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis).  102 mins.

   

   

Apr 17:  MR. NOBODY

Jaco Van Dormael, 2009, USA

In 2092, when humanity has achieved quasi immortality through a process of renewal of cells, a 118-year old named Nemo is being interview as the last mortal on earth. In recollecting the past, Nemo remembers 3 critical moments of his life, when he had to make difficult choices. At each point an alternate life path is originated, each one including different parallel lives and realities. Director Jaco van Dormael (Toto the Hero, The Eighth Day, The Brand New Testament) employs an uncommon type of hypothetical narrative that can be partly found in films such as Run Lola Run, Sliding Doors and, to some extent, in Twin Peaks: The Return.  “The purpose,” states van Dormael “was to make the viewer feel the abyss of the infinity of possibilities. Beyond this, I wanted the gaze of the child on his future to meet the gaze of the old man he has become on his past.” The outcome is one of the most expensive experimental films about the different lives that a person could live, depending on the choices they make.
The film was originally released in the U.S. in a shorter version. We’ll be screening
 the original director’s cut version (156 minutes), starting at 6:30pm.

   

   

Apr 24:  SMALL TIME CROOKS

Woody Allen, 2000, USA

Ray, an ex-con (Woody Allen) and his manicurist wife Frenchy (Tracey Ullman) rent a pizza parlor so that they can dig a tunnel underneath and rob the bank next door, while Frenchy bakes cookies in the storefront. Ray’s burglary plan is a failure, but Frenchy’s cookie are a success with lines of people around the block. In less than a year, the business has turned into a nationwide franchise, and after furnishing their new penthouse with golden harps and oversized artwork, Frenchy feels that it is time that they joined the upper class. What starts as a comedy of ineptitude becomes an even funnier social satire thanks to the excellent performances of Tracy Ullman, Elaine May, and Elaine Stritch. Hailed by film critics as Woody Allen’s return to form, Small Time Crook was also his highest grossing film in North America since Crimes and Misdemeanors, released 11 years prior.  94 mins.

   

   

May 1:  THE GIRL ON THE BRIDGE

Patrice Leconte, 1999, France

Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) is a professional knife thrower who recruits his work human targets on a bridge fampus for the number of attempted suicides. As he explains to his latest recruit, Adèle (Vanessa Paradis) “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If you choose to work for me you’ll get an exciting job and free travels around the world. Should I make a mistake and hit you, you have nothing to lose that you had not already planned to lose before.” The collaboration between Adèle and Gabor quickly develops into a strong bond, essential to their performance. Between a casino, a circus, and a cruise, the pair travels through France, Italy, and Greece while keeping their relationship purely platonic. But when Adele decides to leave, they realize that their separation makes them not functional. French director Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire, Ridicule, The Hairdresser’s Husband) pins the two characters against an abstract, surreal backdrop, whose landscapes and the circensian images are reminiscent of Fellini’s early work. The film won several international awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Foreign Film. 90 mins.

   

   

May 8:  MODERN TIMES

Charles Chaplin, 1936, USA

Written and directed by Charles Chaplin, Modern Times is the last incarnation of the iconic “Little Tramp,” the character fleshed out by Chaplin in countless silent movie as a goodhearted, homeless man wearing baggy pants, a tight coat, a derby hat, and a large pair of shoes, who behaves with the dignity and the manners of a gentleman of a higher social status. Indelibly associated with Chaplin’s pantomimes, the Tramp had become an “international character” which would have never survived a transition to synchronized dialogue, so Chaplin shot, edited, and released Modern Times as a sound film, with synchronized music and sound effects, in which the tramp and the main characters pantomime their actions, for the last time, and where synchronized dialogue is used only for characters who control the industrialized, automatized world of a modern factory via security cameras, screens, and machines that spy on their workers and automatize their activities to increase production. In such a world, the tramp struggles to keep a job or stay out of jail, but he manages to keep his dignity and optimism, convinced that there is a bright future ahead. In order to tell the story. Modern Times remains one of the highest achievements in the art of visual/silent narration. 87 mins

   

   

May 15:  WALL•E

Andrew Stanton, 2008, USA

In a dystopian future where the planet earth has been abandoned and turned into a gigantic dumpster, a forgotten trash compactor robot continues to perform the job he had originally been programmed to do. When he is visited by Eva, a probe sent by the starship Axiom, he falls in love at first sight. Since the characters communicated primarily through sounds and facial expressions, the film relies extensively on pantomime and on the art of  visual/silent type of narration developed during Silent Cinema. It is inspired by the work of Buster Keaton, Harold Llloyd, Charles Chaplin (Modern Times in particular) and many other silent comedies of the late 1920s. Winner of the Golden Globe, nominated for five Academy Awards, winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. 98 mins.