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February 2011 Film Calendar

Block Cinema winter films toast director Roger Corman, art, comedy and cult classics

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January 24, 2011 | by Judy Moore
February's film schedule will feature Scorsese’s “Boxcar Bertha”; Penelope Spheeris’ “Suburbia” (Pictured); and Ron Howard’s “Grand Theft Auto."

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Block Cinema is screening two new and two continuing film series and hosting special film events this winter. The series are titled The Roger Corman Film School, Twentieth Century Fox Fridays, Art on Screen and Revivals and Rediscoveries.

Films are screened in the James B. Pick and Rosalyn M. Laudati Auditorium at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum.

Unless otherwise noted, general admission to Block Cinema screenings is $6 or $4 for Block Museum members, Northwestern faculty, staff and students with a WildCARD, other students with a valid school ID and seniors 65 and older. Season passes are $20. Tickets are available one hour before showtime. For more information, call the Block Cinema Hotline at (847) 491-4000 or visit the Block Cinema website at www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema.

WINTER 2011 FILM SERIES

The Roger Corman Film School series celebrates the legacy of producer, writer, director and actor Roger Corman, who also has been a mentor to an incredible roster of young American filmmakers. Block Cinema will present a series of films produced by Corman and directed by Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich, among others. February will feature Scorsese’s “Boxcar Bertha” (Feb. 3); Penelope Spheeris’ “Suburbia” (Feb. 10, free); and Ron Howard’s “Grand Theft Auto” (Feb. 17, free).

The Twentieth Century Fox Fridays series features new 35 mm prints of well-known classics and underappreciated gems made during the studio’s heyday, including Howard Hawks’ “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” (Feb. 4) and Nicholas Ray’s “Bigger Than Life” (Feb. 18).

The continuing Art on Screen series includes documentaries focusing on important art and artists. Among them are “Secret Museums” (March 4), which uncovers hidden collections of erotic art, and the Chicago premiere of the award-winning “Waste Land” (March 11), about contemporary artist Vik Muniz’s work with an underprivileged community in Brazil.

The ongoing Revivals and Rediscoveries series features rare classic films worthy of a second look. To complement the Block Museum’s winter 2011 Main Gallery exhibition “Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England” (open to the public through March 13), Block Cinema will present two free Saturday matinees of films set during this period, including (Feb. 12, free) “Kitty” (1945), an Oscar-nominated film starring Paulette Goddard as a cockney lass catapulted into high society when the artist Thomas Gainsborough paints her portrait, and (Feb. 26, free) “Becky Sharp” (1935), a stunning early Technicolor film based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” and starring Miriam Hopkins.

FEBRUARY 2011 FILMS

The Roger Corman Film School, “Boxcar Bertha,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3 (Martin Scorsese, 1972, United States, 35 mm, 88 minutes). “Boxcar Bertha” tells the story of free-spirited Bertha Thompson (Barbara Hershey) and her lover as they fight against a corrupt railway company. The film is often dismissed as mere exploitation or a cheap knock-off of “Bonnie and Clyde,” but “Boxcar Bertha” not only taps into the anti-capitalist rhetoric of the 1930s, it’s also notable for the director’s recurring themes, including the humane portrayal of outlaws.

Twentieth Century Fox Fridays, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4 (Howard Hawks, 1953, United States, 35 mm, 91 minutes). Howard Hawks fills this bombastic musical with enough color, choreography and quirk to dazzle audiences of any decade. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell star as a pair of adventurous showgirls (Lorelei and Dorothy) living it up on a transatlantic cruise. The plot throws the vacationing duo a screwball when Lorelei’s fiance hires a private investigator to keep tabs on his flirtatious bride-to-be. Monroe’s iconic musical number, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” is among the film’s highlights.

The Roger Corman Film School, “Suburbia,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10 (Penelope Spheeris, 1983, United States, 94 minutes). Led by a cast of non-professionals and musicians, “Suburbia” is set against the backdrop of Los Angeles’s punk scene in the early 1980s, as seen through the eyes of Evan and his little brother Ethan, who flee their alcoholic mother and join a street gang. Director Penelope Spheeris (who later found commercial success with “Wayne’s World”) drew upon her knowledge of the Southern California punk scene. Spheeris’ keen sense of urban youth results in a compelling portrayal of alienated kids on the margins in Reagan’s America. Admission is free.

Twentieth Century Fox Fridays, “The Hustler,” 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11 (Robert Rossen, 1961, United States, 35 mm, 134 minutes). Paul Newman plays “Fast” Eddie Felson, a pool shark whose brilliant stick skills are matched only by the strength of his inner demons. Eddie grinds through dingy halls and bars, winning small payoffs while taking dangerous bets, all in the hopes of landing a showdown with Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). He also begins a tortured romance with Sarah, an alcoholic given wounded grace by Piper Laurie’s remarkably sensitive portrayal. “The Hustler” remains a bracing investigation of characters driven to self-destruction but searching desperately for reasons to hang on.

Revivals and Rediscoveries, “Kitty,” 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 (Mitchell Leisen, 1945, United States, 35 mm, 104 minutes). Paulette Goddard plays the title role in this loose adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” Kitty is a petty but pretty thief until the painter Thomas Gainsborough discovers her. After sitting for a Gainsborough portrait, Kitty attracts the attention of her social betters and begins climbing the ranks of Georgian England’s upper class. Though rarely seen and unavailable on video, “Kitty” features Oscar-nominated art direction and elaborate, historically accurate costumes. Presented in an archival print courtesy of the British Film Institute. Admission is free.

The Roger Corman Film School, “Grand Theft Auto,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17 (Ron Howard, 1977, United States, 84 minutes). When your rich parents disapprove of your fiance, what’s the best thing to do? Steal their Rolls Royce and elope in Las Vegas. “Grand Theft Auto” is a testament to Corman’s legacy as mentor. Corman gave aspiring filmmaker Ron Howard his first crack at directing. The film also perfectly demonstrates the exploitation formula that has sustained Corman’s career for more than 60 years: start with a well-established genre -- the car chase film -- and kick it into overdrive. Admission is free.

Twentieth Century Fox Fridays, “Bigger Than Life,” 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18  (Nicholas Ray, 1956, United States, 35 mm, 95 minutes). Stylish and subversive, Ray’s domestic melodrama stars James Mason as Ed Avery, a suburban milquetoast diagnosed with a rare and seemingly fatal disease. Enter cortisone, a miracle drug that gives Ed his life back -- for a price. As addiction and drug-induced megalomania gnaw at Ed’s sanity and relationships, the dark side of better living through chemistry becomes all too clear. Ray and cinematographer Joseph MacDonald’s expressionist horror movie aesthetic -- looming shadows and anxiety-inducing angles -- make full and striking use of the CinemaScope lens.

Twentieth Century Fox Fridays, “Wild River,” 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25 (Elia Kazan, 1960, United States, 35 mm, 110 minutes). “Wild River” stars Montgomery Clift as an idealistic Tennessee Valley Authority administrator dispatched to rural Appalachia to convince an elderly woman to leave her family homestead before the land is flooded. As tensions rise between the locals and the federal government, Clift’s administrator finds himself falling for the old woman’s widowed granddaughter (Lee Remick). Overlooked by general audiences upon release, this film remains an underappreciated gem from one of Hollywood’s most iconic directors.

Revivals and Rediscoveries, “Becky Sharp,” 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26 (Rouben Mamoulian, 1935, United States, 35 mm, 84 minutes). Upon its release, “Becky Sharp” was at least the sixth screen adaptation of Thackeray’s classic novel “Vanity Fair,” but it was also the first feature-length film to exclusively use three-strip Technicolor. The film’s vibrant color is perfectly suited for this incisive comedy of manners, which tells the story of Becky (Miriam Hopkins), a cunning striver who exploits her feminine wiles to gain entry into the upper crust of early 19th-century English society. “Becky Sharp” is presented in a restored archival print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive with film preservation funded by the Film Foundation. Admission is free.