Thursday, February 23, Nitehawk Cinema, 136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave., 718-384-3980, 9:30
Monday, February 27, Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn, 445 Albee Square West, 718-513-2547, 7:00
If you’re like us, you can’t watch a movie without identifying many of the actors who have small roles, familiar faces you’ve seen in films and old television series but who rarely get their names in the opening credits. You then scan the closing credits, trying to confirm their appearance. Kevin Maher will explore that phenomenon with two editions of “Kevin Geeks Out About Character Actors.” Among those who come up in the trailers for the February 23 show at Nitehawk and the February 27 show at the Alamo Drafthouse are Elisha Cook Jr., Jack Elam, Robert Morley, Tiny Lister Jr., Taylor Negron, Paul Dooley, Billy Barty, Timothy Carey, and Alice Nunn; if most or all of those names mean something to you, then this is the program for you. Maher, who geeks out about something monthly — past geek-outs have delved into space operas, super villains, Nazi zombies, holiday specials, and the apocalypse — will be joined at Nitehawk by Tanya Smith, Sonya Moore, Ryan Gabos, James Hancock, and Adam Howard and at the Alamo by Ryan Arey, Cristina Cacioppo, Caroline Golum, Bob Satuloff, and Andy Webb. While those names might not ring a bell, here’s some more character actors who might be part of these discussions: Michael Berryman, Zelda Rubinstein, Pete Postlethwaite, Margaret Hamilton, Gerrit Graham, Joan Cusack, Jon Polito, René Auberjonois, and Curtis Armstrong.
WEEKEND CLASSICS: THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (Jason Reitman, 2006)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
February 24-26, 11:00 am
Series continues weekends through April 2
Jason Reitman, the son of producer-director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Dave), made his sparkling feature-film debut with the brilliant Thank You for Smoking, a devilishly delightful black comedy based on the novel by acerbic wit Christopher Buckley. Aaron Eckhart gives a riotous performance as Nick Naylor, a fast-talking, handsome, smarmy lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a Big Tobacco laboratory that, remarkably, cannot find a link between cigarettes and health risks. A master of spin, Naylor seems to even believe himself when he tells a young boy dying of cancer that he’s better off smoking. As a grandstanding senator (William H. Macy) plans congressional hearings on the evils of tobacco — especially on teenagers — Naylor is being groomed as the industry’s savior by his high-strung boss (J. K. Simmons) and the Captain (Robert Duvall) while trying to establish a meaningful relationship with his son (Cameron Bright). The fine ensemble also features Katie Holmes as a hot young reporter who’ll go to virtually any length to get a story; Sam Elliott as the Marlboro Man, who is dying of lung cancer; Rob Lowe as a Zen-like Hollywood agent who is considering Naylor’s idea of making cigarette smoking cool in the movies again; and Dennis Miller and Joan Lunden as themselves, adding a bit of reality to the hysterical situation, which might not be as far off from the truth as we might think, especially with President Donald Trump recently promising to enact a ban preventing administration members from becoming lobbyists for five years after they leave government service.
Among the funniest scenes in this wicked film are Naylor’s weekly meetings with the M.O.D. Squad (the Merchants of Death), as the lobbyists for the alcohol (Maria Bello), tobacco (Eckhart), and firearms (David Koechner) industries playfully call themselves. The film is produced by David O. Sacks, who amassed his fortune when he sold his Internet baby, PayPal, to eBay in 2002 and headed straight for Hollywood. Sacks also makes a cameo as an oil lobbyist. The talented Reitman has gone on to make such films as Juno and Up in the Air, earning himself two Oscar nominations for Best Director. Thank You for Smoking is screening in a 35mm print February 24-26 at 11:00 am in the IFC Center Weekend Classics series “Autocratic for the People: An Unpresidented Series of Star-Spangled Satires,” which continues through April 2 with such other political mockeries, parodies, spoofs, and lampoons as Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, and Andrew Fleming’s Dick.
PHILIP GLASS 80th BIRTHDAY CONCERT SEASON
Composer and pianist extraordinaire Philip Glass, master of “music with repetitive structures,” turned eighty on January 31, and he is celebrating the milestone with a series of special performances in his longtime hometown of New York City. At National Sawdust in Brooklyn, “Philip @ 80” will feature the Complete Piano Etudes by Maki Namekawa on February 24 ($35-$40, 7:00); Bridging the Gap III, consisting of works by Paola Prestini, John Zorn, and Glass performed by cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, bassist Trevor Dunn, percussionist Ches Smith, and Yale School of Music students on March 5 ($29-$34, 7:00), with panel discussions moderated by Steve Smith; and Glass teaming up with Foday Musa Suso and Ziegler on March 12 ($50-$60, 7:00). On March 16 at Carnegie Hall ($35-$200), artistic director Glass will be the focus at the thirtieth annual Tibet House U.S. Benefit Concert, with performances by Laurie Anderson, Ben Harper, Iggy Pop, Alabama Shakes, Sufjan Stevens, Patti Smith and Her Band, the Scorchio Quartet, Tenzin Choegyal and Jesse Paris Smith, and New Order’s Bernard Sumner, Tom Chapman, and Phil Cunningham. And on April 20, the Tribeca Film Festival will host a screening of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête with Glass’s live score performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble. In addition, Glass has been selected to hold the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall for the 2017–18 season, which will feature many classics and premieres.
THE HURT LOCKER (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Sunday, February 19, 4:00 & 8:45
Series runs February 18 - March 1
Metrograph is getting ready for the Academy Awards by screening some of its favorite Best Picture champs, beginning February 18 with Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, followed February 19 by Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. Based on embedded journalist Mark Boal’s experiences in Iraq, The Hurt Locker follows a three-member Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit as they are called in to defuse a series of dangerous situations involving various kinds of bombs, including IEDs and other life-threatening explosive devices. Team leader Will James (Jeremy Renner) is an expert bomb defuser and maverick who doesn’t follow protocol and likes to live on the edge. Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) is a greenhorn who just wants to survive the last forty days of their rotation. And Sgt. J. T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) likes to go by the book and take no unnecessary chances, which puts him in constant conflict with the unpredictable James. Recalling the second half of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam drama Full Metal Jacket, The Hurt Locker unfolds in a series of harrowing set pieces in which the EOD unit is called in to either safely detonate or defuse explosive devices while under the eyes of local Iraqis, any of whom could potentially be the bomber or a sniper.
Director Kathryn Bigelow (Blue Steel, Point Break) masterfully builds suspense scene after scene, beginning with the edge-of-your-seat opener through to the gripping conclusion. The experiences of the EOD unit serve as a microcosm for modern warfare in general and the U.S. involvement in the Middle East specifically, placing viewers in the midst of a tense, bitter, psychologically and emotionally draining battle that can never be won. The outstanding cast also features Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly in small roles; many of the Iraqis were played by actual war refugees. Shot in Jordan not far from the Iraq border, The Hurt Locker is a remarkable story, one of the best war films of the young century. Nominated for nine Academy Awards and winner of six (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing), The Hurt Locker is screening February 19 at 4:00 and 8:45 in the Metrograph series “Oscar: Our Favorite Best Picture Winners,” which continues with such other great flicks as Federico Fellini’s La Strada, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, and John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy.
“When you create a story about yourself that’s based on a lie about who you are and who your family is, sooner or later it’s bound to be revealed,” political journalist Anne Applebaum says at the beginning of Joseph Martin and Sam Blair’s engrossing documentary, Keep Quiet. “Who are we really?” In 2012, Csanád Szegedi was a terrifying young star in Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, one of the founders of the paramilitary, pro-Nazi, nationalist Hungarian Guard, rising to election to the European Parliament on the strength of a resurgent, virulent anti-Semitism. “I wanted everyone to believe in the world as I saw it,” he says in the film. “Anti-Semitism and discrimination of Jews was a powerful motivation.” But it all came crumbling down when the public heard an audio recording of the young leader’s phone conversation with disgruntled Jobbik party member Zoltán Ambrus, who tells Szegedi that his family is actually Jewish. At first Szegedi refuses to believe it, but soon his maternal grandmother is admitting to him that she is indeed a Holocaust survivor, with a number tattooed on her arm and memories of the camps.
Martin (Win a Baby, Scientologists at War) and Blair (Personal Best, Maradona ’86) detail how Szegedi dealt with this dramatic revelation as the conflicted man shares his innermost thoughts, meets with Orthodox Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, and travels to Auschwitz with Holocaust survivor Eva “Bobby” Neumann. He undergoes a radical transformation that not everyone trusts as the film explores who we are, the impact of where we come from, and whether blood trumps all. Keep Quiet is particularly relevant in a world that is experiencing yet another frightening rise in anti-Semitism, especially in Europe. Martin and Blair also delve into Hungary’s history with the Jews, and it’s not a very pleasant one. The film gets to the very heart of the matter, examining the nature of religious hatred in one man who reevaluates everything he believes in when the tables are suddenly turned. Keep Quiet, which features a beautiful score by cellist and composer Philip Sheppard, was shown in the World Documentary Competition at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and is opening theatrically February 17 at Lincoln Plaza.
With protests continuing around the country, and the world, against Donald Trump and his administration, IFC Center is honoring Presidents Day with the special evening “Surviving and Resisting: A Presidents Day Event.” The centerpiece is a screening of the gripping 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. For his directorial debut, longtime journalist David France, one of the first reporters to cover the AIDS crisis that began in the early 1980s, scoured through more than seven hundred hours of mostly never-before-seen archival footage and home movies of protests, meetings, public actions, and other elements of the concerted effort to get politicians and the pharmaceutical industry to recognize the growing health epidemic and do something as the death toll quickly rose into the millions. Focusing on radical groups ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), France follows such activist leaders as Peter Staley, Mark Harrington, Larry Kramer, Bob Rafsky, and Dr. Iris Long as they attack the policies of President George H. W. Bush, famously heckle presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and battle to get drug companies to create affordable, effective AIDS medicine, all while continuing to bury loved ones in both public and private ceremonies. France includes new interviews with many key activists who reveal surprising details about the movement, providing a sort of fight-the-power primer about how to get things done. The film also shines a light on lesser-known heroes, several filled with anger and rage, others much calmer, who fought through tremendous adversity to make a difference and ultimately save millions of lives. How to Survive a Plague is screening at 7:30 on February 20, along with three new short documentaries, Jem Cohen’s Birth of a Nation and two works from Laura Poitras’s Field of Vision online platform, Alex Winter’s Trump’s Lobby and Josh Begley’s Best of Luck with the Wall, followed by a Q&A and book signing with France, Cohen (Museum Hours, Instrument), and journalist, documentarian, and visual artist Poitras (Citizenfour, “Astro Noise”). It should be quite a night as people gather to discuss how to survive the plague that has infected the White House.
On June 2, 1958, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter got married in Washington, DC. Shortly after returning to their Virginia home, Loving, a white man, and Jeter, a black and Native American woman, were arrested and imprisoned by the local sheriff, facing prison sentences because interracial marriage was illegal in their home state. Banished from Virginia, they spent nine years fighting in the courts, and their remarkable tale is now being told in the 2012 Oscar shortlisted documentary The Loving Story. First-time director Nancy Buirski, who founded the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and editor Elisabeth Haviland James weave together never-before-seen archival footage shot by photojournalist Grey Villet, old news reports and interviews, and family home movies with new interviews with the Loving children and lawyers Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, who were ready to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. One of the many fascinating aspects of the film is that Richard and Mildred had no desire to be trailblazers fighting miscegenation laws; they were just a man and a woman who had fallen in love at first sight and wanted to live happily ever after, in a community that fully accepted their situation. They of course have the perfect last name, because The Loving Story is a story of love and romance as much as it is about an outdated legal system, bigotry, and white supremacy. And it is more relevant than ever, given the new administration that has just taken office. Told in a procedural, chronological format, The Loving Story is also absolutely infuriating, since this all happened not very long ago at all, with many of the protagonists and antagonists still alive — and race still being such a central issue in America. An HBO production that won a prestigious Peabody Award, The Loving Story is having a special Valentine’s Day screening at IFC Center as part of the “Stranger Than Fiction” documentary series and will be followed by a Q&A with Buirski, who is likely to also discuss Jeff Nichols’s Loving, the fictionalized retelling with Joel Edgerton as Richard and an Oscar-nominated Ruth Negga as Mildred that was based on her movie. The STF series continues Tuesday nights through March 28 with such other nonfiction films as David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s Tickled, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Brother’s Keeper, and Amanda Micheli’s Vegas Baby.