The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) <imdb>
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
Here begins the tale of the blind swordsman. If you’re not a fan of fighting movies filled with repetitive non-stop violence, don’t worry about a thing. Sit back and enjoy the slowly building suspense. Action fans will be on the edge of their seats waiting and waiting for that first flash of swordplay—and when it finally comes, it will only last a fraction of a second. That’s because Zatoichi is a true master. One blow is all it takes. Frankly, he would rather make his living as a masseuse, relieving people of their aches and pains, but the world is a terrible place and Zatoichi must hire out his sword to make his way. In this unusually somber and wildly popular medieval drama, one gang hires a consumptive samurai to enlarge their turf and their rivals hire Zatoichi. With contempt for their employers, the two men go fishing together and become friends. But that doesn’t change the fact that, eventually, one of them must kill the other. So it goes for Zatoichi in the first and best of the more than twenty films made featuring the character. Japanese with English subtitles.
Saturday, December 20 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Rock Around the Clock (1956) <imdb>
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Whether or not this is a good movie is beside the point. Rock Around the Clock is an important artifact of the rock and roll revolution, howlingly inaccurate in its particulars but prophetic in its vision of the future. More importantly, everybody involved looks like they’re having the time of their lives. See Bill Haley and his Comets, clad in plaid, roughhousing their way through one rambunctious number after another. The corny nature of the plot only serves to make their music seem that much more vibrant and alive. If that wasn’t enough, the Platters and Freddie Bell and the Bellboys round out the bill with their own hits—and bandleader Tony Martinez is there to show us what rock wasn’t. Also appearing, Alan Freed seals the deal for Cleveland rock lovers everywhere playing himself. This movie was quickly followed by Don’t Stop the Rock. We couldn’t agree more.
Saturday, January 3 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Bon Voyage/Aventure Malgache (1944) <imdb> <imdb>
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock came to America in 1939, just before the Germans began bombing his homeland. Though he was too old for military service, he felt obligated to do something for the war effort. So he flew to London, sitting on the floor of a bomber, and made these two little-seen short films in tribute to the work of the French Resistance. Bon Voyage is about an RAF gunner who travels through German-occupied France, aided by courageous Resistance operatives. Or so it seems. Like Kurosawa’s Rashomon, when the story is retold with the same characters and events, it takes on a radically different interpretation. Aventure Malgache tells the story of an actor who masqueraded as a loyal Vichy official in Nazi-occupied Madagascar while actually running a pro-Resistance radio station. Professor Terry Meehan continues his series Hitchcock Goes to War, introducing each film with rare clips and original documentaries followed by audience reaction and a lively discussion.
Saturday, January 10 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Hell’s Angels (1930) <imdb>
Directed by Howard Hughes
Three friends leave Oxford to fly fighter planes in the Great War—two for England and one for Germany. Torn between patriotism and conscience, they also somehow manage to fight over the same woman. If you've seen Scorsese's The Aviator, you know that the eccentric playboy director and test pilot, Howard Hughes, actually assembled what was then the world's largest air force—almost incidentally—while making this film. He needed every plane to bring his vision to life. Men died filming the aeronautic stunts, and Hughes was up there with them when they fell. Driven by an otherworldly perfectionism, he filmed the movie over and over, making
the transition from silent films to talkies and even including a short, experimental color sequence that showcased the blonde beauty of Jean Harlow. How can you not be curious to see this film?
Saturday, January 17 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Real Genius (1985) <imdb>
Directed by Martha Coolidge
Fifteen year old Mitch is a genius, but is he too young to go to college? Professor Hathaway doesn’t think so. He appeals to Mitch by understanding that the boy’s parents don’t understand and by dismissing the rest of the world as idiots—but he doesn’t really care if Mitch makes friends or not. He’s under serious pressure from the CIA to develop a laser weapon, and he doesn’t care if his students suffer in the process. Thank goodness that Mitch’s roommate and lab partner is Val Kilmer, a science legend who’s learned that having fun and being creative is just as important as burying your nose in books. Together, they solve the mystery of the man who lives in their closet and perfect the laser. But once they learn that they’ve been used, they have no choice but to concoct an epic, world-saving prank that will leave you smiling. Kilmer has never been more charming than in this rare 80s comedy of wit and substance that was based, believe it or not, very loosely on a true story. File this one under H for toy.
Saturday, January 24 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) <imdb>
Directed by Shane Black
The title of this funny film noir thriller, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, was borrowed from the legendary film critic Pauline Kael who described these four words as, "perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of movies.” With that as their starting point, the filmmakers break every rule and hit every cliché of the buddy action picture in order to deliver something remarkably sublime—and lots of fun, too. Downey plays a thief who poses as an actor and somehow ends up in Hollywood with a big screen test. For research purposes, he’s paired up with a private detective played by Kilmer. (Who, incidentally, is the first gay character to star in a big studio action picture.) It doesn’t take long for this mismatched pair to get involved in multiple murders, Hollywood parties, trashy clubs and a girl so beautiful she ought to be advertising shampoo. Did we mention that this is a Christmas movie? Downey and Kilmer share an onscreen chemistry that will leave you begging for more.
Saturday, January 31 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
8 ½ (1963) <imdb>
Directed by Federico Fellini
Guido is a world famous film director, trying to relax after his last film became another big hit. But he can't get a moment's peace with his old collaborators, ghosts of his previous films, constantly pestering him for more work. The genius wrestles with his conscience, but is unable to come up with any new ideas. As his mind wanders, he begins to retreat into fantasies and memories of all the women he has loved and left. In the end, Fellini turns his writer’s block into one of his greatest triumphs—a surrealistic slice of autobiography filled with warm feelings and good laughs. Italian with English subtitles.
Saturday, February 7 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Notorious (1946) <imdb>
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
According to biographer Donald Spoto, this was Hitchcock’s first attempt to create a serious love story. G-man Cary Grant loves Ingrid Bergman, the daughter of a suspected spy, but he asks her to sleep with Claude Rains in order to get the dirt on a Nazi plot. If you call that a love story, then Happy Valentine’s Day from Alfred Hitchcock! What the spies are after is Uranium-235, an isotope that can be used to make an atom bomb. When Hitchcock was shopping around the treatment for this story in 1944, none of the studio bosses knew anything about uranium or atomic bombs. But the FBI did. They were wondering why Hitchcock and his screenwriter, Ben Hecht, were meeting with scientists to discuss nuclear fission. He was under surveillance for several months. But at least he got a great movie out of it. Professor Terry Meehan concludes his series Hitchcock Goes to War, introducing each film with rare clips and original documentaries followed by audience reaction and a lively discussion.
Saturday, February 14 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
25th Hour (2002) <imdb>
Directed by Spike Lee
Edward Norton has twenty-four hours of freedom left before he has to report to prison and serve seven years on a drug conviction. So he hits the town—a recently post 9/11 New York City—with his two best friends and girlfriend to embark on one last booze filled night of fun. But he is haunted by the past that has lead him to this point and struggles to accept his fate. He doesn’t think he can survive prison time. In fact, everyone around him seems to agree that he won’t. As the last few hours of freedom slip away, his prospects seem grimmer and grimmer. He can run, commit suicide or face the music… This film’s shocking conclusion is one you will never see coming.
Saturday, February 21 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) <imdb>
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Behold the apotheosis of James Dean. Before the sixties came along and changed everything, this little film about teenage rebellion hit the screens and mesmerized the audiences of 1955, irrevocably marking the lives of all the young men and woman who watched it. James Dean is a troubled kid with a troubled past, and he isn’t sorry about it. When he moves to a new town he meets two other disenfranchised youth, the lovely Natalie Wood and the loyal Sal Mineo. The trio quickly bond together as a family unit to stand up to school bullies, weak willed parents and repressive police. But Dean still feels compelled to prove himself in switchblade fights
and drag races. In addition to being a box office success, this landmark film served as a call to arms to every teenager who felt isolated or left out. It also became the blueprint for scores of young adult dramas in the
years that followed.
Saturday, February 28 at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium