Just when the ads for “Blended” threatened to sap the will of local movie lovers for the summer, the UW-Cinematheque rode to the rescue this week by posting its summer movie schedule. Much of last summer’s calendar had a theme, a sort of cinematic salute to the late Roger Ebert that ranged pretty far and wide, from “The Third Man” to “Infra-Man.”
This summer’s schedule doesn’t have the pretense of a theme, other than the notion that these seem like fun movies to see on a big screen, be they old classics, cult favorites or a couple of high-profile new films getting their Madison premieres. Interestingly, this summer the Cinematheque will not be using its own screening room at Vilas Hall, instead showing films on Thursday nights in the Chazen and Fridays and Saturdays in the Union South Marquee. So, in no particular order, here are a few things I’m pretty worked up about on the calendar. Oh, and all of them are FREE.
1. “Nymphomaniac” (Saturday, June 21, Marquee) — Part of being a cinephile is being judged, so just go ahead and tell your friends you’re spending Saturday night seeing a notorious five-hour two-part sex film from Lars Von Trier. Just when it seemed like “Nymphomaniac” wouldn’t make it to a big screen in Madison, the Cinematheque nabbed it for a one-night-only showing.
2. “Smile” (Friday, June 20, Marquee) — I’ve been drawn to Michael Ritchie films from “The Candidate” to “Diggstown” — as Cinematheque programmer Jim Healy says, his take on the American “winner” narrative is always unexpected, fascinating and often funny. This satire of a beauty pageant, starring Bruce Dern in one of his best roles, is one of the best films of the ’70s.
3. “Days of Heaven” (Friday, June 20, Marquee) — If you’re not seeing Terence Malick on the big screen, you’re really not seeing him, and that’s especially the case with his poetic 1978 Texas tale, featuring the sort of beautiful cinematography and reliance on narration over dialogue that would serve him up until “Tree of Life” and “To the Wonder.”
4. “Breaking Away” (Thursday, July 3, Marquee) — This was the film that got folks in the newsroom most excited — there’s something eminently lovable about Peter Yates’ 1979 film about working-class kids racing bikes in an Indiana college town. In part, it’s because Yates prizes honesty and authenticity over sentimentality — made in 1979, “Breaking Away” sits on the cusp between ’70s character study and ’80s sports film.
5. “Godzilla: The Japanese Original” (Friday, July 4, Marquee) — Cinematheque has always been good at reminding audiences that, yes, the original was better than the reboot (see “Robocop” this past spring.) And that’s certainly true with this 1950 movie, which is haunting in the way it turns the fresh wounds of Japan’s nuclear trauma into a monster movie. To think that Japanese audiences were watching this only five years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki is stunning.
6. “The Double” (Friday, July 11, Marquee) — The other big premiere Cinematheque has this summer is the highly-praised new film from Richard Ayaode (“Submarine” and an actor on “The IT Crowd”), in which Jesse Eisenberg plays a man dealing with his own doppelganger.
7. “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore” (Friday, July 25, Marquee) –Well, this is a no-brainer. The chance to see Wes Anderson’s first two films on the big screen, back to back, is unmissable.
8. “This is Spinal Tap” (Friday, Aug. 8, Marquee) — I’ve watched Rob Reiner’s 1984 rockumentary a zillion times on home video, quoted the lines over and over since it came out in 1984, but I’ve never seen it on the big screen. This send-up of aging rockers is one of the funniest films ever made — although, if they made it now, Spinal Tap would be asking over $100 ticket at Overture Hall.
9. “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (Friday, Aug. 9, Marquee) — It’s high time to rediscover the genius of Sir Alec Guinness, and no better way than this Ealing Studios classic, in which Guinness plays eight different members of a wealthy family targeted for murder. Broadway fans know that the film serves as the basis for the current hit “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”