Movie-wise, we’re languishing in the doldrums right now between the summer blockbuster season and the fall awards season, which is why the hottest movies at the multiplex right now seem to be old movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Forrest Gump.”
But one of the many virtues of living in a college town is that the on-campus series are firing up right now. While the Union South Marquee has second-run showings are more mainstream fare, it’s the UW-Cinematheque that really has movie lovers ready for fall. The series, which screens films for free Thursdays through Sundays at its home base at Vilas Hall as well as at the Marquee and Chazen Museum of Art, has a terrific lineup of Madison premieres, classic series featuring great directors and actors, series built around genre (horror) and theme (World War I), and other movies that are just plain fun to see on the big screen.
As I wrote in the Cap Times this week, this is the first year that the UW-Cinematheque will have a digital projector in Vilas Hall. The Cinematheque has been a big champion of showing movies on 35mm film (and two-thirds of this fall’s movies will still be on celluloid), but with studios starting to only make films available on digital, not having a DCP projector would really compromise the Cnematheque’s ability to get the films it wants.
Cinematheque starts this Friday, so, in no particular order, here are some of the things I’m looking forward to. Check cinema.wisc.edu for a full schedule.
“Night Moves,” 7 p.m., Friday, Vilas Hall — From “Old Joy” to “Wendy and Lucy” to “Meek’s Cutoff,” writer-director Kelly Reichardt can pretty much do no wrong in my book. So I’m excited to see her take on the thriller genre (of a sort) in her new film, which follows three environmental activists attempting to blow up a hydroelectric dam.
Alec Guinness — After Sir Richard Attenborough died, someone joked on Twitter about him looking down from Heaven, reading memorial tweets and saying, “Jurassic Park? Really?” And then Alec Guinness coming up and saying “Hey, join the club.” While Guinness will always be Obi-Wan to a certain generation of moviegoers, he was a marvelously supple and intelligent actor his hole career, and this retrospective showcases his work. It kicks off this Saturday night at 7 p.m. with a double feature of the classic Ealing Studios caper film “The Lavender Hill Mob” and the lesser known “Last Holiday,” which has echoes of “Joe Vs. The Volcano” in its tale of a meek clerk with a terminal diagnosis who goes to a seaside resort.
William Friedkin — The famously difficult director cancelled his appearance at the UW-Cinematheque at the last minute, after all the posters have been printed. Bummer, but we’ve still got the movies, ranging from the slick “The French Connection” to the eerie “The Exorcist” to a restored print of the nervy “Sorcerer.”
“Escape From New York” — Once a month, the Cinematheque takes over the Union South Marquee Theatre for Marquee Mondays, best described as classic films that are perfect for seeing with a craft beer from The Sett. This year’s selections including Abel Ferrara’s exploitation debut “Ms. 45” and the bizarro sci-fi film “The Visitor,” but I’m holding out for Nov. 17, when John Carpenter’s gritty dystopian action film “Escape From New York” hits the screen.
Alfred Hitchcock — Last semester’s Sunday Cinematheque of the Chazen salute to the films of Alfred Hitchcock was so well-received that Cinematheque is doing it again this fall. Some of the big Hitch films (“Psycho,” “North by Northwest,” “The Birds”) were shown this spring, but there’s still plenty more, including the entertaining Jimmy Stewart version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” the black comedy “The Trouble With Harry” and a collection of rare archival Hitchcock work you’ve likely never seen before.
“Appropriate Behavior” — While most critics at this year”s Sundance Film Festival were wowed by “Obvious Child,” I thought an even funnier and truer comedy about an aimless twentysomething woman was Desiree Akhavan’s “Appropriate Behavior.” Akhavan plays a bisexual Iranian-American trying to navigate the social waters of her own family and the hookup culture of young Brooklyn.
Remembering ‘The Great War’ — In honor of the 100th anniversary of the “shot heard round the world” that started World War I, Cinematheque is presenting an eclectic series of films about the war. They include a 1919 French film, “J’Accuse,” made while the war was still raging, and “How I Won The War,” Richard “A Hard Day’s Night” Lester’s bitter satire reteaming him with John Lennon.
Debra Granik — The Oscar-nominated director of “Winter’s Bone” is comng to the UW-Cinematheque on Sept. 28 to present her new film “Stray Dog,” a documentary about Harley-riding Vietnam veteran Ron Hall. Hall will also be at the screening.
Halloween Horror ‘– Cinematheque has had a knack for finding films that show what the often-maligned genre can be, and this fall includes the Madison premiere of “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears,” an homage to Italian giallo films, as well as Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” and “Bug'” and a Halloween night screening of the “final cut” version of the original “Wicker Man.” Not the Nicolas Cage remake, although that would be fun in a very different way.