Man, if it were just noir week, I'd have been busy, but there was just a lot going on in general.
It started off with a fairly busy Sunday up and down the Red Line, starting with the last silent program of the year at the Somerville Theatre, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was a big, flashy way to end the year-long series, and it was interesting to hear projectionist Dave announce that they were going to be modifying the motors in theater #1's 35mm projectors so that they could be run at variable speeds rather than just locked in at 24fps. They probably won't use it that much - Dave doesn't like projecting at slower speeds because he says that would have been dangerous with carbon arcs and nitrate film, but keeping up the pace has clearly been exhausting for accompanist Jeff Rapsis at times. Still, that's what makes the Somerville fairly unique for a first-run theater - while many grumble at things like The Hateful Eight being released early in 70mm, they're making sure they can do even more with film.
After that, it was to Harvard Square for a Five O'Clock Shadow screening of The Big Combo, a pretty nicely straightforward noir. The final stop for the evening was Park Street, where Angelina Jolie's By the Sea was playing at Boston Common. Interesting, but on the austere side.
After that, I took a day off from the movies on Monday, but went back to Boston Common Tuesday and Wednesday for Victor Frankenstein and The Good Dinosaur, respectively. Both were better than I expected, although that makes Victor mildly interesting rather than a complete disaster while Dinosaur quickly became something of a favorite despite going in thinking "well, Pixar doesn't often outright screw up."
Rather than go "home" for Thanksgiving, I hit the Brattle, where they were kicking off their latest noir series with The Big Sleep & The Maltese Falcoln, which ain't a bad evening. Heading to the Coolidge afterward for Trumbo is kind of gluttonous, but, hey, Thanksgiving!
I got lazy after that, but there was still more noir to be had, with the underrated Chandler adaptation Murder, My Sweet on Saturday and then The Burglar, Phantom Lady, and Black Angel on Sunday. In between: A burger at Tory Row. They do that all right.
Work ran late on Monday and Tuesday, but I was actually able to escape in time to make it to the Cooldige in time for Room. The lack of an article in front of that title is important, because they've had the Tommy Wiseau disasterpiece The Room for midnights at least twice during its run and I'd be sad if at least one person didn't get confused at that.
After that, it was double-feature craziness. Thursday had me finishing off the Brattle's noir series with The Glass Key & Miller's Crossing (I've got to see if the latter is in my unpacked boxes of movies); Friday was China/Hong Kong double feature of Fall in Love Like a Star & She Remembers, He Forgets; and then on Saturday, I did the split one: Theeb at the Kendall and Legend at Boston Common.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 November 2015 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Silents Please!, 35mm)
A grand silent epic credited with introducing the tango to the United States, among other things, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has enough moving parts to quickly become frustrating and potentially confusing if you're not totally into it. It's got one of those prologues that feels the need to establish a couple generations before the protagonists, making it fuzzy just who among the group is going to be the focus so that one's mind can easily wander.
When it does get down to business, though, it's clear why this movie was a big deal. It's got a fair amount of everything - romance, adventure, war - and if it's overwrought at times, it's worth remembering that this came out just a couple years after The Great War, and the apocalyptic imagery probably seemed very appropriate, even if it was in the middle of a movie where the big action involved nobles defending their family castle.
Anyway, it's pretty good once it gets to the point where it knows where things are going, and maybe even more so if you're in the right place beforehand.
* * * * (out of four)
Seen 2 December 2015 in Coolidge Corner Theatre Goldscreen (first-run, DCP)
So, yep, Room is just as good as everybody has been saying it is. The kid is amazing, as is Brie Larson, and there is some pretty great work by Joan Allen and Tom McCamus in there that may not be so obviously worthy of being heralded. It's a bunch of characters in almost unimaginably difficult situations nevertheless coming off as utterly natural, which is kind of amazing.
What's most impressive, perhaps, is how writer Emma Donoghue and director Lenny Abrahamson find just the right balance of the normal and the strange - Jack is a very believable kid, as difficult and demanding as any his age but within his own context, and his utter confusion at seeing the greater world is a remarkable contrast to how "Ma" tries to jump back into it right away. His slow acclimation and her difficulty happen at just the right speed, even without a lot of dramatic triggering events.
I like the world-building as well, if that's the right word to describe what Ma does for Jack, but it's easy to let go as the film moves on. That's not always the case - it's easy to get attached to that sort of thing - and that this one manages it is damn impressive.