From lovers to lonely hearts, your Valentine’s Day guide to the week’s best movies in L.A.
Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.
In his final piece for The Times, departing film critic Justin Chang takes on the popular notion of awards-season “snubs,” namely the idea that people who were not nominated for Oscars were left out purposefully and denied something they were due. In particular for this year, that complaining tends to overshadow the accomplishments of the many international filmmakers recognized by the academy.
As Justin puts it, “Even this seemingly late in the process, a sense of discovery is possible. It’s why I find myself unable to be (entirely) cynical about the Academy Awards, which, for all the mockery they court and sometimes deserve, can still do the essential work of bringing great, undersung movies to broader public attention. That’s another reason why ‘snub’ grates as a concept: The people most convinced they know what should have been nominated so often have the least knowledge of the brilliant, lesser-known work that’s out there.”
Valentine’s Day moviegoing guide
This newsletter is largely about loving movies. Which means it is, in some way, about love itself. So it’s very exciting to see so much strong programming around Valentine’s Day: movies for those in love, those pining for love and even those who have turned against love. Regardless of where your head and heart are at, there seems to be a film playing that will hit the spot.
First of all, Michael Curtiz’s all-time romantic classic “Casablanca” will be playing on Feb. 14 at the Academy’s Geffen Theater in a new 35 mm print, as well as at the Aero on DCP. “Casablanca” will also be playing at the New Beverly in 35 mm on a double bill with Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset” on Feb. 16, 17 and 18.
In 1995 in The Times, Peter Rainer said of “Casablanca” that it is “a prime example of what the Hollywood studios were capable of concocting in their best dream factory mode. What’s astonishing in this current age of sequels and spin-offs is that Bogart, playing the most famous of all casino owners, never re-teamed in the movies with his co-star here, the luminous Ingrid Bergman. And so, because they only teamed once, they remain the Hollywood movie lovers par excellence, undimmed by repetition.”
Mick Jackson’s 1991 comedy “L.A. Story” will be playing at the Los Feliz 3 in 35 mm on Wednesday. The film is the story of a TV weatherman (Steve Martin, who wrote the screenplay) caught between his feelings for two different women (Victoria Tennant and Sarah Jessica Parker), but it is also very much a love letter to the city of Los Angeles itself, affectionately skewering many local cliches and stereotypes.
In a 2021 interview to mark the film’s 30th anniversary, Steve Martin said, “L.A. was not really that romantic to me, but over time I understood that it has these secret locales — we even used them in the movie — these beautiful Moroccan courtyards in the middle of Hollywood. It’s a city of charm if you pick and choose where you go. The idea came when I’m driving down a freeway and I saw these freeway signs and thought, What if it spoke to me? The city was helping me. The idea that they were all interconnected, not God-like, but guru-like — it inspired me to think romantically about the city.”
As a late show, the Loz Feliz 3 will also have a showing of Michele Soavi’s 1994 “Cemetery Man,” starring Rupert Everett, a singular mix of horror, comedy and romance. The Academy Museum is also screening Colin Higgins’ “9 to 5” that day, for anyone looking for a celebration of friendship.
The New Beverly will have a lovers-on-the-run double-bill on Feb. 13, 14 and 15 of Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway paired with Tony Scott’s 1993 “True Romance” starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. “Bonnie and Clyde,” of course, was sold with the unforgettable tagline, “They’re young… They’re in love… And they kill people.”
Vidiots will be showing Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s “Party Girl,” in which Parker Posey plays a New York City club kid who becomes a librarian. The film has only grown in stature over the years, becoming a preeminent example of a mid-’90s Sundance-certified charmer with its story of learning to accept and love yourself.
The screening on Feb. 14 with the director in person is already sold out, though there will be limited walk-up tickets available. There is another screening with just the film, no Q&A, on Feb. 16.
Other points of interest
‘The Taste of Things’
Tran Anh Hung won the directing prize at Cannes last year for “The Taste of Things,” a romantic drama about a famous French gourmand (Benoît Magimel) and his chef (Juliette Binoche). Besides the film’s subtly powerful lead performances, it also features lovingly photographed sequences showing the preparation of food. It is in theaters now.
In his review of the film from when it had a limited release at the end of last year, Justin Chang wrote, “The rapport between the two leads is extraordinary, and those who know of Binoche and Magimel’s own past romantic history may find themselves especially moved by the tenderness of their on-screen reunion here. Their performances combine emotional delicacy and robust physicality — those heavy pots don’t lift themselves — and you can read years of devotion into the way their movements harmonize in the kitchen, or the tenderness with which Dodin prepares a plate of oysters for the woman he loves. The implicit connections between culinary and carnal appetites scarcely need to be spelled out (“Your broth is delicious” is surely one of the year’s sexiest lines), though you don’t mind when they are, usually when Dodin steals up to Eugénie’s room for a nightcap and possibly more.”
Tim Grierson spoke to Hung, Binoche and Magimel about the resonances of the film. As to whether she had any reservations about talking about the ups and downs of her own real-life relationship with Magimel, Binoche said, “I decided to be truthful to whatever was coming into my mind. I’m learning that you talk with your heart. When I was in my 20s, I was feeling that I had to hide, that I shouldn’t talk about my private feelings, because I wanted to protect something of me that I thought had to be protected. This is ridiculous — just say what you feel. So I decided I’m freely going to talk about what I’m going through.”
Harmony Korine’s new “Aggro Dr1ft” is an unconventional film and so it’s fitting that it also have an unconventional rollout. This week I attended one of two events at the local strip club Crazy Girls that featured the film screening plus DJ sets from the movie’s composer, AraabMuzik, and Korine. The movie will also be playing Friday night and two shows on Saturday at the American Cinematheque’s Los Feliz 3. All three shows are sold out, but there will be stand-by lines.
Shot with thermal-vision cameras and extensively reworked in post-production, the movie is a woozy tour through Miami’s underworld, as a hitman (Jordi Molla) goes about his sordid business while balancing the personal peace he finds at home with his family.
As Korine put it to me when we spoke about the film last fall, “The story itself is very dystopian, culturally. Everything has been boiled down to its most primal. It’s all assassins, it’s all hit men, this kind of tropical noir. And I think in his heart, as a character, he is almost religious. If you listen to what he says in the end, ‘All we have is the love of our children and the love of God,’ because he knows everything that he does is destructive. But he’s in some ways redemptive.”
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