By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Charles Taylor
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Brian Feinzimer
By CAROLINA DEL BUSTO
By AMY NICHOLSON
By Amy Nicholson
After the blockbuster success of To Have and Have Not in 1944, studio head Jack Warner gave director Howard Hawks $50,000 to snap up the rights to Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep as a vehicle for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, then one of Hollywood's hottest couples. The wily Hawks allegedly managed to pick up the rights for a mere $5,000—and pocketed the rest himself. If that sounds like an act of a supreme naughtiness, that's entirely appropriate for a picture that is bursting at the seams with betrayals, vices and mischief of all sorts.
Bogart stars as Philip Marlowe, Chandler's boundlessly sardonic private eye. He's not too tall or too suave ("I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like them myself. . . . . I grieve over them on long winter evenings"), but he gets the job done. The Big Sleep sees him involved in a case that starts off looking tricky and soon grows incomprehensible. Forget the plot; the film's strength is the super-quirky dialog, featuring Chandler as filtered through the sensibilities of William Faulkner, who worked on the script during one of his Hollywood sojourns. Bogie and Bacall have one chat at a racetrack that still sounds shockingly racy today ("A lot depends on who's in the saddle"), and the film zings with so many quips it manages to be both a prime example of film noir and an inspired parody of the genre. Bay Theatre, 340 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-9988. Sun., 6 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; Wed., 8 p.m. $6-$8.
After Life. It is a kind of purgatory, resembling a drab, slightly shabby office building. Here the recently deceased are allowed to choose their most treasured memory, to relive for all eternity. Then harried caseworkers set to work recreating the memory, employing wads of cotton for clouds, electric fans for the wind and cassettes for the soundtrack. Budget considerations are not specifically mentioned, but these people are clearly working within limited means. It all sounds rather precious, but Kore-eda Hirokazu's 1998 fantasy drama is a quietly marvelous film, telling a story we can all relate to. After all, sooner or later we'll all be making that trip to the drab, slightly shabby office building in the sky. Orange County Center For Contemporary Art, 117 N. Sycamore, Santa Ana, (714) 667-1517; www.occca.org. Fri., 8 p.m. Free.
The Blue Angel. Josef von Sternberg's 1930 classic follows a self-important teacher (Emil Jannings) brought low by his obsession with seductive nightclub singer Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich). Dietrich's peculiar, sleepy-eyed, froggy-voiced sexiness was scandalous in its day and has since been widely parodied, perhaps most famously by Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles. The film screens with Käthe Kollwitz, a 1986 documentary portrait of the German artist. It's the latest entry in the German Expressionist Film Series. Cal State Long Beach, University Art Museum, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 985-5761. Fri.-Sat., noon. Free.
Cod Help Us. Documentary filmmaker Ezra Soiferman explores the lives of St. Paul's River citizens, who struggle to survive as the local fish population is depleted. Soiferman appears at the screening, along with Dr. Betsy McLane, director emeritus of the International Documentary Association. It screens with Empty Oceans, Empty Nets, a doc looking at the global fisheries crisis. It's the debut show in the Water and Earth: Ocean Cinema series. Aquarium of the Pacific, Honda Theater, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (562) 590-3100. Fri., 7 p.m. $10-$12.
The Incredibles. Brad Bird's charming Pixar-animated comic adventure about a superheroic family. Your kids have probably seen it 75 times already (at least) on DVD . . . but now they can see it on the beach! Be sure to dress warm and bring chairs. Newport Dunes Resort, 1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Dunes, (949) 729-DUNE. Sat., dusk. Free; parking, $10.
La Dolce Vita. Federico Fellini's astonishing, surreal, over-the-top classic about a young journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) living the wild life in '60s Rome. Full of memorable lines and hallucinatory visuals, none quite so unforgettable as the 50-foot-high amazon Anita Ekberg. (Hey, there's just more of her to love.) Refreshments provided by Z-Pizza will be served at 6:30 p.m. Free pizza and free Fellini? Grazie, UC Irvine! UC Irvine Humanities Instruction Building, Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-5493. Thurs., Aug. 10, 6:30 p.m. Free.
Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde. Stockard Channing narrates Mel Stuart's 1997 documentary portrait of the acclaimed photographer, artist and filmmaker, featuring commentary from Ray's widow, Juliet Browner. The film is preceded by a screening of Lip, a 1999 video collaboration between Australian artist Tracey Moffatt and Gary Hillberg that examines the narrow roles for black women in Hollywood. It's the latest entry in Cal State Long Beach's Photography Film Series. Cal State Long Beach, University Art Museum, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 985-5761. Fri.-Sat., 2:30 p.m. Free.
The Pacifier. I'll come out and say it: I kinda like Vin Diesel. He started life as an ugly little sci-fi geek and transformed himself into an action star. That's impressive. He's got a sense of humor about himself, he's smarter than you'd think, and when he has the right role, he can be a unique presence onscreen. Besides, he's not the Rock. That being said, Diesel rarely gets the right role, and whoever suggested he star in this uninspired family comedy sure wasn't doing him any favors. It's screening on the beach, so be sure to dress warm and bring some comfortable chairs. Newport Dunes Resort, 1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Dunes, (949) 729-DUNE. Fri., dusk. Free; parking, $10.
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