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
Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) is just trying to contact an official in a futuristic, highly mechanized Paris, only to find that the gadgets surrounding him do nothing to simplify life—in fact, the infernal machines almost seem to take a fiendish pleasure in making everything vastly more complicated. Faced with this rise of the machines, Hulot has weapons of his own. . . . French director/actor Jacques Tati isn't well-known in America, but his hilarious, meticulously crafted and near-wordless comedies are comparable to some of Chaplin's finest work. Playtime, regarded by some critics as his best film, was his most ambitious work, and it was the film that ruined him: he hired 100 construction workers to build the film's set, two entire buildings (dubbed "Tativille") that were so large they required their own power plant. The shoot dragged on for three years, and by the end, a desperate Tati was taking out enormous loans to keep production going. When the film was finally released in 1967, Tati insisted that it only screen in theaters equipped for stereophonic sound and 70 mm projection. The film flopped in France and did no better when a substantially edited version was finally released in America in 1973. Tati never fully rebounded from the failure, but decades later, the film survives as a timeless classic. This is an extremely rare big-screen show, with free refreshments provided by Z-Pizza served at 6:30 p.m. UCI Humanities Instruction Building, Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., Irvine, (949) 824-6117. Thurs., Aug. 24, 6:30 p.m. Free.
Animation Showcase. Works by cutting-edge animators, including The Fan and the Flower, the story of an ill-fated and unconsummated romance between a fan and a flower that was directed by Bill Plympton (Guard Dog), written by Dan O'Shannon (Cheers, Frasier) and narrated by Paul Giamatti (Sideways); MySpace User's Choice Award winner for April 2006 and Newport Beach Film Fest Best Family Short Film winner Smile, a humorous toy-room adventure written and directed by Chapman University alum Chris Mais; and, finally, award-winning filmmaker Henry Selick's (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach) moon-journey computer-graphic fantasy Moongirl. Other shorts from students and pros round out the bill. Cinema Orange at the Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 759-1122; www.ocma.net; www.newportbeachfilmfest.com. Thurs., Aug. 24, 8:30 p.m. Free.
AroundtheWorld in Eighty Days. Here's a little truism that Hollywood would do well to learn: sprawling, noisy comedies with dozens and dozens of cameos by A-list stars are very, very rarely a good idea. Oh, sure, you don't see the genre as much as you used to, but mark my words: it ain't dead. If the Cannonball Run series couldn't kill it, nothing can. Michael Anderson's 1956 epic Around the World in Eighty Days is among the best of this breed, featuring such luminaries as David Niven, Buster Keaton, Marlene Dietrich, Shirley Maclaine and more, more, more . . . but at almost three hours, the picture sometimes feels like it really is 80 days long. Short subjects, cartoons and other goodies are also on the bill. Long Beach School for Adults Auditorium, 3701 E. Willow St., Long Beach, (562) 997-8000, ext. 7198. Fri., 7 p.m. $1 materials fee.
Dirty Harry. Clint Eastwood stars as the psychopathic vigilante cop in the 1971 film that launched the franchise, with Andrew Robinson making for a classic, twitchy little creep of a bad guy. Bay Theatre, 340 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-9988. Sun., 6 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; Wed., 8 p.m. $5-$8.
First Chapter. Dane Reynolds, a 20-year-old from Ventura, is often regarded as the most exciting young surfer in the world. This documentary follows Reynolds to seldom-surfed spots all over the map. It's the latest entry in the Balboa Performing Arts Theater's free Family Movie Nite. Giant screen set up in Peninsula Park, next to the Balboa Pier, Newport Beach.For more information on the Balboa series, call (949) 673-0895; www.thebalboatheater.org. Thurs., Aug. 24, 8 p.m. Free, but burgers, kettle corn, chips, candy and water are sold with all proceeds benefiting the theater.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Chris Columbus is no genius auteur, but he gets rapped a lot for his first two entries in the Harry Potter film franchise, and it's just not fair. He took fun, busy kid books and made them into fun, busy kid movies. What more do you want? This one introduces our hero and the magical world of Hogwarts, and it does so efficiently and with more panache than anybody could have expected from the director of Mrs. Doubtfire. This is an outdoor, evening screening, so bring some chairs and some blankets. Newport Dunes Resort, 1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Dunes, (949) 729-DUNE. Sat., dusk. Free; parking, $10.
Kind Hearts and Coronets. Alec Guinness stars in this classic, 1949 Ealing studios dark comedy, playing seven roles (not all of 'em guys!) in the story of a Victorian gent who schemes to kill off an entire family in order to gain a title. Discussion will be hosted by local film authority Dr. Arthur Taussig. Orange Coast College, Fine Arts Building, Room 119, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (714) 432-5599. Fri., 6:30 p.m. $5-$6.
Kudzu. Marjorie Short's documentary takes a sometimes-comic look at the fast-growing vine that will soon cover the entire American south as it creeps its away across the U.S. to your front lawn, where it will stealthily crawl up through your bedroom window and strangle you in your sleep. It screens with the documentary Cane Toads, about the warty, goggle-eyed, bloated, belching yet still somehow cute-as-a-dickens Bufo marinus. It's the latest 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.
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