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.
Point Break. Most surf movies are dumb in a boring way, but Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 hit is really rather inspired in its dumbness. Keanu Reeves stars as FBI agent Johnny Utah (this sentence is already off to a troubling start), who goes undercover with a group of surfing bank robbers led by a shaggy shaman named Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). Throw in Gary Busey and lines like "Little hand says its time to rock & roll!"—and you got yourself a winner, of sorts. The gang's gimmick of committing their crimes while wearing masks of former presidents has been widely imitated and parodied, and the film has even launched its own Rocky Horror-esque cult following, in which unsuspecting attendees are plucked from the audience and forced to recite Keanu's dialogue from a cue card. Hey, odds are they're no worse than Keanu. Pierside Surfcity, 300 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 969-3151. Wed., 7 p.m. $5.
The Princess Bride. It was okay. What do you want me to say? I just didn't like it as much as you did, okay? What, everybody has to be crazy about this 1987 Rob Reiner fairytale comedy? Well, some of us just aren't, okay? It was okay. God damn. Edwards Rancho Santa Margarita, 30632 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-3340. Tues., 8 p.m. $6; Edwards South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 540-1970. Wed., 9 p.m. $6.
The Scent of Green Papaya. Tran Anh Hung's 1993 drama about a young woman coming of age and finding love in the Vietnam of the late '50s and early '60s is one of those movies that some find a transporting, life-changing experience while others are bored into comas by long stretches in which nothing seems to happen and nobody talks. If you're of the latter persuasion and your date comes out of the screening raving about the film's subtlety and beauty, just nod wisely and maybe they'll think you're deep. The screening is hosted by Michael Berlin, Ph.D, assistant professor of screenwriting at California State Long Beach, as well as a director and producer in his own right. Popcorn and candy included. Bowers Museum, Conference Center, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600, Sun., 1:30 p.m. $8-$10.
September 11th Revisited: Keeping Up with Mr. Jones. The next 9/11 Truth Summer Night Screening—films exploring what really happened on 9/11 and suggesting our own government was possibly involved in the attacks—features video footage of a recent presentation by Brigham Young physics professor Dr. Steven Jones. Apartment complex courtyard at 1208 Huntington St., Huntington Beach, (714) 553-1030; http://hb911truth.blogspot.com. Sat., 9 p.m. Free.
The Solid Gold Cadillac. Judy Holliday and Paul Douglas star in this 1956 comedy spun from the George S. Kaufman play. Holliday is a small stockholder in a large, Halliburton-esque corporation, and her endless questions about the company's sleazy doings so annoy the company bosses that they decide the only way to shut her up is to give her an inconsequential job within the company. 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.
Mail your press releases (and a videotape, if available) to Special Screenings, OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417. Or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.