[Special Screenings] Movie of the Week: 'Xanadu!'

Movie of the Week: Xanadu!
Hey, I’m more surprised than anyone to see this steaming pile of fantasy top a list that boasts a brand-spankin’-new documentary (Running the Sahara), a Tennessee Williams drama with racktacular Elizabeth Taylor parading around in a negligee (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and another fantasy that sparked debate over whether David Bowie stuffed his crotch (Labyrinth).
The critical world certainly was dickish about 1980’s Xanadu! The film famously received a one-sentence review (“In a word, Xana-don’t”), helped inspire the Razzie Awards that dishonor the worst film achievements, and later won Robert Greenwald the first-ever Worst Director Razzie. At least Greenwald went on to score success with a string of polemic political documentaries, including Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism and Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. Xanadu! was supposed to be the post-Grease role that proved Olivia Newton-John could carry a film by herself (she never would). Male lead Michael Beck graduated to forgettable TV guest spots, and this flop would represent screen legend Gene Kelly’s final feature.
However, like Showgirls, Kathy Griffin and neighborly manners, Xanadu! was resurrected by the gays, so much so that it is now considered a cult classic, spawning a musical that premiered on Broadway in 2007. Making it all the more kitschy locally are those Mondo Celluloid lunatics, who team up with Via Roller Skates and their Via Derby Girls to host a skate around Long Beach before a midnight screening in glorious 35mm. Oh, you want story? Zeus sends nine Greek muses to Earth to inspire men to achieve, one of whom, incarnated as a girl named Kira (Newton-John), joins a man (Kelly) she inspired 40 years earlier in convincing an artist (Beck) to open a disco roller-skating rink. But then l-o-v-e gets in the way. How the hell could that bomb? Art Theatre, 2025 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 428-5435; www.mondocelluloid.com. Fri., 11:55 p.m. $9.50. Show your ticket stub at Via Roller Skates (2218 Fourth St., Long Beach), and get 10 percent off gear and rentals.

Also Showing:
Africa, The Serengeti. Stunning visuals and booming James Earl Jones narration help capture the Great Migration, where the greatest concentration of wildlife on the planet treks more than 500 miles in search of food and water every year. Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Fri., 1:30 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

The Art of Quilting. The hourlong documentary explores the myriad techniques and artistry reflected in contemporary American quilts. Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Tues., 1:30 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Wealthy Mississippi plantation owner Big Daddy Pollitt (Burl Ives, in a role written specifically for him for the stage by Tennessee Williams) has his family together for his 65th birthday, but there is nothing to celebrate. He is repulsed that son Gooper (Jack Carson) and his wife, Mae (Madeleine Sherwood), are about to bring yet another little “no-neck monster” into the world, while having kids is the last thing on the mind of Big Daddy’s favored son, Brick (Paul Newman), who prefers booze to his beautiful wife, Maggie the Cat (Taylor). Complicating matters: Big Daddy is unknowingly dying. Williams was no fan of this film adaptation, but it did boffo box office in 1958 and earned six Oscar nominations, which explains why it is part of the Nifty ’50s series. Cinema Fusion at Anaheim’s GardenWalk, 321 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 399-0300; www.cinemafusionanaheim.com. Wed., 7 p.m. $7.50.

Dalai Lama Renaissance. From the folks who brought those What the Bleep!? films is this look at what happens when 40 “visionaries”—including two quantum physicists, writers, psychiatrists and religious scholars—converge on the Dalai Lama so they may solve the world’s crucial problems. Even though the documentary won awards at the Monaco and Moondance film festivals of 2007, the world’s crucial problems remain, so they must not have solved them. But hats off for trying, folks! Motormouth Harrison Ford narrates this film presented by the Laguna Beach Film Society that includes a visit with director Khashyar Darvich. Festival of Arts, Forum Theater, 650 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8971, ext. 201. Fri., 7 p.m. $20.

Desert Odyssey. The harsh beauty of the Sahara desert is viewed through the eyes of a 9-year-old boy embarking on his first camel caravan. Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Wed., 1:30 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

In Search of Janácek. As part of the events leading up to its Jan. 17 and 18 presentations of The Cunning Little Vixen, Long Beach Opera celebrates Czech composer Leos Janácek with The Lion In Love. Included is Petr Kanka’s hourlong documentary on the renowned visionary of musical realism, followed by award-winning playwright Cecilia Fannon’s play The glow of your kisses . . ., which is drawn from the life and letters of Janácek (portrayed by Michael York), and Lyris String Quartet’s performance of Janácek’s String Quartet No. 2 “Intimate Letters.” Art Theater, 2025 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 432-5934; www.longbeachopera.org. Sun., 3 p.m. $25-$30 (for all three events).

Labyrinth. Classic Film Night returns with Muppets creator Jim Henson’s 1986 tale (from a script originally written by Monty Phyton’s Terry Jones) in which Sarah (Jennifer Connelly, too young to look at that way—perv!) tells her little brother a bedtime story that inadvertently conjures up a fantasy world ruled by the Goblin King (David Bowie). The Thin White Duke, er, king snatches the child and brings him to his castle in the middle of a labyrinth, which Sarah must navigate to rescue the baby lest he became a goblin at the stroke of midnight. I found the flick too snooze-inducing to notice, but multiple viewers swear sexual tension exists between Connelly and Bowie, who also may have enhanced his, ahem, nether regions. South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 557-5701; www.regencymovies.com. Wed., 7:30 p.m. $6.50.

The Pope’s Toilet. As part of the Independent Film Series, this film by directors Cesar Charlone and Enrique Fernandez is set in Melo, Uruguay, in 1988, when the town on the Brazilian border awaited a visit by Pope John Paul II. Dudes, you had me at the title. Fullerton Public Library, 353 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 738-6334; www.fullertonlibrary.org. Fri., 6:30 p.m. Free.

Quilts in Women’s Lives. Documentarian Pat Ferrero presents first-person narratives by seven renowned female quilt makers. Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Thurs., Jan. 15, 1:30 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

Running the Sahara. This brand-new documentary, which was directed and narrated by Academy Award winners (James Moll and Matt Damon, respectively) follows three world-class runners from the U.S., Canada and Taiwan who trek 4,300 miles on foot from Senegal to the Red Sea to promote H2O Africa, a charity that promotes clean drinking water for people in the six countries they crossed. This Laguna Beach Film Society presentation includes wine, hors d’oeuvres and discussion before the screening. South Coast Cinema, 162 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8971, ext. 201. Thurs., Jan. 15, 7 p.m. $15. (For $5 more, join the prescreening event at 6 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Community Room, 260 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach.)

Zulu. Cy Endfield’s epic 1964 drama about an 1879 Anglo-Zulu War battle stars a very young Michael Caine as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, who, under the command of engineering Lieutenant John Chard (Stanley Baker), led 139 Welsh infantrymen to somehow hold off more than 4,000 Zulu warriors at a British hospital and supply dump in South Africa. This is the first of three films in “The Colonial Experience in Africa” series that “examines the varying experiences of the encroaching Europeans and the native Africans that occurred as a result of colonialism.” Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org. Thurs., Jan. 8, 7 p.m. Free with paid admission ($9-$12).

–compiled by Matt Coker  

Mail your press releases (and a videotape or disc, if available) to Special Screenings, OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417. Or send e-mail to edewitt@ocweekly.com. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.

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