Your Weekly Movie To-Do List: L.A. Story, Tim Robbins and '70s Conspiracy Thrillers

Steve Martin and a sentient freeway sign in L.A. StoryEXPAND
Steve Martin and a sentient freeway sign in L.A. Story

Friday, Jan. 16

UCLA’s tribute to the great Kenji Mizoguchi begins tonight at 7:30 with his best-known (Ugetsu) and final (Street of Shame) films. A fitting introduction to the Japanese auteur for first-timers, the ghostly, elegiac love story at the heart of Ugetsu likely will pair well with Street’s look at the lives of several prostitutes working in a Tokyo brothel called Dreamland. Mizoguchi was an unusually sensitive filmmaker with a keen grasp on the plight of the downtrodden, his humanism nearly unrivaled in world cinema. Visit cinema.ucla.edu for more information.

The 1970s saw a great many entries in the cinema of disenchantment, with conspiracy thrillers such as Alan J. Pakula’s Klute and Sidney Lumet’s media excoriation Network among the most notable. Lest we forget their dignified outrage, LACMA is playing them back-to-back at 7:30. The 24-hour news cycle may make Network’s problems seem quaint but not the film itself — if anything, it’s only become more resonant in the increasingly media-saturated decades since its release. Both films’ leading ladies won Oscars for their work: Jane Fonda for Klute, Faye Dunaway for Network (which also won in the Best Actor, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay categories). Full details at lacma.org.

Saturday, Jan. 17

Upcoming Events

Not only Steve Martin’s best film, L.A. Story is also an honorable mention on any list of the best films about Los Angeles. The intelligent romantic comedy receives a special screening at Cinefamily courtesy of 5 EVERY DAY. It’s a playful, affectionate send-up of life in our fair city circa 1991, featuring an electronic freeway sign that offers Martin (who also wrote the script) advice on his love life, which is less gimmicky and more charming than it sounds. For more, visit cinefamily.org.

Intergenerational strife abounds in East of Eden and The Godfather, two family epics screening tonight at LACMA. Elia Kazan adapted only the second half of John Steinbeck’s great novel, so massive was the original text, and made a star of James Dean by casting him in the lead role. As for The Godfather, well, if you’ve managed not to hear much about it until now, it’s probably best to go into it with as little information as possible and enjoy the rare film that more than lives up to its reputation as one of the greatest of all time. More information at lacma.org.

Sunday, Jan. 18

A double dose of Sidney Poitier at the New Beverly: To Sir, With Love and The Long Ships. Inspirational teacher movies are a dime a dozen, but few have endured like To Sir. It helps that Poitier plays the educator in question and the film features an annoyingly catchy theme song sung by LuLu, who also appears as a wide-eyed pupil in the London-set film. Ships stars Poitier as a Moorish king obsessed with finding the mythical Mother of All Voices. For more on the double bill, which repeats Monday starting at 7:30, sail to thenewbev.com.

The Los Angeles premiere of Bella Vista, Vera Brunner-Sung’s first narrative feature, is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Spielberg at the Egyptian Theatre. Brunner-Sung, whose Common Ground screened at Filmforum in 2009, is best known for her experimental nonfiction. That makes Bella Vista a departure for the filmmaker now residing in Montana, which serves as the setting for her film about an itinerant teacher and her new students. Both Brunner-Sung and producer Jeri Rafter will be on hand for the occasion, which you can read more about at lafilmforum.org.

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Tim Robbins probably will always be best known for his work in front of the camera, but his work behind it is impressive as well. In 1999’s Cradle Will Rock — screening at the Aero Theatre at 7:30 with the writer-director in person — he goes back to 1937, when the musical of the title proved controversial before it was even performed. Robbins enlisted the help of several vaunted thesps (then-wife Susan Sarandon, Vanessa Redgrave, both Cusacks, John Turturro, Emily Watson and others) to make it so. For more, visit americancinemathequecalendar.com.


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