Who’s ready for a trip down memory lane, the Yellow Brick Road, the films of Brad Pitt and Alain Delon? Every month in Los Angeles there are retrospective screenings, and among this month’s films are The Wizard of Oz, The Matrix and Amarcord. So hop in your car and get ready for an adventure — these wonderful classics are worth seeing on the big screen. 

The Matrix (1999):

Why the sequels? We would have been perfectly content with The Matrix as a standalone film, a groundbreaking piece of cinema technology about the danger of technology itself (which is kind of like making a movie about the health crisis and handing out cake at the premiere. But The Wachowskis, who co-direct the film, had other plans. They went ahead and made multiple sequels, none of which had the dazzling, disorienting, delightfully imaginative feel of the original. A fresh mix of art movies and martial arts, The Matrix sees a desk clerk enter a cyberverse of conspiracies, secret agents, kung fu, slow-motion and shades. Thanks to new advancements in CGI, along with a calibrated performance from Reeves, The Matrix remains a digital space we are delighted to enter, even if we know it’s not actually real.

June 1, 8 p.m., Gardena Cinema

Come and See (1985):

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(The Criterion Collection)

Come and See makes Schindler’s List look like a Disney movie. It’s the equivalent of having your eyes forced open, Clockwork Orange-style, as one atrocity unfolds after the next. The images are seen through the eyes of a child, Florya (Alexie Kravchenko), as he returns to his village only to find dead bodies strewn everywhere. Now what? Venture into the forest or stay at home, knowing soldiers are coming with flame throwers? What follows is a hallucinatory, maddening, madly poetic journey through the worst experiences of war. Bodies are burned. Villages are ravaged. And Florya’s childlike color is drained from his face, slowly, like a painting that’s been left in the sun. It’s incredibly disturbing stuff, but director Elim Klimov asks us to watch anyway. His dreamlike use of sound and long, mesmerizing takes ensure that we stay focused, even as Kravchenko’s harrowing performance begs us, with pleading eyes, to look away.

June 2, 1 p.m., Egyptian Theater

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986):

John Hughes is a director whose roll-call consists of high school students and his valedictorian, Ferris (Mathew Broderick), is a student who doesn’t want to go to school. Confident, clever and precocious, Bueller is nothing like the sadsacks in Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. He’s way too cool for that — faking an illness, having friends over and orchestrating a ditch day that involves museums, parades, restaurants, swimming and kissing his girlfriend. What could go wrong? Not much, actually. Ferris is pretty invincible. And his carefree spirit is so infectious, you might start planning your own ditch day throughout the film. Hughes matches that vibe with quick cuts, needle drops, montages, fourth-wall breaks — basically anything that emphasizes youthful energy. It’s like he’s remixing the French New Wave on MTV. It’s the same spontaneous, rule-breaking edits but aimed at kids these days (if these days were the 1980s).

June 5, 8:30 p.m., Rooftop Cinema Club

Notting Hill (1999):

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(Paramount Pictures)

She’s just a girl, staring at a guy, telling her that he loves her. Well, she’s actually a movie star who wins Oscars, but that doesn’t mean this romance between a celebrity (Julia Roberts) and a regular guy (Hugh Grant) can’t last, even if he’s a bookstore owner who can barely put together a sentence. Notting Hill made audiences believe that they, too, could find true love — and that Roberts had the best smile in the business. Sorry, toothpaste models. You didn’t stand a chance against the radiant, luminous grin of Roberts, who delivers her most emotive role in this Richard Curtis classic. There are laughs when Grant spills orange juice on Roberts, or when he takes her to a modest family dinner, but it’s Roberts’ vulnerability that stands out. She’s dealt with tabloids in her own life, so when she gets caught up in a whirlwind of media speculation, it feels honest rather than forced. This is one of the rare odes to true love that actually rings true.

June 6, 8:30 p.m., Rooftop Club Cinema

The Wizard of Oz (1939):

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(MGM)

We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz! No matter how many trips we take to Oz, the place still has the power to capture our imagination. When Dorothy (Judy Garland) is whisked away by a tornado and the screen shifts to color, like someone flipping on a light switch, our eyes become kaleidoscopes and our hearts become open. There’s no defense against Dorothy’s emotional journey, as she gains courage with the help of her friends the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man, and there’s no defense against the sensory pleasures of those costumes and set-pieces. This is peak MGM, on a production level, but it’s mainly peak Garland. Her childlike innocence, syrupy voice and precious determination to become an individual is what really sets this musical apart. We’ve seen plenty of eye-catching musicals, but how many leave us in a puddle of tears? Only a performance like Garland’s could keep us venturing down the Yellow Brick Road.

June 8, 2 p.m. and 7:30 pm, Old Town Music Hall

Dazed and Confused (1993):

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(The Criterion Collection)

Not all high school movies are dumb comedies about teenagers getting stoned. Some of them are smart comedies about teenagers getting stoned. Take Richard Linklater’s satire, for example. There are more joints on screen than there are joints in the human body, but there’s a wonderful, insightful quality to Linklater’s direction that constitutes it as art. It’s the last day of high school and everyone wants to party: kegs, blunts, hazing, fighting, laughing, drinking and driving ensue. As a yearbook of pals move from place to place, Linklater gives them all moments to shine. None of them feel like caricatures, like most high school flicks; they all feel like individuals with real aspirations. Thanks to lived-in performances from Jason London, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey and Michelle Burke; a pace that’s on cruise control and some hilarious one-liners, this is more than just alright, alright, alright. It’s cinematic perfection.

June 8, 9 p.m., Cinespia

Fight Club (1999):

The first rule of Fight Club? Don’t talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club? Let David Fincher loose without studio interference. While it might seem like a gamble to make a blockbuster centered around fight clubs, bone-crunching violence and monologues about society being run by consumerists, there are explosive playoffs to letting Fincher do his thing. As he follows a desk clerk’s (Edward Norton) encounter with a gang, which introduces him to a new way of life, he doesn’t just bury his way into an underground clan but into the mind of his characters. Played with bruised vulnerability by Norton and extreme machismo by Pitt, these characters become more than just names in a story. They become talking points in our own society. 

June 8, 11:20 p.m., Rooftop Cinema Club

The Leopard (1963):

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(The Criterion Collection)

There’s been a lot of talk about director’s cuts lately, mainly because of Zach Snyder’s Justice League, but you can’t turn a 200-minute piece of crap into a 300-minute masterpiece — it’s just not possible. That being said, certain movies benefit from their extended lengths, like the already magnificent Leopard that became even more majestic when it was released at its original 205-minute version. A sprawling, ruminative film composed with the scope of an epic and the intimacy of a family dinner, The Leopard follows a count (Burt Lancaster) whose way of life seems to be ending with a brooding war — a regal figure modeled after the director, Luchino Visconti, who was himself a nobleman of Italy. The result is oddly moving, since we would likely side with the opposing army — the army of the people — had we a say in the matter, yet we can’t help but admire the protagonist as he clings to the crumbs of his disintegrating empire. It helps to have one of the great Italian directors, Visconti, orchestrating the images and to have Alain Delon, the definition of a movie star, in a supporting role. Boy, is that Delon sexy.

June 12, 7:30 p.m., Academy Museum

Clueless (1995):

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(Paramount Pictures)

Did you really think we would leave Clueless off our list? As if! Amy Heckerling’s high school comedy remains a hilarious update of Jane Auesten’s Emma. The film sees a self-obsessed teenager (Alicia Silverston) looking for love in high school, where she takes a girl under her wing so she can become a matchmaker. With a smile the size of her dad’s bank account and a yellow skirt that inspired Halloween costumes, she’s one of the most iconic high school students in cinema, along with Ferris Bueller and Max Fischer. She’s the face that ties this adorable, quotable and surprisingly moving comedy together. 

June 13, 8:30 p.m., Rooftop Cinema Club

Amarcord (1973):

Fantastic. Fantastical. Fellini-esque. All ways to describe Federico Fellini’s homage to his hometown in Italy. Another? One of the most atmospheric pictures ever made. Fellini and his regular collaborators, composer Nino Rota and cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, have created a town where puff balls sail across the ocean sky, sunshine caresses fields and a carnival of caricatures march to the beat of a unique drum. Mostly the beat is playful, like when Fellini’s alter ego is running wild with his tweenage pals; occasionally it’s sad, like when his father is tortured by Fascist soldiers. But it’s always clear Fellini is banging the drum. As he recreates his childhood memories, it’s obvious we are watching a director whose personality is infused within every frame — every classroom, beach and puffball — as he delivers what many consider to be his final masterpiece. A truly unforgettable reminisce.

June 20 and 21, 7 p.m., The New Beverly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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