“Safety Last!” doesn’t seem the wisest slogan for this prolonged period of mask-wearing, proof-providing and vaccine-boosting. On the other hand, who doesn’t feel like throwing caution to the wind and taking daring health risks, like going downtown to the cinema?
If you’re that bold, consider visiting the airy, independent Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver or Liberty Theatre in Camas — where there’s plenty of room to spread out and masks are mandatory (in between mouthfuls of popcorn) — for the latest crop of offbeat movies.
Harold Lloyd’s silent “Safety Last!” features one of the most iconic images of early Hollywood: multitasker Lloyd, simultaneously trying to impress his girl, create a department-store advertising spectacle and escape the law, clambering up the side of a skyscraper where he winds up dangling from the hands of a clock.
Released in 1923, the genuinely thrilling “Safety Last!” is a silent classic, but a small group of live musicians from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, led by visiting score arranger Rodney Sauer, will add zesty accompaniment in authentic 1920s style. In addition to Sauer on piano, the ensemble will include Eva Richey on violin, Dieter Ratzlaf on cello, Bruce Dunn on trumpet and Igor Shakhman on clarinet.
The 73-minute comedy is set for a single screening at Kiggins on Nov. 18.
True confession: One of my favorite films is Wes Anderson’s slightly surreal coming-of-age romance, “Moonrise Kingdom.” It features the director’s trademark oddball characters and carefully composed cinematography, but beating at the film’s center is a sweet, earnest, sentimental heart.
At the indies
Clearly, Anderson is still targeting my personal moviegoing (and newspapering) sensibilities with his newest film, “The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas, Evening Sun,” which he has described as “a love letter to journalists.” It has already opened at the Kiggins.
Set in a fictitious French city, the film is an anthology that follows the unlikely adventures of several reporters for a magazine like The New Yorker. Student protests, police capers, fine arts and fine food all come into play during “The French Dispatch,” which features a vast ensemble cast led by Bill Murray as the magazine’s publisher.
“The opening travelogue with Owen Wilson is hilarious, and Jeffrey Wright’s tribute to James Baldwin should earn him an Oscar nomination,” said Richard Beer, programming director for the Kiggins. “I can’t wait to see it again because I know I missed so much of the visual detail on the first pass.”
Is “The French Dispatch” a little too in love with its own eccentricity? Some find Anderson’s fussy frames and wacky people too precious to stomach, but I’ve told you where I stand. It’s significant that this movie is set when its titular magazine is shutting down, as print media tends to do these days. I’ll cherish that love letter.
Food on film
While we’re in France, let’s also pay tribute to the great American who popularized the making of fine cuisine in normal domestic kitchens.
“Julia” is Julia Child, the cookbook author and charming TV chef, who announces that “food is love” in a new documentary by Julie Cohen and Betsy West. They’re the same team who celebrated the quiet heroism of another American original, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in their hit 2018 documentary “RBG.”
The unpretentious Child was a leading proponent of shrugging off perfectionism and having fun while you cook. She was famous for announcements like, “In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude,” and, “If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”
Always a larger-than-life figure, Child worked for U.S. military intelligence services during World War II. Her husband worked for the U.S. Foreign Service and was posted to Paris after the war. That’s where Child’s first taste of proper French cooking changed her life.
“I was 32 when I started cooking,” she said. “Up until then, I just ate.”
The story of how Child cheerfully infiltrated the male world of French cuisine, published her groundbreaking “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and became a TV star makes for a delightfully tasty movie. In addition to never-seen footage, “Julia” also features gorgeous food photography. It opens Nov. 24.
“Fans of intimate and inspiring documentaries like ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ and ‘RBG’ won’t want to miss the charming ‘Julia,’ ” Beer said. “Not only is it a fascinating look at the woman who was the first ‘rock-star’ chef, it’s a wonderful love story.”
Bogey and Beetle
Humphrey Bogart always played the tough guy, but that tough guy was also usually the good guy. Not so in “Conflict,” this month’s film noir feature at Kiggins, screening Monday. In this 1945 suspense thriller, Bogart is a wicked engineer who murders his wife. Or does he?
A Nov. 27 screening of Tim Burton’s over-the-top horror-comedy “Beetlejuice” will double the zaniness by presenting a live “shadowcast” of the film, alongside the screen, by the Denton Delinquents, a group that usually hams it up at midnight for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Now they’ve branched out for “Beetlejuice,” which stars Michael Keaton as the underworld’s most obnoxious ghost.
“Wait until you see the costumes and props for this one,” Beer said.