This week’s best choices in theaters are:
- La La Land: the extraordinarily vivid romantic musical staring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
- Lion: an emotionally affecting family drama that makes the audience weep (in a good way).
- The Founder: the enjoyably addictive story of how a the money-grubbing visionary Ray Kroc built the McDonald’s food service empire.
- Hidden Figures: a true life story from the 1960s space program – a triumph of human spirit and brainpower over sexism and racism; the audience applauded.
- I Am Not Your Negro, the documentary about the American public intellectual James Baldwin. It’s a searing examination of race in America as analyzed through Baldwin’s eyes and as expressed through his elegant words.
- The Salesman is another searing and authentic psychological family thriller from Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Past).
My TV/Stream of the Week is Tower, a remarkably original retelling of the 1966 mass shooting at UT Austin. It’s playing on the PBS documentary series Independent Lens, and you can also stream Tower on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
This week Turner Classic Movies will present two of my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock films. First, on February 19, there’s North by Northwest, with perhaps the greatest ever collection of iconic set pieces – especially the cornfield and Mount Rushmore scenes, but also those in the UN Building, hotel, mansion, art auction and the 20th Century Limited train – they’re all great. Back in the days of the Production Code, some filmmakers could deliver sexual and erotic content without actually showing nudity or simulated sexual activity; one of the best examples is the flirtation between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint on the train (and it even culminates with the notorious allegory of the train penetrating the tunnel).
Then TCM brings us Rear Window in February 21st. Here we have James Stewart playing a guy frustrated because he is trapped at home by a disability. When he observes some activity by neighbors that he interprets as a possible murder, he becomes more and more obsessed and voyeuristic. When it looks like he has been correct instead of paranoid, that business about being trapped by a disability takes on a whole new meaning.