Unmissable! ‘Run Lola Run’ Reveals Pre-Millennial Anxiety & More Top LA Films This Week!

Greetings! This is Mark Olsen. I welcome you to another guide to the universe of Only Good Movies. I recently traveled to the East Coast to spend time with my family and was delighted to stumble upon two exceptional (and hugely contrasting) video stores in Connecticut: Best Video Film and Cultural Center in Hamden and The Archive in Bridgeport.

We always find a reason to talk about Elaine May, as we recently did when we highlighted a series of her film screenings, including “The Heartbreak Kid.” So, you can imagine our enthusiasm for Carrie Courogen’s new biography, “Miss May Does Not Exist,” offering fresh perspectives on May’s life and career, from her pioneering comedy with Mike Nichols to her involvement in various roles in films like “A New Leaf,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Reds,” “Tootsie” and the once-dismissed, now rightly cherished “Ishtar.”

Marc Weingarten had a conversation with Courogen about the journey of writing the book, including her numerous attempts to engage with the notoriously private and elusive May, who recently celebrated her 92nd birthday. As Courogen described it (about May’s relationship with her own legacy), “She chose to remain in the shadows, but I see her influence everywhere in the industry. Despite her significant contributions, not many people know much about her.”

Vidiots will be showcasing May’s 1976 film “Mikey and Nicky” featuring Peter Falk and John Cassavetes on Monday. Actor, comedian, and podcaster Paul Scheer will be present to introduce the film.

Catching up with ‘Run Lola Run’

Marking the 25th anniversary of its U.S. debut, Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” is making a comeback to theaters in a new 4K restoration. The film’s lead, Franka Potente, will partake in Q&As at L.A.’s Nuart Theatre following the 7:30 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday.

The film encapsulated the pre-millennial tension of its era. Tykwer’s dynamic, aggressive filmmaking was as noteworthy as Potente’s striking red hair. The story traces three potential outcomes when Lola, a young woman in Berlin, receives a phone call informing her that her clumsy boyfriend has 20 minutes to secure a hefty sum of money, or he will be murdered.

In his initial review for The Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, “Lola doesn’t just run, she carries this hyperkinetic pop culture dynamite of a film with her. Writer-director Tom Tykwer’s restless, inventive work, the most dynamic from Germany in recent times, is about the playful creativity inherent in the medium itself. Cinema is a competition without rules, a place where anything can happen, and if you’re skeptical, just keep watching.”

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Reporting from Berlin, Carol J. Williams wrote about how the film captured its specific moment in history.

“What fascinates me about making films is that, unlike in life, you can outsmart time,” Tykwer said then. “Everyone has wished they could roll back time just 20 minutes and do something differently. You can actually do that in a film.”

Honoring Richard Roundtree

The American Cinematheque is launching a tribute series to Richard Roundtree this weekend. Roundtree, famed for his role as detective John Shaft, passed away last year at 81.

The series will feature the first two films where Roundtree portrayed the iconic character, both directed by Gordon Parks: 1971’s “Shaft” and 1972’s “Shaft’s Big Score.”

Also included in the series will be Tim Reid’s 1995 “Once Upon a Time…When We Were Colored,” Larry Cohen’s 1982 “Q: The Winged Serpent” and a preview of Roundtree’s final role in the forthcoming “Thelma.” That screening at the Egyptian will include a Q&A with writer-director Josh Margolin and actors June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Clark Gregg, and Nicole Byer.

Roundtree’s performance in “Shaft” landed him a Golden Globe nomination for the new star of the year. In a 2019 interview with The Times, Roundtree recalled his meeting with Parks for the role that transitioned him from male model to actor. “I was in his office, and he’s saying, ‘We’re kind of looking for a guy who looks like this,’” Roundtree remembered. “And I look over, and it’s an ad I had done. ‘That’s me!’”

The Times’ original 1971 review by John C. Mahoney stated that, “There is formidable talent invested in ‘Shaft.’ Richard Roundtree, bedding and brawling in the title role, defining himself solely in terms of color and function, makes a powerful screen-starring debut.”

In his review of “Shaft’s Big Score” in 1972, The Times’ Kevin Thomas wrote, “‘Shaft’s Big Score’ is visually appealing, with its crisp, graphic imagery, and successfully creates its own fantasy world out of its real-life New York exteriors that have been shot in a stylized way to blend with the glossy movie interiors.” Of the film’s lead, Thomas added succinctly, “Roundtree is as macho as ever.”

Other Highlights

Nobuhiko Obayashi’s ‘Beijing Watermelon’

This Saturday afternoon, Acropolis Cinema will premiere a new 2K restoration of Japanese filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1989 “Beijing Watermelon” in L.A. Obayashi, who passed away in 2020 at 82, is best known for his bizarre 1977 child-horror film “House,” but his work extends well beyond that film.

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“Beijing Watermelon” is based on a true story and follows a Tokyo greengrocer who befriends a group of Chinese exchange students, providing them with produce when they can’t afford it.

The Times’ Kevin Thomas wrote about the film when it first showed in L.A. in 1990, being the last title to open at the Little Tokyo Cinemas before the venue closed. Describing the film as “quirky, original, and unpredictable,” Thomas added, “Obayashi’s warmth and populist sentiments bring to mind the films of Frank Capra. … ‘Beijing Watermelon’, a treasure of dry, insightful observations, is a poignant commentary on the magic of cinema itself.”

Luchino Visconti’s ‘The Leopard’

Next Wednesday, the Academy Museum will present a 4K restoration of Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film “The Leopard,” starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale. Adapted from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel and set in 19th-century Sicily, the film explores the end of one aristocratic era and the beginning of another. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, the movie was also nominated for an Academy Award for Piero Tosi’s costume design. In my personal opinion, it is a film that only grows in stature, its overwhelming beauty surpassed by a sense of melancholic acceptance.

In 2010, Sam Adams wrote about the film for The Times, saying, “Perhaps the most overtly dialectical of Visconti’s movies, ‘The Leopard’ embodies the contradictions inherent in his identity. As a wealthy aristocrat with Marxist inclinations — not to mention a gay man whose romantic partners included Coco Chanel — Visconti was a cauldron of conflicting impulses that make themselves felt in ‘The Leopard’s’ mixture of nostalgia and revolutionary fervor. The movie’s opulent sets and Giuseppe Rotunno’s limpid cinematography transmit a palpable yearning for the gilded palaces and gala balls of a bygone era. But Visconti pines equally for the squandered potential of Garibaldi’s revolution, which in “The Leopard” amounts to nothing more than an exchange of sophisticated nobles for a new political class of wealthy boors.”

In 1994, Kevin Thomas said this about the film: “A magnificent triumph of personal expression, it is an example of the historical epic as an art film. Burt Lancaster is excellent as a Sicilian aristocrat who mourns the passing of his privileged world yet comprehends why it must inevitably be demolished.”

Additional News

Mapping the Hollywood history of the LGBTQ+ community

As part of a series of stories called “Our Queerest Century” examining 100 years of LGBTQ+ history, Matt Brennan wrote an essay on the community’s legacy in Hollywood and the impact of queer representation on screen and in the broader culture.

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As Matt put it, “To comprehend the LGBTQ+ contribution to American culture is not to question why we were erased from it, belittled in it, tokenized by it, but to question why we continued to love it regardless. … For a century we’ve been told we weren’t wanted or needed, that we couldn’t or shouldn’t, and we were shamed when we did. But we persisted, quietly or loudly, in code or by megaphone. Queer people didn’t change the culture, certainly not with a single sitcom, even one endorsed by a sitting vice president. We are the culture. Everyone else is simply living in it.”

The ‘L.A. Influential’ project

The Times recently unveiled a project known as “L.A. Influential,” intended as a snapshot of who wields power and influence in the city at this moment. As Gustavo Arellano described it in an introductory essay, “What does influence even mean anymore in Los Angeles when anyone with a social media account can amass a following of hundreds of thousands? Is it the people who are in charge of how the city operates — the politicians, the bureaucrats, the nonprofit leaders? Is it the individuals who tell us what to view, read, listen to and eat? The folks who work behind the scenes that few know about but who are legends in their world? Those who have huge influence outside Southern California but wouldn’t even be recognized at the In-N-Out drive-through? Yes.”

The list will be unveiled over several weeks. Naturally, many people in the initial group announced hail from the entertainment world, including Ava DuVernay, Eva Longoria, Kevin Feige, Ryan Murphy, Steven Yeun, and Jordan Peele.

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