–Arts and letters for the modern age–

Cathode Ray Zone

–Arts and Letters for the Modern Age–

Summer Short Takes

by | Aug 16, 2023

Only In Theaters

The engrossing documentary Only in Theaters chronicles the Laemmle theater chain. This film encompasses over eighty years of movie theater ownership by a single family complimented by clips from classic films.

If you’ve ever attended foreign or indie films in the Los Angeles area chances are the Laemmle chain was somewhere on the list.

Starting in 2019 the sons of the original owners were shopping their small cinema chain to corporate owners. Only in Theaters proceeds through the Covid shutdown and the complete reorganization of the company. A must-see for film mavens.

The League

The League is a fascinating documentary that traces the history of the Negro Baseball League.

Before there was even a Negro Baseball League, there were black players in the sport as early as 1884. The League traces the history of the sport; the evolution of Civil Rights in relation to baseball; and the players, owners, and managers of the Negro Baseball League.

The minutiae of obscure details of the American experience, told from a black perspective, give The League a special feel that encompasses respect for the game but even more respect for the players that endured unprecedented bigotry on the way to establishing world records.

Final Cut

A film crew making a zombie film actually encounters real zombies during a particularly difficult day. 

Final Cut, the French title of which is Coupez! is a pedigreed, French, odd-duck remake of the Japanese zombie thriller One Cut of the Dead.

The challenge of course is executing a thirty-minute one-take choreographed sequence.

This French version takes the conceit that the film is being financed by Japanese backers and even though the cast on display is obviously Eurocentric the character must have Japanese names.

AA winning director Michel Hazanavicius helms with A-list French thesps like leading man Romain Duris and leading lady Bérénice Bejo (married to Hazanavicius in real life).

Biosphere

Weird low-budget sci-fi theme set in an uncertain future. There is a major spoiler about one hour in, so let me just say you should discover this film on its own and not let me spoil the twist.

Biosphere would be an excellent two-person play because it’s just two guys, Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown, who live in a geodesic dome.

We the audience are supposed to figure out the time frame and external circumstances. In the end, such clues are not even relevant as the story propels itself based on its own sense of weirdness.

R.M.N.

A Romanian acronym for nuclear magnetic resonance forms the title of the newest film from acclaimed Romanian director Cristian Mungiu.

Without getting more technical the title is an allegory where instead of nuclei taking on the property of outside influence, the people of a small town act under the influence of the community (located in the territory of Transylvania in Romania) to enforce racism against cooks from Sri Lanka hired to work at a local bakery.

R.M.N. works overtime with its provocative premise and even ends with can only be termed as a wondrous sense of Eastern European magical realism. Mob mentality has rarely been so accurately recreated.

Afire

The quietly paced and eventually emotionally resonant Afire stars Thomas Schubert, Paula Beer, and Langston Uibel. Most domestic viewers will recall Beer from other films by writer/director Christian Petzold.

Petzold displays firm control of his characters. The action takes place at an idyllic country home where for most of the film the three literally hang out.

Subtle interplay between the characters eventually becomes their unwinding. A raging forest fire on the periphery doesn’t really seem important until the last act.

Jules

A sweet yet never overwhelming story of how old people are marginalized by society, Jules tells the story of old man Milton (a riveting Ben Kingley) and a couple of elderly lady friends (fine turns by Harriet Sansom Harris and Jane Curtin) who find a mutual reason for friendship.

Jules wastes no time getting to the heart of the plot as less than ten-minutes in a UFO – or UAP in the parlance of the day – crashes in his backyard destroying his garden and azaleas in the process.

Jules unwinds like a fable. The laughs are sincere yet Jules is not a comedy per se. The sci-fi seems science correct even though there are no huge effects.

Jules contains sterling performances from the three oldsters as well as Jade Quon playing the alien.

All of these films are available in local theaters as well as through VOD. Check your local listings for details.

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