Ghost in the Shell (1996)
Thursday April 13, Saturday April 15, and Sunday April 16 at The Metrograph: $15
No better time to see the original Ghost in the Shell, now that the anime classic has been remade and lost a good chunk of its futuristic/cyborg ambiguity in the process via the casting of a decidedly blonde, white bombshell in the lead. In the remake, Scarlett Johansson plays Major, i.e. an Anglicized version of the already Anglized Cyborg Major Kusanagi from the anime version.
The year is 2029, and this “perfect specimen of human-brained computer engineering” has been tasked with tracking down the elusive and amorphous villain known as The Puppet Master, whose precise plan for overthrowing the world– a Blade Runner-like super-city megalopolis where the human race has become so consumed by technology, that they are now inseparable and, at times, difficult to distinguish. The film deftly navigates the ethical and existential quandaries that are dramatically more real than they were in 1996 when the animated film was made.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Thursday April 13 through Thursday April 20 at Nitehawk: $12
Ok, so in my humble opinion remakes kinda suck for the most part, especially when they are Americanized versions of foreign films. Hollywood adaptations have bad habits like leaving important things out and coating more subtle styles in a thick, sparkly layer of commercial lacquer. Even worse are the particularly cash-laden box office bangers, which tend to fumble over cultural differences that remakers either fail to pick up on, or just could care less about respecting. (I’ll never get over what they did to Let the Right One In, and the 2007 remake of Funny Games broke my heart too.)
But…the new live-action Ghost in the Shell looks pretty awesome based on visuals alone. And if you’re prepared for the worst, there seems to be a 50/50 chance that you’ll either love this redo or hate the crap out of it since the reviews are pretty polarized so far. Of course.
Thursday April 13, Monday April 17, Saturday April 22, and Tuesday April 25 at Spectacle: $5
Unless you’re a B movie freak, or serious about your classic sci-fi films, the name Jack H. Harris probably won’t ring a bell. But his production credits, films like The Blob (1958) definitely will. (Incidentally, Harris not only produced his own remake of the film in 1987, but was behind a series of Blob sequels.) The premise is pretty bizarre even now, and imagine how this thing flopped into the box office back in the ’50s– but what’s even weirder is the story behind it, and how Harris managed to convince a religious film production company called Valley Forge, based in the Pennsylvania boonies.
Sadly, Harris passed away last year, so in honor of the freaky legend’s 98 weird years on earth Spectacle is screening a pair of his lesser known movies, including Equinox, “a journey into the supernatural” that had a “genre-defining, effects-pioneering” impact on filmmaking. Spectacle writes that “without Equinox arguably, there would be no Evil Dead series.”
Friday April 14 through Thursday April 20 at Anthology Film Archives: $11
Set high in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, this “breathtakingly shot ‘Eastern western’” is a fine example of the truism that some stories are universal. Like other westerns, Mimosas is set in a harsh, unforgiving, but strikingly beautiful desert wilderness, and it plays on narrative tropes involving mystery, intrigue, men (yes, men) pushed to the brink while their moral constitution is equally tested– that we know well.
But what filmmaker Oliver Laxe has brought to the film tests the bounds of the genre itself with what Anthology calls a “remarkable ability to blur the boundaries between documentary and fiction, and to conjure up and counterpoise differing levels of reality.” We’re not talking Spinal Tap-style, though: “Richly suggestive and profoundly hypnotic, Mimosas is a head-scratcher whose meanings remain elusive even as its imagery and structural gambits lodge deeply in your mind.” It’s probably a good idea to leave the jazz grass at home for this one, sounds like there’s enough natural THC in this one.