The Love Witch
Thursday December 15, 4:15 pm at Nitehawk: $12

If you can play hooky this afternoon, do. Your first hideout should be Nitehawk’s last screening of The Love Witch, which (witch?) I’m kicking myself for not getting to until now. I blame it all on Anna Biller– the filmmaker has done such a convincing job of making this throwback film look like an actual piece of vintage sexploitation that, for-realsies, even after several once-overs I failed to realize is actually a brand new movie that I should definitely be paying attention to. I mean, even the movie poster (see below) looks exactly like an airbrushed box-office placard advertising some cheap-o, long-forgotten ’70s erotic thriller.

"The Love Witch" (Via Nitehawk)

“The Love Witch” (Via Nitehawk)

Shot in gorgeous 35 mm, the film follows Elaine, a suspiciously perfect young woman (aka witch) who’s fond of casting “love spells” on unfortunate men whose facial hair looks even sadder once they’ve been stripped of their polyester leisure suits and/or candy-colored velvet robes and laid out on silken bedspreads or, better yet, shag carpeting. Even though Elaine’s adventures in sex magic always seem to end in the bloodshed of desperately weeping man babies, she’s confident that her intentions are perfectly innocent, and are only part of a desperate yearning for true love.

Nitehawk describes Biller’s unique style as a tribute to “1960s pulp novels and Technicolor melodramas”– which is a perfect way to depict “female fantasy and the repercussions of pathological narcissism” if you ask me. (There’s only one other recent film I can think of that looks like this: What’s Revenge?)  I’ve only seen the trailer and I’m already clapping my hands with glee.

And, no, Biller hasn’t simply vibed on the heavy ’70s-disco themes coursing through fashion and music and everything, everything right now, or even the late-’90s-does-the-’70s trend that’s picking up speed and confusing everyone, everyone at this terribly confounding moment in our nation’s history. One look at the director’s Vimeo is proof that she’s been at this for a good long minute, well, at least since 2007 when she released Viva, a similarly spooky-accurate period piece about a pair of suburban couples who get turned on and tuned in to “sex, drugs, and bohemia in Los Angeles in 1972.” In other words, this certainly isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of Biller.

I Am Not Your Negro
Thursday December 15 at 4:30 pm, 6:30 pm at the Metrograph: $15

Another screening to hustle to, unless you’re cool with waiting till February 3, when I Am Not Your Negro is officially released. If you haven’t heard about it yet, director Raoul Peck made a documentary on James Baldwin at exactly the moment when we really, really need a movie about one of the most prolific and influential black intellectuals–also essayist, novelist, you name it–the world has had the pleasure of knowing.

Film still from "I Am Not Your Negro" (Via the Metrograph)

Film still from “I Am Not Your Negro” (Via the Metrograph)

The film’s focus is Remember This House, a book about the Civil Rights movement in America that Baldwin never completed. Weaving together accounts of the life and assassinations of three major activists figures of that era, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X– all of whom were close friends and colleagues of Baldwin’s–with his own experiences, the filmmaker then draws a line to the present, patching together a story that both honors these monumental people, and carries Baldwin’s ideals forward, demonstrating that they’re as applicable and important as ever.

Wednesday December 28 at Sunshine Cinema: $12

You know that guy from Girls? He was literally the only decent person on the show? If your answer is “the Cafe Grumpy dude!” then, well, you’re just wrong. Duh, the only chiller was Adam, the guy who managed to keep his cool (most of the time, anyway) while treading water in a sea of unapologetic narcissists. Jim Jarmusch must have seen something in the guy (whose real name is Adam too, which makes things easier) because he cast him as the main dude, Paterson, in his newest film also named, bless his heart, Paterson.

The trailer dropped back in September, but the film’s release is finally upon us, and perfectly timed to land right in the middle of the holiday schlep.

Paterson is essentially the same dude as Adam (and Adam is essentially Adam, who is actually this cat)– a kinda quiet, unassuming underachiever with a dry sense of humor– only instead of obsessing over weightlifting and AA, Paterson is a bus driver by day and secret poet by night. His existence is something of a joke, since Paterson lives in Paterson, New Jersey, a small city just 30 minutes from Manhattan, but worlds away by pretty much every other measure. Seems like that’s exactly where Jarmusch himself wants to be– back in October, when the filmmaker joined Iggy Pop at a New York Times Times Talk to discuss the new Stooges documentary Gimme Danger, Jarmusch mentioned that, at the moment anyway, he found New York City “boring.” He’d rather spend time in the Catskills, he admitted, at least there he wouldn’t have to deal with the hordes of “phone zombies” clogging up the sidewalks of Manhattan.

Who knows? Maybe instead of the Great Migration westward to LA, Paterson will set off a mass exodus to Paterson, New Jersey. Hopefully that’s just all part of a Jarmusch-led plan to make NYC cool again.

80 Blocks From Tiffany’s
Saturday December 17 (10 pm), Sunday December 18 (5 pm), and Friday December 24 (7:30 pm) at Spectacle: $5

The Best of Spectacle series Bronxploitation film selection was shot in 1979, the era of The Bronx is Burning. The title of this documentary, 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s, says it all: the blighted and poverty-striken South Bronx was just a train ride away from New York City’s glitzy consumer center, but lightyears away from the concentrated wealth and prosperity below it. For all its bleakness, the documentary has legitimately entertaining moments, and combines the street-realness of Los Sures (set on Williamsburg’s south side in 1984) with the colorful gang lore of The Warriors in its portrayal of a borough hurdling toward complete social and physical decay as the most resource-sapped section of a city that, as a whole, was suffering from economic turmoil.

Gary Weis’s depicts the neighborhood as a battleground between two street gangs, the Savage Skulls and the Savage Nomads, and presents a vivid portrait of a bygone order in the city when nearly every block in desperately underserved neighborhoods like the South Bronx were controlled by street gangs (Clayton Patterson and Cochise Quiles detail the Lower East Side version of this in their book released earlier this year). If you’re looking to keep it real this holiday season, “80 Blocks” is your ticket.