On Screen: New releases, classics restored, watch parties, and a Sondheim birthday celebration

We might be stuck at home for several more weeks (months? years?), but entertainment options abound — be they educational, enriching, new, or old. Below, a round-up of some of the coming week’s highlights from local cinemas, new releases, semi-social watch-alongs, and a couple diversions to the world of theater.

Virtual Cinema

  • SIFF’s virtual cinema expands again this week, taking a turn for art new and old. Leonardo: The Works marks the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death with a close examination of his art through an Exhibition on Screen; Lucian Freud — A Self Portrait brings together 50 of the twentieth century artist’s selfies in a collaboration between London’s Royal Academy of Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. An Engineer Imagines profiles the career of architect Peter Rice, who designed iconic buildings like the Sydney Opera House and The Pompidou Centre in Paris.
  • Northwest Film Forum has more virtual screenings of Shelf Life, Paul Bartel’s 1993 bomb shelter comedy (Tony’s review). They are also partnering with Kino Now to share a new restoration of Nancy Kelly’s A Thousand Pieces of Gold, a real-life story of a young Chinese woman sold into slavery in an 1880s mining territory. For those looking to get the most hours of viewing for their dollar, they are also presenting a 25th anniversary restoration of Béla Tarr’s seven-and-a-half-hour “slow cinema” black-and-white portrayal of “rural Hungary beset by nihilist revelry, treachery, and tragedy”. (h/t, Kathy Fennessy who praised it as “one of the most transfixing films I’ve ever seen, and I wasn’t bored for a second.”)
  • Grand Illusion turns this week’s virtual cinema onto a newly-released bi-curious rom-com, James Sweeney’s (writer/director/leading man) Straight Up, about a gay twentysomething who dives into an all-talk / no-sex relationship with a lady (!) to avoid dying alone. Available in partnership with EventLive.
  • The Stranger is pulling the Robinson Devor’s Police Beat out of the archives with a choose-your-own-price ticketing model. Written by Charles Mudede, and based on his weekly column of the same title, the 2005 film “follows an African-born Seattle bicycle cop on his beat for seven days and six nights, covering more than forty crimes, all of which are based on actual Seattle police reports.”
  • Strange Negotiations, the doc featuring Seattle’s house show darling David Bazan, is now on sale for 99¢ (here’s the direct link to iTunes). The folks behind the film are also encouraging us to gift it to anyone who might be having a hard time or just needs a distraction in this stressful time. I think we can all afford that and happily support a talented local artist at the same time.

New releases:

  • Bad Education, the true story of a Long Island high school’s embezzlement scandal premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year with favorable reviews. Cast with Hollywood heavy-hitters like Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney in the lead role as school administrators who break bad, it had the look of something that would make a buzzy spring release (or at least bum around on the festival circuit). Instead, it’s jumping straight to HBO starting tomorrow, available on television and streaming packages.
  • Bad Boys For Life — the days of mindless diversions seem so far away, but it was only a couple of months ago that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence dusted off the franchise for another go around. Chris enjoyed the ride and now so can you, courtesy of various VOD platforms.

Watch parties

  • SIFF is also rebooting their Movie Club into Our New Zoom Era with a roundtable discussion of Leo McCarey’s 1937 romantic comedy The Awful Truth. You’ll have to watch the Cary Grant–Irene Dunne classic on your own but can still register and tune in for the roundtable with Dan Doody and Rosmarie and Vince Keegan at 8:00 PDT on April 29. (Advance registration required)
  • Focus Features continues their weekly interactive live viewing Movie Mondays with Pawel Pawlikowski’s (Ida, Cold War) My Summer of Love on on April 27 at 5pm PST. Follow along on Facebook Live.

The Theatre!

  • National Theatre Live continues to open their archives to bring stage performances to drama lovers cooped-up at home. Yesterday, brought Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity, Twelfth Night (on YouTube through April 30th). The next run will be their production of Frankenstein in which Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller each get a shot at playing the creature.
  • We may all be stuck in quarantines, but it’s Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday and the show must go on. It’ll be the farthest thing from an ordinary Sunday (whether you’re watching from home or a socially-distanced park) when dozens of Broadway’s brightest come together (virtually) with Take Me To The World, a congregation of live musical performances to celebrate the incomparable composer and lyricist. While it’s sad that he can’t hang out with all of his famous friends in person, this live-streamed event (benefitting Artists Striving to End Poverty) is probably the only way most of us would’ve ever gotten an invite to a party with the likes of Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Christine Baranski, Beanie Feldstein, Josh Groban, Jake Gyllenhaal, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Kuhn, Linda Lavin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt, and an ever-growing roster of “jaw-dropping” stars. (Sunday April 26, 5:00 PDT).