At the risk of coming off like an overgrown teenager, I will argue that one of the most important films of the George W. Bush years was Team America: World Police. Written and directed by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the same duo behind the TV series South Park, this 2004 puppet-starring comedy is most remembered for its vulgar theme music and a scatalogical sex scene that nearly earned it an NC-17 rating. Behind all the crude humor, though, is a no-holds-barred satire that challenges the myth of American exceptionalism — and the action-movie culture that propagates it. On January 19, CineMug will come again to save the motherfuckin’ day by screening Team America for $5. Remember to BYOB.
Speaking of CineMug, the combination coffee shop/video rental store/film venue will throw its two-year anniversary party starting at noon on January 28. Go geek out with other films buffs at one of the last places in the city where you can regularly pick up classic, cult, and foreign titles.
Kurosawa and Jodoworski
Akira Kurosawa was a giant of Japanese cinema, having helped to establish the samurai genre and influencing scores of directors the world over. Now, his longtime collaborator will get to have his story told. Toshiro Mifune starred in 16 Kurosawa films and is the subject of Mifune: The Last Samurai, a documentary exploring the actor’s “accidental” career in front of the camera. PhilaMOCA will host two screenings (one at 7:30pm, the next at 10pm) of the Keanu Reeves-narrated doc on January 20. Tickets cost $10.
Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodoworski also has a larger-than-life reputation, but for somewhat different reasons. Known for his surreal genre experiments, Jodoworski has directed only a handful of feature-length films over the course of his nearly 50-year career. Each, however, gives viewers a lot to chew over. One such film is the 1973 fantasy The Holy Mountain, a psychedelic meditation on religion and Western thought starring the filmmaker himself. Cinema Ray will show the film at Tattooed Mom for just $4 on January 31.
Rebellion and “social guidance”
Also on January 31, the non-profit Scribe Video Center will kick off a two-day celebration of Billy Woodberry, one of the leading figures of the L.A. Rebellion (otherwise known as the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers). First up, at the Roxy Theater, is a screening of three different Woodberry films, including his 1983 drama Bless Their Little Hearts and his far more recent documentary about Beat poet Bob Kaufman, titled And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead. The next day, Scribe will follow up with a master class led by Woodberry at its West Philly office.
On a different note, on January 27, Secret Cinema will do what it does best: screen obscure cinematic finds from decades past. This time, it will show a roster of social guidance films dating to the middle of the last century. These are those much-parodied, supremely on-the-nose attempts at propaganda that tend to feature wide-eyed protagonists led astray by the more sinister elements of society. Older folks may remember having to sit through these films in school, but younger viewers will get to see what they missed for just $8 at Fleisher Art Memorial.