Despite the advantages of home entertainment centers and Netflix, experiencing a film on the big screen of an old style theater is just plain better. And if there is a too rare opportunity to see classic films in this way, this is an offering to cultivate.
The classic films being shown at 7 p.m. on Mondays and 1 p.m. on Tuesdays through Nov. 10 on the main screen of the Del Oro in Grass Valley includes several films that often ring near the top of discussions of the best films of all time.
“Lawrence of Arabia” (Nov. 2 to 3) especially belongs on a big screen with its renowned cinematography, including sweeping desert vistas and the sweeping brink of modern history. The American Film Institute (AFI) calls it the number one film epic and the number seven film of all time on its 2007 list.
“West Side Story” (Nov. 9 to 10) may only rank 51st on AFI's 2007 list of all time pictures, but ranks as the number two on its 2002 Musicals list after “Singin' in the Rain.” No film has more songs on AFI's top 100 movie songs list than those two musicals. (“The Sound of Music” ties with them with three songs on the list.)
AFI, rife with categories and a certain schizophrenic flare, is hardly the last word in best film lists, but it rates attention as a potent movie guide and may be the most well known.
“Cabaret” (Oct. 19 to 20) should be on the short list of the best films ever made. It is unparalleled in its integration of grippingly entertaining and innovative musical numbers with searing drama about the fomenting of Nazi Germany, while unfolding a unique brand of romantic chemistry. While it took AFI's second go-round to find a place on the core list at number 63, it is number five on the Musicals list.
“Dr. Strangelove” (Oct. 5 to 6) may be the most hilariously serious film ever made. This ripping satire about a single military-officer-gone-mad triggering global nuclear annihilation occupies slot three on AFI's Laughs list. It's 39 on its core 2007 list.
It's a stretch to consider Alfred Hitchcock in the same league with David Lean (“Lawrence of Arabia”) or Stanley Kubrick (“Dr. Strangelove”), but no director recorded more iconic mileage than Hitchcock. “Rear Window” (Oct. 26 to 27), with its setting restricted to one room in an apartment plus its line of sight to the courtyard and other apartments, is better than his best hailed films. AFI pegs it at 48 on its core 2007 list but three on its Mysteries list.
I don't really know what “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (Oct. 12 to 13) and “The Guns of Navarone” are doing in a series with those other six films. They're good, not great. Nonetheless, it's the kind of lineup that makes me hope enough people attend to spark a more frequent showcase of standout classic films. They deserve a turn in a place where best films were best meant to be shown.