If we had done a “summer film preview,” we would have been exhausted by the time we got to August, and skimped on this surprisingly robust month on the film calendar. Instead, our monthly Film Preview and Power Rankings will allow you to schedule your dog-days air conditioning down to the MINUTE. Rankings are objectively accurate and should be taken as gospel, especially by any filmmakers, distributors or programmers reading this. Read previous months’ previews here, and imagine the lives you could have led if you’d paid attention.
- Will You Dance with Me? and Dim All the Lights: Disco and the Movies
In 1984, two years before he was diagnosed as HIV-positive, the great Derek Jarman spent a night in an East London gay bar with a primitive digital video camera. The resultant footage was never screened publicly in Jarman’s lifetime, but it now receives a weeklong run at the Metrograph, a time capsule and a celebration of the defiant beauty of the Thatcher-era underworld. Complementing the series is an expansive series on disco in the movies (fictionally and nonfictionally, directly and tangentially), in which straight and queer, white and black, New York and beyond all come together on the same dance floor.
Will You Dance With Me August 5-11; Dim All the Lights: Disco and the Movies August 5-11 at the Metrograph.
- Kate Plays Christine
Robert Greene, a documentary filmmaker whose films always keep one eye on what “documentary” even means, teams up with queen of the microindies Kate Lyn Sheil for this study of performance, the media, trauma and ethics. It follows Sheil as she prepares for a role (contrived for the film) as Christine Chubbuck, the Florida news anchor who fatally shot herself on-air in 1974. When the film played BAMcinemaFest, BK Mag’s Justin Stewart called it “a righteous excoriation of the pointlessness of the respectable middlebrow biopic […] Excitingly roundabout but at the same time pointedly direct,” and said of its star: “Sheil is compelling to behold […] and generally tries to do right by Chubbuck as a fellow woman outnumbered and made to feel inadequate in her field by men.”
Opens August 24.
- Joe Dante at the Movies
Of the 70s Movie Brats, Joe Dante is the filmmaker whose work has most purely retained the shameless, rubbery spirit of his beloved, disreputable 50s and 60s genre fare. This retrospective features Dante’s anarchic, subversive, live-action Looney Tunes (The Burbs!) alongside a program of favorites selected by the filmmaker (The Big Clock!), frequently combined and recombined into double features.
August 5-24 at BAM.
- Kartemquin at 50
The documentary collective is best known through the films of Steve James, and indeed Hoop Dreams, Stevie and The Interrupters will all screen at this series, which James will attend, along with Kartemquin’s founder Gordon Quinn—whose own work tackled Vietnam, the generation gap, childbirth, gentrification and sports, beginning in the 1960s. This series salutes the proudly and intensely Chicago-based Kartemquin, perhaps the most vital single vehicle of regional American nonfiction filmmaking.
August 19-28 at the Museum of the Moving Image.
- Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
The AP stylebook now holds that the word “internet” should be lowercase, having previously recommended “Internet.” A challenge to this newly less grandiose status quo arrives in the form of Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, a wide-ranging survey of our digital lives. Every noun is a proper noun when it’s spoken by Werner Herzog.
Opens August 19.
- Madonna: Truth or Dare and Body of Work: A Madonna Retrospective
“She doesn’t want to live off-camera.” Metrograph celebrates the 25th anniversary of the seminal behind-the-scenes documentary of Blonde Ambition-era Madge, and pairs it with her contemporaneous acting roles in films by heavyweights Warren Beatty, Woody Allen and Penny Marshall, as well as East Village 80s fellow travelers Susan Seidelman, Abel Ferrara and Uli Edel.
Madonna: Truth or Dare August 26-September 1; Body of Work: A Madonna Retrospective August 27-September 1 at the Metrograph.
- That’s Entertainment: MGM Musicals Part I
The first half of this series spotlighting the studio with “more stars than there are in the heavens” features 19 films showing off the talents of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, Vincente Minnelli and Busby Berkeley, Betty Comden and Adolph Green—and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’s 1949 reunion The Barkleys of Broadway, their only film together in color. Part II will feature post-1950 musicals.
August 26-September 21 at BAM.
- Happy Hour
The Japanse director Ryusuke Hamaguchi worked with his four relatively inexperienced to develop this loosely ebbing and flowing study of female friendship, among a group of thirtysomething women in Kobe who go out for meals, spa treatments and workshops, and talk about their romantic and professional lives together and apart. The film’s epic length—a bit over five hours and fifteen minutes—is, perhaps, a rejoinder to received ideas about what constitutes a truly substantial cinematic experience.
August 24-30 at MoMA.
- Lampedusa in Winter
Jakob Brossmann’s 2015 documentary settles in to Mediterranean island (formerly the principality of the author of The Leopard and his ancestors) during winter, when the tourists are gone and it’s just a few thousand struggling fisherman who are the first in Europe to face the migrant crisis firsthand.
August 19-21 at Anthology Film Archives.
- Curt McDowell, Tom Rubnitz
Two related series survey the joyfully obscene, campily political underground films of Curt McDowell, the San Francisco-based 16mm icon. A major survey of his recently preserved works, including the “sex-positive family film” Sparkle’s Tavern as well as shorts, runs alongside programs of queer, communal, performative shorts by others, most notably the East Village drag scene’s unofficial videographer Tom Rubnitz, of Pickle Surprise fame and a collaborator on silly, colorful, puckish and wonderful shorts with the likes of RuPaul, John Sex, Ann Magnuson, the B-52s and David Wojnarowicz.
Loads of Curt McDowell: A Restoration Retrospective August 11-17; Things: A Queer Legacy of Graphic Art and Play: Curt McDowell, Tom Rubnitz and Robert Ford August 11-18 at Anthology Film Archives.
Directing duo “the Daniels” (of Swiss Army Man) wrote and directed this “interactive love story,” starry Alex Karpovsky and Zoe Jarman, in which the viewer navigates between potential scenes and narratives experiences, sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Every so often, filmmakers try to use the web to play around with interactive storytelling, only for permanent undergraduates to point out that, like, every story is interactive.
Premieres August 3 on Eko.
- Suicide Squad
This adaptation of the west side of 4th Avenue between East 11th and East 12th street stars Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto (How to Make an American Quilt) as Party Monster.
Opens August 5.
- Little Men
From Ira Sachs, another New York story of real estate and family ties, and how the two often intersect. This one’s centered around the friendship between two preadolescent boys whose parents are feuding over an eviction. “Sachs observes these interpersonal dynamics with an evenhanded gaze, refusing to fully condemn any of his characters even when they act in selfish and untoward ways,” Kenji Fujishima wrote when the film played BAMcinemaFest. “[T]hankfully, his tender, warmhearted humanity has remained intact.”
Opens August 5.
- Joan Crawford’s Private Home Movies
Because nothing about Joan Crawford’s private life is truly private (or truly understood), grandson Casey LaLonde (son of non-disinherited Cathy Crawford) presents a program “of color home movies shot by Crawford from the 30s through the 50s […] cavorting in the woods with a mysterious lover; sunbathing au naturel; hosting a Hollywood birthday party for daughter Christina; appearing at the Academy Awards; opening Iraq’s very first Pepsi bottling plant,” et cetera. The program coincides with Film Forum’s revival of the underseen noir Sudden Fear (above), starring Crawford alongside Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame.
August 14 at Film Forum.
- Southside with You
A rom-dram based on Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date, when the future PO- and FLOTUS famously went to see Do the Right Thing. It’s probably going to be nothing like Goodbye Dragon Inn but we can always… Hope.
Opens August 26.
- Return of the Double Feature
For the dog days of the Indian summer, Film Forum keeps alive the two-for-one tradition, featuring canonical pairings: Vertigo/Rear Window, Contempt/Breathless, Paths of Glory/The Killing, and that’s just the first weekend. There’ll 26 double features in all.
August 19-September 13 at Film Forum.
- A Tale of Love and Darkness
Natalie Portman, pen pal of your dreams, makes her directorial debut with this adaptation of Amos Oz’s novel about the formation of the state of Israel, in which she also stars as the author’s mother.
Opens August 19.
- Mia Madre
Italian Cannes favorite Nanni Moretti’s latest semi-autobiographical semi-comedy concerns a filmmaker juggling the demands of her new picture’s difficult foreign star (John Turturro) along with multiple generations of family drama. The film “explores how families, like films, can be defined by an auteur,” Glenn Heath Jr. wrote last year.
Opens August 26.
- The Lost Arcade and Shall We Play a Game?
To complement The Lost Arcade, a documentary about the Mott Street videogame palace the Chinatown Fair, Metrograph presents a program of films inspired by vintage video games. Pixels is not included, for whatever reason, but Mortal Kombaaaaaaaaaaaaaat is, as is The Last Starfighter.
Lost Arcade opens August 19; Shall We Play a Game August 12-18 at the Metrograph.
- Morris from America
“A coming-of-age tale that derives extra richness from its cultural specificity—or, rather, cross-cultural specificity,” Kenji Fujishima wrote when Chad Hartigan’s film played at BAMcinemaFest. “13-year-old Morris (Markees Christmas) and his father, Curtis (Craig Robinson) are American expats living in Heidelberg, Germany. Thus Morris is forced to negotiate not just the instability of his own burgeoning hormones—especially as he becomes smitten with the rebellious and elusive Katrin (Lina Keller)—but also the bewilderment that comes with adjusting to an unfamiliar way of life.”
Opens August 19.
- The Films of José Luis Guerín
Guerín is the director of the sun-kissed In the City of Sylvia (2007), a reverie of voyeurism and nostalgia that’s sort of a hybrid fiction and essay film with a puckish view of the stalking camera-eye, as the camera’s gaze follows a beautiful young man following a beautiful young women around Strasbourg. Anthology’s series, collecting his various experiments in nonfiction and essay-film form, precedes a weeklong run of the filmmaker’s latest, Academy of Muses, next month.
August 24-September 1 at Anthology Film Archives.
- Spa Night
Writer-director Andrew Ahn’s debut feature concerns a young Korean-American man whose job at a spa forces him to confront his repressed homosexually. When the film played BAMcinemaFest, Kenji Fujishima observed that “is rare to see the Asian-American experience—with David Cho (Joe Seo) torn between his filial piety toward his struggling immigrant parents and his desire to see the world—rendered with such sharp eye for details and acute understanding as it is here.”
Opens August 19.
The French filmmaker Alice Winocour (who cowrote Mustang) has earned ear-pricking festival praise for this thriller, in which PTSD-afflicted veteran-turned-bodyguard Matthias Schoenaerts protects Diane Kruger from threats real and/or imagined.
Opens August 12.
- Tadeusz Konwicki
Konwicki, who died in 2015, was a revered author whose works captured the muddy, cosmic mood of 20th century Poland. As a filmmaker he’s less well-known than his contemporaries Wojciech Has and Andrzej Wajda, though he was the head of the Kadr Film Studio that released some of Wajda’s major New Wave-adjacent early films. This series aims to raise his profile as an auteur, with his 1973 demi-autobiographical fugue How Far Away, How Near as well as his 1982 adaptation of Nobel winner Czesław Miłosz’s Issa Valley, and his 1989 theater adaptation Lava.
August at the Spectacle.
- Sausage Party