Things to Do

Movie Tickets: “Men in Black III,” “Being There,” “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview”

Our picks for the best in cinema over the next seven days.

Peter Sellers in Being There, screening at the AFI this weekend. Photograph courtesy of Lorimar Film Entertainment.

Being There

In the final years of his life,
Peter Sellers engaged in a persistent campaign
to gain the film rights to Jerry Kosinski’s 1971 novel about a
simple-minded gardener named
Chance, who makes an unlikely rise through the ranks of the
most powerful people of DC after the death of his employer, who
had shielded him from the world for most of his life. Sellers
saw something profound in the material, and an opportunity to
play a significant and subtly comic role that would serve him
better as a legacy than the beloved, but hardly serious,
Pink Panther films. He was eventually successful, and with one of the most idiosyncratic directors of the ’70s,
Hal Ashby, at the helm, Sellers made what would be the final film of his released while he was still alive.

The result is a masterpiece, and easily among my top
five favorite films of that decade. Sellers creates a lovingly nuanced
character study of a man who appears to others to be a blank
slate, allowing them to create reflections of themselves in him
while interpreting the homespun platitudes that dominate his
speech in whatever self-serving fashion they desire. Chance becomes
an inspirational political celebrity for a nation desperate for
political heroes, and Ashby never loses sight of the larger
satire inherent in the story, even as he navigates the small
and deeply personal aspects of Chance’s less public journey.
Some years later,
Forrest Gump would cover some of the same territory: simple man becomes lauded national celebrity without meaning to. But where
Gump was maudlin and leaned heavily on a crutch of nostalgia for goodwill,
Being There is the far better, if criminally less remembered, film.

View the
Screens through
Sunday, and again next Thursday at the AFI.
Check the AFI

for showtimes.

Little Otik
and Jan Švankmajer shorts

Surrealist Czech filmmaker
Jan Švankmajer has carved out a niche over the
past half century as one of the most immediately recognizable figures
in cinema, with his
distinctive style of stop-motion animation. Even if you’re
unfamiliar with surrealist Czech art films, some might still ring
a bell if you were ever a regular watcher of MTV in the ’80s,
when some of his shorts appeared as between-video bumpers. The
National Gallery begins a retrospective of the director’s work
this weekend with a number of his short-subject works, which
served as a massive influence for other animators, such as
Monty Python’s
Terry Gilliam. This collection will be followed by Švankmajer’s fourth feature, 2000’s
Little Otik, which blends stop-motion and live action
to re-create a Czech folk tale about a childless couple who dig up a
tree stump
that comes to life and that they raise as their own ­until they
discover its appetite may become a danger to those around

View the
. The shorts
collection screens Saturday at 1 PM, and Little Otik
on Sunday at 4:30 PM at the National Gallery of
. Further
films screen during the following two weekends.


French actor/director
Maïwenn’s third feature won the Jury Prize at
last year’s Cannes festival, and went into the Césars (the French
national film awards)
this year with a whopping 13 nominations, tying it with a
handful of other films for the most ever received. The film is an
ensemble crime drama, as Maïwenn takes a
ripped-from-the-headlines approach to putting the issue of child abuse
using real case files to develop a multiple-story narrative
centering around the detectives in the Paris Child Protective
Services Unit.

View the
Now open at E

Men in Black III

It’s been ten years since agents J and K (Will Smith and
Tommy Lee Jones) last brought their adventures in alien law enforcement to the big screen, a surprising figure given the financial (if not
critical) success of this film’s predecessor in the franchise. Director
Barry Sonnenfeld—who’s also been somewhat quiet since the last installment, with a couple of modest film and TV projects (Pushing Daisies)—brings the series back to life for a 3D adventure. Producers have reportedly sunk a staggering amount of cash into the film
for a franchise that’s been at rest for so long, and with
The Avengers still riding high at the box office, they have to be a little nervous about making all that money back. This time around,
they’ve added
James Brolin to the cast to play a young Tommy
Lee Jones (the impression is pretty . . . impressive, judging from the
as Smith’s character must go back in time to 1969 to stop a
plot to kill his partner when he was still a young man.

View the trailer. Now
open at theaters across the

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

In 1995, technology journalist
Robert Cringely sat down for a lengthy interview with Apple cofounder
Steve Jobs, who at the time was reaching the
end of his nearly ten-year absence from the company during the late ’80s
and early ’90s.
Only a small portion of the piece ended up making it on the
air, but the old VHS tapes were recently found and have been picked
up for theatrical distribution. There are no frills here. The
interview isn’t used as a piece in a larger documentary about
Jobs, and though the old tapes have been cleaned up to make
them a little more presentable for modern eyes, there’s not much
else here apart from a static Q&A with the man. It’s a
testament, then, to the force of personality he had that Magnolia
decided it was worth releasing and that the handful of reviews
out as of this writing indicate it’s worth watching even without
anything besides from the interview itself.

View the trailer. Now open at West End Cinema.

DVD Pick of the Week:

Certified Copy

Yesterday in his Criterion Corner blog on,
David Ehrlich called
Certified Copy “perhaps the best film of the last
are bold words, and for a movie that didn’t get talked about
too much outside of hardcore cinephile circles, they might have
some folks thinking, “How did I miss that?” It’s an
attention-grabbing assertion, but one that merits some thought.
Abbas Kiarostami’s 2010 film—which stars
Juliette Binoche and
William Shimell as a couple who ostensibly
meet at a book signing at the start of the day and by the end literally
seem to be a couple who
have been married for years—was one I enjoyed on first viewing
but that didn’t necessarily bowl me over. (You can read my
full review over at DCist.) But it’s a movie that
has stuck with me in way I
wouldn’t have expected. Kiarostami accomplishes some remarkable
things in this film by making a work that is surreal, subtly
experimental, and narratively challenging while never really
seeming inaccessible or difficult. There are mysteries at work
here that aren’t easy to unravel, but the director makes the
task such a pleasure that it invites multiple viewings. With
a pristine new Criterion release of the film, you may now do
just that.

Special Features: An Italian documentary about the making of the film, an interview with the director, a rarely seen 1977
Kiarostami film,
The Report, and a booklet with an essay from film critic
Godfrey Cheshire.

View the trailer.