Critic's Picks: A February To-Do List for Film Buffs in L.A.

Courtesy of Photofest
'Baby Face' (1933)

SoCal cinephiles can pick from classics about working women, matinees of Milos Forman movies, a tribute to Japan's greatest animation filmmaker and more.


In an ever-timely gesture, the UCLA Film & Television Archive is kicking off its February calendar with “Working Girls: America’s Career Women on Screen,” a nearly two-month survey of films centered on women in the workplace. Opening Friday with the deliciously orchestrated big-city romance Working Girl, starring Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver (the latter of whom will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening) as an ambitious secretary and hotshot executive equally unafraid to step over one another on their way up the corporate ladder, the series skips across genres and milieus to provide an expansive view of the upwardly mobile and independent modern female. Following on consecutive weekends throughout the month are a trio of double features, including, on Feb. 16, a pair of pre-code classics, the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle Baby Face and the Dorothy Arzner feature Working Girls, and a Feb. 24 bill that pairs the late-'50s office comedy Desk Set, starring the duo of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, with the recently resurrected Losing Ground, by Kathleen Collins, a marital drama of extraordinarily industrious means that imbues the life of an everyday African-American woman with a lyricism that frequently touches the sublime. 


The great Japanese stylist and genre anarchist Seijun Suzuki passed away in early 2017 at the age of 93. This month the American Cinematheque presents a four-day showcase of Suzuki’s formative work –– eight films in total, a majority of which will be presented on 35mm prints, paired as four unmissable double features. Bookending the series are the rarest selections, including a Feb. 8 double bill of the director’s early gangster picture Satan’s Town and the wily Stagecoach riff Eight Hours of Terror, while Feb. 11 will highlight two films from 1960: Everything Goes Wrong, a fiery urban youth drama, and Fighting Delinquents, Suzuki’s first color production and first to feature Japanese pop singer Wada Koji. Meanwhile, two of Suzuki’s most indelible '60s features, Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter (both DCP), will share bills with the little-seen likes of The Flower and the Angry Wave (Feb. 10) and Born Under Crossed Stars (Feb. 9), each screening on beautiful archival prints.


While we (im)patiently await the rumored return of Hayao Miyazaki from semi-retirement, the American Cinematheque will mount a generous, all-35mm tribute to the Japanese animation legend throughout the month at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. The uninitiated would do well to test the waters with single film screenings of Miyazaki’s late-career masterpiece Howl’s Moving Castle (Feb. 16), or the early classics My Neighbor Totoro (Feb. 17) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (Feb. 25), before diving into a trio of double features. On Feb. 17, two of Miyazaki’s most ambitious '80s features, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky, will share the marquee, while the two final double bills — pairing Miyazaki's Porco Rosso with Yoshifumi Kondo's Whisper of the Heart (Feb. 22), and Princess Mononoke with Isao Takahata's Pom Poko (Feb. 25) –– slot a Miyazaki film alongside a feature by one of his Studio Ghibli colleagues. (Note: An additional screening of Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro, screening digitally and on 35mm, respectively, will take place at the Egyptian on Feb. 15.)

MILOS FORMAN AT LACMA | 5905 Wilshire Blvd.

This month LACMA’s Tuesday matinee series brings together a quartet of films by the great Czech director Milos Forman. Split between his early work in Czechoslovakia and his trailblazing transition into the new Hollywood of the 1970s, the selections are likewise divided between 35mm presentations and digital restorations. Readers of this column will be particularly delighted to see Forman’s seminal 1965 feature Loves of a Blonde, screening Feb. 6, on an archival 35mm print, and perhaps doubly so his riotous sociopolitical comedy The Fireman’s Ball, from 1967, on Feb. 13. Meanwhile, Forman’s two most successful films, the Oscar-winning pair of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Feb. 20), starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in two of their most iconic roles, and the feverish Mozart biopic Amadeus (Feb. 27), will close out the month, and in the process reiterate the range and sophistication of a filmmaker who left his mark on multiple national cinemas.