February 16th 2013. Pick Of The Day.

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Nitehawk Cinema serves up a tasty brunch to go with their noon-ish screening of Buster Keaton's classic THE NAVIGATOR. One of the best efforts of the iconic filmmaker's peak years finds his usual hapless romantic utilize his greatest strength, his wholly American can-do spirit, what I like to call gumption, in the pursuit of his lady love's hand. An ocean separates them, as it were. My Pick on Valentine's Day, so I forgo this classic today to honor another comedian who couldn't be more averse to the risks physical and otherwise that Keaton embraced. Read on.

The Film Forum's excellent tribute to Hollywood's great transitional year 1933 brings the Busby Berkeley bananas today, with two vintage musicals from Lloyd Bacon; 42ND STREET and FOOTLIGHT PARADE. The former pretty much defined the "backstage musical" genre for all time, and the latter offers Jimmy Cagney's usual kinetic perf as a Broadway producer with one last chance to save his floundering career by producing live musical prologues for Hollywood's movie palaces. The Cagz even hoofs it up with Ruby Keeler in one scene. Really REALLY tempting, but not my Pick.

Back in our friendly Nitehawk Cinema midnight brings competing screenings of Brian De Palma's VERTIGO wanna-be OBSESSION, scripted and subsequently disavowed by Paul Schrader, and Paul Verhoeven's brilliant exercise in genre and scathing commentary on American corporate creep ROBOCOP. Wait, did I say they were competing? ROBOCOP it is! Well, it would be but it just misses as my Pick today. Should you attend I recommend the root beer and tater tots. Paradise, buddy.

Midnight at the IFC Center offers both Ridley Scott's seminal SciFi horror ALIEN and Alejandro Jodorowsky's whatthefuck EL TOPO. Need a hook to connecct these two drastically different types of filmmaker? Both were once developing DUNE's first big screen incarnation. The imagination soars...

And witching hour at the Clearview Chelsea Cinema ressurects everybody's fave transvestite mad scientist from another world, Tim Curry's Dr. Frank-N-Furter in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. I'm glad this flick still warrants the intermittent late night screening, honoring it's Midnight Movie heritage, but I skip it as my Pick. Today I choose a film about horrors real and demons even more terrifying than the image of a partailly devoured Meat Loaf. Funnier too, methinks, courtesy of a droll neurotic urbanite comic indie auteur not named Woody Allen. 'Cause there's just a ton of cats fitting that description.

Anthology Film Archives trods into day three of its Valentine's Day Massacre series, a trib to the excruciating pain inflicted by a love that refuses to die, but should. Screening alongside Maurice Pialat's award winning WE WON'T GROW OLD TOGETHER is the sophmore effort from one of modern cinema's most taken-for-granted talents, one Albert Brooks, brother of Super Dave Osborne and seeker of NEMO. Inspired equally by the Woodman and the indie cinema of John Cassavetes, Brooks has always shown an uncany ability to make relatable characters and situations that straddle a fine line between comedic and discomforting. The common caveat ascribed to his work is that his films get funnier after you've seen them, and that's true. That's becuase you know how it ends. A first time viewing is acompanied by degrees of dread, over situations socially embarrassing or life choices catastrophic. I'm making it sound less funny than it is. What I'm really getting at is this; Brooks' best films are rich not just in humor but in the commonplace details of our lives, most of which we don't find funny until a talented artist points them out to us. Today's offering might just be the gentlest example of mad love, of doomed attraction that wastes away the lives of those involved. Think of this as a Bronte sisters' novel with tsuris. Oy gevalt.

MODERN ROMANCE screens today at Anthology Film Archives at 9:15pm. My Pick Of The Day. What better way to kick Hallmark's fave holiday to the curb, I ask?


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-Joe Walsh