Week of September 18, 2002

Sep 18, 2002 at 4:00 am
Cinema of Neglect: The 1970s. Fontbonne University presents a series dedicated to highlighting underappreciated films of the '70s. This week features Bob Rafelson's The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). David Staebler (Jack Nicholson), a depressed and solitary radio commentator specializing in "tragic autobiography," receives an urgent phone call beckoning him to Atlantic City to help his estranged older brother (Bruce Dern), an oily conman with mob connections and ambitious dreams. David reluctantly falls under his brother's fast-talking spell, though past differences and new conflicts -- chief among them Dern's ambiguous relationship with two women (Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson) -- only aggravates his sense of isolation. A companion piece of sorts to the earlier Nicholson/Rafelson collaboration Five Easy Pieces, the more self-conscious Marvin Gardens is at its best when it cruises on the energy of the mismatched brothers. Somewhere in the last 30 minutes, screenwriter Jacob Brackman tries a little too hard to tie up a few last-minute plot twists (one involving gangsters, the other a well-played but too convenient nervous breakdown by Burstyn), but they're little more than distractions from the film's real core of interest, the emotional sparring (and excellent performances) of Dern and Nicholson. Plays at 7:30 p.m. September 24 at the Fontbonne University Library. (RH)

Reel Late Midnight Movie Series. The Tivoli Theatre presents a series of classic and destined to be classic films. This week features David Lynch's classic acid-noir, Blue Velvet (1986). If you need to ask whether this movie is worth seeing, you wouldn't understand. Also playing is Donnie Darko. Blue Velvet plays at midnight September 20, noon and midnight September 21 and noon September 22. Donnie Darko plays at midnight September 20-21. (JO)