Boston on Film, Part 2

BOSTON ON FILM, PART 2

VIRTUAL REPERTORY SERIES

WEDNESDAY, JULY 15 – MONDAY, JULY 20, 2020
Films Announced Daily at 10:30am

Films Announced Daily at 10:30am

For this second part of our BOSTON ON FILM series, we go beyond the crime film to focus on how the institutions of Boston – educational, social, medical, and the press – are depicted on screen. Inclusion of these institutions – especially those of higher learning like Harvard and MIT – sometimes create shortcuts for character development or plot points but they just as often serve as dramatic backdrops for love stories or thrillers. Additionally, because the focus is not on the underground criminal element, these films are more likely to feel like time-capsules giving us a glimpse into a Greater Boston that many of us have never seen.

PANEL DISCUSSION

Thursday, July 23 at 5:30 PM

Massachusetts Historical Society will host an online conversation between the Brattle’s creative director Ned Hinkle, author Jim Craibel, and more to further discuss this subject. Click here to register →


Wednesday, July 15 • Double Feature

LOVE STORY

Streaming on Cinemax; for rent elsewhere

1970 • dir Arther Hiller w/Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal, John Marley • 100 min

One of the most well-known films of the 1970s shot in Cambridge, LOVE STORY follows the all-too-short union between a monied Harvard student and a Radcliffe librarian from humble roots. A cultural touchstone of the early 70s, LOVE STORY introduced a theme song that became omnipresent Muzak, the phrase “Love means never having to say your sorry,” a massive spike in the popularity of the name “Jennifer,” and a tragic, if conventional, spin on the rich-boy-meets-poor-girl stock plot. The filmmakers made extensive use of Harvard as a location – wearing out their welcome so thoroughly that the university would never again allow the same level of access for a film production. Oh, and keep an eye out for the debut of Tommy Lee Jones – himself a recent Harvard grad when the film came out.

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THE PAPER CHASE

For rent only

1973 • dir James Bridges w/Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, John Houseman • 113 min

Another 70s touchstone film that is widely underseen today, THE PAPER CHASE won an Oscar for John Houseman as Kingsfield, an imposing Harvard Law School professor who intimidates his students into learning. Most of them can’t hack it, but determined first year pupil James Hart (Bottoms) finds the challenge invigorating. He pushes himself to try and do the impossible – gain the respect of the hyper-critical educator. At the same time, Hart struggles to balance the rigors of Harvard learning with a new romance that turns out to be more complicated than he was expecting. Shot by ‘The Prince of Darkness,’ cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather), THE PAPER CHASE has an unexpectedly moody feel – particularly in the beginning with many scenes played out at night or dramatically underlit.

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Thursday, July 16

LEGALLY BLONDE

Streaming on Hoopla; for rent elsewhere

2001 • dir Robert Luketic w/Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair • 96 min

A prime example of the aspirational Harvard comedy (also characterized by the execrable Soul Man and the goofball How High), LEGALLY BLONDE is a movie that is as perky as its lead character, Elle Woods (Witherspoon). Elle is a seemingly ditzy Beverly Hills blonde who aces her LSATs and enrolls in Harvard Law School when her politician-wannabe boyfriend dumps her to go there. Much smarter than anyone gives her credit for, Elle finds success and agency for herself by using her pop culture knowledge, her fashion sense, her quick wits, and the snobbish tendency of others to underestimate her. 100% not shot in Boston, this is also a hilarious example (for residents of Boston at least) of California doubling for the East Coast.

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Friday, July 17

NOW, VOYAGER

Streaming on HBO Max; for rent elsewhere

1942 • dir Irving Rapper w/Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains • 117 min

Location shooting during the golden age of Hollywood was so rare that, of course, there are few films actually shot outside of California and NOW, VOYAGER is no exception. However, there are few films where the concept of a Boston Brahmin family is better used as shorthand to outline the background of a character. In this classic melodrama, Bette Davis plays the spinster daughter of a monied Back Bay family who reveals a heretofore unknown inner-spark when she gets out from under the thumb of her imperious dowager mother and their gloomy Marlborough Street mansion.

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Saturday, July 18 • Double Feature

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Saturday, July 18 • Double Feature

ALTERED STATES

For rent only

1980 • dir Ken Russell w/William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban • 102 min

Visionary director Ken Russell (Tommy) collides with acclaimed screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (Network) on the streets of Beacon Hill in this trippy, wordy, intellectual sci-fi/horror film. Edward Jessup (Hurt), a brilliant psychopathologist, goes on a quest to unlock the hidden capacity of the human mind and the lost genetic code of our ancestors. The keys to this experiment are, apparently, copious amounts of psychedelic drugs and the use of an immersion tank. The result is a dramatic and wholly unexpected physical transformation. Inspired by the experiments of legendary psychonaut John C. Lilly, ALTERED STATES turns the ‘ultimate trip’ of 2001 into an internal journey that leads to a similar state of psychedelic revelation.

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COMA

For rent only

1978 • dir Michael Crichton w/Genevieve Bujold, Michael Douglas, Richard Widmark • 113 min

This Boston-set paranoid 70s thriller has an uncharacteristic twist – for once, the main character drawn into a dangerous web of deceit and treachery is played by a curious and capable woman rather than a hapless Dustin Hoffman type. Geneviève Bujold plays Dr. Susan Wheeler who, while working at Boston Memorial Hospital, uncovers a mystery involving seemingly healthy patients falling victim to unexpected complications during routine surgery. When she investigates a connection to the mysterious Jefferson Institute, Dr. Wheeler finds herself in mortal danger. Shot in and around the hospitals of Boston in the late-1970s as well as at the old Xerox headquarters in Lexington, COMA is a fun time-capsule film for residents of our city and also a taut thriller.

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KNOWING

Streaming on AmazonPrime; for rent

2009 • dir Alex Proyas w/Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne • 121 min

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Sunday, July 19 • Double Feature

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Sunday, July 19 • Double Feature

THE BOSTONIANS

Streaming on Kanopy; for rent elsewhere

1984 • dir James Ivory w/Christopher Reeve, Vanessa Redgrave, Madeleine Potter, Jessica Tandy, Linda Hunt, Wallace Shawn • 122 min

Set in late 19th century Boston in the midst of the Women’s Suffrage movement, THE BOSTONIANS is a poignant tale of sexual repression and social propriety disguised as a romance – so your typical Henry James novel. In this gorgeous adaptation, the legendary filmmaking team of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala lean into the homoerotic longing felt by prim spinster Olive Chancellor (Redgrave) for the beautiful, firebrand speaker Verena Tarrant (Potter) and the destructive influence of the rakishly handsome and charming Southern cousin (Reeves) who comes between them. Shot all over Boston using period-perfect locations like the Boston Athenaeum, THE BOSTONIANS is a glimpse into the history of our city that surrounds us to this day.

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LITTLE WOMEN

For rent only

2019 • dir Greta Gerwig w/Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh • 135 min

This standout, gently revisionist take on Louisa May Alcott’s beloved mid-19th century novel features assured, exciting guidance from writer/director Greta Gerwig and great performances by a standout cast. Shooting primarily in Massachusetts, Gerwig and crew make excellent use of existing locations – including Alcott’s father’s schoolhouse, which still stands – and recreated those that they couldn’t shoot at. The Boston area even gets a chance to stand in for Europe at one point with the Arnold Arboretum and Castle Hill doubling for French locations. This wonderful adaptation highlights another of Boston’s ‘institutions’ – the literary classics that our area has given birth to.

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Monday, July 20 • Double Feature

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Monday, July 20 • Double Feature

SPOTLIGHT

Streaming on IMDBTV for free; for rent elsewhere

2015 • dir Tom McCarthy w/Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams • 129 min

In this exemplary journalistic procedural, one Boston institution – The Boston Globe – takes on perhaps the Boston institution – The Catholic Church. This dramatic film follows the Globe’s dedicated Spotlight team of investigative journalists as they seek to expose the the true breadth and depth of the tragedy of child sex abuse within the Church in Boston. The performances, along with the depiction of Boston, in this film are top notch and it was one of the most acclaimed films of 2015 – winning Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars.

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BETWEEN THE LINES

Streaming on Criterion, Kanopy; for rent elsewhere

1977 • Dir Joan Micklin Silver w/John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Goldblum • 101 min

This character-driven, almost Altman-esque film bridges the gap between Part 2 of our Boston on Film series – which focuses on the institutions of Boston like the press – and Part 3 which brings together a selection of independent and genre films that were produced in and about Boston. BETWEEN THE LINES is both a wonderfully entertaining film and a time-capsule of late-1970s Boston/Cambridge. The ensemble cast members play the denizens of a once-vital alternative paper who find themselves struggling to remain vital in the post-Vietnam era. Though the casting of Southside Johnny as the band that everyone wants to see is a bit dubious, the film more than makes up for it with an appearance by Cheapo Records and vintage shots of Harvard Square.

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Tuesday, July 21

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Tuesday, July 21

NEXT STOP WONDERLAND

Streaming on Hoopla; for rent elsewhere

1998 • dir Brad Anderson w/Hope Davis, Alan Gelfant, Philip Seymour Hoffman • 104 min

Description coming soon, stay tuned!

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