Boston on Film, Part 3



Films Announced Daily at 10:30am

For the third and final part of our BOSTON ON FILM series, we’re breaking away from the expected kinds of films set in Boston to take a quick look at some independent features and horror/sci-fi movies that have made a home here. Of the many independent filmmakers who are from the area or got their start here, Brad Anderson is one of the most versatile. We feature both his breakout rom-com NEXT STOP WONDERLAND and his über-creepy SESSION 9 in this selection. To represent the many filmmakers who have come through our universities and colleges, we include work by Andrew Bujalski, Damien Chazelle, and the Safdie Brothers. And we wrap up this whole program with two unexpectedly apocalyptic sci-fi movies that use Boston as their setting.

Unfortunately, many of the great indie films shot here in Boston are currently unavailable online. The work of Jan Egleson whose Billy in the Lowlands (1979) is among the earliest indie fiction films shot here is not available. Unfortunately, that also includes his 2001 collaboration with Natatcha Estébanez, The Blue Diner, which focuses on Boston’s Puerto Rican community. Also sadly absent from streaming services is Maureen Foley’s Home Before Dark (1997), one of the few indie features produced by a woman in Massachusetts.

And we haven’t even touched on the vast number of influential documentarians with Boston ties! That list includes giants like Fred Wiseman, the Maysles Brothers, Barbara Kopple, Stanley Nelson, Ross McElwee, and Errol Morris, among many others. Perhaps a topic for another series later on down the line.

And don’t forget, this Thursday, July 23, the Massachusetts Historical Society will host an online conversation between The Brattle’s creative director Ned Hinkle, author Jim Vraibel, and more to further discuss Boston on Film.


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 →

Tuesday, July 21


Streaming on Hoopla; for rent elsewhere

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

A sweetly seductive romantic comedy about two people destined to be together and the hilarious chain of incidents that keep them apart.

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Wednesday, July 22 • Double Feature

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Wednesday, July 22 • Double Feature


Streaming on Prime, Kanopy; for rent elsewhere

2002 • dir Andrew Bujalski w/Kate Dollenmayer, Mark Herlehy, Christian Rudder • 89 min

A Boston movie like few others, Andrew Bujalski’s debut feature is typical of his charmingly mild-mannered take on Cassavetes and Altman. Populated by non-actors and shot on 16mm, FUNNY HA HA is (probably) the only feature length film to accurately portray the stuck-in-Allston malaise of so many recently graduated Bostonians. Marnie (Dollenmayer) is an aimless and awkward twenty-something looking for love and purpose as she roams from Allston kitchen to Allston kitchen.

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Available on Fandor and on Mubi’s new Library area

2009 • dir Damien Chazelle w/Jason Palmer, Desiree Garcia, Sandha Khin • 82 min

While he was still a student at Harvard, future Oscar winner Damien Chazelle made this sweet, lo-fi, music-driven romance. Originally meant as just a student film, Chazelle was encouraged to push it out wider and we’re glad that he did – The Brattle hosted the Boston area premiere run back in 2010. While it’s very clearly a first film, it’s worth taking a look for the connections to Chazelle’s future work… and for the copious cameos from iconic Boston-area locations.

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Screens with…


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2005 • dir Josh Safdie & Mickey Sumner • 6 min

A Fenway gas station provides the location for this Twilight Zone-ish early short from Josh Safdie about a woman whose car disappears when she turns her back.

Thursday, July 23

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Thursday, July 23


Free on Tubi, IMDB; for rent elsewhere

2010 • dir Tze Chun w/Cindy Cheung, Michael Chen, Crystal Chiu • 86 min

Another Brattle premiere from 2010, Tze Chun’s terrific family drama is still a stirring watch today – and just as relevant. Already struggling financially, Chinese immigrant Elaine (Cheung) is desperate for a quick fix to her money problems and unwisely becomes involved in a shady multi-level marketing scheme. Her young children are left to their own devices when she gets in over her head but, fortunately, Raymond (Chen), the older of the two, is a resourceful caretaker for his younger sister. A multi-prizewinning film (including at our own Independent Film Festival Boston), CHILDREN OF INVENTION is a film that simultaneously feels like a universal story and thoroughly grounded in Boston (even though much of it was shot in New York state).

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Friday, July 24 • Double Feature

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Friday, July 24 • Double Feature


Streaming on Netflix; for rent elsewhere

2001 • dir Brad Anderson w/David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle • 97 min

Brad Anderson makes his second appearance in this series with a wholly different film than NEXT STOP WONDERLAND – a remarkably tense and well-constructed horror thriller that takes place almost entirely on the grounds of the old, abandoned Danvers State Hospital. An asbestos abatement team working in a shuttered asylum encounters more than just atmospheric creepiness and toxic dust when they uncover dark secrets that should have stayed buried. Heavily immersed in the history and sheer menacing presence of the location it is shot in, SESSION 9 has rightly become a cult film in the years since its release and is well worth revisiting in the age of ‘elevated horror.’

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Streaming on Shudder; for rent elsewhere

1981 • dir Lucio Fulci w/Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni • 86 min

A well-constructed script and believable performances are not the kinds of things that one expects from an Italian Giallo film – and you certainly won’t get them here! Horror maestro Lucio Fulci (Zombie, The Beyond) improbably traveled to Scituate and Concord to film this ostensible homage to H.P. Lovecraft and Henry James. A researcher of ‘old houses’ brings his family to New Whitby outside of Boston to look into the disappearance of a colleague and continue his work. The family – including cherubic, young Bob and his mother Lucy – are being put up in a creepy old house (a real-life building that now serves as the Scituate Arts Association) that houses a horrific secret which could lead them to their doom. For residents of the Boston area, the unsettling, nightmarish tone of the film will only be heightened by the discordance of watching lengthy scenes from a dubbed Italian horror movie taking place on Main Street in Concord, MA.

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Saturday, July 25 • Double Feature


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Saturday, July 25 • Double Feature


For rent only

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

We conclude our epic, three-part BOSTON ON FILM series with two sci-fi movies in which our fair city is destroyed in a fiery disaster. In Alex Proyas’ absurd but surprisingly entertaining film, Nicolas Cage plays a widowed MIT professor who becomes convinced that the world is on the brink of destruction. His sensitive son (Canterbury) discovers a weird page of numbers that had been buried for 50 years in a time-capsule at his school. These numbers, it turns out, are accurate predictors of significant disasters, their body counts, and locations over the years – and there are still a handful left to come before the list ends with a final, frightening set of digits. Proyas (Dark City, The Crow) continues his penchant for cerebral sci-fi – and his obvious affection for creepy strangers in black overcoats – with Cage’s scenery-chewing outbursts put to effective use. KNOWING is a patently ridiculous, sometimes overly-serious, movie that ultimately goes in a direction that you might not expect from your typical popcorn flick.

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Steaming on HBO Max; for rent elsewhere

2019 • dir Michael Dougherty w/ Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr. • 132 min

Let’s be clear… this is not a great movie. It is a sporadically entertaining, overlong giant monster spectacle – even among Godzilla fans, there is dissent about the quality of this sequel. That being said, the concluding battle begins when the massive, three-headed dragon King Ghidorah lands in the middle of Fenway Park – and doesn’t conclude until practically all of Boston has been laid to waste by a destructive throwdown between Godzilla and friends. These moments would be best appreciated on the big screen in a downtown Boston multiplex where you can experience the weirdly visceral moment of imagining that the building you are in is about to be leveled by a giant lizard tail. A home-viewing loses that quality but there is still a certain, surreal experience of watching your hometown destroyed in a way that is usually reserved for New York City. N.B.: If you want to skip directly to the Boston-leveling section, fast forward to the 1 hour and 40 minute mark.

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