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THE CREME DE L.A. CREME | Movies

Here, Decision 2000 means trying to choose from among a slew of offerings--political fare, classics, kicky car movies and more.

The Silver Screen in Tinseltown

August 10, 2000|KENNETH TURAN | TIMES FILM CRITIC

Whether the Democrats prove to be fortune's favorites in November remains an open question, but the time they've picked to convene in Los Angeles is unusually lucky in terms of what's on the city's screens. Aside from the usual blockbusters, there are excellent things to see, and they'll be shown in some of the most interesting venues in town.

One of L.A.'s newest and most exciting screening spaces is the American Cinematheque's Lloyd E. Rigler Theater, a modern gem beautifully positioned in the restored setting of the 1922 Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. With comfortable seats, sharp modern decor and state-of-the-art projection facilities, the Egyptian's theater is one of the most audience-friendly in town.

Working in cahoots with the LA Weekly, the Cinematheque has chosen (aside from regular showings of its excellent show business documentary, "Forever Hollywood") to present a series called "Politics in Film," which examines the American political process in all its uncertain glory.

The series opens on Friday with "Smoke and Mirrors: A History of Denial" by Torrie Rosenzweig, a highly regarded documentary on one of the hottest of current political buttons, the power of Big Tobacco. Also that night is John Frankenheimer's Frank Sinatra-starring "The Manchurian Candidate," a chilling political fable if ever there was one.

Two double bills invade the theater on Saturday. The first examines the making of political image from different directions. "The War Room" is D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus' very inside look at the early days of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. It's showing with "The Candidate," the Robert Redford-starring, Michael Ritchie-directed satiric look at a more or less imaginary campaign.

Later that night, the screen will be turned over to two classics of political film, Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," starring James Stewart, and Otto Preminger's tart "Advise and Consent." The series ends Sunday with a showing of "Licensed to Kill," Arthur Dong's excellent documentary on convicted murderers who targeted homosexuals, followed by the old reliable "All the President's Men."

Just down the street from the Egyptian is the El Capitan. A vintage movie house painstakingly restored by the Walt Disney organization, the El Cap's cleaned and polished interior allows you to experience firsthand what moviegoing was like during Hollywood's golden age.

Fortuitously, the El Capitan will be the first theater in the country playing a program guaranteed to make even the toughest political junkies leave their worries behind them. That would be the official sing-along version of the winsome 1964 Julie Andrews-starring "Mary Poppins."

Aside from the El Capitan, L.A.'s most satisfying moviegoing experiences come in several sizes. The Nuart, in West Los Angeles, is an old-fashioned, large-sized, pre-multiplex theater that has become more user-friendly in recent years after investing in new seats. If you happen to like multiplexes, one of the best in town is the AMC Century 14 in the Century City Shopping Center. It's blessed with a bright and bustling lobby that creates and enhances the sense of anticipation and excitement that ought to be part of the moviegoing experience.

If you're a real traditionalist and harken back to small neighborhood theaters, the well-maintained Aero, on Santa Monica's chic Montana Avenue, is a heartening throwback that still shows double bills of films just past their first run to a loyal neighborhood audience.

Cars are one of the few things as deeply identified with L.A. as the movies, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theater is taking advantage of that association with its "Cars 'n' Stars" series.

Friday is a double bill focused on vintage vehicles: George Lucas' "American Graffiti" and Monte Hellman's cult classic "Two Lane Blacktop." The next night is a chance to see the legendary junkyard king H.B. Halicki in a new print of the original 1974 "Gone in 60 Seconds," playing with 1976's "The Gumball Rally."

LACMA is putting on the series in association with the Petersen Automotive Museum, and anyone with cars really on their minds can take in the Petersen's "Hollywood Star Car--Great Cars of the Movies" exhibition, running at the same time.

Though it takes place only once every two years, the Festival of Preservation, put on by UCLA's Film and Television Archive at the campus' James Bridges Theater in Melnitz Hall, is perhaps the most exciting of all L.A. film events, and, as chance would have it, its dates overlap with the convention as well.

Today, treat yourself to restored prints of the John Ford classics "How Green Was My Valley" and "The Informer." For those looking for something light, what could be better than Aug. 18's Ernst Lubitsch double bill, "The Smiling Lieutenant" paired with the irresistible "One Hour With You." If only the convention itself could be so elegantly written. Or so brief.

Addresses, dates. Page 18.

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"I recommend the nightclub Largo and the Silent Movie Theatre just down the street on Fairfax. And the Museum of Jurassic Technology, an amazing place filled with a mixed bag of oddities."

AIMEE MANN

Singer-songwriter

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