It happens every year. Right around the first few weeks of September—just long enough for most of the migratory student population to have settled into their fall routines, but not so long that they're totally swamped with classwork—the Valley's movie houses pull out all the stops on special shows. It's a great time for filmgoers, especially the adventurous types who appreciate a wide spectrum of cinematic experiences. Because these special screenings are anything but usual.
Since I'm thanking our students for giving the local economy a jump start, let's begin with the welcome return of the German Film Series at Amherst College, which has provided free screenings of hit German films for some years now. The Series screens Thursdays at 4 and 7:30 p.m. in the school's Stirn Auditorium. This fall's schedule kicked off earlier this month, and this coming week features KeinOhrHasen ("Rabbit Without Ears"), a comedic romp built around German star Til Schweiger (Inglourious Basterds).
Schweiger stars as Ludo Decker, a tabloid reporter on the celebrity beat. When his party-crashing takes an unfortunately literal turn, the paparazzo finds himself with a new assignment: several hundred hours of community service in a daycare center run by Anna, a woman he used to harass when they were both children. As the pair begin to warm to each other, it seems that Ludo could yet become a decent citizen—at least until he learns that Anna is dating a famous actor.
Just down the road at Amherst Cinema, the theater's Science On Screen series is inaugurated on Monday night (with a Tuesday repeat) with a screening of Hitchcock's classic creeper The Birds. But this is no ordinary film series: each of the films shown will be accompanied by a lecture from an expert in a field tied to the particular film being shown. For The Birds, attendees will be joined by Dr. Jeff Podos of UMass-Amherst. A specialist in animal perception and bird song as communication, Podos has traveled the world to study avian behavior. He'll bring that experience to bear on Hitchcock's work, which takes the natural occurrence of "mobbing" to an unsettling extreme.
But let's say birds aren't your thing. Maybe you're more of a gorilla person. If that's the case, don't miss An Evening With Jane Goodall, showing at 8 p.m. only on Tuesday at Cinemark Theaters in Hadley. Marking the 50th anniversary of the commencement of Goodall's conservation and animal welfare activism, the film includes appearances from activist celebrities like Angelina Jolie as well as Goodall herself appearing live via satellite to answer questions submitted by previous movie theater audiences.
Cross over into Northampton and you'll find two special screenings running over the weekend. Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest is booked for a three-day run at the Academy of Music, bringing the music of the groundbreaking yet often overlooked hip-hop group to the big screen. Directed by actor Michael Rapaport—you'll know him when you see him—Beats is a New Yorker's love letter to the music of his youth, and a declaration of how important it remains for the music of the future. Shows are scheduled for matinee through evening screenings; for more information, head over to academyofmusictheatre.tix.com.
At this point, you might be tired of all these special screenings. Nonsense! The best has been saved for last. For this is the week that the destined-to-be-a-famous-poster Hobo With a Shotgun arrives at Pleasant Street Theater. Screening Friday as the second film in the theater's newly minted series of midnight movies, it stars Blade Runner alum and B-movie regular Rutger Hauer as the titular bum with a gun. It seems that, after riding the freights into a new town—and, he hopes, a better life—Hauer's hobo is confronted instead with a corrupt and lawless city run by a crime boss and his no-good sons. Then he makes a fortuitous find at a local pawn shop, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jack Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.