I haven’t been to a drive-in movie theater since the late 1970s, but let’s be honest: it was never the best movie-going experience. If the show wasn’t cancelled due to bad weather, prints of dubious quality and horrible tinny sound made sure you could barely comprehend what you were seeing and hearing.
That said, drive-ins are officially back due to the pandemic, and while Oakland doesn’t have its own just yet, you can (and should!) head over the hill this Thursday night, July 16 to catch the 8:30 p.m. showing of Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks For Me at Concord’s West Wind Drive-in. If you’re a fan of Ms. Lee — who will go down in history as the only member of Congress to dare vote against 2001’s Authorization for Use of Military Force — this is essential viewing. Tickets are going fast, so hurry: this is the film’s only currently scheduled screening.
There’s no rush necessary to check out Pacific Film Archive’s collection of Madeline Anderson short subjects, currently available at no charge via the Archive’s Watch From Home series. Anderson was the first African-American woman to direct a documentary, and that film — 1960’s Integration Report 1 — is part of the series.
Though only 20 minutes long, Integration Report 1 casts a wide net, playing like a newsreel update on the state of the civil rights movement at the end of the 1950s. And it’s far from being ancient history: among the events reported is the police murder of a black Brooklynite shot in the back for failing to deposit a bottle in a trash receptacle. Has anything changed?
Anderson’s most famous film is probably 1970’s I Am Somebody, which documents a union drive by Black women in South Carolina. It’s an uplifting and powerful story that proves non-violent protest was still alive (and working) in the years immediately following the death of Dr. King. Finally, A Tribute to Malcolm X is interesting, but at 14 minutes too brief to provide more than a cursory salute to the martyred activist.
The very first film my (then future) spouse and I saw together was 1980’s Hangar 18, a poker-faced UFO docudrama starring Darren McGavin as a NASA bigwig investigating a crashed flying saucer and its occupants. Being young, impolite, and highly skeptical, we roared with laughter throughout the film and got a lot of dirty looks in return.
Forty years later, I had to stifle a similar response during The 11th Green, now available for streaming via the Virtual Roxie. Written and directed by Christopher Munch (whose 1994 feature The Hours and the Times was a similarly speculative but much more believable tale of young John Lennon’s gay sexual experiences), The 11th Green instead made me repeatedly slap my forehead in disbelief. Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99 it ain’t.
The film is dedicated to James Forrestal, the country’s first Defense Secretary. Forrestal committed suicide in 1948 (in suspiciously similar circumstances to the CIA’s Frank Olson in 1953); Munch’s thesis is that he was murdered by the Deep State to prevent him from revealing everything he knew about flying saucers and ‘Tesla technology’.
Would that the film limited its speculation to this somewhat intriguing premise, but no: The 11th Green also includes lengthy conversations between Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama (really!), a Jesus-like space alien named Lars who’s clearly modeled on The Day the Earth Stood Still’s Klaatu, JFK, and an Ike and Mamie sex scene (Ike’s PJs reflect his five-star general rank). Intrigued? Click on through to the other side! The truth is out there!