Showdown In Yuma

Filmmaker James Mangold doesn’t shy away from tough genres. Fresh off writing and directing the musical biopic “Walk the Line” – unjustly overlooked at the 2005 Oscars – Mangold is back with an even more difficult assignment: a remake of the classic western “3:10 to Yuma.”

The film, which opens in local theaters on Friday, stars Russell Crowe as a dangerous yet charming outlaw, and Christian Bale, a war veteran turned farmer in dire straits who signs on to help bring the outlaw to justice. The new version does a fine job of retaining the terse, gritty quality of the original film – adapted from a short story by Elmore Leonard, who is now a much bigger movie draw then he was 50 years ago – while injecting enough new elements to flesh out the story and give it motion beyond the claustrophobic hotel room that dominated the Glenn Ford version.

Like Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven,” “Yuma” is as much about transformation of the characters as it is about the story arc. The bad guys aren’t all bad, and the good guys have motivations that at least make you think.

“If you’re looking at the architecture of the movie, it’s kind of a buddy film, with these two guys,” Mangold told the audience at a recent Cinema Society preview.

If it seems like you couldn’t find more disparate choices for a director who also made the tense drama “Girl, Interrupted” and the romantic comedy “Kate & Leopold,” Mangold himself, when asked about the connecting thread, struggled with an answer.

“I’m always searching everyday, no matter what kind of story I’m telling, for a kind of ‘special effect’ in the eyes,” he said. “In a movie like ‘Transformers,’ you’d better make people go, ‘Holy s**t! How did they do that?’ In my own way, I’m trying to carve out intimate moments where you go, ‘How did they do that?’ meaning, it’s not about the explosion, it’s just about this energy or this connection between people.”

Crowe and Bale have never been better, and this is a movie that goes way beyond its genre, certain to appeal to those who don’t even like Westerns.

A Schott In The Dark

SBCC’s Continuing Education classes – better known as Adult Ed – gets underway for the fall on Monday, September 10, and once again Richard Alpert offers several choices for viewing classic, independent, and foreign films with or without discussion. There are two sections of “The Golden Age of Film: The Writing Behind the Movies,” three-hour classes that begin with Alpert discussing the origin of the films and the actors and awards it may have won. After the movie is screened, the entire class is encouraged to engage in a discussion, particularly on the subject of literary devices the author may have used versus cinematic decisions made by the director.

Monday’s class is 7 to 10 pm in Room 3 of the Schott Center, while Thursday’s is 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm in Room 31. Film titles for this semester include “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Anastasia,” ”Watch On the Rhine,” “The Miracle Worker,” “Network” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

Alpert’s other class is called “The Wonderful World of Movies,” although there isn’t much difference between them. “The Philadelphia Story,” “The Heiress” and “High Noon” are among the films being screened on Wednesdays from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm in the theater at Maravilla Senior Living Community. Admission to all classes is free, and registration takes place the first night of class.

But why just watch movies when you can also make them? Lars Nelson offers “There’s a Great Story Out There – Are You the One to Tell It?” a course in writing, producing and selling a documentary films. The free classes (Tuesdays 7:30-10 pm in Room 28 at the Wake Center) often includes a screening with the filmmaker present, and previous attendees have gone on to make films that have screened at SBIFF.

On Thursdays, Nelson teaches a class called “How to Shoot Better Travel, Home, and Documentary Videos,” with instruction on creating broadcast-quality images and sound using a consumer camcorder. The 10-week session is held from 7:30 pm to 10 pm at Schott 31; the $10 optional fee covers materials. For info on either class, call 967-1415 or email lars@sbceo.org.

If making an entire film seems daunting, you can try screenwriting. Fred Freeman – former staff writer for “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Bewitched” and “Gilligan’s Island” – has also has written several movies and will help students determine what works and what doesn’t as they develop ideas for TV or motion pictures. The class meets 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm on Tuesdays at Schott 29; the $30 fee covers reading.