Back in the saddle

CU Boulder's International Film Series returns with new program manager

Courtesy: Criterion

There’s a new sheriff at the CU International Film Series, and his name is Jason Phelps. If you’ve attended IFS in the past, you’ve probably seen him introducing movies, running the projector, directing the pithy shorts reminding you to turn your phone off or presenting his directorial debut, the 2017 martial arts comedy The Curse of the Dragon Sword. He’s even hosted an IFS-CU Cinema Studies podcast interviewing faculty and filmmakers. In short, Phelps has done it all and then some.

But the one thing Phelps doesn’t want to do is upset the applecart. IFS is known for screening the best in independent, international and classic cinema, and the recently released Fall 2023 calendar promises to continue that tradition. But a closer look also reveals the mark of Phelps’ particular passions, primarily animation and martial arts. In a world of AI-generated content and algorithmic suggestions, personalized curation is like a breath of fresh air.

And with the IFS now in full swing — everything kicked off this past Sunday with a screening of the excellent The Eight Mountains — here is your chance to see some truly wonderful programs that, in some cases, you certainly won’t find anywhere else. Here are three programs you don’t want to miss.

Animation Appreciation Week  
Oct. 2-8

When it comes to animation, most people think kiddie and family-friendly flicks — and they’re not wrong. The bulk of hand-drawn, computer-generated and stop-motion movies that hit the multiplex are targeted at a specific demographic. But open up the lens a little and you see a dazzling array of artistry on display, from Don Hertzfeldt’s idiosyncratic squiggly stick figures (It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Oct. 2) to the sleek and futuristic (Ghost in the Shell, Oct. 5) to the strange and psychedelic (Son of White Mare, Oct. 6). And for those with little ones at home, IFS does have one family-friendly pick: the stop-motion Coraline, Oct. 8, when kids get in free.

Bruce Lee Retrospective 
Nov. 29–Dec. 3  

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Enter the Dragon (Dec. 2), the crowning achievement of Bruce Lee’s martial arts career on screen and the biggest exposure for his philosophy, Jeet Kune Do. Lee was a force unlike any other, and the ability to watch all five of his movies in close succession is to see a star’s birth and maturity in three short years. Only have time to watch one? Make it The Way of the Dragon (Dec. 1). Lee’s climatic fight with Chuck Norris — yes, that Chuck Norris — in the Roman Coliseum is one of those rare cinematic moments that exist on another plane.

Nine Days of ’90s 
Dec. 5-14 

A profound yearning for 1990s nostalgia has emerged in recent years, and despite the ’90s being a shit decade for a whole mess of reasons, there is an undeniable draw to some of the era’s artistic achievements. That just so happens to include high-water marks for Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Dec. 7), Wong Kar-wai (Chungking Express, Dec. 8), Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother, Dec. 9), Edward Yang (A Brighter Summer Day, Dec. 10) and James Cameron (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Dec. 13). 

The other four in the program: the hyper-kinetic Run, Lola, Run (Dec. 12), the schlock-tastic Mortal Kombat (Dec. 14) and the movie that has engendered more adoration and vitriol than practically anything released in the past four decades, David Fincher’s Fight Club (Dec. 11). 

Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s tale of white affluent male dissatisfaction with the modern world and sporting cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s magnificently shadowy and dank cinematography, Fight Club features one of Brad Pitt’s finest performances, a Dust Brothers score that’s still pounding inside Jack’s skull and a conceit that is easy to love, difficult to accept and impossible to dismiss. Other theaters would stay away from it like fire. That’s why we have the International Film Series. 

ON SCREEN: 2023 International Film Series. Through Dec. 14, CU Boulder – Muenzinger Auditorium, 1905 Colorado Ave. Full schedule here.