Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on January 15, 2012
Before delving into some highlights for my upcoming calendar film program, which has everything from singing cannibals and Robby the Robot to sex addicts and Pam Grier (in-person!)… I’d like to back-track a little. In my last post I wrote that the venues where I screen films were akin to a leaky rowboat. While this statement remains essentially true, especially when we are compared to any state-of-the-art dedicated film theater, I would like to amend the metaphor a bit. In retrospect, I feel it would be more accurate to say that the film series I program is more like the Orca boat commandeered by Robert Shaw in Jaws. It’s big enough to chase large game, but you still can’t help wishing you had a bigger boat – especially when you get a clear glimpse of the challenge ahead. When I previously said that we do a lot with very little, the “we” in that statement referred to the small crew that has kept this particular boat from becoming an artificial coral reef on the ocean floor, and this despite staying afloat long past its expiration date.
If I’m going to cast myself in the role of police Chief Martin Brody, there’s no doubt who’s the actual captain of the ship: the projectionist. Our senior projectionist, John Templeton, even resembles Robert Shaw’s Quint from Jaws – replete with sideburns and a sailor’s vocabulary to match. J.T. has also been instrumental in helping to train others at the wheel, which at moment include: Victor Jendras, Jacob Barreras, Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez, and Grant Speich.
My Jaws analogy can only go so far, so everyone else is going to have to share equal billing with Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper. They are the specialists that get called in to help fill in all the holes. I’ll start with John Adams, the graphic artist responsible for the cover above (as well as the P.S.A. to the left). He does the whole calendar, all the ads, posters, and a variety of side-projects. We are bombarded with images every day so it’s easy to take them for granted, but as I’m the one personally haranguing John with dozens of specific requests every day (and at all hours) I know how much effort he puts into it. For the above image, John designed his own book cover to wrap around some other novel, went out to a nearby park to look for cigarette butts to fill into the ashtray, and played around with various ideas for how to sneak in the Miramax logo before settling on a whiskey-drenched napkin. I forgot to ask him where he got the bullet casings, but perhaps that is better left unsaid.
Also working closely alongside us is Marty Mapes, our webmaster. Similar to John, Marty doesn’t seem to mind me dropping in on him at night or during weekends and holidays to tweak and improve the website. And, also like John, I am constantly asking Marty to “bend steel” (to use John’s expression) – and he does. “Marty,” I’ll bark, “make me an iphone app, add printable PDFS, insert a virtual tour that shows how to get to our venue,” (etc.) – and somehow he gets it all done. For that last task he even did a picture shoot that rolls out a virtual red carpet for his wife (Andrea Birgers) to walk along as she offers various pedestrian views to help newcomers find our venues.
Nick Reed has long been our staff writer, hammering blurbs into the calendar part of the schedule, which are by necessity brief, while simultaneously sifting through much longer reviews to make sure the website can give customers a more in-depth analysis for titles in question. This year he’s jumping aboard as a co-programmer for an offshoot to the main film series (which is held in our large 400-seat venue), to one that goes “underground” and into a new basement venue that has 200 seats. The idea is to show edgy and subversive films, preceded by a fitting short, and to add lots of surprises not listed on the schedule. Nick has also been working on some custom-trailers that are already turning heads, and we’re excited to try something new.
I’d like to also give a shout out to Marjorie Berlin, our Accounting Technician. Her title should really be “Accounting Ninja.” The ever-changing and Mount Everest-high-layers of bureaucracy that need to be reconciled in order to do business when you’re located on a university campus are, in one word, insane. If we didn’t have Marge to help navigate us through the treacherous sea of red-tape, we’d have joined the Orca on the ocean floor a long time ago. I’m also indebted to her friend and movie-aficionado, Kathie Stenberg, for helping me go through stacks and stacks of DVD screeners.
It is thanks to this small crew, along with a changing roster of students who serve as managers and cashiers to our nightly events, that we can cast off on new voyages and transport our audiences along for the journey. Here’s a peak at what lies out on the horizon:
Melancholia demands to be seen on the big screen and has been luring in big crowds at arthouse theaters despite Magnolia making it available on V.O.D. simultaneous to its theatrical bow. The 2011 Sundance Shorts package whittles hundreds of submissions down to a very select seven titles picked by Sundance staff and is here timed to coincide with the last half of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The Legend is Born: Ip Man, is a bit of a gamble, as it’s already been available on DVD since last month – but hopefully a fun period-piece martial arts film with great widescreen compositions will still draw people into the theater. A new 35mm print of Antonioni’s first color film, Red Desert, is available thanks to Janus Films. Martha Marcy May Marlene only lasted one week at the local multiplex, but it’s the kind of film that really gets under your skin and if Elizabeth Olsen gets a nod from the Academy that will help give it a boost. Le Havre was a favorite at the Telluride Film Festival, and even though Aki Kaurismäki’s films have never done boffo business for us we remain loyal boosters of his work. The next three titles are a transparent tie-in to the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Silent Souls is a beautiful, moving, and enigmatically unique Russian meditation on the grief and loss of a partner (courtesy of Shadow Distribution). Young Goethe in Love is the flip-side of that – a whimsical paean to young love in its full blossom. Chico & Rita mixes it up by following the trajectory of a love affair from its beginning to the end. It is animated (in more ways than one) and very accessible (as well as another Telluride standout). Next up:
Miramax approached me with an offer to screen Jackie Brown with both Pam Grier and Robert Forster in attendance. Unfortunately, Forster might be unavailable (although we’re still crossing our fingers), but Grier agreed to commit. The interesting thing here is that Miramax is wanting to promote its library of titles to the next generation in terms of instant streaming on any and all portable devices, including direct links on FaceBook. The irony of screening archive prints on reel-to-reel 35mm film projectors to help market the idea to kids that they can be watching these same films on their smartphones or video tablets is not lost on me. But, hey, I might as well go out with a splash and snag as many 35mm prints as I can and before it starts to become near impossible to do so. I figured I’d do a week of Tarantino films to surround Grier’s visit and got confirmations from Miramax for nice 35mm prints for all my requests except for Reservoir Dogs. Apparently there are no 35mm prints left. Even Sundance wanted a 35mm print of Reservoir Dogs to celebrate the 20th anniversary of when it screened there – and Miramax basically said: sorry, we don’t have one and it’d cost us $6,000 to strike a new one. Now, I’d bet my last dollar that Tarantino has a print, along with various other private collectors, so I’m not suggesting this is on par with Lon Chaney’s elusive print of London After Midnight – but, still… Miramax doesn’t have a circulating 35mm print of Reservoir Dogs. Wow. That’s a serious “wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee” moment, right there.
During the Tarantino week I’m sneaking in a film Alex Cox recommended to me that he caught at the Mar del Plata Film Festival called Diablo, and which he describes as “An Argentian gem in the Pulp Fiction vein.” That’ll be part of the “underground” series we’re doing, and will be preceded by old movie trailers featuring Pam Grier (and Robert Forster, should he decide to join). Then after that it’s all Oscar Shorts – which have been growing in popularity over the years, another repertory title and new 35mm print courtesy of Janus Films (Weekend), the latest from director Steve McQueen, followed by a fascinating documentary about various pending catastrophes facing humanity (more coffee please!), and a free screening of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which will be in anticipation of a visit by director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (aka: “Joe”), as part of the 8th Annual Brakhage Center Symposium. Next up:
Slacker 2011 was another film that was recommended to me by Alex Cox thanks to his trip to Argentina. It’s a 20th Anniversary ode to Richard Linklater’s Slacker (as reimagined by 12 contemporary Austin filmmakers), and I liked the idea of programming this a few days before the 2012 SXSW fest. It’s followed by two docs that should resonate with local Buddhists and the many tech-heads in our area (haven to a Google office, and much more). The 8th Brakhage Center Symposium follows this with a free screening of Syndromes and a Century and many visiting guests and panel discussions. Aside for helping with some logistics, I don’t program this event. So between that and Spring break, I have a convenient window of time during which I can watch movies at Austin during SXSW for future calendar consideration.
Upon returning the film series partners up with the local Colorado Shakespeare Festival Guild to screen a Shakespeare on Film lineup. It covers both traditional adaptions (Macbeth), anachronistic ones (Richard III), as well as more playful and loose adaptions like West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew), and Forbidden Planet (The Tempest). My only regret is not being able to secure a 35mm print of Strange Brew (Hamlet), which happens to be my senior projectionist’s favorite film. Next up:
Much has already been said about The Turin Horse, but I’ll repeat myself here to remind people that this might be the single most fitting visual goodbye poem to the raw but disappearing beauty of celluloid. The laptop generation will be bored out of their mind and leave in droves as they wonder what was so damn important about some old guy and his daughter eating potatoes during a never-ending windstorm. But for all true cinephiles and lovers of the grain, this is the must-see event of the year. It’s no mistake that I follow that with This Is Not a Film – one of my favorite finds from the Vancouver Film Festival. Yes, I’m an unapologetic film-hugger, but This Is Not a Film reminds me of the advantages to be had from the format change. Iranian director Jafar Panahi might be under house-arrest and under orders from the governing regime not to direct any more movies, but with the help of visitors, random cameras, and even his iPhone, Panahi shows us how we live in a day and age when not only is everyone a movie-maker, but these digitally wrought creations have the power to subvert governments and connect us to the world.
Deconstructing the Beatles is neither a film, or a movie, but rather a multi-media presentation by Scott Freiman that was brought to my attention thanks to other members of the Art House Convergence (which gathers this week in Midway, Utah). Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is the latest film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whose last three films have screened at our film series (Three Monkeys, Climates, and Distant). This Turkish director has an absolute gift for capturing interesting characters amidst amazing landscapes. We then decide to trot back an old favorite featuring the work of many old colleagues and friends: Cannibal: The Musical. There are three main reasons for this. 1) Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s phenomenally successful The Book of Mormon Broadway musical comes to Denver this August, so the timing seems right to show off Parker’s directorial debut. 2) Actor/producer Jason McHugh self-published a new book titled Shpadoinkel: The Making of Cannibal: The Musical – so we’re flying him out for a Q&A. Of course, this being a local production, there will be many special guests in attendance, including one from my direct supervisor, Don Yannacito – who played Matt Stone’s father. Don has long been the heart of the film department and still teaches film here, and he’s also a primary reason for my having applied for this job 15 years ago. Another fun tidbit: our very own webmaster Marty Mapes gets special praise in McHugh’s book as playing a vital role in getting Parker’s film made thanks to a pivotal financial contribution. The third reason is simple: popular demand. Cannibal: The Musical has taken on a life of its own as a live show that is performed across the nation, including recent sold-out performances in Denver.
Oscar predictions are a dime a dozen, but if Monsieur Lazhar doesn’t land a nomination I’ll eat a hat. It’s a beautiful and touching film that deserves to win. The week gets topped off with another favorite find from the Vancouver Film Festival, Flirting With Heights. I covered it in a previous post, but will add here that I think it’s the perfect way to celebrate Earth Day.
The Communikey 2012 Free Doc Fest is not my gig, but I’m happy to help the promote it, especially as it only overlaps with one last film from us: our last screening of a concert documentary for The Warlock Pincher‘s reunion at two sold-out Denver shows. On November 19th, 1988, the Warlock Pinchers played a concert in the University Memorial Center in a venue called Quigley’s Underground. All hell broke loose and once the smoke from the military-grade smoke bombs settled, alongside other wreckage, the band found itself on the front pages of newspapers and “banned from campus.” Now they are being invited back to “the underground,” along with a Q&A between band-members and the man who supposedly banned them from campus. The kicker? That man was me.
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