The Last Picture Show

Bogdanovich Last Picture Show

“I thought you might want to go to the picture show. Miss Mosey is having to close it. Tonight’s the last night.” – Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms)

How is it that nobody has done a modern version of The Last Picture Show? I realize that Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, is about much more than Miss Mosey having to close down the movie theater due to dwindling business and the rise of television, but let’s face it: the death of the Royal Theater in a small town, circa 1952, serves as a larger emblem of the many chapters in life that open and close for the characters of Anarene, Texas. It does so in ways that are understandable for anyone going through adolescence, their mid-life, and even death. Still: so much is implied by the four simple words of the title that it’s no surprise the book caught the eye of someone like Bogdanovich.

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Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of TCM with a free screening of CASABLANCA

casablancaTCM20th

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies. To celebrate the event as well as give back to the many devoted viewers who regularly watch and enjoy the network’s programming, TCM has teamed up with Warner Brothers to offer free theatrical screenings of the romantic wartime classic CASABLANCA (1942). The film will be playing nationwide in 20 selected cities on Tuesday, March 4th and tickets are currently available to download free of charge on the TCM 20th Anniversary website. Although tickets are free seating is limited to a first-come, first-served basis and they do not guarantee entry. Want to know where you can catch a free screening of CASABLANCA? Read on but be prepared to wade through a few of my thoughts about the film first.

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The Rebirth of the North Park Theatre

North Park 5

On May 23rd of last year, the Buffalo arthouse chain Dipson Theatres announced they would cease operations at the North Park Theatre. The single-screen North Park opened in November of 1920, part of Michael Shea’s chain of Northeast movie palaces. It had been in disrepair for decades, with its vaulted ceiling murals barnacled in layers of soot and grime. Rundown though it was, it still retained an aura of grandeur, where movies were honored instead of consumed. I grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, closer to mall multiplexes where greater attention was paid to upsizing popcorn than projecting images. So trips to the North Park felt like transmissions from another, more civilized world. It was there I saw Rear Window for the first time. The theatre’s demise would take part of my childhood with it, and inflict another indignity on that beleaguered, beautiful city. But then, on May 24th, The Buffalo News reported that the North Park wouldn’t close after all. The building’s owner, Buffalo attorney Thomas J. Eoannou, would be partnering with restaurateur Michael G. Christiano to keep it running, and to “restore the North Park to its grande dame status.” They have stood by their word, restoring the North Park to something approaching its original glory. The dark catacomb of my youth is now a sparkling palace, due to reopen this spring [UPDATE: the theatre will officially reopen on March 7th]. I visited the theater and spoke with Christiano and program director Ray Barker, to find out how this preservationist miracle came about.

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Sing a song, quote-along, and be a part of the party – at the movies.

Going to the movies has long been considered a mostly passive experience where you quietly sit in darkness to be carried off by a visual experience. A growing number of small exhibitors, however, are changing their tune. Instead of telling their customers to stay quiet during the film, they have been actively encouraging everyone at specific shows to sing-along, quote-along, and even share their texted heckles to hecklable-ready films via HECKLEVISION. There will, of course, always be new ways to have fun at the expense of poorly made films, but I’m more interested in the first two categories because of their celebratory nature. To sing a song from a film with other devotees, or to quote its lines in chorus, these add a rather touching and joyous element that one can easily imagine would warm the hearts of those who worked hard to make the film in question. Having missed my chance to attend a recent Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along, I’m looking forward to a pending screening in my area, made possible by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, of a Labyrinth Sing-Along. I recently had the opportunity to ask Greg MacLennan, the Director of Interactive Programming at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, some questions about some of the other films that are currently enjoying revivals thanks to different forms of crowd participation.

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Properly equipped for a new era.

After the movie, the lights come on.  I’m sitting in a very comfortable chair stuffed with memory foam.  On the walls are murals by Thomas Hart Benton (1889 – 1975). During the film you can’t see the murals on either side because curtains automatically cover them during the show, so as to not distract viewers with any peripheral glare. The side speakers are also out of sight – they’re hidden within the elegant and long chandelier lights that hang like Japanese lanterns next to the walls of this very spacious and recently renovated theater. I walk up the carpeted hall and meet Manny Knowles, the Assistant Director for Cinema Systems/Operations. We walk into the lobby and from there we take an elevator up a couple floors and the doors open directly into the projection booth, one outfitted with what I would guess to be about two million dollars worth of equipment. 4K, 2K, 3D, 35mm, 16mm, projectors for all these formats are comfortably spaced out in an immaculately clean booth where you can see white gloves hanging from the rewind bench. I am presented with the hard-drive that contained that night’s movie (Melancholia). A small square you could hide in a purse. Next to me are 35mm canisters for Night Train to Terror. It was obtained thanks to the kind permission of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, which I think is fascinating because I didn’t even know they had a film archive, much less one that contained such fun titles as Night Train to Terror (or Café Flesh, or The Stewardesses, which also screened here).  [...MORE]

The Hollywood Economist

A few weeks ago, my post about Judex and comic book movies prompted an astute reply by Suzi about the extent to which contemporary film has been distorted by an emphasis on attracting an audience of teenagers. Her comment got buried by an ensuing debate about the proper role of women characters in comic book movies, and I was about to insert myself into the comments thread to pick that thought back up, but then I figured there was enough there to justify an entire post, not just a comment.

I let it wait, because the appeal of posting something about King Kong on the World Trade Center on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary was too strong to resist, but the time has come to dig into this whole teenage audience thing.

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Origin Story (or, Confessions of a Movie Geek)

Last week in my griping about superhero origin stories, I promised to offer up my own origin story, the explanation of how I came to be the way I am today.  Every story has a beginning.  Mine, naturally enough, starts in childhood–

No.  That’s wrong.  Mine starts even earlier than that.  I began collecting movies before I was born.

I came by my passion honestly. My mother, growing up in the 1950s, saved her allowance up to buy this Bell and Howell 8mm movie projector:

Bell and Howell projector

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Modern Movie-Going Rewards

Last Mother’s Day I wrote a piece titled Modern Movie-Going Punishments. It got a big response. Clearly, a lot of people have had to deal with negative experiences when going out to see movies on the big screen. Readers also added to the list of rude behaviors, two of which we felt obliged to add to the illustrations on that past post to make ‘em official (these being the sick person who doesn’t think twice about spreading germs, and people who yawn loudly throughout the film). Many who chimed in said that the list was a reminder of why they no longer go to movie theaters. It now seems fitting to use Father’s Day for the long overdue counter-point offering you a long list of why you should still go to movie theaters. As with last time, my heart-felt thanks to my good friend John Adams for providing all the illustrations that accompany the list below.  [...MORE]

Modern Movie-Going Punishments

Today is the second Sunday in May. Mother’s Day. As I’ve had the Sunday shift for several years now I’ve already been able to write on the ways my mom contributed to my passion for cinema during my early years. (For further Mother’s Day homages look no further than R.H. Smith’s recent post.) Mother’s Day is also an important date for gardeners in my midwest region because it marks the official start of when you can finally plant various seeds without having to worry too much about a vicious cold snap freezing the seedlings dead. With that in mind, I’ve decided to plant a few seeds of my own that chronicle the Modern Movie-Going Punishments of our day. I do this with the hope that it might help nip bad behavior in the bud, allow more pleasant movie-going experiences to flourish and, in general, make a trip to the movies less punishing. (Tip of the hat to my friend John Adams for providing the accompanying illustrations.)

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CRIB NOTES, PART 2 OF 2

In my last post I explained the reasoning behind my programming choices for the first half of my Spring arthouse film calendar, today I finish the job. I accept the fact that anyone looking at my program will inevitably point to one (or more, perhaps even many) titles here and, in essence, ask the following question: “What the heck is THAT doing there?!” What follows below will hopefully dispel all head-scratching.

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