Thursday, November 29, 2012

Requiem for the Theater


They say that the movie theater is dead, that within a few years, the Cineplex will be a dinosaur; its insides scooped out and turned into a bargain bookstore or a church. In this age of wide-screen, hi-def TVs, Blu-Ray players, surround sound and bathroom breaks a mere pause button away, why bother going out and fighting crowds, paying exorbitant prices for snacks, sitting through twenty minutes of previews and having to deal with people who don’t understand that “turn off your cell phone” means TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE!

                They say that, and I don’t entirely disagree. It costs a lot to go to the movies. Tickets where I live are $7.50 apiece for a matinee. So, if the wife and I go to an early show, that’s $15. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but remember, that same movie is going to be available for purchase in a few months for about $20, or rent for as little as $1 (less if you’re a regular Netflix user like me). So, you could see it now for fifteen, or wait a little bit and see it for a buck.

                Not exactly brain surgery, is it?

                And yet…

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Art House Strikes Back

Over the past week, I’ve enjoyed a little “staycation” (that is, a vacation where you don’t actually go anywhere) from my job at the Rainbow Factory. I decided to take advantage of this by catching up on my movie watching. To my surprise and delight, Hulu Plus offers a ton of Criterion films commercial-free and unedited.

                For those of you unfamiliar, the Criterion Collection is a video label that specializes in art-house foreign films, as well as American films with a unique vision or voice, films like Rashomon, Wild Strawberries, 8 ½ and Harold and Maude. These DVDs/Blu-Rays tend to be higher in price, difficult to find in brick and mortar stores and (lately) even hard to get to on Netflix.  Thus, finding a lot of them right at my fingertips, available to watch whenever I want (for a low monthly fee of $7.99) was a godsend.

                Oh, and they have TV shows to, if you’re into that sort of thing.

                So, what did I watch?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Movies I Dragged My Mother To

Kids are strange, particularly when it comes to movies. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around a child will tell you that they can watch the same movies over and over and over again, and never get tired of them.

We, the current generation of film geeks, were also guilty of this as children. As a young child, every time we went to the video store (itself a novelty in 1985), we had to rent The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. As much as my family hoped I would, I never got tired of heffalumps, blustery days, or Tigger getting stuck in a tree. Remember, this was before buying a video was an option (my generation still remembers commercials advertising movies that were now “affordably priced to own,” which meant about $19.99).

Ah, Pooh Bear.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Buster Keaton: A Wonderful World of Slapstick

Buster Keaton was a genius.

But you don’t need me to tell you that. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

One of the things I love about movies is that there are so many of them, a galaxy of motion pictures of every variety: some long, some short, some in color, some in black and white, some silent, some talkie, there are comedies, dramas, war pictures, gangster films, swashbucklers, romances, epics, science fiction films, horror pictures, westerns, films that deal with the fate of the universe and films that speak of the minutia of the soul. And because there’s so much out there, there’s always something new to discover.

I recently discovered Buster Keaton.

Oh, sure, I had seen The General and Sherlock, Jr. before, but, much like the man who found a huge gold nugget and used it as a doorstop; I didn’t know what I had found.

Friday, May 18, 2012

If Everyone's a Critic, Then No One Is

           I recently saw the mega-blockbuster crowd-pleaser The Avengers. I found myself the one quiet person in a room full of cheers and applause. I could give you a whole list of reasons that the film did not inspire in me the joy that everyone else shared, but I won’t.


Two reasons:

First, because it wouldn’t matter. The Avengers has already made a ton of money and is in the process of making its second ton.

And second, my blog is not about reviews. There are ten thousand other sites you can visit for reviews. Nearly all of the reviews for The Avengers have been positive (although some, like Roger Ebert’s, are positive if lukewarm), but this hardly matters anymore.

Why doesn’t it matter, you ask?

Because no one listens to critics.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

We (Heart) Bad Movies

It doesn’t happen in any other art form. You don’t see a group of people getting together and having a blast listening to bad music. People don’t line up outside museums to point and laugh at some awful painting. But we do it with films.

A few years ago at a friend’s stag party, we were refused entrance at a strip club because a member of our group was underage. So, what did we do? We bought a lot of beer, went to someone’s apartment and watched Masters of the Universe.

A good time was had by all.

Maybe it’s our rebellious nature. Anyone can extol the virtues of Citizen Kane or The Godfather. But, it takes a special person to love something like Robot Monster or The Brute Man.

It can’t be just any bad movie, either. A film featuring beautiful women, wooden acting and a thoroughly unconvincing rubber monster will inspire love and enjoyment in the hearts of a bad movie lover, while an over-blown and under-thought mega-blockbuster like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will make us ill.

Friday, May 4, 2012

To Prequel or Not to Prequel?

            There come a time in every geek’s life when he must confront that which is unpleasant. I refer here to the almost universally reviled yet highly profitable Star Wars prequels. No other film series causes this much derision. Sure, we film buffs are accustomed to inferior sequels, but our usual response is to either ignore them or shrug and say, “Yeah, but the first one (or two) was good.” But not with the Star Wars prequels. No, with these, we become angry toddlers, our faces turning purple with rage and our vocabulary becoming liberally sprinkled with language that would make a sailor blush.

            But why? Why does this one hurt so much?

            I can’t answer for all geeks, but I can tell you my story.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How "Duck Soup" Changed My Life

I’m not one to overstate the importance of things, so believe me when I say that Duck Soup changed my life. For some, a great life-changing moment occurs when they first laid eyes on their spouse, or when their children were born, not me.

                For me, it was watching four middle-aged Jews act like fools in a movie that was nearly as old as my grandmother.

                Allow me to set the scene:

                I was a youngster of about ten or so, visiting my father over Christmas vacation. He was living in this lovely condo up in North Carolina. That year, Christmas was all about Ninja Turtles (I got the sewer playset that year and if you don’t know how friggin’ awesome that was, I pity you).

                My father had been doing a Groucho impression for a while, the stooped walk, pantomiming a cigar, saying, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever hoid.” (Not “heard” but “hoid,” my father’s attempt at Groucho’s voice.) It always made me laugh when he did it, even though I had no idea who or what it was supposed to be.