Friday, April 30, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Man of Aran/British Sea Power

Sorry for the days off. I'm in London and thought I'd get around to posting something but I've been busier than I thought. Last night I did do something kind of special and unique related to film + music: I watched British Sea Power perform to a silent movie in an old church called Union Chapel.

In the past I've seen films such as Joan d'Arc with an orchestra/choir, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with the electronic group IQU and a few others. This time it was the 1934 Robert Flaherty silent Man of Aran with the English band British Sea Power performing their own score for the film.

The setting of the performance really added to the atmosphere. Union Chapel is kind of this seen better days church but still beautiful. Creaky church pews lined the floor and its circular, two storied interior created a very intimate room for film and music. I'm a big fan of British Sea Power and actually own the album that they released with the soundtrack so that upped my enjoyment as well. 

Man of Aran is a stark look at the existence of the lives of people on rugged isles off the coast of Ireland. Lots of shots of crashing waves and gathering seaweed. It's a harsh existence on the island and British Sea Power deliver a haunting series of songs to accompany the film. The long scenes with the boats going after sharks with British Sea Power going with four guitars, violin, horn and pounding drums was intense and one of the highlights of the evening. 

This was a lot of fun and I wish I could do this more--it really aids to the enjoyment of silent films when you get to see it with a full band rather than any rinky-dink silent scores that often accompany the original.

***Photo by Paul/Virtual Biscuit...check the link out to his flickr account in the comments field. Thanks Paul!***

Friday, April 23, 2010

UTW review of Death at a Funeral

Go here if you want to read my review for Death at a Funeral. It's a comedy. A remake of an English film made in 2007. Yes, Hollywood doesn't waste any time with the remakes these days.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New poll question

I saw Hot Tub Time Machine earlier tonight and thought I should incorporate its theme of time travel into the new poll question. I think this is a tough one as I have 3 or 4 of these that I really love--but I'm a sucker for anything with time travel. If you vote "other" please post that vote in the comment field.

There are a lot of choices, but I could have had even more to the question: what film is the best time travel movie?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movie tickets #14

Thursday, April 15, 2010

UTW review of Mid-August Lunch

Go here if you want to read my review of the Italian film Mid-August Lunch in this week's Urban Tulsa. It's a very pleasant little film that is written/directed by Gianni Di Gregorio (who also plays the lead). Di Gregorio also wrote Gomorrah, a violent, depressing, highly acclaimed crime epic from 2009. Mid-August Lunch is the polar opposite of that movie which makes it even more interesting.

Monday, April 12, 2010

UTW article on Admiral Twin Drive-In/The Outsiders

I recently wrote an article about the Admiral Twin Drive-In for Urban Tulsa. I've not written "journalistic" pieces much so it was a little different to do. The first couple of paragraphs of the opening was not included in the piece--it is below. I really liked the opening so wanted to share it with you. Click on the link below to read the rest of the article.

I wouldn't classify myself as an overtly patriotic person. I rarely become emotional when I hear the national anthem or see a flag fluttering in the warm glow of a sunset. That's not to say I don't have my moments when I'm struck by a mysterious wave and my skin tingles with goosebumps by some quality of "Americanness" that I'm witnessing. 

What gets me in the heart and makes me love my country? Demolition derbies, prison rodeos, fried livers with country gravy, baseball parks, empty southwestern desert highways, and rock and roll music. But nothing comes close to getting my red, white and blue juices flowing like the drive-in. Nothing.

Go here if you want to read the rest of the article that includes not only Admiral Twin but some things on drive-in history and the film The Outsiders

Photo of Admiral Twin Drive-In in the early 1960s courtesy of Rotary Club/Beryl Ford Collection/Tulsa Historical Society

Saturday, April 10, 2010

UTW review of The Last Song

Go here if you want to read my review for The Last Song. Be warned, I say some mean things about novelist Nicholas Sparks and Miley Cyrus. I'm pretty sure they deserve it though for releasing this mess upon the world. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Projectionists in movies by Sean Goodrich

Sean Goodrich came up with the recent poll question and he takes over CineRobot for this post about the portrayal of projectionists in various movies:

I’ve been a projectionist for almost 14 years, starting at Tinseltown 17 in Grapevine, TX.  I’ve worked at theaters ranging from 1 to 24 screens, currently I work at The Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz in Austin, TX.
Movies featuring projectionists have always piqued my interest, how accurately do they portray the job?  How good is the projectionist?  Here’s a list of some in order from worst to best, it’s not a ranking of the quality of movie, just the projectionist.
I haven’t seen every movie featuring, so I know I’m missing a few movies.  I have seen The Majestic, but you won’t see it on this list either.  I really hated that movie.
There will be spoilers ahead.  You’ve been warned.
Gremlins--The Gremlins
These guys are projection done wrong.  You must treat film carefully, nicely.  You can’t undamage film.  I’ve done similar things to film, but it was always intentional, like the time I destroyed a trailer for The Majestic.  You can’t do that by accident, but I guess that’s what The Gremlins are all about.  So their gremlin grade is A+, projection, D-, and that’s only because they managed to get an image on screen, in frame and focus.  Unfortunately that’s the last time that print will be played.  Also, the projectionist has a duty to not blow up the movie theater.  At least you have a responsibility to stop the movie, turn on the lights and get a manager to escort the audience out of the theater if you smell gas.
And then there’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Threading the projector that fast is good projection, I can’t even thread that fast.  Letting the bulb shine on the screen without the motor running will really screw up the lens, that’s bad projection, but good gremlining.  But letting an audience member shout at you and tell you how to do your job is both bad projection and gremlining.  I don’t care if it’s Hulk Hogan, there are boundaries, the manager goes up to the booth to yell at you. 
Nick--Last Action Hero
Nick is the kind old projectionist who can’t keep the movie in focus.  He makes friends with little Danny Madigan, and let’s him have a private advanced screening of the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Jack Slater IV.  But first he gives him a magic ticket that throws him into the movie, and hilarity ensues.
Let’s take this one at a time.
First, an old man makes friends with a boy.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, just a little creepy.  I haven’t done that yet, but The Alamo doesn’t let unaccompanied minors in the theater, so that’s understandable.  I’m also not a creep.
Second, he acts like showing Danny Jack Slater IV is a favor.  When I was first starting out, I used to look down at a sold out theater, and think that somewhere down there, a five year old kid is watching the movie, and he’s mesmerized, enchanted.  In those two hours his life has changed, and he’s taken the first steps towards becoming the next Martin Scorsese.
Nick has been around, I’m sure he’s seen, and projected North By Northwest, Bullitt, The French Connection many times.  If he really wants to be a friend to Danny, he’d show those action classics.  The only reason Danny is going nuts over a crappy sequel to a crappy movie is because he hasn’t seen a good movie.  If Danny continues on the path Nick started for him, he’ll soon become the next Brett Ratner.
Third, if Nick doesn’t give Danny that magic ticket, there’s no reason for Last Action Hero to exist, and I can have my two hours back.
Projectionist--B, shepherd of young minds--D, film’s inciting incident--F 
Tyler Durden--Fight Club
This is kind of where we cross into good projectionist territory.  It’s a little hard to give Tyler a grade.  For one thing, it takes some talent to splice in porn into Kiddie Movies.  But it’s something you shouldn’t do.  You can also be a very talented soap manufacturer, but you shouldn’t use that talent to blow up buildings.
This is the movie people ask me about when they find out I’m a projectionist.  “Have you ever spliced porn in your movies?”  I can answer that question right now, but it may cost The Alamo it’s liquor license, and me my job.
Now, a word about “cigarette burns”.  I had been a projectionist for 3 years when Fight Club opened.  That was the first time I heard that term.  We just called them “Reel Change Dots”, or “Cue Dots”, or just, “The Dots.”  I said “cigarette burn” for a while after that, but it’s just too many syllables.  One year during SXSW, on the phone to a filmmaker, I referred to them about his movie, and he freaked out, “Somebody burned my film with a cigarette?!?!”  Now it’s back to “The Dots”.  I still hear it, usually from newbie projectionists, or people trying to impress me with their projection knowledge.  If you ever mention “cigarette burn” to me, all it really proves to me is you’ve seen Fight Club.
Projectionist--B+, human being--F 
Alfredo--Cinema Paradiso
Here’s another movie where a kindly old projectionist befriends a young boy, only this time he does it right.  Alfredo is not a cinematic ignoramus, and he cultivates Salvatore's love of movies, and sets him on a path of being a pretty good projectionist on his own, and into a successful director.  We know Salvatore is a good filmmaker because he’s Italian. Brett Ratner is not Italian.
Cinema Paradiso is the most accurate movie about being a projectionist.  Yeah, I’ve even played the start of a movie while the end was at another theater.  But we weren’t biking the reels between theaters, so there was no interruption.
Alfredo loses marks for burning down the theater, but not much, because that was always a risk when handling nitrate film.  But I’m not going to dock him points for editing out kissing scenes.  Basically, the projectionist’s only job is to show every frame of film to the audience.  But sometimes management has other ideas.  I’ve been instructed to install dimmer bulbs to save money, remove footage, or insert penises.  I usually put up a fight, explaining how it will hurt presentation, but in the end I do what the people who sign my checks tell me to do.
Alfredo was up against something bigger, the local priest was telling him what to cut out.  It’s one thing to lose your job to protect a movie, but who’s willing to burn in Hell for a few kissing scenes?  Anyway at least he saved them so Salvatore could watch them all at the end and give the audience a tear-jerking ending.
Projectionist--A-. Catholic--A+, fireman--F 
Buster Keaton--Sherlock Jr.
Buster Keaton plays one of my favorite projectionists in one of my favorite movies, period.  I could go on and on about how great this movie is, and how awesome Keaton was.  His Kubrick-like perfectionism in getting the camera tricks just right, or how he did all his own stunts, and actually broke his neck filming this movie, and didn’t know it until years later.  But none of that has to do with film projection.
There isn’t really a lot of projection in the movie.  Keaton just starts a projector, dozes off and the rest of the movie is a dream sequence.  But in the end, that’s all being a projectionist is, start the movie, and be bored for two hours.  Bored is good.  Bored means nothing bad is happening.  You shouldn’t fall asleep though, that’s never good.  I’ve never fallen asleep while on the clock (well, I did once, but it was between shows, and I was REALLY tired).  I’m not going to take away too many points though, because he woke up before the next reel change, so no harm was done.
That’s my favorite kind of mistake, when the audience doesn’t notice it.  I call it the Projectionist’s Curse, you’re only noticed if something goes wrong.  If you play a movie perfectly, people leave the theater talking about the movie, if you screw up, they’ll leave talking about you.  I’ve had to keep a platter, or a reel, spinning by hand for the two hours to keep the movie running.  I’ve also gotten a cramp in my wrist keep a film trap shut because the latch broke.  I’ve had last minute fixes involving rubber bands and masking tape.  But the audience never noticed the problem, and had no idea of the panic that was behind their enjoyment of the movie.
Projectionist--A-, being a better silent comedian than Charlie Chaplin--A+ 
Shosanna--Inglourious Basterds
Buster Keaton was my favorite movie projectionist until August of 2009, when I saw Inglourious Basterds.  This movie proves that you don’t have to be a creepy old guy living in an attic to be a projectionist.  You can be female and hot.
On its face, Shosanna should get an F.  She splices in extra footage, the audience never sees the end, and she burns down the freaking theater.  Normally those are all no nos.  But if I didn’t mind that Quentin Tarantino ended Inglourious Basterds with a bullet-riddled Adolph Hitler, I certainly won’t mind horrible projection in the name of Nazi killing.
She did break one rule that can’t be ignored.  She let Private Zoller, the movie’s star, into the booth.   Actors and filmmakers don’t know how to do my job, but they like to tell me how to do it.  I try to keep them out of the booth, and try to keep my distance.  It makes everyone happier.
Shosanna paid for that mistake with her life, so I won’t penalize her anymore, which is a shame, because she never got to see Hitler’s face when he realized he was about to be killed by a Jew.
I don’t know what I would do in her situation.  They don’t make nitrate film anymore, so if Osama Bin Laden asked me to show his latest propaganda movie for Al Qaeda High Command, I’d have to come up with something a little more blunt.  Projectors are pretty heavy, I could drop one on him, but it wouldn’t kill everybody.  Nope, movie theaters aren’t the death traps they used to be.
Projectionist--A+, Bad Ass Nazi Killer--A+ 
Honorable Mention
The unseen projectionist in Singin’ in the Rain
I feel for this guy.  Big premiere, stars and reporters all over the place, brand new high tech equipment, and he totally screws the pooch.  Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  I’d like to scold him about not being prepared, not knowing the equipment, but I know that’s not all in his control.  The first movie to run through the projectors at the Alamo Ritz wasn’t a test run, it was on opening night, full theater, Quentin Tarantino and other hot shots in attendance.  How that night wasn’t a disaster was a small miracle 
The projectionist from Purple Rose of Cairo
What do you do when a movie character jumps off the screen and runs off with an audience member?  The movie keeps going, but the story grinds to a halt.  The other characters are just sitting around.  You just have to keep the projectors running, until the rogue character returns and the movie can end.  What happens when you turn the projector off, will the lives on the screen be snuffed out, will Jeff Daniels in real life die?  I hope I will never be forced to answer this kind of moral and philosophical question 
Well, that’s about it.  Hopefully you have a better understanding of my job, and the people who work, unseen, to entertain you.
At the very least, I hope you stopping talking about cigarette burns.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Movie tickets #13

Saturday, April 03, 2010

UTW review of The White Ribbon

Go here if you want to read my review this week in Urban Tulsa. It's of Michael Haneke's latest film The White Ribbon. I really liked it and am quite fond of the review as well.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

New poll question

We have a poll question that is a teaser for an upcoming guest post by Sean Goodrich, a projectionist at Austin's famed theatre Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz. I love having readers come up with great questions like these, so if you have any, e-mail me!

The new poll question: who was the best projectionist?

A/ Shosanna from Inglourious Basterds
B/ Buster Keaton from Sherlock Jr.
C/ Tyler Durden from Fight Club
D/ Alfredo from Cinema Paradiso
E/ Other

If you vote other, please cast that vote in the comments field.

March movies

Another busy month--on pace for 248 films in 2010. The highlights were two older films--Good Fellas and Raging Bull--and one new one in The White Ribbon. I'll post my Urban Tulsa review of The White Ribbon in a couple of days.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall---2007---usa   ***1/2
Brooklyn's Finest---2010---usa   **1/2
A Man, A Woman and A Wall---2007---japan   ***
Cadillac Records---2008---usa    **
Good Fellas---1990---usa   *****!
She's Out of My League---2010---usa   **
The Most Dangerous Man in America---2009---usa   ***1/2
Romance---1999---france   **
Uzumaki---2000---japan   ***
Raging Bull---1980---usa   *****!
The Ghost Writer---2010---***1/2
Drillbit Taylor---2008---usa   *1/2
Bird & Magic---2010---usa   ***1/2
The White Ribbon---2009---austria   ****
Still Life---2006---china   ***
The Room---2003---usa   ***1/2
The Breakfast Club---usa---1985   ****
Tourist Trap---1979---usa   ***