November 14, 2008

My dream week of theater programming

There's a great little independent movie theater in my native Boston called the Brattle Theatre. It has hosted such pivotal moments in my life as almost getting a picture with Simon Pegg and going to a screening of American Splendor because I knew a cute boy was going but ultimately falling completely in love with the film and forgetting the boy. Anyway, they have a cool annual raffle (called the Braffle!) where the winner gets to pick a night of programming for the theater. Anything you want them to show, they'll try to dig it up (read more about it here ). Winning that would clearly be awesome, but I couldn't even begin to think of what I'd pick if I only had one night. Thus my interest was piqued when they posted their schedule for this past March (yes, I started this post a while ago), and I noticed that one of their repertory series is called "Selected By...Andrew Bujalski." Bujalski is a local indie filmmaker ( and now, the target of my fierce jealousy. I've decided that being chosen to inflict your taste upon people - for a week! - is the ultimate measure of success. You can check out his picks here - or just do what I did and start thinking about what your dream program would be.

Let's say you had six days (as Andrew did). You can do single or double features, maybe a triple, themed or not. But before you just start rattling off all your favorite movies, there are some things to take into consideration. First of all, you might want to think in terms of films that could benefit from being shown on the big screen. Silent expressionist classics? Sure. Lavish musicals? Totally. A Will Ferrell movie? Not really. Second, this is your chance to tell people what they should see. Maybe you really like Jaws, but bringing Jaws to the masses won't really make a statement at this point. It's your chance to be that cool friend saying "hey, check out this movie, maybe you haven't heard of it but I think you'll like it" on a large scale. Finally, you would want to pick films that say something about you as an artist or as a person. If someone told you that they like the Beatles, does that really narrow down what kind of a person they are at all? Similarly, if you were to screen Star Wars or The Godfather or The Wizard of Oz, that's pretty noncommittal. Everyone likes those. Also, if you want, it's fun to think of films that go well together, either thematically, chronologically, by person, etc...

So after some consideration, here is my dream "Selects" series!

Ruthless ambition night!

Election (1999)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Though one is a perky high school student and the other is a sleazy and desperate ad man in New York, both Tracy Flick and Sidney Falco are experts at clawing their way to the top. Election's dark comedy would complement the acidic tone of the jazz-tinged Sweet Smell.

Dance! Dance! Dance!

Center Stage (2000
All That Jazz (1979)

The former is just a straight-up guilty pleasure. It's what a ridiculous dance movie should be: absurd and contrived dialogue, unlikely coincidences, and unironically awesome dance sequences. The latter is especially timely due to the recent passing of its star, Roy Scheider. If you only know Scheider as Captain Brody from Jaws, you're in for a treat if you witness his bravura performance as a thinly veiled portrayal of the film's director, Bob Fosse. Although he doesn't actually do much singing or dancing, those duties are more than amply distributed to the rest of the cast, who create an alternately jubilant, morose, and surreal experience. Would be amazing on the big screen.

Pedro Almodóvar night!

Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown) (1988)
Carne trémula (Live Flesh) (1997)
Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother) (1999)

This is my frenzied cry for America to pay more attention to Pedro. He is my favorite director working today, and the only one whose movies I consistently get ridiculously excited for. I try to push him on people at every possible opportunity. This trio of films represents the three stages of his career pretty well. Early on, his movies were lusty screwball farces, of which Mujeres is the best example. Carne marked his move into melodrama, but is still teeming with the extravagant excess of his earlier work. Todo sobre mi madre is one of my absolute favorite films of all time, and represents a maturation and polish to his films. No detail is overlooked, and Almodóvar dictates everything from casting to set design to soundtrack. He is pure cinema. (They actually had a Pedro program at the Brattle this summer, so maybe this would be better somewhere else.)

Rockin the suburbs!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1959)
Little Children (2006)

Two very different films, from very different times, that echo the same sentiment: the suburbs are fucked up. The ORIGINAL Body Snatchers (I don't mess with the 70s version, or that Nicole Kidman remake crap) begs the question of whether the emotionless clones of citizens that begin to appear are symbolic of Communists. Whether they are or not, I think we can all agree that giant oozing pods appearing all over town and spawning evil clones is fairly problematic. Little Children, a criminally overlooked masterpiece of 2006, deals instead with inner demons - adultery, pedophilia, porn addiction, isolation, insecurity, and other fun things of that nature. And Patrick Wilson is gorgeous, so now you have no excuse for missing this nonexistent event.

Modern black and white night!

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

I'm always interested by modern filmmakers who choose to film in black and white. Some, like Kevin Smith for Clerks, do it for financial reasons, but Clooney and the Coens wisely chose it for artistic reasons. Both films, set around mid-century, make ample use of gorgeous cinematography with no shortage of langurous cigarette smoking. Stunning cinematography and acting would make this pairing a knockout.


What a Way to Go! (1964)

A breezy matinee to cap off the week. Did you know that there's a movie starring Shirley MacLaine, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman and Dean Martin, that's a dark comedy that parodies silent film, French film, and musicals? Yes. This exists. And it's awesome.

What would yours be, for a day or a week?


Unknown said...

Day 1:
2001: A Space Odyssey

The first one is one of the movies that had any sort of "Big" impact on my life and set me on a path where I started to actively question my religious beliefs and thinking about my attitude towards faith and science. The latter I've never really liked but I'm including here because I've only seen it on a TV screen and I think maybe that might make a difference as every review I've read raves about the visual impact.

Day 2:
The Truman Show
Life of Brian

Comedy night.

Day 3:
Pump up the Volume
Art School Confidential

After the downer that is Pump up the Volume, Art School Confidential should prove for a nice booster.

Day 4:
I Heart Huckabees
Run Lola Run

Philosophy Night. The first movie debates if everything is connected or if life is only about pain and suffering. The second looks at the concept possible worlds.

Day 4:
Fight Club
Black Snake Moan

Both of these movies have bad reputations for (I think) "glamorizing undesirable behaviors" yet have more soul then most family friendly fare. Fight Club is probably my all time favorite movie and Black Snake Moan has my favorite soundtrack. Both would benefit from being seen on the big screen, Black Snake Moan thanks to the extra power from movie theater speakers and the the climax to Fight Club would be greatly enhanced on a larger screen.

Jordan Troublefield said...

Hell. Yes. on the Ben Folds quote. Seen the guy 5 times and he never gets old. :P I'd have to think about what my dream line-up would be, though.

Zanahoria12 said...

I love What a Way to Go! I caught it on AMC once way back in the day and it's been a favorite ever since...I'm happy to see other people appreciate its awesomeness:)