Volume 22, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 22 - 28, 2010
From 'Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison' (Tribeca Cinemas Doc Series)
Support Your Local Cinema!
Area movie houses deliver the rare, daring, different
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
Sure, you can always stay at home and access your cable system’s Movie on Demand menu; or hunker down with a Netflix marathon but the mightiest flat screen TV can’t do justice to a sweeping epic compared against the height and width of a movie house behemoth.
That alone is reason enough to venture out into the January chill; but also consider that the Village/Downtown area has about twenty times more cinema choices than your average upstate Hooterville zip code (yes, it’s snobbish; but it has the distinct advantage of being true!).
If you do go out to the movies, why not see something you can’t get anywhere else; a first-run indie, a rarely screened classic, or a short-run foreign film? Look beyond the latest mainstream shoot ‘em up or that buddy movie where the rogue cop gets back at the punks who got away with murdering his…well…if you get the picture, you’ve got a good idea of what’s wrong with pictures.
Here, then (in no particular order), are some of the area’s most uniquely, passionately, competently programmed cinemas.
THE ANGELIKA FILM CENTER & CAFé
At 18 West Houston St. (at Mercer St.); 212-995-2000; www.angelikafilmcenter.com.
This Arthouse cinema, with a café for discussion and socializing, boasts locations in both New York and Texas. Its sister space here in the city is Village East Cinema (www.villageeastcinema.com).
Opening Jan. 29, “Saint John of Las Vegas” is first time writer/director Hue Rhodes’ tale of a bad luck gambler (Steve Buscemi) who runs screaming from Las Vegas in search of a more stable life.
Opening Feb. 5, “Terribly Happy” arrives fresh from a successful festival run and a slew of awards (including seven “Danish” Oscars). It’s a macabre vision of what depths we’ll sink to in order to achieve security and belonging.
TRIBECA CINEMAS: DOC SERIES
At Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street (corner of Laight). Call 212-941-2001. Tickets are $10 per screening ($8 for students, seniors) and can be purchased at www.tribecafilm.com/docseries or at the box office immediately before each screening.
On January 25, Tribeca Cinemas launches “Doc Series” which screens innovative, thought-provoking documentaries from around the world (on the second and fourth Monday of each month).
Jan. 25, it’s “P-Star Rising” a 2009 Tribeca Film Festival entry favorable reviewed by The Villager. Single father (and early 80s rising hip-hop star) Jesse Diaz finds a shot at redemption in his 9 year-old daughter Priscilla Star, a precocious and immensely talented rapper.
Feb. 8, 2008’s “The Dungeon Master” sees an evil elf displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Not a documentary, you say? It’s just one of the imagined characters in Keven McAlester’s look at crumbling middle-class America in which two men and one woman devote their lives to Dungeons and Dragons.
March 8, 2008’s “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison” examines the most important day in the career of one of America’s foremost popular artists a concert at Folsom State Prison in California which resulted in an album that became a symbol of the late 1960s. Concert and archival footage as well as exclusive interviews with participants and observers combine to shed light on “The Man in Black.”
LANDMARK SUNSHINE CINEMA
At 143 E. Houston St.; call 212-777-3456, Ext. 687 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com.
Singles and disgruntled seniors, be warned! Wednesdays at 11 a.m., caregivers and their babies swarm the seats and the aisles for “Rattle & Reel” screenings. Adults pay normal admission prices; admission for all babies? Free! Tickets available at the box office only on the day of show.
Opening Jan. 22, “Creation” is the true-life tale of Charles Darwin and what went down as “Origin of Species” was being written. Director Jon Amiel describes it as “part ghost story, part psychological thriller, part heart-wrenching love story” and the film’s flaks boldly proclaim you’ll get “Charles Darwin as you’ve never seen him before.” Also of interest? The “Sunshine at Midnight” series offers $9.99 tickets and screens films such as the uncut version of Sam Rami’s “The Evil Dead” (Jan. 29, 30).
At 22 East 12th St. (btw. University Place & 5th Ave.). Call 212-924-3363 or visit www.cinemavillage.com.
Built in 1963 “in the shell of a turn of the century fire station,” Cinema Village’s three screens thrive thanks to the fact that they “exist where we are: in the midst of most diverse, cosmopolitan and cine-aware of cities.”
Opening Jan. 22, “Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970” features performances by Cohen, Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez. Opening Jan. 29, return again to the 1970s with “The Most Dangerous Man in America” the story of Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level Pentagon official and Vietnam War strategist who leaked 7,000 pages of top secret documents (which became known as “The Pentagon Papers).
Then, flash forward to February 26, 2010. That’s the premiere date for “Prodigal Sons” Kimberly Reed’s documentary about the hornet’s nest of family drama and trauma unleashed when she returns to Montana to attend her high school reunion and perhaps reconcile with her estranged adopted brother.
At 209 W. Houston St.; Call 212-727-8110 or visit www.filmforum.org. For the Box Office, call 212-727-8112.
A nonprofit cinema since 1970, Film Forum is serious about delivering on its original mission statement. That mission? To provide a home for “NYC theatrical premieres of American independents and foreign art films” as well as “repertory selections including foreign and American classics, genre works, festivals and directors’ retrospectives.” The third screen “is dedicated to extended runs of popular selections from both programs, as well as new films for longer engagements.”
Now through Feb. 18, the Kurosawa Festival pays tribute to the influential Japanese director whose “Rashomon” has been pillaged by virtually every “he said, she said” film and sitcom since its 1950 premiere. It screens Jan. 28. On Feb, 5-18, only the big screen does justice to “Ran” (which itself does justice to “King Lear”). On Jan. 28, Kurosawa’s late-career “Dreams” (1990) delivers eight haunting vignettes that vacillate between wondrous and nightmarish.
ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES
At 32 Second Ave (at 2nd St.). Call 212-505-5181 or visit www.anthologyfilmarchives.org.
Since 1970, Anthology has sought to “preserve, exhibit, and promote public and scholarly understanding of independent, classic, and avant-garde cinema.” That translates, rather well, into screening over 900 film and video programs annually with time left over to publish books and catalogs and preserve films (over 800 films to date).
2009 saw such highlights as a Kenneth Anger retrospective and a festival of Hollywood’s “One-Eyed Auteurs” (directors whose depth perception suffered as a result of missing or compromised eyes). This year? More of the same; and that’s a good thing when it translates into “a particular focus on American independent and avant-garde cinema and its precursors found in classic European, Soviet and Japanese film.”
Those films will include selections drawn from the “Essential Cinema Repertory” collection 330 titles assembled in an attempt to “define the art of cinema.” On Jan. 30, “Battleship Potemkin” is Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein’s 1924 silent that’s still teaching up-and-comers everything they need to know about how to work a montage. March 20/21, Buster Keaton’s 1927 Civil War comedy “The General” involves a stolen train and countless ingeniously choreographed sight gags.
Retrospectives are also an important part of Anthology’s offerings. Feb. 26 through March 4, the works of gay filmmaker William E. Jones delivers everything from documentary (“Is it Really so Strange”) to his 1991 debut “Massillon” the story of Jones’ return to his midwestern roots, told without the help of actors (but with the help of voice-over and “landscape-based” images). March 10-19, harken back to the NYC of 1931-1942 when the documentary, as we know it, was being concevied, birthed and raised to young adulthood.
At 200 Hudson Street. Call 212-601-1000 or visit www.92y.org.
We’ll forgive them for screening “Spaceballs” as part of a two-film Mel Brooks marathon on December 25, 2009. It’s easy to forget, since the relatively new Tribeca sister space of the 92nd Street Y consistently delivers a schedule of rare and/or unexpected treasures. Buy tickets early when you see something you like, though; films screen for just one or two showings, and often sell out.
At 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 and 23, “Tales from the Gimli Hospital” is part of their Guy Maddin series. It’s the supremely weird 1988 story of two smallpox patients. Feb. 6 at 8 p.m., this month’s installment of “The Iron Mule Short Comedy Film Festival” has guest judge Ritch Duncan welcoming hosts Jay Stern and Victor Varnado.
In addition to their film series, 92Y Tribeca also has Daytime Film Discussion classes. Their “Lunch and a Movie: Masterpieces of European Cinema” lets you screen a classic, then chew on its meaning as you eat lunch and participate in a lively discussion.
At 323 Sixth Ave. (at West Third St.) Call 212-924-7771. For the Box Office, call 212- 924-5246 or visit www.ifccenter.com.
Open since 2005, it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood without this three-screen source of independent, foreign and documentary features.
IFC regular happenings include “Weekend Classics” at 11 a.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and cult movies every Friday and Saturday at Midnight. Those dependable happenings are supplemented by “Short Attention Span Cinema” (short films which screen before every feature). It also has (as the website boasts and this author can attest to) “organic popcorn with real, natural butter” at the concession stand. Sure, you’ll pay a little more for the real thing; but what else is new?
From Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, catch one of the better entries in last year’s so-so Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary “Off and Running” concerns a track phenom whose teen years are complicated by explorations of race, identity, and family. African-American Avery has white Jewish lesbian parents and two step brothers (one mixed race, one Korean). When her growing independence and need to connect with her birth mother drives a wedge between Avery and her adoptive family, she begins staying away from home, skipping school and putting a promising athletic career at risk. This doc dares to forego the usual uplifting arc of sports documentaries to show a family, warts and all, in the emotional throes of inevitable transition.