Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Preview: Hucksters & Princes, Burt Lancaster


"I woke up one day a star. It was terrifying. Then I worked hard toward becoming a good actor."
-Burt Lancaster

What image pops in your head when you think of Burt Lancaster? Is it of a star or an actor? Is it that iconic image on the beach with Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity? Is it any of the pairings with Kirk Douglas? Is it his muted solitude in The Birdman of Alcatraz? The crazed genius from The Island of Dr. Moreau? Personally, I think of his performances. What always struck me was his face: strong and athletic, with that distinctive grin. I've seen Lancaster in all of the films listed above, and was always impressed by his physical presence and a perceived solemn demeanor.

His filmography presents an actor who was never content with taking the same roles. He challenged himself constantly and adapted himself to a wide variety of roles, as long as they aligned with his personal beliefs.

As Lancaster approached middle age in the 1960s, he began to step outside of his wheelhouse and tackle more ambitious projects. He hasn't too shy to even appear in European productions, and as a result worked with some well-known foreign directors. The Leopard provided him with the most complex, challenging and overall finest role of his career. An Italian film directed by Luchino Visconti, it is a story of an aristocrat trying to maintain some order during the 1860s Sicilian social upheaval. An epic of breathtaking beauty and cinematic landscapes, it still stands tall despite being an overlooked gem on Burt's resume.


As an added treat, The Leopard will be shown in a brand new restored print. This promises to be its most gorgeous exhibition ever.

In his most acclaimed role, Lancaster won a Best Actor Oscar for his work as Elmer Gantry. He plays a hard drinking, smooth talking con man who takes up selling religion in the 1920s. Elmer becomes a charlatan fire and brimstone preacher in league with a genuine revivalist, Sister Sharon (Jean Simmons). But as he lures more and more with his blustery charm, some begin to take aim on him and his past rears its ugly head. Not an indictment of religion as much of a warning on the perils of religious zealotry, the film is a tale about personal growth and salvation that some are unable to find even when steeped in their particular brand of theology.


Hmmm. Wonder how Elmer would react to Texas governor Rick Perry's own modern religious spectacle? Would he applaud or condemn the current charlatan?

And so here are two of Lancaster's most iconic performances as both a star and an actor. It appears that Burt had nothing to be afraid of after all. The tall thespian with a game show host smile worked hard so that he could play it both ways: as a huckster and as a prince. Regardless of how you initially remember Burt Lancaster before this double feature, your respect and image of this fine actor is sure to grow by leaps and bounds afterwards.

Showtimes for the films:

The Leopard
Saturday, Jul 2nd
2:00 8:30
Sunday, Jul 3rd
2:00

Elmer Gantry
Saturday, Jul 2nd
5:35
Sunday, Jul 3rd
5:35

Final Notes about the screening

Italian cocktail and wine specials all night!

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Preview: Paul Newman, The Intensity of Charm


It pains me to see classic movie stars remembered for something other than their brilliant careers. Case in point: I once heard someone refer to Paul Newman as "that guy from the salad dressing." I would've been furious if not so heartbroken. The sad truth remains that for younger generations, they may not actually know that Newman was a movie star of the highest order. So if any of you younglings happen to be reading this, let's have a primer.

Actor. Entrepreneur. Race Car Enthusiast. Philanthropist. THAT is Paul Newman. He's a man that audiences have loved for generations for his variety of endeavors.

It is difficult to find a defining role for Newman. But for many, The Hustler may be what he is remembered for the most. As "Fast Eddie" Felson, Newman charmed audiences everywhere as a small-time pool hustler trying to take on legendary billiard king "Minnesota Fats" (played by Jackie Gleason). A beautifully photographed and edited story of chasing dreams and facing our harsh realities, The Hustler enjoyed both popular and critical success immediately on its release, and 40 years later is now a true classic. Not just a mere sports movie, it's a life movie. Face it with cue in hand, and rack 'em up.


A quarter century later, Newman returned as Fast Eddie in The Color of Money, the sequel directed by Martin Scorsese. It featured Newman as a mentor for a cocky pool protege played by Tom Cruise. Newman won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Actor that year for this role.

In Harper, Paul Newman turns on the charm yet again. Released in 1966, he plays Lew Harper, a cool and cynical private investigator (is there any other kind, really?). Adapted from a novel by legendary screenwriter WIlliam Goldman, Harper is a tale of a P.I. hired to find a missing man and gets embroiled in both seedy characters and an increasingly nefarious kidnapping plot. Or is that a red herring? Is there even more beyond a missing persons case? All the while, he contends with a line of ladies that challenge him in different ways, including: Lauren Becall, Julie Harris, Shirley Winters and an ex-wife played by Janet Leigh.

There's some perceptable homages to Humphrey Bogart's old detective stories, particularly in the casting of Becall, who appeared with her husband (Bogart) in 1946's The Big Sleep. There's also plenty of social commentary (and jaded views) inside this 1960s neo-noir, reflecting the shifting attitudes of the culture at that time.


Newman reprised his role as Lew Harper in a sequel, 1975's The Drowning Pool. In that film, Harper relocates to Louisiana where he has to deal with blackmail, an oil tycoon, and a nympho played by Melanie Griffith. Some guys have such tough luck, huh?

Throughout his career, Newman demonstrated a rare mix of his intense charm and success time and again. A life-long racing fan, he won numerous championships in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing. He was a political activist for many noble causes.

Oh. And as for being "that guy from the salad dressing..."

In the 1980s, Paul started Newman's Own, a venture where he donated all profits to (in Newman's words) "a number of tax-deductible charities and causes, some church-related, others for conservation and ecology and things like that." Since 1982, the foundation has donated over $300 million to various charities.


And of course, let's not forget his initial endeavor: acting. For decades, his performances were always as captivating as those icy blue eyes, forever establishing a level of charm that will eternally be... well, Newman's own.


Showtimes for the films:

The Hustler
Thursday, Jun 30th
7:00

Harper
Thursday, Jun 30th
9:40

Final Notes about the screening

Print out your confirmation e-mail for a FREE game of pool at Buffalo Billiards! (21+ only)

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Preview: Audrey Hepburn, Icon


In this time of marketing when any damn reality star can become "a star," it seems celebrity has lost a bit of it luster. Heck, twice a year a collection of people I hardly know are trotted out and on "Dancing with the Stars." And even those I am familiar with are just headliners from 80s movies. I mean, come on. Jennifer Grey? Ralph Macchio? Sure, they may have headlined one successful movie, but... stars? Really? Really?

Harder still is to label someone as an "icon." I'll come right out and say it, but no one is worthy of that mantle in the present day. To find a real icon of cinema, you have to go back a while. I'm talking Humphrey Bogart, Liz Taylor, James Stewart, Marilyn Monroe. Those are icons. They are the standard that often have people compared to them, but no one ever truly comes close.

Take for instance, Audrey Hepburn (a definite icon). She's a distinctive actress with an iconic image and persona. A renown humanitarian, talented actress and a fashion icon. Not everyone can be the muse to Hubert de Givenchy, after all. She is, quite simply, incomparable.

Without question, the enduring image of Hepburn is of her character Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's. I could say many words about this 1961 comedy directed by Blake Edwards. In fact, I have (after last year's screening). When it comes to romantic comedy, an adaptation of a Truman Capote book does not strike me as an ideal recipe for success. However, for all its darker nuances about loneliness, it remains a thoroughly charming film. It's like a pre-Sex and the City, revealing a deep sadness while masquerading as glamour.

But the ingredients in this Breakfast are all quite delicious. The chemistry between Hepburn and George Peppard is complicated, yet light and honest. Blake Edward's balance of melodrama, charm and slapstick get extra mileage with the talented supporting cast assembled here. And as far as the iconic imagery and sounds go... it really is hard to top the combination of 1960s cosmopolitan New York, "Moon River," Audrey Hepburn, Tiffany's, and that little black dress.


Charade, on the other hand, displays Audrey Hepburn's charm and style in an entirely different kind of film. An excellent thriller starring Hepburn and Cary Grant, it surprisingly was directed by Stanley Donen, best known for Hollywood musicals (On The Town, Singin' in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face). Tense, fun and full of twists, Charade is very Hitchcockian in its plot and in its sense of showmanship. Hepburn plays a woman who is prepared to leave her husband but finds him dead. She learns he was hiding a fortune, and different men show up wanting to claim the riches. Dealing with the blow of a sudden loss and the pursuit by strangers, she finds herself questioning all she knew about her late spouse. Why the charade? And does she trust now... if anyone?


A classic and memorable thriller, Charade was remade in 2002 as The Truth about Charlie, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Thandie Newton and Marky Mark Mark Wahlberg. Less a remake and more of a tribute to French New Wave cinema by Demme, it failed to resonate with audiences. Then again, attempting to recreate Grant and Hepburn in a remake leave is no small task. Those are some mighty big shoes to fill. They practically are the embodiment of class and dignity, making their shoe one large glass slipper. Alas, by comparison Thandie and Wahlberg were more of a pair of Crocs.

So there you have it. Two films by a legend, a superstar, an icon of the silver screen. Despite what the Natalie Portman supporters say, there will never be another Audrey Hepburn. Her natural grace and elegance unfortunately reflect a time long gone in Hollywood. Audrey Hepburn helps embody the very definition of being glamourous, metropolitan, chic, and regal. A true legend from Hollywood's golden era, her image is often imitated but can never be eclipsed. Luckily for us, we still have her cinematic performances to help us remember a time when icons weren't just those tiny images on our desktop computers.


Showtimes for the films:

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Saturday, Jun 25th
2:00 6:40
Sunday, Jun 26th
2:00 6:40

Charade
Saturday, Jun 25th
4:20 9:00
Sunday, Jun 26th
4:20 9:00

Final Notes about the screening

Special "Martinis and Manicures" Events before the 2 p.m. screenings of Breakfast at Tiffany's. See the Paramount Theatre page for details.

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Preview: Comedies of Sidney Poitier


No one will ever question Sidney Poitier's place as an actor. The man is a legend, and there is no debate there at all. His quiet intensity and stately manner are hallmarks of his performances, and he blazed a path for African-American thespians by being the first to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1958. His dignified and solemn work include his appearances in The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun, Lilies of the Field, To Sir, With Love, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In The Heat of The Night and its sequel, They Call Me MISTER TIBBS. Yes, there's an almost regal aura about him, and he brings instant credibility to anything he's associated with.


He's Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman rolled into one. He's all business. So if anyone ever had a complaint about Sidney Poitier, it just may be... (with all apologies to The Joker)...

...Why so serious, Mister Tibbs?

Ah, but there is more to Sidney than stoic glares and a steady voice. For all his accomplishments and merits as an actor, few realize that Poitier has indulged in directing as well. In the 1970s and 80s, he directed several movies; often teaming up with Bill Cosby for some light comedies. These were the pre-Huxtable days for The Cos, and for younger audiences, it's hard to fathom Bill in any other type of role (unless as Jell-O pitchman). Poitier and Cosby appeared in a trio of comedies together: Uptown Saturday Night, Let's Do It Again and A Piece of the Action. See? Well look at that. Sidney's got a sense of humor after all!


In Uptown Saturday Night, Poitier and Cosby are two guys who go to an illegal uptown club for a party (you guessed it, on a Saturday night). There everyone is held up at gunpoint by robbers, who abscond with all of their valuables. The next day, one of them realizes he won the lottery but left his ticket in his stolen wallet. Thus begins a journey to recover the wallet, encountering all types of seedy characters along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for appearances by Harry Belafonte, Calvin Lockhart, Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor.


After the trio of movies in the 1970s, Sidney and Bill went on to make one more movie together. That film turned out to be Ghost Dad. Ouch. Yeah, that one. The one that makes the lists of all-time worst movies. The movie that puts the rotten in Rotten Tomatoes scores. Oh, how I wish I was kidding. Guess we can't win them all.

Moving on...

Stir Crazy was released in 1980, and is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder movies. That duo made three other feature films together, Silver Streak (1976), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991), but Stir Crazy was the only one directed by Poitier. In this one, Pryor and Wilder are two guys framed for a bank robbery and sentenced to 125 years in prison. Needless to say, prison life never goes well (even in comedies), and the two have a hard time adjusting to... well... hard time.


Stir Crazy was wildly successful at the box office, grossing over $100 million dollars and became the third highest grossing film of 1980 (behind The Empire Strikes Back and 9 to 5). Heck, it even made more money than Airplane!, another classic comedy in its own right. The chemistry between Pryor and Wilder was golden, and Poitier played their absurd humor with just the right notes.

As an actor, Sidney Poitier forever remains a king amongst Hollywood royalty. However, he reveals a unique sense of humor as a clown prince of comedy directors. Two examples of Poitier bringing the funny will be screened at The Paramount later this week. Do check them out. That way, if ever you are lucky enough to meet him, you can refer to him as something other than "Mr. Tibbs." You can address him as a talented director.

Just don't bring up Ghost Dad.


You won't wanna be on the receiving end of that stare.

Showtimes for the films:

Uptown Saturday Night
Thursday, Jun 23rd
7:00
Friday, Jun 24th
9:15

Stir Crazy
Thursday, Jun 23rd
9:10
Friday, Jun 24th
7:00

Final Notes about the screening

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Preview: Julie Christie films


"All women are aware of that moment when suddenly the boys don't look at you. It's a fairly common thing, when suddenly you no longer attract that instant male attention because of the way you look. I never really knew how to enjoy beauty, but it took the form of a subconscious arrogance, expecting things, all muddled up with celebrity. Then you begin to deal with it. In the 1970s I was amazed to be talked about as a 60s sex symbol. I wasn't that person, as if I were a doll from the past. I had to learn to come to terms with that. It's funny, it's silly, the ridiculousness of having asked so much of celebrity. Then it becomes really interesting and very much part of the excitement of the life you're living now, knowing you're approaching the end of it."

-Julie Christie

The 1960s and 70s were certainly a turbulent time in our culture, and it was no different in the world of movies. It was a post-studio system era, but not quite the age of New Hollywood. The studios were looking to sell anyone as a product, and it was a time that was easy for an actress to be regarded as a mere sex symbol.

Few were thinking of building an actress' career as a body of work, and fewer still were in a position to do anything about it. Too often, a woman with any appeal was packaged up like deli meat and served up as a mere sex kitten. Raquel Welch is s prime example of one who become a hollow sex symbol, although she did help Andy Dufresne during his time at Shawshank prison.

Julie Christie could easily have become another log in this fire. A British actress who rapidly shot to prominence, she was unquestionably beautiful. More importantly, Christie had talent. She exploded on the scene after playing Lara in David Lean's epic Doctor Zhivago and winning an Oscar for her role in Darling. She worked with prominent directors, but also turned down many roles in other films. As the 70s continued, she became even more selective in her roles, effectively rebelling against the idea of being a mere product.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a very unconventional film directed by the great Robert Altman, who often referred to it as an "anti-western." Starring Christie and Warren Beatty as partners in a brothel that proves to be a successful venture. Eventually, as the town prospers, their business attracts the interest of a mining company. The company makes them an offer they shouldn't refuse, but McCabe holds out; an action that will bring dire consequences. Music for the film was by musician and poet Leonard Cohen, whose moody rhythms and vibe fit the film like a velvet glove.


Prior to the making of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Christie and Beatty were dating and had already been declared the most glamorous couple in Hollywood. They were the "Brangelina" of the late 1960s and early 70s before ending their relationship in 1973. Regardless, they remained close afterward, appearing together in Shampoo and in Heaven Can Wait.

Fahrenheit 451 gave Julie the opportunity to work with young French director Fran├žois Truffaut. An adaptation of the acclaimed Ray Bradbury novel, it is a depiction of America as a dystopian nightmare, where hedonism rules and books are outlawed. Christie is showcased in dual roles here, as Linda Montag and Clarisse McClellan. Truffaut imagined these women as two sides of the same coin to the protagonist (Guy Montag), and felt Christie was capable of pulling off both roles. It was, however, a very difficult production that Truffaut endured, ultimately resulting in this quizzical and eccentric science fiction film.


Although these two films may be from Julie Christie's youth, in no way did her career peak during the 60s and 70s. In a rare feat for an actress, she has achieved a whole new degree of success as a mature woman. The 1980s were a quieter time for her, but the 90s saw her reignite her status as a cinematic legend. She appeared as Gertrude in Kenneth Branagh's unabridged film adaptation of Hamlet in 1996 and followed that with another Oscar-nominated turn in 1997's Afterglow. She joined the hit parade of British thespians who have appeared in the famous Harry Potter series, performing as Madam Rosmerta in 2004's Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. But perhaps her most significan role in her recent years was that of an Alzheimer-stricken patient in Away from Her in 2006.

Never content to be just another cog in the machine, Julie Christie has proven to be more than a pretty face. Yes, British 60s swinger Austin Powers would have thought of her as merely "shagadelic," but she's so much more than that. She's a legend, a treasure, an intelligent and beautiful woman who has chosen her own path when the world and Hollywood were beginning to spiral out of control. So is Julie Christie a modern star for modern times? Yeaaaaah, baby.

Showtimes for the films:

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Tuesday, Jun 21st
7:00
Wednesday, Jun 22nd
9:15

Fahrenheit 451
Tuesday, Jun 21st
9:25
Wednesday, Jun 22nd
7:00

Final Notes about the screening

Bring your new or gently used books for Fahrenheit 451 and receive FREE admission! The drive benefits Austin Public Library.

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Preview: Ford, Fonda and America


Hey folks, July 4th approaches. As we contemplate the USA's birthday and the state of our union, now it the time to rejoice in that most American of art form: motion pictures. Through the summer The Paramount has been showcasing the best of classic cinema, both foreign and domestic, but this weekend is particularly special. A double feature featuring Henry Fonda, a patriarch of Hollywood royalty and John Ford, who may well be America's greatest and most diverse film director ever.

Fonda requires little introduction. A giant star from the classic Hollywood era, Fonda appeared in over 100 films and shorts throughout his long career. Father of Jane and Peter Fonda, and grandfather to Bridget Fonda, his legacy continues its imprint on the world of film to this day. Best known from 12 Angry Men, Mr. Roberts, How The West Was Won, Once Upon A Time In The West and On Golden Pond, it is his appearance in The Grapes of Wrath that lingers as his signature performance.

Beginning in 1914, director John Ford cut his teeth in the silent era, and was one of the busiest filmmakers of the time. In a nine-year span between 1917 and 1928 he made 62 shorts and feature films. He seamlessly transitioned into talkies and continued his successful streak for years to come. His most lauded works of that period included Stagecoach and How Green My Valley. During World War II, he served the Navy as a documentary film maker for the OSS. Ford filmed on D-Day on Omaha Beach, and produced various propaganda films on behalf of the war effort. Post-war his statue grew further, and he made both critical and box-office hits: Fort Apache, Rio Grande, Mister Roberts and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

The directors Ford has inspired reads like the roster of an all-star cinema director's club: Hitchcock, Welles, Truffaut, Godard, Kurosawa, Spielberg, Renoir, Fellini, Wenders, Lean, Scorsese, Tarantino and scores of others.

Two of his pre-war films screen this weekend, including the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel The Grapes of Wrath. A tale of a displaced family in the midst of The Great Depression. A very human story with overt socio/political overtones, it nevertheless is a brilliant film and a testament to the power of human perseverance. As a literary character, Tom Joad remains an icon of that most American of qualities: resistance in the face of adversity. As a performer, Henry Fonda gives the character new life, drawing us closer into such dire circumstances. His piercing eyes are a window into Joad's soul, reflecting not only the hardships around him, but the sincerity within.


Young Mr. Lincoln is in many way a love letter to the President that John Ford greatly admired. A story that takes liberties from any history one would find in a textbook, it is a fictionalized story of Lincoln as a blossoming lawyer and politician. Made in 1939, this marked the first collaboration between Ford and Fonda, but one can already see the majestic cinema they were capable of creating. The film humanizes Lincoln that anyone has ever dared, and reminds us that in America, the greatest feats of mankind can come from any single one of us.

A director repeatedly working with an actor is nothing new. If you stop and reflect for a moment, you can think of numerous examples in cinema: Scorsese and DeNiro, Kazan and Brando, Welles and Cotton, Spielberg and Dreyfuss, Zemeckis and Hanks among others. Seldom, however, do we ask ourselves why. What draws the artists together time and again, what are they aiming to say in their storytelling?

To me, the pairing of John Ford and Henry Fonda aim to say something about our society's virtue. Together they illustrate the greatness that Americans are capable of. They provide a window to our hearts and souls, and show a land that can unite for a cause beyond mere marketing jingoism. A land where we can toil and struggle and still remain optimistic. A land called... America.


Showtimes for the films:

The Grapes of Wrath
Saturday, Jun 18th
4:00 8:40
Sunday, Jun 19th
4:05

Young Mr. Lincoln
Saturday, Jun 18th
6:35
Sunday, Jun 19th
2:00 6:40

Final Notes about the screening

Bring two canned food items for The Grapes of Wrath food drive and receive a free small popcorn! The drive benefits Capital Area Food Bank.

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Preview: Lovers on the Run


Ah, young love. There are so many of those lovely and sometimes clumsy moments that lay the foundation for a budding relationship: a loss of what to say, unnecessary sweatiness, general anxiety... the first bank robbery, the first murder... wait, what?

Now, I'll be the first to admit we all do some pretty stupid things when we're young and lovestruck. Not listening to your loved ones who warn you about your new paramour? That's about par. But felonies? Back robberies? Unless you're reading this from a prison cell, it's safe to say neither you or I have indulged in such activities. Good thing we have the movies, so we can live vicariously through Hollywood criminals on the screen.

Bonnie and Clyde were notorious historical figures, and are the earliest of celebrity criminals in America. Their story was a fascinating one, and their exploits on the silver screen became a notorious and seminal film in modern history. Released in 1967 and directed by Arthur Penn, it is widely considered to be the first film of The New Hollywood era, which fearlessly broke down boundaries and challenged audiences in ways seldom seen before. Many scenes are reminiscent of crime films from the 1930s and 40s, but then escalate into orgies of graphic violence. And the finale is well... let's just say it's one of the great moments in the history of cinematic bloodshed.

Although visceral in its initial appeal, the film is actually incredibly well done. The editing and direction were groundbreaking, and the performances across the board are top notch. Not only are Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway devilishly charming, the supporting cast features many familiar faces early in their respective careers: Gene Hackman, Gene Wilder and character actor Michael J. Pollard.


The average moviegoer may not be familiar with the crime story They Live By Night, and that itself should be a criminal act. The debut feature for director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause, In A Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar), it not only depicts lovers on the run, but was empathetic with the plights of these young outsiders. It's a rich and beautiful film that has influenced countless films in the decades since its release.

Even though They Live By Night was Ray's first film, he had complete creative control at RKO Pictures under the guidance of John Houseman (acclaimed actor, producer, and former collaborator with Orson Welles). The result is a film noir that is striking in its camera movement and cinematography. A true masterpiece.


Both of these films are both pioneers in their depiction of crime and the lives effected by it. And like a cascade of dominos, they directly influenced future stories of love gone bad and fugitive romance such as Badlands, True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Love may be a many splendored thing, but it also can also have quite the dark side. Cupid may have shot these love birds through the heart, but he had better take cover. For these kids may well shoot him back... in the face.

Oh, that young love. Kiss kiss. Bang bang.


Showtimes for the films:

Bonnie and Clyde
Thursday, Jun 16th
7:00
Friday, Jun 17th

They Live By Night
Thursday, Jun 16th
9:15
Friday, Jun 17th

Final Notes about the screening
Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Preview: Eccentric Westerns


While I wouldn't imply that Westerns are inherently conservative by nature, there is a fairly rigid definition of what makes such a film. Obviously because they are set in a specific time period, the setting remains a constant. There is also an adherence to unspoken rules present. Typically in them, one can usually find clear-cut morality tales with clear dichotomies: Cowboys vs. Indians, Rustlers vs. Rangers, Lawmen vs. Outlaws or basically Good vs. Evil.

Although Westerns are a genre of its own, one can usually label them as either dramas or action movies. In fact, most examples over the past 20 years can be pigeonholed in these two subcategories. In short, you either get Wyatt Earp (1994) or Tombstone. And as a result, making Westerns can often be like a coloring book. Stay within the lines.

The best in the genre, however, do more than romanticize the Old West. In fact, those that excel have pushed boundaries and blurred lines. They go beyond the idealized mythos and say something more about ourselves and our society. Prime examples include: Unforgiven, True Grit (2010), Shane, The Wild Bunch, McCabe and Mrs. Miller and The Searchers. A common thread in these is that events and characters are a little less black & white, and dilemmas are much more ambiguous.

Sometimes to be better you have to break the mold. This week, the Paramount Theatre presents two films under the heading "Eccentric Westerns," featuring Old-West themed films that are, well... a little more maverick than their brethren.

Very few have ever rolled the dice on Westerns as comedies. For every Blazing Saddles there are dozens more like Wagons East! (ugh) or Lightning Jack (groan). Destry Rides Again is a 1939 Western that stars Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, and is different for being comedic and lighter fare. A saloon owner and his sweetheart have a stranglehold over a cattle rancher town, and have the sheriff eliminated. A drunk is appointed as the new official, but this triggers the return of Tom Destry, legendary lawman and pacifist.


Destry has shown up in several incarnations over the years. Director George Marshall made a remake in 1954 starring Audie Murphy called, simply enough, Destry. A Broadway musical ran in 1959 featuring Andy Griffith. In addition, the 1939 Destry Rides Again is itself a remake of a more traditional Western, directed by Benjamin Stoloff and starring classic actor Tom Mix in 1933. Got it? Exhausting, I know.

Of course, a movie doesn't have to be a comedy to be an Eccentric Western. Sometimes, one need only look at the cast to make you say "whuuuuuuut?"

For instance take the other film in the Paramount double feature, Johnny Guitar. It's a story of a stubborn saloonkeeper who constantly clashes with the town of ranchers; so nothing seems overtly out of place for the genre. Well, the protagonist is a woman and for 1954, I guess that does raise an eyebrow. But wait, this lead character is played by... Joan Crawford?!? Yeah, that is what they call outside the box.

I must admit, the snarky side of me at first wondered if Crawford would have a wire hanger in her holster rather than a six-shooter. I just can't imagine a woman with such scary eyebrows in a Western. But then one thing quickly intrigued me when I glanced at the remaining cast and crew. That was the involvement of director Nicholas Ray (They Live by Night, In A Lonely Place and Rebel Without A Cause). Although often categorized as a "moody" filmmaker here in America, European viewers hold Ray in much higher esteem. One could say that he was an inspiration to the French New Wave of the late 1950s and 60s, since both Jean-Luc Godard and Fran├žois Truffaut are huge fans. In fact, of Johnny Guitar, Truffaut has said "It is dreamed, a fairy tale, a hallucinatory Western... Johnny Guitar is the Beauty and the Beast of Westerns, a Western dream."

Inclined to not take the word of highly influential filmmakers just because they're French? Well, then, let American auteur Martin Scorsese explain Johnny Guitar's significance.


Thanks, Marty. I'm sold now.

So this week, come and see two earlier Westerns that dared to break the mold. They colored outside the lines, and maybe even ran with scissors. You may consider them eccentric, refreshing, or just a little different, but at least you'll find more depth than you would in crap like Wild Wild West (easily the WORST WESTERN EVER). Heck, you even have some fun with the whiskey specials going on at the Theatre. Giddy up!

Showtimes for the films:

Destry Rides Again
Tuesday, Jun 14th
7:00
Wednesday, Jun 15th

Johnny Guitar
Tuesday, Jun 14th
9:00
Wednesday, jun 15th
7:00

Final Notes about the screening
Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Preview: Chaplin!


You know, they say comedy is subjective. Why is there now consensus on what's funny? In my humble opinion, I tend to believe that's true because so little of it is genuinely "good" nowadays. I hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but most current comedies display no sense of skill (or subtlety) anymore. Whether it's Todd Philips remaking his own gross-out movies or Judd Apatow letting his actors improv lines for 2 1/2 hours, so much of the "funny" just feels so damned labored.

The silent era would probably get my vote as the golden age of comedic cinema. What a great time it must have been to delight in the big three: Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. Which of them was "best" can never be agreed upon, but without a doubt that most widely known remains Charlie Chaplin. Few have ever approached his mix of charm, wit, intelligence and heart. Certainly no one in the past 80 years or so. His character of "The Tramp," is one of the most beloved characters in all of film history.

Although made during the dawn of the "talkies," City Lights was deliberately made by Chaplin to utilize sound but not dialogue. It became one of his most successful films, and the ending is widely loved and regarded as one of the most touching scenes ever captured on camera.


The Gold Rush is another of Chaplin's best, and features The Tramp heading to the Yukon in search of gold, but finding a girl. It is remarkable for being a silent film that was re-released in the 1940s with new content, namely a score and voiceover narration. Yes, it seems Chaplin is the first offender of the "constant tweaking" we now associate with George Lucas and his Star Wars movies.


The film, however, also features one of the most iconic scenes of Chaplain's career. For many, this sequence is just as identifiable with Charlie Chaplin as the derby hat, cane and moustache.


That reminds me... Going back to my argument against modern comedic talent for a second, I once heard someone contend that Johnny Depp is the closest to a modern universally loved comedic actor we have today. I always assumed they based their case on Captain Jack Sparrow (back when there was only one of those movies), but now that I think about it...


Ahhhh, now I get it. I agree, Depp is very good, but he's no Charlie.

Modern Times is often referred to as Chaplain's greatest achievement, a wonderful commentary on the industrialized (yet impoverished) world of the 1930s. Another mostly silent film infused with sounds and music rather than dialogue, it is famous for its romantic theme. This piece of music was later given lyrics and became the song, "Smile." Originally recorded in the 1950s by Nat King Cole, it has since been recorded hundreds of times by numerous artists, including the likes of Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Josh Groban, and many American Idol flunkies.


Best of all, Modern Times will be presented in a brand new and restored 35mm print. It promises to look AMAZING.

Oh, and get this. Before the 4 pm screening of Times on Saturday there will be a fun event with a Charlie Chaplin photo booth by Annie Ray at The Paramount, complete with their very own Chaplin and moustaches!

Also screening this weekend are assorted short films with Chaplin, made between 1918 and 1921: A Dog’s Life, A Day’s Pleasure and The Idle Class.

Come this weekend and partake of one of the purest comedic geniuses ever to grace the screen. Chaplin's works are timeless, and are sure to prove that this storyteller's heart and humanity can move you more than words can ever say.


Showtimes for the films:

City Lights
Thursday, Jun 9th
7:00

The Gold Rush
Thursday, Jun 9th
9:00

Modern Times
Saturday, Jun 11th
Sunday, Jun 12th

Chaplin Shorts
Saturday, Jun 11th
Sunday, Jun 12th

Final Notes about the screening
Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."



Saturday, June 4, 2011

Preview: Brando on Film


Is there anyone who had a more dynamic film career than Marlon Brando? Often regarded as the most talented and prolific actor of his generation, he stamped himself on the cinematic landscape with a number of high profile roles. The raw power displayed in A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata! and On The Waterfront established him as an electric performer, practically igniting the screen.

Although I can never deny the awesome display in his younger days, I often find myself fascinated by the Brando of the 1970s. Although not as incendiary in the middle of his career, he still burned on with intensity as seen in One-Eyed Jacks, Sayonara and Mutiny on the Bounty. His later work is more smoldering than blazing, but it reflects how he was able to adapt to older characters he presented to audiences. In many ways, Brando was like a boxer who learned the art of guile to counter a decline in brute strength, or like an aging basketball player who relies on intelligence rather than athleticism.

This week, The Paramount presents two films by the more mature Brando; presented by two special guests from The Alamo Drafthouse: Daniel Metz and Lars Nilsson.

In Burn!, Marlon plays Sir William Walker, a cynical mercenary who is hired to incite a slave revolt for economic reasons. Years later, he is hired again, this time to quash the political movement he helped create. Directed by Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, it contains what Brando himself claims is some of his best acting work.


While The Last Tango in Paris is notoriously remembered for its erotic content, it does feature a vulnerability in Brando that harkens back to the tortured characters he portrayed in his youth. Here, he plays a middle-aged widower who begins an anonymous tryst with a young Parisian lady (Maria Schneider). Its controversy is far too lengthy to discuss here, but to this day it's a film that continues to polarize audiences nearly thirty years after its release.


Although Marlon would continue to take sporadic high-profile roles in later years such as Superman: The Movie, Apocalypse Now and A Dry White Season, he often was overshadowed by off-camera stories of his eccentric behavior. Nevertheless, Brando remains arguably the greatest actor to ever grace the silver screen. His power scorched every film he was in (with the possible exception of that Island of Dr. Moreau remake), and his passionate performances blazed a path for all actors to follow in his wake.


Showtimes for the films:

Burn!
Wednesday, Jun 8th
7:00

Last Tango in Paris
Wednesday, Jun 8th
9:40

Final Notes about the screening
Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

Parking:
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."