Movies - Theaters postsSunday March 27, 2011
One Movie's Ceiling is Another Movie's Floor
I went to the Harvard Exit last night for the French film “Des hommes and des dieux,” which recently won the best film at the Cesar Awards, and which is flipped in the translation, for some reason, to “Of Gods and Men.”
It's a quiet film, with many contemplative moments, as befits a film that takes place mostly in a monastery; but the other film showing at the Harvard Exit, “The Last Lions,” a documentary about the dwindling African species, is a little less quiet. During the quiet, contemplative moments of my film, I kept hearing a faint but insistent bass beat, like the throb of a headache, from “The Last Lions”'s jungle/savannah soundtrack.
Both films take place in Africa but I doubt they're mix-and-match. Not sure what movie theaters like the Harvard can do about this. Book films according to soundtrack similarity?
I suppose I should be happy I can hear the lions at all.
Awwwwwwwww. But could you keep it down, please?
R.I.P.: Uptown Theater (1926-2010)
What can you say about an 84-year-old movie theater that dies? That it was cold and rundown? That it loved documentaries and foreign films? And “Transformers”? And me.
I first heard the prognosis a week ago when Patricia and I were having dinner at the home of Michael Upchurch and John Hartl, and John, long-time movie critic for The Seattle Times, dropped the bomb. I can't say I was suprised. Here's what I wrote in May 2009:
The Uptown was renovated in the early 1990s but that’s all I have on its history. It’s part of the AMC chain, but it’s an odd link in that chain. It usually plays small, independent films, or mid-range films, but occasionally it’ll show a big feature on opening weekend—as with “Angels & Demons.“ The place never seems crowded. Feels like it's dying. The 4:05, Friday showing of “Angels & Demons” had fewer than 16 people in an auditorium built for...300? Which doesn't bode well for either “A&D”’s box office or Uptown Cinema.
It got worse. I saw two movies there in the same week at the end of October: ”A Film Unfinished,“ in which I was joined by one other person, a man in his 60s, and ”Aftershock,“ in which I was joined by ... no one. When I left the theater, the guy working the popcorn stand asked me how the movie was. ”You're the only one who's seen it,“ he said.
How AMC handled ”Aftershock“ is part of the problem, John thought. They didn't advertise it at all. At all. No ads in the print version of The Seattle Times. ”Aftershock“ was a movie that set the box-office record in China this year and no one in Seattle knew it was playing. I only knew it was playing because I'd seen ”A Film Unfinished“ a few days before, me and the other guy, and they'd played the trailer for ”Aftershock“ beforehand, and I thought, ”That looks interesting.“ Then that Friday I walked past the theater—I work a block away—and saw it on the marquee.
A block away. I'm gonna miss that. Ever since I moved back to Seattle in September 2007 and began working in lower Queen Anne, I've had that opportunity, that convenience. The Uptown is where I was suprised by ”The King of Kong,“ charmed by ”Hors de Prix,“ disappointed in ”Angels & Demons,“ disgusted by the overwhelming stupidity of ”Transformers 2,“ and moved by ”Bright Star“ and ”A Film Unfinished.“ It's where I saw one of the first movies I reviewed for The Seattle Times, ”Titan A.E.,“ in 2000. It's where I attended special screenings for ”What Lies Beneath“ and ”Meet the Parents.“ Forgettable movies, but for some reason I remember seeing them at the Uptown.
There were problems. The sound wasn't always great, the films sometimes seemed dim, the theater often felt cold, the popcorn—when I bought it—tasted day-old. None of that was the Uptown's fault. It only closed because people stopped caring: AMC and moviegoers.
SIFFblog has a nice historical rundown here. The theater opened on May 25, 1926, showing ”The Sea Beast,“ an adaptation of ”Moby Dick" starring John Barrymore. The Seattle Star (R.I.P.) celebrated its grand opening:
The newest styles in projection machines of the reflector type are installed to prevent eye strain. A new Wurlitzer is to be put in, and Carl Weber's orchestra is playing. Dan Gipple is the manager.
There was a record-breaking crowd that night.
Before the Show at Regal Meridian No. 10
Theater: Regal Meridian
Location: Downtown Seattle
Seated: 4:40 for a 4:50 showing.
Most of the slides before the show were some variation of self-advertising: "Make an appointment with a PRIVATE SCREENING"; "Corporate movie tickets"; "Regal Gift Cards." Plus the usual pleas to "ADVERTISE HERE." Subtext: "So we DON'T." There were also the usual movie-star quotes ("I gravitate toward gravitas" —Morgan Freeman) and trivia about just-opened, soon-to-be-forgotten movies (Question: "This actress was more than just a 'friend' in 'Love Happens'"). To top it off, they piped in music by bands like "Someone Say Something" and "Sugarland." By the time the lights dimmed, you wanted to kill yourself.
Then we got the real ads on the movie screen:
- Morgan Freeman's voice telling us "VISA Debit is the safe, secure way to pay online." Gravitas!
- Ford ("the thrust of a... the thirst of a..."). Someone's English major degree finally paid off.
- The "Crash" TV show: "If you're not using someone then someone's using you." Jesus, right?
- The new "Jay Leno" show. Idiots say the darnedest things.
- Coke Zero w/NASCAR.
- The blowing up Mt. Rushmore/Sprint/Turn off your cell ad. Ha ha, blowing up national monuments is funny again. So glad.
- "Old Dogs": From the director of "Wild Hogs." They changed three letters in the title and added Robin Williams. This Thanksgiving? Seriously? Walt Becker gets Thanksgiving while Martin Scorsese gets pushed back to February.
- “Shutter Island”: Or does he? This thing is still being advertised as October. Mistake? BTW: Love Ben Kingsley's line reading here: "It's as if she vanished, straight through the walls." It's officious, clinical and creepy.
- "Couples Retreat": This is the movie that feels like February or March instead of October. Maybe the counter-programming will work, though. It's a good cast (the Double-V, as my friend Adam says), and if reviews are halfway decent I might go. "Now we've got a party."
- "A Christmas Carol": Disney, ImageMovers, and Walt Disney (again), and Robert Zemeckis, invite you to...waste your money. I think they mention Charles Dickens' name in their somewhere. Is it just me, or does the animation look stiff? The story feels slapsticky and comedic, too. The feeling the book gives you—that you're trapped by your circumstances, your personality, your history—is removed even before Scrooge's epiphany removes it. And the tagline? "What if you were given a second chance to get your life right?" Second chance? Every moment is a first chance. That's the whole point. Bah, humbug.
Before the Show at Pacific Place No. 2
Movie: “(500) Days of Summer”
Theater: Pacific Place
Screen: No. 2
Location: Downtown Seattle
Seated: 3:18 for a 3:30 showing.
- Blackberry Pearl Smartphone. Includes butt conversation. Classy.
- U2: “Every generation gets a chance to change the world.” Or advertise in it.
- Extended featurette for a new TV series by David S. Goyer: Flashforward: “It began like any other day...until 7 billion people blacked out.” Apparently we wake up knowing our future. And what do we do with that knowledge? And how much, if anything, can be changed? Etc. I probably won't be there for it, but...bon appetit.
- Jeter, Federer, Tiger Woods, a dude trying to pick up a girl: “We all have confidence, we all have doubt.” But some of us don’t have to try to pick up girls.
- Cube Mobile. Turns out it’s an ad for a car.
- That Facebook thingee with the girl who can’t sing.
- That Benjamin Bratt show, in which he saves addicts while “Hallelujah” plays in the background. I remember when that song was new. (More on this later.)
- “What has search overload done to us?” Somehow Bing is supposed to help. That's like: What have all of these Big Macs done to us? Eat at Burger King.
- A J.C. Penney whatever.
- The dancing shark/Minute Maid thing. Is “Who’s gonna get the empties?” the best line they could come up with?
- A bunch of bugs steal a bottle of Coke from a picnic and then crawl all over it. Num.
- “First Look”: Actually second. It's a summary of what's just been advertised. In case you've forgotten.
- Blowing up Mt. Rushmore/turn off your cell phone message
- MST 3000 Fathom event ad: Thursday, August 20. Might be fun.
- Magic Flute Fathom event ad: August 5. Might be fun.
- Will Rogers Institute
- “In case of emergency, walk, do not run, to the nearest exit.” These are new. Wonder what brought them on? What tragedy where? What lawsuit where?
- “Funny People”: “I think your grandfather went to hell” is one of the funnier lines I’ve heard in a trailer. I mean it. Despite mixed reviews, I’m looking forward.
- “Time Traveler’s Wife”: In any love story, the dramatic question is: How do you keep the lovers apart? The solution here is to steal from Kurt Vonnegut. I.e., Eric Bana just got unstuck in time. “I can’t stay,” he says. “I know,” she says. So tragic. If he'd only stay they'd realize how much they don't want to be together. Nice to see you again, Rachel McAdams, but not in this.
- “Love Happens”: Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart give the rom-com another go. His wife has died and he’s written a book about it, a self-help book, that’s sweeping the nation. He’s in Seattle for a book reading. She’s in Seattle. They click. They don’t. Their noodging friends push them together again. (Beautiful people in love are such pains.) He needs her. He confesses that his book is a lie. He probably comes clean. They probably get together. What’s the point of seeing this now? Now that they’ve given it all away?
- “Julie & Julia”: I am so there.
- “Taking Woodstock”: Fingers crossed.
Forgot my watch. Not sure when the movie started. But that's altogether too many ads. They're taking them from where they're needed (newspapers) and putting them where they're not wanted.
Before the Show at the Uptown
Movie: “The Hurt Locker”
Theater: The Uptown
Screen: Just the one
Location: Uptown, Minneapolis, MN
Celebrated in: Prince’s 1982 song “Uptown":
Everybody's going Uptown
That's where I wanna be
Set your mind free
Built in: The 1930s, after a fire destroyed the original Lagoon Theater. Another Lagoon, a multiplex Landmark theater, was built a block away in the 1990s. Landmark brags that the Uptown has the biggest screen in the Twin Cities but I can't believe it's bigger than the screen at the Riverview.
Operated by: The Landmark chain since 1978.
Memories: Too many to mention. I could write an essay on the number of times I went to the Uptown as a kid and teenager when it was a retrospective theater, showing double and triple features of old and recent films. Saw tons of Woody Allen there. Saw “Casablanca” for the first time and remember a few women hissing when Ingrid Bergman says, “You’ll have to do the thinking for both of us.” Saw “A Clockwork Orange” before I’d had sex and it probably screwed me up for life. Saw “The Man Who Fell to Earth” with my friend Nathan Katruud, and, as we stood in the lobby makng fun of the people milling about, I noticed one hipster dude and said he was probably thinking how everyone else was probably thinking he looked like David Bowie. Then I looked over at Nathan for confirmation—he was probably the funniest guy I’ve ever known—and his face seemed startled, as if I’d read his mind. He was in the early stages of rock-star fever. Eventually he changed his name and became Nash Kato of “Urge Overkill.”
Seated: 1:05 for a 1:15 showing. No ads, just alt pop playing (“Summer Number 39” by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers), while floodlights bathed the screen in pinks and yellows and blues.
Lights go down: 1:15
- HDNet News. (British voice: “But what led your brother to become a suicide bomber?”) HDNet movies. (Demi Moore??? That’s a selling point?) Dan Rather.
- Stella Artois: “C’est pour toi, papa,” etc.
- The Palm 3 from Sprint. Apparently an ad for Facebook and a singer named, I believe, Joanna Gikas, as well. Do the advertisers know how off-key she sounds when she’s singing a capella?
- “Cold Souls”: “This is Paul Giamatti. And he has a problem.” So a character named Paul Giamatti sells his soul, then tries to get it back, but it winds up in Russia, where he travels to retrieve it. Amazing how both off-beat and familiar this thing feels. I guess it’s the off-beatness that feels familiar.
- “In the Loop”: This movie opened the Seattle International Film Festival in May but it already feels old, doesn’t it? Feels like it should’ve been released last year. But if it gets good reviews I’ll go.
- “The Cove”: A documentary about dolphin-killing in, particularly, Japan. “The dolphin’s smile is nature’s greatest deception.” Ditto.
- “500 Days of Summer”: Tough girl, moony boy. Once upon a time, that was my story. Now? I’ll probably go—it’s gotten great reviews—but it’s no longer my story.
Movie starts: 1:28
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