In my absence from theatre-going, I have caught up on my film-going. It has been strange to not be in cinematically rich California anymore, but I am getting used to it. Over the past few months I’ve seen a handful of films in different locations.
Friends with Benefits
Cowboys and Aliens
50/50 – Coming soon, probably tomorrow
Of these multiple films, I would say that Contagion brought the most satisfying venue experience, Drive the most satisfying viewing experience, Friends with Benefits the most surprising venue experience and Cowboys and Aliens the most nostalgic venue experience and most disappointing cinematic experience. That leaves out The Debt… which was good, memorable, but I wish I had seen it at the Mill Valley Film Festival last October, where it was featured as the closing night film, and I first heard about it.
So, why the extra superlatives? I’ll go through them all here.
I caught Contagion at the Roxy Theater in Philadelphia, a retro-fabulous twin cinema ironically right across the street from the local branch of my global Buddhist community. I was pleased with their simplicity and film-geek decor, most notably seen in the restroom wall to wall posters of 1990’s European and art films. This past February, I served as an extra in Contagion, and was therefore curious to see what became of my scene and how the movie came together as a whole. As other reviewers have undoubtedly noted, it’s a film that makes you think, and I appreciated the hyper-realism. On the other hand, the grim, serious subject matter of viruses and public health is not something that stands out as a transcendental film, so I would have to give it a B range grade. And my big extra scene, for which the company hired far more individuals than they needed, came out to a 20 second montage at the end of the film.
My Martha’s Vineyard film going oozed of nostalgia. I made a point to visit the Island Theater in Oak Bluffs, where the showtimes change daily and calling the film info line (508-627-6689) will almost always give some memorable malapropism. Friends with Benefits was the perfect film to see as my first one “back East”, as Justin Timberlake’s character relocates from Los Angeles to New York City. However, I was surprised by my reaction to returning to the Island venue. In my youth, I idolized that place with its (seemingly) large single screen and location right in downtown Oak Bluffs. I have good memories of seeing various 1990’s blockbusters and would-be hits there, such as The Shadow, Apollo 13, Clueless, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Wild Wild West and undoubtedly several other films. But in my adult 2011 point of view, the cinema seemed uncomfortably old and small. A good example of different perspectives.
A few days later, I visited the Capawock in Vineyard Haven. This cinema has been a stalwart year-round venue on MV for decades… but seems to be feeling the heat of the current Netflix-based entertainment trends and is only open on weekends in the off-season. (Meanwhile, the twin Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown continue on a full schedule.) It’s clear that some care has been taken to maintain the cinema itself. I also recall seeing several Disney films, Babe, Deja Vu by Henry Jaglom, and other movies here when I was growing up. However, I had not visited the Capawock for a film since 1999! Thankfully, as opposed to the Island experience earlier, I felt charmed and refreshed to see it in good health.
I will save my impressions of Delaware film going for another post.