Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mister Lonely: Now Playing

After all my harrumphing and grousing, the new Harmony Korine film, Mister Lonely, is finally playing in Baltimore right now at the Landmark Harbor East. I doubt it will last past Thursday, what with Bat-mania about to descend, but it should be noted that it has finally arrived. As a reflection of the current perplexing state of film distribution and exhibition in Baltimore, I decided to watch the film via IFC In Theaters earlier this month after despairing that I would not be able to see it on the big screen. The price of the "download" of the film was less than the cost of a matinee ticket to the Landmark (not to mention parking and other costs), but more than a rental. I suspect this dilemma will become more common in the near future as the window between theatrical exhibition and home video is further collapsed. I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to anyone interested in an envelope-pushing film experience.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Film Exhibtion in Baltimore- June 2008

As a moviegoer in Baltimore city, I am aware at times only dimly of the national film exhibition picture. I see what is showing and opening here, and the series of events that led to that reality is often obscured.

I have attempted to pay more attention to the machinations that lead to what is opening on Friday at a theater near me as a natural extension of keeping this blog. I admit that my thoughts on these matters is biased, but I try to keep perspective.

Earlier, my razzing of the Landmark Harbor East for playing all mainstream Hollywood films was reflective of my desire to see the edgiest films out there play Baltimore. I am one person, one ticket, and it is clear that I am not the average filmgoer in many respects.

Still, it saddens me to see interesting films come and go without a Baltimore bow. Even without the Landmark, Mister Lonely's shot at playing Baltimore was slim at best, and a probable loss for whoever showed it. I will move on and rent the DVD when available (more on that below).

But back to Landmark going 100% Hollywood mainstream . It was a sad and interesting moment, but one that I now see is reflective of national trends. It is becoming clear that there is no clear "summer indie hit" this year.

Having worked in the popcorn trenches for five summers now, I can see that we just don't have a Fahrenheit 9/11, March of the Penguins, or An Inconvenient Truth in the marketplace. Even if the Landmark never happened, this would be a hard summer for smaller films in Baltimore.

Is this an after-effect of the writer's strike? Is it that several of the studio indie houses (Warner Independent, Picturehoue) are being shuttered? It is hard to say, as these films must have the right mixture of box office return, word of mouth, and critical praise to really hit the mark.

It is interesting that the only film we have close to that, The Visitor, played the Landmark perhaps too early to catch on and was pushed out by the usual Blockbuster-mania at the Senator, only to wind up slowly and steadily playing at the Charles, where is continues to have legs months after beginning its run in Baltimore. I wonder if this will happen with other films as time goes on in the new realities of film exhibition in Baltimore.

One other interesting, jarring note: Baltimore's Comcast digital cable has added the Independent Film Channel to its line-up. which is welcomed. However, it is odd to see many of the same films that just played or are playing at the theater down the street (The Flight of the Red Balloon, Paranoid Park, among others) available On Demand for a fee. In fact, I have just discovered that I can satisfy my Mister Lonely jones for $6.99 at this very moment. Is this the future of film exhibition in Baltimore, and, if so, what is the role of movie theaters in all of this?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Films Viewed (June 2008)

Because the Bible Tells Me So
The Fall
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The Landlord
The Wild World of Batwoman (Mystery Science Theater 3000 version)
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
The Visitor
Mister Jealousy
The Love Guru
Mr. Freedom
Berlin Alexanderplatz (parts I, II, and III)
The Incredible Hulk
Constantine's Sword
Being There
Key Largo
The Charles
The Senator/ The Rotunda
The Landmark
Other (BMA, DVD, On Demand, Suburban Multiplex)
Total: 17 (10 in theaters)

Notes: First of all, it is important to note that the mighty BMA free film series, which has become such an enjoyable feature of filmgoing life in Baltimore, appears to be coming to an end. It is a sad thing to see it go, as it has provided opportunities to see so many great films on the big screen, some of which are impossible to see in any other way. Many kudos should be given to Eric Allen Hatch for a great run, and best wishes to whatever effort comes next to get worthwhile films screened for an appreciative public. The last two scheduled entries in the series are Falkenburg Farewell and Together. Falkenburg Farewell, a film by Swedish director Jesper Ganslandt, is unavailable in any format in the United States, and screens this Thursday, July 3rd, at 8PM. Together will be shown Thursday, August 7th. Enjoy these great free screenings while you can.

Another great Baltimore film series, the Charles theater's revival series, has concluded its six month run of Hitchcock and begun anew, starting with a seeming grab-bag of screenings, perhaps based on the availability of quality prints. Key Largo is playing this week. Rebel without a Cause begins Saturday, July 5th, followed by The Searchers (Saturday, July 12th), Two Lane Blacktop (Saturday, July 19th), and The Shining (Saturday, July 26th). Things seems to get decidedly French after that (titles like Contempt, Last Year at Marienbad, and Children of Paradise have been named but not given screening dates). Films screen at noon on Saturday, 7PM on Monday, and 9PM on Thursday of their respective week.

In terms of the rest of the month, I continued my ingestion of summer movies, spent time with some of my favorite directors, was pointed in the right direction in terms of some older films, and was introduced to some new filmmakers as well. I don't feel like I have a great deal to say about any of the films at this time, but will comment upon any if asked to do so. Up next, a shift in my perspective on film exhibition in general in Baltimore.