Thursday, October 28, 2010

Charm City Cineaste Three Year Anniversary: 2007-2010

Well, three years have passed since I started this blog. Many things have changed.

I began during a time of great upheaval and uncertainty in the film exhibition landscape in Baltimore city. There was a lot of nervous energy in the air back then. That time has passed.

As the dust settles, there are clear winners and clear losers. As one Baltimore theater-owner sunk lower and lower into the depths, I eventually decided to turn away from reporting the details, which had become tawdry and wince-inducing. I admit I am clearly biased. I was upset that Baltimore was losing a place to see films, even temporarily, and I was losing any sense of decorum over the situation. I think turning away from it here was my acknowledgment of that bias, but I know I more than got my digs in.

In terms of film exhibition now, the Charles theater's ownership is now also in charge of the Senator theater via a deal with Baltimore City. The Rotunda soldiers on, having recently added a new third screen. The Landmark Harbor East is a place to pay an insane amount of money to see a first-run film. The demand placed upon the mid-sized theater to handle blockbuster films like Inception has lead to sold out screenings and other dilemmas, your dollars burning away as the clock ticks on your overpriced parking-metered spot. In the case of the Landmark, I feel you might as well go the 'burbs. The others remain solid options.

But I must acknowledge that while this landscape has changed, I have changed as well. I don''t make changes easily or well, and have stuck with going to the movies regularly long after most have shifted habits, if the habit was there at all. What could possibly beat seeing a film on the big screen, engaged in the communal experience, munching on popcorn, out on a Friday night?

Well, the answer is Netflix. I fought it for a long time, but this is the new model. For the price of seeing a non-matinee film at the Landmark, I got King Kong in the trunk.

Sure, I have the additional help of an up-to-date HD big screen television and an Internet connection to said television. Now, I have a Netflix Instant library bigger than I can even comprehend at my disposal. Wonderful and challenging films like Bluebeard and Import/Export, which never played on any Baltimore screen, are suddenly and instantly available to me.

It hurts to say all of this. I don't want to betray film house culture, film stock, popcorn machines, popcorn slingers. Sometimes I think this is just a new option that I will integrate into the others, but I know better. I know that I am not from movie-theater-love from childhood, and am more of a "movies on television" person historically.

In any case, to reflect this shift and to make my blog more user-friendly, I will now link to the Netflix page of any film I watch via that service when I list a film's title. This coming month that is pretty much all of them.

I know I am too orderly and willful to stop this blog now, but I foresee a day when I see no films in theaters in a given month. I already skipped seeing anything at the Charles last month for the first time in this blog's history. I had my reasons, but it was strange to realize.

So, I will continue on into year four of this blog. The next interesting/terrifying thing that may become a topic for reporting could be the end of the arthouse movie-theater experience in Baltimore entirely. I certainly hope this is not the case, but as the blue hairs shuffle off this mortal coil, the laptop generation wonders why anyone would pay for a movie at all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Return of the Senator Theater!

Now under new management!

Friday, October 15th.

First feature? Red

Article here.

Let the new era begin!

Films Viewed (September 2010)

Hackers was certainly not a great film, but it had its moments of great humor, mostly unintentional. I was too old in 1995 to dig on it, but I had my own encounters with this kind of youth film via Pump Up the Volume, Heathers, and other films often involving Christian Slater. They never quite get it right, but they do try. Check it off the list!

Machete was pure popcorn-munchin' fun. It was marred perhaps by being too politically ambitious, but still kept to its grindhouse pedigree with enough faithfulness to make it worth a Friday night screening. No regrets. Made good on the fake original trailer.

Ponyo was strangely disappointing. I figured I would enjoy it as much as other Studio Ghibli fare, but was left cold more often than not. Odd echoes of Hurricane Katrina reverberated around in my head while I tried to piece together the plot. The "okay this is ridiculous" trademarked Anime ending was especially so.

Summer Hours does not seem at first glance like something worth investigating. A bunch of bourgeois French people ponder their mother's legacy? Eh. But the"No. 3" ranking in Film Comment's Top Twenty Films of 2009 tipped me off that it was something worth seeing, and it truly was. The story engages because it is so artfully and humanely told. We have all been there when it comes to the themes presented, or dread the day we will be.

Easy A was some true pop relief. Emma Stone carried the film admirably. I found it to be a fun satirical romp through high school in the 2000s, familiar territory in my case. Sure it was ridiculous and campy. Not sure it was Election-level great, but definitely a contender.

L'Enfance Nue, the debut feature film from 1968 by Mauricee Pialat, is an unflinching portrait of a damaged young man stuck in a broken foster care system. Smartly executed and revolutionary, jarring and naturalistic, it bombed when first released in France. Pialat is still not a "name" director in America, but I am a fan of the films of his that I have had an opportunity to see.

Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death was just a good ol' time, like a Warners cartoon. A fun "whodunit." Saw some digital work among the stop motion, but it was not terribly distracting. Does this count as film? I hope so.

L'Amour Existe was the debut short film of Maurice Pilat, included on the DVD reviewed above. Even in his first work, we see an assured filmmaker with a definite voice, ready to mix it up and get in your face.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Landmark harbor East
Other (Netflix DVD, Netfix Instant, suburban multiplex)
Total: 7 films, 1 short film (2 in theaters)