Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jason Wiener Has Two Eyes

The Frisco Bay repertory/revival scene cannot be taken in by a single pair of eyes. Thankfully, a number of local filmgoers have agreed to share their favorites from 2009. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Jason Wiener, who blogs at Jason Watches Movies:

Turns out this was harder than I thought it would be. This past year most of my repertory viewing was in an undisclosed location that I'm forbidden to talk about. In fact, I might have said too much already.... Anyway, this is in something approximating ascending order...

7. THE WIZARD OF OZ (Bad Movie Night at The Dark Room). I made it to a few Bad Movie Nights this year (Sunday at the Dark Room). Most of the time it's awful movies and drunk people making somewhat witty comments (but you're drunk, too, so it doesn't matter if they're not that funny!) However, for November they did "Blasphemy Month"--playing good movies on Bad Movie Night. Much more difficult to make fun of the good ones, but it's interesting how beloved classics can be totally re-contextualized by drunken jackasses. Like I never really thought about how retarded it was that the yellow brick road ends in a spiral (the munchkins have the worst city planners), or noticed that the Scarecrow is packing heat when they're approaching the Wicked Witch's castle. Or for that matter, that the whole moral is to learn to be happy as an impoverished dirt farmer in Kansas because "there's no place like home". God, this movie really is a piece of crap!

6. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (Castro, Midnight screening). I know, this totally shouldn't count because these are supposed to be old movies that played before. But I was one of the few people who got to see it in it's aborted festival run, when Indiefest thumbed their nose at Dreamworks and played it anyway. At the time, I made a public plea on my blog to Dreamworks begging them to not fuck up their planned remake and let the original version live. Well, eventually Paramount released what is essentially the original version (with minor changes, and a big change in the ending). Both times I've seen this it was with jaded midnight audiences, and both times the audiences were freaked the hell out. So screw the rules, I'm putting this in here anyway. If you don't like it, then ignore it.

5. ACE IN THE HOLE (Castro, as part of Noir City) I made it to my first Noir City last year, and loved it. Already have my pass for this year, and hope to see everything. I'm not sure if I could've named my favorite right after the festival, but for some reason nearly a year later this one stuck with me the most. Billy Wilder directs and Kirk Douglas stars as a conniving newspaperman who capitalizes on a poor guy who got stuck in a cave. "I've done a lot of lying in my time. I've lied to men who wear belts. I've lied to men who wear suspenders. But I'd never be so stupid as to lie to a man who wears both belt and suspenders. "

4. THE WIND (Castro, SF Silent Film Festival) Two years ago I made it to my first Silent Film Fest. Last year I did the whole thing, and let me tell you, it's just one weekend and just one venue but it's as exhausting as any festival I've been to. On Saturday I entered the Castro Theatre at ~11 am and didn't leave until well after 1 am. No time to run out for a bite, no time to catch my breath. Anyway, Lillian Gish's last silent film (and the one she claimed was hardest to make) was narrowly my favorite of the weekend. It's a simply awesome story of a lone woman who goes to live in the desert where the wind blows dust around all the time and she goes insane. I was so inspired that when my friend Ira brought a projector to Burning Man to set up the Black Rock Grindhouse, I made sure we played at least some of THE WIND at Burning the desert...during a windstorm. But then the wind died down and they burnt the Man, so we all ran out there. But the half hour we played there was awesome. Maybe we'll have the foresight to play the whole film there next year.

3. BIRTH OF A NATION (California Theatre, Cinequest). Cinequest is always good for a couple of Silent classics, and I feel like kind of a racist tool for liking this movie more than Griffith's follow-up/rebuttal INTOLERANCE, but I just found that one too big and sprawling to get my head around (oh yeah, and I was kinda drunk). Anyway, I saw the controversial classic on a huge screen, with live organ score by Dennis James (who, I should mention, also played THE WIND at the Silent Film Festival, and signed my program). And I went through what I considered a rite of passage to become a film critic who has tackled how to review BIRTH OF A NATION.

2. The Great Nickelodeon Show (Edison Theatre at The Niles-Essanay Silent Film Museum). This is my local (Fremont) film museum, and in the reverie of silents after the Silent Film Festival, I finally decided to volunteer there. So now most Saturdays if I'm not at another film festival I'll be working in the museum store from noon to 4, and then at the movies at 7:30. I could've filled this entire list with the great things I've seen in Niles, but I limited myself to just two. So first up, the Edison Theatre traveled back in time more than it usually does, all the way back to 1913 (or something like it) for a classic Nickelodeon show. Sing-alongs, hand-cranked silent films (including THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY), even a blockhead (a guy who hammers a nail into his nose). Not strictly limited to movies, but simply awesome.

And finally...

1. WINGS (Edison Theatre at The Niles-Essanay Silent Film Museum). I was coming down off a cold or swine flu or something, and still kinda felt like crap. On the 80th anniversary of WINGS winning the first Academy Award, we played it at Niles. With the director's son, William Wellman, Jr. in attendance. And some guy named Ben Burtt (who himself has won 4 Oscars while doing the sound design for little movies like STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, or WALL-E) was there to do the live sound effects for the film. He also talked a bit about sound effects work. And Shawna Kelly was there with her book Aviators in Early Hollywood and talked about early film aviation and her famous great grandfather B. H. "Daredevil" DeLay. Doesn't get any better than this.

1 comment:

  1. Jason,

    Your comments on how the context of seeing WIZARD OF OZ can affect ones reception is hilarious! Poor city planners, indeed.