Thursday, April 17, 2008

Same old *&%$

While I'm on the subject of movies (see below), I'd like to express my frustrations about the films we are offered in Washington. I realize we're not living in the center of the cultural universe (I generally like that about our area), but the people who decide what movies are going to play at our local theaters apparently believe that there's no market whatsoever for art films, foreign films or the more "fringy" independent offerings. I beg to differ. I know plenty of people just among my circle of friends and acquaintances who would pay to see such films. I often have to drive to suburban Pittsburgh to see movies that I know have no chance of coming to Washington, or might show up weeks after their release. Some that I'd like to see never even make it out to the 'burbs. What got me thinking about this issue this morning was a listing on the Yahoo! home page of the half dozen "Most Anticipated Summer Movies." They included a remake (a new Indiana Jones movie), yet another Jackie Chan kung-fu movie, a film based on a TV show ("Sex and the City"), a movie derived from a cartoon ("Speed Racer") and two films that had their genesis in comic books (the latest Batman movie and "Iron Man"). Of those six, I might see the Batman film. I'm not a movie snob. I think "Animal House," "Caddyshack" and "Slapshot" are American movie classics. But I have zero interest in most of the middle-of-the-road, mindless crap that Hollywood churns out for mass consumption. I don't expect the local theaters to turn over half their screens to foreign or artsy movies. That would be financial suicide. But would it be too much to ask for "special interest" movies on one screen, one day a week?



Blogger Tracy J. said...

I don't know if you know this or not but there is a little theatre in Wheeling called Towngate Theatre that often plays the more obsure artsy films. I went there to see the movie Queen before I had even heard about it in the regular entertainment media. The nice thing is that it is a small theater so you get a more intimate feeling with the movie, but on the other hand because it is small you definately want to get there early. I know a lot of people up here think that wheeling is a long drive but personally I would rather drive the 30 minutes on interstate with no traffic than to ever head into Pittsburgh or its burbs for anything.

April 17, 2008 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Thanks for the tip, Tracy. I'll definitely check it out. I used to know a guy who wrote plays that were performed at Towngate, and I worked in Wheeling for a good number of years, so I'm aware of the theater.

April 17, 2008 at 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, where and when certain movies play is out of the hands of most theater owners/operators.

Distributors only make up a limited number of prints for most art/ independent films (the cost of prints is quite expensive), and they're inevitably going to go where distributors think they'll find an audience - and in this region, that's mostly Oakland and Squirrel Hill, where there's an abundance of college students and well-educated, cosmopolitan folks.

Most foreign or independent films don't make it to Washington unless they become big hits or Oscar nominees, alas. But we should be thankful that we live in a metropolitan area where you can see these movies, even if it involves a 30-minute drive. If you lived someplace like, say, Lynchburg, Va., you'd probably have to rely on Netflix.

--Brad Hundt

April 17, 2008 at 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The free market stinks for you, doesn't it. The market determines that what is shown and the majority are not interested in these flicks. Sorry but capitalism doesn't work for the elite for sometimes.

April 18, 2008 at 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capitalism doesn't work for the elite? Pardon me while I pee my pants laughing. What country do you live in? And if night editors at small suburban newspapers are "the elite," what the devil do we call the morons running the country?

April 18, 2008 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Scott Beveridge said...

It's not just Washington that doesn't have artsy theaters. About the only place that does these days is Squirrel Hill.
The theater at the Waterfront sometimes dedicates a screen to these kinds of movies, as does the South Side Works.

April 18, 2008 at 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes Capitalism doesn't work for the elite. The sometimes was a qualifier since it generally does. Realize that elite is a term not based on money, but education level and status and personal attitude.

April 18, 2008 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Wow, I've been elevated to the elite. Yippee! Cody, is that you? I'm about as elite as a pair of Levis. I'm proud to be a small-town guy who served in the Army, used the G.I. bill and worked full time to put myself through college so I could get a decent job. I just happen to like movies that are different from the derivative crap that Hollywood mostly puts out. Sorry if that offends you.

April 18, 2008 at 6:26 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Wow. I had no idea that this was such an issue. Nor did I know that Brant is a cultural elitist, but kudos on the promotion, sir.

I live in Richmond, and while it's not a cultural mecca, there is a thriving art community with plenty of theater, avant garde music (has anyone heard of GWAR?) and art. But there is only one theater that runs "art" flicks, and even then it runs them only a few times a year. I've lived in Washington before I moved here, and Richmond is a larger city, but the size of the city doesn't dictate the quantity of quality of the art, apparently.

What I really wanted to comment on is the drivel that is regurgitated by Hollywood each year. I positively hate almost all of the remakes of old movies and old TV shows. I concede that the Brady Bunch movies were pretty funny, but that story was so rife with opportunities for humor that it almost had to be done.

But Speed Racer? That was a horrible, badly-made cartoon from forty years ago. The only way it could be improved would be to show Trixie topless! I see that Get Smart is being redone too. Steve Carrell is funny, but Don Adams owned that role and always will. While I despise these remakes, I do derive a certain joy out of watching how fast they tank at the box office. I give Speed Racer about a week in theaters.

There just is so little creativity in Hollywood anymore. Once in a while you get a plum, like As Good As It Gets or Sideways, but I think you could round up a random group of four or five people and suggest they remake, for instance, Family Affair. I'm sure that group could come up with dramatic or comedic twists. That's easy. The tough part is done...coming up with the idea.

April 19, 2008 at 6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Repeat after me:

I will refuse to go see Hollywood's mindless drivel.
I will refuse to go see Hollywood's mindless drivel.
I will refuse to go see Hollywood's mindless drivel.
I will refuse to go see Hollywood's mindless drivel.

'Scuse me. Another "American Pie" movie is opening.

April 21, 2008 at 10:28 AM  

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