Sunday, March 20, 2011

Morris Engel's American "New Wave"

My most undiscovered film of late is the 1960 Weddings and Babies (Morris Engel) with Sweden’s Viveca Lindfors (Bea) and John Myhers (Al). The cinematography is so refreshing for a film of this era. Engels’s hand held camera has very much a New Wave look to it. This fact it is shot black and white with low budget adds to the lustre. The story itself is very simple, and therefore makes it more appealing. Set in New York’s Little Italy it is about a photographer, Al, who makes his living taking pictures of, well, weddings and babies, which also happens to be the name of his studio. His long time girlfriend Bea wants in the worst way to get married. But he resists. There is nothing especially dramatic about the plot but again that’s to its benefit. It is a slice of life about an ordinary couple and therefore highly realistic. Engel, still alive, is an interesting filmmaker and I hope to catch others of his like Loves and Lollipops (1956) and Little Fugitive (1953). Engel shot the film himself. Apparently he invented a camera that Stanley Kubrick wanted to use and Jean-Luc Godard also paid him a visit to see how it worked. Engel held on to it, hoewver.....

Watching Hanna and Her Sisters (Woody Allen) last night was a stark reminder of the quick passage of time. This movie, so au currant in 1986, is now 25 years old. Yet the sensibility remains much the same as today. Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin on Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) The Essentials suggested it is Allen’s best film. Well, it’s perhaps among his best. But you have to include Annie Hall, Manhattan, Crimes & Misdemeanours, Husbands and Wives, and even more recent fare like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, in that category. Somehow I wasn’t as impressed with Hannah as I remembered it. It didn’t seem to pack the gravitas and seemed more like farce. Elliott’s (Michael Caine) infatuation with Lee (Barbara Hershey) at the expense of his loving wife Hannah (Mia Farrow) seemed superficial and a little ridiculous. Well, it was supposed to be ridiculous, I suppose. But now the film as a whole seems a little that way.....

People talk about Toronto about being a film town. But Montreal could sure give it a run for the money. I posted about the several festivals I attended while in Montreal last summer and fall. There have been several since. And two recent ones – new to me - are the 29th International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) ( and Cinema Politica, documentaries about social activism (

Monday, March 14, 2011

Michael Moore & Atlas Shrugged go together? Don't worry, there's always Red State

Fresh from speaking to a March 5 rally in Madison Wisconsin - his so-called “America is not broke” statement – in which he defended public sector workers facing the guillotine of their collective bargaining rights, Michael Moore is advocating Michiganders rally to protect possible loss of their bargaining at a rally in Lansing March 16 (hey, that’s this Wednesday!).....So being the topical filmmaker (really?) that he is, can we expect Moore’s next doc will be about the current movement to roll back union rights? Hmm, I think I’m on pretty safe terra suggesting...yes

Atlas Shrugged the movie – John Stossel told Sean Hannity on Fox News last week that the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s 1957 book had a difficult time getting to the silver screen in liberal Hollywood. In fact it was 20 years in the making. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie originally wanted to make it with Jolie playing heroine Dagny Taggart. Part I of the iconic anti-government and pro-capitalist flick will be released April 15. How appropriate – it’s tax deadline day for all you Statesiders.....

And in an interview last week with the Freep, director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy), calls his new movie Red State not really a political film. You see, he says, it’s about a religious sect that terrorizes a group of young people (as if they need to be terrorized). The sect is based on the Westboro Baptist Church – you know, that insane fundamentalist Christian church that demonstrates outside of US soldiers’ funerals because those soldiers died defending the freedom of everyone including homosexuals. Give Westboro the prize for coming up with the most convoluted logic of recent times.....But one thing we can be sure of – a good liberal like Smith (he does seems a little naive in the interview so maybe he doesn’t really know it) would never make a horror film about a far more dangerous subject than whacked-out Christians – Islamic fundamentalists.

And speaking of Smith, Kevin says his next movie will be a film called Hit Somebody, a hockey comedy based on the decade-old Warren Zevon song, which Smith plans to partly shoot in Michigan whether tax credits stay or go (probably the latter). Given the national news story in Canada over the past week about the vicious hockey hit by Boston’s Zdeno Chara against Montreal’s Max Pacioretty maybe Smith should consider shooting the film in Windsor.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

RO official says no plans to close Main Theatre

Royal Oak’s planning director Tim Thwing told Windsor Detroit Film (WDF) he knows of no plans for the venerable Main Art Theatre to move from the corner of Main Street and 11 Mile Rd. That’s despite speculation in the past that the owner of the property might move the theatre as part of a plan to redevelop the wider northeast corner of the intersection known as Main North condo-retail project.....My March 6 WDF post below reprints a Detroit News article from 2005 about the Landmark Theatres-owned Main being considered for a move by property owner Joseph Freed & Assocs. But, Thwing told me today, that idea likely has long fallen by the wayside because the parcel on which the Main sits was never developed as one of three phases of Main North. “My understanding is the lease runs for a few more years and then there’s an option to extend it,” he said. “There are no plans for it to shut down that I’m aware of.”.....Thwing said Freed originally was going to develop the Main site as a retail-condo tower similar to its new tower immediately north of the theatre along Main Street. There was also a plan to build a similar tower immediately to the east along 11 Mile. But then the real estate market crashed so Freed stopped planning. The east parcel subsequently has become home of the new Emagine theatre complex, slated to open in May. It’s of course located in the Main Theatre’s backyard. Thwing said there are no current plans for redeveloping the Main site.....Thwing said Emagine shouldn’t threaten the Main because the two theatres cater to different markets. “Every conversation I’ve had (with Landmark company officials) - they feel they’re not competing in the same market as Emagine”......As an aside, going back several years when Freed was considering redeveloping the Main site, Thwing said one of “the early plans called for absorbing” the theatre into the Main North project “but they couldn’t arrange or make the deal go forward”.....So it seems the Main is here to stay or until such time as after the lease runs out and the market improves for redeveloping the property.....As per earlier WDF posts I could obtain no comment from Freed or Landmark and an Emagine spokeswoman says her theatre shouldn’t threaten the Main because the two companies screen to different audiences – Emagine mainstream, Landmark art house....I also asked Thwing if there is adequate parking for the Emagine complex, so that customers attending the 10-screen multiplex don’t overwhelm the smaller Main’s already limited parking lot. Thwing said a separate parking structure to the east of Emagine will serve that theatre. There is also surface parking. He added that there was, ”a lot of discussion” by Royal Oak elected representatives and residents with regard to whether Emagine had enough parking. “Some of them are happy with the number, some of them are concerned it’s not enough. I guess we’ll wait and see how it operates,” he said.....But, he said, “I think we’re all happy that Emagine is here.”

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Landmark's no comment on Emagine multiplex

I finally heard back from Landmark Theatres in my quest to find out the chain's reaction to Emagine Entertainment's multiplex being built behind Landmark's Royal Oak Main Art Theatre (see two previous posts). But really to no avail. "We have no comment regarding Emagine," said Cyra Polizzi, Landmark's Detroit regional publicist.....Emagine, for its part, thinks the 10-screen theatre will be healthy for the Main since it will attract more filmgoers to the corner of 11 Mile Road and Main Street.....I also tried to find out if the Main Theatre building is still owned by a Chicago-based development company which, over the past decade, was looking at moving the Main to a different location. But I could get no comment from Joseph Freed & Associates either. A Detroit News article from 2005 may help shed some light on real estate issues surrounding the Main and the theatre's future. Here's the story:
 Tuesday, September 27, 2005 Main Art Theatre running out of time to find new home Developer searching for options for the art house that will be razed for lofts in a few years. By Maureen Feighan / The Detroit News ROYAL OAK -- The Main Art Theatre, a beloved showcase of independent and art films in Metro Detroit, is in need of a new home. The 1940s theater, run by Landmark Theatres but in a building owned by Chicago-based developer Joseph Freed and Associates LLC, is scheduled for demolition to make way for part of a $120 million loft and retail project called Main North at East 11 Mile and Main. Plans call for replacing it with a 12-story loft tower. Demolition is still years away, and in the meantime a Freed official said the company is absolutely committed to finding a new location for the theater.
But at least one Royal Oak official who has been working with Freed to find a new site worries they may be running out of options, especially after the City Commission last week rejected an idea that wouldve allowed developers, including Freed, to offer bids to buy and develop the City Hall and adjacent property. There are only so many opportunities and so many locations you can consider, said Planning Director Tim Thwing. I dont have anywhere to send them. Phyllis Salter, a fan of the Main Theatre, said losing the theater would be a tremendous loss to Royal Oak. Its just such a special theater and people really enjoy it, she said. Its a warmer, more human building and a lot of people who go there have things in common. The theater was built in the early 1940s as a single-screen movie theater and was added onto in the early 1990s, Thwing said. It now has three screens and has often been voted Best Place to see an Independent Film and Best Art Movie House in local papers. Ed Connell, director of development for Joseph Freed, said originally the company intended to build a new site for the theater in the north tower of its Main North project, but that plan failed. Connell said what Landmark has envisioned is a theater with six or seven screens, a bar and a cafe. It would be modeled after a theater in Dallas called The Magnolia. Chene Koppitz, who managed the Main Art and Maple Art Theatre for seven years, said Freed has 10 years left of a 20-year lease with Landmark for Main Art.