What does it take to lure me out of my comfy home and into costly and less comfy movie theaters of an evening? Increasingly, quite a lot.

Most of what Hollywood is putting out is derivative dreck. An overload of spectacle (superheroes, disasters, unthrilling thrillers), bad children’s films, unwatchable romantic comedies, etc.: if I can find something that has a touch of creativity, I leap (e.g. Kubo and the Two Strings), but such opportunities seem increasingly few and far between. I’d usually rather stay home and watch something inspiring (Transparent, classic noir, even iZombie).

Twice this week, however, I ventured forth and had fantastic success in my cinema-going experiences. And I’ll be doing it again this weekend. In all three cases, the shows have limited runs (3 days, 2 days, 1 showing) and are not what’s on the marquee at the megaplex. All offer something I couldn’t get at home, now or ever.

The first event was the Funimation showing of Shin Godzilla (2016), the newest in the Godzilla franchise, straight from Japan’s Toho Pictures. This is a true reboot of the Godzilla franchise. No one has ever seen or heard of Godzilla, and much of the “action” is Japanese bureaucrats rushing between meeting rooms to decide how to cope with the monster. In this incarnation, Godzilla is huger than ever, actually morphs (“evolves” like a Pokemon), and has features and abilities we’ve never seen before. There is a LOT of talking, with subtitles flying by constantly, but I didn’t mind a bit. The film is a true homage to the original, a heavy-handed but fun satire of Japanese bureaucracy, an unsubtle but apt critique of US and UN politics, and a statement on the nuclear bombs that brought Godzilla to viewers back in 1954. At my local theater, the audience members were obvious Godzilla fans (one kid dressed up in a Godzilla costume and got applause), and there was much applause and cheering. I had a thoroughly enjoyable night out with friends and the hubs, and I’m so glad we went.

Last night, I went to the non-profit Belcourt theater to see E.A. DuPont’s Variete (1925) accompanied by the amazing live three-piece Alloy Orchestra, who played their original and excellent soundtrack to the film. Piano, synthesizer, accordion, drum kit, and even a musical saw brought to life a silent Weimar film about love, jealousy, and a trapeze act, starring Emil Jannings. The recently remodeled theater was a beautiful and comfortable setting — especially as the Belcourt serves beer on tap, wine, and local fresh-baked goods as well as popcorn — for a screening of a film made a century ago, now restored and uncensored. The film’s camerawork is especially amazing, turning a sometimes predictable tale of a lunk and a vamp into an awesome exhibition of the wonders of cinematography in its early Berlin days.

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Alloy Orchestra creates sumptuous original soundtracks for silent films.

Last and most appropriate for this noir film blog, the Belcourt will be showing the restored version of Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows (1958) this weekend. The restoration includes work on the incredible Miles Davis soundtrack. Seeing this French noir on the big screen with great speakers and an appreciative audience? Not something I could ever do at home. Can’t wait.

 

 

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