Saturday, September 17, 2016

Camera 12 Cinema Closes - They (Don't) Live

It was with sadness that I read that Camera 12 Cinemas in Downtown San Jose closed last week.  Camera Cinemas announced "the staggering costs of maintaining a large, aging, poorly designed building has led us to this decision to close."  I've noticed that vacancies in the area around Camera 12 have been increasing and long standing.  The space that held the Blackbird Tavern (on the same block as Camera 12) has been vacant for two years.

I did not visit Camera 12 often.  Excluding Cinequest screenings, I have seen more films at Camera 3 than Camera 12.

Speaking of Cinequest, I wonder what they will do now.  Cinequest has become my favorite film festival largely because of the close proximity of venues.  They simultaneously screen six films at three venues within a two square block area.  Four of the six films typically screen at Camera 12.  If you have a festival pass, the proximity of venues makes it easy to change your viewing schedule to take advantage of word-of-mouth film recommendations.  With Camera 12's closure, I wonder how Cinequest will maintain their screening schedule much less keep everything within walking distance.  Cinequest assures everyone that they are up to the least w.r.t. venue capacity.

I actually learned of Camera 12's closing via an email from Cinequest.  Cinequest CEO Halfdan Hussey sent an email on September 8 stating that Cinequest has "been working successfully to insure that your next Cinequest Film & VR Festival has expanded (not decreased) venue capacity to meet the excitement of the burgeoning live event. We will announce venues along with our finest, biggest and most electrifying lineup on Jan. 26th.  Cinequest Film & VR Festival occurs February 28 - March 12, 2017."


Last night/this morning, I went to the Landmark Clay to see the midnight screening of They Live.

They Live starring Roddy Piper, Keith David & Meg Foster; directed by John Carpenter, (1988) - Official Website

I didn't count during the film but as I was leaving, I counted 8 people in the theater.

I'm still not sure why there have been so many San Francisco screenings of John Carpenter films this year.

I saw They Live when it came out in 1988.  I thought then (as I do now) that WWE wrestler Roddy Piper is an odd choice for the lead role.  "Rowdy" Roddy was at the height of his WWE popularity (he was a heel so maybe notoriety is more appropriate) so it may have been a marketing issue.  The role feels like one tailor-made for Kurt Russell who worked extensively with Carpenter.

Piper is flat in his role but he ad-libbed a classic line - "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubble gum."

They Live is not the kind of film where you quibble over the performance of the lead actor.  The plot involves a covert alien invasion of earth whereby the aliens communicate with each other via messages that are invisible to humans except those who wear the special sunglasses.  Heavy and heavy-handed on social commentary about class warfare and consumerism, the film nicely posits that the aliens are responsible for most of the social ills that bedevil us.  As an added bonus for modern times, in the film the LAPD are aliens who practice old-fashioned "shoot first, ask questions later" form of policing.  Actually, watching their tactics in the film, I was surprised when contrasting it to the response such tactics would elicit today.

Piper plays an unnamed construction worker/drifter who falls in with a homeless encampment.  It's denizens are fed by a soup kitchen run out of a church across the street.  The church is just a front.  It's actually the headquarters of the human revolutionaries who have uncovered the alien plot.  They transmit signals to jam the subliminal messages sent over television.  They also mass produce the aforementioned sunglasses.  After the cops raze the homeless camp in order to capture the insurgents, Piper and a fellow homeless construction worker (Keith David) take up the fight.

Meg Foster is an actress who is always memorable because of her piercing blue eyes; her eyes are hypnotic to me.  As a quick aside, there is a film called Stepfather II with Terry O'Quinn and Foster that I recall enjoying in the late 1980s.  I would love to see that film get a revival screening.  In They Live, Foster portrays the ersatz love interest for Piper's character.

Carpenter's direction of They Live is somewhat plodding but he peppers it with a lot of cheeky humor and frequent gunfights.  He switches from color to black-and-white when the protagonists put on the sunglasses.  He also gives the aliens a 1950s look.  Late 1980s make-up techniques could have made more elaborate aliens but Carpenter decides to keep the aliens just on this side of humorous.

There is no way I can call They Live a great film but it is very entertaining and richly deserves its cult film status.  It is certainly several cuts above the typical 1980s horror film.

Alien disguised as LAPD officer from They Live

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Castro Theater's September 2016 Calendar

As I mentioned before, the Castro Theatre has seemingly done away with their puzzles within their calendars.  For the second month, it appears they are taking stills from the films they are showing and displaying them as a drawing on the days they are closed.

September 6 - depicts the beginning and ending of Sunset Boulevard (Sept. 7).  That's William Holden's character laying face down in the pool.

September 12-13 - Marilyn Monroe in the bathtub with Victor Moore as the plumber from The Seven Year Itch (Sept. 14).

September 19 - Kirk Douglas from Ace in the Hole (Sept. 18).

September 26 - 27 - Tony Curtis in drag and Jack Lemmon also in drag behind him.  That image is from Some Like it Hot (Sept. 28).

I've seen most of the films on the calendar.  Among the highlights are:

September 11 - Howards End - an early Merchant Ivory production which I do not recall seeing with Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.

September 16 - Multiple Maniacs (John Waters' second film) and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the Russ Myers directed "sequel" to Valley of the Dolls

September 24 - an Anna Magnani four film series presented by Cinema Italia San Francisco.  The line up consists of Rome Open City (1 PM), Bellissima (3 PM), The Rose Tattoo (6 PM) and The Passionate Thief (10 PM).  Of those four films, I have seen all except The Passionate Thief.


Castro Theater Calendar - September 2016

Monday, September 5, 2016

Castro Theater's August 2016 Calendar

This blog is really limping along.  I'm not posting at all and I'm watching fewer films than at any time in the last decade.  I don't know what I'm going to do with this blog.  My life is still in transition since my father's death last year.

Wednesday nights at the Castro in August were I Wake Up Dreaming by Elliot Lavine - allegedly his final noir series program.  I had seen several of the films on the program but still it was unfortunate I couldn't catch any of the programs.

I only saw two films at the Castro in August.  It was a double bill on August 12 that looked a lot a Midnites for Maniacs program but it wasn't.  Speaking of which, Midnites for Maniacs launched a new website in July.  It also appears that the Maniac's new home base is at the Roxie.  They haven't held an event at the Castro since May.

The Goonies starring Sean Astin & Corey Feldman; with Josh Brolin, Robert Davi & Joe Pantoliano; directed by Richard Donner; (1985)
The Lost Boys starring Jason Patric & Corey Haim; with Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman & Dianne Wiest; directed by Joel Schumacher; (1987)

I had never seen The Goonies.  It's a cult classic but I'm about 5 to 10 years too old to have appreciated it as a child.  I've seen portions of it on television many times but I never really got into it.  I decided to watch it once through on the big screen to see if I could appreciate the film.  The short answer is no.  I always thought Steven Spielberg directed the film but to my surprise Richard Donner helmed the film.  Donner would make Lethal Weapon (a film I still admire) two years after The GooniesGoonies is filled with too much slapstick and silliness for my taste.  It's difficult for this 40something year old to embrace his inner child via The Goonies.

I saw The Lost Boys when it came out in the theaters in 1987.  The film was directed by Joel Schumacher who would go on to make some of the less admired Batman films of the Tim Burton era.  Scanning Schumacher's filmography, I think The Lost Boys ranks among his best.

Jason Patric plays the new kid in town who falls for the beautiful motorcycle chick (Jami Gertz).  What he doesn't know is that the gang she rides with aren't just Goth bikers but vampires.  Led by the charismatic David (Kiefer Sutherland in a flashy performance), the gang initiates Michael into their gang/coven. 

Fortunately for Michael the initiation is a two step process:  first he gets bitten by a vampire and second he must feast on the blood a victim.  Michael steadfastly resists the second part.  Serendipitously, Michael's younger brother Sam (Corey Haim) has become acquainted with the Frog brothers - two comic book store workers who are vampire hunters as a side gig.  These two are memorably portrayed by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. 

Patric & Sutherland provide the angst & menace (which works equally wells as teenage rebellion or vampiric tendencies).  Feldman & Newlander provide the comedy.  Haim provides the most outlandish 80s fashion.  If you throw in memorable rock-n-roll soundtrack & a particularly effective climax battle, The Lost Boys ranks as one of the 80s classics; it was as enjoyable as I recalled.  I think I enjoyed it more in my forties than my late teens.


Castro Theater Calendar - August 2016