Friday, November 07, 2008

Remembering the Pioneer Theater

Dear Pioneer Friends, Filmmakers, & Film Lovers,

Ten years ago, when we began construction on The Pioneer, we were told we were crazy - that no single screen, indie-oriented, 99 seat theater, east of Avenue A, could possible survive. But for nine years, we did - showcasing the best of truly independent cinema, presenting restored classics (from The Last Picture Show to Ace in the Hole), curating special programs (from Luis Guzman Night to the 42nd Street Smut Show), hosting guest filmmakers (from Robert Altman and Robert Downey to Steve Buscemi and Richard Kelly) and partnering with local film organizations including the IFP, Filmmaker’s Co-op, Cinema Tropical, Fangoria, Women in Film and Television, Cinewomen, Third I, Slamdance, Docfest, and many more...

We’ve been blessed that The Earth Mother, Mel Cooley, The Dude, and the other Two Boots pizzas have been able to support our labor of love all these years, but now, with our lease ending and a rent hike looming, it’s no longer economically feasible to keep the theater going. Friday, October 31st at midnight, will be our last regular screening, appropriately: Night of the Living Dead.

We want to thank our amazing staff, past and present, and we want to thank you, our loyal audience, for your patronage over the years. Please, PLEASE, keep supporting independent films and independent theaters.

Finally, on Friday, November 7th, we’ll be having a goodbye party starting at 6pm - free movies, popcorn, and reminiscences. Please come by!

I used to live a few short blocks from this theater, one of the only true "independent" art houses left in New York City. These guys showed everything, from
classic Kubrick and Sam Fuller, to pop horror, splatter, and grind, to thought provoking documentaries. They often supported local artists, allowing patrons to rent screens and arranging one-off screenings of no-budget features and shorts. They also screened a lot of Gay/Lesbian themed works and were a great outlet for progressive film-making.

One of my fondest memories of that place was the night I met Bill Plympton there. He was screening his latest feature Hair High (which is an incredible film, by the way, if you're an animation junkie like myself). I arrived like an hour or so early and got to sit with Bill and chat about animation, John Kricfalusi, New York, Plymptoons and much more. He signed a bunch of DVD's for me and was a truly gracious guy. To get to meet one of my heroes - and then watch him introduce his latest work - I can only thank the Pioneer for that.

The Pioneer is/was probably the only theater in New York still brave enough to house low-brow and high-art under one roof. The fact that they're closing down - regardless the reason - is a tragedy for the current New York cinema scene. It will truly be missed.

Remake: Oldboy

Another tip for the bad idea file: /film is reporting Will Smith & Steven Speilberg plan on remaking Chan-Wook Park's Oldboy

Speilberg & Will Smith to remake Oldboy?

There is no reason to remake this movie, but Hollywood's going to do it eventually anyway. It's been in the pipeline since the original was released in the states in 2005. But Will Smith is a very odd choice for this -- I don't think he has the gritty sneer to be able to pull of the titular character. Spielberg is an odd choice as well, considering the dark tone and feel of the film. And how will the hyper-but purposeful-violence of the original translate in a senseless Hollywood version?

Who knows. Who cares. Here's the side-scrolling hammer fight sequence that made the original Oldboy famous. Go rent this flick if you haven't seen it.

Hollywood, you disappoint me.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Revisit: Bad Taste

A WingNut/New Zealand Film Commission release 1987

Written & Directed by Peter Jackson

A crackpot team of agents investigate a group of aliens that chase human flesh for their intergalactic fast-food chain.

Peter Jackson made this film over a series of weekends across four years, starting in 1983. Hard to believe that twenty years later he'd be picking up a trove of Oscars. Continuity errors and goofs abound, but Jackson's distinct sense of humor and visual language finds its footing here. Lots of crazy close-ups and meandering hand-held pans.

The plot is paper-thin and there's a lot of scenes with characters just running through the woods, but Jackson's effects are stellar and the sound design is unbelievable. One of the grossest sounding movies I've ever seen.

If you're a fan of splatter, you've already seen this. Worth a gander if you're a fan of Peter Jackson or just enjoy cheesy horror.

Review: Zack & Miri Make a Porno

A Weinstein Company release 2008

Written & Directed by Kevin Smith

Lifelong platonic friends Zack (Seth Rogan) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) look to solve their respective cash-flow problems by making an adult film together.

You would think that crafting a painfully by-the-numbers romance story line would allow plenty of wiggle room for jokes. Not the case with Zack & Miri, which may go on record for being the most predictable romantic comedy disguised as raunch to come out in ages.

Zack and Miri are platonic best friends and are both broke. So when a video of Miri in some questionable attire becomes an internet sensation, of course it's only logical that they film a porno together to collect some quick cash.

Only, that doesn't make sense at all. And what follows is a trajectory of the most predictable kind: they have sex and realize they love each other, things get awkward for a moment, but it all works out.

Now a person could probably figure all that out from the trailer - it's called 'convention' for a reason. But assuming that is the template, what makes a movie standout is how it goes about utilizing that template. In this case, raunchy, disgusting, hilarious jokes.

Only there weren't many. There were lots of slow reaction shots of Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks. Lots of really awkward conversation scenes about whether they were/weren't in love. But very few jokes. The funniest parts of the film came from the performances - namely Craig Robinson & Justin Long - and weren't derived from the scenes or set pieces.

Say what you will about Kevin Smith - self-aggrandizing, talentless, fat - his films characterized my youth. Growing up in Jersey, they spoke to me and many others at a very young age, and showed us that all you needed to make a movie was a simple, clever set up and some good dialogue.

Well, Zack & Miri doesn't have any good dialogue. It's not witty, nor clever, nor does it even make much sense. The performances are mildly amusing, but none of the actors are in top form. I simply can't recommend seeing it.