Upcoming Cinema Center Films - January 2015

January is shaping up to be an exciting month. We have two foreign-language films slated to open, as well as a gritty crime thriller from down under. Be sure to always check the Future page for additions and changes to the schedule.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature has been marketed as “the first Iranian vampire western ever made”, we are likely to believe that. The gorgeous black and white cinematography is worth the price of admission.

Opens January 2nd, 2015

Force Majeure
This Swedish film became a word-of-mouth darling at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of a family unraveling during an avalanche in the Alps. Words like wickedand funny have been used numerous times to describe this potential Best Foreign Language Film nominee.

Opens January 9th, 2015

Son of a Gun
Ewan McGregor stars in this Australian thriller as a career criminal who takes a recently released young ex-con under his wing. For the past ten years or so, a whole crop of high quality crime films have come from Australia, this film does not look to be an exception.

Opens January 23rd, 2015


FILM NEXUS Vol. 8: The Babadook

Today, Cinema Center opens “The Babadook,” an emotionally complex horror film by Jennifer Kent, who began her career as an assistant to famed director and enfant terrible Lars Von Trier.

Part of the reason the film has faired so well with audiences and critics (it currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98%) is because of its ability to create a connection between the characters, not necessarily jump scares from the titular monster.

Currently, there are several creepy and strange, as well as emotional titles streaming on Netflix. Any of these would be worth watching after catching “The Babadook” at Cinema Center:

Twin Peaks (1990)
Would modern television look the same without “Twin Peaks”? There is an argument to be made that popular serialized TV would be very different without Agent Cooper’s investigation into the death of Laura Palmer. The whole town is full of secrets, some of them manifest in the realm of the absurd, and others only create dread. As Cooper’s case intensifies, so does his love and dedication to the people of Twin Peaks.

The Double (2013)
Richard Ayoade is becoming a director I am really excited to see develop. This film is a dark, uneasy adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel. Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a lonely, shy and awkward office worker who is obsessed with Mia Wasikowska’s Hannah. Chaos enters Simon’s life when his doppelganger, the charming and confident James (also played by Eisenberg), begins working at the same office. Tonally the film is nearly perfect, as are the performances by Eisenberg and Wasikowska.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
There is no greater horror film that deals with the relationship between mother and child, just in the case of this movie, the child may be the spawn of Satan. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes were great as Rosemary and Guy, but it was Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet, and Sidney Blackmer as her husband Roman who steal every scene on arrival. The paranoia and ambiguity makes the horror so much more palpable, and is made worse by not relying on jump scares, but focusing on the emotional state of Rosemary.

The Babadook” opens December 12th at 12pm and 9:30.
Jonah Crismore is Cinema Center’s Executive Director and wouldn't mind a vodka blush.


FILM NEXUS Vol. 7: Vampires

Since the silent film era, the vampire myth has provided inspiration to great filmmakers. The myriad aspects of the legend to exploit provide the point of view for each film, whether it is the horror, the romance, or the existential angst of being fully aware of one’s own immortality. Certainly it is the latter of those facets that inspired prolific American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch with his most recent film, “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which opens tonight at Cinema Center and stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, as vampires going through a bit of a ‘what-does-it-all-mean’ period.

Being a bit of an eclectic director, drawing on influences from postwar Japanese dramas, as well as a bit of Shakespeare, and the lives of his rock star friends, Jarmusch has found a way to bring a completely fresh take on the vampire story. And because of that, he has also directed one of the coolest additions to the genre. After catching “Only Lovers Left Alive” this weekend at Cinema Center, take some time to go back to these interesting building blocks to the great wall that is the modern vampire film tradition available on Netflix streaming.

Nosferatu (1929)

This silent film classic created the impact of almost every vampire motif that lasts to this day. When the Bram Stoker estate would not grant filmmaker F.W. Murnau permission to adapt “Dracula” to the big screen, he took matters into his own hands and renamed the characters and filmed it anyway. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is the placeholder for Dracula, and never has the classic monster been so scary. Using lighting to elongate shadows, the creepy factor goes off the charts, while maintaining a beauty to the images.

Night Watch (2004)

The adaptation of Sergei Lukyanenko’s novel of the same name, was a huge blockbuster in its native Russia. The story is complicated, but basically everything breaks down to a secret truce between the warriors of Light and the forces of Darkness, and how the agreement is falling apart in modern day Russia. The scenes where these armies battle each other have never looked like anything else in a vampire film. This film should be appreciated for its strong visuals, as the narrative falls apart as the film progresses. Even the subtitles are incorporated into the imagery, not wasting any space on the screen.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

“From Dusck Till Dawn” does not seem like a vampire movie. When director Robert Rodriguez read the script by Quentin Tarantino (who also stars in the film alongside George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, and Harvey Keitel), he dedicated himself to realizing it because he loved how much the film would have a “Pyscho”-ish feel in its storytelling. The movie begins like a lot of Rodriguez and Tarantino films do, with tough guys, played by Clooney and Tarantino, in over there heads after a robbery gone wrong results in them taking a hostage. The first half of the film is just about the duo hijacking an RV with Keitel’s family behind the wheel, into Mexico. Once they get over the border, things just get crazy, as the criminals and captives must become allies in a roadhouse full of bloodthirsty vampires. The film is silly in a lot of the ways that comic book movies, and vampire movies, used to be, and the practical effects still hold up in much the way they do in old George Romero films.

Jonah Crismore is Cinema Center’s Executive Director and always in a state of existential angst.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” opens Friday, June 6th, at 9:15pm.


FILM NEXUS Vol. 6: Teenage

While working on getting everything in order for Cinema Center’s premiere of the documentary “Teenage” tonight, I thought a lot about how important of a role films played in my life during those formative years. It was the first time I looked at filmmaking as a process that I could possibly learn, the behind-the-scenes commentary and documentaries were new special features on many DVDs, and I have to admit I learned almost as much from listening and watching those as I did the whole time I studied film in college.

The following films, all available on Netflix streaming, are not necessarily the best films of the era, but they are the films that opened my eyes the widest to the possibilities of film. After catching “Teenage” at Cinema Center this weekend, I strongly recommend going back to some of the favorite films of your adolescence. Here are mine:

Clerks (1994)
More than any movie from the 1990s independent film explosion, “Clerks” made me believe I could pick up a camera and make a feature-length film. Kevin Smith’s debut film about a day in the life of foul-mouthed convenience store clerks Dante and Randal was hilarious, as well as a call to action to filmmakers everywhere. The film showed that with the right characters in the right script, deficiencies in things like lighting, sound, and even camera movements could all be forgiven as long as the audience was entertained.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Before it was cool to be nerdy, it was really not cool to be a film geek. That all changed when director Quentin Tarantino burst onto the independent film scene with his genre classic “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992, and suddenly movies were cool. However, it was Tarantino’s follow-up, “Pulp Fiction,” that I first saw a few years after it was released, when it felt like I was watching films from a master filmmaker. I watched “Pulp Fiction” pretty much on repeat for a summer, trying to understand all the intricate knots the story tied. For probably a decade after its release, its impact was felt with every edgy, crime film Hollywood released, but none came close to its ability to humanize, and offer possible redemption, to very bad men. In recent years, its influence has started to wane, but that will change as teens across the globe watch it for the first time and spend summers studying just what makes it so good.

Pi (1998)
When I was a teenager, I suffered from pretty severe headaches, and to a certain extent I still do. As a weird kid who stayed inside most days watching movies, I didn't really connect with anyone else who had this problem, but when I first watched “Pi,” I was convinced Darren Aronofsky understood it completely. His debut film is a story about a mathematician who just may have used numbers to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Shot in a gritty black and whites, the film is paranoid, a bit hallucinogenic, bizarre, a lot of fun, and in my opinion, Aronofsky’s best film.

Jonah Crismore is Executive Director of Cinema Center and after looking back, thinks he had pretty good taste for a sixteen year old.

“Teenager” opens on Friday, April 25th  at 6:30.


FILM NEXUS Vol. 5: Nymphomaniac

Day of doom. Armageddon. The apocalypse. I believe you can tell a lot about how a filmmaker sees the world in how they envision its destruction. In recent years, it seems most view it in terms of looting, unprecedented urban and environmental destruction, and survivors only carrying on by exhibiting the worst of human nature.

Picture for a second that you are an alien life form and sitting front and center for Earth’s last minutes, if the certainty of absolute impending annihilation was thrust upon the human race, would you want to watch all the widespread panic, or would you be more interested with how the puny humans below are coping with this knowledge, and all the last, smaller stories that are born.

For director Lars von Trier, he is much more interested in the latter of the two options, and finds ways of incorporating personal apocalypses in many of his films, whether the end of the world for his characters is literal or figurative. Today, April 11th, Cinema Center opens “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1” with “Vol. 2” to open next week.

The film follows Joe, who is found beaten in an alleyway at age 50, and she tells the story of her very sexual life to a Good Samaritan. While there is much to celebrate, as well as be appalled by, find funny, and sympathize with Joe’s life as it is recounted over the course of two feature films, the beginning of the film most definitely signifies the end of the world as Joe has known it up until that point.

Von Trier is excellent taking his characters up to points when they cannot progress any more, and then showing what happens when they attempt that one last step. One of his greatest recent films that is streaming on Netflix, and provides a perfect complement to “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1” is “Melancholia” from 2011. The film stars Kirsten Dunst as Justine, a depressed woman living with her sister’s family when a rogue planet is going to collide with Earth, ending life on the planet.  

In “Melancholia,” von Trier’s take on the end of the world resembles more of the Greek translation of apocalypse, meaning knowledge of something that was hidden. Justine, through her depressed state, is able to find an almost unnerving calm about the end of life on Earth. While her family panics in their own ways about the planet’s demise, Justine becomes a stabilizing force, and exhibits strength when perhaps it is put to it greatest use. When Earth’s collision with the rogue planet, Justine faces it with grace, and does not turn from it.

While it takes nearly all of “Melancholia” for Justine to realize she needn’t look away from the inevitable, Joe in both volumes of “Nymphomaniac,” never looks away throughout the entire saga. The apocalypse for Joe, is not so much a question of if she will change her ways, but whether she even needs to entertain the notion. The end of the world for Joe is playing by someone else’s rules.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 opens today at Cinema Center.
Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2 opens April 18th

Jonah Crismore is the Executive Director of Cinema Center and hopes you will take a chance with Nymphomaniac, even though it is rated NC-17.

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