Monday, October 26, 2009

big fan

i had no idea exactly how spoiled i was by knoxville's downtown west cinema until i moved -- how many small U.S. cities have an 8-screen theater dedicated to the artsy-indie-foreign films? nonetheless, living less than a mile from the naro here in norfolk is making up for a lot.

it's only one screen, so if you want to see a particular movie you have to mean it... it's probably playing once an evening, and if you wait, even a week, it might not be there anymore. the selections tend to run a bit behind knoxville, which i actually find rather convenient, since i can bug friends for reviews on what upcoming movies will be worth seeing. the theater itself is independent (i.e., no regal or carmike affiliation), it has an old-school balcony and stage to go with that one screen, and they host a lot of special events. the local film critic hosts a summertime series of classic movies, environmental documentaries tend to come with local experts, etc. it's neat.

the series that is quickly growing to be one of my favorite things to do in hampton roads, though, is the firstlook film forum. sunday mornings at 10, show up for brunch, a surprise film that isn't showing in the area yet, and discussion. a few weeks back, i saw the latest francis ford coppola film, tetro... this weekend's selection was big fan, written by a former editor-in-chief for the onion and starring that guy who did remy's voice in ratatouille.

while i've been happy with both selections, if they do choose a bomb, there's ample opportunity to lambast during the discussion. and honestly, the discussion is a lot of what draws me. in college, the tennessee tech honors program had a weekly "mindful movie", attended largely by freshmen who could earn what would've otherwise been work-study credit by being active in honors... idea was to watch a thought-provoking movie and then talk about it. i loved it, kept coming long after i had no need for signed papers proving i'd been there, and eventually chaired the committee that chose movies and moderated discussion for a semester. and i find myself referring to the firstlook film forum as "mindful movies for grownups." except with no feet-draggers who have to be there, just interesting people who like to talk about movies. i'm still feeling a bit too shy to actually ask for one of the microphones and say anything during the discussion -- the old habit of wanting to observe a social milieu for a while before actively participating in it dies hard -- but i find it quite cool.

whereas tetro was a film geek's delight --black and white, with stylized, deliberate lighting that's begging to be analyzed, cinematic references throughout-- big fan is more the sort of thing our old mindful movie committee would've chosen. it takes a "what if" --what if a hardcore football fan were beaten up by his favorite player?-- and runs with it. and by creating what are fairly believable characters and taking them through this plot, by finding a rather nice balance between the funny-sad extreme situation and the uncomfortably close to us (one lady who'd laughed more than most of the audience later explained that it was because the main character's family reminded her of her own... and the sports talk radio mini-celebrities seem a lot closer to home if i think about the lindy community for a couple seconds...), the film opens up all kinds of discussions about identity, violence, celebrity, society in general. it didn't come up in the discussion, but i found my mind wandering to the recent re-controversy over the roman polanski rape case, lest film fans get too superior about relegating celebrity criminals and troubled public reactions to the sports world. it's definitely a movie for a broader audience than those who'd normally flock to "sports" genre pics.

(and... i started writing this on monday, got sidetracked, and it's lunchbreak on thursday. time to hit post whether it's ready for primetime or not.)