While this brotherly-lovin’ city might not have the movie-star power of, say, LA or NYC, that’s not to say Philadelphia is without its own ambitious filmmakers. Average Superstar Films, founded by local actor Loren W. Lepre, is hosting “A Night of Short Films II” for those interested in seeing what he's been up to since his first Night of Short Films in June. That evening included films like The Video Journal, Alice and The Fairy Prince, and was so well recieved that the duo's been invited to host short film nights every other month.
Besides shorts, they'll also play trailers for upcoming local films and a secret celebrity guest speech beforehand. Films on this Sunday's itinerary include David Speers' Guest of a Nation, Matt Garrett's Beating Hearts and Iraq vet and Temple alumni David Speers' much-hyped sci-fi narrative Infinite. October’s lineup is nearly full, but local filmmakers are encouraged to submit anyway: No fees are charged for submission of trailers, films or company banners. Sun., Aug. 26 at 6 p.m., The Balcony, 1003 Arch St., $6.
Movie critic (and the guy who compiles our weekly repertory film listings) Andrew Wimer reviews his favorite Netflix Instant flick of the week.
Considering the way throngs flock robotically to see the latest comic-book-to-silver-screen blockbusters, it's hard to believe there was once a place in Hollywood for the simpler likes of 1959’s Imitation of Life. Certainly, the film's director, Douglas Sirk, could only exist in the bubble of the Golden-Age studio system, that fabulous bygone era of bright stars and elegant glitz. It's only fitting that his final Hollywood film would be the story of an actress, a superior remake to the 1934 work of the same name.
Both renditions of Imitation follow widowed Lora (Lana Turner, this time), who takes in a single black mother, Annie, (Juanita Moore) and her mixed daughter, Sarah Jane. In the original, the wealth of the paler woman and her daughter, Susie (look at me, I'm Sandra Dee), is gained exploiting Annie’s pancake recipe, but the remake recasts her as a stage actress. As such, the notion of “imitation” becomes far more relevant under Sirk, especially with the pre-existing sub-plot centered on Sarah Jane's attempts to pass as white. Saintly Annie remains the sole selfless character, battling Lora’s self-destruction, Susie’s jealousy of her mother’s romance, Sarah Jane’s self-loathing and the clueless efforts of Lora’s theater-industry suitors.
Unfortunately, there are some glaring, indicative-of-the-time flaws in Sirk’s undertaking. A white woman plays the character of Sarah Jane, mildly hindering the believability that her character is mulatto. Her acting is flawless from start to finish, but one wonders if there were no mixed actresses available. It is also disturbing in the original that the black mother refuses the measly 20-percent profits offered for her own recipe, but Annie’s content subservience is no less disheartening in the remake. These do little to distract from the film’s most powerful scenes, however. Sirk tastefully handles the beating of Sarah Jane by a white boyfriend, and (spoiler alert!) set to vocals by gospel queen Mahalia Jackson, Annie’s funeral will leave most grabbing for tissues. The occasional moment of hammy acting might inspire unintentional laughs, but you've gotta hand it to them. Not one soul in Hollywood would bank on such a risk today.
QFest closes with the mild growl that is BearCity 2: The Proposal. This episodic comedy, about a group of mostly hairy, heavy gay men, works better when it is dramatic. Anchored by a solid performance by Gerald McCullouch as the thoughtful Roger, the film opens with his character proposing to his 23-year-old bear-loving boyfriend, Tyler (Joe Conti). Tyler has his doubts about marriage, but he agrees to get hitched. So, Roger, Tyler and their friends — commitment phobic Fred (Brian Keane) and his goofy partner Brent (Stephen Guarino), and plus-sized Mike (Gregory Gunter) and his hot partner Carlos (James Martinez) — head to Provincetown for a wedding during Bear Week.
Dumb subplots abound about Fred wanting to make a documentary on bears, and Mike and Carlos being too busy on the phone to be with each other. And, of course, the expected trust and jealousy issues arise when Roger reunites with his ex and Tyler confides in Big Dan (T. Doyle Leverett). The humor is mostly at the expense of physical schtick — a whale-watching trip that gets naughty before it goes awry, or a foam party that devolves into a slapstick fight. This does a disservice to these characters, who all appear to be very comfortable in their own skin. The relaxed cast members actually make the sensitive moments about Roger and Tyler’s wedding jitters, or the relationship issues between Fred and Brent moving. Unfortunately, there is no subtlety when Kathy Najimy (as Brent’s mother) bulldozes her way through this film trying far too hard to be funny. (She’s not). BearCity 2 features plenty of fur and skin, and more daddy jokes and bad — unbearable — puns than necessary, but when the film charms its ingratiating.
City Paper Grade: C+
Of all films ever made, some are deemed “classics,” available on Netflix and endlessly rebroadcasted on ABC Family, while others — due to low-budge production, scandalous scenes and/or amateur acting — never make it beyond their initial screening, falling to the wayside and effectively exiting from the repertoire of seeable films.
Film collector Jay Scwhartz has set out to remedy the situation, screening B-, C- and even D-list movies for curious audiences who don't want to go through all the trouble of finding old VHS tapes for what could end up being a diamond in the rough. They leave that to Schwartz, whose Secret Cinema project began in 1992, showing films anywhere from private living rooms to vaudeville-style theaters. Not suprisingly, the films range from “quirky” to outright bizarre, and Schwartz has been finding more and more appropriately strange venues in which to show them.
Tomorrow's edition might be his most eccentric setting to date: In honor of Friday the 13th, Secret Cinema will screen outside at 9 p.m. in Philly's historic Laurel Hill Cemetery (3822 Ridge Ave.). Sitting high above the Schuykill River, the 176-year-old graveyard provides a deliciously spooky setting. Come prepared with a blanket, a brewsky and and $10.
Tuesdays have recently been one of the more exciting times to travel to PhilaMOCA (531 N. 12th St.) thanks to the museum's $5 Tuesday Tune-Outs. Once a week at 8 p.m., a different local musician will play a set and screen a film that has been an inspiration to them. These screenings are normally unannounced beforehand, but not so with July’s guest curator Herbie Shellenberger. Being an employee of the International House, member of local act Pet Milk and founder of Black Circle Cinema, his retro-influenced line-up for this month is as varied as the résumé.
Pet Milk takes the stage tonight, rocking out with influences that include twee, noise-pop, and blonde bombshell Nico. Screening this night is Future Shock, a psychedelic 1972 short documentary projected on 16mm film. The big man Orson Welles narrates, showcasing some of the hyperbole he would use in F For Fake the following year.
July 17 features the collaboration of Jesse Kudler and Alex Tyson, musicians working in experimentation. The pair will improvise alongside a variety of Shellenberger’s 16mm ephemeral films. Kudler utilizes inexpensive, lo-fi tech and computer compositions, while Tyson descends from the realm of visual music.
Tom Guycot steps up as the last performer on July 24. Guycot’s influences lay in library stock music and early electronic horror soundtracks, guaranteeing a night of chills on this side of Halloween. Fittingly, he will play with clips of assorted cult VHS films warping away in the background to his uncanny sounds. His film choice, Quiet Cool (pictured), ends the night on 1980s B-movie adrenaline with a story involving a cop and his son going Rambo on pot farmers.
Snap out of that summer daze with sunny sing-alongs during Summer Film Series 2012: The Great American Musical. Every Wednesday from July 11-August 1, Philadelphia Theatre Company will screen a classic American musical at 7 p.m. inside the air-conditioned Suzanne Roberts Theatre (Broad and Lombard streets). The series kicks off with Funny Girl, chirps along with Bye, Bye Birdie (pictured), rock and rolls with Grease and ends on a high note with Dreamgirls. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children, so bring the whole family. Keep the snacks and refreshments at home though — you can get those at the theater.
For the third year (and third location this year), Awesome Fest will present a series of free outdoor screenings, every Saturday till the end of August at Race Street Pier. As usual, the programmers will screen Philadephia premieres of flicks from indie festivals like Sundance and SXSW.
For your convenience, we've rounded up the complete schedule below, complete with dates and silly little descriptions:
PILGRIM SONG An ex-music teacher sets out to find himself along Kentucy's Sheltowee Trace Trail, joining forces with a father-and-son duo along the way. Sat., June 30.
Remember The Silver Linings Playbook? David O. Russell, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker and Jennifer Lawrence were in Philly filming it last year. It was based on a novel by Matthew Quick — full disclosure he was my college housemate way back when, and he has this weird affinity for Swedish lawnsports — which was excerpted by City Paper back in 2008. Anyway, the trailer is out there now:
If you’re looking to satisfy your Blues Brothers fix, look no further. Starting tonight at Liberty Lands, Awesome Fest — an organization dedicated to screening movies of the highest caliber at unconventional venues — will present “The Awesome 80s on the Awesome Screen!”, which is exactly what it sounds like. With one crowd-pleasing hit from each year of the glamorous decade, Awesome 80s will put a little more blues-playin’, ghost-bustin’, jungle-alien-fightin’ flicks into your summer. Each screening is BYOB, but we suggest leaving the parachute pants and hair gel at home.
Below is the Awesome 80s schedule. Each movie begins at sundown.
- June 28 – The Blues Brothers (1980, 133 min.)
- July 5 – Stripes (1981, 106 min.)
- July 12 – The Road Warrior (1982, 95 min.)
- July 19 – National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983, 89 min.)
- July 26 – Ghostbusters (1984, 105 min.)
- Aug. 2 – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985, 90 min.)
- Aug. 9 – Top Gun (1986, 110 min.)
- Aug. 16 – Predator (1987, 107 min.)
- Aug. 23 – Beetlejuice (1988, 92 min.)
- Aug. 30 – The Wizard (1989, 100 min.)
A few things from Philly’s film front this week. Until we get the hard scoop on who’ll hit downtown first, if at all, this summer — Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese or Will Smith (as previously mentioned) — this will have to hold us.
Several weeks ago, we mentioned that Dead Man Down’s last days of filming would happen around (not on) June 20. Tuesday in the late night a.m., yellow fliers popped up around the Italian Market and starting this morning, June 21-22, the Colin Farrell/Terrence Howard film’s final sessions will commence in my neighborhood. The yellow signs are all over Washington, Passyunk at Ninth and the Ellsworth/Kimball area between 7th and 11th streets and state that the filming will go from 9 a.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday. It’ll be a scorcher, gents. Farrell’s Irish. Bring sun block. And fans, this should be your last look-see as he’s said his goodbyes to his hotel and sporting club compadres in town. Greater Philly Film doyenne Sharon Pinkenson confirmed that this is the last shoot.
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