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Nelson Civic Theatre — Best Seat in the House

By Contributor
November 15th, 2019

By Jason Asbell, Program Director, Nelson Civic Theatre

Cinema of Human Beings – a week or two that Scorsese would appreciate

In a recent New York Times opinion piece Martin Scorsese was asked to explain a comment from an interview he gave to the UK magazine ‘Empire’. When asked about Marvel movies he replied “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. …  the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are … is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

Whether you agree or not The Civic believes there’s a place for blockbuster thrill rides and a need to appreciate cinema that conveys emotional experiences so here’s what to expect over the next while.

Robbert Eggers, ‘The Lighthouse’, starring William Dafoe and Robert Pattison, opens Nov. 16. Egger gives us stunning black and white photography and complex characters that strips bare human emotion. As an artist he deep delves into our psyche to isolate situations that many of us won’t experience in our own lives. Sharing that in a group viewing leads to a collective electricity, a collective dream/nightmare, where everyone will walk away with their own meaning. Hopefully the common experience leads to a better understanding of each other.

Also playing for the Nov. 15th run is the work of another artist, Edward Norton, who adapted, acts in and directs ‘Motherless Brooklyn’, a passion project that got made against odds. Finally, peppering a Doc Wednesday in there, here’s one for the cinephile, ‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound’, isan exploration of the history, artistry, and emotional power of cinema sound. Get a look at the actual process of creation and discovery through legendary sound designers and visionary directors. Big screen, big sound.

Then, on the near horizon, here are three more we’re bringing in: ‘Harriet’, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman and her escape from slavery and her dangerous missions to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad. Next, Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho’s, Palme D’or winning, ‘Parasite’, “— punctuated by staircase scenes going from mouldy basements to top floors — Parasite observes and dissects with surgical precision the life of two families of different social backgrounds.”

Finally, Taika Waititi, indi-god of comedy’s, WWII satire, ‘Jo Jo Rabbit’. Waititi has managed to straddle the fence with his own brand of Marvel film, with ‘Thor: Ragnarock’, while producing small independent gems like ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’.

Oh, and if you like Zombies… Zombieland Double Tap plays Nov.15-18 as well.

With franchises dominating the theatres, streaming platforms are trying to become a home for artistic films that can still take a risk. Scorsese, himself is releasing his latest film, ‘The Irishman’, on Netflix. He admits that, “It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever.”  But he ended by saying “I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters.”

Our team at The Civic absolutely agrees about the nature of film exhibition and about seeing all film designed for the big screen. When the Society took over the cinema seven years ago, we offered a taste of these risk-taking stories during our Thursday night arthouse presentations. In a nutshell, we had more flexibility and greater opportunities to showcase thought-provoking independent films.

Seven years later Disney owns Fox, each demands three-week minimum runs, and even the most agreeable distributors are rejecting split shows in a single theatre until much later in a title’s run. These changes mean our regular Thursday offering is no longer regular or necessarily on Thursday. This demands a new strategy.

We have responded by trying to offer weeklong runs on slower weeks, to split between three independent titles.  Ultimately, we strive to screen close to the same total number of independent titles as before so we’re confident that fellow cinephiles and the generally curious will successfully navigate these changes with us and bring that Thursday night energy back to our alternative features.

However, Scorsese hints at a larger industry problem. He describes it as “a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.”

Well, The Civic won’t offer you one kind of thing.

Of course, a single-screen in a small rural market may not have a big impact in the grand scheme but keep checking The Civic Theatre website or Facebook page, sign-up for our weekly newsletter, and mark your calendars to come out to these and other cinematic works of art.


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