Tag: St. Louis

Buster Keaton Series at Webster University

For those of you in St. Louis, Webster University is running a Buster Keaton Retrospective starting September 28th and running through October 14th. If Charlie Chaplin is the king of silent comedy with a streak of pathos, then Keaton is the kind of silent deadpanning. Both are incredible filmmakers, but laugh for laugh, I might actually have to give Keaton the edge. The General still stands as one of the greatest comedies ever made, silent or not. If you get the chance, you should try to get down to Webster and see some of these classics.

The General still

Here’s the schedule. All the features start at 8:00pm, and are accompanied by a shorter Keaton film; as a further treat, each is screened with live musical accompaniment, just like they would have been when they were first released.

  • Three Ages – September 28th
  • Our Hospitality – September 29th – I’ve seen this one and enjoyed it a lot, but it’s been a while; Northerner Keaton inherits a Southern manor home, only to be embroiled in a long-standing feud
  • The Saphead – September 30th (screens with Sherlock Jr., which would actually be the draw for me – Keaton is a projectionist drawn into the movies he shows)
  • Battling Butler – October 4th
  • The Navigator – October 5th
  • Go West – October 6th
  • Seven Chances – October 7th
  • College – October 11th – the view of college in silent films is always fascinating to me, whoever’s doing it; I don’t think I’ve seen Keaton’s version, but if you ever get the chance to see Harold Lloyd‘s The Freshman, it’s a lot of fun (Lloyd is the now-much-lesser-known third great comic of the silent era)
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. – October 12th – Lots of great sight gags in this one, largely based around escalating natural disasters that Keaton narrowly manages to escape.
  • The Cameraman – October 13th – This one is a lot of fun, too, but then I’m always a fan of films set in the movie industry.
  • The General – October 14th – This is it, folks. If you ever only see one silent film in your life, ever, make it this one. Yes, even over Chaplin. Of course, you should also see Chaplin’s Modern Times, but it’s not showing at Webster right now, is it? So yeah. See The General. I only wish I were in St. Louis to see it myself.

Theatrical Picks for 9/7/07 – 3:10 to Yuma and Pierrot le fou for St. Louisans

In wide release, we have 3:10 to Yuma, the latest in a series of attempts over the last decade or so to bring the western back. Most of these attempts have been massively unsuccessful, but from the advance buzz, 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (opening in two weeks in limited release) could make this the year that changes that. Russell Crowe takes on the role of a captured outlaw, while Christian Bale assumes responsibility for getting him to the train station in time for the 3:10 train to Yuma, where he’ll be tried. The film is a remake of the 1957 film of the same name, directed by Delmer Daves and starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin–I haven’t seen the original, so my point of reference is that it sounds sort of like High Noon in reverse. I’m planning on going to see it on Saturday. In the meantime, here’s the trailer, and here’s an extremely positive review from CinemaFusion. (It’s sitting fairly pretty on Rotten Tomatoes, too, with a score of 82% Fresh).

Other wide releases this week are Shoot ‘Em Up, which looks like it could be all kinds of terrible, but also all kinds of fun, what with Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, and Paul Giamatti largely tasked with shooting stuff up, and The Brothers Solomon, apparently the latest in the increasingly annoying category of stupid buddy comedies. However, it does have Jenna Fischer in it, and she’s so adorable on The Office that I hesitate to scratch it completely off my “rent sometime after I’ve watched everything else” list.

On the limited release side of things, there’s Hatchet, which would be a prime example of the sort of horror movie I HATE, and In the Shadow of the Moon, a documentary about the 1960s-1970s Apollo moon missions which looks quite interesting. But if you live in St. Louis, you have the opportunity to see Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou at the Tivoli in the Loop. This film is out of print on DVD, who knows when it’ll be back (but hopefully the theatrical rerelease means it’ll be put back on DVD soon), and I only wish I were in St. Louis right now to see it, because I haven’t and I REALLY REALLY want to. It’d probably be a little fanatical, though, to travel 800 miles to see one film, though, wouldn’t it? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I keep trying to see if it’ll turn up in Austin, but my knowledge of where to look for classic rereleases in Austin is shoddy at best. Here’s the Post-Dispatch’s item on the film. And here’s the trailer, but I warn you, trailers for Godard films are not really very helpful at finding out what they’re about (although I’m starting to question more and more if “what is it about” is a helpful question to ask about a film anyway). The title card that says “Belmondo and Karina in a Godard film” is all I need to know about it to Want.It.Now.

(On a tangentially related subject, I just ran across a trailer that had been removed from YouTube due to copyright violations–I mean, okay, yeah, I suppose trailers are copyrighted. But how in the world does “fewer people see the trailer” translate into “more people see the film”? Trailers are marketing materials and marketing materials are more effective the more people that see them, right? So you should post them everywhere that’ll take them, right?)

Library Appreciation

No, not for the libraries here. For the ones in St. Louis. Seriously, folks, St. Louis has one of the top library systems in the country, and I already knew that, but my attempts to locate a copy of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 GROUND-BREAKING FILM Contempt in Waco has really made me appreciate St. Louis.

I thought, hey, the Waco county library has a good number of DVDs, including some classic stuff like the Criterion edition of Notorious, they’ve got a fair shot at having one of the top five French New Wave films, right? Wrong. They didn’t have any of the other top five French New Wave films, either (which I just arbitrarily decided were The 400 Blows, Breathless, Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and Jules and Jim…that’s pretty close to accurate, except Jules and Jim would have to fight off some competition for the fifth spot).

Okay, so granted, county library with only four branches. Give ’em a break, right? Surely the Baylor fine arts library will have it, even if it’s on video instead of DVD. Wrong. Out on a limb now…Blockbuster? Of course not. And…we’re out of possible rental/borrowing places. In St. Louis, I guarantee you that both the University City Public Library as well as the Blockbuster down the street from it have Contempt.

Now, I’m in no great bind. I don’t particularly have to see Contempt right now (although I would have liked to before I write a paper due next week on adaptation, since Contempt is about the difficulties of adaptation and every essay I read on the subject brings it up), and of course, I can get it from Netflix. But what in the world did people do in towns like Waco before Netflix was invented? I mean, especially with a big university here, you’d expect there to be a good many people around interested in more than the latest blockbusters, and what are they supposed to do? Go down to Austin every time they want to rent a movie over five years old or, God forbid, from another country? I realize I’m sounding like a film snob, which is not really my intention…I love blockbusters, but I don’t want them all the time. Sometimes I want 1960s artsy French films! And I understand Blockbuster not having it, because it would probably be waste of shelf space based on how often they would actually rent it. But isn’t that what libraries are FOR? To stock things of cultural value rather than marketplace value?

So appreciate that library system up in St. Louis, you guys. Use it and love it, because you may not ever have one as good if you move away from St. Louis.

Saying goodbye to St. Louis

I’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to enjoy St. Louis as much as possible. There’s no love lost between me and the Midwest or between me and Missouri, but there are a lot of things I love about St. Louis. Partially, it’s because it’s the only place I’ve ever lived, so there’s a nostalgic “home” element, even though I tend not to be “home”-oriented. And the sad thing is, I know there’s a lot of St. Louis I’ve never experienced, because when I look at Riverfront Times, there are hundreds of restaurants I haven’t heard of, dozens of music venues I’ve never been to, tons of museums and attractions I haven’t seen, etc. Oh, well. Guess I’ll have to come back and visit. ;) But here’s a few things I’ll miss the most (not including people, because duh):

Forest Park
I love Forest Park so much. You can usually find me there every pretty day that I have time to go, either walking under the trees by the Grand Basin, or sitting on Art Hill people-watching, or reading by the stream across from the Muny. I don’t go in the art museum or the zoo or science center much, but I love the fact that they’re there–available and free whenever I feel like popping in. I love the variety of landscape, from the lazy river to the woods in the west, from the European-style Grand Basin to the eastern streams and fake prairies. I love driving home along Lindell and picking out my favorite houses. I love the World’s Fair history and the mark it has left.

Ted Drewes (on Chippewa)
I tried to explain Ted Drewes to my coworker from St. Charles the other day, and she didn’t get it at all. “Why would you want to go somewhere and wait in long lines just to get ice cream, and then have to stand outside to eat it?” The Ted Drewes Experience is ineffable, I guess. How do you explain that it’s precisely the waiting in the lines and the standing outside that makes Ted Drewes what it is? I mean, the ice cream is top-notch, too, but that’s not the reason people turn out week after week all summer.

The Loop
The Tivoli, Vintage Vinyl, Streetside Records, Subterranean Books, Tomatillo’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Fitz’s, Blueberry Hill (sadly, one of the places I always meant to go to but haven’t), the Pageant, streetside musicians, the best Blockbuster in town, the best municipal library in town…all in the space of five blocks. How can you not love it? If I’m bored and just start driving around, as I often do, I almost always end up at least driving through the Loop (yeah, that would be on the way to or from Forest Park). The people-watching can hardly be beat.

The City and County Library systems
It’s an empirical fact that St. Louis has one of the best library systems in the entire United States, especially if you include St. Louis County, St. Charles County, and the various municipal libraries in the reckoning. In St. Louis county alone, there are probably twenty-five or thirty different libraries. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses, so I frequent probably half of them regularly. Between them all, there’s very little you can’t locate, whether you’re looking for books, CDs, or DVDs. I am so library-spoiled that I expect I’ll be missing St. Louis libraries no matter where I go in life.

The Washington University library
And if you can’t find it at the city or county libraries, WashU almost certainly has it. I can spend hours in there, just wandering up and down the aisles and flipping through books here and there. The film section alone takes up like four or five aisles, which is an incredible amount. And WashU isn’t even well-known for its film programs. From what I’ve seen of Baylor’s library, it’s very good, but it doesn’t have the sheer breadth of depth of WashU. (So, you may ask, why did I not just stay here and go to WashU? Tempting it was…but my wanderlust got the better of me, and one of my essential criteria when school-searching was that it be somewhere else, so I could experience living somewhere different for a while.)

Here again I have to confess to a lack of having really experienced St. Louis dining. I’ve found that most people don’t think of Ragazzi’s first when they think of restaurants on the Hill, but it’s the only one my family has ever frequented. Sure, it’s not authentic Italian. But for fun family time, and more great American-Italian food (and drink!) than you can shake a stick at, it’s hard to beat. I’m looking forward to good Mexican food in Texas, but I’m not sure good Italian food is going to be as easy to find as it is in St. Louis.

The Tivoli and the Hi-Pointe, and the Webster Film Series
I hesitated whether to list these or not. I love the indie film theatres, and the indie scene has been growing in St. Louis, which is great to see. But the Austin film scene is so much better that if I get much chance at all to get down to Austin, I probably won’t miss the St. Louis theatres. I decided to put them in just because I can get to them here in about twenty minutes, and Austin is two hours away from Waco, giving St. Louis the convenience edge. And Waco doesn’t have an indie theatre at all, so except for Austin day trips, I’m stuck with multiplex offerings. Unless there are screenings at the university that I haven’t heard about yet.

Patten Books, on Manchester
AKA my favorite used bookstore. It never fails that I go in there and find something that I’ve been dying to get, and it’s like $4.00, rather than $15.00. I always get four or five books at a time, and I’ve never paid more than $18 a trip. It’s awesome, and the people that run it are great…they’ve always got good recommendations based on what you’re buying, and I–I who never talk to anybody–usually get into conversations with them. I know there are great used bookstores in Austin, but I don’t know about Waco. I would guess that being a college town, it has some.

The variety that St. Louis has
I’m sure that any city made up of a lot of small town has this variety, but I love the distinctive characteristics of Kirkwood, Webster, U-City, South City, Clayton, CWE, Downtown…etc. You’d never mistake them for each other. Waco is small enough that you can drive across it in fifteen minutes, and while it does clearly have sections of haves and have-nots, my slight experience there so far suggests that the differences are superficial and artificial, rather than built on a century or more of history as individual cities, like the different cities that now make up Greater St. Louis.

Is it safe to say that I’m much more excited about Baylor as a university than about Waco as a town? The campus is gorgeous, and I’ll probably end up spending most of my time there anyway. A few things I’m not going to miss…the humidity (Waco has some humidity, more than western Texas, but less than here), the inability to get sweet tea, the cold winters, the drivers who won’t let you in when you signal.

An Ode to the Hi-Pointe

Only not really, because I don’t do poetry.

When I went to see Brick last week, I was impressed by the film, but I was equally impressed by the theatre-going experience, a topic that increasingly interests me. I don’t go to the Hi-Pointe Theatre very often, but I must make more of an effort. Let’s start at the beginning.

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