Each week, Now in Rep Cinema compiles the best repertory and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.
The Projection Booth
Tuesday, August 9, 7 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, August 11, 7 p.m. p.m.
Thursday, August 11, 9:10 p.m.
|The Underground Peepshow Presents: Marvelesque
Friday, August 12, 9 p.m.
We feel kind of lazy, racking up back-to-back listings of the Revue’s Spielberg Summer programme in two consecutive weeks. But you know what? It’s summer. And like it or lump it, nothing says summer like Spielberg. And even though there’s plenty of indie and art-house stuff going on this week, it’s a fact that the bulk of indie and arthouse films do not have early CGI dinosaurs. Most important, though, if you were born anywhere between, like, 1984 and 1987, there’s a good chance Jurassic Park is the pinnacle of your summer movie nostalgia.
Looking at it now, by classically Spielbergian standards, there’s a lot wrong with Jurassic Park. At some level, the really great early Spielberg blockbusters (Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T.) are about reconciling the gargantuan marvels of the cinema with the banality of day-to-day life in Middle America. When the mother-ship arrives in Close Encounters, it’s extra-imposing when we remember Richard Dreyfuss’s messy house or his just-as-crummy truck. It not only puts the sense of scale in relief, it posits a near-perfect viewer surrogate. Spielberg pitches his films as much to bedraggled middle-agers as he does to wide-eyed kids, the former slumbering into the cinema to be entertained and being shocked out of their stupor by how thoroughly they’re entertained.
Jurassic Park is a bit too hermetic to pull this off. Apart from the scene up-top in Sam Neil and Laura Dern’s beat-up trailer (which is presumably a temporary home), there’s really nothing to play the bigness of Jurassic Park itself against. And while Dern and Neil seem sufficiently down-to-earthy (it helps that they’re covered in dirt for more-or-less the whole movie), Jurassic Park trades in slicker archetypes. The “cool guy” in Jaws was Richard Dreyfuss’ nasally, puddy shark expert. Here we have a gelled-up Jeff Goldblum, playing a bad boy mathematician, whose shirt, it seems, unbuttons one more button with every scene. Where is the dork Goldblum of The Fly? The one who would try to whisk Geena Davis on a date by uttering that one magic word: cheeseburger? Also Richard Attenborough’s mad scientist showman always got off a little easy, but that’s probably because Spielberg’s heart beats for characters like the mad scientist showman.
But, the thing is this, even if it’s not as good as Jaws (what is?!) and it doesn’t have the same sense of comparative scale of some of Spielberg’s better pictures, it’s only because Jurassic Park is an exercise in size. The race-to-the-bottom blockbuster arms race (manifesting in Godzilla’s telling “SIZE. DOES. MATTER.” tagline) started with Jurassic Park. But that’s not Jurassic Park’s fault, necessarily.
Because remember when it came out, way back there in 1993? Special effects–wise, there was nothing like it. Sure, Terminator 2 gave us the T-1000. But he was just a pile of metallic goo! Spielberg and his team of keyboard-punching, Dennis Nedry–ish wizards gave these creatures weight and texture, and even personality, as with the T-Rex who ends up being the hero of film. These were real-deal dinosaurs. Like the kind we’d read about in all the books and magazines that would clutter up our bedrooms as dino-fever spread in Jurassic Park’s wake. And unlike the bigger, dumber, shittier blockbusters it inadvertently hatched, Jurassic Park is chock-o-block with memorable moments. Stuff like the ripples in the water cup as the T-Rex approaches, or the entire raptors-in-the-kitchen sequence, which is a study in tension on par with anything.
Early on in the film, when Dern, Neil, Goldblum, and co. reach Isla Nublar and see the first dinosaur, their heads pan up as they take it in, astonished by how big and real it looks. It was the same thing seeing these dinosaurs in theatres and again and again on video. And if you’re susceptible to that thing called “movie magic,” Jurassic Park can instill the same slack-jawed wonder.
Also Unspooling…Little Rock
One of the more delightful indie flicks we’ve seen this year, Mike Ott’s Little Rock has found its way to the new Projection Booth. The story of a Japanese brother and sister duo, Rintaro (Rintaro Sawamoto) and Atsuko (co-writer Atsuko Okatsuka), stranded in a podunk California town, Little Rock possesses a sweetness and sincerity that doesn’t come down the pike all too often. Writing about it in April, we said: “Ott’s films proves that Americans are still making real-deal indie films, not just ‘indie’ films distributed by major studios that serve as yet another opportunity for Paul Giamatti to struggle into a pair of unflattering khakis and shove his schlubby mug around the screen.” And we stand by that! So check it out if you haven’t seen it.
Nowadays, people seem to think that Nicolas Cage is some kind of joke. A high-minded, meta-joke, maybe. But a joke nonetheless. Besides this being bullshit (did anyone even see Drive Angry 3-D?!), it also discredits all the time Nicolas Cage spent not baiting people into thinking he’s a joke. Like Moonstruck, which is playing as part of the Lightbox’s tribute to Norman Jewison. And besides Cage being totally charming in his wooing of Cher, it also has John “Marty Crane” Mahoney putting the moves on Olympia Dukakis. And it won a mess of Oscars, if that’s your metric for a film’s quality. Besides all the Academy Awards, though, Moonstruck is a prime example of first-stage Cage, before he’d mutate into an action star and then meta-mutate into a wingnut crazy person.
The Underground Peepshow Presents: Marvelesque
It’s cool that besides really making a name for themselves as an essential Toronto rep cinema (if not the essential Toronto rep cinema), the Underground has also become a hotbed for steamy burlesque. Like that Holy Boobies, Batman! event that happened a while ago. Or this, Marvelesque, a Marvel Comics–themed burlesque cavalcade. Heck, without the Underground, we probably wouldn’t even know that Toronto has such a rich burlesque culture. And what’s better than comics-themed burlesque? Nothing, we wage. All the spandex and disproportionately-sized relevant body parts are already there. Babes in Hulk-hands! What more do you want! All your confused, cross-wired adolescent sexual fantasies are coming true, live on stage!