Monday, August 29, 2011

Devin Wachs: Why I Love GONE WITH THE WIND

We all have films we love here at BMFI, and Wednesday we're showing Gone with the Wind. Read why this 1939 classic makes Public Relations Manager Devin Wachs believe in time-travel. Check back for additional posts by other BMFI staff and community members that explore the movies we love.

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager, BMFI

I first saw Gone with the Wind on Thanksgiving when I was eight or nine years old. The film took my breath away (and still does). Even seeing it on our 24” TV set with the holiday buzz going on all around me, Scarlett captured my heart with her spirit and spunk in the face of the Civil War and its aftermath. What a character! What passion! What resilience! She’s not “nice”—she uses people and is petty and self-serving—but she is a survivor, very human and surprisingly sympathetic, thanks in large part to Vivien Leigh’s Oscar-winning performance. For the next few years, it seemed like Gone with the Wind was on TV every Thanksgiving morning, and as God as my witness, I’d always watch as much of it as I could. It became kind of an unofficial holiday tradition.

Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) was a frequent Thanksgiving "guest" as I was growing up. BMFI is showing Gone with the Wind on the big screen this Wednesday, August 31.
But nothing beat seeing it on the big screen a few years later. It was re-released to theaters in the summer of 1998 and my friend’s mom drove us to Portland, OR, an hour-and-a-half drive, to see it on the big screen. It was worth the trip. The name of the theater escapes me, but I do remember red velvet curtains and plush seats. I felt like I was going back in time.   
Because that’s what this film does for me. The story sweeps me up in a bizarre, manufactured nostalgia for the lost Antebellum South, a place that I can never really go, unless Doc Brown shows up in a DeLorean. Realistically, I wouldn’t want to—hoop skirts are overrated and my modern, “Left Coast” mindset would not go over well in that social and political climate. But because the film tells the story of the era by focusing on Scarlett’s individual struggles and the forces that shape her, even a modern viewer is permitted to look beyond the outdated politics and racial injustice (both of the Antebellum South and 1939 Hollywood) to appreciate the character and the way the war changes her life. You connect with her, even if you don’t like her. Even a Yankee girl like me can identify with Scarlett’s sense of loss over the life she’s known, her fear of poverty, and the human suffering that she was never prepared by education or birth to witness, even if we don’t hold the same values. Scarlett is a product of her time, just like the film is a product of 1939, for better and for worse.

The film's vision of the Old South pulls in the viewer because we see it through Scarlett's eyes.

When I see Gone with the Wind, I’m not just taking a trip to Tara, but also to an important era in Hollywood. 1939 is widely considered to be Hollywood’s best year. Yet people were so excited for this all-star adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel that the film received a three-day premiere in Atlanta. It stayed in theaters for two years upon its original release. Even with such stiff competition as The Wizard of Oz, Ninotchka, and Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gone with the Wind was nominated for thirteen Oscars in twelve categories and won eight (plus two honorary awards). By watching the film—especially in a theater like the original audiences would have done—I am connected to the other people who have shared this cinematic treasure over the years.

Gone with the Wind's Atlanta premiere was a three-day event drawing thousands.

Gone with the Wind reminds me why I love cinema, for all it was and can be. It reminds me of the power of cinema to transport the viewer and how it connects the audience with a story. That’s why I’m going to be lining up with some of you (hopefully) on August 31, to see it for the second time in a theater. I hope the film means as much to you as it does to me.

Devin Wachs is the Public Relations Manager for Bryn Mawr Film Institute. She joined BMFI in 2005, following her graduation from Bryn Mawr College. If you send BMFI a message on Facebook or Twitter or are interested in onscreen sponsorships, she's the one who'll be in touch!

Gone with the Wind is showing on Wednesday, August 31 at 7:00pm at BMFI. You can get your tickets now at the Box Office or online here.

Bonus: Bake 425 will be offering free sample slices of their pizza in the arcade from 6:30pm to 7:00pm.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Salesmen and Librarians Delight at THE MUSIC MAN Sing-along

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager

The crowd wowed at last night's sing-along screening of The Music Man with over 200 attendees of all ages, many of whom came in costume! We had Marion the Librarians, travelling salesmen, a Grecian Urn, and even one "Gary, Indiana". Check out some of our favorite costumes below.

Sing-along Success
The crowd was out the door for The Music Man Sing-along.

Greek 'n Gary
Gioia Sharp came as the head of the Ladies' Auxiliary Committee, Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, played in the film by Hermione Gingold. (Fans might remember that the women practice posing like Grecian urns.) Gioia's brother, Greg DiLoreto, is Gary, Indiana! 

Swarthmore College librarian (and sing-along regular) Danie Martin takes a break from work to dress up as... Marion the Librarian! 
Join the Band
Loann Scarpato toots her own horn... er, trombone.

Study break!
Cara Anne got into the spirit as Marion the Librarian, posing here with pal Emily Trueswell.

Travelling Saleswoman
Watch out, Harold Hill, Jennie Teti might beat you to the sale.  

White Glove Test
Doug and Anne Holsclawe were beautifully accessorized with a parasol, white gloves, hat, and, of course, the complimentary popcorn they received for wearing a costume!   

Thanks for coming everyone! An enthusiastic audience is what makes these events so much fun.

If you already like our sing-alongs or think you might want to attend your first one, we have two favorites back at BMFI this fall: The Wizard of Oz on Tuesday, November 22 and The Sound of Music on Wednesday, December 21! Remember, if you wear a costume to our sing-alongs, you get a free small popcorn.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D.: Three Reasons Why I Love JAWS

We all have films we love here at BMFI, and next Tuesday we're showing Jaws. Our Director of Education gives you three reasons why he loves this Spielberg blockbuster. Check back for additional posts by other BMFI staff and community members that explore the movies we love.

Three Reasons Why I Love Jaws
By Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., BMFI Director of Education

Jaws (1975) is impressive, like its antagonist, because it is efficient, it never stops moving, and it forever changed the way we look at its kind. But I love it for all the movies it made possible over the last thirty-six years.

How much should fans of mainstream cinematic entertainment love Jaws? Let me count the ways:

1. While it wasn’t Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical film, the success of Jaws made the director’s subsequent career possible. This means, if you’re among the multitudes who love Close Encounters of the Third Kind, any of the Indiana Jones movies, E.T., Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, or War of the Worlds, you owe a debt of gratitude to Jaws. But it’s not that simple, because even though they’re smaller films, if Spielberg hadn’t made these blockbusters, he wouldn’t have had the clout to make The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Schindler’s List, Amistad, or Munich. Furthermore, without this success, his name/role as producer wouldn’t have been sufficient to “greenlight” Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Men in Black, Transformers, or Super 8. So, if you like any of these films, thank Mr. Spielberg, and his mechanical shark that couldn’t.*

2. Summer used to be the last time of year a studio would release a big budget movie. The conventional wisdom used to be to open big pictures around holidays and/or on a few screens, so critical acclaim and word of mouth could build a potential audience. Jaws changed all this by opening on hundreds of screens at once, and not relying on/hoping for support from critics, and the result completely altered the industry’s perception of the potential profit for such a film. While this move to increasingly expensive, wide-release, (summer) tent-pole productions has certainly produced some negative results [e.g. Godzilla (1998), Transformers 2], without it, audiences would have been denied such thoughtful crowd-pleasers as The Dark Knight, such bold financial gambles as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and such technologically ambitious works as Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Avatar.

Roy Scheider as Chief Brody and Robert Shaw as Quint team up with a shark specialist (played by Richard Dreyfuss) to track down the giant great white shark terrorizing Amity Island in Jaws

3. Jaws was one of the earliest and most successful examples of a high-concept film. Essentially, such a movie is one that is extremely saleable because of the simplicity of its premise and the potency of its imagery. So, without the success of Jaws (massive killer shark terrorizes summer beach town), we might never have had such entertaining films as:
          a. Beverly Hills Cop (A wiseacre Detroit cop goes to Beverly Hills.)
          b. Jurassic Park (We can clone dinosaurs. Let’s open an amusement park.)
          c. Ghostbusters (Wiseacre “scientists” fight ghosts. Hilarity ensues.)
          d. The Sixth Sense (A precocious child sees dead people.)
          e. Armageddon (An asteroid is hurtling towards earth, and we’ve just got to blow it up.)
          f. Top Gun (Tom Cruise is a fighter pilot who plays by his own rules.)
          g. The Firm (Tom Cruise is a Harvard-educated lawyer who plays by his own rules.)**
          h. A Few Good Men (Tom Cruise is another Harvard-educated lawyer who plays by his own rules.)**

* The mechanical shark, nicknamed “Bruce” (after Spielberg’s attorney at the time, Bruce Ramer), was notorious for its frequent breakdowns and very sporadic performance. These challenges necessitated (or facilitated) Spielberg making the film much more suspenseful than horrific—a quality that many people consider to be at the core of the film’s appeal and success.

**I’m sort of joking with these last two, but you get the idea.

Dr. Douglas received his Ph.D. from the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University. He will introduce BMFI's 35mm screening of Jaws on Tuesday, August 16 at 7:00pm. If you want to learn more about the film, he's also teaching a Summer Classics Seminar about Jaws, starting at 6:30pm. 

Monday, August 8, 2011


BMFI intern Zoe Portman continues the Why I Love Movies series of blog posts. Learn why BMFI's screening of Creature of the Black Lagoon fulfills her long-time ambition. Check back for additional posts by other BMFI staff and community members that explore the movies we love.

Why I Love Creature from the Black Lagoon
Zoe Portman, BMFI Intern  

This summer I will finally be able to realize the goal I’ve nursed for nearly a decade: to see Creature from the Black Lagoon in the original 3-D. 

I was thirteen when I saw Creature from the Black Lagoon for the first time.  I had gone to a horror movie convention over Halloween weekend, and met Ben Chapman, the stuntman who portrayed the Gill-man on land (the 6’5” septuagenarian autographed my friend’s sneaker).  I was thrilled to see Creature in the original 3-D, which was being shown in honor of its 50th anniversary. As I was sitting in a conference room which had been temporarily converted into a screening room, a bombshell fell: the expected shipment of 3-D glasses had never arrived and we would have to watch the film in a mere two dimensions. Since my ride wasn’t due for hours, and these were the days when cell phones were still the exception rather than the rule, I had no choice except to stay, despite my disappointment.

The Gill-man's iconic swim through the Black Lagoon

I emerged from the murky depths of the dark room six hours later, glazed, having watched all three of the Creature films. In addition to the original, we saw Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. Although my higher cognitive functions were shot after hours of exposure to the kind of cheesy dialogue and overacting that only the 1950s could produce, I was still able to determine that Creature from the Black Lagoon was far superior to its sequels.  Black Lagoon catapulted the Gill-man into classic Universal monster status, particularly with the iconic scene where he swims through the lagoon, just feet below the unaware object of his affections. In contrast, the sequels burned his gills off and dressed him awkwardly in clothes, and proved that true love can never exist between a prehistoric amphibious humanoid and a beautiful ichthyologist.
Emerging from the murky depths...

Creature from the Black Lagoon is shown in conjunction with another Jack Arnold 3-D extravaganza, It Came from Outer Space.  These films were the first two Universal films to be filmed in 3-D, and are shown as part of our 3-D: What’s all the Fuss? Series.  See Creature from the Black Lagoon on Wednesday, August 10, at 7:00pm.  I know I’ll be the first in line to get my tickets!

Zoe Portman is a Film Studies student entering her fourth year at Hampshire College, currently interning at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.