Wednesday, November 30, 2011

See • Hear • Feel • Film shines at BMFI

By Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, Bryn Mawr Film Institute

BMFI’s third-grade visual literacy program, See • Hear • Feel • Film, is off to another great start for this school year. For the fifth year in a row, we are thrilled to have students from the Gotwals Elementary School in Norristown and the Haverford School participating. Returning for their fourth year are students from the Conshohocken Elementary School in the Colonial School District, and children from the Westtown School, as well. Also returning are girls from the Baldwin School, kids from the Gesu School in Philadelphia, and students from Whitehall Elementary School in Norristown.

See • Hear • Feel • Film, created by Anne Marie Santoro of the Jacob Burns Film Center, teaches third-grade students critical viewing skills and the cinematic techniques of storytelling. Using movies to spark their own creative expression, the children learn to write with clarity, confidence, and joy, and improve their own storytelling skills. The curriculum, designed to meet the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, consists of viewing short movies from around the world and participating in writing exercises and creative collaboration.

Baldwin School students (above)
enjoyed the Unit I activities at BMFI
during a recent school visit.
Learning to think critically about visual media and understanding how filmmakers use the tools and techniques of their medium to communicate with viewers is an essential part of a 21st-century education and crucial to being an informed citizen in today’s culture. While the program focuses on cinema, the lessons gleaned from it are integral to more thoughtful engagement with other visual media, such as television and the web.

Personally, as a film educator, I can say that I wish I’d been exposed to a program like this when I was in grade school.  Thinking of the potential for more and better engagement with film and other media this program gives its participants, it’s too bad I had to wait until high school or college to begin to learn the concepts it imparts. I’ll never know what the head start on my understanding of media that a program like this gives students could’ve meant for my education and even career.

If you’d like to learn more about See • Hear • Feel • Film, please visit or contact me, BMFI’s Director of Education.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Films to Feast On

By Mike Mazzanti, BMFI Intern

Starting today, November 23, Bryn Mawr Film Institute will begin screening two new films stirring up Oscar buzz. My Week with Marilyn tells the story of the tension between Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier during the production of The Prince and the Showgirl and is led by a mesmerizing performance from Michelle Williams. Also showing is The Descendants, Alexander Payne's new dramedy that follows a land baron (George Clooney) as he attempts to reconnect with his two daughters. Critics have hailed it as “terrific” and “near perfect”.
My Week with Marilyn and The Descendants start today at BMFI

However, if you were looking for a movie themed more around turkey, mashed potatoes, and dinner tables filled with family and friends, here are five filling films for your Thanksgiving holiday feasting (though I don’t recommend adding gravy):

First, regarded as one of Woody Allen’s best, Hannah and Her Sisters is a sharp, tender, and witty comedy about three sisters, two Thanksgivings, and a tangled web of relationships. The film won three Academy Awards, for its sparkling script and performances by Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest.

Katie Holmes in Pieces of April

For a second helping, Pieces of April revolves around black-sheep April Burns (Katie Holmes) and her attempts to make the perfect Thankgiving dinner for her dying mother (Oscar-nominee Patricia Clarkson) and the rest of her estranged family in this intelligent and heartfelt 2003 indie dramedy.

Want something different on your plate? Ang Lee's The Ice Storm is a star-studded drama (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, and Elijah Wood) centered on a wealthy Connecticut family during the weekend after Thanksgiving in 1973 who find their lives spiraling out of control.

Al Pacino and Chris O'Donnell in Scent of a Woman

For more drama (with touches of comedy), Al Pacino gives a masterful performance in Scent of a Woman, the story of a prep school student in need of money who “babysits” a blind man (Pacino). The classic Thanksgiving scene may or may not end with Pacino putting someone in a chokehold. “Hoo-ahh!”

Finally, if you want something less touching and dramatic and with more killer turkeys, give thanks for the irreverent and ridiculous Thankskilling, which follows a group of teens getting axed off by a homicidal turkey. Thankskilling has become a fan favorite as a horrible-but-hilarious low-budget horror-comedy flick with a tagline so crude it cannot be quoted here.

So, be it gripping drama or heartfelt comedy, Pacino chokeholds or killer turkeys, this list should satisfy your holiday movie craving. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day Discount

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager, BMFI

Today, Veterans' Day, Bryn Mawr Film Insitute honors our nation's troops by offering discounted admission for all films playing today to anyone who presents their military ID.

Just show your military ID at the Box Office and receive BMFI members' price admission ($5) to any show all day long. We're currently featuring the Sundance hit Martha Marcy May Marlene and The Ides of March, directed by and starring George Clooney. Both films are showing at 4:00, 7:15, and 9:30 today.

Thank you for your service to our country.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Film Preservationist Robert A. Harris: The Winning Question

By Devin Wachs,  Public Relations Manager, BMFI

We at BMFI are looking forward to hosting renowned film preservationist and producer Robert A. Harris for a dinner and multimedia talk on Thursday, December 1. Tickets are available now at the Box Office and online here.

One lucky winner will attending the lecture for free! Last week, we offered two tickets to Mr. Harris's lecture to the person who came up with the best question to ask Mr. Harris (as judged by BMFI staff). I hope you'll all come to the event and ask your questions in person, but we can only have one winner.

And the free tickets go to... Alan Webber! If he could ask one question of Mr. Harris, this is what he'd ask:
Vertigo is certainly one of the most beautiful films ever made and the use of color has meaning in the film. The “green” of Madeleine’s Jaguar is repeated elsewhere in the film and is no “ordinary green”. How does the preservationist assure that this “green” doesn’t become “ordinary” in the preservation process and adheres to Hitchcock’s original color scheme of over 50 years ago?
That is one detailed question! I for one look forward to hearing Mr. Harris's answer in person on December 1. Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions. You can read the other entries in the comments here.

Alan, congratulations, and please contact me to redeem your tickets.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Win Tickets to Meet Hollywood Film Preservationist Robert A. Harris

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager

Not unlike Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (which Robert A. Harris restored), sometimes films need to be refreshed and polished to be seen for the beauties they are. Film preservationist Robert A. Harris is both Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering to these tarnished gems, gently cajoling new color and life out of some of the twentieth century's best cinematic masterpieces. Learn about his fascinating process and hear his stories of Hollywood past and present at a special illustrated lecture and dinner on Thursday, December 1.

In addition to My Fair Lady, Robert A. Harris is responsible for restoring Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather trilogy, Vertigo, Rear WindowSpartacus, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and more. A fascinating man (and quite the raconteur), he has numerous stories from the Hollywood trenches as a producer (The Grifters) and film preservationist.

A scene from The Godfather, before (left) and after Robert A. Harris's restoration.

Be a Winner:
Do you want to find out about where he gets the film prints that he restores? What it was like to work with Martin Scorsese and David Lean? How the change from 35mm to digital effects film preservation?

In the comments here, post one question you'd like to ask Robert A. Harris. We'll choose our favorite question. The author will receive two tickets to hear Robert A. Harris's illustrated lecture in the theater, where they'll be able to ask him in person!

Entries must be posted by Monday, November 7 at noon. We'll announce the winners next week.

Please note: When posting your comment, you will be asked to select a log-in from a list. If you do not have a Google account, etc., please select either 1) "Name/URL", which requires that you have a valid website address of your own, or 2) "Anonymous". If you select the latter, please be sure to sign your name in the post. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BMFI Manager Alexis Mayer: Why I Love DEAD MAN

BMFI Theater Manager and film preservationist Alexis Mayer writes about why she loves Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, which is being shown tonight in conjunction with BMFI's Film Education Spotlight series and four-week course on Jarmusch's films. Her take on the "acid western" is the latest in a series of posts began this summer about the movies that BMFI's staff and community members love.

Why I Love Dead Man
By Alexis Mayer, Theater Manager

The first time I saw Dead Man was sometime in 2009 in Rochester New York. I was lucky enough to catch it in 35mm. Something terrible had happened that day and so I went in a daze and came to at the end when [SPOILER ALERT] William Blake (Johnny Depp) is in the canoe staring up at the sky as it floats away from the shore. It's a powerful moment and I realized, "Wow, this is an amazing movie, and I just missed the entire thing!" 

The film is full of these moments. When I actually saw it (on DVD this time), I had to watch it a second time the very next day. It's one of the few films that I can say I enjoy watching over and over and over again. My favorite thing about this film is it's tone. It's a fantasy western shot in black and white with stunning scenes, an incredible original score by Neil Young, and weird characters played by actors like Crispin Glover. 

I find myself lingering on every bit of dialogue; it's purposeful, clever, and funny in a way that is nothing short of perfect. One of my favorite lines is when John Dickinson (Robert Mitchum) tells Conway Twill (Michael Wincott), "You're a real good killer, but be sure you keep that goddamn trap shut." Another is during my favorite scene in the woods when Big George Drakoulious (Billy Bob Thornton) asks his friend Salvatore 'Sally' Jenko (Iggy Pop), "What's a Philistine?" and Sally responds, "Well, it's just a real dirty person." 

Dead Man is full of cameos, like Iggy Pop's cross-dressing
Salvatore "Sally" (left), shown here with star Johnny Depp.
This movie is so good! Don't miss the chance to see it today in 35mm at Bryn Mawr Film Institute!

Theater Manager Alexis Mayer is a film handler and projectionist with a B.F.A. in Visual and Media Arts from Emerson College and a professional certificate in the Preservation and Restoration of Motion Picture Films from the L. Jefferey Selznick School of Film Preservation.

See Dead Man tonight, Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 pm. Film critic and author Chris Long, M.A., will introduce the screening. Watch a trailer and buy tickets here.