Friday, February 24, 2012

Brief and Definitely Sweet: The 2012 Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts

Here at BMFI, we are excited for the Academy Awards! We'll be celebrating in style at our Oscar Party, and in addition to showing many of the nominated features over the past year (including The Artist and The Descendants), the Oscar-nominated animatedlive action, and documentary shorts have recently taken our screens by storm. BMFI guest blogger Diane Mina Weltman presents her review of the animated shorts below. If you've seen them, which one will you be rooting for on Oscar night?

Brief and Definitely Sweet
By Diane Mina Weltman, BMFI Guest Blogger

And the Oscar goes to...

That familiar pregnant pause on Oscar night gives viewers one more chance to silently choose the winner before it is revealed. Up until that moment, who will win Best Actor and Actress, Best Director and Best Picture are topics on moviegoers’ tongues for weeks before the Academy Awards ceremony.

But when is the last time you heard someone argue the finer points of what animated short film will capture the golden statue? Thanks to some clever marketing, the likelihood of just such a conversation is greater than ever as Oscar’s lesser known contenders have become more accessible to filmgoers.

Bryn Mawr Film Institute (along with other area art cinemas) is screening three categories of Oscar-nominated films that otherwise would go unnoticed by the general public. Separate screenings of the nominated live action shorts, animated shorts, and documentary shorts are being shown to better acquaint movie fans with these time-condensed genres. ShortsHD opened up this annual screening practice in 2005 and audiences have jumped at the chance to learn more about entries in these genres.
As a film enthusiast, seeing them makes me feel like an Oscar insider.

The animated short films emotionally transported me back to my Saturday-morning-cartoon-filled youth. I watched transfixed at the colorful, whimsical parade of images floating across the screen. The cartoon analogy ended there, however, because these films swim in sophisticated waters. Themes of isolation, hope, the environment, parental expectations, and more are interpreted in broad color spectrums using minimal dialogue.

The notable differences between each animated short film emphasize the endless creative options filmmakers have available today to realize their vision.
"Dimanche/Sunday", directed by Patrick Doyon

Two Canadian entries, "Dimanche/Sunday" and "Wild Life", use the vast Canadian landscape as backdrop to their stories. A young boy and his routine weekly visit with relatives is juxtaposed with a speeding train that literally shakes everything around it as it frequently passes by the sparse homes in "Dimanche". No dialogue is used as the boy’s understated isolation and childhood ennui are bracketed by oversized adults and the overpowering locomotive. Life is moving too fast and loud on the outside while the child’s world reflects a slow, quiet interior. The “T”-shaped feet drawn on every character made me chuckle and created a cartoonish style to the black and white short.

"Wild Life", directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

"Wild Life"’s sweeping vistas of softly colored quilt-like images make up the countryside where a young adventurous man of means sets off to be a gentleman farmer. With an overly romanticized view of his new surroundings, the young dandy is a curiosity to his few rural neighbors as well as a disappointment to his entitled father. He realizes the gravity of his choice as winter approaches and he literally succumbs to its overwhelming power. It reminded me of the 2007 feature film Into the Wild and how an untamed world can crush the most curious of souls.

"A Morning Stroll", directed by Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe

A lone, unsuspecting chicken saunters along the same urban street in 1959, 2009, and 2059 in "A Morning Stroll". While the chicken follows the same path, hops up several steps, pecks on the same front door to gain entrance, nothing is the same around him. The nonplussed capon travels through three vastly different scenarios before he reaches his destination, making this stark short film the most rambunctious of all the contenders. The bird’s journey is short, but each time period presents its own brand of danger and dark forces, giving a pointed view of humanity’s decline over time. The bird reminded me of a much slower, plumper version of the beloved Looney Tunes character, the Road Runner, as things and people explode around him while he casually continues on his way.

"La Luna", Disney’s Pixar Studios offering, presents a child’s wide-eyed wonder as he helps his father and grandfather harness the moon to do some lunar clean up. The threesome climb a ladder into space to sweep up the sparkling glass stars covering the moon. Both men rediscover the magic of their duties as they watch the youngster embrace the enchanted lunar surface. Moonlight and starlight illuminate the human warmth in this sweet, multi-generational tale.

Pixar's "La Luna", directed by Enrico Casarosa

My favorite of the bunch, however, was "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore". We meet the bookish Mr. Morris as a hurricane-like wind blows him and his book stacks off an iron-railed porch in New Orleans (a Katrina reference perhaps?) and sends him into a world of life-like books. He hesitantly enters a wondrous home library where books dance and play with exuberance and he learns to embrace their whimsy. Books as birds strike the perfect chord as they excitedly flutter when Mr. Morris gives them attention. The film demonstrated for me how we, as readers, are transported by books, if we just allow ourselves to become lifted into their worlds.
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore", directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

Three additional films titled "Amazonia", "Skylight", and "Nullarbor" rounded out the animated short offerings and added a rich dimension to the whole experience. You can bet I won’t be getting popcorn out of the microwave this Sunday when the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film is about to be presented.

This year I’ll whisper my personal choice, like any other Oscar insider.

Diane Mina Weltman is a BMFI member who enjoys attending performing and visual arts events and writing about them. Check out her blog, A Subject for Consideration.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Presidential Selections: 6 Films to Celebrate Presidents' Day

By Mike Mazzanti, BMFI Intern

Do you wish you could party in the White House this Presidents' Day but don’t, in fact, live in the White House? Well, fortunately, I’ve elected a few films to bring you into a president’s world from the comfort of your own home.

Three of the Founding Fathers in 1776.
If you’re interested in celebrating Washington and Jefferson, 1776 is the candidate for you. Adapted from the hit Broadway musical and starring William Daniels and Howard Da Silva as two of America’s founding fathers, 1776 has been hailed as “a star-spangled, all-singing delight” (The Las Vegas Review-Journal), and a film “every American should watch ... once a year” (Common Sense Media).

Young Mr. Lincoln
John Ford’s classic Young Mr. Lincoln is the highly fictionalized account of the early life of Abraham Lincoln. Driven by Ford’s fine direction and a spellbinding performance from Henry Fonda, Young Mr. Lincoln received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and has been called both “a masterpiece” (Chicago Reader) and “one of the decade’s most significant works” (Variety).

Henry Fonda as a young Honest Abe.

The Conspirator
Robert Redford’s atmospheric and compelling courtroom drama The Conspirator follows Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), who is charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Swearing innocence, Mary must rely on her reluctant lawyer, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), to uncover the truth. The star-studded drama also includes Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Kline, Alexis Bledel, and Justin Long.

Wright and McAvoy in The Conspirator.

Hoffman and Redford in
All the President's Men.

All the President’s Men
All the President’s Men is the smart and gripping drama/thriller about reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) who uncovered the details about the Watergate scandal which led to President Nixon’s resignation. Nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, Alan J. Pakula’s classic was also nominated for Best Picture, and won four Oscars including Best Adapted Screenplay.

Chronicling the life and presidency of George W. Bush, Oliver Stone’s W. is led by an astounding performance from Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, True Grit) in the title role. Called both “harsh” and “surprisingly sympathetic,” W. nevertheless fascinates thanks to Brolin’s engrossing and humanizing performance.

Brolin Portraying George Bush in W.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Finally, Presidents' Day would not be complete without watching the trailer for Timur Bekmambetov’s (Wanted) adaptation of the New York Times bestseller Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. That’s right. It’s Honest Abe hacking up vampires with his trusty axe. Be warned: this trailer might shock those who were unaware that our 16th president was moonlighting as a slayer of nocturnal bloodsuckers.

So change into something formal this Presidents' Day and embark on a presidential journey through the power of cinema.

Friday, February 17, 2012

“The Red Machine” – Breaking Codes, Secrets, Trust

By Diane Mina Weltman, BMFI Guest Blogger

US Navy code breakers sit in a stark, unremarkable room. They mechanically reveal messages from Japanese correspondence using time-tested code-cracking methods. Their precision is abruptly broken when a new code stymies one seasoned operator.

What to do?

This is the opening from which the movie The Red Machine reveals a super-secret spy mission undertaken in Washington, D.C. in 1935.  BMFI screened the deliciously intense film on Saturday, February 11, along with a comical companion short “newsreel”, Gandhi at the Bat. Filmmakers Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm, appearing with actor Roger Ainslie (Cmdr. Petrie), were all in attendance to answer audience questions.

The Red Machine actor Roger Ainslie and filmmakers Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm pose with the poster for the spy caper in BMFI's lobby.

Stephanie and Alec brought their enthusiasm for the spy/detective movie genre (along with fun movie swag) and discussed how they concocted the espionage film. Their deep interest in detective-style storytelling began with a book. “We were in New Orleans book shop and came upon The American Magic Codes: Ciphers and the Defeat of Japan,” Stephanie recalled. The US military’s use of a safecracker to steal a book containing Japanese communication codes sparked for them. That idea ignited when they were making the Gandhi short film.

“The actors from Gandhi inspired us and gave face to the story we were trying to shape,” Stephanie said. Based on a short story of the same name by Chet Williamson in a 1983 New Yorker magazine, Gandhi is a supposedly secret newsreel about the peacemaker’s 1933 visit to the US in which he attends a Yankees vs. A’s baseball game. The hilarious writing was brought to life in part through the authentic-looking visual effects that Stephanie and Alec created.

Lt. F. Ellis Coburn (Lee Perkins) and Eddie Doyle (Donal Thoms-Capello) 

Petite and wearing a t-shirt with the word ‘SPY’ on it, Stephanie explained that she and her partner look at spy themes for the fun challenges they present for the audience and themselves. “We’re drawn to pulp, spy, and thief storylines for the intrigue everyone experiences.” Intrigue fills each scene of The Red Machine, as the plot crescendos. A naval officer and safecracker are paired to secure a Japanese code book locked away in a US embassy. Their unlikely match seems questionable, until they discover others’ secret agendas.

The Red Machine’s title is based on the names US Navy code breakers would give to the machines they worked to easily identify country and code origins. “We tried to get a photograph of the real Red Machine,” Stephanie added. The request for a photo from the NSA reaped no bounty, so they looked at lots of photos of cipher machines and collaborated with their prop master to build what they thought it might look like. However, two years later they found one such photo on the NSA website. “We asked the wrong question,” she laughingly added. ”The machine was always there, but we literally asked for a photo of it. The right question would have been, 'Can you take a photo of it and send it to us?’”

Literal translations aside, the device created for the film was seen by Stephanie and Alec as the vehicle to set the characters in motion. “The idea of this machine was as a sort of precursor to what eventually would become the computer,” Stephanie noted.

The couple’s teamwork continued in post-production with Stephanie working as the primary editor, and Alec as sound editor. To maintain objectivity, they followed advice from a colleague who understood the pitfalls of working on a project with a partner. “A friend suggested that we remember to keep a pair of fresh eyes on each step,” Stephanie recalled. Stephanie would edit the film and Alec was the ‘fresh eyes’ to her choices. Likewise, after Alec did sound editing, Stephanie offered her opinions.

Eddie (Thoms-Capello) puts his skills to work in The Red Machine

As for their unintended code used to describe how they felt about the difficulty of their projects on a given day, they used The New York Times crossword day of the week as their opinion shorthand. Stephanie explained, “You know, Monday puzzles are usually the easiest ones, and by Friday, they’ve grown substantially more difficult. So we would say something like ‘this looks like a Tuesday,’ to communicate how close to the mark something was.” I thought their use of daily puzzle appearance was the perfect tool for filmmakers who are so taken with clever mystery.

Asked about the challenges they faced in making the self-financed film, Alec (a possible doppelganger for actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman) used the analogy of a mine car. “Keeping the mine car on the rails in the mine shaft as much as possible was, by far, the biggest challenge for me,” he said adding “there are so many factors that can push you off course.”

Stephanie’s reply was introspective: “Saying our goodbyes.” She added, “Once the script was done, it was sad but we knew we had to cast the film so that made me happy.” The cycle of one piece ending and one beginning juggled the sadness and joy throughout until the film’s eventual completion. The couple’s mix of practical and intangible reflections reminded me, an avid movie goer, that the human factor behind the movie magic is always present on and off the screen.
Some props and a costume from The Red Machine were on display in the atrium.
There were a lot of bean dishes (inexpensive protein) on the prop menu used for a scene in a Depression-era diner!

Stephanie’s closing remarks regarding the choice of the film’s time period offered a deeper glimpse into the couple’s purposeful approach to films. “Looking back on those times, we know they were very rough,” she shared, noting the Depression years and early events in pre-WWII Europe. “It’s our way of saying we got through those times and can get through these as well.”

Diane Mina Weltman is a BMFI member who enjoys attending performing and visual arts events and writing about them. Check out her blog, A Subject for Consideration.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Winner of "The Late Show" Spring Programming Contest

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager, BMFI

In January, we ran our second ever programming contest for The Late Show film series, which features unusual and underseen cult films on select Friday nights at 11:30 pm. We received some excellent programming suggestions for the series, both submitted on our blog and sent directly to our programmer. Of the twenty or so submitted, we selected a winning entry, and, now that we've booked the film, we're ready to announce the lucky winner to the world (i.e. you). Drumroll, please...

And the winner is... John Nolan, for suggesting Blood and Lace! John has won four tickets for him and his friends to go see Blood and Lace on the big screen on Friday, May 11, plus four popcorn and drink passes. He will also introduce the film the night of the event. Congrats, John! Here's his entry:
Blood and Lace (1971). Leonard Maltin, in his Movie & Video Guide, gives it a "BOMB" and advises, "Don't bother." Psychotronic author Michael J. Weldon describes it as "one of the sickest PG-rated films ever made." However, the authors of the Overlook Encyclopedia of Horror Films rave that its "attack on the hypocrisy of small-town America is absolutely unrelenting." I stand firmly in the Overlook camp. This forgotten drive-in flick (and staple of the late, great Channel 48's Creature Double Feature) stars the legendary Gloria Grahame ("awesome in her matter-of-fact portrayal of human depravity," according to the Overlook Encyclopedia) as the corrupt headmistress of an orphanage, features such familiar faces as Vic Tayback, Milton Selzer, and Len Lesser, and a script involving all sorts of unsavory topics (arson, hammer murders, attempted rape, incest, torture, and blackmail). This is a cult film just waiting to happen, and BMFI could be the place to launch it.
The Late Show series started off with a bang in January with a huge crowd for The Room. The third entry in the series, the surreal Japanese horror flick House, plays this Friday, February 17, followed by the bizarre Oscar-nominated Greek drama Dogtooth on Friday, March 16, and the Monkees' Head on Friday, March 30, which won our winter programming contest.

A sneak peak at the spring The Late Show schedule:

Friday, April 13, 11:30 pm
This is one of our programmer's personal favorites.

Friday, April 27, 11:30 pm
A twisted nod to Administrative Professionals' Day, earlier that week.

Friday, May 11, 11:30 pm
Blood and Lace

Friday, May 25, 11:30 pm
Kiss Me Deadly
BMFI's Programming Intern, Daniel Santelli, Jr., suggested this film noir fave, which will be shown on 35mm!

Details about our upcoming programming will be coming in a few weeks. In the meantime, thanks again for everyone's contest entries and suggestions for The Late Show series. We hope that you'll keep them coming!

IN A LONELY PLACE and Four More Anti-Valentine's Day Flicks

By Mike Mazzanti, BMFI Intern

Romance does not fill the air for everyone this Valentine’s Day. If you find yourself in a lonely place today, the dreaded fourteenth of February, Bryn Mawr Film Institute has the perfect solution to break the romantic tradition. At 7:00 pm, BMFI will be showing the Humphrey Bogart noir classic In a Lonely Place. Suspected of murder, burnt-out screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) begins a dangerous relationship with Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) after she provides the police with a solid alibi to clear his name. However, doubt and suspicion begin pushing the lovers apart in this taut thriller.

However, if your couch’s calls are too alluring, here are a four more anti-Valentine’s Day films to reassure you that being single isn’t always so bad:

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1941 noir mystery Suspicion, Academy Award-winner Joan Fontaine plays Lina, a shy English woman who meets handsome gambler Johnnie Asygarth (Cary Grant) on a train. Married soon after, Lina begins to suspect Johnnie is not the man she fell for after his friend and business partner is mysteriously murdered. Blending drama and suspense, Hitchcock’s provocative tale shows just how much love can hurt.

Blue Valentine
If you’re looking for a modern story of love-gone-sour, 2010’s Blue Valentine charts the disintegration of a contemporary couple. Spanning their relationship through the years by cross-cutting between blossoming infatuation and collapsing marriage, Blue Valentine is a romantic, bleak, and ultimately harrowing depiction of love and loss. Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine is the anti-Notebook.

(500) Days of Summer
(500) Days of Summer is a charming, witty, and offbeat romantic dramedy that is both depressing and uplifting. Quirky and intelligent, the film tells story of Summer (Zooey Deschanel), a girl who doesn’t believe true love exits, and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the boy who falls for her. Perfect pacing, refreshing originality, and my personal favorite cinematic musical sequence ever make (500) Days of Summer an unusual, bittersweet romance.

True Romance
Finally, if romance is what you’re looking for but Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams kissing in the rain doesn’t cut it, give True Romance a shot. Written by Quentin Tarantino, True Romance is an off-kilter romantic pulp flick filled with humor and violence. After call-girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and Clarence (Christian Slater) fall hard for each other and get married, Alabama is afraid her boss, Drexel Spivey, won’t let her leave the business. Taking matters into his own hands, Clarence shoots Drexel (“So romantic!”), and accidently takes off with a briefcase full of cocaine. Looking to sell the cocaine and ride off into the sunset, the newlyweds must first outrun both the mob and police, who are both hot on their trail.

So, if you’re saying ‘no’ to The Vow and a bunch of roses this Valentine’s Day, BMFI's suggestions will keep you engaged... so to speak.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Announcing BMFI's Oscar Party Winner!

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager

We may not know which films are going to win at the Oscars, but we can tell you which BMFI patron has won two tickets to BMFI's fourth annual Oscar Party! We enjoyed all of the entries, but we could only give the grand prize to one (much like the Academy).

The Task: To make a case for which nominated film you thought should win the Best Picture Oscar this year in 140 characters or less, judged on persuasiveness and panache.

The Prize: Two tickets to watch the Academy Awards in style at BMFI's Oscar Party on Sunday, February 26!

The Winner: Elana Starr for Hugo:
Hugo is beguiling as a paean to early cinema, as a personal statement from our greatest living director, and as a timeless (excuse the pun) work of art.
Congratulations, Elana!

Runners up: Much like the nominees swag bags at the Oscars, our favorite runners up also will go home with a little something: two tickets to a regular movie screening at BMFI.

1) Emily:
The Tree of Life needed Help; War Horse was Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; Hugo made a Moneyball; I loved every Artist in Midnight in Paris; but The Descendants was transcendent.

2) Kristin Kimmell:
Hugo delighted my senses
With effects viewed through two 3D lenses
Mixing old with the new
It beguiled as it flew
Through a series of stunning sequences!

Runners up, please contact me, Devin Wachs, for information about how to collect your prizes by calling 610-527-4008 x105.

You can read all of the entries in the comments section here.

Thanks to everyone who participated. If you didn't win this time, there will be other contest opportunities in the future. If you'd like to come to the Oscar Party, you can still get tickets here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dangerous: The Method or the Men?

BMFI guest blogger Diane Mina Weltman attended a screening of A Dangerous Method and BMFI's "Inside the Characters" monthly discussion group, hosted by the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, this past Sunday. Read her thoughts about the film's portrayal of Jung, the post-movie chat, and more below.  

Dangerous: The Method or the Men?
By Diane Mina Weltman, BMFI Member and Guest Blogger

Overstepping the slender line that separates the doctor/patient relationship is one of the most dangerous decisions a health professional can make—at least that was the consensus reached by moviegoers discussing the film A Dangerous Method following a Sunday afternoon screening during its recent opening weekend at Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

An alternative event to the Super Bowl, some 20 or so filmgoers joined Dr. John Frank of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia to talk about their impressions regarding the film's characters as part of BMFI’s "Inside the Characters" forum. The guided discussion, offered monthly at BMFI, opens an opportunity to answer the timely post-movie question, "What did you think?" or, more specifically, "What did you think of the characters?"

Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen play Carl Jung
and Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg's new drama,

The discussion initially focused on the expanded view of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung as two of the film's trio of main characters during a period where they collided on their professional journeys. The film looks at how these forces of psychoanalysis navigated their work and relationship with each other, as well as how they formulated and employed the 'talking method' of treatment. The discussion was equally rich and uncomfortable as moviegoers wrestled with the way these men’s personalities and practices collide in their search to understand the human psyche.

Today, using talking as a way of emotionally healing is the predominant path taken in psychoanalysis. At the turn of the 20th century, this method was in its infancy. Its use (and abuse) provided the basis of one of the film's troubling themes.

Jung (Michael Fassbender) successfully treats a young female patient whose consuming hysteria blasts the movie's first scene wide open. The patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly) responds exceedingly well to the talking method of treatment. It not only reduces both her uncontrolled bouts of fear and the sexual arousal they ignite, but opens the door for her intuitive intelligence to emerge.

Keira Knightly plays Jung's patient, Sabina Spielrein.

Audience members seemed to appreciate the defined success of the married Jung's care for his patient until his suppressed sexual needs supersede Spielrein's treatment. Spielrein's portrayal as the one who initiates the physical relationship with Jung did not sway the discussion participants from the overriding concern about the damage done when a patient/doctor relationship breaks the bond of appropriateness. Said one participant, "This goes to the basis of aberrant behavior and abuses any trust between the two." The group seemed unanimous in demanding that, as the professional, the doctor’s role in protecting that trust was paramount.

In the post-movie chat, other participants whose professional life is/was in social work or mental health also took pointed exception to Jung's breach of conduct. One woman explained, "We'd be in a terrible state if everyone did whatever they wanted." Added another, "Jung goes directly against keeping the necessary boundaries of the doctor/patient relationship." The film's presentation of this taboo behavior tainted Jung's professional achievements for many in the discussion.

In the film, psychologist Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel) represents uninhibited expression and freedom to the extreme. Gross described a patient's desire for the same freedom to both have an affair with her doctor and to commit suicide as a consistent expression that should not be "cured." "Freedom is freedom," he quips much to the audience and Jung's disdain. The audience was as critical of his character as they were of Jung’s malfeasance. One participant noted, "He was a horror."

[Spoiler alert] The character of Sabina Spielrein was interesting because of how she seeks answers while remaining acutely aware of her scarred past. "I give Sabina credit," one male participant stated, noting that she benefits from Jung's initial treatment and unhappily moves beyond their sexual relationship to "ultimately succeed in getting better and living a very productive life." The contrast from this woman's uncontrollable breakdown at the outset to her resounding intellectual achievements received appreciation from some—but not all—in the group.

Another woman noted, "Sabina was never really cured, even though she achieved a great deal in her field." This led to a discussion regarding how much does one need to be healed to live a productive life. As discussion leader, Dr. Frank added, "Sabina was seen as someone history cast aside early on, but her work in the new area of child psychology was eventually recognized as groundbreaking."

Viggo Mortensen's Freud fills the
role of a substitute father for the conflicted Jung.

Freud's (Viggo Mortensen) influence as father figure to Jung and to the psychoanalytic movement in Europe received notable emphasis in the film and also with the discussion participants. Said one woman, "The film supported the view that Freud and Jung were smart men but when it came to their personal relationship, Jung struggled with having Freud as a substitute father."

Spielrein's deeply rooted humiliation at the hands of her biological father also influenced how she saw both Jung and Freud. "Each character was traumatized in some way by the other," added one gentleman. "The father-figure role impacted all their lives."

Delving inside the film's characters with other moviegoers added a dimension to the movie experience that mirrored its intent—by talking through our impressions of the film's players, we not only had our say but had to consider how others saw them. The power of talk, whether as a psychoanalytic tool or vehicle for discussion, gives us all a chance to be heard.

Upon exiting A Dangerous Method, I reflected that the film’s title was somewhat misleading since 'the method' was not necessarily dangerous. The danger lay with how Jung, Freud, and Gross chose to use it, reminding me that sometimes the disease seeps into the cure.

Diane Mina Weltman is a BMFI member who enjoys attending performing and visual arts events and writing about them. Check out her blog, A Subject for Consideration.

Notes from Art House Convergence 2012

By Juliet Goodfriend, Bryn Mawr Film Institute President

This year three of us from BMFI went to the ever-expanding Art House Convergence to confer with our colleagues around the country about the joys and challenges of running independent, community-based, mission-driven, art house movie theaters.
This was my fourth Convergence, Programming Manager Valerie Temple’s second, and Lead Theater Manager Mike McCracken’s first, and each of us profited significantly. It turns out there is always more to learn, new “best practices” to consider, new solutions and new problems to mull over. We had a good dose of “Improving Customer Service” and one cannot get enough new ideas on that subject which is, after all, the essential foundation of our business. Mike and I spent most of our time at sessions that helped us fully grasp the digital transformation that all major art houses must undergo. Some new concession design concepts will be especially useful as we commence our final renovation projects. In listening to talks about “pre-shows” and trailers we got some creative notions to try and we also realized that our pre-show ranks well. Valerie walked away from the Convergence with lots of ideas about adventurous programming and "event-izing" and went on to attend her first ever Sundance Film Festival. At the festival she got a chance to see 24 films, a few of which were not great but many that we would be excited to screen at BMFI in the future.

Valerie and I started off the substantive part of the Convergence with a very well-received report on the health of art houses taken from the national survey BMFI does each year. (A big thank you to our consultant, Cordelia Stone.) Art houses are doing well and in many cases better than the entire national market, but they face daunting expenses as they transition to digital.

We were thrilled to learn that David Bordwell, Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, was attending. His numerous books and his penetrating blogs have transformed and informed our film viewing. He is just one of the very best film historians and analysts in the world. He enthusiastically incorporated our national survey into his blog.

Reproduced here (with permission) is an excerpt from David Bordwell’s take on the Convergence, with particular emphasis on digital cinema. To read his full post and find more of his insights into film past and present, visit his blog, Observations on Film Art.

An Excerpt from Pandora’s digital box: Art house, smart house
by David Bordwell

Theatres’ conversion from 35mm film to digital presentation was designed by and for an industry that deals in mass output, saturation releases, and quick turnover. A movie comes out on Friday, fills as many as 4,000 screens around the country, makes most of its money within a month or less, and then shows up on VoD, PPV, DVD, or some other acronym. The ancillary outlets yield much more revenue to the studios, but the theatrical release is crucial in establishing awareness of the film.

Given this shock-and-awe business plan, movies on film stock look wasteful. You make, ship, and store several thousand 35mm prints that will be worthless in a few months. (I’ve seen trash bags stuffed with Harry Potter reels destined for destruction.) Pushing a movie in and out of multiplexes on digital files makes more sense.

After a decade of preparation, digital projection became the dominant mode last year. Today “digital prints” come in on hard drives called Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) and are loaded (“ingested”) into servers that feed the projector. The DCPs are heavily encrypted and need to be opened with passkeys transmitted by email or phone. The format is 2K projection, more or less to specifications laid down by the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) group, a consortium of the major distributors.

Upgrading to a DCI-compliant system can cost $50,000-$100,000 per screen. How to pay for it? If the exhibitor doesn’t buy the equipment outright, it can be purchased through a subsidy called the Virtual Print Fee. The exhibitor can select gear to be supplied by a third party, who collects payment from the major companies and applies it to the cost of the equipment. The fee is paid each time the exhibitor books a title from one of the majors. See my blogs here and here for more background.

It’s comparatively easy for chains like Regal and AMC, which control 12,000 screens (nearly one-third of the US and Canadian total), to make the digital switchover efficiently. Solid capitalization and investment support, economies of scale, and cooperation with manufacturers allow the big chains to afford the upgrade. But what about other kinds of exhibition? I’ve already looked at the bumpy rise of digital on the festival scene. There are also art houses and repertory cinemas, and here one hears some very strong concerns about the changeover. “Art houses are not going to be able to do this,” predicts one participant. “We will lose a lot of little theatres across the country.”

The long, long tail
‘Plexes, whether multi- or mega-, tend to look alike. But art and rep houses have personality, even flair.

One might be a 1930s picture palace saved from the wrecking ball and renovated as a site of local history and a center for the performing arts. Another might be a sagging two-screener from the 1970s spiffed up and offering buns and designer coffees. Another might look like a decaying porn venue or a Cape Cod amateur playhouse (even though it’s in Seattle). The screen might be in a museum auditorium or a campus lecture hall. When an art house is built from scratch, it’s likely to have a gallery atmosphere. Our Madison, Wisconsin Sundance six-screener hangs good art on the walls and provides cafĂ© food to kids in black bent over their Macs.

Most of these theatres are in urban centers, some are in the suburbs, and a surprising number are rural. Most boast only one or two screens. Most are independent, but a few belong to chains like Landmark and Sundance. Some are privately held and aiming for profit, but many, perhaps most, are not-for-profit, usually owned by a civic group or municipality.

What unites them is what they show. They play films in foreign languages and British English. They show independent US dramas and comedies, documentaries, revivals, and restorations.
In the whole market, art houses are a blip. Figures are hard to come by, but Jack Foley, head of domestic distribution for Focus Features, estimates that there are about 250 core art-house screens. In addition, other venues present art house product on an occasional basis or as part of cultural center programming.

Art house and repertory titles contribute very little to the $9 billion in ticket sales of the domestic theatrical market. Of the 100 top-grossing US theatrical releases in 2011, only six were art-house fare: The King’s Speech, Black Swan, Midnight in Paris, Hanna, The Descendants, and Drive. Taken together, they yielded about $309 million, which is $40 million less than Transformers: Dark of the Moon took in all by itself. And these figures represent grosses; only about half of ticket revenues are passed to the distributor.

More strictly art-house items like Take Shelter, Potiche, Bill Cunningham New York, Senna, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Certified Copy, Page One, The Women on the 6th Floor, and Meek’s Cutoff took in only one to two million dollars each. Other “specialty titles” grossed much less. Miranda July’s The Future attracted about half a million dollars, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives grossed $184,000, and Godard’s Film Socialisme took in less than $35,000. For the distributors, art films retrieve their costs in ancillaries, like DVD and home video, but the theatres don’t have that cushion.

Something else sets the art and rep houses apart from the ‘plexes: The audience. It’s well-educated, comparatively affluent, and above all older. Juliet Goodfriend’s survey of art house operators indicates that only about 13% of patrons are children and high-school and college students. The rest are adults. A third of the total are over sixty-five. As she puts it, “Thank God for the seniors!” However much they like popcorn, they love chocolate-covered almonds.

Almonds aside, how will these venues cope with digital? To find out, I went to Utah.

Read the rest of David Bordwell's Art House Convergence post here.

Photos of Valerie Temple and Juliet Goodfriend (c) Chuck Foxen.