June Coming Attractions: Summer series begin (from Buffalo Spree)

Well, I was negligent in posting my June Buffalo Spree “Coming Attractions” column until today … the last day of June. But hey, you’ve still got tonight!

June is when the WNY screening world gets very busy—both indoors and outdoors. So enjoy this roundup of films, and remember to watch for outdoor film series calendars in Spree’s July and August issues.

Niagara and Spaceballs at the Screening Room: One of the films featured in Spree’s April 2015 “film issue” was 1953’s Niagara, the Marilyn Monroe vehicle that was shot entirely in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It’s a strange, fascinating melodrama, especially for Western New Yorkers. This combination of the Falls and Marilyn still intrigues, and this makes the film a perennial pick at Amherst’s Screening Room. Niagara, co-starring Joseph Cotten, screens at 7:30 p.m. on June 1 and 2. Note that June 1 would’ve been Monroe’s ninety-first birthday. Also on tap in June is Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs. The comic master’s Star Wars parody is not as revered as his Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but it’s still hugely enjoyable, and has a special place in the hearts of 1980s kids. It screens on June 23, 24, and 29; the latter screening will also feature trivia. (Niagara: 7:30 p.m. on June 1 and 2; Spaceballs: 7:30 p.m. on June 23 and 24, 7 p.m. on June 29; at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst;screeningroom.net)

Fredonia Opera House—Michelangelo: Love and Death and America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded AgeOn June 15, the Opera House presents Michelangelo: Love and Death, a high-definition production exploring the life and work of the Renaissance master. Then, on June 29, filmmaker Michael Maglaras will discuss and present America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age. His film takes a close look at the American art, music, and literature created between Lincoln’s death in 1865 and Mark Twain’s death in 1910.  (Michelangelo: 7:30 p.m. on June 15; America Rising: 7:30 p.m. on June 29; both at the Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia; fredopera.org)

Cultivate Cinema Circle—American Promise: Since its start in 2015, CCC has provided Buffalonians with the opportunity to see insightful, groundbreaking documentaries like The Look of Science and Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. This month, Cultivate offers Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson’s acclaimed 2013 documentary American Promise. Originally airing as part of the award-winning PBS series POV and shot over the course of twelve years, the film sharing the experiences of two African-Americans attending a historically white Manhattan private school. (7 p.m. on June 28 at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

TCM Big Screen Classics—The Godfather and Some Like It HotThere’s never a bad time to see The Godfatheron the big screen, but 2017 is especially noteworthy. It’s been forty-five years since Francis Ford Coppola’s epic story of the Corleone crime family was released, and the film’s hold on pop culture remains strong. Meanwhile, the second TCM film for the month is Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. Yes, the comedy starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe is still uproarious. (The Godfather: 2 and 7 p.m. on June 4 and 7; Some Like It Hot: 2 and 7 p.m. on June 11 and 14; both at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)

Roycroft Film Society—Wild Tales: The list of nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the eighty-seventh Academy Awards (held on February 22, 2015) is pretty staggering: Poland’s Ida (the deserving winner), Russia’s Leviathan, Estonia’s Tangerines, Mauritania’s Timbuktu, and Argentina’s Wild Tales. The most purely enjoyable film on the list is Wild Tales, and it’s June’s Roycroft Film Society selection. The pitch-black but very funny anthology film from writer-director Damián Szifron was produced by the great Pedro Almodovar. (4 p.m. on June 11 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)

Fathom Events—RiffTrax Live and Resident EvilIn addition to The Godfather and Some Like It Hot, the Fathom Events June lineup features RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party:, in which comedians goof on some old-school educational shorts, and video game adaptation Resident EvilVendetta. The latter is the latest in a series of animated efforts based on the hit horror games, all unrelated to the long-running live action series. (RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party: times TBA on June 15 and 20; Resident Evil: Vendetta: 7 and 10 p.m. on June 19; both at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville;fathomevents.com)

Family-Friendly Film Series: As usual, the second Saturday of each month features a free family film at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Crane Branch; call 883-6651 with questions or for more information about the movie selections. (11 a.m. on June 10 at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Crane Branch, 633 Elmwood Ave.; buffalolib.org)

Toronto LGBT Film Festival: The twenty-seventh annual festival started on May 25 and runs through June 4. (Check insideout.ca/initiatives/Toronto lineup, schedules, and locations)

Lawrence of Arabia at the Dryden Theatre: The George Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theatre screens David Lean’s widescreen epic twice, on June 1 and 3. It’s one of several noteworthy screenings at the Dryden in June; check eastman.org for the full list. (7:30 p.m. on June 1 and 3 at the Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave., Rochester;eastman.org)

“Books on Film” at TIFF Bell Lightbox: In June, this insightful series features director Mira Nair, who will discuss her sadly underseen chess drama Queen of Katwe, and Brooklyn author Colm Toibin, who talks about the film based on his story of a young Irish immigrant in the 1950s. (Katwe: 7 p.m. on June 5; Brooklyn: 7 p.m. on June 19; both at TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., Toronto; tiff.net)

La Cenerentola Live at the Dipson Amherst: This month’s simulcast is the first opera staged by Guillaume Gallienne. (2 p.m. on June 26 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)

Flicks On Old Falls Free Outdoor Movie Series: The Secret Life of PetsThe annual free summer movie series on Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls kicks off with one of last summer’s animated hits. The series runs on Thursdays through August 31. Bring blankets; Adirondack chairs are also available. (Movie at 9 p.m.; pre-show begins at 7:30 p.m.; Old Falls St., Niagara Falls; fallsstreet.com)

Cultivate Cinema Circle: JerichowCCC’s Christian Petzold series concludes with the Phoenix director’s 2008 entry, a film loosely inspired by The Postman Always Rings Twice. (7 p.m. on June 7 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center, 617 Main St.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)

Fathom Events: My Neighbor TotoroAnimator Hayao Miyazaki’s Totoro is one of his sweetest, finest films. It screens as part of Fathom’s Studio Ghibli Fest. (dubbed version: 12:55 p.m. on June 25; subtitled version: 7 p.m. on June 26; at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville;fathomevents.com)

5-25-77 and Raising Arizona at the Screening Room: In addition to the Screening Room showings mentioned above, the theater has a few other treats planned for June. 5-25-77 is a 1970s-set coming-of-age entry about a teenager excitedly waiting for the premiere of a little sci-fi flick called Star Wars. Meanwhile, the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona remains one of the duo’s funniest creations. It begins its Screening Room run on June 30; watch screeningroom.net for additional showings. (5-25-77: 9:30 p.m. on June 2; Raising Arizona: 7:30 p.m. on June 30; at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)

Concert and Silent Film at the Riviera Theatre: Donna Parker plays the Mighty WurliTzer as Laurel and Hardy’s silent film Brats unspools onscreen. (7:30 p.m. on June 7 at the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)

Scanners and Olivier Assayas at TIFF Bell Lightbox: The “Books on Film” series mentioned above is a TIFF summer highlight, but it’s one of many unique screenings at the Toronto jewel. David Cronenberg’s Scanners screens on June 17. Most thrilling? Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper director Olivier Assayas is the focus of a series titled Something in the Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas. It features his own works, as well as hand-picked favorites from other filmmakers. It all starts on June 22 with Robert Bresson’s 1977 drama The Devil Probably. For the full series schedule, visit tiff.net(Scanners: 9 p.m. on June 17; The Devil Probably: 9 p.m. on June 22; both at TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., Toronto; tiff.net

Transit Drive-In Retro Movie Tuesday: A retro double feature is held every Tuesday (except July 4) all summer long at the Transit Drive-In. The lineup includes The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire on June 6; Rocky IV and The Hunt for Red October on June 13; The Monster Squad and The Lost Boys on June 20; and The NeverEnding Story and Labyrinth on June 27. (First movie starts at 9:15 p.m. at Transit Drive In, 6655 S. Transit Rd, Lockport.;transitdrivein.com)

Recommended New Books on Filmmaking: ‘Twin Peaks,’ Steve McQueen, and More (for The Film Stage)

My latest post on new books on filmmaking for The Film Stage ran in early May, just a few weeks before Showtime’s Twin Peaks debuted.

We’re knocking on the door of summer, and that means lots of big properties are ready to be unleashed. But it’s not too late to read books exploring some recent films, as well as some new works about Sherry Lansing, film noir, and Steve McQueen. Let’s start with a unique look at David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

The Essential Wrapped In Plastic: Pathways to Twin Peaks by John Thorne

When Twin Peaks debuted on ABC in 1990, there were no message boards in which fans could argue and dissect the latest episodes. Starting in 1992, however, there was Wrapped In Plastic, the immortal Peaks’ fanzine. Just in time for the series return on Showtime is The Essential Wrapped In Plastic: Pathways to Twin Peaks. Here, WIP co-editor John Thorne brings together some of the publication’s most vital, important essays. Every episode is included, but what makes the book a must-read is the analysis of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Featuring everything from a probing look at the film’s strange critical response upon release to a convincing argument that the Chet Desmond section is actually “the dream of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper,” The Essential Wrapped In Plastic mesmerizes the reader with vivid, startling discoveries.

Marvel Year by Year: A Visual History, Updated and Expanded (DK)

The updated and expanded edition of Marvel Year by Year is heavy — literally — and absolutely packed with details. Starting in the 1940s and running through 2016, this stunning text is big, bold, and deliriously dense. For a casual comic book fan like me, it’s full of new info. (The wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson was “recreated with actors at New York’s Shea Stadium on June 5, 1987”?) Even die-hards are likely to stumble upon new details. 1950s Marvel character Marvin Mouse himself would be impressed.

Film Noir Light and Shadow edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini (Applause)

The visual style of film noir is instantly recognizable, but that does not make it simple. Film Noir Light and Shadow explores just how complex and meaningful this style was. Films like Kiss Me Deadly and Double Indemnity are explored in detail, while a series of noteworthy authors also break down less-known films like Violent Saturday and Crossfire. It’s the kind of book that sends one racing to Turner Classic Movies.

The Great Wall: The Art of the Film by Abbie Bernstein (Titan Books)

There is no other way to put it: Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall was a flop, at least stateside But it was a fascinating flop, a strange spectacle that swung for the fences (or walls) and came up short. Still, the size and scope of the project makes The Great Wall: The Art of the Film a beautiful publication. It’s a sturdy account of how the Matt Damon-starrer came to be, and it’s a reminder that whatever the film’s failings, the cinematography and production design is never less than breathtaking. It’s a film made for the glossy coffee table treatment.

World Film Locations: Cleveland edited by Alberto Zambenedetti (Intellect)

The city of Cleveland has quietly made a major dent in cinema, a fact confirmed by World Film Locations: Cleveland. With maps, stills, and photos, the book explores locations from films like American Splendor, The Deer Hunter, and Stranger Than Paradise. It also spotlights some times when the city doubled as someplace else, including Spider-Man 3 and The Avengers. (I’m volunteering myself to write the Buffalo, New York, version of World Locations.)

Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker by Stephen Galloway (Crown Archetype)

There is no overestimating Sherry Lansing’s impact on Hollywood history. As the first woman to be name president of a major studio (Paramount), she helped pave the way for countless female execs to come. As Stephen Galloway’s new biography Leading Lady demonstrates, she did so with poise, charm, and humility. The book includes colorful backstories of troubled films that eventually worked (Fatal Attraction, Titanic) and some that didn’t (Sliver). It’s compulsively readable, and full of juicy tidbits on her dealings with the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin.

A bushel of LEGO Batman books (DK)

The LEGO Batman Movie was one of 2017’s undeniable pleasures, a fast, fun film that simultaneously worked for LEGO-crazy kids and Bat-moms and dads. DK released a plethora of books to accompany the film’s release, and they run the gamut from a neat-o sticker book and texts for wee readers (Rise of the Rogues and Team Batman) to The Essential Guide (by Julia Marsh) and The Making of the Movie (by Tracey Miller-Zarneke). The latter shows how the character design progressed, and also lets us admire some of the elements that flew by so quickly on the big screen.

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton (DK)

The Star Wars encyclopedia and dictionary bookshelf is ever-growing. When the texts are as painstakingly designed and wonderfully structured as Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia, why shouldn’t it? This latest effort is broken into five sections — geography, nature, history, culture, and science and technology — and is almost absurdly detailed. Looking for an up-close look at Mace Windu’s Jedi Council chair? It’s here, on the furniture spread.

Steve McQueen: Le Mans in the Rearview Mirror by Don Nunley with Marshall Terrill (Dalton Watson Fine Books)

While the Steve McQueen auto racing film Le Mans was a box office disappointment in 1971, it’s now considered one of the most important and greatest racing flicks of all time. Steve McQueen: Le Mans in the Rearview Mirror is a fascinatingly deep dive into the making of the film, and also serves as a fine bio of the complex McQueen. Packed with gorgeous on-set photos, it’s an essential account of how a film the authors call “a crashing bore” can eventually be seen as “the most historically realistic representation in the history of race.”

Recommended early summer reads

Chuck Wendig’s gripping Aftermath trilogy of post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars novels comes to a fine end with Empire’s End (Del Rey). There are numerous treats here, including cameos from Lando Calrissian and … well, you’ll see. Another recently released Star Wars novel, Join the Resistance (Disney Lucasfilm Press) is for younger readers. However, older fans may find this story of a trio of young Resistance recruits to be of interest. (It’s written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker.) Irvine Welsh’s 2002 Trainspotting sequel, Porno, has been re-released as T2: Trainspotting to tie in with the film. While the story underwent drastic changes, a number of elements (including Renton living in Amsterdam and Sick Boy’s pub) stayed intact. It’s a worthy followup, if a bit time-intensive due to Welsh’s frequent use of Scottish dialect. Lastly, Leonardo DiCaprio recently bought the rights to Stephen Talty’s nonfiction work The Black Hand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and this story of an early-20th century detective attempting to stop a crime wave is riveting.

 

Review: ‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ explores the creation of ‘Eraserhead’

This Buffalo News review of the documentary “David Lynch: The Art Life” ran just a few days before the return of “Twin Peaks.”

For the first time in roughly a decade, David Lynch fans have reason to be breathless with anticipation. On May 21, Showtime debuts the 25-years-in-the-making return of Lynch’s television masterpiece, “Twin Peaks.” All 18 new episodes are directed by the man himself.

Therefore, the release of “David Lynch: The Art Life,” a feature-length documentary exploring the filmmaker’s work, is a case of very good timing. Director Jon Nguyen’s 90-minute interview with Lynch (and only Lynch) is a rather extraordinary opportunity to hear one of culture’s most unique artists discuss his life, his work, and where it came from.

The documentary is the highlight of the North Park Theatre’s “Lynchfest,” a week celebrating one of cinema’s most unique, unyielding artists.

One of the reasons the film is so successful is its narrow focus: “The Art Life” looks only at Lynch’s childhood, his wild-at-heart teenage years, his time in college as a young artist, and, finally, the creation of “Eraserhead.”

That means no “Elephant Man,” no “Blue Velvet,” no “Twin Peaks,” no “Mulholland Drive,” no Transcendental Meditation. (And no “Dune”!) Still, the DNA of Lynch’s later works can be traced directly to the events and individuals he references in “The Art Life.”

This should come as no surprise. For Lynch, there is no divide between life and art. This makes his work distinctly personal — and utterly inimitable.

“I was always drawing,” Lynch says while pondering his childhood. His mother refused to allow him to have coloring books. “Those would be restrictive, and kill some kind of creativity,” she believed. He calls this decision “a beautiful thing.”

Drawing (and, later, painting) allowed his imagination to flourish. But so, too, did strange occurrences like the sudden appearance in his neighborhood of a completely nude woman, her mouth bloodied. (Shades of Dorothy Vallens from “Blue Velvet.”)

The latter memory is particularly shocking, especially since Lynch’s childhood “was no larger than two blocks.” There were “huge worlds in those two blocks,” he says. (This seems an allusion to the small-town horrors that lurk in “Velvet” and “Twin Peaks.”)

Discovering that a friend’s father made a living as an artist led Lynch to learn of “the art life,” which he defines as “You drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and that’s it. Maybe girls come into a little bit. But basically it’s the incredible happiness of working and living that life.”

This was an appealing concept, and it led Lynch and his friend and future production designer, Jack Fisk, to Boston, Europe (“We were going to go for three years, but we came back in 15 days”), and, eventually Philadelphia. It was this “weird town” and its “art spirit” that put Lynch on the path to “Eraserhead.”

It has always been a joy to hear the voice of Lynch, whether as part of interviews or in his shout-y role as “Twin Peaks”’ Gordon Cole. The Lynch onscreen in “The Art Life” is older (he’s now 71), a bit weathered, and perhaps a tad slower. But his voice, his hair and his mind are as glorious as ever. It’s a joy to watch Lynch at work in his stunning home studio, especially when his infant daughter wanders into the room.

“The Art Life” is a must-see for Lynch obsessives, but it’s also worth watching for anyone with an interest in the creation process. It’s hard to watch the film and not feel inspired to create … and to immerse yourself in the filmography of cinema’s darkest poet.