OFFscreen Movies

February 11th, 2015 · 2 Comments · By

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For many years OFFscreen,  UVA’s student run arthouse film series, was one of the cultural treasures of Charlottesville, showing great movies on a big screen at a very reasonable price. At some point it fell victim to mismanagement and languished, then Newcomb Theater was closed for construction. But is has come back with a nice selection this semester.   It is something worth both taking advantage of and supporting.

The next film is A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour , showing Sunday at 8:00 for only $2. A stylish black and white vampire movie set in Iran and performed in Farsi (but made in California) it has gotten many rave reviews, such as this one by David Thomson. It has been particularly praised for its cinematography, which gives you all the more reason to see it theatrically.

I have seen a good number of movies at OFFscreen over the years. Every one was at least worth the time and (trifling) expense, some were among the greatest cinematic experiences of my life. What haunts me are all the superb films they showed that I missed and will now probably never see properly, on the big screen. A laptop or living room flat-screen can provide passable dream portals, but nothing beats a good theater for true motion picture transcendence.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 james // Feb 15, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    I’m betting Vinegar Hill would have tried to get most of these if it were still open… and the Downtown Regal probably would have successfully stolen about half of them. I’m glad to see that OffScreen is back and helping to fill the void in Charlottesville Indie Cinema.

    We’ve shown most of these at the Theatre I work at now (the Charles in Baltimore), and I can report that:

    – “Birdman” is incredibly well-made and clever and fun; my only real complaint is that it reduces the sum total of human experience to showbiz solipsism, but what it lacks in breadth it more than makes up for in depth, pathos, and whimsy

    – “Dear White People” has some crucially necessary and sharp cultural commentary, and to my knowledge is easily the best college-comedy of the 21st century (not that there’s much competition for that title…). it has clever insights, really well-concieved and rounded characters, and a superb, knock-out cast all (Tessa Thompson! omg) — though, sadly, the script is also draaastically in need of a few rewrites, and about 30 minutes of the running time needed to be mercilessly trimmed. still, enough good and vital stuff in here to make it worth your time

    – “Inherent Vice” is a perhaps-too-literal adaptation of the recent Pynchon novel, whose densely colorful mystery-machinations and by-the-numbers Raymond Chandler plot structure are partly obscured dense clouds of pot smoke, to the point where at least one boomer dad per screening angrily stormed out halfway through in an incomprehensibly furious rage. (even some of the the films’ younger admirers have asked “isn’t this kind of a remake of “The Big Lebowski”? to which I have answered: Yes, but “Lebowski” was a remake of “Chinatown,” which was a remake of the original “Big Sleep,” and Altman’s “Long Goodbye” is also definitely a close branch on that family tree)… PTA attempts to return to the zany, freewheeling, crowd-pleasing whimsy of some of his early work, but the steadfast, deadpan austerity of his more recent films pervades; like “the Master,” this is not a film that is prepared to meet the audience halfway. If you’re willing to put in the effort it’s a richly rewarding and insightful jigsaw puzzle of cleverness, although of course it’s also an inconsistent mess (almost necessarily by design). Pynchon’s dialogue is nigh-impossible to deliver aloud; Benecio Del Toro and especially Owen Wilson do the work of saints in making it sound naturalistic, and Phoenix, somewhat incredibly, manages to pull off all manner of unlikely tongue-twisters while ALSO giving an extremely tic-based and idiosyncratic performance that is nonetheless rich in subtle grace and brilliance. most of the rest don’t fare so well.

    – “a Most Violent Year” is yet another super-solid and under-appreciated work from JC Chandor, (the guy who made “Margin Call”); superb cast, stunningly restrained cinematography, sharp writing, and a baller Marvin Gaye deep cut to boot. Chandor is one of the few contemporary directors I can think of who, despite working in the popular lingua franca of today’s dramas/thrillers, manages to display (and inspire) genuine curiousity about how various parts of the real world actually work; whereas “Margin Call” addressed both the actual means of the 2008 financial collapse as well as the culture surrounding it, “Most Violent Year” takes as its subject the difficulties of remaining honest as a aspiring bigwig in the Oil Trucking industry in 1981 Brooklyn. most films would use this sort of setting as a backdrop/window-dressing for the same find-and-replace script we’ve all heard a million times before, but Chandor digs deep into the dull details of that world and animates/enlivens them, letting that dictate the simple and relatively restrained character drama that unfolds. sadly, it lacks any monologues like the two that made “Margin Call” so worthwhile, but it does instead supply two extended chase sequences, which are all more heart-poundingly intense for their restrained realism and efficient delivery. it often recalls the first scene of “Drive,” a film with which it shares 2 major cast members (3, if you forget that Jessica Chastain and Christina Hendricks are different people, as I often do). it’s a real shame this one flopped. sleeper of the year.

    “Two Days One Night” is playing now and I intend to catch it before Friday, when we’re unceremoniously dumping it after a mere week of play. I adore the Dardenne Brothers and am eager, as always, to catch their latest. if you’re unfamiliar, the Dardennes are two Belgian brothers who make honest, socially-conscious and often heartbreaking mini-masterpieces of working-class neorealism, with uniformly raw and brave performances, brutally honest cinematography, and many moments of beauty and transcendence. they are among the most crucial, insightful, and touching of contemporary filmmakers; start with “Rosetta” if you’re a cineaste, or “Kid with a Bike” if you’re a sqaure, then move on to “Le Fils” and “L’enfant.” I will report back once I see this one.

  • 2 james // Feb 18, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    UPDATE: “Two Days, One Night” is great, go see it! (if OffScreen gets it)