In 2005, Circle Cinema programmer/projectionist/erstwhile UTW colleague, Joshua Blevins Peck, decided to revive a cult tradition of the '70s with a personal program of midnight movies for film lovers with less than mainstream tastes.
Donnie Darko kicked off the monthly and ongoing series at the Circle, which itself spun off the popular, yearly (and also ongoing) Slumber Party series. (Cinema Sleepover, July 13th 2011).
Last October, Blevins Peck emigrated to follow his muses in L.A. But he continues to provide support and ideas for the series with long-time collaborator David Nofire, who has taken over the duties of programming, promoting and obtaining film prints for premium exhibition -- a proposition that is becoming increasingly difficult as studios force digital presentation down everyone's throats.
The essence of a midnight movie is a populist sense of genre sensationalism, an eclectic head for niche programming and a bit of showmanship. So when Nofire sits down, with a playbill poster for the upcoming showing of John Carpenter's 1988 Reagan-era, sci-fi--but creepily prescient--action film, They Live (designed by artist and friend, Aaron Mankekar), it's suitably loaded with explosions and motorcycles jumping helicopters over a skyline that looks like it's just been hit by a nuclear weapon.
In other words, stuff that doesn't actually happen in the movie. When Nofire points out the image of Rowdy Roddy Piper in the foreground, a shotgun blasting fire from its muzzle, he asks if anything seems incongruous. "It's from a different movie. Maybe Hell Comes to Frogtown?" I ask.
"It's Roddy Piper's head Photohopped onto Burt Reynolds's body," he says, breaking into a smile at the look he receives.
I am the film guy, right? There are tons of Burt Reynolds movies that feature The Stache and shotguns and I've pretty much seen them all. "That's from Stick, right?"
"I thought so, too. But it's from Malone," he said somewhat generously.
But then, that's that kind of gamesmanship about which the midnight movie geek world revolves.
Joe O' Shansky
Playing Stump the Critic is fun (though I was close) and it's predominately for that reason that we talked about so many things besides what I was there for. Nofire is a bona fide aficionado of rare cinema and the ephemera it begets; which makes him an apt choice for conducting the melodies, a leit motif tide pool of off-beat weirdness and time-tested repertory cinema, into a tantalizingly personal score.
The poster is a good example. He'll be giving away high quality copies to apparent Carpenter fans that are dying to see They Live on a pristine 35mm print. If his ultimate plans come to fruition your ticket might be handed out by an alien.
But then the conversation comes back around to digital, and the major studios growing recalcitrance towards providing archival film prints. For repertory films, and the hundreds of indie art houses that exhibit them, the idea of seeing a classic film on celluloid has the same cache for cinephiles as vinyl has for music fans.
"It hasn't become a major issue yet," Nofire said, while noting that May's presentation of A Clockwork Orange will be digital due to the refusal of a film print. "But it's going to get worse."
They Live will be playing in 35mm on April 27 and 28 at the Circle Cinema, at an appropriately inappropriate hour. For ticket information visit circlecinema.com.
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