Movie Day 2015-16

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Once again, movie day has come and gone. The tradition began in 2007 as a way to see a few movies I was dying to see the day before I left to study abroad. Now, eight years later, it has evolved into a full day of movie-going in an attempt to make a dent in the overwhelmingly saturated holiday/awards season.

Aside from my stamina, I’d like to thank the following people. Feel free to click through and follow them on Instagram! Marco Chieffalo, Josh Rothberg, Leigh Cesiro, Caitlin Northcote, Hana Katen, Jay Schmidt, Kimberly Cooper, Erica Plofsky, Jillian Shaw, Lucy Vallejo-Anderson, and Erica Anderman.

So, with tickets in hand, I headed to my favorite multiplex in the city: AMC Lincoln Square 13.

9am Movie #1: The Revenant

Regardless of the early time, it was a pretty packed theatre. Finding our seats on the right side of the auditorium, I was surprised to see how diverse in age the audience was at this showtime. It’s usually a much older crowd. This long, mostly intense film seemed like the best way to thrust my way into the day.

The Revenant, directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman), is the story of a direly injured tracker, Huge Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), attempting to make imageshis way back to the men who left him to die in the bleak wilderness of 1823 Montana and South Dakota. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the film was beautiful from start to finish, as the wilderness served as one of the main characters. The acting is superb, led by Dicaprio, who is sure to be nominated and maybe get his first oscar win. Personally, I’m never blown away by him, but here he is very good.

Clocking in at just over two and a half hours, the film is brutal, punishing, and 15 minutes too long. That being said, it’s pretty special and a perfect start to movie day.

1:10pm Movie #2: The Big Short

Since The Revenant had taken up most of the morning, I had plenty of time scheduled for lunch and a leg stretch. If I’ve learned anything from past movie days, it’s that absorption time, especially after the more intense features, is a necessity. So after a walk and a chicken shwarma, I was right back in another theatre for The Big Short. Then, the movie day scare happened.

Apparently, there was a false alarm in the AMC’s fire system that shut down all of the in-progress movies. From what I heard, part of the theatre was evacuated and new movie goers were stuck outside, attempting to get in. I images-4started to panic because the jump from this movie to the next movie was my tightest of the day and a failure on movie day sets up the whole year for failure. The whole year, I tell you! However, after it all played out, the movie was completely full and started only five minutes late. Pretty lucky stuff.

As the previews started, a massive amount of people were still trying to find seats after the delay. The house lights went out as the screen began to glow with the trailers’ green images, which caused a bit of chaos in the crowd. People were still looking to see what seats were available with no lights. This was not a good move by AMC. Even if the lights were on an auto dim, that should have been changed for this situation. A very frustrating moment for many audience members.

Adam McKay (Anchorman) is the perfect director to handle this heavy, somewhat depressing, material. The Big Short follows three groups of hedge fund managers who foresaw the 2007 financial crisis and bet against the housing market to make a considerable profit. Starring Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, and an incredible Steve Carell, the movie is a home run. It attempts to teach the audience about the specifics of why the economy crashed, while profiling the men who benefited from it all. In what could have been a boring, sad, and mundane prestige picture, The Big Short in McKay’s hands is filled with humor, heart, and a morality. The substance of this film is inherently depressing, but the movie is a colorful portrait of our times that doesn’t dumb down the cynical feelings.

4:00pm Movie #3: Sisters

Despite the late start for my most attended movie of the day, The Big Short, I made it to Sisters with time to spare. Once again, it was another packed images-1house. Friends had saved a seat for me, so that made everything a little bit easier and less stressful. Sisters was chosen as the comedy to break up the day, so I wasn’t expecting much from it.

When sisters Kate (Tiny Fey) and Maura (Amy Poehler), find out that their parents are selling their childhood home, they throw one last party to top all parties. I love Fey and Poehler, as the majority of the world does now, but the movie starts off pretty laughless, only to be saved by a decently funny 2nd and 3rd act. Overall, the movie wouldn’t work without the two stars and their chemistry, but having gone in with low expectations, I enjoyed it for what it. It’s not great, but I laughed enough. I know that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but Sisters is the definition of ‘meh’.

7:50pm Movie #4: Anomalisa

After Sisters, I grabbed a little dinner and took a brisk walk to the new theatre, Lincoln Plaza Cinema 6, for the final two of the day. This theatre, featuring some of the best indie pictures out, is a cozy relic of yesteryear. The screens are small, the carpets are old, but the movies are so good. It was packed.

As a big fan of all of Charlie Kaufman’s work, I was very excited to be able to include Anomalisa in this year’s movie day. Told through stop motion images-2animation, Anomalisa (directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson) is about a customer service guru, Michael Stone (David Thewlis), in the midst of a midlife crisis. Away for a speaking engagement in Cincinnati, Michael attempts to fill the holes in his life on his night at the hotel. I didn’t know what to expect from this one, but I was not ready for what I got.

It’s an extremely intimate hour and a half deconstruction of the loneliness and sadness of a man in a seemingly lost place in his life. The fact that he’s a stop motion character makes no difference in conveying the humanity of the film. It goes places that most live action pictures can’t, as it wouldn’t have as much impact. Jennifer Jason Leigh voices a timid and insecure Lisa, who is wooed by Michael in his whirlwind of a night. Perhaps the most important performance in the film is Tom Noonan who voices everybody else. Man or woman, he brings a monotonous, yet specific, characterization to the world around Michael.

I had a hard time empathizing (or sympathizing) with Michael, as his type of sadness and how he handles it is beyond my true understanding, but both he and Lisa’s short journey is fascinating and deep. There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to this film, but I’m not going to spoil it here. I’m still absorbing it all and will be for a while.

10:25pm Movie #5: 45 Years

Well, we made it to the last movie and fittingly the theatre was empty. It was me, Leigh, and maybe eight other strangers. After a long day of retina burning fun, I’m glad the it ended with 45 Years because it was quite the slow burn of a film.

While planning for their 45th wedding anniversary, Geoff and Kate receive a letter that changes the dynamic of their relationship. Told over the course images-3of a handful of days, we watch uncertainty and insecurity creep into their everyday lives. Is 45 years enough time to fully know a person? This film is held up by its two leads’ performances and while Tom Courtnay as Geoff Mercer is wonderful, Charlotte Rampling as Kate is one of the best performances of the year. The journey of her character from beginning to end is so life shattering, yet all of it is internally conveyed. From her use of subtext to the dying glow in her eyes, it’s a performances that isn’t showy, but overwhelmingly captivating. The last ten minutes, without any confrontation, is incredibly fiery and tension filled. This slow and rewarding film is dynamite.

Well, we did it again! Movie day was a complete and total success. Timing, quality, and attendance all lined up to create one of the better days in its eight year history. Here’s my rough list of best to worst films of the day:

  1. The Big Short
  2. 45 Years
  3. Anomalisa
  4. The Revenant
  5. Sisters

There are always aspects I question, for instance: Should I end the day with such depressing material? Should I have saved certain movies for this day to round out the diversity? Is 5 or 6 films too many and would 4 at better showtimes be a more solid day? These are things I’ll consider for next year, but for now, I’ll happily take this one as a win. And even after 5 movies in a row, I was ready for another. Happy Movie Day to all!

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan