Come Meet The National at The Esquire Theatre!

Mistaken for StrangersIn the next few days the Esquire Theatre will be hosting two special events in connection with the premier of Mistaken for Strangers, the new rockumentary about Cincinnati’s own The National. Subtitled “A year on tour with my brother’s band,” the movie had been referred to as a comedic documentary for reasons that – judging by the trailer – have to do with the tensions that result when one member of the band is a rock star (Tom Berninger) and one member isn’t (the film director, Matt Berninger). Both the rock star and his brother will discuss the outcome of their year on the road together during the Q&A events taking place at the Esquire this Friday, March 28th, and next Monday, March 31st.

Friday’s live Skype Q&A with Matt Berninger and Tom Berninger will take place after the 7:30pm screening. The event will be hosted by Jeff Thomas from the Jeff & Jen show on Q102. Tickets for the event can be purchased here or at the Esquire’s ticket office.

After Monday’s 7:30pm screening Jim Blase from Shake-It Records will host a live Q&A with Matt Berninger, Tom Berninger and the drummer for The National, Bryan Devendorf. Tickets for this event can be purchased here or at the Esquire ticket office.Both events are being presented in conjunction with Shake It Records. I should note here that Mistaken for Strangers will be a full-run movie at the Esquire, so if you can’t make it to one of the Q&A events, you’ll have plenty of other times to see it. Also, ticket’s for Monday’s event are going FAST, but there are still plenty of seats for Friday’s event.  The trailer suggests the film will have plenty of backstage humor along with exciting live footage:


The Grand Budapest Hotel is at the Esquire

grand-budapest-hotelThe new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is now showing at the Esquire Theatre. This highly anticipated film was packed on its first weekend, and it was clear from Friday night’s show that this new work by a unique director lived up to its expectations. There was plenty of laughter as well as the cries an audience makes when characters fall off cliffs or dodge bullets. What makes Wes Anderson such an interesting director is the fact that he can make an art film that after a half-hour of setting up some highly formalized frame narration turns out to be hilarious, fast-paced, and action-packed, complete with chase scenes, slapstick humor and bizarre visual effects that wouldn’t have been out of place in an old Buster Keaton silent film. Some wildly imaginative storytelling also gives the film an old-fashioned air (with, of course, a post-modernist spin). In summary, if you see The Grand Budapest Hotel, expect to be entertained. Due to demand it’s showing in two different rooms, and the times are 12:00. 12:40 1:10, 2:10 2:50 3;20, 4:20, 4:55. 5:30, 6:30, 7:10, 8:40, 9:20, and 9:50.  Here’s the trailer:


Great Beauty at The Esquire

great-beauty-3Playing now at the Esquire Theatre, The Great Beauty (La Grande Belleza) features 2 hours and 17 minutes of beautiful camera work and quite often stunning scenery. Appropriately enough it focuses on “the beautiful people” in the social and artistic circles in contemporary Rome. The camera work, symbolism, decadence, grotesques, bold juxtapositions between the ancient and the present, and many other details call to mind films by another Italian director, Frederico Fellini. The moral of the story—for what starts out seeming like more like an impressionistic portrait ends up unveiling a narrative that makes a point—might also have been at home in a movie by Fellini. What the main character, Jep Gambardella, learns is that being at the social epicenter of one of Europe’s most glamorous cities doesn’t add up to much in the end.

There are two ways he envisions escaping from the emptiness he’s beginning to feel. One is to finally enter into a relationship with a woman; the other is to write his second novel. As a young man he had published a novel that, while it seems unlikely that he put his heart and soul into it (or anything else for that matter), was probably better than he realized, and in any case it received enough attention to give him a toehold into elite social circles. Quickly he turned to a less demanding and more socially rewarding brand of journalism that had him rubbing shoulders with the beautiful people and leading a life that would be the envy of many of us. So why does it all feel so hollow in the end? In part, perhaps, because many times “the art world” has so little to do with art and in fact has little substance.

New Coen Brothers Film at the Esquire

Inside Llewyn DavisThe new Coen Brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis is showing now at The Esquire Theatre. The film takes us into the world of the 1960s folk music revival during the period where the corporations are starting to infiltrate a scene that originally stood out for its idealism. In the film Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn Davis, an authentic folk musician who has opportunities to sell out but chooses not to. He also makes some career and life blunders along the way, and the movies runs the risk of presenting a character who’s just one more ne’er do well in a long line of losers. It sidesteps that trap, however, and it also avoids the hoaky, two-dimensional portrayal of the folk coffeehouse scene that would have been so easy to stumble into.

I was too young to experience that scene, but as a record collector I caught a whiff of it. It seems like it was always in Clifton that I would find remarkable collections from folkies who were there when it happened. The ten- and twelve-inch EPs and LPs on Folkways, Elektra, Arhoolie, and other labels were more than just black plastic discs that happened to contain music. They were mementos of a movement whose musical depth was matched by a deep social and political consciousness. That was new stuff back then, and it helped lay the groundwork for whatever progress has been made. I suspect that Inside Llewyn Davis will help turn some ears toward folksingers who made invaluable contributions during the revival but have been under-recognized since. Phil Ochs was one of them, and when I started dropping the needle on folk records, this was one the songs that stuck out:

Wadjda Tells a Great Story; It’s at The Esquire

Currently at The Esquire, Wadjda is the story of a 10-year-old girl living in Saudia Arabia. The bare bones of the plot involve her attempts to obtain a bicycle. That may sound undramatic, but the trials she undergoes in her quest end up exposing much of what’s wrong with fundamentalist Muslim society, not just for females, but for everyone. The movie does so in a non-didactic fashion, with rich, fully developed characters.

In this movie you can feel the oppression—even with young schoolchildren like Wadjda and her classmates. Wadjda’s desire to ride a bike turns out to be a radical act, as doing so is frowned up by fundamentalist Muslims. The struggles Wadjda and her classmates undergo are paralleled by Wadjda’s mother, whose inability to bear a second child has her husband seeking Wife #2. The parallels also extend to the director of the film, Haifaa Al Mansour. Because she’s female, Haifaa was forced to jump through all kinds of extra hoops to make the film.

In movies that expose society’s ills characters sometimes feel like stick figures, but not here. Even when they act in a sexist manner, the male characters seem like real human beings. For them, as with the woman, there’s little wiggle room in such an oppressive society, and you sense that, like the women, the men are also ready to see their society evolve. As the charming and industrious Wadjda wheels and deals her way in the direction of bicycle ownership, she finds support in unexpected places. Her allies include the boy who inspired, due to her competitive streak, the desire to own a bike—and someone who, unexpectedly and at the last minute, lends a helping hand.

A Hilarious New Movie Comes to The Esquire

There was good-sized crowd at The Esquire Theatre Saturday for the 10pm showing of Edgar Wright’s new film The World’s End, and people laughed out loud from the beginning to end. The premise is simple enough: five guys who failed to finish a pub crawl twenty years earlier give it another try. This time, however, things are more complicated, partly because their lives are more complicated, and also because an ominous extra-terrestrial conspiracy weaves its way into the plot. The ability of the movie to keep adding a layer of absurdity when you thought it had reached its limit reminded me of Being John Malkovich. I won’t give away the ending of The World’s End, but I will say that during the film many a pint gets consumed, and by the time the film was over I was more than ready to quaff a cold pint at Arlin’s. The movie is number three of director Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  Continue reading “A Hilarious New Movie Comes to The Esquire”

New Movies at The Esquire Theatre

When the Esquire Theatre reopened a couple decades ago, many of us hoped it would show a healthy percentage of experimental or “art” movies from around the world, and fortunately it has. Because of the historic Clifton theatre, we have a place to see movies by directors like Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, whose Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is probably his most famous film. His 2011 film, The Skin I’m In, was a brilliant and spine-chilling study of gender and identity. For reasons that do not need explaining if you saw the film (and would spoil the film if you haven’t), I felt serious non-comfort while watching the film, but I walked away knowing that I had undergone a unique and intense film experience.

Almodovar’s new film, I’m So Excited, is night-and-day different from its predecessor, to the point where I wouldn’t have known it was the same director…except both films are miles from mainstream cinema. In fact, one of the intriguing things about I’m So Excited is how this silly, wacked-out and absurd flick references conventional movies and TV shows while turning them on their head. Continue reading “New Movies at The Esquire Theatre”

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel is Playing at the Esquire

The documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel is now at The Esquire Theatre. Diana Vreeland was a famous and extremely influential fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar from 1937 to 1962 and editor-of-chief  at Vogue from 1963 to 1971. I attended this documentary about a woman who acted as a guru in the women’s fashion world even though I rarely give much thought to women’s clothes, or for that matter men’s clothes, even though I wear them. When it comes to matters of style, I appreciate well-designed cocktail glasses and elaborate swizzle sticks; sleek blonde furniture, the more modular the better; old stereo components; and 1950s album covers with photographs of jungle imagery, spaceships, or people enjoying cocktails. Where men’s clothes are concerned, I like vintage skinny ties and porkpie hats. That’s a short and unimpressive list, but nonetheless I enjoyed Diana Vreeland. Continue reading “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel is Playing at the Esquire”

Five Reasons to See Redlegs at the Esquire Theatre This Weekend

This weekend the Esquire Theatre will host  the Cincinnati premier of Redlegs, a locally-shot film by a Cincinnati native, Brandon Harris. Showtimes are 1:15, 3:00, 5:00, 7:10, 9:10, and tickets can be purchased either online or at the door. It’s running for at least a week,  but here are 5 reasons to see it this weekend:

  • You can meet the director. According to a Facebook post by the director Brandon Harris, “I’ll be on hand for Q&As after Friday and Saturday’s 7:10 shows and Sunday’s 3:00. Hope to see you all there!”
  • Redlegs has lots of locally-shot scenes with iconic settings. Per a City Beat blurb, the film includes “vanilla shakes from UDF; the Ohio River; an argument in Northside Tavern’s restroom; fisticuffs with a West Side redneck; a trip to Great American Ball Park; the WEBN fireworks.” Continue reading “Five Reasons to See Redlegs at the Esquire Theatre This Weekend”

Vertigo on the Big Screen This Friday, October 19

It has reached the point where we can see almost any movie we want in the comfort of our own home. At the same time, because we have the history of cinema at our fingertips opportunities to watch classic films on the big screen are increasingly rare—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a film more worthy of such a viewing than Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo, which will be showing at the Esquire Theatre this Friday, October 19, at 10:30 p.m. Among the reasons Vertigo belongs on the big screen:

  • Because fate has it in for him the character James Stewart plays, John “Scottie” Ferguson, who suffers from vertigo, ends up facing not one but two situations where his fear of heights gets tested. The use of the dolly zoom in order to convey the disorientation Scottie experiences needs to be seen on the full screen to be fully appreciated.
  • Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack to the film is legendary, and it will sound great on the Esquire’s sound system.
  • The opening sequence, featuring Herrmmann’s score, the most memorable eyeball shot since Un Chien Andalou, and colorful graphics is more intense on the big screen.
  • Vertigo is a classic film in a classic theatre that’s been around 100 years, showing many Hitchcock movies during their first go-round.