For better or worse, summertime is blockbuster time at the local cinema. All those car chases and car crashes, superheroes and supervillains, aliens and predators, bullet hail storms and blooming mortar shells represent an all-out assault on the senses. Thank Zeus for the fall season and the films of style and substance that start trickling in as film vendors from Hollywood to Bollywood start releasing films geared more to Oscar than to Gomer.
The big films to watch for at your local cineplex include Ray, with Jamie Foxx recreating the life of Ray Charles (Oct. 29); Alexander, Oliver Stone's look at the life of the ancient Greek great one, with it-boy Colin Farrell in the starring role (Nov. 5); and The Aviator, with Leonardo DiCaprio as the young Howard Hughes (Dec. 17). Of course you won't want to miss Team America: World Police, the South Park creators' roasting of the war on terror -- with marionettes (Oct. 15).
Then again, quality -- in the traditional sense of the word -- isn't necessarily required in the delivery of a rewarding movie experience. After all, sometimes, even a really good bad movie is just the ticket.
The center of art house and boutique films in Spokane is surely the Met Theater and its popular cinema series. This year, The Inlander is the proud sponsor of the Met Cinema while theater manager Michael Smith will continue to bring in the good stuff -- and show it three times a day at 3 pm, 5:30 pm and 8 pm. What's coming? First up is Intimate Strangers, a seductive take on mistaken identity and secrets revealed by French director Patrice Leconte, which runs Sept. 15-18. Control Room, a documentary chronicle of the current Iraq war from a decidedly different viewpoint than most Americans have experienced thus far, follows from Sept. 20-24. Wildly expressive director Guy Maddin's period musical fantasy, The Saddest Music in the World (about a contest to find the most heartbreaking song ever penned), will be shown on Sept. 25-30.
The Spokane Jewish Film Festival lands on Oct. 3-6, with three offerings, Emma Goldman: An Exceedingly Dangerous Woman, My Architect and Paperclips. Then there's a documentary that looks at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance. The Corporation -- shown Oct. 17-20 --applies psychoanalytical theory to one sick, twisted puppy: the American Corporate Model. Another documentary, Libby, Montana, shown on Oct. 24-26, examines a small rural town's struggle with an asbestos-poisoning nightmare that ranks as one of the largest health crises in U.S. history. On Nov. 19-21, the Best of Banff Mountain Film Festival moves in and gets cozy with a selection of celluloid treats all focusing on a single theme: mountain culture -- in the myriad of ways you, along with the filmmakers themselves, might want to define that.
Here's a fun one. Starting Saturday, Oct. 9, at the stroke of midnight, CenterStage will present a screening of the 1978 cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!, the first installment of what they are calling "The Worst Midnight Movie Series Ever." The brain that wouldn't die behind this idea pledges to present another laughably horrible movie (complete with serial shorts) every Saturday night until Spokane can't stand it anymore. That sounds like a call to arms, doesn't it? A call up for every true fan of fringe, trash and cult cinema to get off their couches and join the community of those with a similar taste for mayhem. Join us. Oh yeah, and they serve alcohol, too.
These aren't just any bad movies, you know. These are in fact some of best of the absolutely worst movies ever committed to film. It's hilariously bad all over with these cinematic abominations: ridiculous plots, inept direction, abysmal acting, mad scientists, mass murderers, Aztec mummies and biker chicks. Clearly, bad was never so much fun.
The schedule so far is rounded out with such legendary awfulness such as Chopper Chicks from Zombie Town on Oct. 16, Bride of the Monster on Oct. 23 (an Ed Wood must-see classic with a crazy performance by horror star Bela Lugosi!) and Squirm on Oct. 30. Assuming this thing is a hit (and why wouldn't it be at only $3 with popcorn available?) future flicks in the series will be derived from an equally impressive short list including Heavy Metal, Maniac, Switchblade Sisters, Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wasp Woman, Dead Alive, Invasion of the Bee Girls and the completely insane (no, seriously, insane), Manos the Hands of Fate.
The Flicker Film Festival (see story, page 75) hits CenterStage on Sunday, Oct. 10, celebrating small-gauge experimental filmmaking in its most fundamental form: the 15-minute short. Join local cinephiles and filmmakers from Spokane and from around the country for a dozen of these concise but mind-blowing statements, the kind of films you simply won't see anywhere else: animation, abstract narrative, avant-garde and the just plain strange. There will be two screenings to choose from (at 2 pm and 6 pm), a great big venue to spread out in and hospitality galore with food and cocktails available.
Not many are aware that the Big Dipper, aside from being a great place to take in a live music event, is also a pretty nice spot to catch a movie. The folks at KYRS Thin Air Community Radio do. And that's why they'll be using the club to host another benefit film night for the station on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 8 pm. Submitted for your entertainment and edification, The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the End of the American Dream, an ironic and sobering examination of the American way of life as sold to us by the corporate elite -- and its dim future prospects. Turns out that global demand for the fossil fuels needed to fuel the whole thing is beginning to outstrip supply. Your $5 donation gets you into the movie and sets you up with popcorn as well.
The large-format film wizards over at Riverfront Park's IMAX Theatre will be presenting a new holiday offering this year called The Polar Express. Starting Nov. 10, it's billed as the first full-length feature ever converted into IMAX 3D. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, the film (based on a children's book) uses CGI animation and live action to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. The more traditional holiday favorite, Santa vs. the Snowman (from the creator of Nickelodeon's Jimmy Neutron) will also be showing starting Nov. 10.
On Friday, Sept. 17, North Idaho College presents the Mountain Film Festival, an open-air movie happening featuring a selection of documentaries, animation and adventure films from the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado. A live band -- locals Ashbury Park -- will ease fans into the cinematic mood, and the films will start rolling as soon as it gets dark. The fest is free with a canned food donation, so grab a lawn chair and a blanket and head out to Fort Sherman Park (behind the Student Union Building) on the NIC campus for outdoor films al fresco.
Sandpoint's grand old Panida Theatre has, as you might expect, some film events scheduled this fall including the documentary Festival Express (starring '60s rock icons Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Band, Buddy Guy and the Flying Burrito Brothers, among others) from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, and Forbidden Hollywood from Oct. 11-13.