Cinema

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“Valhalla” (1937). Much

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/03/2022 - 10:03am in

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vintage, films, Cinema

“Valhalla” (1937). Much loved art deco cinema. Opened as the “Astor”, a purpose built cinema with 997 seats. Closed in 1959 and abandoned, but saved from dereliction a decade later, restored and eventually became the Valhalla in 1979. It’s been showing indy, art house and cult movies ever since. Glebe.

Cartoon: Threats all go to the movies!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/01/2022 - 9:50am in

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Cinema, Comics, Film, Movies

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Strangelove redux

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/12/2021 - 8:48pm in

We watched Don’t Look Up last night. Obviously satire, obviously really about our inability to act against climate change, but also about the comical inabilty of the United States to play the role it has arrogated to itself. Faced with a threat to the planet, the scientific Cassandras are blown off by a President focused on the short-term political narrative and, when they try to tell the media, relegated behind pop-trivia, goaded by lightweight news anchors, and ridiculed on twitter. When the adminstration does finally wake up to the threat from the meteor, it sabotages its own efforts in order to appease a tech-solutionist multimillionaire donor, who spies a chance to profit, with disastrous results.

As a film, it owes a lot to Dr Strangelove, with Mark Rylance, playing a kind of composite Jobs/Bezos/Musk/Thiel reprising Peter Sellers’s Werner von Braunish character and Ron Perlman taking on the Slim Pickens role. But it is the politics that interest me here, because the film accurately and savagely destroys the claim made by and for the United States of America to be a kind of universal state, able and entitled to act on behalf of humanity as a whole. A claim that has made at least since the Second World War and which continues to be implicit in the discourse of every centrist columnist at the New York Times, whose “we” is ambiguous between the US national interest and the world in general. It is, for example, in the name of this ambiguous “we” that pro-war shills are currently claiming that the US has the right, and possibly the duty, to attack Iran, whereas the US reserves the right to deny legitimacy to Russian or Chinese attacks on other countries. Team America World Police, as it were.

Morally, the Team American claim was alway a sham and a disaster, but ideologically it limped on, despite Vietnam and Iraq, even as far as the Obama era. Even now it persists in zombie assertions by polticians and columnists. But Meryl Streep’s President Orlean would be ill-equipped to exercise moral leadership of any kind, anywhere. She is a huckster polician, playing to the MAGA (DLU) gallery and in hock to people like Rylance’s Peter Isherwell, whose money and solutions she needs because she has none of her own, nor the perspicuity to detect the bullshit. Nobody is holding her to account, certainly not a media for whom journalism is just an extension of light entertainment. And the truth tellers? Well, they are easy to dismiss as too shouty or having the wrong hair (Jennifer Lawrence) or open to the temptations of co-option. Besides, they are not from a top-ranked university: only the Ivies and Stanford really count in a world where credibilty comes from money.

One of familiar tropes of those centrist columnists is that we may hate Team America but we’ll miss it when it’s gone. That thought is usually voiced as part of some Atlanticist argument. But we need to face up to the fact that is has gone, already. There is a mess of incompetence, indecision and venality, accompanied by guns and tech solutionism, that has rendered the US barely capable of governing itself, let along leading humanity. After 2024, further collapse back into Trumpism beckons. We’d better get used the fact that Team American is no more, and that what is left of its financial and military power will only serve to harm the rest of us and get in the way of the problems humanity faces.

Rainy Night at the Regent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/11/2021 - 8:09pm in

Late on a rainy night, the lights of the Richmond Regent cinema reflect on the wet road in front of it like moonlight on water. The lights are on in the lobby and in the upper-storey windows, but the building has a dramatic, shadowy presence, befitting the drama that happens on the screens within.

The Regent dates from the picture-palace days of the 1930s, when the grand facades and elegant interiors of art deco theatres offered transformation: a new atmosphere, one elegant and magical, elevated above ordinary life. The Regent opened in 1935, a handful of years after its architects had designed another landmark theatre, the Roxy in Parramatta. It is not difficult to imagine the Regent at this time. Apart from its conversion to a twin cinema in the 1990s, it has changed comparatively little.

There are posters for the new releases affixed to the doors, and the potted palms that were once by the columns in the lobby have been replaced by a hand sanitiser dispenser and a check-in table, but the same feeling comes over me when I step inside. The Regent is the kind of cinema I visited as a child, with the same textures of velvet and carpet, and the hand-painted signs, and the sense that I had already begun to enter another, fantasy world just by stepping through the door.

Perhaps the Regent has retained its identity so strongly because it has remained independent, and only ever had three owners. The first two, coincidentally, for they were not related, were both called Michael Walsh. The third and current owner John Levy, or ‘Mr Movies’ as he is known and referred to in the cinema’s communications, bought the cinema in 1989. Now in his 80s, he will retire in January, and the cinema will be taken over by new owners. Often when I’ve come to the Regent Mr Movies has been in the box office, dispensing tickets (all tickets, all day, every day are $12), but tonight it’s just the two young staff at the candy bar.

We buy tickets to the late screening of No Time to Die and linger around in the lobby for a little while, looking at the framed photographs hung on the wall that capture it in previous incarnations. A letter from the 1930s owners around the time of the cinema’s opening promises patrons that will be experiencing “the best the world can offer” in terms of sound quality, and of comfort, with the theatre’s Dunlop Cushion Pillow Seats. A wooden sign on the stairs announced the upstairs area was closed: disappointing as up there is a 30s/80s lounge area, with mirrored columns and gold velvet armchairs.

The downstairs theatre is the original of the two: in the 90s the mezzanine seating was walled off and converted into the second theatre, but there’s still a sense of how it would have been as one big, cavernous room. The film isn’t due to start for another quarter of an hour. The curtains are drawn, and there’s no sound except for the rain outside, and no one else here, yet. A spotlight illuminates the curtains, as if at any moment someone is about to walk out on stage. I sit back in the plush red seat, a child, an adult, in the past, in the present, waiting for the film to start.