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Citizen Jane: Battle for the City at Cornell Cinema

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City relayed a narrative of civil disobedience, the destructive uprooting and displacement of black communities, and a constant fight to bring the city back to its people. The 2016 documentary, directed by Matt Tyrnauer and featuring Prof. Thomas Campanella, premiered in Ithaca at Willard Straight Theater this past Wednesday. The documentary delves into the life of Jane Jacobs’, recounting her fervent campaign to save New York City from attempts to pave over its existing social fabric. Author of the influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, grassroots activist Jacobs advocated for “eyes on the street” as a force for safety, providing for vital and prosperous city streets. In an hour and a half the film provided a critique of urban renewal and the ideals of modernism driving New York City’s planning commissioner Robert Moses to clear out the suffering cities through demolition and the complete remodeling of its infrastructure.

Holly Hunter in Strange Weather (2016).

Strange Weather Characters Shine, but Plot Falters

“There are 50-something women everywhere! Why do we only see them in the world but never on the screen?”

This was the question that prompted Katherine Dieckmann to set out and make Strange Weather. Following the screening on Thursday night at Cornell Cinema, writer-director Dieckmann joined the audience for a conversation about the making of her most recent film. I find her initial question striking because the only reason I wanted to see this film in the first place was Holly Hunter. I’m a fan of hers; I don’t care if she’s pushing sixty or most of her recent roles are mothers or kind-hearted neighbors, because she shines in major and minor parts alike.

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Coming Soon to Cornell Cinema: Bronx Gothic

How does a “little brown girl” feel power in a nation plagued by discrimination, privilege and bias? Bronx Gothic, which plays Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. at Cornell Cinema, follows Okwui Okpokwasili as she passionately examines this topic through drama, comedy and dance. Okpokwasili’s one-woman show follows the narrative of two young, black girls growing up in the Bronx, one innocent and the other’s life marked by sexual violence and abuse, who communicate on a deeply personal level through the passing of notes. For the first thirty minutes of the stage version of Bronx Gothic, Okpokwasili simply vibrates in the corner of the stage with the hope that people will be forced to stop asking what is going on and tune in to the frequency that she is emitting. The remainder of her narrative is laid out as a crude series of letters depicting a friendship’s rise and fall, sex, and bias, paired with movements that, at times, bring Okpokwasili to the stage floor.

John Cleese and A Fish Called Wanda at Cornell Cinema

I am gonna come clean now: I didn’t know who John Cleese is until two weeks ago. My best friend was appalled when he asked if I wanted to go to this Cleese talk together, and I looked at the event title and said “sure, I loved Kirshner’s class.”

But now I’m converted! The Monty Python star wrote, directed and stars in the brilliantly silly heist movie, A Fish Called Wanda, which screened at Cornell Cinema on Sept. 10. Cleese and professor Jonathan Kirshner, government, engaged in a prescreening conversation, which is just as funny and nutritious as the film.

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Hamlet (1921) with the Filmharmonia Duo Coming to Sage Chapel

We’re all probably familiar with the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Hamlet, prince of Denmark, seeks revenge on his uncle at the behest of his father’s ghost, all the while finding the time to talk to skulls, wallow in existential dread, etc. etc. However, this 1921 German silent film adaptation turns the familiar tale on its head, doing so with a very interesting proposition from Dr. Edward P. Vining’s 1881 book: Hamlet is actually a woman.  

This not actually as unusual as it might seem; there is, in fact, a long and rich tradition of female Hamlets. After Charles II gave permission for women to act, the first woman to appear in a Shakespeare play did so in 1660, and soon afterwards, women began playing not only women’s roles but also those of men.

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For The Love of the Movies: Coming This Fall to Cornell Cinema

There was nothing I loved more as a kid than driving five minutes up the road to an AMC theater with my mom, waiting in line at the massive concession bar and finishing my extra-large popcorn with extra butter during the previews. Sometimes we’d treat ourselves and drive 15 whole minutes to a Regal with the nice reclining, leather seats. So why, if I love going to the movies so much, had I never been to Cornell Cinema? Last week I sauntered into the basement of Willard Straight to talk with Cornell Cinema manager Doug McLaren. I didn’t lie to him — I’d never ventured below the Ivy Room, so he graciously showed me around.

COURTESY OF CORNELL CINEMA

Cornell Cinema to Debut 3-D Projection System Friday

 

Cornell Cinema inaugurates a new 3-D projection system Friday night with the post-apocalyptic film Mad Max: Fury Road. 

In 2016, Cornell Cinema received a capital equipment grant from the New York State Council on the Arts offering the campus theatre half of the installation cost for a 3-D system.  A crowdfunding campaign launched in November matched the funds — remarkably quickly — and the Friday night show will be its first run. For many people, myself included, 3-D film still feels new.  Cornell Cinema hopes to share the medium’s weighted cinematic history. The first 3-D exhibition dates back to 1915 and, since that time, the stereoscopic method attracts Hollywood, independent, documentary, foreign and experimental film productions.

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Personality in Electromagnetism: The Glamour & The Squalor

Car speakers emit radio waves with a long travel logged history.  When we turn up the dial on a finger-worn sound system, our heads bop to a sound bit morphed into electromagnetic energy — a wave particle caught up in the ionosphere, thrust back down again and ricocheted at the speed of light from one aerial antenna to the next.  By the time these notes reach our numb ears, they carry more than empty air.  Once our carpool starts singing the lyrics, we’ve forgotten even what station transmits each new note.  The next best single transports our minds like the long-form radio wave — away from car parts and gasoline, beyond wired batteries and tuning dial.

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Duck Soup at Cornell Cinema: A Healthy Serving of Laughter

If reality television existed in the 1930s, the Marx Brothers may be remembered today as the male antecedent to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Where the brothers blossomed from vaudeville to Broadway to motion pictures to television comedies, the Kardashians continue to progress from independently produced sex tape to accredited reality series to “Kourtney and Khloe take Miami” to the Kylie Jenner Lip Kit.  The two families take very different approaches on theatrical dramas and elicit laughter, shock and imitation for none of the same reasons. Regardless, Minnie Marx, mother to Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, may have inspired Kris Jenner to her momager role.  Minnie, an actress in her own right, led her sons to the limelight with a little more talent and a lot more clothing than her modern day match.

Searching For Meaning

Contemplating the concept of existence leaves room for many questions. What does it mean to exist? Is there a difference between living and being alive? What is happiness? We can define what it means to be alive, at least in the scientific sense: we breathe to pump oxygen to our hearts; we consume nutrients to keep our bodies functioning. But, in order to define the existential state of living, we must go beyond this corporal aspect, something that may require personal will and enlightenment. You, the Living a Swedish film playing at Cornell Cinema this weekend, is a somewhat surrealist attempt to illustrate “the living,” people who are alive but who tread a fine line between dream and reality, between being alive and being something else altogether.