It’s one thing to go to the movie theater, buy a ticket, popcorn and soda, and sit back, relax and watch the movie. It’s another experience entirely to watch a film with fellow film lovers and in some cases, engaging in a lively discussion afterwards with some of the people involved in the actual making of the film. With three film series this summer featuring the films of Marlon Brando, documentaries and movies about the media, as well as teen-produced films, Princeton Public Library will pique the taste of a wide range of movie aficionados. All events are free and open to the public.
The first series features the films of the great Marlon Brando; the occasion, the first anniversary of his death. Film historian and Princeton resident Bruce Lawton, who is running this series, says: "I love Brando’s eccentricity. He was a true maverick as a performer and an actor. I started thinking about what would be a good tribute, and I knew I didn’t want to show the usual suspects – Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and The Godfather – I wanted to show him in his lesser-known films. But I’ve discovered that every single film he appears in, he turns in a fascinating performance, and this series will shed light on those that don’t usually get as much play."
The Brando series opens Wednesday, July 6, and feature the screening of a montage of the most famous scenes from his career as well as a showing of The Ugly American (1963). "That movie was a personal project for him," says Lawton. "He had a production company in the 1950s. Brando was a very socially aware person. He was always trying to figure out how to put social content into whatever he was working on. I like the movie because it speaks to what’s going on in the world even now."
On Wednesday, July 20, the audience will be treated to a rarely-seen film called "Meet Marlon Brando" (1966). The movie, which runs about a half hour, shows the actor interacting with the media while on a press junket. Says Lawton: "It’s revealing because it shows Brando’s quirkiness and his sense of humor." Also shown that night will be "Morituri," a World War II espionage picture. The name itself is a reference to Shakespeare and Roman history.
On August 3, the series will screen a documentary called "Marlon Brando: The Wild One" (1996), a documentary about Brando’s life and work with observations and stories from such film world luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola, Anthony Hopkins, Dennis Hopper, and Martin Sheen. The documentary will be followed by "The Appaloosa," a 98-minute western (1966), which depicts Brando as a world-weary hunter returning home, seeking peace and a new beginning with his adopted family.
"I wanted to show the different facets of his talent through his work with different genres," Lawton says. "If you had Brando in a picture you wouldn’t necessarily get what was in the script but you would get something extraordinarily interesting. His behavior in film was infinitely fascinating. He was so into giving a true performance. He liked to watch people to find out what made them tick and then adapt their behavior to his talent for acting. He helped change the face of acting."
Lawton says that actors like Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino were heavily influenced by Brando’s tradition of great acting. So has Johnny Depp, the contemporary actor Lawton thinks is most similar to Brando in terms of genius and talent. "He brings something unique, just as Brando did."
Lawton is passionate about the movies and passionate about his work as a film historian and archivist. He was born into a family of cinematographers who go back to the silent era, starting with his great-grandfather, who broke into the movies in 1915 as a cinematographer. His grandfather, Karl Malkames, was a newsreel cameraman and became heavily involved in the restoration and preservation of motion pictures. "Consequently our family had a whole collection of cinemachinery – cameras and projectors and other equipment. The nitrate film they used back then would decompose and deteriorate. My grandfather was one of the first to devise equipment to copy decomposing film onto film stock way before the big labs were doing it."
He says his earliest childhood memory goes back to when he was about two or three years old sitting on his grandfather’s lap at his home in Scarsdale, New York. "I was sitting in the 20-foot theater he had built and we were watching Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy movies. I was hooked."
As the oldest of eight children, he was home-schooled, then instead of the traditional path to college, worked at a film archive for five years. He discovered the joy of hands-on work preserving films. He supervised the transfers of the often fragile materials and became archival director of the company. Today Lawton is the vice president of a non-profit called Silent Cinema Presentation, based in New York City, which has put together programs of silent films, both comedy and drama, shown throughout the east coast. He frequently helps run film festivals, not just the one at the Princeton Public Library, but also at the Princeton Arts Council, and at schools and universities. He is also involved in the preservation of films and owns an extensive collection of films himself.
The documentary film series features two evenings of movies. On Wednesday, June 29, audience members will get a look at "Urban Renewal Is People Removal," directed by Sarah Booth, who will be joined by author Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D., whose research inspired the direction of the film, for a discussion after the screening. "Urban Renewal" won best short film at the Trenton Film Festival and depicts the change in the urban scene in Newark with the large scale housing projects. The movie contends that the displacement of people and families started back in the 1940s, continues today, and is common to many cities.
Also shown the same night will be "Street Fight," a 90-minute feature film about the 2002 race for mayor between Corey Booker and Sharpe James directed by Marshall Curry, who will attend the screening. Susan Conlon, teen services librarian for the Princeton Public Library, says: "We only see so much on the news. To see this level of the political process, right out on the street, you really get a difference sense of it.""Street Fight," which won the audience award at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival, is scheduled to be shown on PBS’ documentary series, P.O.V., on Tuesday, July 5, so the audience at the library will see it one week before the national audience.
On Wednesday, August 31, through a similar arrangement with PBS, audience members will be able to preview a documentary film called "The Hobart Shakespeareans" by Mel Stuart, scheduled to air on PBS on September 6. The film shows the grit and determination of students in at an inner city elementary school in Los Angeles and Rafe Esquith, the teacher who inspires his fifth-graders to challenge themselves and rise above their hardships. Despite language barriers and poverty, these children move on to some of the best schools and their teacher wins a National Medal of Arts.
The Summer Student Film & Video Festival will focus on four feature films chosen because of their common theme of media in film. Students from Princeton High School were part of the committee that met to discuss the films and handpick ones they thought would be of interest to their peers. Three committee members, Jeet Baidyaroy, Eddie Carson, and Noah Weiner, who have been involved with the library’s film festival for years, are graduating this year. Teens of at least high school age and adults are all invited to attend the films, which will be screened on four consecutive Thursday evenings starting at 7 p.m. in the Community Room of the library.
Two of the four films in the student series are based on true stories. There is also a documentary and the last one is a sharp satire. According to Susan Conlon, teen services librarian for the Princeton Public Library, the movies take a look at the standards and ethics in journalism, the role of the media in relation to corporate whistle-blowers in the workplace, reporting war from the front from different perspectives, and the battle between serious news vs. sensationalist entertainment in the rating wars.
On Thursday, June 30, the series will screen "Shattered Glass" (2003), directed by Billy Ray and starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny, and Hank Azaria. The featured speaker will be Paul Starr, a Princeton University professor and co-editor of the magazine American Prospect, who is familiar with the story of Washington, D.C., journalist Stephen Glass, played by Christensen, who rose to meteoric heights as staff writer at "The New Republic." In his quest for quick and easy fame, Glass made up sources, quotes, and sometimes entire stories.
On Thursday, July 7 the series will show "The Insider," starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, based on a true story about a CBS 60 Minutes episode in 1994 that revealed malpractices in the tobacco industry through an industry whistleblower (Crowe).
"Control Room" screens on Thursday, July 14, a documentary about the war in Iraq. Conlon say: "It’s a fascinating look at the way different international media covered the same story, how Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s most popular news outlet, would tell a story, how other organizations came in and set up the media outlets, how they were getting the messages back and forth, and what they were covering."
The last featured film on Thursday, July 21 is "Network" (1976), directed by Sidney Lumet and starring William Holden, Faye Dunaway, and Peter Finch as the madman of the airwaves. Says Conlon: "People always remember the line ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’"
On Thursday, July 28, the summer student film and video festival takes place. "We put out a call out for original films by students 20 minutes or shorter in length," says Conlon. "We’ll keep accepting entries until June 30. The film committee will screen them and will select about two to two-and-a-half hours worth to show." Conlon says that the student filmmakers are invited to come up after the screening of their film to talk about such topics as their filmmaking and editing experience and what films influence them.
The library’s "Word for Word" series, concludes Tuesday, July 26, with the documentary "Spellbound," about eight kids as the prepare for the 1999 National Spelling Bee.
Conlon, who has been part of the Princeton Public Library since 1999, earned a degree in English at Livingston College at Rutgers and a masters from the Rutgers School of Communications, Information and Library Sciences. "I always loved books and films and by starting the film festival I was able to combine my interests with working with kids, and engaging the community in something that’s creative and stimulating." She invites all to the library’s three summer series with a reminder that both the screenings and discussions are free. "It gives people a chance to watch movies as a group and have a conversation about the film. It’s a chance to discuss and have a different kind of movie experience."
Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-9529. Free. www.princetonlibrary.org.
"Urban Renewal Is People Removal" at 7 p.m. and "Street Fight" at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, June 29.
"Shattered Glass," 2003. Thursday, June 30.
"The Insider," 1999. Thursday, July 7.
"Meet Marlon Brando," 1966. Wednesday, July 20.
"Network," 1976. Thursday, July 21.
"Spellbound," Tuesday, July 26.
Student Film and Video Festival. Original short films by area student filmmakers. Thursday, July 28.
"Marlon Brando: The Wild One," 1996, and "Appaloosa," 1966.. Wednesday, August 3.
"The Hobart Shakespeareans," August 31.
New Brunswick City Market
Crossroads Theater, 7 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-545-4859, www.newbrunswick.com. Dinner and movie – happy hour followed by screening of the movie.
"Ray," 2004, directed by Taylor Heckford. $7. Thursday, July 28.
"The Shawshank Redemption," 1994, directed by Frank Darabont. $7. Thursday, August 4.
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand," 1978, directed by Robert Zemeckis. $7. Thursday, August 11.
"The Incredibles," 2004, directed by Brad Bird. $7. Thursday, August 18.
NJ International Film Festival
Milledolor 100 and Scott Hall 123, College Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-8482, www.njfilmfest.com.
"Drowning by Numbers" is a black comedy that celebrates the English obsession with game-playing and love of landscape. Audience participation. 1991. Directed by Peter Greenaway. Commentary by festival director A.G. Nigrin. $6. Thursday, June 16.
"Shopping for Love" and "A Very Long Engagement." "Shoppig for Love" is a love story about a couple. 2005. Directed by Evan Falk, who makes a guest appearance. "A Very Long Engagement" is a drama about a young French women seeking the truth about her fiance’s fate. 2004, in French with subtitles. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Friday, June 17. Also Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19. $6.
"The Exorcist: Director’s Cut" chronicles a Jesuit priest’s expulsion of a demon from a 12-year-old girl. Includes extensive additional footage not seen in the original. Be prepared by put your hands over your eyes. 1973-2000. Directed by William Friedkin. $6. Thursday, June 23.
"Don’t Give Me the Finger" and "Sleep Always." "Don’t Give Me the Finger" stages a game of cat and mouse between two men. 2004. Directed by David Rick Balcorta. "Sleep Always" about a factory worker, saxophone player, and his pursuit of his sexual fantasy. 2003. Directed by Mitch Perkins and Rick Palidwor. Friday, June 24. Also Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26. $6.
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is a comedy about Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail and the inspiration for Broadway musical "Spamalot." 1975. Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. Commentary by festival director A.G. Nigrin. $6. Thursday, June 30.
"Waiting to Inhale" explores the battle between patients, doctors, activists, and the United States government over the legalization of medical marijuana with a focus on real stories of people. Co-winner Best Documentary of the 2005 NJ International Film Festival. 2005. Directed by Jed Riffe. Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9.
"Waging a Living," shot over a three-year period in the Northeast and California, captures the diverse group of people who struggle to live from paycheck to paycheck trying to lift their families out of poverty. 2005. Directed by Roger Weisbert and Tod Lending. Guest appearance by Weisbert. Sunday, July 10, and Friday, July 15. $6.
"Eraserhead: A Close Reading." Cult classic of black comedy, horror, science fiction, and fantasy. 1976. Directed by David Lynch. Commentary by festival director A.G. Nigrin. $6. Thursday, July 14.
"Kicking the Heart Out" and "Lis & Ogre." "Kicking the Heart Out," a music video of the band Rogue Wave’s trek through San Francisco. 2005. Directed by Ryan Kurt Whiting. "Lis & Ogre," an action animated film. 2005. Directed by Jim and Vale Bruck. "Monet’s Palate," a look at impressionist artist, Claude Monet. 2005. Directed by Steven C. Schechter and Aileen Bordman. $6. Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17.
Ruth Adams 001, Jones and George streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-8482, www.njfilmfest.com.
"Mulholland Drive." A gorgeous woman suffering from amnesia is seeking to unravel the mystery of her true identity. 2001. Directed by David Lynch. $6. Thursday, July 21.
Michener Art Museum
Union Square, New Hope, courtyard level at Occasions, 215-340-9800, www.michenerartmuseum.org.
"South Pacific". An American Navy nurse falls in love with a French plantation owner. Free with admission to gallery exhibition, "Selling Dreams: Film Posters 1945-2005," drawn from the holdings of Mark del Costello. Thursday, July 14.