Monday, June 16, 2008

Cinematic Jurassic

Red Envelope Entertainment sucks. Not really. Mainly because they have 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days out on DVD before, I think, retailers have it. I'm not sure what the deal is with that. It's a Netflix company. So you can only get those films through them? Regardless, the movie didn't work on my DVD player, which was my family's first DVD player ever. At least 10 years old. But it's RCA, and it's an asskicker, so I don't really want to get another one.

That said, I had to finish the movie, which got all fucked up 20 minutes through, in my office today. My tiny office in Hibbs, with blaring fluorescent lights and sickly yellow walls. It made the experience even more claustrophobic, especially after caffeine for being more awake during teaching, and having to eaten in 7 hours. I felt like I was kind of being choked or there was a pillow over my mouth as I watched it.

The ending's kind of between a cymbal crash and a bunch of violinists doing Steve Reich-like arpeggios that just swirl and slowly stutter until utter cacophony. I'm not sure how finite the particulars were: the sounds, the lights, the art direction and art design. On just an emotional, present level it'll hit you hard. Glad I finally got to see it.


There was also a 30-minute local PBS documentary on tonight about the one and only (VCU professor extraordinaire) Gary Sange. I remember my mom telling me, after the professors and Jeff Lodge called me to tell me that they wanted to me to come to VCU, that there was this guy reading poetry into our answering machine back home, since I was at Allegheny then. I listened to it, thinking, "Who the hell is this guy?"

I think that's often a response to Gary Sange. His students mostly love him or hate him, though it's not hate at all as that's entirely too strong, though more often than not it's the former. He has his students meditate before class with this old tuning fork, for about 10 minutes. Sometimes there's a prompt, sometimes not. He's an avid poet nut, more than most professors probably in the country, meaning his love for poetry on a pure level, academia aside.

I was pretty floored by the documentary. The music, the editing, the parts included. For 30 minutes a hell of a lot of time was put into it. Gary lives about 30 minutes away in an old farmhouse, or something like that. He has a few donkeys and runs a certain amount of miles every day. I think he just turned 70. He may live to be 150.

There were scenes with his students, in what I believe is the class that was right next to mine when I taught around 6 P.M. last semester. I didn't realize Gary was teaching then until late in the semester. It was nice to see a student of mine that I taught back in the spring of 2007, a student who missed a lot of class but I knew had some raw talent. I didn't necessarily expect her to go on, and it probably had nothing to do with me, but I was happy that she took more classes.

A private discussion among a few students in his class took place, and it was pretty honest and endearing, showing the kind of erratic nature of Gary and how the students react to him, those taking him for the first time or those taking him again and again.

All in all it was quite a beautiful 30 minutes. There was a lot to admire and the filmmakers did an excellent job. They ended with some footage from a night of Gary and his students, a night I unfortunately couldn't attend because Brett and Pav had come to visit and they got an earlier start than they'd originally anticipated. But I'm glad I got to watch it, and it was pretty inspiring and made me even happier to have had Gary and to have gone to VCU.


Right after the Sange documentary was a 30-minute documentary on the Byrd Theater. If there's one thing Jess and I share a love for in Richmond, though there are many, we'd undoubtedly pick the Byrd. For $1.99 a ticket you can see movies after their initial theater run. Right now it's Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which was a huge disappointment by the way -- needed to be about 40 minutes shorter, directed and acted better). But we've seen a lot of good movies there, and we go a lot.

Which brings me to Saturday nights, when Bob Gullege plays the Mighty Wurlitzer. People go apeshit for the Wurlitzer. Maybe we're too young to understand, but it can sometimes be a bit annoying, as if your grandfather with Alzheimer's is trying to reminisce about his childhood. But I now have a new appreciation for Bob and the organ.

The Byrd apparently was built in December of 1928. 80 years old in a few months, which is insane. It's pretty beat up, but you can imagine and see remnants of the former decadence that the theater once was all about. And apparently there are only a few organs that original and complicate, with pneumatic operating systems, air-controlled tambourines, in additional to a built-in xylophone and glockenspiel. The shit's complicated. And when Bob plays (I think he said he's the 13th in-house organist in the 80-year run) he comes out from the floor and rises above.

Saturday nights are packed. For the first time in months a few days ago, we went on a Friday and there was no one there. The movie started right away, without Bob, and it was oddly sad and weird. Maybe we'll be back to Saturday nights.

My laptop sucks so I'm not going to imbed the videos, but if you're interested you can see the 3 parts of the documentary on YouTube by typing in "cinemaphiles byrd theater."

It's one of the things I'm going to miss most when we move away...