The Reel Less Traveled – July 2020


Something New, Someone Familiar

    Now that July is upon us, and with us still observing our collective but still new lifestyle, it is important to point out that we will be able to still celebrate the month – just not necessarily in the way we’re used to.
    Both the International Film Showcase ( and the Orinda Theatre ( continue to function by streaming services or by ancillary means. The most exciting example of the latter is a new program that Derek Zemrak, owner of the theater, is instituting.
    He’s calling it Under the Marquee. It is not only an opportunity for all to enjoy the finest that Cine Cuvee has to offer, it’s a chance to expand beyond the boundaries of their small wrought iron patio space, inviting people to dine and drink under the neon and flashing lights of the Orinda Theatre.
    There will be theme nights every Friday and Saturday, including live music with Patti Leidecker. When not tickling the ivories, she will accompany participants during live mic nights. It’ll be like attending a big Hollywood premier where you are the featured guest.
    And now, onto other things. Last month, it occurred to me that you know very little about the guy who actually writes this column. It’s all very well and good to read about cinematic events in Lamorinda but what about all the content and knowledge that goes along with it?
    Since about 1968, I have been an avid follower of film. What’s so special about 1968 and why do I remember it so clearly? Though I won’t tell you how old I was that year, I can say two movies came out that not only made a significant impression on me but also forever changed the cinematic landscape.
    They were Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey. For this impressionable mind, to see these two films on the big screen was life altering.
    Another landmark moment happened in 1977, and I’m sure many of you already know what I’m talking about. Star Wars: A New Hope (back then, it was just known as Star Wars) was released. Anyone who remembers knows that’s all that anyone talked about.
    Unlike Planet or 2001, though, there was something different at work there. Star Wars awakened a kind of primal, mythological part of the general gestalt to where the rabid fan base (and I was one of them) wanted not only to watch that movie again and again but to be a part of it.
    Thus was born ‘the geek’ aspect, a group of people who fancied themselves closet Jedis or members of the Rebel Alliance. I, on the other hand, had long since gone through this phase. (I already had a fairly good sized collection of Planet of the Apes and 2001 merchandise, not to mention magazines and comic books.)
    I had also expanded my horizons and was branching out beyond the science fiction and fantasy genres, focusing on directors like Stanley Kubrick, Bob Fosse, Ken Russell, Robert Altman, Woody Allen and Mel Brooks to name a few.
    I also took a film course at the junior college I attended, and I learned there were just as many memorable films made before 1968 as there were after. (Seeing Metropolis – made in 1927 – for the first time was just as mind bending.)
    From there, my interests just grew exponentially. Watching Siskel & Ebert also helped a lot from a critical standpoint. They helped me understand why a film is either good or bad. From then until now, I’ve continued to learn and absorb all things movie-related and would like to think that I have a pretty good handle on the art form.
    I believe cinema is one of the more vital art forms. I will always gladly enter into a discussion about what’s going on in film to anyone who’s willing to listen.
    Until then, always veer toward those wonderful flickering images and lights for that’s where the reel magic lies.

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