The Reel Less Traveled – August 2020


Orinda Theatre Issues Challenge

    One cannot say too much about Derek Zemrak. Long-time movie aficionado and collector, he has hitched his wagon to the Orinda Theatre and is showing no sign of letting go anytime soon.
    Idea after idea flows from his mind, all in the service of one goal: To save the Orinda Theatre.
    Some ideas work, such as the Friday night popcorn and wine service; others, not so much.
    “Under the Marquee,” for example, will have to go on (hopefully) temporary hiatus. While it’s sad to see this go, Zemrak has come up with another idea to raise funds. He calls it “The One Ticket Challenge” in which he is asking everyone in the Contra Costa County area to buy a $12 ticket.
    If everyone here tells their friends to buy tickets, that would be even better. Of course, you could buy more than one. (You can always buy more!) There are levels of patronage. These are not real tickets, but like his gofundme drive (, which as of mid July had raised more than $48,000, the donations could help keep the theater open.
    But wait, there’s more! Ask anyone who has been near the theater lately and they will tell you, aside from its primary function, it’s also a museum, of sorts. Zemrak has been an avid collector of movie memorabilia and now is selling pieces of it to keep the theater going.
    Ranging from popular mainstream merchandise to the really obscure, the collection likely has something for even the most learned cinephile. Go to for more information.
    Cine Cuvee continues its Friday night popcorn and wine pick-up service. Get details at
    So, in the interest of keeping the Orinda Theatre open, there are myriad of options. Now it’s all up to you. No pressure at all.
    Meanwhile, the International Film Showcase is continuing its virtual film festival. For details, go to
    For those of us confined at home with plenty of time, I recommend some films which stand out in the herd. These, for the most part, will not have anything to do with current world affairs or won’t even be all that topical. We can all take a break from that!
    The first is Cabaret. I may have mentioned seeing films at an impressionable age can be very dangerous. Oftimes we look upon these movies and, in retrospect, discover it wasn’t all that great. For me, Caberet is not one of those films. It stands up to repeated viewings and manages the rare feat of always offering something you might not have noticed before.
    Released in 1972, it was one of many films of that time made by maverick director Bob Fosse. Like films of other directors of the era (Coppola, Altman and Lucas, to name a few), it initially was received doubtfully by the studios but greeted enthusiastically by the public.
    Going on to win eight Academy Awards, the film redefined movie musicals in a way that hadn’t been seen since Oklahoma, released about 17 years prior. It also dealt with a very dark period in Germany’s history.
    It managed to keep people engaged, mostly with its cinematography and rousing musical numbers, which were choreographed by Fosse. The contributions of Liza Minnelli, Michael York and especially Joel Gray are immeasurable. See this film. You will be better for it.
    My next recommendation is light years away from Cabaret. It’s considered a children’s film, but it has got to be one of the most hypnotic, lyrical (but not in the musical sense) children’s films ever made.
    Released in 1979, The Black Stallion seemed to come out of nowhere. As I recall, there was not a lot of pre-publicity and when it did come out, the most publicized thing about it was that it was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, at the time a major selling point due to his success with The Godfather.
    Why I single out this film is its overall tone, notably its lack of bombast. The story is a simple one but it’s the telling that counts. Indeed, there’s a whole sequence, lasting nearly half an hour, with no real dialogue at all, which alone should tell you that you are in for a unique cinematic experience.
    In addition, Kelly Reno, Terri Garr and the legendary Mickey Rooney make this one of the more memorable films to come from that particular time in film history. Surrender to this movie and give it your full attention. Both you and the film deserve it.
    Until next time, keep gravitating towards those wonderful flickering images made of light and dreams. That’s where the reel magic lies.

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