The Reel Less Traveled – August 2021

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Of Monsters and Sophocles: Of Monsters Past and Present

    As much as I try avoiding the conventional, I admit this “return to normal” does have advantages. Sociability is making a cautious re-entry into our lives. We are freer to wander beyond the confines of our own homes, and even the dread of going shopping is 
diminishing.
    Personally speaking, writing this column has also suffered, not for want of anything to write about but because the original intent has always been to inform this community of the cinematic happenings that fall outside of the usual evening out at the movies.
    It’s good to “return to normal.” The Rheem Theatre has reopened its doors.
    Derek Zemrak has resumed his commitment to show movies at the Orinda Theatre that remind us of this particular art form’s history. Universal Studios has been scaring audiences for just under a century. The Orinda Theatre will highlight this tradition.
    The Universal Monster Party hosted by Lord Blood-Rah, Aug. 7, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., will commemorate 90 years of blood curdling-fright! This event will be filled with celebrities, costumes and, of course, movies.
    Classics will top the bill: Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man, well-known, important movies.
    These three set the standard for just about every genre film that followed. I encourage everyone attending to go into these movies with a fresh perspective. Many have seen scenes without experiencing the films in their entirety. Now is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
    In doing so, one may truly appreciate just how ground-breaking they were upon release. Pretend you’re seeing them for the very first time. Your enjoyment might be increased.
    This is especially true of Frankenstein and Dracula. Directors Tod Browning, Karl Freund and James Whale were heavily influenced by German Expressionism, from the off-kilter sets and camera angles to the moody black and white cinematography. These techniques, designed to make you feel uneasy, make the fright more potent.
    This unease won’t be solely relegated to the darkened movie theater. In the lobby, you will have the opportunity to encounter many of the horrors witnessed on the movie screen in person. This will come in the form of the “I’ve Created a Monster” costume contest, where contestants of all ages will be able to show their interpretations of the classic monsters seen on screen.
    Judging will be by acclaimed author David J. Skal and television host John Stanley, both top of their field when it comes to all things monstrous and supernatural. There will even be an after party at Cine Cuvée. Tickets are $25 and include entrance to the costume contest. Doubtless there will be last minute surprises. Keep checking www.orindamovies.com or www.creaturescon.com for additional information and show times.
    The International Film Showcase is pleased to present Antigone, a 2020 Canadian film. It deals with an immigrant from Algeria and her life with her tight knit, loving, albeit flawed, family. These flaws bring about a tragedy which propels the central character on a course she feels duty-bound to see to the end. As the title suggests, there are strong Sophoclean themes, but of more import is a strong dose of political idealism. It is this last element that sees our central character suffer the most.
    Duty to one’s heart is to many the strongest drive. That drive gives Antigone strength to endure, regardless of the sacrifices she has to make or the fear and dread her family has to go through.
    Though some reviews have accused this film of being too heavy handed, there’s no denying its sincerity. Antigone will enjoy a three-day engagement at the Orinda Theatre, Aug. 20-22. For show times, previews and additional information, please visit www.internationalshowcase.org.
    As ever, I encourage all of you to keep veering towards those wonderful flickering images made of light and sound, for that is where the reel magic lies.

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