Browsing Tag

Coolidge Corner Theatre


January 25, 2016

Dear Reader,

In Coolidge Corner, at the little art-deco theatre, there is a small room with a small screen. There are perhaps fifteen or twenty cozy seats and although I’ve seen it filled to the brim, there is always the wonderful risk that you will be nearly alone. There is something immediately intimate about Brooklyn, both film and book, and seeing it with four strangers on a Monday afternoon at 4:50 is simply right.Brooklyn- TPIATEilis (Saoirse Ronan) is a young Irish woman who immigrates to America in the 1950s and successively becomes seasick, homesick, and lovesick. Ronan’s luminous face is soft and sharp with wit; her Eilis brooks no silliness and turns away from no hardship. She is a good girl and she is a loving girl and never once is that boring or trite. Very like the book that it comes from, Brooklyn has very little in the way of action. Eilis is an Irish immigrant living in Brooklyn. She is smart, she attends night classes. She is sweet, she attends Saturday dances. She falls in love, she dances cheek to cheek with an equally sweet Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen). For most of the film, these things make up the entire story.Brooklyn- TPIATThe movie’s entire governing body had the wit to keep their cameras close on Ronan’s beautifully expressive face. That face and its often inscrutable calm are the center of the film and of most of its frames. In the book Colm Toibin often writes Eilis’ thoughts more as whispers that you only catch bits and pieces of. She is remote from you, yet she is also so very wonderful that you want to understand her. Here, Toibin and the film both use the lightest of touches to bring you into Eilis’ thoughts only once she has straightened them out for herself. In the film this is carried off by fixating on Ronan’s glowing face.Brooklyn- TPIATNeither the film nor the book ever tell you overtly what Eilis is thinking or why she has decided to go one way or the other. Everything is graceful, soft, subtext. This is incredibly difficult to achieve in both mediums. In the film, you can read Ronan’s emotions throughout as they pass through her. She spends so much of the film physically close to the other characters, embracing them, dancing with them, crying with them. Ronan makes her Eilis physically express herself in ways she can’t through words alone. The script is as sparse as the book, perhaps even more so. A few key bits of the book are left out of the movie, something that readers may have mixed feelings about. However, I believe the spirit and the magic of the book are preserved in translation.Brooklyn- TPIATIn the last act, the action quickens and Eilis finds herself on a boat home to visit her family. Here the most active part of the movie unfolds itself. Eilis returns to Ireland different, more glamorous, more sure of herself. From there it is like the end of every bildungsroman; Eilis must make difficult decisions and grow into the person she chooses to be.  Brooklyn- TPIATI walked out of the theatre wanting to be more like Eilis Lacey. It is easy to thrash around these days and exhale great sighs both of exhaustion and of grief. But Eilis is quiet, and Eilis is faithful and Eilis is virtuous. She reminds me of Louise Gluck, a poet who also expresses huge emotions with uncommon simplicity and quiet strength.

“It had occurred to me that all human beings are divided

into those who wish to move forward

and those who wish to go back.

Or you could say, those who wish to keep moving

and those who want to be stopped in their tracks

as by the blazing sword.”

Arsenic and Old Lace

March 23, 2015

Dear Reader,

Every once and a while The Coolidge Corner Theatre puts on a film as part of their “Science on Screen” initiative. Basically, they show a film and have an expert come in and give a talk somehow related to it. This past week the movie was Arsenic and Old Lace starring Cary Grant. Arsenic and Old Lace- The Person I Am TonightIt is an absolutely brilliant screwball comedy and totally worth a watch. I couldn’t hardly resist the chance to see it in an actual theatre. It was well worth it. The showing was entirely sold out (I actually bought the very last ticket) and seeing people of all ages enjoying this movie in a packed theatre was a really lovely experience.

Arsenic and Old Lace- The Person I Am Tonight

And some very dirty semi-frozen snow. But we are rather used to that by now. If you haven’t been to the Coolidge I recommend a trip. It is a restored art-deco theatre in Brookline that shows independent films and often spontaneously shows things like this… I don’t really feel like I need to sell it more than that. The woman who spoke, Deborah Blum, is the author of The Poisoner’s Handbook and is passionate about how interesting arsenic is. She was very dynamic and everything she said made me want to read her book.

Arsenic and Old Lace- The Person I Am Tonight

Me being super excited for all of this, of course. Before the showing I ate at Lee’s Burgers. It was pretty decent, although nothing absolutely spectacular.

Arsenic and Old Lace- The Person I Am Tonight

Arsenic and Old Lace- The Person I Am Tonight

All in all a good date to take myself on. Check out the Science on Screen program. It is really cool 🙂



The Grand Budapest Hotel

March 31, 2014

Dear Reader,

This weekend has been very movie heavy for me, with my Saturday night friend date to see The Grand Budapest Hotel topping it all off perfectly. I saw it at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, a place I recommend like crazy. It is an old restored art deco theatre about half an hour from Boston proper in (you guessed it) a neighborhood called Coolidge Corner.

It’s hard to not know you are watching a Wes Anderson movie. There are certain elements and certain techniques that he employs that make it impossible to watch it and not notice that you are watching something very atypical (and gorgeous). Anderson movies have always had that quirky, dreamy, color-saturated quality that his devotees find so appealing, but The Grand Budapest Hotel shows each of his trademarks at their highest and most coherent pitch. The whole film is practically gift-wrapped and tied with a pretty blue bow. And unwrapping it is beyond enjoyable, laughter-inducing, and sad. Here are some of my favorite elements:


First, the artistic elements. Each shot, and I do mean each and every shot, is intricately planned out and coherent. The character’s clothing, the background coloring, and the placement of the bodies in each shot contains as much attention to composition as any master artwork. The cinematography is odd and brilliant, with puppets, graphic elements, and animation popping up here and there. Yet it never feels out of joint and is not even intensely noticeable. A puppet or an animation might be employed to show Zero and Gustave H. in a cable car going up a mountain, but that very contrived moment still fits in seamlessly and passes before the audience really notices what is going on.


Second, the acting. I could easily print a list of the actors involved in this project and just leave it at that, but suffice it to say that there is a level of overplaying here that fits in perfectly with the bullet-fast dialogue and plot that seems to require an infinite amount of energy to keep up with. Everyone is larger than themselves. They are not so much people as ideas, and yet they are relatable enough to cause a sigh when one is unceremoniously bumped off or two of them fall in love.


Third, the humor. The best thing about the humor is that it is uncomfortable and sad and still funny. You laugh and feel a bit bad for laughing, but the jokes take you so much by surprise that you’re laughing before you realize that that cat just got thrown out a four story window. You are also tempted to believe you are watching a comedy for almost the entire movie. And then it ends and you realize you never really were. Instead, you were watching a dark nostalgia-fest comprised of many moments that are just too jarring not to laugh at.


All in all, I recommend this movie a lot. I recommend it even just based on the strength of the fact that I haven’t even mentioned the plot in all of my praising. And if I can review a movie at length, as I have done here, and not even hint at what it is about, you know there is a lot going on to recommend it.

My rating: Want It On My Shelf Forevermore.