NOTES FROM THE PROGRAM DIRECTOR

 

Happy May, Pickford friends! 

This week at the Pickford, Everything Everywhere All at Once continues its run, and we’ve been absolutely delighted to see so many of you coming back for a second or third time and further delighted to see just how much the film is benefitting from word-of-mouth recommendations — friends telling friends, “you gotta go see this movie!” And not only is the film bringing joy to us here in downtown Bellingham, it’s becoming the film of the moment that, across the nation, is breathing new life and new hope into the theatrical exhibition landscape. Normally, after it opens, a given film that does well will still lose 40-50% of its box office each week as time goes on. Not so for Everything Everywhere All at Once — in fact, even in its fourth weekend, the film didn’t drop in box office at all. That’s practically unheard of. Forbes noted this week just how unusual Everything Everywhere All at Once’s staying power is: “[It] is almost unprecedented in remotely modern times for an indie like this outside of the Oscar season to pull legs of this nature. And this is an R-rated, high-concept, narratively overwhelming original, starring actors who are (at best) known without being butts-in-seats stars. This is an honest-to-goodness word-of-mouth sleeper hit sensation, exactly the kind of thing that isn’t supposed to happen in our streaming-centric, pop culture-fractured, IP-centric theatrical environment.” And yet, here we are! What a joy it is to share in a renewed love of going-to-the-movies with all of you, for there’s still nothing quite like the communal experience of watching a film we love together, is there? And, not only that, the wonderfully creative, life-affirming phenomenon that is Everything Everywhere All at Once also demonstrates to me that we are all eager for fresh, unique films — the bread and butter of indie theaters like ours — not just the prequels and sequels that so often dominate the big screen experience.

I’m also delighted to have a brand new film on our screens this week, another film that isn’t like anything else in theaters right now: The Duke. And what pure pleasure it is!  The Duke is one of those cozy, very funny British films that comes along every so often that I never fail to fall for, a film with an all-star British cast, who always brings the goods and showcases why we love them so much as actors. Here, we have the marvelous Jim Broadbent and the acting legend Helen Mirren, along with actors like Matthew Goode and Richard McCabe (look him up, you’ll recognize him!), all of them bringing us all the charm and the acting chops they always bring to every role, no matter how small. In the story, set in 1961, Broadbent plays an elderly, middle-to-lower class gent, Kempton Bunton, a man with keen social conscience and penchant towards activism and towards getting arrested for civil disobedience, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife (Mirren), who worries more about keeping food on the table than standing up to the BBC and their unfair TV licensing fees. Things come to a head when Bunton steals, er, borrows a painting from the National Gallery, in service of one of his social causes. The crisis that follows, within the family and in the courts, becomes a catalyst for change, on multiple levels, personal and national. It’s a warm, assured film, humorous while also being emotionally tender, telling the true story of the only theft in the history of the National Gallery, a history I’d never heard before but am now so happy to know. It’s a small story in some ways, even as many true histories are, but it is exactly the kind of story that warms the heart — and spreads its warmth all the way down to the toes.

We’ve also got some wonderful special event films and series films this week: 

As a special event film, we could not be more eager to screen This Much I Know To Be True, a film I know many of you are excited about, too, as we got requests for it even before it was in our programming! Directed by Andrew Dominik (who made one of my favorite films of the last 20 years, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), This Much I Know To Be True is a documentary that explores the creative collaboration between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, represented by their last two albums, Ghosteen and Carnage. Jessica Kiang in Variety notes that the documentary is “haunting” and “hypnotic,” featuring not only “Cave’s peculiarly insightful way of talking abou this art,” but also the “spiky energy between Cave and Ellis, a prickly love born of decades of close friendship and fertile creative conflict.”    

From our Cinema East series, so beautifully curated by our WWU colleague Jeff Purdue, we have the 2017 Thai film By the Time It Gets Dark by Anocha Suwichakornpong.  Mark Kermode, writing for the Guardian when the film came out describes the film this way: “This mesmerising [film]. . .  is a kaleidoscopic meditation on the shifting relationship between past and present, truth and fiction, movies and memory. A self-referential treatise on the impossibility of capturing “real” life on camera, it begins with a single linear narrative that mushrooms into something altogether wider and more weird. Described by its creator as both an “ode to the memory-recording and reconstructing machine that is cinema” and “my attempt to deal with the impossibility of making a historical film in a place where there is no history”, it’s a dizzying, dazzling work.”

From our National Theatre Live series, and, like The Duke, featuring the best of British acting, we have A View from the Bridge, giving us Arthur Miller’s play on screen: “The great Arthur Miller confronts the American dream in this dark and passionate tale. In Brooklyn, longshoreman Eddie Carbone[, played by a brilliant Mark Strong,] welcomes his Sicilian cousins to the land of freedom. But when one of them falls for his beautiful niece, they discover that freedom comes at a price. Eddie’s jealous mistrust exposes a deep, unspeakable secret – one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal.” I can’t help but think we are living in a time where the notion of the “American Dream” and the conflicting reality of our country is even more worth confronting. And there are few better than Arthur Miller to provoke that confrontation. 

We also have continuing encore shows of 42nd Street from our BY Experience series and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar from our Lost Year: Quaran-stream No More series.  42nd Street, the classic, crowd-pleasing Broadway show, screening on May 8 at 11 AM, might be the perfect Mother’s Day post-brunch trip to the cinema, though it’s also hard to beat the joyous and hilarious Barb and Star for the Mother’s Day weekend, so we have two shows of Barb and Star on Saturday, each with giveaways, tropical drinks, and free passes for anybody named Trish. 

Mark your calendars, too, for Thursday evening, May 12, as we are delighted to be hosting the CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival, running May 12-15, and marking its sixth year of “celebrating exceptional films directed by women from around the world.” They have a wonderful line-up of features and shorts, indicating it’s sure to be a beautifully rich weekend of movies.  

Finally, a quick note to say Michael Falter, Jane Julian, and I, as co-programmers for Doctober 2022, have been immersing ourselves in the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival this week, and it’s living up to its promise as the “largest documentary festival in North America,” offering us bountiful crop of wonderful docs. A few of my favorites so far include a story about the first Nepalese-Sherpa woman to summit Mount Everest; a story of two Myanmar midwives, one Buddhist and one Rohingya Muslim, risking themselves to bring life-saving healthcare to Myanmar’s persecuted minority; a story about a Minnesota women’s roller derby team; a story about a 1962 escape from East Berlin to West Berlin; and a story of two women who met and fell in love in Ravensbrück and survived. So many wonderful films at the fest, and it makes me all the more eager, as we look towards our very own celebration of documentaries this coming fall. 

Yours, in a shared love of movies, 

Melissa