Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
The other day I received an email declaring the very good news that my favorite local arthouse movie theater, The Charles, is reopening for in-person film viewing after over a year of being closed. They're showing Minari, Nomadland, the Oscar-nominated shorts, The Father, and that little known indie darling Godzilla vs. King Kong. I'm obsessed with this programming. On one hand, absolutely get your coins, Charles Theater. Do whatever you need to do to survive. Arthouse theater economics are already a mystery to me seeing as how the experience that I most frequently have is sitting in a medium-sized theater with between 1 and 12 other people watching a film that is 1) incomprehensible and fantastic, or 2) will emotionally wreck me but has an ending that leaves a little to be desired, or 3) is in a foreign language so I assume it's smarter than me, or 4) all of the above. I am so glad that arthouse theaters exist but I do not know how arthouse theaters exist.
But if The Charles didn't exist, I'm not quite sure how I would have seen Brokeback Mountain on a weekly basis for a month and a half during a period in my early 20s when I literally had nothing else going on in my life. Without arthouse theaters, how could I continue the deeply unhealthy relationship I have with Lars von Trier films? If not for arthouse theaters, I never would have been exposed to the Nicole Kidman movie Birth, which I contend is excellent and everyone else I know thinks is "weird and a little slow". (I am right.) Absent of a showing at an arthouse theater, how else would I have almost gotten into a fight with a couple who would not stop gabbing during If Beale Street Could Talk? "IS YOUR NAME BEALE STREET? NO! SO SHUT UP. REGINA KING IS CAPITAL-A ACTING RIGHT NOW AND I SWEAR TO BEANS..."?
Oh! And where but an arthouse theater could my mother, my husband, and I have seen Won't You Be My Neighbor, the Mr. Rogers documentary that made us cry so hard we ran out of tissues. (I am sure my mother would like me to remind you that she is the only one of us who thought to bring tissues and so technically, we cried so hard that we ran out of my mother's tissues. I don't know what my plan was. I cry 75% of the time I go to The Charles. But I'm usually alone, dripping tears into my Earl Grey. I do like the deranged/sensible concession choices you get at arthouse theaters. I never have a use for a roughly 6 gallons of popcorn and a pound of Sour Patch Kids that you get at a regular movie theater. (I get them anyway, though). I always welcome the arthouse offering of an extreme hot cup of just okay tea, one cranberry orange muffin, and just a hint of popcorn. Perfection. They're like "yes, research has shown that at 9 pm viewing of Parasite goes best with Orange Pekoe and a Toblerone. It's science."
So, The Charles has to come back because 90% of my personality is seeing the best movie I have ever seen while being annoyed at the half dozen people around me or drinking hot beverages while being gleefully distraught. And if the theater has to show Godzilla vs. King Kong to get it done, so be it. Also, not for nothing, but in this bleak cinematic landscape, every movie is basically a little-scene find. I can't wait to go to parties this summer, pull a Narragansett Shandy from a tub of tepid water, and show off my cinematic knowledge by telling people about the costume dramaturgy of hidden gem Wonder Woman: 1984.
I have not yet gone to The Charles to take in the motion picture Godzilla vs. King Kong because I am not yet fully vaccinated and even though previous experiences convince me that it won't be hard to social distance there, I am being vigilante. (Truth be told, I am not going to let anyone know when I am fully vaccinated so that I can continue to have an airtight excuse for getting out of plans. No offense, but if you invite me to take time out of my one precious life to do a Tough Mudder at 7 am on a Saturday I'm going to respond, "Oh, I wish I could, truly, but alas I have no yet gotten my Fauci Ouchie even though it is the year 2024. Bureaucracy, what can you do? Someone get me Kamala Harris on the phone, lol. No, but seriously, I send loving energy at you and this tough situation. I'm sure it will be great or terrible, whichever you prefer. As the poet Mary Oliver wrote in the poem 'Rice', 'I want you to fill your hands with mud, like a blessing.' Is that helpful?" All of this would be written in a text message because I cannot possibly handle a phone call. [Now, of course, if you call me and say "There's a Scandinavian film that is either amazing or bad but will rip you to shreds emotionally!" I'm going to call you back right away and say "Meet me outside. I'm already there. Let's get tapas first. Have you heard of Wonder Woman: 1984?"])
I do hope that Godzilla vs. King Kong is an invigorating cinematic experience for the arthouse crowd. I haven't read the description but I believe it's a remake of Kramer vs. Kramer. I do have a question about the casting, though. So, in the Kanye West song "Monster" (aka the song that Nicki Minaj absolutely bodied and which Kanye and Jay-Z also appear), Jay-Z begins his verse by listing monsters. "Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong," he raps, which begs the question why did Sasquatch get top billing here but doesn't even appear in Godzilla vs. King Kong? Who is Sasquatch's agent? Was Sasquatch like "I don't do arthouse films, darling. Ever heard of Harry and the Hendersons? I played the titular role. Network television, baby. Residuals, honey!"
Jay-Z continues to list scary figures who also don't have representation as good as Godzilla or King Kong. "Lochness, goblin, ghoul, a zombie with no conscience." I think about this verse literally once a day. Okay, first we have a huge difference of scale here. Lochness? Has a whole body of water named after it. Goblin? Barely a thing. Ghoul? An insult you'd throw at someone if you were starring in an arthouse film set in 1957. These are not the same three things. And then we get to "a zombie with no conscience." Let me be the first to say: what? So, are we to believe that in Jay-Z's world, the thing that separates the zombies from the monsters is the presence of a conscience? Jay-Z's like "listen, every zombie wants brains but some zombies don't even care if its ethically sourced." I am obsessed with the idea of Jay-Z encountering a zombie in his travels and being absolutely scandalized not by their zombie-ness but by their basic lack of morality. I'm picturing a zombie bribing a politician to pass legislation that makes it easier to procure brains; Jay-Z is watching the vote on C-SPAN and shaking his head sadly. He's like "Where is the moral leadership in the zombie community?"
Do the zombies on The Walking Dead have consciences? I don't watch the show so this is a serious question. I have no problem with The Walking Dead or any perambulators living or post-living; it's just not for me. But now I need to turn it on so I can find out if one of the most successful television shows is full of characters who cause Jay-Z a lot of grief.
It's a shame that a lot of my questions about this won't be answered by Godzilla vs. King Kong, a movie which--let's be honest--isn't really putting a lot of effort in when you think about the long list of monsters that weigh heavy on the mind of Beyoncé's husband. Ah well, I guess that leaves room for my forthcoming indie film A Zombie What Had A Conscience, coming soon to an arthouse theater near you. I'll start the tea brewing.
Random Thing on the Internet
Rachel Syme interviewed Catherine Zeta-Jones and it's excellent. Years ago, Chicago was the first film I ever saw alone at a theater. It wasn't an arthouse theater. It was a multiplex in a mall called White Marsh, but it was the middle of the day (apparently I had nothing else to do and I'd already seen Brokeback Mountain that week) and there were only three older couples in there with me. Anyway, we all threw our wigs at the screen. It was great.
Ever heard of Harry and the Hendersons?