Issue #1: The Return, or (That Election Night Distraction)
Halloween, The Prytania @ Canal Place, and more!
Of Those Who is a weekly newsletter by independent film critic & writer Bill Arceneaux, typed-up and sent-out straight from muggy and magical Hollywood South. Please visit the About page for a primer on what this is, share/forward around if you like what you read, and if this has arrived in your inbox by mistake, do click unsubscribe at the bottom of this message.
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And what was titled differently twice before is now titled something else once more.
Welcome to Of Those Who, a weekly newsletter of independent movie reviews, of the latest on the moviegoing beat, and of happenings in Louisiana showtimes. Lead writer & editor is yours bylined Bill Arceneaux.
Following a three-column format, this newsletter aims to impress upon and inform film buffs of all locations on the movie-loving culture of “Hollywood South” Louisiana. The indie flicks reviewed are those that have/will/should/already come through the region in some fashion - be it theatrically or virtually. Reports on local venues and on news as it relates to how we all engage with movies will also be gone over, as will cinematic events and releases hitting the state asap.
Honestly, sending this pilot issue out in the last few hours of 2020’s U.S. Presidential election is kinda funny in how we’re all more concentrated on that than anything else. And of course, in the time of Covid, moviegoing has… changed. But there are still movies. And there are still ways of watching them. And when things get rough, we can always count on that flickering light.
Same writer, new publication name, not so dead after all.
Let’s get into it.
“It Was a Grave-Yard-Smash!”
For the last few months, a friend of mine from the old Movieboozer days and I have been doing double and triple features over the shared viewing app Kosmi. During October, we concentrated our attention on some obscure and classic horror selections. I’d pick Demons, he’d pick Arsenic and Old Lace. I’d pick The Video Dead, he’d pick Piranha.
Not being a city that gives in completely to fear - even when it’s reasonable - New Orleans indeed got in on our fun and celebrated Halloween via the familiar if now truncated ways. And, of course, some of our theaters programmed to match the season.
The film, which is the directorial debut of Adam Stovall, is a clever blend of misfit romance and resourceful production. It can easily be compared to movies like Beetlejuice with regards to its love and creative affinity towards the supernatural, but really it’s more like an Andrew Bujalski joint. Within a small budget and surrounded by a compact cast and crew, it has a most casual attitude that breathes well and lightly. Everything is so comfortable here, even when the scares come and the pathos hit hard; it never actively goes beyond its reach or looks down from a perch. Such craft and awareness combined are so wonderful to witness.
A Ghost Waits tells of a lonely but happy-go-lucky handyman who, while on the job and in need of a place to crash, kills two birds with one stone and stays at the house he’s fixing - whose previous tenants moved out of in a haste. Furniture moves from time to time, a voice speaks to him, and soon an apparition appears for a final spook… or so it thinks. Jack (MacLeod Andrews) quickly goes back into the property, to the dismay of spectral agent Muriel (Natalie Walker). Her job is to haunt this house, and she takes this purpose seriously. But of course, the two lonely souls and hearts under the same roof quickly learn from one another, ask questions of themselves, and fall for each other, all in direct conflict with their “assigned” meanings in life… and afterlife.
There are sequences that are shot and cut with such bold wit, you’d suspect a more seasoned director were in charge. Stovall leads his team and conducts this story not effortlessly but also not strictly structured. It almost appears to come from a waking dream that’s been altered to fit budgetary parameters. Muriel is first seen with Jack while he is playing guitar and singing, but only from just behind her shoulder, as she slowly stalks with inquisitiveness. The moment of her eventual reveal is built with such welcome tension that even something as routine as a pizza delivery scene is treated and struck with importance. Nothing is wasted.
When a film can deliver frights AND fun, spooks AND cutes - all at once - it’s easy to give it all of your heart and then some. A Ghost Waits is a pretty perfect movie, and should easily be listed as one of the best to be released in such a drab year.
On the outside looking in, and currently available as a streaming selection, is the documentary Wolfman’s Got Nards.
As directed by the lead actor of the movie this doc covers (Andre Gower), Monster Squad, Nards is more half love letter and half self-congratulatory road trip. We follow the now adult stars of the maybe/for sure cult classic as they share some behind the scenes media and stories, before launching into a massive wave of fan-non-fiction.
That’s pretty much it, but that’s also all it needs to be.
The film is rather sweet, even when it bevels in the middle and gives way to patting itself on the back for the decades later success Squad experienced years after the original release. This attitude almost got annoying, until it became apparent how humble everyone involved was and remains, and how they treat this celebrity to this day - visiting fans in hospitals, going on screening tours, smiling all the time, being positive, etc.
The making of material would’ve been nice to stick with a little longer, but this Best Worst Movie-ish showcase of what happened after is still entertaining and uplifting. Best Worst Movie had some edgy sharpness to its Troll 2 team portrayal, mostly due to that movie being considered… not so good. The comparison though stands, as both docs share how their respective original films made such an impact on those who’ve viewed and re-viewed them decades later.
The sheer power of art in any form, folks. Any.
The Prytania’s Revival of Canal Place
It’s exciting times for moviegoers in the New Orleans area, despite and in spite of Covid-19.
Yes, Regal Cinemas have closed across the country, and AMC is facing severe financial troubles but, not to my surprise, indie theaters have upped the anty in terms of service and programming. The Broad has set up an outdoor screen and events stage called Broadside, Zeitgeist has begun doing drive-in showings, and all open venues - even at limited capacity - have added health and safety protocols at their own expense. Of course, they’ve all been hit hard by the pandemic, and have tried different methods for staying in operation.
In a complete shock to the system, The Prytania, the last surviving neighborhood theater in the city, has made a deal to run the shuddered Canal Place Cinema, which had been sitting empty on the mall’s top floor for well over a year. Now called Prytania Theatres at Canal Place, this new iteration of the previously upscale moviehouse will be gaining the old charm associated with going to the concession stand yourself, and not having waiters rush in between aisles with crackers and cheese. Add to that the excellent programming efforts of the Brunet Family & Company, which in this critic’s mind presents multiple layers of excitement.
My favorite recent moviegoing memories have been due to the array of curated films highlighted at The Prytania over the years. From my first venture at the theater with Grindhouse to a bombastic Alien double feature to the silent revue of Beau Geste to the celebration of life that was Rhapsody in Blue, The Brunet’s have consistently delivered a combination of mainstream, indies, oddities, and everything throughout for many memories had before a single-screen.
Imagine that but with nine rooms. Nine lights. Nine screens.
Wear a mask, distance appropriately, and stop by on November 6th at the edge of the French Quarter!
Current & Coming Attractions
Sister Tempest continues its festival run with a drive-in screening at the Lost River Film Fest in Texas on November 8th. More virtual and Louisiana showtimes coming soon (including a review in another issue).
Election screens at the outdoor Broadside on November 5th, just in time for that post-election hangover to maybe begin going away.
The 31st New Orleans Film Festival goes virtual and outdoors from the 6th to the 22nd. Nab your passes now!
Cinema-19 - the Covid inspired short film anthology as co-created by local filmmaker Adam Sekuler - remains streaming on Vimeo after its Zeitgeist appearance. It will stay online until the end of 2020.