After a whirlwind of filmgoing that took me to all three of the Detroit Movie Palaces, I have many blessings to count in this season of Thanksgiving.
As I write this, my mind and emotions are reflecting on the enjoyment and the enrichment of: a family classic (The Wizard of Oz); a newly discovered barrel of fun (3 Ring Circus); a dramatic look at an Italian family (Days and Clouds); and two skillfully nuanced and emotionally gripping films (I’ve Loved You So Long and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas).
Thank you, Detroit Film Theatre, for:
- The peacefulness of the Crystal Gallery Café, after another nerve-wracking adventure in Detroit rush hour traffic. Before the showing of Days and Clouds on Nov. 20, 2008, I enjoyed some warm, delicious vegetarian chili, while paging through a novel in one of my favorite public reading rooms.
- The scenic and historic beauty of Genoa, Italy in Days and Clouds, along with the classic artwork that played an important role in the film. And lead actress Margherita Buy opened up and generously gave a portrayal of a real human being, often with little or no makeup.
- The chance to see Kristen Scott Thomas’s extraordinarily honest performance in the French drama I’ve Loved You So Long (Nov. 21, 2008). It was inspiring to watch Thomas’s face change from its gaunt, sorrowful, weary expression at the beginning of the film to a look of hard-earned, triumphant wisdom at the end.
- The setting provided by the DFT for me to fully savor the wonder of I’ve Loved You So Long after the credits ended and the theater lights came up. The sophisticated elegance of the auditorium and the heightened, life-affirming feeling of the movie seemed as one, and I could feel myself quietly connecting with other patrons as I walked up to Crystal Gallery Café for a post-movie treat.
- The special weekend afternoon series that have entertained patrons all autumn and help finish the DFT’s Fall 2008 season this Thanksgiving weekend. On Saturday, Nov. 29, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band concludes Muppets, Music & Magic: Jim Henson’s Legacy. And on Sunday, Nov. 30, the 1931 German film Kameradschaft finishes the film program that has run in conjunction with the current Detroit Institute of Arts exhibition Monet to Dali: Modern Masters from the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Thank you, Michigan Theater, for:
- The happy laughter of the children who came to see a big screen showing of The Wizard of Oz on Nov. 22, 2008. This magical film never fails to warm the heart, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” connects like a cozy memory, and the loving detail of the colorful M-G-M sets is particularly impressive in a theater showing.
- The powerful, thought-provoking drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas on Nov. 22, 2008. A Nazi military officer, who is also a husband and a father, helps turn the moral order of the world upside down, and has to face the consequences of his actions. I watched this devastating film from the balcony of the Michigan, and the spacious beauty of the Grand Foyer helped me process and unburden the complex emotions that I felt after the film.
- Continuing the Family-Friendly Film Series, which was at risk when Pfizer pulled out of Ann Arbor, but was saved by new sponsor Toyota. The next movie in this series is the 1971 Gene Wilder classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, on the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28).
- The ongoing Comic Masters Film Series (in conjunction with the University of Michigan Department of Screen Arts & Cultures), which has filled Monday evenings with laughter from filmmakers Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Blake Edwards. The series finishes with Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude on Dec. 1 and Being There on Dec. 8.
- The upcoming Holiday Classic Film Series, which includes The Bishop’s Wife (Nov. 30), White Christmas (Dec. 7), Elf (Dec. 14), and Miracle on 34th Street (Dec. 21). Also showing is It’s a Wonderful Life on Dec. 20. And Temple Beth Emeth continues its tradition of Dec. 25 movies with a showing of Shrek.
Thank you, Redford Theatre, for:
- The zany fun of the 1954 Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comedy 3 Ring Circus (Nov. 22, 2008), which was a healthy change-of-pace from the just-seen The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. This contrast spoke well of the wide variety of film experiences at the Detroit Movie Palaces.
- The delightful circus-like atmosphere that met me as soon as I walked through the doors of the Redford. To go along with the circus movie was a midway in the outer lobby, along with three clowns (Razzles, Jannie Annie, and Santa Brian) who entertained visitors both in the lobbies and from the Redford stage. A successful try in a raffle drawing rewarded me with a Redford Theatre t-shirt!
- The resourcefulness of theater volunteers who had to quickly find a replacement for the originally scheduled film, The Greatest Show on Earth, when a good print of the film became unavailable. A private collector stepped in to provide the rarely seen Martin/Lewis comedy that proved to be solid entertainment, with real circus performances; the Technicolor beauty of Joanne Dru and Zsa Zsa Gabor; a bearded Elsa Lanchester; romantic crooning by Dean; and zany slapstick humor by Jerry.
- The new visitor programs that debuted during the current September-December 2008 season. The covers of the programs show a picture from that weekend’s movie, and inside you can find interesting information about the movie; the pianists who fill the concession stand lobby with music before the pre-movie organ concert; and that weekend’s organist.
- The sneak preview on Nov. 22 of the Redford’s Christmas season. Organist Newton Bates (who also plays at the Michigan) gave smooth renditions of many holiday songs. And visitors could see the early stages of the model train village that will delight them when they return for Miracle on 34th Street (Dec. 5-6) and White Christmas (Dec. 19-20).
Thanks to all three of the theaters for:
- The ticket discount programs that helped me see each film at less than the individual ticket prices.
- The parking vouchers at the Detroit Film Theatre; the validated parking at the Michigan Theater; and the fenced and guarded parking at the Redford Theatre.
- The genuine friendliness of the employees and volunteers that greets visitors all through the theaters—at the ticket booths, in the food areas, in the lobbies, in the auditoriums. And the warm, informative stage introductions provided before each film.
- Another rich fall season of movies. It’s my favorite time of year at these theaters, and this autumn included the silent films Underworld (DFT) The Phantom of the Opera (Michigan), and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Redford).
- An already exciting-looking 2009 that will include The Sound of Music (Redford), Babe: Pig in the City (Michigan), and Lola Montès (DFT).
What are you thankful for at the DFT, Michigan, and Redford? Feel free to tell everyone in the comments section below.
Copyright © 2008 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.