Our 2017 Spring Film Series

The Schedule
May 15 – 20
 –  Whisky Galore
May 22 -26 ( Mon – Fri )  – After the Storm
May 30 – June 3 ( Tues- Sat ) –  Nise: The Heart of Madness
June 5 – 10 –  The Women’s Balcony

The Reasons
Springtime films. As we head into the summer blockbuster time, we present spring “betterbuster” films. What is the difference with our films?

1) Fewer large explosions than most movies (or television shows or commercials).
2) Not everyone speaks English (and we have the subtitles to prove it).
3) We think people can act with their clothes on.
4) Gore and gratuitous violence — not a necessity.
5) You’ll still be thinking about the film on the next day.
6) Our concessions are affordable and delicious (which has nothing to do with our film selections, but we think food and saving money is important).

The Preview

So we open with a film name that will surely get some attention on the marquee! Whisky Galore is a remake of a 1949 film that was based on a novel by Sir Compton Mackenzie. It tells the true story (with dramatic license) of what happens in the tiny Scottish island of Todday when the SS Politician runs aground with 264,000 bottles of malt whisky. And, since war rationing has left the island dry, in a manner of speaking, the local folks’ desire to help this ship is great indeed. It is a comedy and a romance (and we note that while not all comedies are romances, some argue that all romances are comedies) with English comedian Eddie Izzard in the lead role as  Captain Wagget, the officer responsible for making sure the whisky is accounted for.

You can watch the trailer here, but I also recommend this fun clip from the original film to get you in the mood for the new film. And, in case you are wondering, “whisky” is the Scottish spelling for what we call “whiskey.”

After the Storm brings us a film from a Japanese director popular in our office. Hirokazu Koreeda directed an office favorite, “Our Little Sister” as well as another film we liked and showed, “Still Walking.” Koreeda has the ability to present dramatic situations with a touch of humor, much like we (should) handle them in life. Hiroshi Abe (whom we saw in “Still Walking”) is a one-hit wonder author who spends his time making ends meet by working as a private detective, and making ends not meet by gambling. After his father dies, he realizes the importance of family and wants to reconnect with his young son, ex-wife, and his mother. Given his track record, he is not welcomed with open arms. But when he gets the chance to reconnect with his son, he does not want to let the opportunity slip by him. The trailer does a good job showing Koreeda’s mix of humor and drama.

And, then we get serious. Nise: The Heart of Madness is based on the real-life story of Dr. Nise de Silveira. Her entire life is a lesson in battling the odds, including being the only female graduate in her medical class. She shows up in the 1940s to work at the Rio de Janeiro psychiatric hospital, where she is given little respect since she is a woman. Undaunted, she turns the psychiatric world upside down with her demand for and success with treating the mentally ill in humane way. This is not a documentary, but a dramatic telling of this one time in her life. But, after seeing it, you’ll want to learn the history of this doctor who is highly regarded in Brazil and beyond for her work. Hey, she even has a stamp with her picture, and for nerdy stamp collectors like me, that is high praise. Watch the trailer here.

From there we go to another film featuring women fighting for some rights. However, this a bit more light! The Women’s Balcony is a comedy out of Israel where it has been a huge hit. A tragedy takes an Orthodox Jewish community’s rabbi out of the picture for a while. In his place a young rabbi with strong views shows up, and before we know it we have the classic battle of the sexes played out, complete with quotes for Jewish philosophers? A fast-moving, funny film — even the trailer works that way.

You can read the press release, watch the trailers, or visit the Knick website (and we’ll be listing our Family Film Series and next One Night Only series soon).

Derek Emerson
Director of Public Affairs and Events

How the West was Filmed

The showdown on a dusty street. The cool stare of death.  The flawed hero. The cold gun. The morality tale told in a new way. The Knickerbocker’s upcoming edition of its “One Night Only” film series features the Western genre. The films chosen represent a cross-section of the Western’s development from the 50’s through the 60’s using some of its most iconic films. In their own way, each of the four films selected represents a change in the development of this genre.

High Noon (1952) is one of two films in this series that represent the beginnings of the Western’s transformation into telling stories that are morally ambiguous, and more realistic in their portrayal of frontier life. Gary Cooper is newly married, retired Marshall Will Kane who plans on leaving town to start a new life elsewhere. When news comes that, Frank Miller, a man that Marshall Kane sent to prison, is coming in on the noon train to settle things with Kane, the Marshall decides he needs to stay and face the ex-convict. In the process, Kane discovers the various limits men are willing to cross when it comes to standing up and possibly laying down their lives for each other. The story becomes a tension-filled, Hitchcock-like suspense thriller as the clock steadily makes its way to the fateful hour of the showdown between the Marshall and his nemesis.  
This classic Western trope of the gun duel in the streets is given a special twist in High Noon as we watch Cooper’s heroic character wrestle with his own cowardice and fear in the wake of the complete abandonment by people whom he’s considered friends and loved ones.  This sort of flawed hero was new to the genre at the time and it’s what gives “High Noon” its sense of rawness and reality.  This is a morality tale that explores the dark heart of human nature to the fullest. And it’s also one of the most suspenseful films in all of cinema not to mention one of the greatest Westerns.
Watch the original trailer.

One of most famous closing shots in cinematic history.

The Searchers (1956) is John Wayne’s finest hour on film.  Wayne himself was known to favor this role as the civil war veteran Ethan Edwards as his best work. The Searchers represents another milestone in the Western genre’s evolution from simple campfire tales of good guys and bad guys to more realistic, complex and mature stories of the Old West. Ethan Edwards visits his brother’s ranch in Texas after the war with intentions of settling down, but an attack by Comanche Indians destroys these plans and propels Ethan and his nephew, Martin on a years-long search for Ethan’s kidnapped niece, Debbie. Along the journey Martin witnesses his uncle Ethan’s burning hatred for not just the Comanche who kidnapped Debbie but for all native tribes. Ethan’s hatred becomes increasingly all-consuming, obliterating any feelings of family or love or humanity. The nuanced performance by Wayne and his projection of menace brings great tension throughout the film and helps to create a dramatic ending, unlike any other Western film. The Searchers stands out ahead of its time for its exploration of racism, violence and true life on the frontier. It is one of director John Ford’s masterpieces, John Wayne’s finest work, and the best Western film of all time in my opinion.
Watch the original trailer.

The Magnificent Seven (1960) is an epic western yarn with an all-star cast featuring Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Eli Wallach. The plot involves a Mexican village terrorized by a gang of bandits who come every year to steal the town’s meager harvest.  The village elders recruit a group of seven gunfighters to help them get rid of the bandits forever.  Each gunfighter comes to this mission with different motivations and therein lies the crux of the plot.  Yul Brynner was a fan of the Kurosawa film The Seven Samurai and was the one who stewarded the idea for an American version to be produced as a Western. The Magnificent Seven is one of the all-time great Westerns with a perfect mix of high drama, shoot ’em up action and spectacular camera work. Not to mention Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen at the height of their acting powers along with the legendary Eli Wallach as the smarmy, evil bandit leader, Calvera. The film’s score by Elmer Bernstein is a classic and its main theme is recognizable even today as a musical touchstone to the Western film.  Even the gang from Cheers knows it!
Watch the original trailer (with lyrics that Bernstein definitely did not write).

Clint Eastwood takes on a badge.

Hang ‘Em High (1968) is the Western that cemented Clint Eastwood’s legacy as one of the greatest Western actors of all time, second only to John Wayne, “The Duke” himself.  Up until Hang ‘Em High, Eastwood had starred in a series of “Spaghetti Westerns” that introduced a grittier, darker and more violent Western film to the genre.  Eastwood’s portrayal in them as “The Man With No Name” became a nearly instant Western icon with his cruel squint, cigar clenched in his square jaw, and serape coated with trail dust draped over his shoulders. He was the mono-syllabic, quick drawing anti-hero who changed the direction of the Western genre forever.
As with most every Western film, Hang ‘Em High, is a morality tale. In this story, Eastwood portrays former lawman, Jed Cooper, who is mistakenly lynched as a cattle rustler and murderer.  He survives, returns to his former job as a Marshall and proceeds to hunt down each of the men in the lynching party.  Hang ‘Em High, like many of Eastwood’s Westerns, presents no real satisfying answers and completely blurs the lines between good and evil. This is a hallmark of the modern Western film that still stands today.

Watch the original trailer

The Essential Information
April 3
       High Noon
April 10     The Searchers
April 17     The Magnificent Seven
April 24     Hang ‘Em High
All films start at 7:30pm.
One Night Only Films are just $5 per person.

Read the Press Release

Tom Hoover
Guest Blogger, Film Fanatic, and
Executive and Residential Innovation Chef at Hope College

Things to Come Redefines a Mid-Life Crisis

Upon first reading the summary for Things to Come, I had a sense of predictability.

Here we have Nathalie, a high-school philosophy teacher who seems to have all her ducks in a row. She has a job she’s passionate about, a happy marriage of 25 years, and two wonderful children who are growing up and fleeing the nest. Even if I stopped right there, your guess on what was coming next would be pretty accurate.

“I thought you’d love me forever,” says Nathalie, ruefully to her husband. “What an idiot.”

You guessed it – Nathalie’s world is thrown for a loop when her husband announces he is leaving her for another woman. I was rolling my eyes at this point. Hello! I’ve seen this plot before. Then, when director Mia Hansen-Love introduces Fabien, one of Nathalie’s favorite former students, my Hollywood-trained mind thought we had the entire movie figured out.

Think again.

As Amanda mentioned, the films we show at the Knickerbocker are not the mainstream, predictable movies many of us are used to. Foreign films, like Things to Come, don’t follow any kind of cookie cutter plot – they do their own thing, keeping viewers engaged with original content and story lines.

So no, we don’t see Nathalie meltdown, pursing a relationship with a younger man who reminds her of herself in her younger years. Instead, we see a woman of intellectual and emotional substance find new freedoms and understanding in her new life circumstances.

Honestly, how could you not appreciate Hansen-Love’s fresh perspective in this kind of crisis? Plus, the divorce isn’t the only turbulence in Nathalie’s life, but she faces each with grace and strength, concluding, “I am lucky to be fulfilled intellectually.” I truly value a character that is not unraveled when the things she assumed were certain are broken, but rather, remains rooted in her ideals and self-confidence.

Isabelle Huppert as Nathalie, with Roman Kolinka as Fabien.

There’s also something to be said about the teasingly-romantic, yet strictly platonic nature of Fabien and Nathalie’s relationship. I blame my Hollywood- accustomed mind once again for the half second where I hoped a romantic bond would develop between the two. Thankfully, I came to my senses and appreciated Fabien’s role in Nathalie’s new journey. It’s a friendship from one intellectual to another. More importantly, it’s a glimpse backwards for Nathalie, and a realization that she did not compromise her youthful ideas so much as matured into new ones.

Mia Hansen-Love redefines mid-life crisis in Things to Come. Nathalie remains rooted as a woman of mind and heart, avoiding the chance to slip back into her youthful ways and moving forward not by refilling the things that are void, but by understanding this new phase as another chance to live freely and confidently.

This French drama is lighthearted, thoughtful and surprising in a new way. Check out the official trailer and learn more about it on our press release.

The film is showing at 7:30pm from March 27-April 1.

Odille Parker
Event and Conference Manager

#GirlPower in The Eagle Huntress

My dad and me. He flew back from Singapore just to be there for “one of his proudest moments.”

Growing up with a dad who supported and encouraged every (reasonable) goal of mine, I completely relate to the bond between Aisholpan and her father. Much like my dad, Aisholpan’s father, Nurgaiv, believes in the power of hard work and determination – you  bet on yourself and you make it happen, knowing that he’ll always be in your corner.

This is especially true if you’re looking to be an eagle huntress…in a father-son-dominated tradition…the first in twelve generations, actually. Then you know he’s got his gear on and ready to do whatever it takes to help you succeed.

I’m obviously rallying hard behind The Eagle Huntress. Sure, the father-daughter duo angle tugs at my heart, but honestly, it’s the kind of story anyone can relate to.

Plus, could we pick a better film for Women’s History Month?!

Here we have a 13-year-old Aisholpan, facing off against 70 of the greatest Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia, riding deep into the mountains and enduring below-freezing temperatures and rigid landscapes to prove she’s a true eagle huntress. All the while, we’re celebrating the many amazing women throughout history and their contributions to society. (Cue applause).

Aisholpan and her father, Nurgaiv.

It’s easy to focus on the big names associated with this month, which is totally fine, because women like Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton and Rosa Parks deserve the praise for their push for change and their ultimate achievements. However, I don’t think you need to have your own Wikipedia page to be celebrated. Every girl and woman with the drive to change the status quo, however big or small, is a heroine to me.

And Aisholpan is one of those girls. She may not go down in the history books, but in her little piece of the world, she’s doing something pretty great. I’d compare Aisholpan’s efforts to a woman looking to play for an NFL team – it’s a male dominated field, the idea would be vehemently rejected by traditionalists and it would be an uphill battle. But who says a woman with the right skills and a healthy dose of determination couldn’t get there?  Let’s not forget Sarah Thomas, the first full-time NFL official #babysteps. Most wouldn’t define either woman’s feat as monumental, but yet, their paths pave the potential for major change.

Each eagle can only have one master, so you’ll see Aisholpan capture and train her own.

So to me, March is for celebrating any woman that put in the hard work to reach their goals, and The Eagle Huntress is a perfect way for us to do so here at the Knick. Granted, more went into choosing this film than the fact that it coincides with Women’s History Month, like Simon Nibblet’s out-of-this-world cinematography, but honestly, we’re also all about that #girlpower.

The optimist in me believes you’ll be inspired by Aisholpan’s story. Maybe you’ll be like Nurgaiv and my dad and continue to push your daughter (or son for that matter) to really go after their dreams. Or maybe, there’s an Aisholpan inside of you waiting to take off. No matter your story, I think there’s something we can all take away from Aisholpan’s ambition to make her dream come alive.

Come see The Eagle Huntress from March 13 – 18 at 7:30 p.m. Watch the official movie trailer and learn more about the film on our press release.

Odille Parker
Event and Conference Manager

5 Reasons Hope Students Should Attend Knick Movies

By Amanda Dort ’17

Amanda Dort

For the past three years, I’ve been working in the Hope College’s Events and Conferences Office writing press releases. If it was not for this job, I wouldn’t have known about the Knick movies in the first place. I’m so happy that isn’t the case because attending the Knick movies is one of my favorite activities to do on campus!

The Knick Film Series? Formally known as the “Knickerbocker Film Series,” the movies are part of the theatre’s “tradition of showing new, independent and foreign films for the West Michigan community.” What does this mean? This means that these movies are not only NEW, but are also not likely to show up at a mainstream theatre. These movies aren’t your predictable, fluffy rom-coms. The films shown as part of the Film Series are engaging and entertaining, while still being thought-provoking and educational.

There’s usually one movie per month during the academic year, and my best friends and I like to attend every one we can! These unpredictable movies’ endings aren’t the only thing that surprises me — what also surprises me is the lack of attendance by other Hope students like myself. This is why I’ve created this list of 5 reasons why you should attend the Knick movies.

  1. They’re free
    FREEEE! Although it’s not advertised in the press releases, the Knickerbocker Fall, Winter, and Spring Film Series is free for Hope College students! Just make sure to bring your Hope College ID to the ticket counter at the Knick, and you will be on your way to enjoying the film.
  2. They’re shown 6 times per week
    If there is a Knick movie playing during a certain week, then it is shown Monday-Saturday of that week. So whether you have a night class on Monday, a team meeting on Tuesday or plans with friends on Wednesday, you still have three more days to attend the Knick movie. All movies begin at 7:30 p.m. and serve as a very nice study break.
  3. They’re a great activity with friends.
    Like I said before, my friends and I love to go to these movies. Bring your friends and enjoy the films together! Plus, if you’re all Hope College students, no one has to pay for their ticket. And the concessions are inexpensive and good!
  4. They’re genuinely GOOD movies
    Some of my favorite movies previously shown include Loving, Our Little Sister, Mustang, and Phoenix. You know you’ve just seen a good movie if you’re still thinking about it the next day, and that is the case with movies shown in the Knickerbocker Film Series. The movies promote conversation and deeper thinking (if you’re into that stuff), but are still fluidly captivating and moving.
  5. They’re shown on-campus
    If you’re not aware already, the Knickerbocker Theatre is located on-campus (well, right on the edge and on 8th Street). There’s no car-pooling or fuel needed to attend a Knick movie. So go ahead, take one of the new crosswalks on Ninth St to Anderson-Werkman and walk through the first floor until you hit the Knick! You won’t regret it.

 

Now that you know about the movies and are aware of five great reasons why you should attend, I hope to see you there! There are still two more movies left in this semester’s Film Series. To stay updated on which movies are playing when, visit the Knickerbocker Film Series’ website, read the press releases on the Hope College News website or follow Hope College Events and Conferences on Facebook. See you soon!

Coming Up:
The Eagle Huntress  — March 13-18

Things to Come — March 27-April 1

The Salesman – Revenge, Forgiveness, and Arthur Miller

I have been a fan of Asghar Farhadi since we showed his Academy Award nominated film, A Separation, a couple of years ago.  The film’s powerful characters, compelling story, and intense drama reminded me of the power of film.  When we had the opportunity to book Farhadi’s latest film, The Salesman, I was quick to put it on the schedule.  And the film doesn’t disappoint.  The Salesman is nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award and has already won over 80 awards from other films festivals.  

It is a powerful drama that on the surface is the story of a young couple whose peaceful lives are disrupted by a tragedy in Iran, but below the surface, The Salesman speaks to many themes much more complicated.  At its heart, the movie is a morality play which examines the power of revenge and forgiveness, as well as offering an honest and revealing look at society and culture in modern Iran. Adding another level to the film is Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which is also a backdrop for the film.

The Salesman begins with a young couple, Emad and Rana, a teacher and his wife who are also starring in a production of Miller’s Death of a Salesman.  We first see them on stage in rehearsals for the play.  Then their normal life is interrupted and they are forced to find a new place to live.  Luckily a cast member has a vacancy in a place he rents and offers it to the couple.  What seems a stroke of good luck is actually where the problems begin.  Soon after they move in an incident happens — I won’t spoil anything — but it leaves Rana injured and Emad searching for the perpetrator.  Both of them struggle with how to deal with what has happened, but in very different ways.  As they try to come to terms the event and how it is affecting them, we see the increasing tension and distance start to appear in their relationship.  These changes seem most evident at the rehearsals for the production.  The play becomes the one place they actually communicate. As Emad’s quest for revenge builds, we are drawn into the differences between how he and his wife are dealing with this tragedy.  What follows leads us to a gripping and explosive final act.

The Salesman is filled with outstanding acting, but Shahab Hosseini (Emad) and Taraneh Alidoosti (Rana) present their characters with exceptional power and complexity.  And as they struggle to reach some sort of closure about what has happened, their performances become more and more compelling.  I can’t say that the production of Death of a Salesman and Emad’s role as Willie Loman parallels his emotional journey.  In fact, in many ways, he is the opposite of the character, but the production provides an outlet for the characters’ emotion, and it may be that Willie and Linda’s collapse in the play shadows the collapse of Rana and Emad’s life as well.  In the end, we are left with fewer answers than we want, but wiser for the journey.

The Salesman is in Persian with English subtitles and runs 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Read the press release.
Watch the trailer.

Erik Alberg
Technical Director for Events and Conferences Office

The Impact of Love (and “Loving”).

Richard and Mildred Loving (1966)

Their name is so perfect that if this was a fictional story, we would mark it down to poor writing. A couple named Loving fighting for the right to be recognized as a married couple. Married in Washington DC, but not allowed to live in their home state of Virginia. Jailed for their crime and banned from their home, they decide to fight back. This is not the 19th century. This is after the sweeping legislation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And, still, their love was illegal. It seems like a topic that was resolved so long ago, but it could have been my parents. In fact, it was my wife’s parents.

Evie and John Permesang 1962

John Permesang was a young soldier stationed in Panama when Evelia Rodriguez caught his eye. It is not surprising — she was a beautiful, outgoing young woman who made no secret that she hoped someday to marry an American. They were married in Panama in a civil ceremony by an Army Chaplain (and again later, at a church) and, whether they knew it or not, the marriage decided their fate in terms of where they could live. Because it was 1960 and although married by the U.S. government, they were not welcome everywhere in the United States. At the time of the marriage they had about 20 states to avoid, and John once commented that when they arrived in the U.S., the customs agent looked at Evelia and told John that they should go as far north as possible.

Evie and John Permesang at Kollen Park (late 1960s)

Fortunately, home was in Illinois and then in Michigan (Indiana was not a legal option). Only 12 states allowed interracial marriage prior to 1887, and Michigan was one of them. So they started in Chicago, returned to Panama long enough for my wife to be born, and then settled in Holland. They had four children, John worked his way through college and became a teacher, and he and Evie remained together until his death at the age of 58. But just because something is legal does not mean it is accepted. My wife talks of being caught between two cultures, called a “chocolate chip” by some kids. And what looks did John and Evie get when they went shopping at Meijer, a mixed couple in the midst of sameness? When he showed up to a party for teachers with a wife who did not look like him (or most of them), what did people think? What did this couple quietly endure and avoid in their simple desire to share their lives and raise a family?

In other words, the Lovings and the Permesangs are examples of many couples that simply refused to let their love be ruled by unfair laws. And because of people like them, we find a society where such laws can no longer exist. The Census Bureau says that opposite-sex, interracial or interethnic marriages increased by 28 percent from 2000 to 2010. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2008 such marriages in that year alone accounted for 12 percent of unions. Maybe all those couples should send a letter of thanks to the Lovings, Permesangs, and all the other couples who opted to change society instead of letting society change them.
Enjoy the movie!
Derek Emerson
Director of Public Affairs and Events

Our 2017 Winter Film Series

The marketing slogans are easy. “Films to Heat Up Your Winter.” “Four Ways to Beat Cabin Fever.” “Cold Weather, Hot Popcorn, Great Movies — The Perfect Mix.”

Those did not make the cut. Actually, we rarely have a catchy slogan as we think the films sell themselves. Our unofficial slogan for this next series of films is “the solid series” — a variety of films, all different, all strong.

Loving
Jan. 30- Feb. 4, 2017 — 7:30pm

loving_onesheetThis movie was named the number three film of the year by Time Magazine, despite the fact that it was out on limited release. This fictionalized drama is based on the true story of the incredibly named Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial married couple who took their battle to be legally recognized all the way to the Supreme Court. That it took until 1967 to have this happen makes the story even more amazing. The film is raking in award nominations and Manohla Dargis of The New York Times says “There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’s Loving.”

Watch the preview.

The Salesman
Feb. 13-18, 2017 — 7:30pm

Here we offer an Iranian-French film by Academy-award winning directorthe salesman image Asghar Farhadi. (He won the Oscar for A Separation which we showed 2012).  An Iranian couple rehearsing for a performance in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” have to move to a new apartment. But the previous occupant’s past intercedes with their present, turning their lives inside out. Taking Best Actor and Best Screenplay awards at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Farhadi’s latest film adds to his legacy. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian calls it “smart, ambitious…a well-crafted, valuable drama” and Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter says it “leaves the viewer tense and breathless.”
Watch the preview.

The Eagle Huntress
March 13-18, 2017 — 7:30pm

Just watch the preview and dare to miss this movie! The cinematography alone makes this a big-screen must, but the story of 13-year-old Aisholpan working to become the first female eagle hunter in twelve generations just adds to acclaimed documentary. This has the big themes — coming of age, women’s (girl’s) rights, the beauty of nature, the clash of ancient traditions and modern life, and, a glimpse into a culture few of us know. Receiving rave reviews, both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times named it a “Critic’s Pick,” with the NY Times saying it is “Thrilling! A movie that expands your sense of what is possible.”

Watch the preview.

Things to Come
March 27-April 1, 2017 — 7:30pm

Her husband is leaving her for another woman, her mother dies, and her professional life as a philosopher is in turmoil. Well, this sounds like a crazy comedy or a French film. And the winner is…French film! This unlikely plot line has a 100% rating by over 70 critics on Rotten Tomatoes and stars the incomparable Isabelle Huppert as the woman who decides not to fold under the challenges, but instead reinvent her life. Time Magazine says “Huppert is extraordinary—she reveals everything even when you think she’s showing nothing—and she’s the perfect actress, right now, for Hansen-Løve’s (director) fine-grained perceptiveness.” Time Out calls it “warm, thoughtful, surprising.”
Watch the preview.

We think you’ll agree that this is an incredible line up of films, likely to be heard about for years to come. We’ll feature each of these individually on the blog shortly before we show them, but please check out the trailers. And, tell your friends! You are the best advertisement we have for our unique film series. Thank you for supporting us and great films.

 

Derek Emerson
Hope College Director of Public Affairs and Events

Our Must-Watch Christmas Movies

We can’t begin the holiday season without the defining question of your Christmas spirit – “When is it acceptable to begin playing Christmas music, before or after Thanksgiving?” I’m sure there’s been a debate or two around the dinner table, but I’m here to tell you that there is a more important question you should be asking to really gauge the Christmas cheer:

“When is it acceptable to start watching Christmas movies?”

It's worth noting that It's A Wonderful Life received the most votes.
Thankfully, It’s A Wonderful Life received the most votes. I have hope for us. 

And if you really want to know more about the person, you ask them for their all-time favorite Christmas movie, which is exactly what I set out to do in our office. What better way to get to know my co-workers? Plus, if we’re going to be choosing films for you to enjoy at the Knickerbocker Theatre, then we should be equipped to recommend some holiday classics as well. Right?

First thing I found out: no one can pick just one favorite. That’s fair.

However, most of us can agree on a few you should definitely be watching this holiday season.

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) is a must. The heartwarming classic has become a Christmas tradition in many households, and can you blame them? Capra said it was the greatest film he ever made, the greatest film anyone ever made, and it was also James Stewart’s favorite of all his feature films. It gets at the heart of Christmas, as a frustrated George Bailey learns from an angel just how wonderful life is. It will leave you smiling every time you hear a bell ring.

"Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind." - Kris Kringle
“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”    -Kris Kringle

Still loving on the classics, we’re all about Miracle on 34th Street. I’m talking Edmund Gwenn’s timeless Santa Claus in the 1947 original, but if I’m being honest, a couple of us won’t let a year go by without watching the 1994 version as well (it’s the ‘90s children loving on our decade’s childhood star). You can’t help but be in the Christmas spirit after watching this, and mostly, you’ll be wondering why you ever stopped believing in Santa Claus in the first place .

You’ll find some kind of comedy in just about every holiday film, but our office is goofy and fun, so we also have some suggestions for an extra dose of laughter. Will Ferrell’s Buddy will teach you about the food groups that matter in Elf (2003), while Bill Murray’s Scrooged (1988) will give you a perfect balance of touching moments and off-beat humor with the modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Will Ferrell isn't your ordinary elf!
Will Ferrell isn’t your ordinary elf!

And just about everyone agrees that you cannot go without National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). It’s a classic of its own – it’s everything Christmas shouldn’t be, but simultaneously, it’s so much of what you can relate to during a time when family get-togethers become a constant.

Matchmaker Santa is my current Hallmark favorite.
Matchmaker Santa is my current Hallmark favorite, because Santa always knows best.

Forget binge watching Netflix shows during the holidays. It’s all about the Hallmark holiday movie specials here. Even if over-the-top, predictable rom-coms aren’t your thing, you must dedicate one day (preferably an entire weekend) to the channel. It’s your typical boy meets girl, girl falls in love, boy and girl live happily ever after storyline, except in a Christmas setting, making it 100% better. Ignore the mediocre acting, I’m not praising cinematic value here, and go for it – you’ll have all the Christmas feel goods in no time.

Finally, we have Joyeux Noël (2005). We are the Knickerbocker Theatre blog after all, so there has to be a foreign film recommendation. This 2005 film features the true story of the World War I Christmas truce, an unofficial agreement on the Western Front where soldiers on opposing sides stopped fighting and came together to celebrate Christmas of 1914. It’s both sweet and sad, but ultimately, it tugs at the heart of what this time of year is all about.

Honorable mentions include White Christmas (1954), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Love Actually (2003), but really, you can’t go wrong with any of them to get in the spirit.

White Christmas is truly a classic.
White Christmas truly is a classic.

These are our favorites, but we want to know yours! What are your must-watch Christmas films?

-Odille Parker

Cary Grant Focus for the One Night Only Series

He was once told by an interviewer  “Everybody would like to be Cary Grant.” He replied, “So would I.”

cary grantAnd such is the quandary for an actor who becomes larger than himself. Grant is the classic leading man, yet difficult to pin down. His comic timing is impeccable (see His Girl Friday), yet Hitchcock finds the man beyond the handsome face (see North by Northwest). A British-born actor who became an American citizen and had an accent that was a conglomeration of influences. His career in movies expanded over three decades and the American Film Institute named him the second greatest male star of the Golden Age of Hollywood, yet he never won an Academy award.

So what makes him different from so many other leading men? New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael thinks it has to do with that hesitant nature.  She notes that “in His Girl Friday, he’s unabashed about everything in the world except why he doesn’t want Rosalind Russell to go off with Ralph Bellamy. He isn’t weak, yet something in him makes him hold back—and that something…makes him more exciting.”

Apparently, a lot of people found him exciting. He was married five times and with Dyan Cannon he had his only child, a daughter. He was 62 at the time and retired from filmmaking in 1966 to focus on his daughter. Maybe family was so important to him since he lost a number of relatives in the bombing of Bristol by the Nazis. Or maybe he did not want to be a fading star, choosing to leave films when he was still in demand. Either way, he left behind an incredible list of films.

So, how did we choose which ones to show?

The iconic shot from "North by Northwest"
The iconic shot from “North by Northwest”

I would like to say we poured over hours upon hours of films, consulted a number of leading film critics, and settled on the four essentials. But, actually, we wanted a Christmas movie, but not one we always see on television 24 hours a day (e.g. Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life). The Bishop’s Wife (1947) was suggested, and the Cary Grant series was created.

The Bishop's Wife paper doll set!
The Bishop’s Wife paper doll set!

Personally, I pushed for His Girl Friday (1940) and Bringing Up Baby (1938), two of my favorites. But then we wanted to fit in one of his Hitchcock films and settled on North by Northwest (1959). Then there is the star-filled The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart — hard to pass that up. So out went Bringing Up Baby (with Katherine Hepburn) and the lineup was set. Yes, we had to pass up on his first starring role in a film, with Mae West. Or the classic, Arsenic and Old Lace, which he hated and Houseboat with Sophia Loren, whom he loved, but, alas, was not loved back. No on Notorious and To Catch a Thief? Ouch. Still, we think you’ll agree we have four great films to see on the big screen (maybe once again, maybe for the first time — we won’t ask).

North by Northwest (Nov. 21)
His Girl Friday (Nov. 28)
The Philadelphia Story (Dec. 5)

The Bishop’s Wife (Dec. 12)

And, I got to keep His Girl Friday, which has two of my all-time favorite scenes

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday"
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday”( and Russell in his office and then at the prison newsroom — I’m laughing as I write this).( and Russell in his office and then at the prison newsroom — I’m laughing as I write this).

(Grant and Russell in his office and then at the prison newsroom — I’m laughing as I write this).

Tell us what we missed? What we did right? Other ideas for our One Night Only series? But most of all, come and see the films. It is how we know we are on the right track.

Interesting Facts About Cary Grant to Impress Your Film Friends

(from IMDB)

 

Donated his entire salary for Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) ($100,000) to the U.S. War Relief Fund.

He never said “Judy, Judy, Judy” in the movies, which he credits to Larry Storch, but he did say “Susan, Susan, Susan” in Bringing Up Baby (1938).

Turned down roles opposite Audrey Hepburn in both Roman Holiday (1953) and Sabrina (1954). He also turned down the role of James Bond, saying he was too old, although the part was partly created with him in mind.

In His Girl Friday (1940), his character remarks, “Archie Leach said that,” a reference to his real name.

He never played a villain.

Always cited his To Catch a Thief (1955) co-star Grace Kelly as his favorite leading lady. He attended her state funeral in 1982 and wept throughout the televised service.

In case you are checking, we also stole some of this information from the ultimate source, Wikipedia.

 Derek Emerson
Director of Public Affairs and Events