“One Night Only” Series Features Four Iconic Brando Films

Marlon Brando pictureIn an era where we watch stars self-destruct on too regular of a basis, the career of Marlon Brando can offer these people both lessons and hope. After bursting onto the scene in the 1950s (and our series focuses on four films released between 1952-1954), Brando’s personal life and career went off the track in the 1960s. He went ten years without making a successful film and it looked like his legacy would rest on his solid early work. Then came his second Academy Award for The Godfather in 1972 followed by another nomination for his work in the controversial Last Tango in Paris. My introduction to Brando was at the Holland Theatre (now the Knickerbocker) in 1979 when my oldest brother took me to see Apocalypse Now since he felt all 15-year-olds should see that film. It was a memorable experience as Brando slowly leans forward in the light, rubbing that bald head and mumbling.

A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire

Little did I know that the mumbling was a Brando trademark. After his explosive performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, Brando was nicknamed “the mumbler” by some in Hollywood. His body language in the movie matches his speech, as he moves from slouch to taut, from mumble to rapid-fire shouting in a heartbeat. It was just his second movie appearance and he had played Stanley Kowalski in the Broadway version just prior to the movie. He understood his character and it is seen in nuances of the film. Brando is the perfect match for all the subtexts found in all of Tennessee Williams’ work because you can see the internal conflicts in his every gesture.

Brando in Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

While Streetcar brought him fame, Brando wanted to show he could do more than just mumble so he took on the Mark Antony role in a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar so he could show his acting skills up against the likes of John Gielgud, James Mason, Deborah Kerr, and Greer Garson. The critics agreed that he could more than hold his own, so he then went back to mumbling.

He went from Julius Caesar to The Wild One where we get the iconic Brando on the motorcycle photo. The film has great lines and Lee Marvin is good, as always, but the motorcycle gang that orders cups of coffee appears a little dated. Still, it is Brando in rare form showing a man conflicted between emotions. The tough guy falling for the nice girl, a man who wants to be more than he is but is not sure how to get there.

On the Waterfront
ON THE WATERFRONT

In our final film, On the Waterfront, Brando plays another tough guy struggling with where to go in life. If I was forced to choose a favorite film, this is easily my all-time favorite. Eva Marie Saint, who took home the Academy Award for her debut performance here, matches Brando’s intensity. Brando is the punk who could have been a great boxer (think “I coulda been a contender”) but takes a dive for his brother and his Mafia-like union group. Now he has the chance to do something right and you see the conflict in his face and body — he wants to better than he is but he lacks the courage. And then you have Karl Malden pulling off the role of a priest that is the anti-Bing Crosby version. He is pushed out from his safe church to bring Christ to the docks and his speech over the dead body of a dock worker in the belly of a ship may be the best sermon ever preached, on or off stage. The fact that his character is based on a real-life priest may have helped cement his character. The film was a huge success, winning eight Academy awards including Brando and Marie Saint for their acting, Eli Kazan for his directing, and the film itself won the best picture award.

Looking at these four films together, it is incredible what he put together in such a short time. Although he derailed his own career, nearly 20 years after these films he was back and still amazing people with his skills. As another great actor, Paul Newman, said: “I’m angry at Marlon because he does everything so easily. I have to break my [fill in the blank] to do what he can do with eyes closed.”

Make sure to catch all the films:

April 16 — A Streetcar Named Desire
April 23 — Julius Caesar
April 30 — The Wild One
May 7 — On the Waterfront

–Derek Emerson
Hope College Director of Public Affairs and Events

Sidney Poitier Films featured at the Knick

If Sidney Poitier was a wine, 1967 would be his best vintage.

He was already a household name and had broken many “firsts,” but in 1967 he starred in three major films and was the top movie star of the year. To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner are all classic films in their own right. When you realize this is one year’s work, well, it was clearly an incredible feat.

Poitier in Blackboard Jungle

Not bad for an actor who was at first rejected because he couldn’t sing, only learned to read well when he was in his late teens, and worked at erasing his Bahamian accent so he could land acting roles (his parents were from the Bahamas but were visiting in Miami when he was born prematurely). He was on Broadway early and at age 22 was already showing up in films. His 1955 appearance in Blackboard Jungle caught people’s attention, and his Academy-nominated performance in The Defiant Ones, with Tony Curtis, put him in the spotlight. He returned to Broadway to star in the first production of A Raisin in the Sun in 1959 and reprised his role in the 1961 film version. Then he became the first black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1963,’s Lilies of the Field.

At the 1963 March on Washington

Being a black actor in the 1960s meant that whatever Poitier did was interpreted through the civil rights lens. While he used his prominence to further the civil rights movement, he resisted some activism, which angered some of his friends. As his biographer, Aram Goudsouzian says, “Poitier’s rhetoric balanced between progressive politics and public appeal. He recognized his position as a spokesman and fundraiser, which suited his philosophical, nonconfrontational nature. He thus typically refrained from overt activism.”

 But Poitier was aware that every role he chose would be interpreted through a racial lens, and many of his roles address racial issues head on. While he received some criticism for being “too acceptable” in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, his role in In the Heat of the Night shows him facing down overt racism while struggling with his own sense of self. The film’s simple story exposes the complexity of racism.

Poitier featured in the Broadway premiere of A Raisin in the Sun

As always, when we select these films, we struggle over which ones to select. It was a struggle to pass on The Defiant Ones, while it seems like we had to choose Lilies of the Field since he won the Oscar for that performance. We open with A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s incredible play that Poitier starred in both on stage and film. Personally, In the Heat of the Night is one of my all-time favorite films, so I was fighting for that one at the outset. And while it is starting to feel dated, it is hard to pass up Poitier, Hepburn, and Tracy (all Oscar winners) together in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Having conquered the acting world, he became a successful director (Stir Crazy) and continues to receive honors. He was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, and President Obama presented him with the highest civilian award in the U.S., the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Most recently, in 2016, he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts).

We hope you join us as these classics return to the big screen as part of our One Night Only series. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. and cost just $5.

November 20
Nov. 27
December 4
December 11

A film for the mystery connoisseur

Nothing pulls at me like a good mystery.

You can easily catch me binge watching “Criminal Minds,” googling the facts behind the latest “Dateline NBC” or staying up all night reading the latest thriller, which is why I’m looking forward to the last film in our fall film series, The Unknown Girl.

The Belgian-French drama follows Jenny (Adele Haenel), a young doctor who leaves the clinic door unanswered, only to find out that the African woman found dead shortly after was the one ringing the bell. Driven by guilt and redemption, Jenny sets out to find out who the woman is and see to it that she is not forgotten.

Are you not intrigued? I sure hope so, because, in my humble, suspense-loving opinion, The Unknown Girl possesses at least three characteristics that make for a quality mystery.

It’s attention-grabbing. Great thrillers make it impossible to walk away right from the get-go. Fellow bookworms, it’s those books that invoke a high page-turning pace and healthy dose of obsession to know what happens next. In this case, the Dardenne brothers keep at their gripping undercurrents, begging audience members to go along on Jenny’s journey to find out who this woman is, what happened to her and why she was ringing the clinic’s bell in the first place.

There’s a stellar plot twist. I’m bothered when I figure things out early on and there are no “OMG!” moments. Please, throw me for a loop; give me a dose of humility when I think I know what comes next. Sure, we don’t know the plot twist in this film yet, but the preview alone begs for one. You have a doctor who, moments before the bell rings, tells her intern that “a doctor has to control his emotions,” and yet, days later, she’s making house calls, wondering into places she’d never dreamed of before, her emotions deeply driving her quest for the truth. That’s a solid start in my plot twist requirements.

You forget Adèle Haenel is acting. She’s too busy seeing the world as Jenny would.

You get a sense of purpose and closure. Not just as the viewer-turned investigator, but you want to see the characters reach a closing point. At the heart of this film is a dilemma for even the most dedicated do-gooder – at what point do you pull back to keep yourself from falling too deep? You see Jenny take on different hats to give this girl a voice, consumed by the thought she is to blame. You can only hope to see a closure to that. Plus, you’ll see the directors’ belief in humanity’s freedom to choose to do good, even as outside pressures say otherwise.

Ultimately, I want to be part of a mystery that stays with me even after it’s long done. Something that pulls at my heart and mind, which is something we hope to give you with all the Knick films we show. Something I’m confident The Unknown Girl has to offer.

The Unknown Girl is showing on Monday – Saturday, Nov. 6-11 at 7:30 p.m. Check out the trailer.

Tickets are $7 for regular admission and $6 for senior citizens, Hope College faculty/staff and children. Tickets will be sold at the door but are also available in advance at the Events and Conferences Office located downtown in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center (100 E. Eighth St.). The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at (616) 395-7890.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located downtown Holland at 86 E. Eighth St.

Odille Parker
Hope College Events and Conferences Manager

Our 2017 Fall Film Series

Fall brings colors to the leaves, a chill in the air, and films to the Knick! Yes, the fall film series is off and running.

The Knickerbocker Theatre at Hope College is showing four films through November 11.

Maudi posterThe series opens with Maudie, an Irish-Canadian biographical romantic drama, through Saturday, Sept. 16. In Nova Scotia, Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins), who suffers from severe arthritis, is hired as a housekeeper by reclusive local fish peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke). Despite her crippled hands, Maud yearns to be independent and to live away from her overprotective family, but most of all she wants to create art. An unlikely romance blossoms between Maude and Everett as she hones her skills despite her pain and overcomes the physical challenge of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Eventually, she rises to become one of Canada’s premier folk artists, with paintings hanging in the White House. The film is in English. It has a running time of one hour and 55 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Past Life posterThe series will feature Past Life on Monday-Saturday, Sept. 18-23. The drama/thriller depicts the pilgrimage of two sisters — Sephi Milch (Joy Rieger), an introverted talented classical musician, and Nana (Nelly Tagar), a boisterous journalist — in the late 1970s as they unwind the shocking revelation of their father’s past during the Holocaust. Meanwhile, Selphi not only must struggle with the unraveling of her family history and its possible consequences but also must compete in a male-dominated profession as she seeks to be a classical composer. The film is in English, German, Hebrew and Polish with English subtitles. It has a running time of one hour and 49 minutes and is not rated.

The series will continue with The Trip to Spain on Monday-Saturday, Oct. 9-14. The comedy depicts the many changes and challenges faced in middle age. British comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan once again come onto the big screen, touring their way through a variety of European cities during a week-long drive filled with sightseeing and taste-bud adventures leading them to epiphanies regarding history, fame, and fatherhood. This film is in English. It has a running time of one hour and 48 minutes and is not rated.

The series will end with The Unknown Girl on Monday-Saturday, Nov. 6-11. The Belgian-French drama is a searing saga of guilt and redemption. Young doctor Jenny (Adele Haenel) leaves the clinic door unanswered, and shortly after a young African woman is found dead by the side of the road. Consumed with guilt, Jenny embarks on a journey to discover who the woman was and to see to it that she is remembered. “The Unknown Girl” is both a gripping mystery and a profoundly human moral tale encompassing “no end of guilt, and just enough grace,” as said by the New York Times. The film is in French with subtitles. It has a running time of one hour and 53 minutes and is not rated.

Tickets for the individual films are $7 for regular admission and $6 for senior citizens, Hope College faculty and children. Tickets will be sold at the door but are also available in advance at the Events and Conferences Office located downtown in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center (100 E. Eighth St.). The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at (616) 395-7890.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located in downtown Holland at 86 E. Eighth St.

Family films rooted in books — and why we should keep reading

The night Max wore his wolf suit
and made mischief of one kind
and another
his mother called him “WILD THING!”
and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!”
so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
—————————————————–
There are some things we do in life that give us great joy. For me, reading to children is one of those moments. All four of my children were raised with a steady dose of books, not only before bed but throughout the day. Cuddling up on the couch with “Where the Wild Things Are” on a snowy day promises not only adventure and laughter — it introduces the child into a world which they can explore for the rest of their lives.

What is it about these simple stories that appeal to children and their parents? Sure, there are plenty of children’s books that don’t hold our attention, so what is it in “Goodnight Moon” that brings us back time and again? I’ve read the book so many times over the years that I can still say it from memory. A simple story of a bunny saying goodnight to everything in the room, and to the moon and stars and air and even to nobody. Or Max’s adventures, another book committed to memory, where Maurice Sendak lays out in just a few lines the basis for an entire dream which ends with a dinner that “is still hot.”

I saw an interview with Sendak where he explained that children are the toughest audience. Adults will work their way through a book, but if a child is not captured immediately, then the book sails across the room and they are on to the next one. These great writers create stories that children understand in simple language with driving rhythms that draw the reader in. Of course, reading is not just the writer interacting with us, but us interacting with the story and writer. We make each story our own. How I read the books differed from how my wife read them to the children.  My version of “Where the Wild Things Are” includes a time for children to dance during the “wild rumpus.” In reading these works we create our own private worlds with our children.

August 3, 7:30pm

Maybe that is why I hesitate to see film versions of picture books I love. I know, I should encourage you to see the movies we are showing over the next four weeks, and I do, but you won’t find me at “Where the Wild Things Are.” That book lives in a unique way for me and my children and I’m not interested in anything that builds on it. I’ve also never seen “The Polar Express” for the same reason. And, I’m hoping no one attempts a movie version of “Goodnight Moon,” although the author, Margaret Wise Brown, embraced new technologies for her books.

August 10, 7:30pm

But story books often work well in movies. Roald Dahl created unique (and strange) worlds that work visually and he initially supported the creation of a film based on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It became “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the 2005 remake brought back the original title), and now both the film and the book are “classics.” Stories such as “James and the Giant Peach” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” also bring to life Dahl’s developed stories. Dahl writes stories that can scare children, but, somehow, he seems to know how far he can push them. He treats children with respect, which is one reason his stories will continue to resonate with young readers.

August 17, 7:30pm

Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” was written for the best reason — it was for his daughter. In 2010, a first-edition of the book was found in his family’s possession with a handwritten note from Kipling. “This book belongs to Josephine Kipling for whom it was written by her father, May 1894.” That daughter passed away a few years after Kipling wrote the note — she was just six years old. There is no doubt those stories always meant something more to Kipling as a parent rather than just as an author. Kipling had more faith in children’s capacity for fear than Walt Disney, who fired the first screenwriters working on adapting the book for the original movie since they stayed too close to Kipling’s “dark” themes. It is likely that most of us know the upbeat Disney film version better than the book, and we are now showing the 2016 version which won the Academy Award for Special Effects for its use of live action/CGI technology. Remakes are not always well received, but this new version was a commercial and critical success. Great stories can come to life in different ways.

July 27, 7:30pm

And, we open with the most recently written book in our series, “The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo. The 2003 novel is already considered a classic and this heartwarming movie will only add to the award-winning book’s reputation. Read the press release or visit our home page for previews and information about the films.

So, bring the family, watch some great movies, and then go home and give your child a gift — read them a book.

Derek Emerson
Hope College Director of Public Affairs and Events

One Night Only Series Focuses on Judy Garland

One Night Only Judy Garland Poster

By Tom Hoover
Guest blogger and film lover

I remember getting to stay up late to watch The Wizard of Oz when I was in elementary school and being more interested in Dorothy’s friends and her dog Toto than I was of this plucky, jittery girl from Kansas whose only skill seemed to be singing mopey songs and skipping around.  Years later I grew to appreciate Dorothy’s adventure with more understanding and I even grew to love that one particular “mopey song”  for the masterpiece of bittersweet longing that it is.

Wizard of Oz
Performing Somewhere Over the Rainbow

None of that awakening would have come about if it hadn’t been for Judy Garland’s Oscar winning performance as Dorothy.  She was so great in the role that generations of people have been won over to the tremendous talent that was Judy Garland solely on the strength of that singular performance.  Hundreds of singers have covered “Over the Rainbow” but none have achieved the impact and reach of Judy’s interpretation.  That song is forever hers. But Judy was much more than that song or that movie.  

Meet Me in St. Louis
The Trolley Song from Meet Me in St. Louis

Building upon The Wizard’s huge success, Judy was kept busy with making a series of MGM musicals throughout the 1940’s.  Two of her most successful films were Meet Me in St. Louis and Ziegfeld Follies.  Of these two, Meet Me in St. Louis was the one that had Judy truly transitioning from a younger studio phenom to a full-fledged adult star able to carry a film and bring in the box office numbers.  Meet Me in St. Louis produced some of Judy’s most beloved musical hits – “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Director and future husband, Vincent Minnelli was instrumental in crafting Judy’s look and performance in the film.  The picture is a wonderful tribute to Hollywood’s vision of a time gone by.  Judy’s voice was never better and her new look was full of wide-eyed vitality with just the right amount of worldliness.  Minnelli required the best from Judy and the results are a stunning performance from an actress almost unrecognizable from the naïve farm girl she portrayed in Wizard of Oz just a few years before. This film is my favorite among the MGM musicals with Judy in the cast.

Towards the end of the 1940’s the frantic pace of production, a series of short failed marriages, and Judy’s growing drug dependence took their heavy toll.  She was hospitalized several times for exhaustion and suffered a nervous breakdown.  Eventually, roles dried up and her contract with MGM was canceled. Going into the 1950’s, Judy drifted in and out of the public eye, occasionally appearing on TV variety shows.  She managed to re-invent herself as a stage singer which revived her career to the point where she was appearing on stages around the world to sold out crowds.  After a particularly successful run in Great Britain, Judy returned to Hollywood with her then husband, Sidney Luft to independently bankroll and produce a pet project – a musical re-make of A Star is Born, a Hollywood backstage story that closely mirrored Judy’s life at that time.  

A Star is Born
Garland and Mason in A Star is Born

I love this film more for the drama between Judy and James Mason than any of the musical elements (except for the wonderfully overwrought version of “The Man That Got Away” that Judy sings with gusto and loads of bawdy vibrato).  Judy’s honest, harrowing performance is the one time on film that we get close to anything that might be like the real Judy Garland. The film was a great critical success and audiences loved it.  There was even another Oscar nomination.  However, none of this positive press resulted in a big box office and the film ended up losing money.  Roles never materialized, the money disappeared and another of Judy’s marriages imploded.  Judy appeared in a few more small films but eventually returned to television appearances and the concert stage.

After a near death, Hepatitis scare at the end of the 1950’s, Judy bounced back once again with a one-off concert at Carnegie Hall in 1963 that was the musical sensation of the year.  The recording from the show went on to chart 13 weeks at number one on Billboard and garnered 4 Grammy awards including Album of the Year and Female Vocal of the Year.

Following the success of the Carnegie Hall concert, Judy re-made herself again by tapping into her vaudeville roots and taking to the stage singing in elaborate stage shows around the world.  She never returned to Hollywood and only appeared on television sporadically.  By late 1969, the years of relying upon medication to fuel her days caught up to her and in the words of her Wizard of Oz co-star, Ray Bolger (The Scarecrow) “She just plain wore out.”  Judy Garland passed away at the age of 47.

Judy Garland was one of the most unique, beloved and tragic stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Her journey from child star to musical sensation to tragic early demise is a complete American Hollywood tale that is no scripted fantasy, but the real legacy left by one of the most massively talented entertainers the industry has ever seen.

Read our press release and visit the Knickerbocker Film Page.

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