Friday, June 10, 2011

The Screening Room: Network

I've been meaning to make it to Chris Vognar's 70's movies series at the Magnolia ever since it was announced that the program would commence in February with Taxi Driver. But a combination of work, putting things off (in this case reserving a seat) and the wide appeal of seeing these classic movies on the big screen has to Dallas folk has (every showing has been sold out) kept me home on those Thursday nights. After being severely disappointed that the May showing of Chinatown was fully booked (even though the screening was still a week away), I made sure to reserve seats two weeks in advance for Network in June. Needless to say, I got my seats. The experience was quite amazing. After a somewhat hazardous journey into Dallas, I arrived to a packed theater full of folks (mostly older people who saw Network when it originally came out, though there were a good deal of youthful cinephiles present, too), in spite of the Mavericks game taking place just miles away. This irony was a running joke throughout the evening. Vognar started the screening with a lecture on the film, mainly discussing the prophetic realism of Paddy Chayefsky's biting screenplay. He also stressed the powerful and overlooked performance of Beatrice Straight in the film. After departing to his seat, Vognar then shouted out that an added bonus to the evening was that the movie was being shown on an original 35 mm print. This may have been the best aspect of the experience, for while a digital projection would have looked pure and crisp, the gritty images of the old print was like a time warp back to the seventies. I'd seen Network before, and while a second viewing brought out facets of the movie I hadn't previously noticed, the only real thing the movie affirmed was that I didn't love it. It is great, and Vognar was correct in his praise of Beatrice Straight, but as a whole there's more admiration than love here. Still, I don't deny that this is an essential classic, a movie that will last forever. After the movie ended, Vognar added some more thoughts on the film, mainly piggybacking his earlier statements, deepened by a fresh viewing of the movie. Ensuing this was a lively Q&A session with the audience, many of whom seemed eager and thrilled to get their points across. Then one lady, in a thick Texas drawl, asked if there was a chance of getting the Mavs game on the big screen, and we all called it a night. The next and final screening will be Jaws in July. I want to see this on the big screen more than anything, but I'll more than likely be partying with my siblings as we await the midnight screening of Harry Potter. But no worries, as Vognar hinted that there will probably be another series in the fall. I hope there will be. He's done a great thing with this.

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