Who needs LACMA? Not “Los Angeles Plays Itself” nor “Reptilicus”

cinema_kerfuffleNot to be a fashionably-late party pooper, but I don’t get the ongoing cinematic kerfuffle concerning LACMA’s weekend film series. LACMA canned their program due to a shrinking audience, and then thousands of individuals, including director Martin Scorcese, expressed dismay at the decision by the County-run museum to slight its hometown’s heritage. I understand that argument on a symbolic level, and I’m glad the museum plans to relaunch a revived series, but even without LACMA, Los Angeles would still have a plethora of venues to see screen gems, rarities and oddities. Which may partly account for some of that shrinking audience.

Some of my favorite venues include the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Silent Movie Theatre, the New Beverly Cinema and the American Cinematheque (which is screening the any-self-respecting-Angeleno-and-cinema-lover-must-see Los Angeles Plays Itself this weekend at the Aero Theatre, with director Thom Anderson in person on Sunday). People literally line up around the block to see screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. And let’s not forget the screenings that the American Film Institute, the Academy, the Los Angeles Film Festival and heck, even the Natural History Museum (which is screening Reptilicus this Sunday as the final film in its B-Movies and Bad Science summer series) offer every year.

Images: Title screen of Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) and a poster (detail) for Repticilus (1961).

5 Replies to “Who needs LACMA? Not “Los Angeles Plays Itself” nor “Reptilicus””

  1. Thee are precious few theatres where movies are shown and respected as an art form. As Cinema.

    Sitting on a blanket in a cemetery is not the optimum way to watch a movie and certainly as fun an outing as it may be, they do not show Preston Sturges or other such films in PRISTINE prints. I appreciate that you apparently don’t care what condition the image is in, but for film buffs there is nothing like seeing a movie in a large theatre, with perfect print and an audience that DOES NOT TALK (or text etc). You’ve got to be joking when you mention the New Beverly in the same breath as the Bing Theatre.

    Are you seriously offering up camp/schlock like Reptilicus over an evening of Murnau or Greta Garbo or pre-code Barbara Stanwyck? Of all the theatres you name only the American Cinematheque matches the Bing (in theatre quality) – but they do not screen the sorts of films I have just mentioned.

    I find it odd when people pish posh efforts by others to preserve art in this city.

  2. Keekle: Don’t get me wrong. First, I’m happy that LACMA is bringing the series back. It’s good for the city. But they are not the only game in town when it comes to screening quality prints. Nor are they the only venue that shows pre-code Barbara Stanwyck or Murnau. Greta Garbo? Maybe you’re right on that one. Anybody out there know?

    Second, I’m not comparing all those venues to the Bing. They’re obviously very different experiences.

    Third, what’s “camp/shlock” to you, may be “cinema” to others. Remember the wisdom of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel: “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”

    And finally, I really wish all our various film institutions around town would pool their resources together and bring the city something truly incredible. Imagine a month of pre-Code films in venues all across the city.

  3. I agree, Los Angeles Plays Itself is essential viewing. A friend lent me a screener DVD of it a few years ago and I found it mesmerizing. Unfortunately it still is not available commercially on DVD, so this screening is the only chance to see it, for now.

    Here’s a clip on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwmsZrvfOv8

  4. Keekle, you sound like a film snob. You people drive me nuts.

    You’re right that there needs to be a place to see quality art in an optimum environment, but you can drop the attitude.

  5. Mike-
    Hey, I enjoy camp/schlock as much as the next guy, but what the Bing offers is serious film viewing. There’s a place for everything and it seems we agree that the MORE viewing choices the better, but what LA may lose is one of the rare venues where film is respected as an art form. As much fun as a John Hughes retrospective may be, it is not what the Bing does. And the LACMA series is what’s in peril, not the many other more pop movie viewing choices.

    Lucinda-
    Ix-nay on the personal attacks. “you people”? “attitude”? As Obama says, judge/debate the content of the speech not the character of the speaker. Don’t be hating on the “film snobs”.

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