Kimball festival harkens back to classics

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February 8, 2008

5:35 PM

If you’re still unfamiliar with a tiny little flick called “Lars and the Real Girl,” you’re missing out. It’s a funny, character-driven movie about a guy (Ryan Gosling, “The Notebook”) who falls in love with a Real Doll.

p. It’s clever because, despite the obvious sight gags, it’s ultimately a very moving and heartbreaking film. I saw it for $4 about 200 yards from my front door, and my roommate and I were the only two students in the entire theater.

p. “Lars and the Real Girl” was playing at the Kimball Theatre, which every student necessarily passes on the way to the bookstore, or to the Cheese Shop or to screw with Lady Skipwith. Yet, up until a few weeks ago, it seems the majority of those people weren’t even aware that the Kimball even showed movies.

p. But then promotion started on something which has me waiting in a sort of movie-nerd ecstasy that you would expect from someone who was raised by Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies. That is what the Kimball Theatre’s “When the Movies Come to Town,” a three-day film festival celebrating the historic theater’s 75th anniversary, has brought me to.

p. The seven films and the small handful of shorts selected for the free festival form a package that is eclectic, to say the least. But they are individually regarded by many, including myself, to be some of the best movies of all time. A Western, a romance, a detective story, a war story, a mobster movie, a monster movie and a transvestite sci-fi musical make up the larger part of the bill, with a little Shirley Temple and Three Stooges thrown in for good measure. There’s also going to be a screening of an eighth movie, “Blowup,” in Washington Hall on the final day of the festival.

p. Personally, the film I’m most excited about (and I don’t think I’m alone on this one) is widely regarded as one of the best movie in film history — Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece, “The Godfather.”

p. A medley of strong writing, acting and directing that is nothing short of brilliant across the board, “The Godfather” has always been one of my personal favorites. I’ve lost count of the number of times I watched it on our tiny TV in days gone by, so the opportunity to see it in the same theater where it originally showed 36 years ago is, to put it mildly, mind-bogglingly cool.

p. The same goes for “King Kong.” When I was five I hit a phase where I fell absolutely head-over-heels for all of those big, rubbery monster movies. Since that phase is still going strong today, I’m very much looking forward to this one as well.

p. The problem with Kong and Don Corleone, as well as Scarlett O’Hara and Dr. Frank-N-Furter (with whom they share the bill), is that they’re so well known I’m afraid they’re going to leave the less-well-known gems of this festival unattended. Namely, I’m concerned about “In the Heat of the Night,” the 1967 Best Picture winner about a black detective who gets sucked into a murder investigation in a racist Deep South town.

p. I first saw “In the Heat of the Night” when I was in 10th grade, and have since been utterly shocked by how few people have actually heard of it. I’m hoping that, after next weekend, I’ll have at least one or two people on campus with whom I can schmooze about it.

p. Unfortunately, it’s playing on the same day as the four-hour monster that is “Gone With the Wind,” so a lot of potential moviegoers might be at home resting their eyeballs. If you do feel up to the challenge, I guarantee it will be totally worth it. It’s one of the most tautly acted and beautifully filmed movies I’ve ever seen, and the way director Norman Jewison (“The Thomas Crown Affair”) captures the long, slow death of the Old South is sheer genius. At the very least, I’ll be there, so you’ll have one other person for company.

p. And yet, despite all that, the thing I’m looking forward to most about this festival isn’t Marlon Brando or Clark Gable or seeing all my mild-mannered classmates decked out in their best fishnets for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It’s the foolish pipe dream that maybe, just maybe, a small handful of the moviegoers from next weekend’s festivities will stick around for a little while to see what else the Kimball has to offer. There’s always something good showing there and plenty of room to stretch out. And you don’t even need to take the bus.

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