The best film corner in America
Considering the various past and upcoming film festivals in Seattle got me thinking about the intersection between moviegoing and moviemaking. I have always thought, or imagined, that a strong film culture that includes arthouse theaters, revivals of classics, college film programs and societies, and other such boosts to movie literacy, would be important to encouraging local filmmaking.
That's what I imagine. Is it really true? I don't actually know whether a busy film culture truly leads people to make movies, or makes their movies any better. You don't have to be a movie buff to make movies, but it helps. It also helps to have places to show your films at the local level, which is where the NW Film Forum, the Seattle International Film Festival, and Reel NW come in handy.
A couple of years ago the Independent Film Channel called the intersection of Roosevelt and 50th Street "the best film corner in America," thanks to the presence of Cinema Books (that awesome bookstore devoted to film books and paraphernalia), Scarecrow Video, and the Seven Gables theater. Throw in the Grand Illusion just up the street, and you've got a good argument.
Pike-Pine dwellers, with the Egyptian theater and the NWFF's lively repertory within walking distance, are also in good shape. It does seem likely that these spirited outposts for seeing film (and thinking about film) are a part of the current upswing in Seattle movie growth—and I hope the same is true in Vancouver, Portland, and any other spot on the map where somebody wants to make a film. That kind of overlapping seems important for instilling film literacy amongst would-be moviemakers—so if you call yourself a moviemaker, get yourself to an arthouse right away.
This week's Reel NW installment is Mighty Jerome, Charles Officer's melancholy documentary portrait of Vancouver athlete Harry Jerome, whose sprint toward the title of "World's Fastest Human" in the 1960s was complicated by a variety of issues. It's a fascinating story, and the decision to present it in black-and-white works extremely well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Horton is a film critic for KUOW (Seattle's National Public Radio station) and the Herald in Everett, Washington; he is also a longtime contributor to Film Comment and other magazines. He curates the Magic Lantern film-discussion program at the Frye Art Museum, teaches film at Seattle University, and is a guest speaker for Smithsonian Journeys and Humanities Washington, as well as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. His books include Billy Wilder: Interviews, the upcoming Frankenstein, and the zombie-Western graphic novel Rotten and its prose spin-off The Lost Diary of John J. Flynn, U.S. Agent, and he blogs on movies at The Crop Duster and What a Feeling!. This year he is curator of the Museum of History and Industry's "Celluloid Seattle: A City at the Movies" exhibit.