If I got anything out of last night's 82nd Annual Academy Awards, I learned that I did not see enough movies in 2009. This made me wonder if that was entirely my fault, or if the culturally-lacking city of Ames, well, lacked film culture.
Recently, the once prominent Varsity Theater closed its doors. The Varsity was once the spitting image of what I felt a college theater should be--midnight showings of classic and cult films, art-house films, documentaries, and cheap tickets. But by the end of it, it was trying to hold onto student attention by showing more popular movies, offering nothing more than the big Hollywood blockbusters. At this point, the only advantage it had over the more popular Movies 12 theater was its proximity to campus. But when you are competing with the clean, option-filled Movies 12, by offering only 2 or 3 movies at a time at a closer distance in an already small city, you are bound to fail. So, the question remains, did the Varsity theater close because it abandoned the small, art-house following it had? Or did it close because its student following abandoned it in favor of a larger theater with more, popular blockbuster options?
The only Campustown option that remains now for student movie-goers is the Student Union Board films every week. Let's take a look at the Fall 2009 schedule:
Angels & Demons
The Ugly Truth
and the Spring 2010 schedule:
The Invention of Lying
Where the Wild Things Are
Twilight: New Moon
Law Abiding Citizen
The Blind Side
Up in the Air
Youth in Revolt
Needless to say, the whole SUB film program seems to be lacking any real film merit. Mostly run-of-the-mill comedies and action movies, sprinkled with a few of the necessary Hollywood hits that did appear on the Best Picture list (due, perhaps, only to the extension of the that list from 5 to 10 films). They were, however, very well attended on the occasions that I went, so there certainly is a student audience for these kind of films.
It is also important to mention the ol' North Grand 5 (aka the dollar theater). Unfortunately, this theater is nothing more than a 2-3 month late, cheaper version of the popular Movies 12.
And then, in the wake of all these theater changes over the past years, both Hollywood Video and Hastings (which had a wonderful, cheap selection of movie rentals) closed their doors, leaving only Family Video and Redbox for movie rentals. But both of these tend to offer, once again, only those large Hollywood blockbusters.
Considering all of this, it isn't difficult to see why I was hearing of some of the Academy Award winning films for the first time last night, when they were winning their awards. Because of this, I found that the only category I could really justify caring about was (surprisingly) the Best Supporting Actor award. And Christoph Waltz won for his tense-as-hell, animated performance as Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds.
I did, however, add a lot of titles to my already long "to-watch" list, which I hope will continue to grow at a faster rate than my ability to view its contents, although, at the rate that Hollywood keeps kicking out crappy College comedies, copycat romances, and crime dramas, I foresee fewer and fewer new films making that list. We'll see!
(Sidenote: The Academy's tribute to horror movies - Cool. The tribute's complete lack of a Romero movie - Not cool.)