Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: What makes an ‘Asheville movie’?

I was talking to Neal Reed, manager of the Fine Arts Theatre, on Monday morning to see if 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was going to play a second week. Not surprisingly, the answer was “no.” I don’t guess it matters how well-reviewed it was — there’s just not that much call for bleak Romanian abortion dramas. Very few laughs. That’s actually beside the point, though, since what did surprise me was learning that Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind is still doing good business.

Goodness knows, I’m not complaining about this. It’s still far and away my favorite film of 2008. But only the day before, I’d noticed that it was way down the charts on the national level, with a per-theater average of $800 for the entire weekend. Yet here it is in Asheville, still drawing a crowd. In fact, after selling out this past Friday night, the theater moved it back downstairs to the larger house and banished the underperforming Romanian angst upstairs.

At this point, I think we can truly conclude that Be Kind Rewind qualifies for the accolade of an “Asheville movie.”

This isn’t an isolated occurence, by any means. I’m forever talking to friends in other parts of the country who tell me they tried to go see a movie I’d recommended, but that it had already come and gone, while the same movie will still have life in Asheville. Why?

I’ve been reviewing movies here since late 2000 and have noticed a tendency — and I’ve mentioned this before — for some movies to have this unusually long shelf-life. And very often it’s with movies that aren’t expected to do that well to begin with. I noticed this early on with the Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou?.

It was easy to tell that the Disney folks didn’t think much of the picture, since it had a presskit consisting of an undersized booklet and one black-and-white 5” X 7” photo. At that time, it was standard for presskits to be 8.5” X 11” with copious notes and 10 to 15 Hollywood-type glossies. (These days, you’re lucky if you get a CD-ROM.) Plus, O Brother was booked into one theater. And it stayed and stayed and stayed. I noticed this, but didn’t make much of it at the time, since I’d no frame of reference.

The next time I saw something like it was with Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001), which was poised to be a hit, but slightly missed the mark to quickly become the biggest cult movie of the year. (Cult movie, by the way, merely means a movie that not a whole lot of people like, but the ones who do like it, like it a lot.) This was a case of a movie that opened in every possible local venue (read: any theater not within 5 miles of another theater playing the film) that dropped off fairly quickly to one theater where it settled in for a good run — one out of proportion to the rest of the country.)

What, if anything, connects the two films? Well, they’re both musicals, though I’m not sure O Brother is actually thought of in that light. They’re both quirky, inventive, stylized and, for want of a better term, artsy. At the same time, they’re none of those things in the same way. Luhrmann’s flashy colors and aggressive editing make the Coens’ limited color palette and choreographed camerawork look positively subdued. Similarly, Luhrmann’s pop music and movie musical-inspired script is a universe or two removed from the Coens’ Preston Sturges-like dialogue and their Homer-inspired storyline.

It seems to me that the biggest connection between the two lies in the shared appeal they might have for audiences wanting to see movies that offer something different, movies that actually push the boundaries of film. But I don’t think that’s the whole story.

Boundary-pushing is certainly something that one of the most notable of all “Asheville movies” did. I refer to Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). This is the film that really set me to thinking about the peculiarity of our special demographics. Eternal Sunshine was a movie that played here so long that people were driving from Columbia, S.C. to catch it. In fact, the distributor contacted the theater chain asking them to find out what was being done to promote the film here, since it had made so much money in this one location. The truth was that it wasn’t being promoted at all. It had simply caught on.

This isn’t to say that it had caught on with everyone. There was a certain amount of dissatisfaction from people who thought they were going to go see a “typical” Jim Carrey movie. And I heard of one viewer who was so angered by the film that he attempted to insist that the theater’s manager be forced to sit through the movie in order to “see the kind of crap you’re showing.”

Certain filmmakers seem to be pretty much guaranteed a warm reception locally. With the exception of Planet of the Apes (2001), which did good business but not with the director’s core audience, Tim Burton’s films catch on here more than they often do nationally. Regardless of their fates elsewhere Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and even the limited (which proved not to be so limited here) 3-D reissue of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) had good runs in Asheville.

Wes Anderson is a filmmaker for very specialized tastes — and a lot of the people with those specialized tastes seem to live here. In all honesty, I don’t recall just how well The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) did locally, but I do remember it didn’t do badly. His next picture, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), underperformed (that’s Hollywood-speak for “lost money”) most places. And by most places, I mean as close as Hendersonville, where it had a week’s run that could charitably be called disastrous. It played in Asheville for at least six solid weeks of business. During the last couple weeks it was here, it had vanished off all but 50 other screens in the entire country. Anderson’s most recent film, The Darjeeling Limited (2007), fared poorly most places. It was if not the most popular, then certainly near the top of the list of popular films the Fine Arts played all year.

Another popular filmmaker on the Asheville scene is John Cameron Mitchell, who was actually in town for several weeks last fall. In fact, I found out after the fact that I was sitting behind him at The Savages during last year’s Asheville Film Festival. Both of his films Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) and Shortbus (2006) are definitely Asheville movies. The fact that the second — since it contains hardcore pornography, though is not in itself pornographic — played here at all says something.

I’m tempted to include David O. Russell on this list, but the only of his films to play here during my tenure has been I Heart Huckabees (2004). This is another film that played well locally. it had a nice run at the Fine Arts and was then picked up by the Carmike for a couple more weeks, but was received with outright hostility as close as Hendersonville, where one impassioned viewer saw it and wrote me a stern letter for having recommended this “vile” movie.

Neil Jordan’s filmography is probably too diffuse for him to qualify as an Asheville filmmaker. His The Good Thief (2002) didn’t do much locally, but his Breakfast on Pluto (2005) defied expectations — including opening to almost no business in Charlotte — to become a hit here. It followed this up by becoming one of the most-rented DVDs around, at least around here.

A film which has polarized quite a few people locally, Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe (2007) still qualifies as an Asheville movie, I think. How else can you explain the fact that this nationally underperforming film played here for eight weeks, and this was after it had played for two weeks in Hendersonville? Taymor’s Frida (2002) didn’t do badly here, but it was nothing like this in terms of longevity.

Danny Boyle mayn’t be quite a local favorite and his 28 Days Later… (2002) was hardly an Asheville phenomenon in terms of popularity. However, his Sunshine (2007) did far better in Asheville than in most places. That even came as a surprise to the folks at the Fine Arts who had been advised against booking it at all. This is another one that found a second life at another theater after leaving the Fine Arts. (It should be noted that movies occasionally depart the Fine Arts before they’re played out, owing to the logistics of having only two screens.)

After the phenomenon of Eternal Sunshine the likelihood of Michel Gondry having equal success with his The Science of Sleep (2006) was slim, and it came nowhere near doing it. It did, however, find an audience here, which was no mean feat for a film in three different languages with a generally sweet tone that was undercut by heartbreaking reality. Interestingly, when features were being judged for last year’s Asheville Film Festival, judge Robby Benson (who almost qualifies as an honorary Ashevillean) sent me an e-mail likening his feelings about the winning film, Year of the Fish, to those he’d felt upon first seeing The Science of Sleep. Is it completely coincidental that Year of the Fish also picked up the Audience Award for best film, something that almost never happens at film festivals? I’m going to say it isn’t.

And that brings us back to Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, the latest addition to the list of Asheville movies, and the question of what constitutes an “Asheville movie.”

I’m not sure that the question is answerable in any definite way. All of the movies I’ve cited here are similar in that they’re outside the realm of mainstream cinema, some more so than others. (Shortbus is a lot less mainstream than Across the Universe, for example.) They’re similar in that they’re all films that express the strong single point of view of the filmmakers. They have little to do with any sort of corporate filmmaking-by-committee mindset. The quirky quotient is high and all of them could be called offbeat.

Still, there’s something else I’ve noticed about nearly all the films, and I think it says a lot about Asheville. Nearly all of these films combine their own sense of effortless hipness (not a one seems to me to be trying to be cool, which, of course, is the coolest thing of all) with an amazing generosity of spirit. There’s not a mean-spirited or hateful movie in the bunch. I think that says something about Asheville right there.

Now, I’m not saying that Asheville is so unique that it’s immune to the big releases that find favor all over the country and even the world. It’s certainly not. I’m still shaking my head over the popularity of Alvin and the Chipmunks anywhere, and I cringe at the the fact that the saccharine and schmaltz of The Bucket List has made it the film that won’t die. These things happen. All the same, I remain impressed and heartened by Asheville’s ability to support a variety of wonderful movies that all too often fall be the wayside elsewhere.

Unfortunately, this is something that the movie studios haven’t figured out. As a result, we’re all too often looked on as a second-class market when it comes to specialized films. Then again, it may be just as well that they haven’t really noticed us.

There’s a key element in all this that I haven’t stressed — in most cases these movies thrived at one location. The question arises as to whether that would have happened at multiple locations.

I can think of two occasions when distributors killed movies by spreading them too thin — House of Flying Daggers (2004) and, more recently, The Jane Austen Book Club (2007). In both cases, Sony Classics decided that they had their hands on movies with a broader than usual appeal, so they insisted on opening them at as many local theaters as possible. The results were predictable. They’d cut the pie into too many pieces. If you added the weekend grosses from each theater together, they would have been sufficient to have put them over as at least modest successes. Divide that figure by three or four and you end up with movies it’s in no theater’s interest to hold over.

It might be in our — and the movies’ — best interest to keep the “Asheville movie” to ourselves.

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

32 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: What makes an ‘Asheville movie’?

  1. Nice article, Ken…. now as to “House of Flying Daggers” … I loved it but no one else I know could stand it. ;-)

    However, I am somewhat mystified by the title of this piece… where in it do you address what an Asheville movie is?

  2. Ken Hanke

    “However, I am somewhat mystified by the title of this piece… where in it do you address what an Asheville movie is?”

    If by that you mean where do I define it, then nowhere. I throw out some things that connect these movies that have done well in Asheville while not doing so well most places. And I named some movies that strike me as being “Asheville Movies” and some filmmakers who get a warm reception here. (There are probably some I’ve overlooked. Feel free to add.) But I’m still looking for a hard and fast definition. Maybe there isn’t one. And there may be more than one kind “Asheville Movie.”

    Now, as for HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. You’re not alone in loving it — except maybe among people you know — because I got some stern mail for my less than enthused response to it.

  3. ah… I see… well, when you said ‘Asheville movie’ my film maker eyes lit up and I’m looking for movies MADE in Asheville, movies liked in Asheville — obvious not one and the same. ;-)

    sorry, English is a second language to me, I grew up here.

    –Ralph

  4. Kevin F.

    Ken –

    One bit of light that I can throw on to this phenomenon is almost all of the films you mentioned were well-reviewed by you. I think that it might have something to do with the fact that people have put a bit of their trust behind a certain film critic. I may even go so far as to ask “What makes a Ken Hanke movie?” But I think I already know the answer to that one. I think it works out well that your tastes seem to have struck a chord with the film-going community overall. Asheville seems to be just the size to sustain a dedicated film community, and I guess it helps that it seems (in this hypothesis of mine) that they read–and generally listen to, perhaps even agree with–your reviews.

    In a word, Kudos! (I’ve got some people in Raleigh reading your reviews now, because our rag, the Independent Weekly, could better be called the Independent Meekly when it comes to some bits of film criticism).

  5. Ken Hanke

    Robby Benson’s name is in bold, too. I have no objection in either case, but I don’t quite know why this was done.

  6. Owning a video store, I see the end result of an “Asheville movie.” Here’s my take.

    It has to be quirky, but not too crazy.

    It has to be visually or musically appealing. Gondry and Anderson are the masters of this.

    Having a comedian show off his or her drama chops is a big plus.

    It needs a five star review from Ken, a major write up in the NY Times AND the filmmaker needs to appear on NPR.

    It is usually discussed in bars, front porches and playgroups.

    Two films in particular that had fantastic dvd runs with little box office success (here or otherwise) are STRANGER THAN FICTION and EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED.

    Do you think Neal would let me do a midnight showing of SOUTHLAND TALES?

  7. Ken Hanke

    “Two films in particular that had fantastic dvd runs with little box office success (here or otherwise) are STRANGER THAN FICTION and EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED.”

    I think they did fairly respectably locally, but never really took off. In the case of STRANGER THAN FICTION, I think the choice of theaters into which it was booked may have worked against it. Every one of your requirements was, I think, met. It certainly remains my favorite Marc Forster film — followed by STAY, which damn near nobody saw. (I can’t imagine STAY doing well on DVD. It’s so completely a visual thing that requires size.)

    Do you mean an actual midnight midnight show of SOUTHLAND TALES? Or just an after-hours weeknight show? I think the latter more probable, but you’re gonna have to ask Neal.

  8. Ken Hanke

    “One bit of light that I can throw on to this phenomenon is almost all of the films you mentioned were well-reviewed by you. I think that it might have something to do with the fact that people have put a bit of their trust behind a certain film critic.”

    Thanks, though I’m not sure I’d go that far. Marc used a similar line of thought in his “formula” for an “Asheville movie,” since my reviews were one of the ingredients. On other hand, there have been movies I wished I could impact and found I couldn’t. I think you have to factor in one other thing — that a certain type of moviegoer who puts a degree of faith in my judgment (or Justin’s judgment, come to that) simply will not go to some kinds of movies. A quirky, offbeat art film is one thing, but more mainstream fare — especially if it’s violent — I have little luck with.

    “Asheville seems to be just the size to sustain a dedicated film community”

    It certainly does have a dedicated film community for whatever reason.

    “In a word, Kudos! (I’ve got some people in Raleigh reading your reviews now, because our rag, the Independent Weekly, could better be called the Independent Meekly when it comes to some bits of film criticism).”

    Again, thank you, but really Asheville itself has a lot to do with it all.

  9. “(I can’t imagine STAY doing well on DVD. It’s so completely a visual thing that requires size.)”

    Two words on why it did well on dvd: Ryan and Gosling.

  10. “Thanks, though I’m not sure I’d go that far. Marc used a similar line of thought in his “formula” for an “Asheville movie,” since my reviews were one of the ingredients. On other hand, there have been movies I wished I could impact and found I couldn’t. I think you have to factor in one other thing—that a certain type of moviegoer who puts a degree of faith in my judgment (or Justin’s judgment, come to that) simply will not go to some kinds of movies. A quirky, offbeat art film is one thing, but more mainstream fare—especially if it’s violent—I have little luck with.”

    You do impact viewing, but the real powerhouses are NPR and The New York Times. Both BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and THE WIRE were good, but not great, renters. Then the NYT proclaims that they are the best shows on tv. Both are now experiencing a level of hysteria that I’ve only seen with SIX FEET UNDER.

    Reviews however, are secondary I feel to word of mouth. So many people socialize and talk in this town, and a bit of the conversation is about movies.

    This is a bit of a tangent, and might be another good topic for your blog is how less informed people are becoming on film. I feel that with the internet at our fingertips, it is clogging our ability to gather information. People just wait for a blog or reviewer to tell them what they should see and they have little interest in what else the director had done, the history, etc.

    For example, I read about horror films YEARS before I saw them. It took me 20 years in between seeing a still from EQUINOX to actually seeing the film. I read about THE DEVILS in a book on Modern Horror Films three years before I finally saw it.
    MEET THE FEEBLES took six. I knew all about these movies. Now I know that I am a fanatic, and most people are more casual movie watchers, but there were more of us 20 years ago and earlier.

  11. Ken Hanke

    “Two words on why it did well on dvd: Ryan and Gosling.”

    I could understand Ewan and McGregor or Naomi and Watts more readily, but there you are.

    “You do impact viewing, but the real powerhouses are NPR and The New York Times.”

    I think NPR has more clout than the TIMES based on turnouts I see in theaters. The “crowd” Friday night at Gus Van Sant’s latest teen leer-fest PARANOID PARK clearly indicated a lot of folks didn’t get Manohla Dargis’ love letter to the movie. I suspect this is a case where the impact is often greater on a DVD, only because the report is close to the time the DVD becomes available. In the case of a limited release film, the national press and radio is often weeks or even months ahead of its appearance here.

    “I feel that with the internet at our fingertips, it is clogging our ability to gather information. People just wait for a blog or reviewer to tell them what they should see and they have little interest in what else the director had done, the history, etc.”

    A good blog or a good review will put the film into some kind of perspective. The problem here, of course, is the proliferation of a lot of poorly researched and often pretty dreaful writing. I have never understood exactly how someone you never heard of writing for his own website attains legitimacy, but it happens all the time.

    “I read about THE DEVILS in a book on Modern Horror Films three years before I finally saw it.”

    Do you mean to tell me that you read the chapter in John McCarty’s THE MODERN HORROR FILM? It was a Citadel trade paperback that came about 1990 or 91? If so, would you care to guess who wrote the chapter on THE DEVILS? And, for that matter, on RE-ANIMATOR, LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, ALTERED STATES and the PSYCHO II and III portions of the Psycho series?

    As for waiting to actually see something, let me tell you a tale.

    When I was a junior in high school I read Ferenc Molnar’s play LILIOM (more people now — and even then — probably know the story from the musical CAROUSEL). I then saw a fascinating, atmospheric still from the 1930 Frank Borzage film version in the one and only book on movies in the Lake Wales High School Library. I so wanted to see that movie. I finally did — last night. That was 37 years later. I’d given up on it, thinking it must be one of the films lost in the Fox warehouse fire in 1937. Then a few weeks ago, the guy who makes the documentaries on the Charlie Chan DVD box sets asked me if I’d be up to doing more interviews for the final wave in the Charlie Chan series. At the same time, he asked if I’d be interested in talking about F.W. Murnau and Frank Borzage for a set of late silents/early talkies they’re working on. Well, I jumped at the chance, but noted that I’d only seen a few of the titles, so they provided me with preliminary copies to brush up on, and, yep, LILIOM was among them.

    Was it worth 37 years of waiting? Well, it was worth 35 or 36 at least, I’d say.

  12. Justin Souther

    “…but more mainstream fare—especially if it’s violent—I have little luck with.”

    I know I personally tried to talk up PLANET TERROR to the best of my abilities a year ago, and that seemingly did little to help GRINDHOUSE’s box office, which tanked from the get-go. While some of this might be due to my ability as a writer or me not being Ken, it would seem — or I’d, at least, like to think — that violent movies can often be a hard sell to an Asheville audience. But then again, I wasn’t trying to sell the film, because at that point, by the time I wrote the review, I didn’t think there was a need to sell it.

    And I’ve personally seen Ken’s ability to affect attendance, at least on a small scale. I remember the Wednesday his review for IDLEWILD came out and the attendance for that film had a notable increase that night. And while it never did business like an ACROSS THE UNIVERSE or a LIFE AQUATIC, I think the timing of its rise in business was hardly coincidental.

  13. Ken Hanke

    ” know I personally tried to talk up PLANET TERROR to the best of my abilities a year ago, and that seemingly did little to help GRINDHOUSE’s box office, which tanked from the get-go. While some of this might be due to my ability as a writer or me not being Ken, it would seem—or I’d, at least, like to think—that violent movies can often be a hard sell to an Asheville audience.”

    I really don’t think it was you lacking ability or not being me, but a combination of a certain resistance to violent movies locally and a basic misunderstanding of the entire GRINDHOUSE concept. (Maybe DRIVE-IN would have been a better title.) The whole B picture double-bill concept — and the attendant length of the results — simply didn’t fly with audiences, and not just in Asheville. Marc could perhaps enlighten us on how the films — split into separate features on DVD — fared as home viewing.

  14. [b]About the bolds:[/b] On the news side of the operation at [i]Xpress[/i], names are bolded for clarity as part of the standard formatting. Multimedia Editor Jason Sandford, who edited this story, had probably been posting and formatting news stuff all day, and had likely forgotten that we don’t do that on the A & E side. He’s still new to our admittedly quirky in-house styles, and I didn’t double check this after it was posted, hence the remaining bolded names. Sorry for the confusion.

  15. David Mahaffey

    I clearly love a good “Asheville movie,” as I adore most of the proposed list in this blog entry. I use a tool at Rotten Tomatoes to help discover potential new favorites: the “My Critics” filter.

    Rotten Tomatoes is (I am sure you already know) a film review aggregation site that assigns a numerical score to reviews from Ken Hanke, A.O. Scott, Roger Ebert, and pretty much everyone in the film-review pantheon. Critics’ scores are then averaged in a wisdom-of-crowds calculus that more often than not flies off the mark.

    Recently I discovered that RT allows me to name a few trusted critics to a list of “My Critics” and view only their combined ratings for a given movie. I am still tweaking my list (Ken was the first person on it), but it reliably raises or lowers the generic RT rating by about 10 percent.

    To bring this post into relevance with Ken’s original point: who among film critics, besides of course the esteemed Mountain Xpress writers, can be trusted to recognize an “Asheville movie” or even to reliably call a spade a spade?

  16. Ken Hanke

    I don’t always agree with him and there’s a lot he doesn’t get to these days, but I’ve never found Andrew Sarris to be anything other than an essential voice in film. He’s one of the very few critics I know of who actually tends to reassess his earlier opinions. And I admire that. God knows, I’ve reassessed quite a few after the fact when the opportunity has arisen.

    Charlotte’s Larry Toppman is another good bet in many respects. In this case, that means that we often arrive at similar conclusions, but not always for the same reason. (I could say that about Ebert, too, come to think of it.)

    David Edelstein, Anthony Lane, Manohla Dargis, Ty Burr, Wesley Morris, Carrie Rickey, J. Hoberman — all defintely worth considering. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.

    And if you just want to be irritated, there’s always Kyle Smith. And if you want to be both irritated and baffled, there’s Fiore Mastracci.

  17. Todd

    Interesting article (and phenomenon). I was living in Austin when the documentary HANDS ON A HARD BODY came out, and it ran for over a year at The Dobie (UT’s on-campus theatre). It moved to a “late night showing” for much of that, but still did steady business. I took visiting friends to see it after it had been screening for several months, and the room was packed.

    Did the film cause any sort of stir hereabouts?

    If anyone has a kid doing a science fair project, it might be interesting to compare movie-viewing habits between likeminded cities (Asheville, Austin, Portland, others?). Hm…that’s probably more appropriate for a sociology fair.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I’m not familiar with HANDS ON A HARD BODY. If it was pre-summer of 2000, I’m not in a position to know, but somebody might.

    A “sociology fair.” I like that concept.

  19. “Did the film cause any sort of stir hereabouts?”

    The dvd is popular, but unfortunately is out of print and worth quite a bit. We have it downtown, and with a movie being made about the contest, it will no doubt get even more popular.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I see that it’s available on Amazon from outside sellers for $65 to $200. I often wonder if people really get these prices. Presumably, they must. Strange. There was a time when my laserdisc of YELLOW SUBMARINE was worth about $300, but that was because it was released without all the signatures being in place and that prompted a recall of the disc. I just happened to have snagged one before they were pulled. Of course, then it came out on DVD and the laser’s value became about nil — not in the least because the DVD had “Hey Bulldog” put back into the film. Of course, now that’s out of print and priced from $32 to $125 — remarkable since the DVD isn’t even anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs.

    As for HANDS ON A HARD BODY having been wildly popular locally in its original release, that’s too far back for me to know, but I’m skeptical — only because I’ve yet to see a documentary that wasn’t signed by Michael Moore or wasn’t about penguins do all that much business here on the theatrical level. Any bets on how well the creationist documentary on “intelligent design,” EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED, will do when it opens here next week?

  21. David Mahaffey

    HANDS ON A HARD BODY was screened at UNCA while I was a student there (1997-2001). It made a splash on campus and a handful of people I went to school with still remember seeing it.

    Over on Netflix (sorry Orbit, I’ll be in this weekend for season 1 of Carnivale to atone!) there is a list of local favorites for different cities, and I have always wondered if the list is representative of the local flavor. To satisfy Todd’s curiosity, here are some top 5 movie lists:

    Asheville – Iron Jawed Angels, Tender Mercies, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, Howard’s End, Happy Endings (note: the only “Asheville movie” we’ve discussed that’s on the list is The Darjeeling Limited at #25, though another Charlie Kaufman opus, Adaptation, is in the top 10)

    Portland – Dracula, Dance Party USA, Old Joy, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, Drugstore Cowboy (note: beyond Farmer John, there is very little overlap between Asheville and Portland local favorites)

    Austin – Nobelity, Slacker, Chalk, You’re Gonna Miss Me, Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? (note: there is even less overlap between Asheville and Austin, it seems)

  22. Ken Hanke

    I remember looking over those Netflix lists — at least the Asheville ones — a few times and even discussing them with Marc. All I really remember, though, was that BREAKFAST ON PLUTO and Tim Kirkman’s LOGGERHEADS were awfully high at the time.

    As an interesting side observation, with the exception of TENDER MERCIES and THE DARJEELING LIMITED (since what DRACULA referenced is unstated, I’ll leave it to one side), I don’t particularly like most of the movies on these lists — at least the ones I’ve seen. And there are a couple in there that I dislike in the strongest possible terms. Certainly my review of ADAPTATION had nothing to do with getting it in the Asheville top 10.

    Another point about these lists, there seems a really high percentage of movies that didn’t play here theatrically.

    I’ve no idea what any of this means, I’m merely making observations.

  23. Well, the omissions of any new release tells you that those lists are already skewed.

    Netflix has already been caught “throttling,” where they don’t give hot new titles to heavy users even if they are the next in line to receive them. Netflix makes a profit off of having a huge selection of catalog product (I do too), so it doesn’t surprise me that they have some creative ways of making those lists. REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN I can understand, but everything else on this list is suspect to me.

    I also like how each city except for Asheville has films that were shot there: DRUGSTORE COWBOY/OLD JOY in Portland and SLACKER/YOU’RE GONNA MISS ME in Austin.

  24. David Mahaffey

    Portland’s DRACULA is the 1930s Lugosi version.

    The language in the heading on the Netflix local favorites is quite nuanced: “Members in and around Asheville, North Carolina are currently renting these titles much more than other Netflix members.”

    So these aren’t the top rentals in Asheville or elsewhere…they are the most popular deviations from the overall top Netflix rentals. Since this keeps CRASH off the Asheville list (it’s been the Netflix #1 for a very, very long time), I won’t complain too much.

    Netflix users have complained long and loud about “throttling.” I catch most films of interest in theaters and am in no hurry to rewatch them again as soon as they hit DVD because there are so many other, older films I’ve missed. And of course, TV on DVD.

    Their local favorites listing is almost useless to me as a film-discovery tool, especially compared to the way Orbit highlights staff picks and other groups of movies. I trust the extra editorial layer of a Hanke review or a featured placement at Orbit far more than the unknowable whims of the Netflix recommendation algorithm.

  25. Ken Hanke

    “Portland’s DRACULA is the 1930s Lugosi version.”

    Then we can add a third title to movies I actually like. Now…as to what has prompted an outburst of interest in the Browning-Lugosi DRACULA, I’m not even going to speculate.

    “Since this keeps CRASH off the Asheville list (it’s been the Netflix #1 for a very, very long time), I won’t complain too much.”

    A point well taken!

  26. Todd

    Thanks, David, for your pointing clicking and sharing. There is some weird irony to Austinites getting SLACKER from Netflix–like reading about neoluddism online, sorta.

    Very surprised to learn that many of my neigbors are watching HOWARD’S END this very moment. Someone should cash in on the butler craze that’s consuming WNC.

  27. “Very surprised to learn that many of my neigbors are watching HOWARD’S END this very moment. Someone should cash in on the butler craze that’s consuming WNC.”

    I believe that we have BENSON Season 1.

  28. Ken Hanke

    The butler craze? Well, exempting Rhett and Gerard, of course, consider MY MAN GODFREY (1936) with William Powell and Carole Lombard, which is out on Criterion. There are at least a couple of those thankless butler roles for Bela Lugosi out there — NIGHT MONSTER (1942) and THE GORILLA (1939), come to mind, though the latter requires watching the Ritz Brothers and I generally advise against that. There’s the Deanna Durbin picture, HIS BUTLER’S SISTER (1943), but Universal hasn’t deemed to bring that out. Eric Blore and Robert Greig are a great pair of butlers in Preston Sturges’ SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941). Actually, you can catch Greig as a butler in ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930), TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932), EASY LIVING (1937) and THE LADY EVE (1941) — among others, but those are all available on DVD. Unfortunately, very few of the films of Arthur Treacer — the ne plus ultra of movie butlers — seem to be out there, but his two turns as P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves — THANK YOU, JEEVES (1936) and STEP LIVELY, JEEVES (1937) — are available as a two-fer. Unfortunately, his Phelps in James Whale’s REMEMBER LAST NIGHT? (1935). One of the oddest butler movies is WHITE TIE AND TAILS (1946) with movie bad guy Dan Duryea in a romantic comedy mode (and he’s good at it) playing a lazy painter who opted to be a butler because it was an easy way to surround himself with luxury without earning it. Alas, I doubt even Universal knows they have it or made it.

    If you get a butler craze going, Marc, I want to know about it.

  29. “If you get a butler craze going, Marc, I want to know about it.”

    We already have that craze. 70s French porn COUPLE CHERCHE ESCLAVES SEXUELS stars the hottest woman ever in adult films (Brigitte Lahaie) getting it on with the hired help.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.