Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. It’s not going to happen.

Before Iggy Azalea was getting Fancy with Charli XCX, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) was cruising around LA with Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), trying to be more of a do-gooder type by making over her adorably clueless new best friend, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). Of course, finding someone more clueless than she is to worship her was far more of a challenge than Cher had bargained for.

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Sure she’s a little distracted by things like the mall and being popular, but so long as she can argue her way to good grades, Cher doesn’t see why her step-brother Josh (Paul Rudd) should be so super critical of her all the time – or why she failed her driving test, and what’s wrong with being a virgin anyway? High school boys are so immature.

So okay, I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation and all but I don’t get how guys dress today. I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair (eww!) and cover it up with a backwards cap and like, we’re expected to swoon? I don’t think so. You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet.

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It’s a totally quotable movie, and it completely revived Jane Austen for teenagers in the ’90s. Now I don’t want to say anything way harsh, or diss Iggy Azalea – exactly, but when it comes to being adorably clueless, Amy Heckerling’s privileged party girl clad head to toe in designer threads is totally like Ren & Stimpy – they’re way existential.

And when you’re done getting existential we’ll have a bit of a recess – time enough to get yourself some kind of herbal refreshment. And even though we actually do have tea, but we also have coke and stuff. Even though this is not America.

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After your break, we move schools to join Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) as she befriends unpopular but awesome best buds Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese). Soon after, however, she encounters the school’s Queen Bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and is invited to sit with The Plastics – Regina George, Gretchen Weiners (Lacey Chabert) and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried). From here it’s all about who can be the biggest – and most clever – bitch of all. Jungle like behaviour and savage competition ensues.

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But it’s not a Wednesday, so don’t wear pink. YOU KNOW THE RULES. No really, this is important:

You can’t wear a tank top two days in a row.

And you can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week.

Oh, and we only wear jeans or track pants on Fridays.

Leave the real world and enter girl world. It is SO FETCH.

 

 

Clueless screens with Mean Girls in a Thrifty Thursday double bill on Thursday October 2nd at 7.30pm. All tickets $13

A surprising home for ‘film’

While the film studios make a past time of junking things, we do the opposite.

We keep stuff. Lots of stuff. Not just film prints (we keep those too, so don’t worry).

One item  we’ve kept and found a surprising use for is this humble box that used to house VHS tape.

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Now you’re probably wondering what exactly we are cataloging with these (yes, this is number 17 in a series).

Well, even though we have invested in additional storage space for our server, there’s just not enough (memory) space. We screen more than 100 films per calendar, and many of those are digital. We often repeat titles and we have a number of other files (trailers, promos, etc) that we need to keep, but can’t always keep on the server due to our high rotation of titles. So, inside this VHS case is a DCP.

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Not nearly as romantic to look at as a film print, is it? Still, a drive needs a home and these cases seem just about the perfect fit.

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Who knew that a VHS case would find itself housing a theatrical screening format? Seems ludicrous. But then again, so do most of the things that happen in this industry. Why not reuse a humble VHS case? And while we’re talking about re -purposing the supposedly obsolete, why don’t we just admit that there is life yet in all manner of formats? Maybe throwing everything away as a past time isn’t such a good idea after all. Oh wait, we knew that already. If only those studio execs would listen to the people who actually work with film and, you know, care about it. Now that really is crazy talk!

Pencak Silat Martial Arts

Brace yourselves. On Sunday October 5th there’s going to be a quite literally kick-arse event taking place at the Avondale Heights Stadium in Melbourne.

It’s recently been brought to our attention by the Australian Pencak Silat Federation that the Australian Pencak Silat Championships take place not long after our big screen double bill showcasing precisely that style of Indonesian Martial Arts.

Next Thursday (September 25th) we’ve got a double bill of The Raid (Redemption) (2012) + The Raid 2: Berandal (2014) scheduled, sure to blow your mind with its superbly choreographed fight scenes. If you’ve seen either of these films before then you’ll know what we mean – some pretty astonishing moves. Well, this mesmerising stuff takes place in Melbourne too and the Aus Pencak Silat Fed are still accepting late entrants to the tournament – and it’s open to all styles of martial arts – so if you’re interested in trying your hand (or foot) at this artistic athleticism, then you really ought to hop to it!

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The championships are being held on Sunday the 5th of October,
at Avondale Heights Stadium,
68-89 Military Rd, Avondale Heights, 3034
Tickets are $15 and it commences at 9am, with an opening ceremony, some Silat demonstrations, and fights following.

This tournament is the Australian National Championships, with victorious combatants  selected in the Australian Pencak Silat Team, to contend at the World Championships in Thailand, January 2015.

Anyone wishing to purchase tickets, or find out more about the Tournament-  or even if you just want to find a school in Melbourne where you can learn Silat – then you can contact the federation via email: apsf[at]silataustralia[dot]com[dot]au or check them out on Facebook.

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If you’re not sure what it’s all about then come along to our Raid double bill and see Pencak Silat in action for yourself! It’s pretty impressive stuff.

The Raid (Redemption) + The Raid 2: Berandal screens as a double bill on Thursday September 25th 7.30pm. All tickets $13

Lucy CGIs her way towards 100%

It is a popular notion that humans utilise only ten per cent of their brain capacity, a notion that according to modern neuroscience seems to be more urban myth than scientific fact. But let us suppose it were true. One then wonders what might be possible if humans could tap into the remaining ninety per cent of their cerebral potential. This is the premise for Luc Besson’s latest motion picture Lucy (2014), a rambunctious blend of science-fiction and action from the director of The Professional (Leon, 1994), The Fifth Element (1997), Angel-A (2005) and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010).

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Without divulging too many particulars of the plot, the story concerns a woman named Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) who, due to being contaminated by a powerful narcotic stimulant, acquires the ability to access an ever-increasing amount of her mind. The potentialities of tapping into the supposedly unused ninety per cent of cerebral matter are foreshadowed in a series of speeches from neuroscientist Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman). Lucy launches a one-woman assault on the drug traffickers responsible for her unstable condition, as she becomes ‘superhuman’ in her mental abilities, blessed with powers such as telekinesis (the ability to move objects without contacting them physically – the same talent exhibited by Sissy Spacek in the 1976 film Carrie) and extra sensory perception (also know as the sixth sense).

Although it makes for a dazzling sci-fi action spectacle, one flaw with Lucy is that due to the increasingly invincible state of its eponymous character, suspense and drama are quickly deflated, as Lucy’s nogoodnik adversaries go from being genuinely menacing to comically pathetic – and a heroine is only as good as her opponents. Another liability is Besson’s over-reliance on computer-generated imagery (CGI). One may argue in favour of such cinematic technology when it’s in service of the story or no other options are available, but here it just feels like overkill. Also, CGI, more often than not, has a tendency to look somewhat inauthentic. Nowhere in Lucy is this more apparent than the appearance of the title character’s namesake, the simian creature believed by evolutionary scientists to be humankind’s original ancestor (if you want to see what such a being should look like, I refer you to the cave dwellers in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey).

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On a related note, I recall a television interview with Star Wars creator George Lucas, where he responded to the critics of his heavy dependence upon computer-generated special effects for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), with a condescending “Duh, movies aren’t real!” Well, “Duh!” right back at you, Mister Lucas – no kidding movies “aren’t real”, but they’re at least meant to appear authentic; otherwise, nobody would care about silly little things such as appropriate period detail and thespians remaining in character. Yes, we know that a man can’t fly, but we don’t want to see the wires that allow Superman to remain airborne. And this is the problem with films such as Lucy. As impressive as the special effects might be, it’s all too obvious that they are special effects. Those viewers who were fortunate enough to experience Luc Besson’s marine life documentary Atlantis (1991) this past week at the Astor know that the French filmmaker requires little if any hi-tech trickery to astound his audience. So the CGI overload presented in Lucy is somewhat puzzling to say the least. Ultimately, it distracts rather than engages.

Still, despite its numerous flaws and excesses, Lucy does manage to keep us guessing as to what might become of its heroine once she connects to 100 per cent of her mind’s abilities (inter-titles appear at various points in the picture to inform us of the percentage of Lucy’s accessed brain capacity), so it does retain at least some sliver of intrigue. For those viewers who typically enjoy Luc Besson’s directorial output, Lucy is a worthy of at least a once-around. Even though its premise is scientifically suspect, this is a science fiction picture (you will need to accept it on its own terms) and it does raise some interesting ideas as to what human beings might be capable of realising as the species evolves over the next several thousand years – unless, of course, we outsmart ourselves and wipe humankind from the face of the planet.

Written by Mark Vanselow for the Astor Theatre

Lucy screens on Sunday September 14 at 4pm.

The stats are in – Fliks Cinema Census

Talking about online movie piracy in Australia isn’t a beloved topic. It’s not difficult to understand why when the official rhetoric is only interested in treating those who ‘illegally’ download online content as criminals. Though I’ve never personally considered watching a crappy quality torrent as equal to grand theft auto, this is what many of the anti-piracy campaigns would have you believe.

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Unlike industry execs, however, we don’t think it’s the greatest threat to the film industry – the studios are plenty capable of junking prints and jacking up consuming prices, thus removing much movie magic, all by themselves.

There are a number of stats out there that tell us about who’s engaged in piracy and why. The most recent online study has come from the people at fliks.com.au with their Cinema Census. Asking and identifying some key issues, the Fliks Cinema Census turned up the following results that really get to the heart of what we do here at the Astor:

* 62% of survey respondents said they download because legal alternatives are not available for the films they want to watch.

* 79% said cinema ticket prices were too high

* 73% said they prefer to watch films in a cinema

* 82% want mobile phones banned and 50% said people talking in cinemas was the most annoying cinema habit.

What this data reflects is exactly the same as what we experience as a cinema. Every film we screen is available to see on another format by the time we screen it. As a rep house, all our content is either available through legal home entertainment formats or illegally online. But we don’t have empty seats, and that’s because the environment and the experience of seeing a film are equally as important as the film itself. We also don’t charge $20+ for cinema tickets. High price tickets are exclusionary, making it difficult for low-income earners, students, pensioners, the unemployed and others to see films. It isn’t true that only rich people want and should get to enjoy cinema-going. Of course, we do still have to make money to keep the doors open. But there’s a balance. Currently it sits at $16 / $15 / $14.

Finally, and most significantly, it’s the experience that matters. If people prefer to watch films in a cinema it’s because the experience is unmatched by home entertainment. That has to do with a number of things that begin with picture and sound quality and the social experience of sharing something unique with others, but it’s also extends to the ideal that the cinema is free from real life distractions – including mobile phones and talking.

The stats are out. The Cinema Census website even has a pie chart. Check it out, come watch great films on our BIG screen, and please turn off your mobile phone and refrain from talking during the movie. Thanks.

Written by Tara Judah for the Astor Theatre.

Saturday night at the Astor

When I first started coming to the Astor, as a teenager, the shows were BUSY. I remember always queuing for tickets, the ladies cloaks’ and the candy bar. Sometime in the earlier 2000s I visited the theatre again, only the requisite queues weren’t there. In the past few years those queues have returned. If you’ve been to any of our re-release seasons (we know that many thousands of you were here for Labyrinth!) then you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s a good thing we have so many seats because if we were to program the way we do in any other cinema in Melbourne, well, we would have to turn hundreds of people away – you simply can’t squeeze more than 600 people into a standard multiplex auditorium!

On Saturday night I watched the glorious 35mm and 70mm film prints of Rear Window and Vertigo, inside my favourite cinema anywhere in the world. The dress circle was full and the stalls open. The foyers were bursting with long-time Astor attendees as well as first time visitors. There was excitement in the air as we filed in to take our seats and inside the auditorium the atmosphere was electric. The moment the screening commenced, there was stillness. There is something truly special about being in a room with hundreds of individuals all quietly, respectfully watching the same films. The only movement to be felt is the occasional sound of someone drawing breath during a tense moment in the onscreen narrative, or a shared chuckle at that trademark dry wit Hitch inserts every now and again to give his audience a moment of respite.

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Saturday night at the Astor. I can’t imagine living in a version of Melbourne where this doesn’t exist and, quite frankly, I don’t want to. It’s easy when you’re at the Astor to forget that anything could ever change – it’s like a magical solace from the outside world where both space and time are contorted. But, as this particular evening came to a close, and as I left the building, that all too sobering reminder of an alternate future hit me – blindingly, like the sickly artificial lighting that has since replaced our once enchanting chasers. My joy was interrupted: what if the interior is fated to resemble the now replica veranda with its fluorescent tubing? Then the experience I’ve just enjoyed won’t exist anymore.

As I reflect over the great night I’ve had, journeying home, I can understand my enjoyment as the culmination of a number of things; the screening of rare 35mm and 70mm film prints, a glorious screen, quality projection (including constant focus and re-focus from a trained projectionist, correct masking, the right aperture plates, manual lighting, no tolerance for mobile phones and the gold curtains that have signaled the start and finish of many hundreds of film experiences in my life), the very same Astor logo that I’ve watched on 35mm for the almost twenty years I’ve been coming to the Astor, the carpet made especially for the theatre, sitting in the same seat that a cinema-goer from 1936 sat in when the theatre first opened and every one of my shared experiences of laughter, tears, fear, excitement and love, still living inside these walls. It’s busy, loved and cherished. And so much more than just the bricks and mortar that house it.

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

Some Clarification

It’s been a very difficult and emotional weekend as our announcement has reached far and beyond 100,000 people. We have received thousands of messages across email, twitter, Facebook, this blog, through our website and of course at the theatre itself. There has been an incredible and surmounting support for what we do here at the Astor Theatre, for that we are grateful and humbled.

A number of questions have arisen from those messages and though we do our best to reply personally to every query we receive, we feel that it might be best to address here some of what is most frequently asked.

IS THE BUILDING HERITAGE LISTED?

The building, the land, the 1929 Western Electric amplifier, original screen and original projector are registered. The details of that listing can be found in the Victorian Heritage Database.  The building is also listed on the National Trust register. This means that elements of the current building and site cannot be changed (i.e. the building cannot be demolished to put up an apartment complex).

What it does not protect, however, are other important aspects of what “The Astor” (the business inside the building) has cultivated for Melbourne cinema-goers. These include but are not limited to; the purpose (as a single screen cinema), the capacity of the auditorium, chattels, interior design, lighting, candy bar, office spaces, projection booth, etc.

Most significantly, Victorian Heritage and National Trust listings do not protect what you have come to know and love as The Astor Theatre: the entity that has created and maintained a unique cinema-going experience since 1982, under the proprietorship of George Florence. That includes but is not limited to; the unique programming, the Astor Calendar, our incredibly passionate and personable staff, Astor Choc-Ices, beloved theatre cats (Magenta, Marzipan), the very best in film and digital presentation, regular presentation of rare 35mm and 70mm film prints, masterful projection, personalised and genuine love and passion for cinema, cinema-going, film and so much more.

WHAT DOES THE LANDLORD INTEND TO DO?

This is unknown. We have not been told what the future plans are, only that they do not include us.

The following articles, that were published over the weekend, include comments from a spokesperson for Ralph Taranto, but they do not state clearly what will happen.

SBS; ‘Melbourne’s cherished cinema The Astor to close May 2015′

The Age; ‘The Astor Theatre to close in 2015′

WA Today; ‘The Astor will live as a cinema, the owner vows’

CAN WE START A FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN?

It is not advisable at this time to begin fundraising. Though we are most certainly moved by the overwhelming response from everyone and the intense passion we all share to keep the Astor as it is, we cannot, at this time, launch a fundraising campaign.

As far as we are aware, the landlord has no intention to sell the property. We appreciate your support very much but we cannot take money unless we know that there is an option to purchase.

We hope this serves to clear up some of your many questions. We also want to thank you for your unwavering love and support of what we do and absolutely encourage you to continue to visit the theatre and celebrate what’s so great about The Astor in the coming months.