GET READY FOR DALEKMANIA!

You might remember that back in August we held a special Dalek Invasion event at the Astor that involved a Tardis – a huge thank you to The Tardis Guy without whom this would not have been possible – some Daleks, K-9 – such enthusiastic thanks to the wonderful people at the Melbourne Robot Workshop and the Melbourne Hackerspace who are just incredible – and an awesome Peter Cushing as the Dr. double bill. It was quite the event. There were humans dressed as Daleks and even one who was wearing an outfit very much like a Tardis…

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As you can see, those are some pretty awesome outfits so you’ll need to get working on the details if you plan to be the best dressed on the night. Speaking of which, this time around we’ve also managed to wrangle the Doctor – also known as Rob Lloyd who you can follow/stalk into another dimension called the twitterverse here.

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So, a little about our local Doctor: since 2011 Rob has developed, created and been involved in a number of projects specifically focused on everyone’s favourite Time Lord, Doctor Who. Rob Lloyd has appeared as The Doctor numerous times for The Impro Box’s hugely successful improvised Dr Who show Time Lord. He is a regular special guest host on the Dr Who based podcast The Preachers Podcast. However Rob is probably best known for his one man comedy show about his obsession with The Doctor, Who, Me. Rob has performed Who, Me. at the Melbourne & Adelaide Fringe Festivals, the Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland & Perth International Comedy Festivals, the Darwin Entertainment Centre, the CSIRO in Canberra and most recently he has had a highly successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. While we won’t have time to fit Rob’s show into our evening program, we are pleased to announce that he will be in attendance – potentially trying to defeat Daleks – and playing host before the show begins!

DalekmaniaAnd, speaking of the show, we have a VERY special addition to this Saturday evening’s line-up. As you can see from the video above, it was quite the event back in August. But this time we’ll also be screening a documentary short – DALEKMANIA! – ahead of the main program. PHEW. That’s a pretty exciting and definitely jam-packed evening on offer. You’d be mad to be anywhere else.

This exceptional encore 50th anniversary Dr. Who celebration event takes place this Saturday, November 30th at 7.30pm. Advance tickets are available here.

Little Moments of Magic – The legacy and legend of Hayao Miyazaki

Every time we program Studio Ghibli films there is a really positive response to the announcement and an equally positive turn out at each of the sessions. So when Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from filmmaking (video below), we knew immediately that we would have to run another season of his films.

Each time we screen any number of the beautiful, enchanting works brought about by the incredibly talented people from Studio Ghibli, we are touched by the joy we see our audience experience. One of my own personal favourite memories surrounding a Miyazaki screening – I believe it was for The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) for which Hayao Miyazaki is credited as a writer – happened before the magic of the movie had even begun…

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY

Because we are dedicated to screening these films in their original Japanese language with English subtitles instead of dubs (wherever possible!) and because families with young children often attend these sessions – not always aware of the language specifications – we make a point of mentioning at the ticket box to patrons with small children that the films will be subtitled rather than dubbed. Looking out of the glass window into a foyer full of people all eager to purchase tickets I was surprised to see a small hand on the counter stretched up from below. As I couldn’t quite see the person attached to the hand, I peered through the gap in the glass and looked down to find a child of surely no more than five or six, beaming. I said to the child – and accompanying parent – that the film would be subtitled in English. Concerned that I might now be disappointing a child on one of their earliest cinema outings, I braced myself for the potential tears and  tantrums. Instead, I heard the following, “Yes, I know. I’ve watched lots of Studio Ghibli films. I love Miyazaki.”

With Miyazaki comes moments of magic and astounding enchantment that you just can’t find in or around any other animated films.

We can’t wait to fill our foyers and our auditorium again with hundreds of people gushing passion and joy for what are simply some of the most beautiful films ever made. What a wonderful month of Mondays we have in store!

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

HAYAO MIYAZAKI – A LEGACY OF DREAMS starts Monday November 11th and continues across a further three Monday evenings, concluding December 2nd.

Peter Pan

Last week I wrote a post about Cinderella (1950) and whilst a lot of people disagreed with me that the film was overly problematic, the discussion on our Facebook page was thoughtful and lively – which is fantastic, thanks to everyone who commented intelligently and engagingly. This week I’m going to offer up a few things that bug me about Peter Pan (1953). I hope the conversation will continue because at the Astor something we believe strongly is that films should inspire healthy debate and great conversation!

Another of the ‘English’ Disney flicks, Peter Pan is a little less concerned with class than Cinderella – although it does posit the family’s RP accents against some of the pirates’ more regional ones to demarcate clearly who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad’, but I digress … still, it hits on two major issues that deserve attention: race and gender.

imagesLet’s take gender first. Inexplicably none of the other females anywhere in the film seem to like Wendy, and they have very little reason to instantly find her quite as threatening as is clearly the case; Tinkerbell and the Aerial style mermaid (who seems particularly unimpressed with Wendy wearing a nightgown) both take issue with Peter bringing her to Neverland. Furthermore, Tinkerbell who makes a foolish error in listening to Captain Hook does so because she is so easily pitted against Wendy who Hook, knowing how jealous women can be, masterfully orchestrates. Another instance is of Wendy becoming cross when Peter dances with Tiger Lilly. If this film is anything to go by then women are silly beings filled with jealousy who cause nothing but unwanted distraction in otherwise good fun adventure. Even when Wendy walks the plank as a sacrifice for Peter and the boys, it’s only barely enough. Her only redemption seems to be that she has a purpose which is to ‘take care’ of the boys in a maternal manner. Skills such as sewing are apparently where women can be of use.

indexThen there’s the disturbing depiction of the Native Americans who apparently love the white man and learn much from him. The words in one of the songs during this sequence only credits the Native Americans once, and for being able to take on the white man’s way no less: “The In’jin, he sure learns a lot!” Further still the tribal ceremony is shown as a childish dance for immature children who refuse to grow up, so that they might play dress-ups and assume the ‘Indians’”identity, mockingly and fleetingly, for good sport. “Follow the leader wherever he may go”, indeed, and who might the leader be? Why, the white middle class man, John, of course.

One of the major points raised against my criticism of Cinderella last week was that the film was made during a different time. Sure, racism and sexism was more rampant back in the 1950s. With that in mind, I’d like to acknowledge that Peter Pan was made in 1953. Still, we’re screening it in 2013…

The rest of the conversation I leave to you… and I genuinely look forward to the discussion, but please, be tasteful and thoughtful in your replies, remember to talk about the topic rather than attack individuals. Ta!

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

Peter Pan screens at the Astor on Sunday September 29 at 2pm.

Indy on the big screen – and at Melbourne Fringe

As you know by now, we love all things Indy here at the Astor – just don’t mention crystal skulls…

So following the re-release of each of the individual Indy flicks we are super pleased to now be able to present the trilogy (yes, trilogy) in its entirety back where it belongs, on the big screen!

imagesRaiders of the Lost Ark [PG] (1981)

An iconic figure for fans of artefacts and adventure alike, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a gripping quest film packed with danger, doctored history and gold hearted family fun. Only narrowing escaping death – and almost losing his trademark hat in what will become an affectation of the franchise – Indiana is relieved to hear from Museum Curator Marcus Brody about an assignment of epic and existential proportions. Risking his life and a grand romance all at once, Indy embarks upon a search for The Ark of the Covenant; an artefact that holds the key to human existence. Of course, being set at the turn of WWII, he’ll have to fight a hoard of Nazis first! A long awaited return of the first in one of cinema’s most fantastic franchises and starring one of its greatest grumbling heros, Raiders – winner of four Academy Awards including Best Art Direction, Sound, Film Editing and Visual Effects, now in remastered 4K – is sure to take you on your most thrilling cinematic adventure yet!

imagesIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom [PG] (1984)

Despite being the most politically dubious of the trilogy, Temple of Doom is also the funniest and craziest installment of the Indiana Jones franchise films. Teamed here with an eccentric night club singer who’s only real talents are being a token leggy blonde, and a smart, endearing if racially stereotyped youngster Short Round, Indy is in for another round of epic adventures. Searching for the power of the Sankara stones and a city of lost children, the three find themselves inside the booby trapped Temple of Doom! Another great ’80s blockbuster that has to be seen on the big screen. Proudly presented in remastered 2K DCP format.

indiana jones and the last crusade imageIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade [PG] (1989)

The man with the whip returns to the big screen for his final dalliance and this time he’s searching for The Holy Grail. And his father! When Indy’s dad sends him a diary and a map with clues leading to the Holy Grail, he and Marcus Brody hot foot it to Italy. When they find Dr Henry Jones (Indy’s dad) the race really begins! Up against those pesky Nazis once again, Indy and his cohort must find the Holy Gail first – before the Nazi’s use it for evil. The final instalment in this fast-paced adventure trilogy, Last Crusade is the perfect, heart-racing ending. Join us for the final journey, in high definition 2K digital format with surround sound, on an archaeological action-adventure like no other. Get your whips cracking, and prepare for the big finale in one of the greatest trilogies of all time!

The Indy Trilogy screens Saturday 28th September, starting at 5pm.

And if this isn’t enough Indy for you then we recommend you check out Stephen Hall’s Melbourne Fringe show: Raiders of the Temple of Doom’s Last Crusade.

As part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, this all-new comedy stage show sees Stephen taking on the epic task of performing Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Live on stage.
All by himself.
In under an hour.
All the characters! All the action! All the thrills, spills, nail-biting chases and daring escapes! From September 20 – October 5 at the North Melbourne Town Hall.

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Harold Lloyd – At Last!

Something exciting is happening on Sunday… We’re screening, for the first time in – well, so long that we can’t even remember when – a Harold Lloyd double bill.  And to celebrate the return of the great man to the big screen we’ll also have a special intro by Harold Lloyd performer and fan, Rob Lloyd. Extra entertainment to take in as you eat your choc-ice! Here’s what our silent stargazing friend has to say about the Lloyd he admires most:

imagesHarold Lloyd is a hidden treasure of the silent movie era.
Charlie Chaplin’s tramp character is a true cinema icon. Buster Keaton is highly regarded within cinema savvy societies and extremely influential within the comedy industry, but when it comes to Harold Lloyd… few remember him.

I came to love Harold Lloyd quite recently, about 10 years ago. A mentor friend of mine has this thing where he has to nickname all the people closest to him… for years I had no nickname. I have to admit it hurt a little.

Until one day at a post-show social event I was rather casually address as ‘Harold’. After asking ‘Why Harold?’ I was told about Harold Lloyd, his horn-rimmed glasses and of course the famous image of him hanging from the clock face in Safety Last.

This immediately sent me on a hunt for Lloyd movies, to find out more about my namesake. I watched Safety Last! (1923), Girl Shy (1924), The Milky Way (1936), Why Worry? (1923), Speedy (1928), The Freshman and I was hooked.

imagesLloyd is such a unique presence in the silent movie era. In a decade of cinema filled with huge characters, over-the-top emotional states and almost pantomime performances, Lloyd presented the ‘everyman’, the ‘boy next door’, just a regular guy who you’d pass on the city street and not even give a second thought to. However, the situations he found himself in, and particularly how he dealt with them, was anything but regular.

In that way Harold Lloyd was also a rather modern performer, despite the fact we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of Safety Last and that his screen persona was very much a statement against the Great Depression. Lloyd was wholesome, hopeful, naive, pure, almost childish and, above all else, a true American.

I have been thinking about, researching, daydreaming, putting off doing, rehearsing and writing a Harold Lloyd show for over seven years and I am very excited to be presenting the beginning of what I hope will someday be a full show/tribute/dummy’s guide to… Harold Lloyd!

imagesI’m particularly excited to be presenting it with my partner in crime, David Innes, and especially to be performing at the iconic Astor Theatre for this very special Harold Lloyd double bill.

Follow Rob on twitter: @futurerobby

Trawl through his website: www.roblloyd.com.au

And StalkBook him here: www.facebook.com/Robby.Lloyd

Safety Last! and Speedy screen this Sunday evening, as a double feature, at 7pm.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL?

Following the world premiere of the Ghostbusters (1984) new 2K digital presentation held at The Astor Theatre Monday December 10th 2011, by popular demand, we are proud to announce another three off-calendar screenings: Friday October 21 9.30pm, Saturday October 22 9pm and Sunday October 23 9.20pm, in addition to our already scheduled December repeat screening, Monday 12th, 8pm. So when we asked our regular E-news contributor Mark Vanselow the aforementioned question, he said “Astor Theatre”…  

 

One of my most vivid childhood recollections is attending the cinema in the hopes of seeing Ghostbusters (1984), the Ivan Reitman science-fiction comedy horror about four intrepid men who must save New York City – and indeed, the entire world – from destruction at the hands of paranormal beings from another dimension. Note that I didn’t actually see Ghostbusters at the cinema when I was a child: the particular session that we (the family) had planned to enter had sold out. All these years later, it remains the only time that I have attended a multiplex only to learn that the session has reached capacity. Indeed, those were the last dying days of a now bygone era, when it was commonplace for cinema audiences to line up around the block for movie tickets (okay, so it still happens at the Astor on occasion). Fortunately, another 1984 blockbuster, Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984) was playing at the same cinema. Ah yes, that’s another thing you don’t see at the multiplex these days: the presence of more than one film that you are really desperate to experience. Ghostbusters was our first preference that day but my brother and I were equally enthusiastic about seeing Gremlins (which we did, and believe me, it scared the living daylights out of me—hey, I was six!)
My first glimpse of Ghostbusters came in the form of a sneak peak on The Mike Walsh Show back in 1984. Those were the days before the internet and illegal online downloads pretty much ruined the prolonged building of suspense that television shows could achieve with cleverly cut excerpts from a feature film. Back in those days, you actually had to leave your house and buy a ticket to be the first on your block to discover what happened next. Ghostbusters premiered on television a number of years later and it was no small event, accompanied by a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the film. Of course I watched Ghostbusters on the small screen and it was indeed wonderful. It was not until many years later that I experienced Ghostbusters presented on the big screen in its original 35mm format, courtesy of the Astor Theatre, no less. (You shall be happy to know that when its sequel Ghostbusters II hit the big screen in 1989, my brother and I were successful in gaining admission to the cinema).

 

Flash forward to 2011 and the cinematic world is abuzz with news that Ghostbusters III is scheduled for release in the year 2012. Ivan Reitman, director of the first two chapters of the saga, has been confirmed to helm this latest installment. Rumours abound as to who else is on board for this exciting new project, but to speculate any further about this would be pointless. What I can tell you is that the Astor Theatre, Melbourne’s sole-surviving cinema palace, is to screen the original Ghostbusters in 2K Digital format this month. The re-release of this classic 1980s treasure is a global event that shall undoubtedly fuel interest in Ghostbusters III, not to mention introducing a new generation of film-goers to the whole Ghostbusters phenomenon.
Without divulging too much to readers who might not have seen Ghostbusters (where have you been?), the story concerns a trio of university professors, unemployed and desperate, who decide to set up their own ghost-catching business in New York City. At first business is non-existent, but after a spate of paranormal activity across the Big Apple and success in trapping ghosts, Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) find themselves as not only successful businessmen, they have become genuine celebrities. Three becomes four when Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) wanders into the Ghostbusters office, and after what might be the greatest job interview in history, picks up a positron glider and joins Egon, Peter and Raymond in clearing otherworldly beings from the metropolis.

 

Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote Ghostbusters, and the film benefits from one of the most inventive and quotable scripts committed to film. References to Ghostbusters have worked themselves into everyday vernacular, with many of the best one-liners in the film being delivered by Bill Murray. Apart from the actors who portray the eponymous superheroes, Ghostbusters features Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, plus a host of fantastic phantoms and other assorted creatures that have become pop culture icons in their own right. Speaking of all things iconic, Ghostbusters features one of the most familiar pop music numbers of the 1980s, courtesy of Ray Parker, Jr., as its title song. The tune itself proved to be controversial, as there was some similarity between Ray’s ditty and the earlier song “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News. Accusing the Ghostbusters singer of plagiarism, Huey attempted to sue Ray Parker, Jr., the issue settled ultimately out of court. Numerous other pop songs are featured in the film, such as Magic by Mick Smiley, with the movie’s original score provided by Elmer Bernstein.
Quite simply, Ghostbusters is strong in every major department, from the quality of the screenplay to the cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. From typewriter to celluloid, this is a film that was seemingly blessed every step of the way. The special effects in this movie (including liberal use of stop-motion animation) really have stood the test of time, and it is a credit to the actual human beings featured in this movie that their performances and charm are not overshadowed by the visual trickery on display. Just remember, no matter how many times you have experienced Ghostbusters on the small screen, the film is much better enjoyed at the cinema on the largest screen possible, augmented by superior sound and the whole cinematic atmosphere that only a place such as the Astor Theatre can provide. Please do make certain that you bring yourself and as many people as possible to the Astor this coming weekend for the theatre’s follow up screenings of Ghsotbusters in 2K Digital Format. Given the quality of programming at the Astor, it is no small statement to say that this shall be a continuation of one of the biggest events of the year for the venue, not to mention one of the biggest events on Melbourne’s cinematic calendar for 2011.

Written by Mark Vanselow for The Astor Theatre.

For more information and session details, visit our new website: www.astortheatre.net.au

The Wizard of Oz

I remember the first time I ever watched The Wizard of Oz (1939). I must have been around 5 or 6 years old and I still remember the exact events of that afternoon. I was spending the day with my grandmother during my school holidays and we were sitting around in the lounge room. From what I can recall, these were the Pre-Foxtel days, so Nan didn’t have cable at the time and naturally, there was nothing on TV. So, Nan put on a video of a movie that she said was one of her all time favourites – one that she remembered first seeing when she was about my age and has loved ever since. At first I was put off by the film’s black and white opening. “Is this movie in black and white?” I remember saying, almost dismissing the film. “No. Only this first part.” Thank god I stuck with it because, little did I know then, but this was going to be a pivotal point in my life and a seminal moment in my love for cinema and filmmaking.


As soon as Dorothy opened her bedroom door and stepped into that wonderful Technicolor Land of Oz I was instantly captivated. As the camera began to track through Munchin Land; past the shiny leaves and shrubs, over the sparkling blue river and across to the centre of the Yellow Brick Road; I was mesmerized. I remember my exact response – “You know what Nan, I think I’m going to have to borrow this video.” At that moment I had been introduced to ‘cinema.’

Whenever I’ve described my love of The Wizard of Oz to anybody I’ve always used the same phrase – There was never anything like it before, and there has never been anything like it since. And whether you believe that statement or not, it’s absolutely true. Being 5 or 6 when I first watched it, of course I had never seen anything like it before. And now, 15 years on, I’ve never found a film, old or new, that has captured the same energy, the same heart, the same soul and the same loving filmmaking as Oz.

The one thing that strikes me about Oz is the fact that it refuses to die. The story has been around for 111 years now, and the film was released 72 years ago. And the fact is that it remains timeless, a classic, a favourite amongst young and old. There is no other film so old – with exception of Walt Disney’s animated classics – that you could put on the television and expect a young child to enjoy and want to watch over and over again. How can a film of 72 years age be so widely accepted by such a broad range of viewers today? You couldn’t imagine a 5-year-old sitting down and enjoying, say, Casablanca (1942) or Gone With The Wind (1939).
The fact is – it remains timeless, familiar and accepted by younger generations because its themes, its characters and its style are still so much a part of today’s culture. There’s a reflection of values here that is still so very much emblazoned in the minds of today’s people and its characters are so familiar and so recognizable to you that you could swear they were reflections of yourself. This is why Oz is timeless, and why a child could sit down and not know that the movie was made well before their parents and even grandparents were born.

The Wizard of Oz was constructed back when films were made out of love, made from blood, sweat and tears, back before Hollywood became so overruled by movie moguls and people out to make a quick dollar. Sure, Louis B. Mayer – head of the MGM studios, and Jack Warner – head of Warner Bros. were all for making money and making big pictures that could gain revenue, but these two hard-heads never, EVER, signed off on a film that they didn’t believe had credibility. They never signed off on a film they thought they could just simply make money off, but films that they believed would be popular, films people would love to see, films people would enjoy and films that they would like to make. Oz is the product of the fairytale early days of Hollywood, back when Hollywood was known as “The Dream Factory,” before money, special effects and blockbusters took over. And for this reason, the film means so much more to me and to the history of cinema.

Oz
was made as MGM’s live action answer to Walt Disney’s Snow White And the Seven Dwarves (1937). Mayer wanted his audience to experience the same love and the same joy as they had when they visited Disney’s cartoon dream world. Regardless of the fact that it was nominated for a flurry of Oscars (losing out mainly to MGM’s other epic Gone With The Wind, directed and released by the same director, Victor Fleming, in the same year) Oz did quite dreadfully on its original cinema run. It wasn’t seen as a ‘flop’ but it barely made any revenue, it was seen simply as “just a movie.” But over the years, Oz was re-released over and over again and played annually on television – introducing itself to new generations with each showing. It was then that people realised “hey, we have a classic on our hands” and further cemented it into the history of film classics. It’s because of this that Oz has been deemed the most watched film of all time.

Regardless of its status as a film classic Oz does suffer from mixed reactions. It is often an understated and overlooked film gem and usually finds itself just missing out (usually to Gone With the Wind – the films major competitor still to this day) or just making the cut in the occasional “Best Movies” lists – but at the same time, finds itself near the top of others. It’s listed at #129 on IMDb’s list of “Top 250 Films” but is listed at #6 on the American Film Institute’s list of “100 Years… 100 Films.”

The Wizard of Oz, more than any other film has shaped the way I and many others see cinema. Oz has taught me that a film doesn’t need to make money to be successful, just as long as the makers love it, and nurture it and the viewing public do so likewise.

Oz is an odd film for a guy to hold as their favourite movie of all time, but given what the film means to cinema and means to me personally I think it’s fairly justified. I say with no regret, no embarrassment and no trepidation that Oz has always been and will always be my favourite film of all time. And I, like many others, will revisit this film to the day I die, not only to help me in my endeavours to make films, but also in my endeavours to find myself, and like Dorothy, find my place in the world.

Since my first viewing of Oz I have seen it in many formats and editions. I have seen it on VHS and have seen the special restoration it received for its 65th anniversary DVD and the crisp, clear and beautiful 70th Anniversary Blu-Ray restoration. But nothing can come close to seeing Oz on the big screen. I saw Oz at the Astor Theatre when it screened late last year, and was amazed how special a viewing experience it was to see it on a true Technicolour print in a theatre filled with an older generation re-visiting the film, and a younger generation experiencing it for the first time. Oz is an extremely special movie that captured the hearts of all no matter how you see it – but take it from me, seeing it on the big screen is an experience like no other.

Written by our wonderful, cine-passionate and regular E-news contributor Dave Lee.

This blog entry is an edited version of Dave Lee’s write-up on the film from his new film blog, Dave’s Most Inspirational Films.

For your chance to win tickets to see The Wizard of Oz (screening in a double bill with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this Sunday July 17th, 2pm at The Astor Theatre), make sure you’ve “liked” us over on Facebook!