Neighborhood theaters vs. neighborhood movies | Bleader

Monday, March 19, 2012

Neighborhood theaters vs. neighborhood movies

Posted By on 03.19.12 at 01:53 PM

Guy Pearce and Nicolas Cage in the New Orleans-shot Seeking Justice
  • Guy Pearce and Nicolas Cage in the New Orleans-shot Seeking Justice
For me, the most charming moment of the recent Seeking Justice comes just before Nicolas Cage faces down the bad guys in an abandoned shopping mall. “This is a nice mall,” Cage says, in an inexplicable throwaway line. “Someone should fix it up.” The movie’s presented plenty of swell New Orleans locations up till this point, but this may be its most direct statement of civic pride. I practically expected a representative from the New Orleans zoning department to enter the frame, blueprints in hand, ready to field offers from potential investors in the audience.

It’s been a good week for civic pride at the movies. On Friday, Kevin Warwick reported on the reopening of the Logan Theatre, whose owners maintain a proudly neighborhood-centric outlook; and since I wrote about the potential sale of the historic Portage Theater last Monday, there’s been an outpouring of calls to rescue the building. A week from tonight, Mon 3/26 at 7 PM, there will be a public meeting at the theater about the Save the Portage project. For those who can’t attend but want to get involved, the Portage’s website lists some things you can do to help, like writing to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Now that the Logan Theatre's looking better than ever, it's no longer the ideal place to see a movie like Seeking Justice. Second-tier genre movies like this used to be the venue's bread and butter, and over the years I enjoyed loads of them there. They were perfectly suited to the scratchy screens, sticky floors, and (until a few years ago) $3 admission price. Everyone at the Logan—from the manager checking your bags to the actors onscreen—was doing the best he could with the little he had, trying to bring cheap entertainment to the neighborhood. The plugger ambience made one more forgiving of the latest Screen Gems schlock or a Jason Statham vehicle like War (which I saw twice, for reasons I've now forgotten). The Logan recast these films in the spirit of the place: minor, workaday details, like seeing someone ride a bus in a different city, could redeem an otherwise terrible movie—and if they didn't, you could buy yourself a beer afterward for the same amount you spent on the show.

There are some great scenes of Nicolas Cage riding the bus in Seeking Justice, along with a suspense sequences built around a vending machine and a trip to the zoo. Everyone can relate to something in this film, particularly the pervasive illogic that suggests common bad dreams. Members of the vigilante group that Cage's character crosses turn up literally everywhere he goes—meaning the group has legions of members they can position all over New Orleans (which would make it hard for them to keep the organization a secret, I'd think) or they're blessed to have a few men who never sleep and really hate Cage. Such low-rent pleasures are worth $3 and the risk of finding gum on the back of your neck; indeed, I wouldn't want them under most other conditions.

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