Nether Regions 05.04.10: Cinemania
Posted by Chad Webb on 05.04.2010
Meet a film buff's heroes (or biggest fear?), but know that they will hate how you watched this on DVD and not in the theater. Once you get past the irritating title song, this is a documentary every obsessive fan should see.
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
Starring: People Who Watch a lot of Movies Directed By: Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak Running Time: 79 minutes Theatrical Release Date: May 16, 2003 Missing Since: 2007 Existing Formats:OOP VHS and DVD Netflix Status: Available Availability: Rare, but copies are not too expensive
These people are the Spielbergs of watching movies, or perhaps they'd prefer to be called the Fellinis or the Fords instead. Cinemania, a title that insinuates a broad range of topics, does not focus on the forgotten eras of movie fanaticism, The Golden Age of the 50's, midnight movies, and so on. This is a documentary that follows 5 cinephiles around New York City. It might not be as ambitious as some would prefer, but this is still an enormously fun effort that is humorous and lingering.
4 of the 5 cinemaniacs. Eric, Roberta, Bill, and Jack.
The five cinephiles are Jack Angstreich, Eric Chadbourne, Harvey Schwartz, Roberta Hill and Bill Heidbreder. Jack greets us by saying watching movies is "better than sex." Of course he admits that his love life is a gargantuan failure later. One of the great activities to engage in if you reside in New York City is going to the theater to see films, both new and old. These 5 see as many as they possibly can, every day. They have passes to all the best theaters, enabling them to receive discount and occasionally free admissions. Their schedules are coordinated to incorporate the amount of time they will spend on the subway and walking to the theaters. Showtimes, print quality, length, bathroom business, and overall comfort are always mapped out and researched.
As a film buff and internet movie writer, I see between 100 and 200 titles (in theaters) each year, and that blows the minds of many people I know. Professional critics see more, and it can range from 200-400 in a given year. These 5 people see between 700-1000 a year. For me, there is simply not enough time to see everything I would like to because life gets in the way. For Jack, Eric, Harvey, Bill, and Roberta, this IS their life. They have the time to fully immerse themselves in cinephelia because they do not work. Jack received an inheritance from his aunt. Bill lives on unemployment. Harvey, Eric, and Roberta live on disability. This means funds need to be taken into account as well when they march the sidewalks each day.
Jack says he saw close to 1000 in an 8 month stretch once, but hazily recalls the period. Doing the math, I cannot see how that is manageable, but he does keep a record of every title he has seen. Without a lot of money, computer access is limited to Bill, whose computer could have been the first ever made. Their lives could have changed by now, but IMDB was not their primary source. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide is their Bible. We spend time in each of their, ummm, living quarters. I wouldn't call them all "homes" or even "apartments" because in Roberta's case I was left speechless by her place. Jack acknowledges that "a commitment to cinema means one must have a technically deviant lifestyle." They discuss what it means to be normal, the fact they are not, and that they are happier that way. In that area, they make a strong point.
Actually pursuing a career or earning a living is out of the question because it would interfere with movie watching. None of them are married and their sex lives are non-existent. They talk openly about this. Bill regularly updates a dating ad in hopes that he will meet a gorgeous woman that loves movies as he does (or at least put up with it). The question with Cinemania and this group is which ones have a passion for film and which ones are just addicted to it? Do they have to be in a theater? Do they just prefer that setting? Or do they just love to watch movies? For some of these folks, the questions are difficult to answer unequivocally. In fact the percentages for their passion and addiction might be important to dissect. It is apparent that they all genuinely like movies, but I wonder if they haven't forgotten what that means.
The DVD cover.
Hearing about their daily rituals, opinions of films, and thoughts about each other is fascinating, but then again, I can relate to them. For casual viewers, this could still be an interesting documentary, but I have a feeling it would not be nearly as absorbing when they rattle on about foreign titles and their favorite NYC theaters. Each of these people is connected by their obsession, but they have distinct personalities for sure. Cinemania is directed by Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak, who do a good job of avoiding judgment. Each of the five is given the opportunity to speak honestly, leaving us to our own conclusions, and thankfully the directing team is not manipulative in the process.
Jack is the face that graces the cover and he is also the one who is featured the most. I do not know Jack personally, though I have probably been at the same theater he has without knowing it, but he comes off as a snob. Without hesitation he gives his opinion of the four others, and most of his comments are negative. He is smart as a whip (about film), but I question whether or not he remembers why he became an avid filmgoer. He wishes that he had a cell phone so he could call the booths directly and talk to the projectionists. His holier than thou attitude distracts us from some of his comical moments. For instance he says he would not make love to Rita Hayworth unless it was in black & white, and furthermore states that he does not necessarily love Judy Garland, but only loves her hair. He has a strict constipating diet to avoid emergencies during the shows.
Harvey possesses qualities of a person with Asperger's Syndrome, and seems like a congenial man. He will watch anything and everything, including The Amazing Crab Monsters, a trait Jack scoffs at. He has an amazing collection of soundtracks LP's, yet does not have a turntable to play them on because he thinks they don't sound good. He knows the exact running time of every film he's seen, and one of the film curators, David Schwartz, speaks fondly of his constant corrections. The same curator speaks on the fact that many of these people have the experience ruined for relatively small reasons. If there is one minor flaw in the print, they will not be able to enjoy the film. David also admits to being pleased when he sees one of these 5 because that means they have awarded their stamp of approval for what he is showing in the city that day.
Roberta was the oldest, and suffers most intensely from obsessive compulsive disorder. Commonly out of breath when being interviewed, she lugs her heavy bag along with her everywhere and was notorious for her arguments with her peers and the employees at the theaters. I learned while writing this review that Roberta passed away at the age of 73. Bill is a grad student and amateur philosopher whose taste concentrates on foreign films, especially French titles. His psychiatrist says he does not show enough aggression. He also strikes me as a guy who would be most likely to enter into a relationship and start to lean off the number of films he sees.
Eric shows Jack the. benefits of VHS.
Of the five, I sympathized most with Eric, a middle-aged man who is the only one that watches and owns videos. He seems to be the only one who understands the big picture. He says that film buffs are not meant to socialize, and that it is hard to make friends with one because of their attitudes and differing opinions. More than the others, he appears to just love watching movies, in any format, and could talk for hours. He has his preferences like anyone else, but is not arrogant about them.
Are these people crazy? I don't think so. But what fuels their fire? Is it a deep-rooted love or something more complicated? Neurosis, autism, schizophrenia, OCD, and more are among the disabilities they might possess, but how does one affect the other? Are they soaking in the artful aspects of film or blocking out the world around them? The answer is not as clear as you might expect, and this documentary is earnest in not capturing their lifestyle in a condescending manner. For such a straightforward piece, Cinemania is deftly and attentively made. I laughed at times and was moved at times, but it also forced me to look at myself. Regardless, Cinemania is compelling, and when it is all set and done you might have the desire to frequent the movie houses now and then, or maybe you will want to steer clear of these buffs in the future. Either way, this is recommended viewing.
Initially, I thought I would have little to write about for a 79 minute documentary, but I quickly found myself eager to type more and more about this terrific documentary, so length ended up not being a problem. My plan was to also cover the 45 minutes of deleted scenes, many of which are worth checking out for those who track down the DVD. They were justifiably cut to avoid a lengthy running time, but they are thoroughly enjoyable. Stand-outs are those where the group discusses their favorite titles, the best seats, and how Pearl Harbor should have been different. I have no idea why Cinemania was discontinued, but hopes of that ever changing are probably dim considering the number of people who care enough to petition are slim. Still, if you can find a way to see this, do so. It's worth the time and money.
Thankfully we are into May now and the endless craziness that is my life will begin to die down a little bit. This past week I didn't do as much movie watching as I usually do, but I did watch Waltz with Bashir, which was nominated in 2009 for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The animation made you look at the events in a different way, but the ending just permanently sticks in your head. I recommend it. I listened to a box set of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons as well because I dig the oldies every now and then. Also good stuff. As for wrestling, I have found a nice groove of watching it while I do other things around the house. WWE I'm indifferent to at the moment, and TNA is just hard not to watch because you never what messed up segment they'll put on next. Also, someone needs to talk to Flair about his forehead. The cuts are out of control.