As I write this, I await the beginning of the 2013 Academy Awards telecast. I will forego the predictions, yet I have read all the predictions. I have seen The Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook and Les Misérables in places where UA, Regal and AMC rule, and salty popcorn, bathtub-sized soft drinks and GMO laden snacks command exorbitant prices. To tell the truth, these venues, with runaway 14 year olds wreaking noise and cell-phone havoc on all sense and sensibility are more punishment than sanctuary.
So it is with great jouissance that I can celebrate the local film scene as never before. Never have the connoisseur, enthusiast and junkie had so many opportunities to see foreign, independent and documentary films.
Apart from Oscar, Miami has just completed its 30th version of the Miami International Film Festival, or XXX as MIFF blithely logoed it. Miami Dade College is behind this festival, as it is behind the Book Fair and so many other great community affairs. No, none of the films were XXX rated, nor were they screened at dodgy theaters; but also many will never make it to the corporate screens either. Instead, what MIFF does, and where it does it, gives the film maven plenty of places to pursue the big screen fantasies going on around the world. And we denizens of the bottom of the Sunshine State can now view great cinema every day of the week in a number of locales. I wrote about the Coral Gables Art Cinema last year, so this is a good time to give them and all the local art houses a big shout out again. Deservedly, this column will be devoid of any criticism or controversy because in almost every way, these movie houses get it right. Not only do all the theaters curate great selections, as of course does the MIFF and other local film events, but the Coral Gables venue particularly can be easily accessed by Googling Miami cinemateque, Coral Gables Cinema and a few other terms. All search roads lead to the CGAC, which also has a cool little cafe thing going as well.
MDC is also the driver behind Calle Ocho’s Tower Theater which routinely screens great films, many of which are in original Spanish language of course with English subtitles. This landmark, built and launched in 1926, is again a great gathering place and paragon of modest majesty for both new and the nostalgic film buffs, after having been restored and revived in the last decade. For those aesthetes with the special fondness for the bygone, the Tower is choice number one. Across the street is Azucar for 21st century ice cream.
Another long running venue for the movie devotee is the Bill Cosford Cinema on the campus of the University of Miami. I always liked the Cosford because it made me feel young. However, recent accommodations to what someone thought was a changing demographic — young people — have made mass market films on their later go-round a complement to the offbeat and international. Two vending machines are on the concourse.
When the Miami Beach Cinematheque (aka MBC) is not participating in a local film festival, it still offers a wide-ranging selection of films. As its website points out, Dana Keith is the founder, director, driving force and film connoisseur behind it all. I don’t know if Keith is also popping the corn, but to find out you must go to the historic 1927 Carl Fischer-designed City Hall on Washington Avenue near Espanola Way.
Of course, MBC has a bookstore/gallery/cafe space.
Last are the two O Cinema spaces, the original edgier one in Wynwood and the newer, more classic spot in Miami Shores, also known as Miami Theater Center or MTC, where it shares space with what is now known as playground. MTC was founded as the Shores Theater in 1946. Both O’s are part of the non-profit which happened thanks to matching funds from the Knight Foundation. When they can, the O Wynwood screens films like those about Bob Marley, the Cream’s Ginger Baker and controversial prison revolutionary Mumia Abu-Jamal. MTC prefers features about the geriatric, the royal and the indigent European in search of salvation. Wynwood serves chocolate ganache treats and in Miami Shores there’s a Starbucks down the street.
In Miami, these are good times for filmgoers — every day of the week. As the weather turns to summer, sanctuaries abound.
Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to firstname.lastname@example.org