seen @ Landmark Loew's Jersey Theater, Jersey City, NJ
I wish I could say that there was a great big crowd at the Loew's Jersey Theater Friday night to hear the news that Friends of the Loew's (FOL), the volunteer organization that has been the theater's caretakers for over two decades, won their court case against Jersey City for control of the theater. The announcement was greeted warmly on social media, and the small crowd of cinephiles in attendance were equally pleased, but FOL head Colin Egan said that their preoccupation with the case left little time to advertise this past weekend's films. The timing was "bad," though one can hardly complain. The Loew's has seen plenty of large crowds within the recent past, and they'll see large crowds again.
I had arrived in Jersey City's Journal Square straight from nearby Hoboken. I chose to walk the distance because Google Maps told me I could do it in roughly 45 minutes, so I figured why not? The route the app recommended for me had a few twists and turns into unfamiliar territory, which got me a little nervous, but not nearly as much as when I pressed the wrong button and my cellphone froze. I couldn't access the map, and all of a sudden I was very lost!
At the time I had thought that I might have been in this part of Jersey before, but I couldn't be sure which way Journal Square was, and I was worried I'd arrive at the Loew's late. So I went into a small sports apparel shop and asked for directions, and the two guys there told me which way to go. So no, I probably won't walk from Hoboken to Jersey City again. Too much hassle. I was in Hoboken in the first place only because I felt like eating there for a change. It's much nicer than Jersey City.
Give the Loew's fans credit: even with less than a week's notice, they come out for a movie there. Maybe not in big numbers, but they come. As usual, it was a variety of both older and younger fans. In fact, there were at least three pre-teen boys who ended up sitting in the front row after much deliberation as to where to sit. (You saw a few of them popping up in the foreground of the video I posted last week.) In fact, John & Sue went out there on Sunday, the 31st, for the second movie, Star Trek II, and they're not regulars by any means, so if even they heard about it, then the FOL people are definitely doing their job right. (Sue posted about it on Facebook. She seemed pretty excited about being there.)
So as you've guessed by now, the Friday night movie was Sleeper, one of Woody Allen's rare forays into the realm of sci-fi/fantasy. I had seen it before, but looking at it now, I was surprised at how Chaplinesque it is in places, especially the first half. There are entire sections of the film where Woody doesn't speak, and it's a pleasant surprise to be reminded that he was almost as good at physical slapstick humor as he was at the verbal kind. There are also several chase sequences, some of which are sped up Keystone Kops-style. Indeed, the sheer number of visual gags is startling for a Woody movie. It's easy to forget how good he used to be at this sort of thing; in fact, the visual gags come across better than some of the now-dated verbal jokes.
It helped that Woody was gifted with such an equally funny on-screen partner as Diane Keaton. She's totally in sync with him in this movie, whether they're bickering, which they do a lot of here, or whether she's in on the sight gags with him. She's as much his comedic partner as his love interest, and she's a joy to watch.
When people talk about this period in cinematic sci-fi - roughly between 2001 and Star Wars - Sleeper hardly gets a mention, and maybe it should. Apparently Woody consulted with both Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova when putting together his screenplay, for one thing. The sci-fi gadgets, such as the futuristic cars, the jet pack, and of course, the Orgasmatron, have a stark, pared-down look which, when combined with the black and white color scheme in the clothing and architecture, make the look of the film slightly reminiscent of THX-1138, which came out two years earlier.
The future world of Sleeper may seem somewhat dystopian, but Woody clearly wasn't interested in going far in that direction, thematically. He just wants to have fun, and considering how little non-superhero sci-fi films care for humor these days, Sleeper almost comes across as subversive.