seen @ Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY
Watching a movie about the making of movies is a little like seeing how hot dogs are made. You may enjoy them, but witnessing the process that goes into how they're made has the potential to take away some of the enjoyment. Sometimes you just wanna surrender yourself to the magic spell they weave while you're watching them. Do you really need to know how Buster Keaton set up that shot where the wall falls on him but he stands where he won't get hurt to appreciate its awesomeness? Is knowing how many takes it took Bogey to say "Here's lookin' at you, kid" make hearing him say it in the finished product any better?
Still, I like plenty of movies about making movies, which is why I felt kinda let down with Hail, Caesar! Don't misunderstand; a half-baked Coen Brothers movie is still superior to 90% of the movies out there, and this one had lots to feast on, especially if you're a fan of Old Hollywood. Seeing modern actors like George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum in reasonable facsimiles of studio-era Hollywood movies is a reminder of the great contrast between the kind of movies we loved then and now.
That said, I wish I cared more about these characters. Josh Brolin leads the cast as a studio "fixer," the guy who sweeps potential scandals under the rug and keeps them out of the media, inspired by real-life MGM fixer Eddie Mannix (right down to the name). We see him do stuff like that, and we see him ponder leaving Hollywood for a new career, but none of it, to me, went much deeper than the surface.
The same goes for the other characters. It was like, okay, here are these actors we love in a 50s Hollywood setting, now let's watch them interact. I accept that not every movie the Coens make is gonna be No Country For Old Men or Fargo; in fact, I appreciate the fact that they're willing to let their hair down every once in awhile and not care about making movies that win Oscars. Still, Caesar didn't seem to have enough meat on its bones for me to be able to take it on its own terms. Also, it wasn't that funny.
I was flush this week, so I thought I'd take a trip back to the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers to see Caesar. I left three hours in advance and I still almost missed my showtime - and it's not like I had a lot of delays on the subways or buses. The bus from the 4 train takes longer to get to the Alamo than I remembered. About halfway during the ride, I looked intently out the front window to make sure I didn't miss my stop, and every time I thought I was close, I wasn't there yet.
The Alamo is part of a large strip mall set way back from the puny sidewalk, and there's this giant swath of parking space in between. It's ridiculous. The crosswalks are set fairly far apart on the straight, wide street with all its fast-moving cars. Within the parking lot, there's no safe place to walk until you get to the theater, which might as well be in another zip code. The entire area, not just the mall, is geared for the sole benefit of cars at the expense of people, and the worst part is this is by no means unusual.
And yet, the Alamo is totally worth going through all this trouble. I walked into the auditorium as the trailers played and flipped through the menu. I thought about trying their pizza, but I couldn't decide on which one to pick, and I didn't wanna miss the movie, so I settled on a chicken fingers-and-fries platter, with a glass of their awesome root beer. It was good (fries were a bit stiff though), but once again I marveled at simply being able to order restaurant-style food this way, with a wait staff to discreetly take my order and serve it at my seat as the movie plays. It's such a treat.
I just wish I could do this more often. A quick glance at the main Alamo website says that the downtown Brooklyn location is "coming soon." It can't come soon enough, in my opinion.