Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Essential Film Hit List, Part 1: The Envelope, Please...

After all of the groundwork, research, and hubbub last month, I have only so far watched five features. A nice start, 1/8th of the way towards my minimum viewing goal, but still a bit low for my standards. I'm a film lover, a man who would sweat out for new releases and trek for a few rare gems, a man who believes in the religion of the Criterion, and yet unable to push my daily schedule of rampant internet videos for a blooming 1978 martial arts flick?

To wet my appetite, I thought of starting off with something light, a delicate feather touch to my senses. It was going to be Death Wish, the rugged 70's vigilante bloodbath, both to get the ball rolling and a tribute to its recently departed director. However, Oscar season was fully in the air and, as usual, Turner Classic Movies was showing the contenders and winners of the majestic Hollywood award. So, instead of greasy genre fare, I started my prolonged dessert course with a rich Princess Cake, with extra marzipan and a side of whipped cream straight from London.

1946's Notorious has been one of the most acclaimed works of Alfred Hitchcock, and it greatly shows. The harsh violence comes more from internal attacks of the human body and the only gore is a ruptured wine bottle. Starring the dreamy duo of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, this spy thriller was a bonafide masterpiece.

Bergman is recruited by Grant to work for the U.S. government in a Nazi sting operation in Brazil. Due to her father being a convicted American traitor and her infamous party-going behavior, she blends in easy as she swindles a former lover played by Claude Rains. A sordid and tumultuous love triangle of course springs out, all the while investigating what is hidden behind closed doors, including the wine cellar.

The cinematography is just stunning to look at, always inventive and unique, from the backside introduction of Cary Grant's Devlin to the celebrated and astonishing crane shot at the house party, starting from the second floor set to a closeup of Bergman's closed hand. With Hitchcock at the helm, you know that the suspense will be palpable, as keys are flung about behind people's backs, silent observations are noted by Bergman and the audience, and stairways progress to a possible deadly shootout. Then, there's the controversial and steamy kissing scene that had censors fuming that the filmmakers worked around their "laws". A great way to start.

Next up would be one of the most requested films among my family members and friends, not to mention one of the most acclaimed Oscar films in terms of acting. Sophie's Choice ended up simply being good, certainly not grand as it wishes to be. Though Meryl Streep's performance is heartily justified, the film is a slogging chore of nearly three hours.

The opening reeks of book adaptation and asinine wackiness, as a young aspiring white writer, a Southern boy looking to craft the next great American novel, heads to 1947 New York. Horribly named Stingo, he stays at a boarding house covered in pink paint. That's not a conservative color, that's just silly! There, he befriends his upstairs neighbors, a couple whose generosity is matched by their manic dysfunction. Nathan, played by a film debuting Kevin Kline, is the source of all the troubles, a man who adores joie de vivre and Stingo until his drug addiction causes him to provoke and threaten the boy. Sophie, on the other hand, somehow can deal with Nathan's bipolar mood swings, dooming her chances of a better life. Of course, once her past is explored by Stingo, her hope has already died long ago.

Let's get the easy part out first: "the scene" is the absolute best moment. It may have been spoiled and referenced consistently since its release but it still easily stirs an emotional response from the viewer. Also, Streep is non-existent; I only see Sophie on the screen. However, when it wasn't dragging its feet to the obvious finish, the story was often flat, excluding Sophie's monologues and her past life in Poland. The turmoil between Sophie and Nathan is introduced so clumsily, as they fight on the stairway, blocked into stereotypical melodramatic poses, as Nathan yells how Sophie is "suffocating" him. I thought it was all a joke at first until I realized this would be the major moving force of the plot, repeating endlessly with make-up gifts, celebrations, and then more in-fighting. The other glaring error is that there is no romantic vibes between Stingo and Sophie at all, yet the narration says there is. It is not Peter MacNicol's fault, as the preppy Stingo, but the faults of Alan Pakula's writing and directing skills.

After the meh response to Sophie, I then started to embark on another three hour marathon, this time with way better results. Magnolia has always been the weirdest film from auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, a director who I have been having a hard time dealing with. I wanted to check out last year's The Master in theaters but spurned by the confusing critical reception and my own opinion of his last venture, the extremely overrated There Will Be Blood. Of the now six films for him, Magnolia is the one still mocked by the general public, even more so than the Adam Sandler-starring Punch-Drunk Love. For the longest time, beyond Tom Cruise's Oscar nominated performance and presence of raining frogs at some point, I've always linked the film to Kevin Smith's funny at the time Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, where there's a side-plot of the titled duo attacking online fans of the film. While that film has now languished in obscurity, hopefully with the future of Smith's career, Magnolia will continue to stand more out.

Like Sophie, the film is way too long, with a few minutes over three hours. Yet, I never was crushed by the soul-destroying environment of the San Fernando Valley or the slightly interconnected lives of its inhabitants and the film's main cast. Taking place over a long 24 hours, where the major hype of the day is a live broadcast of a long-running quiz show, several men and women from different classes and professionals are all placed in tough circumstances that will bring out the truth of their souls. A cancer-stricken and dying millionaire, his flippant trophy wife, the man's warmhearted male nurse, a decrepit television host, his self-destructive estranged daughter, a ridiculed child prodigy, a former quiz kid turned hapless adult, a goofy but fair beat cop, and a male chauvinist motivational speaker are the ones we see suffer for their past and present problems. Then, the frogs come raining down on them but not before sharing a rendition of an Aimee Mann song. And, the notion set up in the prologue and ending that cruel tricks in the cognitive tissue of life have happened and continue to do so.

Despite its oddities, the film was a visual blast, always moving with its striking cinematography and careful edits to make the internal clock of the human mind to be suspended. It's hard to rate the performances considering the multitude of heavyweights in the cast and the fact that each main and side character have an arc and a signature moment. If I had to, Cruise is certainly the most delightful and quotable, though he faces stiff competition with Julianne Moore with the latter. His character experiences the widest range, going from deliberately flamboyant to absolute mute. However, the best will have to go to John C. Reilly, in what has to be my favorite of his performances. Pretty much the sole morally good character, his cop is always on the straight and narrow and willing to forgive and forget the transgressions of others, unless there is a body in the closet.

As for All the King's Men, there sadly isn't much to say about it. It's good, well done at times to justify its Best Picture win, but it feels too straightforward. Broderick Crawford is stunning as Willie Stark, a hick whose outspoken attitude against the political machine and rampant corruption leads him to be the governor of Louisiana, only to then revel in his own egotism and dictatorship rule over the peons under his office. The rest of the cast is fine, though Joanne Dru's only acting tip is to quickly shake her head side to side. Mercedes McCambridge is entertaining in her award-winning supporting role but she quickly disappears to the sidelines once Willie is governor. The baffling final betrayal is a bit confusing to understand rationally: why does a certain character leak blackmail material to Stark to spite another character, despite having nothing really to gain for it and has no ill will towards someone who is family? Entertaining and certainly far, far better than the 2006 remake.

1945's Best Picture winner The Lost Weekend was noted as the first big win for writer/director Billy Wilder, one of my favorites, and for its then groundbreaking look at alcoholism. It certainly has all of the same great traits of Wilder, especially with running personal gags like Ray Milland's inability to put a cigarette in his mouth the right way. At first, I thought Milland would be too campy, as his eyes come beaming out during his monologues about the joys of liquor, but he eventually settles into a dark and hurtful performance as a struggling writer whose is driven to the bottle by his lack of success and public humiliation. The film buckles on to all of the chaos, scored to a comical theremin, leading to some devastating moments, such as a stint in a alcoholic's ward, complete with a hard-boiled, slang-happy male nurse played by Ernie, the taxi driver in It's a Wonderful Life. The major problem is the ending, where the melodrama grows stale and everything comes off like a fake PSA. All of the suspense, all of the horrors and all of the despair, only to end with an incredibly flat suicide attempt. Apparently, after looking up information, this was tacked on because of the still prevailing Hays Code. Damn you, Hays.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reaction to the Oscars

I thought the show was overall entertaining despite the prolonged segments, especially the opening number.

Back down to 12 even on my predictions. I blame Life of Pi.

Seth MacFarlane was funny and self-deprecating, always willing to mock himself. His risque and political incorrect jokes are now being attacked by many critics, some just and some nitpicking. Funny how years ago when Chris Rock was to host, everyone wanted him to bring his negative and condescending energy to his duties, only to watch him whimper like a flame. Or, how Billy Crystal last year wore blackface for a throwaway gag.

The opening number was really too long and nonsensical; why William Shatner as Kirk? The writers couldn't find another famous sci-fi character to "time travel" and warn MacFarlane of his performance? I did though enjoy the sight of Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron waltzing.

Using the Jaws theme as the "play off" music was hilarious.

Glad that two of my favorite actors of 2012 walked away with the gold.

The only award I had major problems was for Best Animated Feature. Brave is certainly not one of Pixar's best and shouldn't have been awarded for its mediocre efforts, especially compared to Wreck-It Ralph and ParaNorman.

As I expected, Lincoln was nearly shut-out except for Best Actor and Production Design.

Want to win an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling? Cut off everybody's hair and throw clown cake on their faces. Seriously, Les Miserables?

The so-called tribute to Bond was just a crummy mod-inspired YouTube video. Thankfully, Dame Shirley Bassey saved the day with a chilling rendition of "Goldfinger". She still got it. However, why couldn't Adele perform right after her, thus bridging the Bond musical gap?

Oh no, the popcorn ladies are back!

The Academy sure is still trying to stand by its decision to award Chicago Best Picture; the "All the Jazz" number really wasn't necessary and the cast reunion, sans John C. Reilly, was incredibly awkward. Renee Zellweger didn't want to be there or participate with the others. No wonder why her career has stalled.

Those Samsung commercials were really, really irksome.

Tony Kushner was punished for the horrible ending he crafted for Lincoln.

Quentin Tarantino had a nice speech for his Best Original Screenplay win. Glad he won that race.

Ang Lee got Best Director. Once I heard him announced as the winner, I had recollections to his previous win, which saw his Brokeback Mountain lose at the finale. The deja vu became reality when Jack Nicholson came out later.

Poor Jennifer Lawrence. Her dress nearly ruined her moment. Now, let's see if Kristen Stewart, zombie leg and all, can do her better. Probably not.

Gee, Streep. Way to announce the winner for Best Actor. No suspense at all.

Michelle Obama, bringing the political glamour to the proceedings.

Argo winning was a very nice sendoff. His Best Director snub will remain in history but that speech Affleck delivered was really moving. Made all of the hardwork, controversy, and celebration worth it.

MacFarlane may not be back but let's see what next year will bring.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscar Predictions and Thoughts

Of course, these are my predictions to win, not what or who I wish would win.

Best Picture: Argo

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

Best Director: Michael Haneke, Amour

Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln

Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Animated Film: ParaNorman

Best Foreign Film: Amour

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Best Film Editing: William Goldenberg, Argo

Best Production Design: Lincoln

Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater, and Tami Lane, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Documentary: How to Survive a Plague

Best Documentary (Short Subject): Mondays at Racine

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, Argo

Best Original Song: "Skyfall", Skyfall

Best Animated Short Film: Paperman

Best Live Action Short Film: Buzkashi Boys

Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Mixing: Argo

Best Visual Effects: Prometheus

Oh boy, this year is truly exciting since it can go anywhere. Look at Best Picture: Everybody was saying Zero Dark Thirty but the controversy lead to the switch to the easy choice Lincoln, only to have Argo lead the race with wins elsewhere and even without the beloved Best Director nomination for Ben Affleck. Of the nominees, I do want Argo to win and stick it to the losers who voted against Affleck.

The Best Actress race hurts me, since both Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence are two of my favorite actors working today. Between the two, I thought Lawrence's performance was far better and will coincide with Hathaway's eventual win to showcase the new, young wave of Hollywood actresses (even though Chastain is only 35).

Since Argo is expected to win, the Best Director race is a bit inconclusive to decide. I'm picking Haneke as the winner. Zeitlin is too young and relatively unknown, Spielberg and Lee already have wins for better films, and I believe Russell will be skipped over for the Austrian provocateur.

Best Animated Film is between Brave, ParaNorman, and Wreck-It Ralph. Despite winning at the Globes, I don't think Pixar will win this year, given the polarizing opinion of the film.

Remember When Actual Pop Songs Were Nominated and Would Win Best Original Song? Part 3: Obviously, "Skyfall" will finally break the streak and be the first Billboard charting single to win the award in quite awhile.

See you on Monday with reactions to the awards.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Top 10 "Worst" Razzie Nominations and Winners

Tomorrow, the Golden Raspberry Awards return to their proper night for their ceremony, right before Academy Awards. "Honoring" the fine men and women who brought the worst films imaginable, as set forth by John Wilson, back in 1980. Because of these festivities, we have the dark elements of pop culture forever on display, in order to show future generations the stupidity people had to sit through in theaters. Unfortunately, like many award shows, there is debate to what was included and even won. This is my view on the failures of the Razzies.

In order to be picked, I have to have a real strong dislike for what the Razzies have done and willing to defend it. For instance, the attack on Sly Stallone and his 1985 two films, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV, can be debatable due to the merits and sheer dumb intentions of those films. And, as always, I need to have seen the films.

Before we embark on the list, let's get some honorable mentions that I didn't seem fit to discuss more about: One of the 1980's 15-minutes of fame winners, Angelyne was nominated for Earth Girls Are Easy despite having a very minor cameo. Die-hard fans of The Ramones may loathe the song but "Pet Sematary" isn't really bad at all; just another pop-punk ditty. I don't remember anything of ill will in Harvey Keitel's supporting performance in The Last Temptation of Christ to warrant a nomination. The same goes with Demi Moore's "win" for G.I. Jane. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of Annie but beyond its notoriety at the time of being a major bomb, it really didn't warrant such dishonors, especially compared to the other awful kids' film that year, The Pirate Movie. Jim Carrey certainly wasn't one of the Worst New Stars of 1994 for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Betsy Palmer got the bad rap for her shocking and risky turn in Friday the 13th. And finally, Cruising has grown in the years since his controversial filming and release in 1981, capturing a now lost era of New York, unlike the still-unreleased and more infuriatingly homophobic Windows.

10. The Joe Eszterhas Worst-Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million Award (1996)

Every now and then, the Razzies create a new category either to skew one of the repeated offenders or to mock Hollywood trends. The success of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was a mighty big thorn in their side, so they crafted a commemorative category for him, designed to include audience favorites that did well in the box office. How this was not brought back up during the Twilight years is anyone's guess. The problem is that all of its nominations didn't really truly and absolutely stink in the story: Independence Day and the "winner" Twister were just exciting big-budget B-movies, A Time to Kill is pretty harrowing at times and has a famous if clumsy monologue, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame actually touches upon themes truly shocking to see in a Disney film. The last nominee, Mission: Impossible, I can kinda see fitting since the complicated multiple betrayals are still hard to understand but the film was still entertaining.

9. Robing Hood: Prince of Dweebs (Thieves): Worst Actor (Kevin Costner) (1991)

Yes, Costner didn't even try for a British accent for the movie but he was enjoyable as the renowned outlaw. The reason he is on this list is the fact that he "won" the award largely for such a small excuse compared to his opponents: an unfunny misogynist in his own concert film (Andrew Dice Clay, Dice Rules), a failed attempt to forego action heroics for stilted comedy (Sylvester Stallone, Oscar), an unbearable walking experience of egotism (Bruce Willis, Hudson Hawk), and a graduate of Prince's Academy of Singers Who Can't Act (Vanilla Ice, Cool as Ice). Then, there's the other actors who were off the list but deserving to replace Costner, like Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold (though he was included as Worst New Star) and Chevy Chase in Nothing But Trouble.

8. Brian De Palma: Worst Director (1980, 1983)

Long mocked for being a Hitchcock plagiarist, De Palma did rightly get his just desserts with multiple nominations, including Worst Director, for his helming of the colossal, catastrophic adaptation of The Bonfire of the Vanities. However, the man was unfairly picked upon in the past. Though I can't defend his work on 1984's Body Double, since I still haven't seen it, he did do wonders with 1981's Dressed to Kill and especially in the now iconic Scarface, which was noteworthy among harsh critics in 1983 for its graphic violence.

7. The Supporting Actresses of Sci-Fi (1993, 1997)

Sandra Bullock, Milla Jovovich, and Uma Thurman all received proper justice for other films but some of their standout performances were unwisely given the raspberry treatment. Sandra Bullock broke through in Hollywood with her charming, deliberately dim-witted turn as a futuristic police officer in Demolition Man yet had to suffer dishonor at the 1993 Razzies. The same went for Jovovich and Thurman in 1997. Jovovich ran the gamut of crazy in The Fifth Element as the sexy titled character while Thurman channeled Julie Newmar as the very campy Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, often heralded by critics as the sole redeeming thing from that fiasco.

6. S.O.B.: Worst Director, Worst Screenplay (1981)

Blake Edwards has had a very checkered career when it comes to his films and his choice of comedy. I certainly did not like his 1989 film Sunset, which he shared the award for Worst Director with Steward Raffill for Mac and Me (a FAR worst film!). But attacking one of the funniest satires of the 1970's, the attitudes of New Hollywood, and his own life and career? I call bull.

5. No Love for Electronica (1981, 1982, 1985)

The Worst Musical Score category fell be the wayside in 1985, after six years of largely unfair attacks at scores that often used synthesizers and created moody landscapes. I may let Giorgio Moroder's score for the re-edit version of Metropolis to continue be laughed at but certainly not Tangerine Dream for Thief, Vince DiCola for Rocky IV (which "won" in 1985), and most especially John Carpenter for The Thing.

4. The Blair Witch Project: Worst Actress (Heather Donahue) (1999)

A way too, too easy target for the Razzies, Heather Donahue's widely parodied performance as a lost and scared documentarian is and forever shall be one of the most famous in film's history. It helped usher the film and the found footage horror genre into serious discussion. Looking back at her fellow contenders that year, it seemed the Razzies had to bite the bullet, as the other nominees weren't truly memorable in their badness.

3. Attacking the Action Heroes (1993)

Cliffhanger and Last Action Hero. One is a rip-roaring action film set in the mountains while the others mocks Hollywood conventions literally inside a Hollywood world. Of the two, I still truly enjoy Cliffhanger far more though Hero has more depth in the thinking department. Even after reading all about the production problems, I still think the Schwarzenegger vehicle is fun to a degree. However, the Razzies always have to mock Stallone and Schwarzenegger whenever they can, giving them multiple nominations for these films. I could argue against John Lithgow and Janine Turner getting bad notices or the attacks at their scripts but the very real problem lies in the Worst Picture category. These two action films were given slots, only to most likely lose to one of three sexual thrillers that year (Sliver, Body of Evidence, and the "winner" Indecent Proposal), over much, much more deserving fare: Cop and a Half, Son of the Pink Panther, the failed remake of Born Yesterday, and most especially, one of my most hated films of all time and winner of Worst Director, Boxing Helena.

2. The Shining: Worst Director and Worst Actress (Shelly Duvall) (1980)

I don't have to describe why these two nominations for one of the most perennial horror films is sheer stupid. Just watch the film. I will mention that these came from the very first "ceremony" of the Razzies, when the committee was just John Wilson and a pile of his friends and their show was at his tiny living room alcove in Hollywood.

1. Razzies Go Political (2004, 2011)

For the 2004 awards, the Razzies nearly destroyed everything they ever accomplished, all to seek publicity in a tumultuous time in American history. For the first and last time, a film that was largely deemed top quality, successful with critics and audiences and even the winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, had multiple nominations. The film was Fahrenheit 9/11, the latest documentary from political provocateur Michael Moore. Just to spite the Bush administration, the Razzie committee had the film nominated for Worst Actor (George W. Bush), Worst Supporting Actor (Donald Rumsfeld), Worst Supporting Actress (Britney Spears and Condoleezza Rice), and Worst Screen Couple. Bush, Rumsfeld, and Spears would later win. There was much outcry for all of this, mostly accurate. The fact that a high caliber documentary, regardless of your political attitudes, would get nominate for anything ruins the whole motive of the awards; bringing reality and personal/national pain into something specifically designed to lampoon narrative drivel and egocentric individuals is a giant culture clash. Then, there's the fact that these political targets won their "awards". What is particularly distressing, and shows how shallow they could get, is that the Razzies wanted to dig at Britney Spears one more time so her extremely brief (i.e. a soundbite) appearance in the doc warranted an award. The Razzies quickly learned their lesson, going back to true blue movies in their nominations. All until the 2011 awards, where Sarah Palin was nominated for the documentary The Undefeated, despite the fact she doesn't appear in it (only in voice-over and clips) and had no part in the beyond terrible propaganda piece (her voice-over came from her audio-book readings of "Going Rogue", which the producers got the rights to). Mocking the idiots on all sides of Washington and cable television is one thing; mixing it with Bill Cosby riding an ostrich, Pia Zadora vanity movies, and the horribleness of Eddie Murphy is another thing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Side Effects - Review

For the so-called final Steven Soderbergh film to be screened in theaters, which you can easily take with a grain of salt, SIDE EFFECTS is a way to go out on. The psychological thriller is a nicely underplayed movie whose messages and answers reside in the silence. It features a cast of characters who believe in the power of prescribed medicine yet do not notice that they all are forever in the dark about what a drug can do to the human system, including the ones studying, prescribing and pushing them out to the public. It also actively plays with your plot expectations but this decision by Soderbergh and buddy/writer Scott Z. Burns may prove distasteful for those expecting a smear job to the Prozac Nation.

Rooney Mara plays Emily, a young woman whose life should be for the better, now that her husband (Channing Tatum) is finally released after a lengthy prison stay. Instead, the reconnection is just another strike to her debilitating self-esteem and psyche. After a failed suicide attempt, she is placed under the care of Dr. Banks (Jude Law), a hotshot psychiatrist with a beautiful wife and kid and a popular candidate by drug companies for pushing their new medicine. After testing out other choices and some consideration from Emily's previous doctor (Catherine Zeta-Jones), he prescribes to her a new anti-depressant drug on the market called Ablixa to curb her suicidal tendencies. Though it seemingly cures her, she starts to suffer odd effects to the new drug, all leading up to a shocking turn of events and a major twist to the story's structure.

This twist does hamper the film's supposed theme of how the world has become depended on prescription medicine and humans are now the forever test patients for major corporations. Soderbergh's builds and fortifies the theme with his popular acid glow visual aesthetics and suffocating close-ups or crowd shots only to then swipe the board clean and start anew. Despite this egregious thematic misdireciton, the second half is compelling and thankfully continues the psychological thrills. It does lead up to some exciting shocks and an ending that is both fulfilling to the audience, story-wise and film-wise, while also being a depressing, exploitative answer to human misery. The cast is overall great, with Mara and Law spending most of the time in focus as two unstable balls of confusion and loathing. It's a dark mystery but it proves to be enticing enough to come under its sway.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Ode to a Movie Theater: Latham Circle 10

As part of restructuring of its resources and common business sense, Regal Cinemas has chosen to close down its two most severely under-performing theaters, located in the malls of Wilton and Latham Circle. This is especially distressing for Latham, a mall that has endured constant hardships and turned into a extremely quiet cemetery of lost businesses.

The earliest film I can remember ever watching there was The Rescuers Down Under, way back in 1990. The only evidence I have of this claim is the precious memory of extensive staring at the "enormous" display for it while one of my parents wrestled getting tickets.

Due to the small confines of the second floor construction, everything important beyond the box office had to snug up all of the walls. To the left, eerily placed by the cutoff, was the arcade, devoted to the usual fare of UFO catchers, a racing cabinets, and at least one light-gun shoot-em-up. To this last day, there were few if ever changes to the video game lineup; seeing a beat-up neon yellow and pink Virtual Cop cabinet nowadays is a rare sight. The right side catered to the sole bathrooms of the entire floor. And, of course, straight in the middle was the concession stand with all of the crunchy snacks, bubbly sodas, and "fresh" popcorn to be dispensed out. Bypassing this triangle formation of noise, food, and stench lies the theaters.

The Latham theaters have had the pleasure of being the place where I saw the highs and lows of the Hollywood creative scale, particularly in recent times. In order to use an expiring Regal "Free Movie Ticket", I went there to be shocked and awed by the despicable attitudes of Jack and Jill. Not content with merely testing my pain and abuse levels to a certain degree, I also trekked there to see The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, able to see it before it left the very next day, barely surviving one week at Regal's theaters. I even whipped up a false story to justify the ticket purchase to the dumbfounded worker, concocting a tale of how I lost a bet against my dastardly step-brother over a Cowboys game. I still even have the free glow-wand that came with the ticket. Despite these massive failures, they were no match to the wonderment I had at Latham watching WALL-E, still one of my favorite films of all time.

As the years flew by and the mall began its slow march to destitute, heavily overshadowed by the bigger and better malls around the Capital Region that wisely made renovations and additions to their structures, the theater stayed open and grasped at whatever it had left to offer for viewers. It was the only Regal theater in the market to still showcase films on real celluloid instead of digital files. Due to the smaller theaters, they offered a more personal environment for audiences; I often was the only person there to see something and always had a blast, regardless of the film's quality. Latham did have one especially unique fare to present: Bollywood films. I and other diverse patrons got to watch works such as Robot, Dum Maaro Dum, and Ra.One. Unfortunately, the rising popularity of this market would be transplanted to Crossgates, thus removing the last vestige of Latham Circle 10.

The very last film I engaged here was Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects. It joins the likes of Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Waterboy, Watchmen, Punisher: War Zone, Tron Legacy and many others whose viewing memories are locked away or grayed out in my cerebral cortex.

This closing is the final nail for the Latham Circle Mall.