It’s Sunday, the same Sunday as the 2012 Oscars and my sister, my 94 year old mom and I are going to the Manlius Art Cinema to see The Artist which will probably win almost every prize at the Oscar presentations tonight. First of all, I don’t think I have ever gone to see an Oscar nominated film on the day of the Oscar ceremonies so, goofy me, it intensifies my enjoyment of the outing. Second of all, my sister has talked my mom into going with us. She doesn’t go out a lot lately, especially since it is winter and she is too vain to wear her boots (like us when we were teenagers). We are happy to have her with us. Third of all, The Artist is a silent movie and our mom remembers silent movies from the twenties when they were actually the only kind of movies there were. She wanted to know if someone was going to play the piano. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy a silent movie, but I was sure I would enjoy mom’s reactions to it.
We saw this silent movie at a small local theater called the Manlius Art Cinema. This theater was built in the 1920’s and also experienced first-hand the silent movie era. We were basically in a time machine shuttling back and forth between the early years of two different centuries. The Manlius Art Cinema sounds far grander than it is. It has fallen on hard times, as have the rest of us and has not been refurbished in many years. Jerk Magazine wrote about the cinema.
I’m not kidding when I say that this is a tiny, old, historical movie theater. I felt like I was walking into a trailer. There’s only one screen. Ghetto fabulous. But here’s the thing: without the tight space, the low seats, the old-fashion persona of the place, there would be no sense of history or old-school cinema feel. From the moment I stepped into the cinema, I felt like I walked into another time zone. It was all very twilight zone except without all the science fiction and horror sequences.
The owner of the theater, still Nat Tobin, always speaks to his film audiences before the viewing. He welcomes us, tells some history of the theater and of the movie , and he announces what he and Eileen will be screening next. I am sitting at the very edge of the theater next to the wall. In front of me is a little dry ditch cut into the concrete floor and a mesh bag of those drying crystals we use in basements, which suggest the theater is not always dry. Ghetto fabulous, I guess, but although it is not glamorous, I am not freaked out by this either. It’s sort of endearing and we are lucky to have this couple who spend their lives showing us movies that other theaters do not find it profitable to screen.
The lights go down and we are swept away into the world of George (Dad’s name) Valentin and his sweet dog and Peppy Miller and it is far sadder than I thought it would be. When my mom and my sister start going for their tissues I know it is a success. They always cry together at movies. I do not cry at movies very often these days, but my eyes feel suspiciously wet. These two, George and Peppy, had megawatt smiles. When they were not sad and they smiled it seemed as if the lights went on all over the world. And Peppy, who seemed a light-weight at first, ended up being someone who really stood by her man. We thoroughly enjoyed this timely adventure in timelessness. Afterwards we eschewed the minimalist confines of the Chipotle Grill for an old timber and oak, classic, meat-and-potatoes restaurant (Scotch and Sirloin) with lots of handsome waiters dressed, oddly enough, in long white butcher’s coats. We were seated a bit too close to the service bar, but we enjoyed our post theater supper very much and we were home in time to see the Oscars. Lovely!