NEW MOVIES: Theaters are reopening, so are our perspectives


Movie theaters re-opened in New York on March 5. They re-opened in Los Angeles on March 19.

And just like that, the Hollywood apparatus begins to grind. Now that movies can play in theaters in the largest markets, studios will return to the theatrical model. We’ll get our summer popcorn movies in the cineplexes. We’ll return to the old cycles — prestige movies in the fall and winter, cheap horror at the tail end of summer and in February.

But while things will be back to some sort of normal soon, I imagine some things will never be the same.

The models adopted by Warner Bros. and Disney will stick around — some films will continue to open simultaneously in movie houses and on subscription streaming services. You might have to pay extra to view a hot property in the first weeks after release. Having been validated by awards nominations and critical attention, Netflix and Amazon Prime will continue to produce content primarily for their streaming customers while showcasing a few projects per year in theaters.

Cinephiles, filmmakers and critics will continue to discuss what exactly makes a movie a movie as opposed to a television show, while the population at large grows more and more medium neutral, willing and able to consume the product on whatever screen they find handiest.

Here at the movies desk, we’ll continue to try to figure stuff out as we go along. We broke a lot of our own rules this past year without anyone getting killed or caught. We pledge to do more of the same once we get back to a routine, which is to say that we pledge to try to avoid getting into a routine in the first place. We’ll have more movie movies to write about going forward, but we’re still going to pay attention to the streaming world. We’re still going to pay attention to DVD releases too, even though more and more people are electing for ones and zeros over plastic shimmy discs.

I like my physical media — even after downsizing, we still have a DVD collection that runs into the high three digits. But I also like not having the clutter that having thousands of DVDs and CDs entails. I probably could live without the files stored on hard drives; these days, almost everything can be accessed with a few keystrokes and clicks.

Still, there’s pleasure in owning things like the just-released “Alejandro Jodorowsky: 4K Restoration Collection” from ABKCO (an outfit I still associate with Allen Klein, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Kinks, et. al.: ABKCO stands for “Allen and Betty Klein Company” and its history is fascinating).

The set includes the Chilean underground auteur’s first feature “Fando y Lis,” his 1970 acid western “El Topo,” and 1973’s surrealist psychedelic epic “The Holy Mountain,” partially financed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The set also includes “Psychomagic, A Healing Art,” Jodorowsky’s 2019 documentary about his theories of “trauma therapy.”

There’s a bit of case candy included — a 78-page book of photos and essays, a two-sided poster, some postcards and CDs with the scores of “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain.” Like most physical media these days, it’s a rather esoteric, high-quality item that will either increase in value or be regarded as worthless junk.

It’s priced from $64 to $599 at various resellers; Amazon’s best price as of this writing is $74.17 plus $3.19 shipping. I’ll consider offers at the higher end of this range. (Kidding. But some people really like their Jodorowsky.)

Another thing I need to address is the way we assign grades to movies here. I know I need to do this because it has been a couple of years since I’ve attempted to explain our system, and the philosophy behind it.

I recently explained the rating system to our Platform Diving columnist Courtney Lanning, who may — in a week when she’s the only voice chiming in on a given film — be called upon to assign one. She’s not done that before, so I explained the system (which is loosely based on wine critic Robert Parker’s scale) to her this way:

85 is a perfectly fine movie. 84 is not necessarily recommended but redeemable. 80 is meh. 75 is pretty bad. 70 is a crime against art. 69 and below are crimes against humanity (see “Bubble Boy”).

90 is the best movie of the year. 89 is a Top 10 film of the year. 88 is a Top 50 film. You really enjoyed your 87. 86 is pretty good.

91 is a classic. 92 is “Citizen Kane,””The Searchers” and “Hiroshima, Mon Amor.” And “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Last Picture Show.”

So almost every movie falls somewhere between 75 and 88; which is about right considering most movies are ordinary movies.

I don’t like assigning grades to films because everybody sees a slightly (or radically) different film depending on what they bring to the collaboration. And the prime reason to write about movies is not to rank them in some order, but to discover whatever fresh avenues of delight they offer.

I want people to read the review, not look at whether the thumb is pointed up or down.

But people use the newspaper in ways other than those that, those of us who produce it would sanction. So we bow to convention occasionally, offering our necks to the crowd.

Which we will soon be able to do again, if enough of us get vaccinated.


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