Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy 40th, Cornell Cinema

After yesterday's sad news, I'm all too happy to follow up with a celebration. I have loved and will continue to love plenty of campus cinemas in my time, but the dearest to my heart will always be Cornell Cinema, split between two generous-sized, single-screen facilities on Cornell University's campus in Ithaca, New York. Last December when I wrote my End of the 00s series commemorating my favorite filmgoing experiences of the decade, Cornell Cinema figured again and again, and I could hardly isolate a favorite. Getting knocked backward by Pola X? Finally "getting" Raging Bull? Xala? Absorbing the full, nine hours of Shoah in full, harrowing scale? The Scarlet Empress, looking infinitely better than even the subsequent Criterion DVD? demonlover? In This World? Howling at I'm the One that I Want? Going gaga over a brand-new and flawless print of Persona, maybe the best film ever made? Swooning over the final shot of The Green Ray, as is only possible in a celluloid projection? 11'09"01? Laura? The Cremaster Cycle? Meeting Tarkovsky and Herzog for the first time in the massive scopes they intended, and so miraculously achieved? The Corporation? Fanny and Alexander? Three out of four nights of Morvern Callar, my favorite film of the 00s? Grooving to Ghost Dog? Giggling like a kid at Bring It On? The traveling Dorothy Arzner retrospective? Marveling at El sol del membrillo, which would otherwise be impossible to see? Seeing Holiday for the first time, and having the luck to do so on a giant, shimmering screen? Having a second date with You Can Count on Me, months after the first one, and feeling like a much-beloved sibling had dropped back into town?

For six years in Ithaca, my movie madness and I could always count on Cornell Cinema and its tireless director, Mary Fessenden, and its managing director, Chris Riley. They were even nice enough to pay me small sums to write calendar blurbs, which I was so happy to do I held on for a year or so after I'd moved away and dropped off the payroll. Just about every year, they have to wheedle the student government and the Cornell administration for enough funding to barely scrape by. Imagine if the Angelika or the Film Forum had to grovel annually to every hipster in the Lower East Side, when the groveling clearly ought to go the other way. Once my ship finally comes in, Cornell Cinema is getting its own permanent berth, by which I mean, a check. The best incentive to get tenure and earn a raise is the prospect of giving back to all the people and organizations that taught me anything, and Cornell Cinema taught me a lot.

Happy 40th, Cornell Cinema, and good for you for throwing yourself a great party. Anyone in upstate New York should attend without a second thought. And if Cornell Cinema means nothing to you, but nonprofit movie theaters, repertory cinemas, campus film societies, revival houses, film archives, or university-based programs in film and media studies mean anything to you, then throw some love this weekend to the one you love the best. If love takes the form of some dinero on this occasion, all the better.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Ed Howard said...

Yeah, as I think I've told you before, I have very fond memories of Cornell Cinema as well. My favorite moment was getting to see Gerry at a private screening in Willard Straight when I was doing the Cornell Cinema column for the Daily Sun. But there were so many others. In some ways, Cornell Cinema was responsible for really setting me on the path to learning about movies; it was through seeing movies on campus that I started to get really excited about film, and I had so many opportunities to see great stuff there that I wouldn't have had the chance to see otherwise. Hell, I got to see a trio of Warren Sonbert shorts there, and though I've ached to see more since then — or just to see those same ones again — I've had to be content with my memory of those rare screenings.

7:56 AM, June 25, 2010  
Blogger Nick Duval said...

Lovely write-up and great memories. Cornell Cinema sounds awesome.

11:21 AM, June 26, 2010  

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