Secret Cinema—hosted by Rob Harmon—screens a double feature Sat., Mar. 7, at 7 PM

Best Video Film & Cultural Center staffer Rob Harmon hosts a semi-regular cult film series under the rubric “Secret Cinema.” The next Secret Cinema takes place Saturday, Mar. 7, at 7 PM. Along with the night’s movie, Rob shows relevant film trailers and cranks up the Best Video popcorn machine for cinema-appropriate snacking.​

For this edition of Secret Cinema, Rob hosts a double feature.

Secret Cinema is free but donations to support Best Video Film & Cultural Center and its programming are always welcome. For more info (including what the movie titles are), call BVFCC at (203) 287-9286 or email Rob at secretcinemact@gmail.com.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Movie trivia night with Rob Harmon & Kate Bellmore Mon., Mar. 2, at 7:30 PM

So you think you know movies?

Best Video Film & Cultural Center returns with a monthly movie trivia night—yet to be given a catchy name—on Monday, Mar. 2. The event starts at 7:30 PM and admission is a suggested donation of $5.

The Best Video Movie Trivia Night is hosted by BVFCC staffer Rob Harmon and BVFCC member Kate Bellmore.

This is a team trivia event comprised of four rounds of quizzing with ten questions per round, for a total of forty questions. Questions cover a wide range of cinema-related (and “cinema-adjacent”) material: film facts, box office statistics, store facts, film score, television, reviews, among others.

No portable electronic devices of any kind may be used during gameplay under any circumstances. Competitors may not shout out answers during gameplay, attempt to look at answer sheets of other teams, or approach the executive producers’ table during gameplay. If a team is suspected of violating any of these rules, the executive producers reserve the right to disqualify the entire team for the individual round in which the offense occurred or the entire competition. Teams will be limited to a six-player maximum to allow as many people as possible to participate.

Teams write their answers on a prepared form provided by BVFCC. Answers must be written legibly in English. The executive producers reserve the right to disqualify any answers they judge to be too illegible to be considered correct.

Where proper names of film/tv/musics are concerned, a correct answer requires that the full name be given. For example, if the correct answer is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, an answer of “The Grinch” is marked incorrect. In the case of people, giving the last name is acceptable except in cases where there are multiple people with the same last name and the intent is unclear. For example, if the correct answer is “Kevin Smith,” an answer of “Smith” is not specific enough and marked incorrect. But, if the correct answer is “Martin Scorsese,” a response of “Scorsese” is considered correct.

Each question will be worth one point, with any extra credit questions being worth an additional point. Scoring points for extra credit questions requires answering the base question correctly in order to be eligible.

Every team has one joker to use. The Joker, when used, allows a team to double the total points earned in a round. Jokers do not double extra credit points. After a team writes all of their answers down, if they wish to use their joker, they must write “JOKER” in large, unmistakable print on their answer sheet before it is turned in for scoring. The Joker may only be used once.

After all questions are asked in a round, teams are allowed one minute to complete their answer sheets and submit them to the executive producers for scoring. Any late answer sheets will not be scored and the team will score zero points for the round. Cumulative totals of all teams will then be read before the next round begins.

After all rounds are scored, the team with the highest overall score is declared the winner. All scoring, as decided by the executive producers, is final.

Bring your friends and test your knowledge of film trivia! The trivia night will be held the first Monday of each month unless holidays or other reasons for shifting the date intrude.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Secret Cinema, hosted by Rob Harmon, screens a secret movie Mon., Feb. 24

Best Video Film & Cultural Center staffer Rob Harmon hosts a semi-regular cult film series under the rubric “Secret Cinema.” The next Secret Cinema takes place Monday, Feb. 24, at 8 PM. Along with the night’s movie, Rob shows relevant film trailers and cranks up the Best Video popcorn machine for cinema-appropriate snacking.​

Secret Cinema is free but donations to support Best Video Film & Cultural Center and its programming are always welcome. For more info, call BVFCC at (203) 287-9286 or email Rob at secretcinemact@gmail.com.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Film screening: Rob Harmon’s Secret Cinema takes place Mon., Feb. 10, at 8 PM

Best Video Film & Cultural Center staffer Rob Harmon hosts a semi-regular cult film series under the rubric “Secret Cinema.” The next Secret Cinema takes place Monday, Feb. 10, at 8 PM. Along with the night’s movie, Rob shows relevant film trailers and cranks up the Best Video popcorn machine for cinema-appropriate snacking.​

Secret Cinema is free but donations to support Best Video Film & Cultural Center and its programming are always welcome. For more info, including what the movie is, call BVFCC or email Rob at secretcinemact@gmail.com.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Movie trivia night at Best Video on Mon., Feb. 3, at 7:30 PM

So you think you know movies?

Best Video Film & Cultural Center returns with a monthly movie trivia night—yet to be given a catchy name—on Monday, Feb. 3. The event starts at 7:30 PM and admission is a suggested donation of $5.

The Best Video Movie Trivia Night is hosted by BVFCC staffer Rob Harmon and BVFCC member Kate Bellmore.

This is a team trivia event comprised of four rounds of quizzing with ten questions per round, for a total of forty questions. Questions cover a wide range of cinema-related (and “cinema-adjacent”) material: film facts, box office statistics, store facts, film score, television, reviews, among others.

No portable electronic devices of any kind may be used during gameplay under any circumstances. Competitors may not shout out answers during gameplay, attempt to look at answer sheets of other teams, or approach the executive producers’ table during gameplay. If a team is suspected of violating any of these rules, the executive producers reserve the right to disqualify the entire team for the individual round in which the offense occurred or the entire competition. Teams will be limited to a six-player maximum to allow as many people as possible to participate.

Teams write their answers on a prepared form provided by BVFCC. Answers must be written legibly in English. The executive producers reserve the right to disqualify any answers they judge to be too illegible to be considered correct.

Where proper names of film/tv/musics are concerned, a correct answer requires that the full name be given. For example, if the correct answer is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, an answer of “The Grinch” is marked incorrect. In the case of people, giving the last name is acceptable except in cases where there are multiple people with the same last name and the intent is unclear. For example, if the correct answer is “Kevin Smith,” an answer of “Smith” is not specific enough and marked incorrect. But, if the correct answer is “Martin Scorsese,” a response of “Scorsese” is considered correct.

Each question will be worth one point, with any extra credit questions being worth an additional point. Scoring points for extra credit questions requires answering the base question correctly in order to be eligible.

Every team has one joker to use. The Joker, when used, allows a team to double the total points earned in a round. Jokers do not double extra credit points. After a team writes all of their answers down, if they wish to use their joker, they must write “JOKER” in large, unmistakable print on their answer sheet before it is turned in for scoring. The Joker may only be used once.

After all questions are asked in a round, teams are allowed one minute to complete their answer sheets and submit them to the executive producers for scoring. Any late answer sheets will not be scored and the team will score zero points for the round. Cumulative totals of all teams will then be read before the next round begins.

After all rounds are scored, the team with the highest overall score is declared the winner. All scoring, as decided by the executive producers, is final.

Bring your friends and test your knowledge of film trivia! The trivia night will be held the first Monday of each month unless holidays or other reasons for shifting the date intrude.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Film Screening: Rob Harmon hosts Secret Cinema Mon., Jan. 13, at 8 PM

Best Video Film & Cultural Center staffer Rob Harmon hosts a semi-regular cult film series under the rubric “Secret Cinema.” The next Secret Cinema takes place Monday, Jan. 13, at 8 PM. Along with the night’s movie, Rob shows relevant film trailers and cranks up the Best Video popcorn machine for cinema-appropriate snacking.​

Secret Cinema is free but donations to support Best Video Film & Cultural Center and its programming are always welcome. For more info and the name of the film, email Rob at secretcinemact@gmail.com or call at (203) 287-9286.

Best Video’s monthly movie trivia night returns Mon., Jan. 6, at 7:30 PM

So you think you know movies?

Best Video Film & Cultural Center returns with a monthly movie trivia night—yet to be given a catchy name—on Monday, Jan. 6. The event starts at 7:30 PM and admission is a suggested donation of $5.

The Best Video Movie Trivia Night is hosted by BVFCC staffer Rob Harmon and BVFCC member Kate Bellmore.

This is a team trivia event comprised of four rounds of quizzing with ten questions per round, for a total of forty questions. Questions cover a wide range of cinema-related (and “cinema-adjacent”) material: film facts, box office statistics, store facts, film score, television, reviews, among others.

No portable electronic devices of any kind may be used during gameplay under any circumstances. Competitors may not shout out answers during gameplay, attempt to look at answer sheets of other teams, or approach the executive producers’ table during gameplay. If a team is suspected of violating any of these rules, the executive producers reserve the right to disqualify the entire team for the individual round in which the offense occurred or the entire competition. Teams will be limited to a six-player maximum to allow as many people as possible to participate.

Teams write their answers on a prepared form provided by BVFCC. Answers must be written legibly in English. The executive producers reserve the right to disqualify any answers they judge to be too illegible to be considered correct.

Where proper names of film/tv/musics are concerned, a correct answer requires that the full name be given. For example, if the correct answer is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, an answer of “The Grinch” is marked incorrect. In the case of people, giving the last name is acceptable except in cases where there are multiple people with the same last name and the intent is unclear. For example, if the correct answer is “Kevin Smith,” an answer of “Smith” is not specific enough and marked incorrect. But, if the correct answer is “Martin Scorsese,” a response of “Scorsese” is considered correct.

Each question will be worth one point, with any extra credit questions being worth an additional point. Scoring points for extra credit questions requires answering the base question correctly in order to be eligible.

Every team has one joker to use. The Joker, when used, allows a team to double the total points earned in a round. Jokers do not double extra credit points. After a team writes all of their answers down, if they wish to use their joker, they must write “JOKER” in large, unmistakable print on their answer sheet before it is turned in for scoring. The Joker may only be used once.

After all questions are asked in a round, teams are allowed one minute to complete their answer sheets and submit them to the executive producers for scoring. Any late answer sheets will not be scored and the team will score zero points for the round. Cumulative totals of all teams will then be read before the next round begins.

After all rounds are scored, the team with the highest overall score is declared the winner. All scoring, as decided by the executive producers, is final.

Bring your friends and test your knowledge of film trivia! The trivia night will be held the first Monday of each month unless holidays or other reasons for shifting the date intrude.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Film screening: Best Video staffer Rob Harmon hosts Halloween-themed “Secret Cinema” triple bill Mon., Oct. 28, starting at 6:30 PM

Best Video Film & Cultural Center staffer Rob Harmon hosts a semi-regular cult film series under the rubric “Secret Cinema.” The next Secret Cinema takes place Monday, Oct. 28, at 6:308 PM. Along with the night’s movie, Rob shows relevant film trailers and cranks up the Best Video popcorn machine for cinema-appropriate snacking.​

For this special Halloween-themed edition of Secret Cinema, Rob has curated three seasonally appropriate chillers. We don’t promote the titles online but you can call us to find out what is scheduled.

Secret Cinema is free but donations to support Best Video Film & Cultural Center and its programming are always welcome. For more info, call (203) 287-9286 or email secretcinemact [AT] gmail.com.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Rob Harmon’s Picks 5/17/16: “The Witch”

Rob_photo_031715_WebTHE WITCH (dir. Robert Eggers, 2015)

New England, 1630: a family consisting of a father, mother, and four children are exiled from their Puritan settlement for what are called “prideful conceits.” The father, William (Ralph Ineson), contends that it is they who are the true followers of God.

Pushed out of one remote outpost in the New World into an even more remote waste, they settle, after some time, on the edge of a dark forest. Eventually, another baby is born, Samuel, who, while being watched over one day by the oldest child, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), disappears during an innocent game of peek-a-boo. The camera shows – or seems to show – an elderly female stealing away with the child. The family begins to unravel.

Robin Wood once stated that, in a horror film, “normality is threatened by the monster.” If this reliable formula holds true, then Robert Eggers’s THE WITCH presents a satisfying complication: more slow-burner or folk tale (the film is, in fact, subtitled “A New-England Folktale”) than boogeyman body-count or spine-tingler. Normality is definitely threatened but it is hard to say by whom or even by what.

In spite of its title, the monster here is a remarkably disembodied force. While there definitely appears to be a malevolent being crouching in wait in the woods, at the edge of reason, much of the horror here is committed by one family member against another. For example, to make ends meet, William surreptitiously sells his wife Katherine’s (Kate Dickie) treasured silver cup in order to buy hunting supplies. Though he eventually owns up to the transgression, it is too late to spare Thomasin who has already been withering under the implications of guilt due to Samuel’s disappearance, setting the forces of familial disintegration firmly into motion.

The_WitchLike Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” one senses that these regular folk are perched – dangling – over the flames. In an existence built upon faith, the implication seems to be that, once the infection of doubt seeps in, everything civilized goes down like a house of cards. Worse, in a world built upon repression, woe unto those who throw the gates wide open….

Horror is a genre which makes its capital through the building of discordancy and unease on the peripheries of perception: most often through visuals but effectively, as well, through sound (see, for example, THE SHINING or the recent IT FOLLOWS). THE WITCH succeeds in these respects in unexpected ways. While its stark beauty – its unburnished wilderness and murky interiors shot through with shafts of natural sunlight or threatening to swallow up the meager flicker of a candle, its achingly spare score and sound effects – invites the viewer to look, the sense of imminent menace dares the viewer to continue that very act of looking. After all, the truest and most intuitive laws of horror films are that the viewer is only as safe as the present moment allows and that the act of looking, itself, is infused with danger. At its best, THE WITCH attracts as it repels: the camera’s steady, unwavering gaze, classically-framed tableaux, and hauntingly minimal score pulling the viewer in opposite directions, making for a queasily satisfying experience.

His debut feature, Eggers writes and directs this with surprising assurance and with a rigorous naturalism rare in the genre, suggesting more of Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING or Malick’s THE NEW WORLD than THE EXORCIST or THE OMEN. Eggers is aided by an excellent cast, headed by Ineson, Dickie, and the radiant Taylor-Joy, but also including Harvey Scrimshaw, who plays brother Caleb with wide-eyed earnestness, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson as a creepy pair of twins, and an equally unsettling goat named Black Phillip in the definition of a scene-stealing animal role (hint: he has some of the better lines in the movie). Great care is taken across the board with costumes (Eggers was a former costume designer, himself), production design, and accurate recreation of New England accents of the time. Expressionistic flourishes appear just frequently enough to make the viewer squirm, offering a superbly understated creep-out factor.

A bit like later Kubrick or Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN, THE WITCH is calibrated like a tonal pitch which builds in intensity to an inexorable conclusion, the hands of fate pushing events forward. This strangely-wrought amalgamation of art film and horror movie may fail to please either extreme, yet is perfectly appropriate to our strange times.

Rob Harmon’s Picks 5/10/16: “The Apple”

Rob_photo_031715_WebTHE APPLE (dir. Menahem Golan, 1980)

Have you ever had an experience so galvanizing that it seemed to drive a wedge into your existence, dividing it, so to speak, between “before” and “after?”

In my mid-twenties, I was living in New York City and my friends and I became fascinated by a trailer being played at a local theater for a largely forgotten midnight movie called THE APPLE, made in 1980. Seemingly no one that I spoke to had ever seen or even heard of the picture. I was intrigued.

When its long-awaited weekend engagement arrived, a large group of us congregated at the theater, took our seats, and waited for the lights to go down. There was a definite hush in the theater that night: though we had found out little about the movie in advance, we expected something very good, and, by that, I mean that we expected something very bad.

As you know, sometimes movies disappoint; other times they meet or exceed our expectations; and still other times — that rarest of rare occurrences — they smash all of our expectations to pieces. THE APPLE, it turned out, was one of the latter.

The movie begins disorientingly enough, hurling the viewer into the action: Screaming teenagers fill a concert hall where thumping percussion and smoke heralds the entrance of a duo of gold and silver lamé-clad pop stars named Dandi and Pandi and a veritable army of spangly and sparkly dancers. Almost before I was aware, the music exploded in a near cacophony, Dandi and Pandi chanting lyrics like “BIM is the power,” the band chugging away at full steam, and the droning chorus “Hey, hey, hey, BIM’s your way!” boring into my head with the subtlety of a jackhammer.

The_Apple_1980_film_WebThis was an all-out assault on the senses which I had not anticipated: while the music pummels the viewer from all directions with its pile-driving rhythms, dancers aggressively flail about and fly at the viewer, lights glare, horns blare, and voices soar. Not even three minutes in, I felt as though my brain were on fire, as though I had entered a strange alternate dimension where the production values of third-rate disco were merged with some sort of banal industrial advertisement: what the heck is the BIM, anyway?

As it turns out, the year is 1994 and an evil, totalitarian corporation — the BIM (it’s IBM scrambled, get it?), controlled by the nefarious Mr. Boogalow (played by Vladek Sheybal, of the original RED DAWN, with devilish charm) — controls all musical entertainment in the known world as a form of mass mind control. This is ably demonstrated in that headache-inducing opening number — appropriately called “The BIM” — where Dandi (Allan Love) and Pandi (Grace Kennedy) gyrate about in pseudo-fascistic fashion to the delight of the crowd of mesmerized youths, who – not realizing what synthetic dreck this is – lap it all up like kittens to milk.

It seems that Dandi and Pandi – pawns of the aforementioned Boogalow – are rolling out their new “BIM” anthem at an international song competition as another calculated move in Boogalow’s plans to mire the world in wide-spread and mindless consumerism (gee, that could never happen, could it?). Indeed, as the chorus pronounces in the eye-popping set-piece “Disco 2000,” “Life is nothing but show business in 1994,” while another of Boogalow’s minions, Shake (Ray Shell), croons “Like the bleary-eyed baboon to an organ-grinder’s tune, mankind screamies for whatever bits of dreamies he might treat them to.”

That is, until the idealistic folk duo Alfie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart, THE LAST STARFIGHTER, NIGHT OF THE COMET) take the stage, strumming away on the acoustic guitar and belting out “Love, The Universal Melody.” To Mr. Boogalow and his loyal henchmen, the oily Shake and the ditzy Ashley (Leslie Meadows), these hicks “from Moose Jaw” are a joke until it becomes clear that the crowd is taking this lovey-dovey, hand-holding stuff quite seriously.

Something will have to be done….

I will not divulge what follows. Suffice it to say that it involves, among other things: betrayals aplenty; dancing nuns; the unveiling of various BIM merchandise, including BIM marks and BIM t-shirts; hallucinogenic drugs; lots and lots of glitter; a musical number which re-stages the Garden of Eden story in Hell with Adam, Eve, a snake, an apple (obviously), and vampires (yes, I said vampires); a randomly-inserted Jewish landlady; a gang of hippies (actually, to be correct, they are “refugees from the 60s”); and a PG-rated orgy – choreographed in Busby Berkeley-fashion to the best beats this side of Donna Summer – that simply has to be seen to be believed! From pop to folk to disco and from power ballads to reggae, the film’s soundtrack buzz saws its way through one genre after another. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll lose your mind.

Filmed in West Germany and directed by Menahem Golan (of Cannon Films infamy, responsible for producing assorted 80’s Chuck Norris and Chuck Bronson schlock, as well as “classy” productions such as Cassavetes’s LOVE STREAMS) with enough gusto for ten films, THE APPLE is far and away the best glam-disco-utopian-luddite-pro-Zionist-Creation-allegory musical ever produced; it’s really one hell of a movie.

I won’t attempt to make overt value judgments about a film like THE APPLE: I could say that it’s terrible, tasteless, and nonsensical in the extreme, its direction ham-fisted, and — in a certain sense — that would be correct. Yes, the film suffers from trying to reinvent the midnight movie on a shoestring, over-extending itself in almost every direction. But that would be missing the point. THE APPLE scores direct hits because of the purity of its ambition and its naïveté; in other words, it succeeds precisely because it fails and does so with such incredible abandon, going so far beyond reason that it cannot, in the end, be anything but utterly charming.

THE APPLE is a movie from another time and place: nothing like it, unfortunately, will ever be made again. It’s 100% amazing, but, more than anything, it’s a social experience, a film that demands to be seen with an audience. That night years ago when my friends and I sat aghast and amazed? It was only the first of many such nights over the years, the film becoming as much a communal ritual for us as anything.

Luckily, THE APPLE screens this Wednesday night, May 11, at 7 at Best Video: why not take a bite? Admission is $5.