COLUMN: An Antidote to Summer Blockbusteritis

Brian May serves up Large popcorn, Extra butter from the Civic Theatre

Just two weekends ago I was at a wedding. Not just any wedding. The groom was someone I’ve known all his life. My dress code for the two-day festive affair ranged from hiking boots to silk ties and settings ranged from lakeside canoes to bunkhouses and an outdoor dance floor under twinkling lights. At some point, either before or after champagne toasts – it’s a bit of a blur – someone nearby mentioned a movie. The Eighth Grade. My ears perked up. Well not really but you know what I mean.

So I piped in. Again, not really but you know what I mean. ‘Eighth Grade by director Bo Burnham?’ I tossed into the conversation. I didn’t know much about Mr. Burnham, I just added that to impress, but I knew about the film because it was on the list of Sundance Festival shows the Civic will flood the screen with this summer. Bo is a comedian, singer, rapper, actor, screenwriter, and poet who began his career as a YouTuber. His videos have been viewed over 228 million times so people pay attention and Eighth Grade is his first full length film. It follows thirteen-year-old Kayla as she endures the wave of contemporary adolescence during the last week of her disastrous eighth grade. But unlike other adolescent angst movies the ‘word on the street’ is that he’s captured it and manages to share the generational disconnect that we all navigate through.

I said all of this stuff to my new wedding table companion. Despite the champagne I could see he was curious about my nuanced cinematic expertise. Then he asked if I had ever watched Burnham’s Netflix specials and I said ‘No, never heard of him. But I will.’ ‘Alright’ he replied.’ So, it’s showing in Nelson? Huh.’ I could see he was a bit confused and with that, the conversation ended. But this and other films and documentaries that premiered at Sundance are on their way. Our website mentions a few for August 10-16 and you may see a big TBC which means we don’t have exact dates yet but check in every few days.

The Sundance Institute was founded in 1981 by Robert Redford as a nonprofit organization to provide space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. In turn, the Sundance Film Festival goals are to connect audiences to artists and to build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. In many ways it mirrors Civic Theatre Society goals so this offers a great balance to the Blockbuster films that go great with popcorn.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m big on Blockbusters. My movie date surprisingly pulled me to see Jurassic World – she loves dinosaurs, who knew – and we both gasped this week as we watched Tom Cruise survive an impossible fall off a cliff in Mission Impossible Fallout. Next week, Ant-Man and the Wasp!

Then, the week after that, dive into Part 2 of a Sundance Summer with Leave No Trace, American Animals, Three Identical Strangers, and Damsel. The first is about a father and daughter living a perfect existence in a nature reserve until a small mistake tips them off to authorities. American Animals is the ‘mostly true’ story of four men who mistake their lives for a movie and attempt an art heist. And Three Identical Strangers which made its documentary premiere at Sundance looks awesome. Identical triplets, separated at birth, are reunited at 19. That joy unlocks an extraordinary secret that could ‘transform our understanding of human nature forever.’ That’s what Sundance said. I’m intrigued.

Anyways you get the picture. Later on we’ll bring in Eighth Grade, Grand Jury Prize Documentary winner Of Fathers and Sons by Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki and more. When the summer heat wears you down and you feel like talking with friends outside the theatre in the cool evening air take a chance on hearing some of the independent voices nurtured by the Sundance Festival.

As for me I’ve got work to catch up on and wedding photos to edit. I may have looked foolish on the dance floor but I made a good toast. It was an awesome wedding! See you at the Civic.

Brian May is a director for the Nelson Civic Theatre Society.

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