Buffalo is full of people helping to cultivate cinema and we want to celebrate those involved. The Cultivators is a new monthly feature in which we highlight individuals who are integral to the presentation, promotion and production of film here in the queen city.
THE CULTIVATORS #010
Former General Manager – Eastern Hills Cinema
Former Marketing and Promotions Coordinator – Dipson Theatres
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
My dad and I both have mildly obsessive collector personalities. We’re not full-blown hoarders—as much as my mom and my partner would probably argue otherwise. We just love our “stuff”. I’m not sure how my love of movies would’ve taken root if it weren’t for my dad’s catalogued and indexed collection of VHS tapes consisting of home video releases and wildly juxtaposed triple features dubbed from 80’s cable stations. I’d like to think I would’ve eventually been swept away by cinema regardless, but I wouldn’t trade the days I spent watching Beetlejuice and Jaws on an endless loop for anything.
I also have incredibly fond memories of spending time each weekend watching “At the Movies” with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. They were just the perfect duo. Siskel’s even-keeled, populist approach was the perfect compliment to Roger’s erudite, oftentimes aloof outlook. I still miss getting their opinions on each weekend’s new releases, but both of them cemented incredible legacies in their time, so they won’t be forgotten—least of all by me.
When I was four years old my uncle and my dad dragged me to see Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Yes, that is the installment with Spock’s evil brother and features the Enterprise Crew traveling to the center of the galaxy in search of God. Needless to say, I didn’t get it at all. I sort of have this fantastic nostalgia for being completely and utterly lost as I struggled to stay awake.
That memory is closely tied with seeing Tremors a year later and being completely terrified. I refused to walk across large open spaces for months afterward, lest giant sand worms burst through the floor and devour me. It’s possible those repeated viewings of Beetlejuice later on were some rudimentary form of immersion therapy.
Although we met in college in Bloomington, IN, my partner is from Buffalo. We reconnected a couple years ago and decided to give our relationship a second chance. I was working for a movie theater owner in Detroit at the time and he introduced me to the president of Dipson Theatres, Michael Clement. When I expressed interest in moving to the area, Mike was gracious enough to let me lend my skills to the company and I’ve been doing my best to keep the arthouses at Amherst & Eastern Hills thriving ever since.
I would love to see more local businesses team up with movie theaters for special screenings. In terms of letting movie houses evolve into the full-service bars and entertainment complexes you’ll see in other areas of the country, New York State Law is regrettably a little behind the times. But there are still plenty of ways to host events that encompass local eateries, breweries, craft-makers—you name it. It just takes a little planning and a little passion. It would be great to see different aspects of the community come together, combining audiences and enriching the local culture with cinema.
In no particular order:
- Shock Value by Jason Zinoman – An oral history of sorts that focuses on the major auteurs of horror cinema. Absolutely essential reading for any genre fan. Firsthand accounts and historical context abound. Zinoman really gets inside the minds of these filmmakers and makes plainly irrefutable arguments towards the inherent value of scary art.
- Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon – Wildly in-depth and completely superfluous as the many versions of the film confirm what the author sometimes struggles to convey: that Blade Runner is pretty much the zenith of what sci-fi Cinema can achieve.
- The Devil’s Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities goes to Hollywood by Julie Salamon – Gives staggering insight into the difficulties of big-budget filmmaking and adaptation especially. Truly a document of 80’s excess that has to be read to be believed. It’s a wonder anyone involved made it out alive.
- Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Sijll – This book is simplistic in its approach so it really makes the perfect gateway drug to filmmaking or film criticism. Filled with revelations hiding in plain sight from a number of certified “classics”. It was introduced to me as a textbook, but it’s appeal is really universal.
TOP TEN FILMS
I guess I’ll split this into two eras. The favorite films of my youth and my favorite films as an adult.
Growing up my list would’ve been:
- Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back , directed by Irvin Kershner
- Jaws , directed by Steven Spielberg
- Aladdin , directed by Ron Clements & John Musker
- The Land Before Time , directed by Don Bluth
- The Brave Little Toaster , directed by Jerry Rees
I suppose these are all self-explanatory. I watched my VHS copies until they fell apart. They are simple stories, yet they contain multitudes. As I got older I began to see the great pieces of cinema that inspired them all, but knowing that they are derived from other works doesn’t make them any less profound. I still blame Toaster for my ongoing and irrational attachment to inanimate objects.
Since discovering the whole wide sphere of cinema:
- Alien , directed by Ridley Scott
- Blade Runner , directed by Ridley Scott
- La Dolce Vita , directed by Federico Fellini
- Mulholland Drive , directed by David Lynch
- Cloud Atlas , directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski
- The Dreamers , directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
I gravitate towards movies that push the envelope and stretch the boundaries of what cinema can achieve. I love movies that belong on a big screen—that don’t quite feel the same when you view them at home. My first job when I was 14 years old was scooping popcorn at a movie theater and here I am today, right back where I started. Now that I have a 1-year old flying around the house, I don’t have as much viewing time as I once did, but I’m beginning to curate a library of things I want to show him, and that feels like a perfectly acceptable replacement for my own indulgences.
Film stills from left to right, top to bottom are Beetlejuice, Jaws, “At the Movies”, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Tremors.