The Los Angeles Conservancy has just announced the lineup for this year’s Last Remaining Seats film series. This annual festival takes place in June with movie screenings at historically significant movie theaters throughout Los Angeles, mostly in downtown Los Angeles. This year, the entire festival will be downtown.
I’m a dues-paying member but have only attended once because, you know, I live 2,500 miles away. You can probably see these films on video at home, but that would be missing the whole point of seeing a film in a movie palace or midcentury music hall. Sure, you can rent these and watch your big TV at home, but I’ll bet you that their screens are bigger. And you’ll miss out and having a bunch of strangers laugh and cry with you.
- Wednesday, June 11, 8 PM
- Los Angeles Theatre (1931).
Although I’ve never seen this film, reading the description seems like it’s one of those 1940s films noir where some helpless schmuck (Henry Fonda) gets taken by a cunning and relentless femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck). Poor guy!
The front-of-house card depicts a leggy Stanwyck clutching and practically choking Fonda against a background of an apple with a bite taken from it. An apple? A bite? A lady named “Eve?” Oh, I get it.
Of all the venues in the series, the Los Angeles Theater is probably the hardest one to get into. Go!
- Saturday, June 14, 8 PM
- The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1964)
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, an icon of modern architecture and revitalization in downtown Los Angeles, is turning fifty this year. It will also host the Robert Wise-and-Jerome Robbins–directed version of the venerable stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein (yikes!). The film features a young Natalie Wood and launched the career of Rita Moreno, one of the few Latina actresses to play complex (i.e., non-maid) roles in Hollywood.
- Wednesday, June 18, 8 PM
- Orpheum Theatre (1926)
This musical (yes, another one) is emblematic of the Warner Brothers musicals choreographed by some guy named Busby Berkeley. Along with 42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933, it is part of the trilogy of film musicals about stage musicals.
By the way, those films were all released in 1933 and feature dazzling dance numbers that boggle the mind in their uniform execution. It made for a great distraction during the depths of the Great Depression.
- Saturday June 21, 2 PM & 8 PM
- The Theatre at Ace Hotel (former United Artists Theatre, 1927)
This theater has just been renovated as part of the new Ace Hotel. They will host the first film from this triology (yes, another one) about time travel and saving yourself family from being “erased from existence.” One could argue that the Ace Hotel saved the United Artist theater from the same fate facing the McFlys in this treasured film from my childhood.
- Wednesday, June 25, 8 PM
- Palace Theatre (1911), Co-presented with the Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles
This movie I haven’t seen (yes, another one) was Luis Buñuels first dramatic film since L’Age d’Or in 1930, a film that was banned for, among other things, comparing Jesus Christ to the Marquis de Sade. Buñuel came to Mexico at an opportune time as the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema was underway. Buñuel thrived there for the next three decades, making over a dozen films, before returning to Europe in the late 1960s.
- Saturday, June 28 2 PM & 8 PM
- Orpheum Theatre (1926)
The greatest film ever made closes out the series at the Orpheum Theater. With the newly renovated Ace Hotel theater getting all the buzz, I’m going to call The Orpheum the second cleanest picture palace on Broadway. Kudos to the curators for pairing the two!
If you haven’t seen the film, or even if you have, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Why is this the greatest film ever? I didn’t get it either because I thought the ending was unsatisfying. After a few viewings, though, you realize that the whole point of the film isn’t the great reveal of “Rosebud,” but the way you see a man’s life from the perspective of various people. Whenever one of us leaves this mortal coil, how do others speak of us? What would they say? Would that be who each of us really is? Get to know Charles Foster Kane those who loved and hated him, those who knew him best.
If you don’t appreciate that, then you won’t appreciate this: it’s a sled!
What Happened to… ?
Three things strike me as I look over the list:
- The Million Dollar Theater? This storied movie palace, which has served as the site for many Spanish-language films and Mexican vaudeville shows, is not participating in this year’s festival. In the past, it has hosted a Spanish-language film during past Last Remaining Seats. However, the programmers did schedule a Spanish film, El Gran Calavera at the Palace Theater.
- The Saban Theater? The recently renovated theater in Beverly Hills is also missing from the list. My parents saw The Wizard of Oz a couple of years ago as part of this series. Do the Beverly Hills types not appreciate the unwashed DTLA masses?
- Silent films? All of the films are talkies. Not too long ago, there was at least one silent film screened at Last Remaining Seats with live musical accompaniment.
Putting on a festival like this can be a lot of work, especially for a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that has a lot on its plate. The logistical challenges of continuing to use the Million Dollar or scheduling a silent film with live accompaniment must have been difficult to overcome. But it looks like another worthwhile series. Hopefully, I can make it out there for a screening or two.