In the book Hollywood Incoherent: Narration in Seventies Cinema it states that “the 1970s marks Hollywood’s most significant formal transformation since the conversion to sound film…” (4). Many revered films, directors, and other creatives came out of Hollywood in the 1970s. Films like Harold and Maude, The Graduate, and The Wild Bunch altered the way in which American audiences understood and interacted with film.
This change in film originated from the collapse of the studio system and the cultural environment of the 1960s, which was characterised by social rebellion, sexual and spiritual experimentation, political turmoil, and overall cultural upheaval. The youth were disillusioned and wanting to carve their own creative path. It took until the 1970s for American film executives to truly embrace a new approach to filmmaking that reflected the cultural changes. This led to the era known as “New Hollywood” and “American New Wave.”
Starting on October 12th, The Kiggins Theatre is showing Hal, a documentary about one of the most seminal directors to arise from the “New Hollywood” era!
Classic Hollywood and the End of the Studio System
To appreciate the “New Hollywood” style, it’s beneficial to understand what it was evolving from. Beginning in the 1920s, films were made using the studio system. This meant that a small number of major studios controlled the majority of filmmaking. Films were cranked out fast with most of the power laying in the hands of the producers. They were shot on studio lots with crews under long-term contract. An enormous amount of classic films spawned from the studio system, that’s why some critics refer to this as the “Golden Age of Hollywood.” These films created the rulebook for how a narrative should be created and portrayed on the big screen.
Generally, classic hollywood films steer towards a sense of narrative completion. Stories are presented logically in a space and time which mirrors reality. John Belton, a professor of English and film at Rutgers, describes this classic style as “largely invisible and difficult for the average spectator to see. The narrative is delivered so effortlessly and efficiently to the audience that it appears to have no source. It comes magically off the screen.” Rules for basic genres were cemented and films rarely deviated from these conventions.
In the 1948, Paramount Pictures lost a landmark case against the United States government. The case revolved around the fact that the movie studios controlled almost all movie theaters, either by owning them outright or through contracts with independent owners. The court decision made this relationship between studios and theaters illegal, which effectively ended the Hollywood studio system. by making overall productions cost rise. As a result, many long-standing contracts for studio creative teams dissolved and film production slowed down immensely.
The end of the studio system paired with television’s quickly growing popularity meant that fewer and fewer people were coming to the movies. Beginning in the 1950s and pushing into the 1960s, Hollywood reacted by trying to give audiences an experience that television could not. Essentially, Hollywood films became all about spectacle. More money was spent on fewer films to make them extraordinarily opulent, vibrant, and hopefully, alluring to audiences. Techniques like Cinerama and Cinemascope were introduced alongside gimmicks like 3-D. The aspect ratio of films grew in size, making films feel larger than life. Grandiose genres like Epics and Musicals were especially popular during this time, exemplified by films like Ben-Hur (1959) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). However, movie ticket sales continued to drop and the extravagance of films grew out of hand. A infamous example of this costly way of filmmaking is the Historical Epic Cleopatra(1963), and is the only highest-grossing film to run at a loss due its outrageous production costs.
Entering the Age of “New Hollywood”
Throughout the 1960s, movie executives were having trouble connecting with their audiences. The cultural environment was changing and so was their target demographic. They were more educated, affluent, and filled with a new sense of nonconformity and disillusionment, caused by events like the Vietnam War. It took until the late 1960s for the film industry to finally start to catch up with the world around it. In 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America created a new film rating system that replaced the outdated Production Code. Now, more taboo topics like drugs or sex could be explored in film.
Two films created by young artists mark the beginning of a new age of Hollywood filmmaking. They are Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Easy Rider (1969). Both films deal with taboo themes like violence and drugs in graphic way. But, they also feature narratives that blur genre lines, are more existential and morally ambiguous, and are more non-traditional in structure. Both films were disliked by film executives, but turned out to be financial and critical success. Executives then realized they needed to give more creative control over to young directors. Thus begins “New Hollywood.”
Filmmaking in “New Hollywood”
Many renowned creatives came to prominence during the 1970s, making films that are still widely revered today. There are too many to name, but the list includes directors like Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Brian de Palma and actors like Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Mia Farrow, and Robert De Niro.
Notably, this was the first generation of filmmakers that were academically trained in film. Similarly, there is a heavier influence from foreign art film movements like French New Wave and Italian Neorealism in films from the 1970s. Because of the movement away from studio system, films were shot on location, adding a level of authenticity to films. Furthermore, films from “New Hollywood” tend feature a looser narrative structure which revolves around a protagonist, often an anti-hero, who deals with conflicts caused by modern society. Audience responses towards “New Hollywood” films are more uncertain as the narrative emphasizes irresolution over resolution. Many of the films from this time employed multiple genres and twisted them on their head to emphasize the changing identity of the Hollywood and the United States.
“New Hollywood” lasted until the early 1980s. It ended largely due to the success of blockbuster films like Star Wars (1977) and Jaws (1975). These films were massive hits and proved that more traditional ways of storytelling in film could bring in positive reviews and lots of money. However, the influence of “New Hollywood” still lasts today. The movement’s celebration of creativity and rebelliousness has been inspiring new filmmakers ever since.
The Influence of Hal Ashby
Starting on October 12th, the Kiggins Theater is showing the new documentary Hal. Itexplores the tumultuous life and influential works of Hal Ashby. Ashby is one of the most influential, and often overlooked, directors from the era of “New Hollywood.”
Ashby’s life started out rough. Born in Utah to a poor family, a young Ashby dropped out of high school and became a Californian bohemian in the late 1940s. Eventually, he got a job as an assistant editor in Hollywood which started his partnership with Norman Jewison. Ashby served as editor for many of Jewison films, but his greatest success in that partnership was receiving an Oscar for his work on In the Heat of the Night. In 1970, Ashby made the move to director with his film The Landlord and from there, his career took off. He created a slew cinematic classics that help define the “New Hollywood” era.
His films explore societal outsiders, empathetically combining humor and tragedy, to celebrate the bittersweet truths of life and what it means to be human. His filmography includes cinematic staples like Harold and Maude, Shampoo, and Being There. Partly due to bad luck and partly due to bad decision making, his career fell off in the 1980s. And, at the age of 59, he sadly died due to pancreatic cancer.
A New York Times article states “Digging deep into the archives for rare and revealing material to accompany interviews with many of his collaborators and intimates, filmmaker Amy Scott packs a lot into 90 minutes with this insightful and warm look at an artist whose best work always revealed a heightened social conscience.” “New Hollywood” marks a time of important change in Hollywood where filmmakers, like Hal Ashby, were given more creative freedom than ever before. They changed the way Hollywood viewed filmmaking, connecting with their audiences in a way that had never quite been done before.
In understanding an artistic work, it’s important to know where the work is coming from– both personally and socially. After reading this post, I hope you have a better picture of what Ashby and his contemporaries were reacting to in making their movies and how they set themselves apart from the studio system. To get the full picture of Ashby’s personal life and the larger cultural moment he was a part of, come see the highly regarded documentary Hal at the Kiggins Theatre! It features interviews and footage with many great creatives like Ashby’s film partner Norman Jewison and actress Jane Fonda as well as wth contemporary directors such as Judd Apatow.
Get your advance tickets HERE and save up to $3 off day of show admission!
Five Reasons to See Joan Jett Documentary Bad Reputation!
Hitting the Kiggins Theatre on September 27th for one night only is Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. The documentary explores the rebellious life and raging music of Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Joan Jett. Whether you’re die-hard Jett fan or can only hum along to “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” here are five reasons why Bad Reputation is a must see for all!
1. Joan Jett Helped Pave the Way for Women in Rock Music
In an interview with Variety magazine, the director of Bad Reputation Kevin Kerslake described being “taken by ‘the arc of a young girl, and then a young woman, cutting a path in a man’s world throughout her entire career, as a sort of feminist manifesto in the flesh.”
Alongside her music, what makes Jett a true Rock ‘n’ Roll icon is her brazenly defiant attitude towards the double standards women face in the music industry and, in a larger scope, society. Although there had been powerful women in the rock scene before Jett, it was still overwhelmingly a boys’ club that was not welcoming to women. As Jett describes in Bad Reputation, she felt this exclusion even at first guitar lesson when her male teacher simply explained that girls don’t play Rock ‘n’ Roll. Instead of listening to her naysayers (who sometimes even went as far as to use violence against her), Jett kept rocking. For example in the early 80s, Jett’s solo album was rejected by 23 labels due to her ‘bad girl’ image. So, she founded her own independent record company Blackheart Records. She was the first female artist to do so. She made her ‘bad reputation’ into a hit album, song, and symbol of pride.
In the song, Jett matter-of-factly sings “a girl can do what she wants to do and that’s what I’m gonna do, and I don’t give a damn ‘ bout my bad reputation.” This message and the example set by Jett’s career inspired a generation of musicians (such as the feminist musicians of the 90s Riot Grrrl movement) and is still heavily felt today.
2. Jett’s Music Changed Rock ‘n’ Roll
Arguably, Jett’s most popular song is “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Although the song is a small part of her musical career, it helped define the hard rock movement of the 80s and the MTV era. The music video, featuring Jett, was one of the first videos looped over on MTV. Her other hits have also had massive impacts including the titular “Bad Reputation,” “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).” She has had three albums go either Platinum or Gold and has worked with many renowned artists. Jett was also greatly influential in creating the sound of the punk genre. For example, she produced the Germs album “(GI)” which is often cited as one of the first hardcore punk albums ever made and largely revered today. Her musical legacy and her titles as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Godmother of Punk were cemented in 2015 when her band Joan Jett & the Black Hearts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In Bad Reputation, the audience ride the ups and downs of Jett’s career, highlighting her strength and relentlessness. These same qualities can be heard in her own music and the music she’s influenced.
3. Bad Reputation Features Interviews with Rock Icons, Actors, and More
In telling Jett’s story, Bad Reputation compiles interviews with a laundry list of prominent rock musicians like Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and Pete Townshend. Also featured are interviews with actors Michael J. Fox, Joan Jett’s acting partner in the musical drama Light of Day, and Kristen Stewart, who portrayed Jett in the film The Runaways. However, nothing can beat the interviews with the star herself. A reviewer from the film blog FilmThreat states that Jett was the most engaging interviewee: “Every time she showed up on screen she commanded my attention, and almost always she had the best one-liners, and hands down funniest and most interesting stories.” All these perspectives paired with the archival footage create a vivid look into the evolving rock scene of the 70s and 80s and the force of Jett’s work at that time.
4. Kevin Kerslake, the director of Bad Reputation, is no stranger to Rock N’Roll
The director of Bad Reputation, Kevin Kerslake, also has an extremely impressive list of credits that show him to be a important force in the rock industry. He has directed music videos for bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and the Rolling Stones. Furthermore, his other documentaries include Nirvana’s Live! Tonight! Sold Out! and the Ramones’ We’re Outta Here! Kerslake clearly knows his way around the rock music world and is a perfect choice to relay Jett’s story to the world.
5. September 27th is your only chance to see Bad Reputation at the Kiggins Theatre!
September 27th at 7:30 pm is the only day Bad Reputation will be screening at the Kiggins Theatre. The film’s synopsis reads: “Even though people tried to define Jett and keep her stuck to one hit, she never compromised. She will kick your ass, and you’ll love her all the more for it.” Come hear Jett’s music pumped through speakers and see her energetic live performances on the big screen to truly feel the magnitude of her story as it ought to be felt!
On the corner of 11th and Broadway, on the back wall of the Kiggins Theatre, stands the newest addition to downtown Vancouver’s collection of murals. The 26th mural commissioned by the Clark County Mural Society celebrates Vancouver’s cultural history and thriving relationship with its sister city, Joyo, Japan. Flowing out of a spray painted projector, the mural’s imagery explores the identities of the two cities and how their differences come together to create a cohesive vision.
(Ilko Major and
artist Cimmaron Brodie)
Although the idea of tackling a canvas of this size would seem daunting to most, artist Cimarron Brodie described the experience as fun and comfortable, even with this being her first mural. She initially became involved in the project after discovering the request on the Mural Society’s website.When painting the mural, Brodie explained that the expansive space allowed for a greater freedom. In her artistic career, Brodie has focused on painting and working with unconventional mediums such as broken jewelry and wood. In talking about the mural, Brodie also emphasized the importance of conveying the story of Vancouver and Joyo in her artwork. The mural contains images of plants, animals, landscapes, and architecture tosymbolically represent the history of Vancouver and Joyo, adding a cinematic touch that observes the the mural’s home, the Kiggins Theatre. Neighbors of the mural are ecstatic that more art is being introduced into the downtown area, especially pieces that honor our sister city. When asked about the mural, employees from Salon Moxie said “We hope our sister city loves [the mural] as much as we do!” and an employee from Northwest Personal Training said she enjoyed watching the process of the mural, seeing “a waste of space” become art.
The relationship between Vancouver and Joyo is founded on that of cultural exchanges, whether that be through gifts, art, or personal trips— each way has lead to better understanding and stronger connection between the two cities, in spite of the massive physical distance that separates them. In the bottom right corner of the mural, it reads “a connecting bridge.” This phrase was chosen by the mayor of Joyo and is a perfect way to describe the culmination of the two cities’ interactions and the phrase pervades the images of the mural. For example, the principal image of a plum tree growing out of an offering hand is a reminiscent Joyo’s iconic ancient Ume grove. Furthermore, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Washington’s statehood, the President of America Kotobuki Electronics, Inc. presented a gift of 100 Shirofugen cherry trees to the City of Vancouver. The flowering of these trees and the relationship between Joyo and Vancouver is celebrated every year at Clark College’s Sakura festival. In this way, the image of a blossoming tree represents both Joyo and Vancouver while also highlighting the connection, the exchanging of gifts and culture, between the two.
Also present in the mural is imagery that mimics the mirroring of a reflection pond. On top are images evocative of Joyo’s landscape— hills, water, a Torii (traditional Japanese gateway). On the bottom is water like the Columbia River or the Pacific Ocean and a strip of 35mm film that acts as a stand-in for the interstate bridge. Despite the differences and distance of the cities, an irrevocable similarity is present. The resemblance is further emphasized in the mural through images of Irises and Egrets, wildlife common to both areas.
In the mural are references to cinema— the filmstrip, a 30’s era projector modeled after the theater’s original machine that can be found in the lobby. This is partly due to the placement of the mural on the theatre’s back wall. However, a mural is the perfect decoration for a cinematic theatre, especially one that has played such an important role in the cultural history of Vancouver. Since its birth in 1936, the Kiggins Theatre has celebrated the moving image and the importance of storytelling by bringing movies to the people of Vancouver. In a way, this mural should be viewed as a film poster— a snapshot of the two characters, Vancouver and Joyo, and the story between them.
You can find more of Cimarron Brodie’s work on social media using the handle @terkwoize.
The last weeks of June feature four films and one live event that celebrate strong (mostly young) women!
First up on Thursday the 23rd we are excited to have the 2nd annual edition of GIRLS ROAR featuring a dozen young women with inspiring stories to tell! Their stories will open your mind and infuse you with a renewed sense of hope (something we can all use a bit more of these days)! Tickets are $12 advance, $15 day of show. Students with i.d. are just $10.
Then on August 24th we open two female empowering independent films. First is the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize award-winning THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST. Directed by Desiree Akhavan and based on the celebrated novel by Emily M. Danforth, the 1993 set MISEDUCATION follows Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) as she is sent to a cruel gay conversion therapy center after getting caught with another girl in the back seat of a car on prom night.
We also open Andrew Bujalski’s indie comedy SUPPORT THE GIRLS on the 24th, in which a put upon den mother of a manager (played to perfection by Regina King) at a highway-side ”sports bar with curves” has her incurable optimism and faith – in her girls, her customers, and herself – tested over the course of a long, hot Austin day.
Then starting on August 31st we have two very different films about women’s empowerment and finding your own voice. SKATE KITCHEN, by acclaimed director Crystal Moselle (THE WOLFPACK) merges narrative and documentary to tell the story of a shy suburban teenaged skateboarder who comes out of her shell after making friends with a bunch of other skateboarding girls. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self.
We also open the critically acclaimed drama PUZZLE on the 31st. Featuring a brilliant performance by Golden-Globe nominee Kelly MacDonald (BRAVE, NO COUNTRY FOR A OLD MEN) as Agnes, a taken for granted suburban wife and mother who discovers a talent and passion for solving jigsaw puzzles which unexpectedly draws her into a new world – where her life unfolds in ways she could never have imagined.
As you are probably aware, the Kiggins hosts or co-produces nearly a hundred live events each year including VANTalks, Hello Vancouver, Science on Tap, Comedy on Tap, Re-Imagined Radio, ROAR! and the Vancouver Symphony’s Chamber Orchestra to name but a very few!
Until now we’ve been limited with our simple in-house sound system and a few basic lights, or we’ve had to rent expensive and cumbersome equipment for the more elaborate shows.
But we’ve got exciting news!
Next week we will be enhancing our sound reinforcement for live events, including additional speakers to compliment our current arrangement and hanging them from the auditorium ceiling along with subs tucked behind the screen. We also will be doing some new wiring so we can setup for a live event with minimal downtown by creating a dedicated “plug in” station for the mixer and audio engineer to operate from.
In addition to improved sound, professional motorized and remote controlled lighting fixtures will be hung along with the speakers so theatrical lights are hardwired and programmed to be ready to go for any occasion! With this new set up we can go from a simple stage wash for a single speaker to intricate lighting design for shows like Hello Vancouver which involve music acts and multi-person interview settings.
We will also be making facility improvements to architectural lighting controls, our cinema playback audio and some “behind the scenes” projection components that will allow us to operate more efficiently and thereby be enhance the cinema going experience!
Stay tuned as for updates as those updates come online over the next few months and we offer a more retro as well as up-to-date movie going experience!
In case you missed it, the Scott Hewitt at the Columbian did a really wonderful article about the 2018 Oscar Nominated Shorts programs which started last weekend at the Kiggins and continue thru the the Oscar broadcast on March 4th!
This Friday the Live Action and Documentary Program “B” start, and then the following week the Animation and Documentary Program “A” return.
Full series passes good for any show are still available for just $30 (up to a $2.50 per film discount) which also get you a ballot. See all four programs and vote for your favorite (or more importantly, which films you think will win the the three categories) and you could win a Kiggins Gift Box!