In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Alameda Theatre and Cineplex

This is my third visit to the Alameda this year, but with the change over in daylight savings, I finally got to take some daylight shots.

Notice Matt Damon's name on the marquee, below.  Star power has not diminished since the golden age of film, but most theaters don't show the actors' names any more.  I wonder if that's because multiplexes have more movie titles to display on the same sized marquee, and so there just isn't space for the name?  Regardless, I like seeing the name up there.  And it can't hurt the walk-ins either, since passersby are more likely to recognize Matt Damon's name than the title of his movie.

The foyer is bisected by the box office.  Here's a shot from within the foyer, looking toward one of the outer walls.  Just like at the Paramount, the Alameda doesn't waste space, instead using the foyer to show off some fancy metal work on the air vent and the three gilded terraces as upper trim.  It doesn't hurt that Inception has a cool poster.

The door leading from the foyer into the theater's lobby is fitted with frosted glass, decorated with this attractive pattern.

I asked the ticket taker if the mezzanine is ever open to the public, and he said yes, for big premieres, like that for the Twilight movies.  I might come for that, just so I can take pictures up there.  The photo below looks upward from the lobby to the mezzanine lobby, and shows part of the slogan above the front doors, that reads "Take the magic with you".

With daylight still coming through the front windows my photos of the upper lobby turned out better.  This shot shows the digital movie posters on the side of the upward escalator (photo left).  As you ascend you can watch a trailer, shifting your attention to the next poster when you're too far up to see the previous poster (they're all in synch).  When the trailer is over, the poster changes and a new trailer begins.

Here's a shot of the upper lobby...

... and looking out to the vertical sign...

... and down to the marquee.

I was able to get a count of the seating occupancies of screens two through seven.  My previous figure of 1042 cited some official documents, but my count from the auditorium doors adds up to 1027, for a theater total of 1460.  The newer screens range in size from 82 to 189 seats.

In introducing the evening's film, the manager gave a quick eulogy for his mentor, Rick Rude, who was the projectionist at Berkeley's now-closed UC Theater for twenty years (this article not only has a recent photo of the theater, but suggests that it might reopen this fall as a music venue, but showing the occasional movie!).  In honor of Rick, the manager had us raise our fists to the air and shout, "Damn you, Red Baron!"

As Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was one of the first musicals to debut in CinemaScope, tonight's trivia had us guessing which live-action movie and which animated movie were the first to be shown in this new anamorphic format.  Our audience, always well informed (and with some clues from the manager), were able to guess: The Robe (1953) and Lady and the Tramp (1955), respectively.



Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Oregon in the 1850s, when men were men and women liked to be kidnapped.  This film is so sexist that even after the female protagonist declares that the eponymous seven brothers are uncouth savages and can't treat women like livestock, the men bag and bind their women anyway, and the movie sides with them by having the women fall in love with them.  Within hours of their kidnapping.  Unbelievable.  The film was nominated for Best Picture, won for Best Music, and was a great success at the box office, so the good people of 1954 didn't mind a bit of sexism any more than did the people of the 1850s.  (Here's a good article about the film's reception.)

Ethics aside, this movie is a hoot.  Howard Keel is Adam Pontipee, the eldest of seven red-headed brothers, rugged woodsmen who live together in a cabin twelve miles from the nearest town.  Adam rides into town one day with the intention of finding a wife, someone who will cook and clean and do the washing.  But Adam isn't completely stupid, so when he meets and immediately courts Milly (Jane Powell), he leaves out the part about cooking and cleaning and doing the washing.  And about only coming down to town once a year for supplies.  Oh, and the part about having six barbarian brothers.  Milly falls for Adam immediately.  He's ten feet tall, has a deep voice and broad chin, and has his very own cabin up in the woods.  Assuming Adam isn't a serial killer, caring for "just one man" will beat out Milly's current gig serving a whole bar full of rowdy drunks.  And Adam isn't just good looking; he's romantic too.  This is how he proposes: "So how 'bout it?"  Doesn't that just make your heart melt?

Once they finally get around to getting married, a few hours after they meet, they head up to the cabin, where Milly meets Adam's brothers.  Now, this was years before the phrase "miner camp gang rape" had been coined, but Milly was still fairly tempted to shout it out anyway, anachronism be damned.  Even sitting safely in the audience I thought I had better grow a beard quick or these burly men might grab me too.  But Milly keeps her wits about her, and is soon improving the men with grooming, etiquette, and dance lessons.

Eventually, she takes them to town for a barn raising where they engage in a spectacularly choreographed dance off with the local suitors, vying for the attention of six eligible women.  This sequence is outstanding, momentarily elevating the movie from good to great.

The rest of the film is worth watching, but nothing ever tops the barn raising.  The gender dynamics of this movie are just too weird for this modern viewer to not snicker at many of the film's attempts at romance.  The songs have good lyrics ("A man can't sleep when he sleeps with sheep"), but I don't find the tunes particularly memorable.  The dialog, though, is quite memorable.  Adam tells his youngest brother, "Love is like the measles.  You only get it once, and the older you are, the harder you get it."  When the pastor's daughter says it's romantic that Milly has fallen for Adam, and that it's "love at first sight", her dad snaps at her, "What kind of talk is that?"

This is at least my third viewing of the movie.  I wouldn't rank it among my favorite musicals (sounds like a forthcoming list!), but it's consistently fun.