From It’s a Wonderful Life to Home Alone to Die Hard, Christmas has proven to be an evergreen subject matter when it comes to movies. But there is perhaps no greater piece of Yuletide cinema than the simply titled A Christmas Story. While only moderately successful upon its release in 1983, the movie’s popularity has increased exponentially that it is hardly accurate to call it a cult classic. This is perhaps in no small part to TBS showing it for 24 hours straight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day each year since 1997.
Set in the 1950s and focused on one young boy’s desire to acquire a BB gun for Christmas, the film is supposed to take place in a fictionalized version of Hammond, Indiana, the hometown of Jean Shepard, on whose short stories the film is based. However, it was filmed in Cleveland and has become so largely associated with the city, it’s easy to forget that it’s supposed to be Indiana. Moreover, it certainly captures some of the quintessential qualities of the city. (The shots in Public Square with Higbees’ window displays are particularly great.) In fact, if you visit Cleveland (which is lovely this time of year), you can tour the Tremont house where the film was shot and even go for a duck dinner afterwards at the very same Chinese restaurant where Ralphie and his family dine on Christmas.
While there will be no shortage of opportunities to see the movie on TV come December 24—and these days you can also head to Broadway for a theatrical version—tomorrow you can see it as it was meant to be seen. Yes, the lamp leg, Scut Farkus, the visit to Santa, the bunny suit, etc. will be on the big screen, as BAM will host a matinee showing of the film at 11 am tomorrow, December 21.
Self-described as an analysis “of the powerful interests that corrode our political system and divide the people,” Of By For features conversations with such notable political figures as Newt Gingrich, Ralph Nader, and former Ohio congressman and Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich, as well as other prominent figures like Dan Rather and Reverend Al Sharpton. The film, which has won Best Documentary awards from the Los Angeles Arthouse Film Festival and the Lighthouse International Film Festival, will be screening for the first time in New York tonight at 7pm at Indiescreen in Brooklyn.
Of By For is the creation of Old Machine, a film production company based in Columbus. The movie was directed by Christopher Kay, a Columbus native and one of Old Machine’s founders. The company’s other founder and Of By For’s producer is Chad Monnin, a native of Dayton.
Check out the trailer for Of By For below. If you can’t make tonight’s showing, the documentary will be at Indiescreen until July 11.
As one of our own (Steven Spielberg) is once again up for Best Director and Best Picture at tonight’s Academy Awards, it seemed like a good time to take a look at the Ohioans who have won Hollywood’s highest honor. While I’m sure I’ve overlooked some Ohioans who have won awards in the less glamorous (i.e. technical) categories, the list below shows that Ohio has contributed greatly to the canon of filmmaking.
Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was born in 1953 and grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, a suburb east of Cleveland. After a brief stint at Northwestern in Chicago, he moved to New York to attend Columbia University, where he studied literature. After graduating and spending some time in Paris, Jarmusch was accepted by New York University for their graduate film program. In his final year at NYU, he worked as an assistant to Nicholas Ray, the legendary director of such films as Rebel Without a Cause. Ultimately, though, he didn’t receive his master’s degree, as the university rejected his final project and first feature film, Permanent Vacation.
Jarmusch subsequently made a name for himself with his first theatrically released movie, Stranger Than Paradise, much of which takes place in Cleveland. The film was awarded the Camera d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and also won the 1985 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film. Subsequent films like Down By Law and Mystery Train cemented Jarmusch as an important creator of independent cinema, while he also became a fixture of New York’s underground downtown, playing in No Wave band The Del-Byzanteens. More recently, Jarmusch began shooting Only Lovers Left Alive, an adaptation of Dave Wallis’ 1964 novel starring Tilda Swanson. (Maybe not so coincidentally, Ray was supposed to direct an adaption of the novel in 1966 that ultimately didn’t come to fruition. Clevelander Stiv Bators also took the novel’s title for the name of an album by his short-lived post–Dead Boys project The Wanderers.) Additionally, Jarmusch released two albums in 2012 that he recorded with Jozef van Wissem, who is scoring Only Lovers Left Alive. Today, the director turns 60.
Creating a comedic film called Oh No, Sharks! when he was still a teenager, Wrion Bowling knew from a young age that he wanted to make movies. As such, after attending Ohio University, where he won the school’s Director’s Award in 2008 for the original webseries Housemates, he moved to the New York area to pursue his vocation. Still, it was his Ohio ties that led to the creation of his first movie, Shelter. Beginning in February 2010, Wrion and former OU classmate Adam Caudill, a Cincinnati native living in Columbus, began collaborating on the script for the film via video chat and filesharing services. After completing the screenplay, they filmed Shelter in Akron, recruiting several other OU alumni as members of their crew.
Shelter was released earlier this year, but was already named “Best Narrative Feature” by the Columbus International Film Festival and was an official selection of both the Ohio Independent Film Festival and the Great Lakes International Film Festival. Tomorrow, it is being shown at 10pm at IndieScreen as part of the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival. Check out a trailer for the film below and then continue on to read our interview with Bowling.
I got an email the other day from a friend that attended the opening for Gallery 1988’s first New York edition of their annual Crazy 4 Cult exhibition, a showing of artwork all inspired by movies. She said that she was pleasantly surprised to come across a piece, “Knights who ’til recently said NI” (pictured), by our mutual Columbus-based bud Clinton Reno. Anyway, the whole show looks like a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out. It will be up until September 1 at 64 Gansevoort Street in the Meat Packing District. And if you dig Clint’s piece, you should check out his other work as well.
On this day in 1966, Halle Berry was born Maria Halle Berry in Cleveland. Her parents chose her middle name after Halle’s Department Store, a local shopping institution. Berry graduated from Bedford High School in the suburb of Bedford and attended Cuyahoga Community College. She began her career competing in beauty pageants, winning Miss Ohio USA and representing the state in the Miss USA pageant in 1986, where she was first runner-up for the title. She then moved to Chicago to pursue modelling and acting before relocating again to New York.
Berry’s big break came when she landed a small role in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever in 1991. The rest, as they say, is history, with her acting career steadily progressing with a series of both comedic (Boomerang, The Flintstones, B*A*P*S) and serious (Losing Isaiah, Race the Sun) roles. She is probably best known for her portrayal of Storm in the X-Men movies, and for her starring role in Monster’s Ball, which won her an Academy Award—the first time an African American won an Oscar for Best Actress.
She most recently worked on a film adaptation of Cloud Atlas, which will be released later this year, and is currently shooting The Hive, an action thriller also starring Abigail Breslin and directed by Brad Anderson. Today Berry is 46.