Thanksgiving puts me in the mood to reflect on just how many things in the Maine film scene there are to be grateful for. I’ve been walking this beat for four years now and have gotten to know many of the talented, ambitious (and perhaps foolhardy) people trying to make their filmmaking dreams come true in a state that is as far as it can be from Hollywood. (I looked it up – even aspiring moviemakers in Hawaii are closer. And warmer.) So this year I offer thanks to the men and women of the Maine movie movement who have toiled so creatively all year to entertain us all:
Thanks to Jon Courtney and SPACE Gallery, which consistently hosts a roster of fascinating, challenging films, especially for something that is decidedly not a movie theater (I hear those new chairs are nice, though). Plus, there’s always great art to look at before and after the film. You can also have a beer with the movie, as God intended. (And thanks, Jon, for being my one reliable source of movie screeners.)
Thanks to Rachael Weyand and the Portland Public Library, of all places. Sure, they’re primarily interested in those book things, but the library has been scheduling thought-provoking documentary and feature films, complete with guest speakers. Its “Muslim Journeys Film Series” just wrapped up last week. And, of course, films there are free to the public.
Thanks to the Maine Legislature, which continues its tradition of not passing tax incentives for major film companies to come and make movies in our state, thus ensuring that Maine’s varied and unique beauty will, as ever, be represented by the likes of Newfoundland, South Carolina and anyplace else with a few pine trees in it. Wait, I may not actually be thankful for this. Apologies.
Thanks to those filmmakers “from away” who decided that genuine Maine atmosphere couldn’t be faked and brought their productions here anyway (you know, along with money for the communities they filmed in and experience for Maine filmmakers hired on to help). Here’s to Maris Curran (“Five Nights In Maine”), Kyle Rankin (“Night Of The Living Deb”), Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly (“Beneath The Harvest Sky”), and Nate Meyer (“See Girl Run”), the most recent directors to decide that, tax breaks or no, there’s just no substitute for the real thing.
Thanks to the Nickelodeon Cinema, which, while not able to completely fill Portland’s screaming need for an actual arthouse theater, does an estimable job at bringing in some lesser-known and intriguing films. (And extra thanks to the Nick for being so welcoming to locally made films, as well.) And, while on the subject of Portland’s lack of a dedicated arthouse, thanks to Steve Halpert of the Movies At The Museum, who keeps the spirit of his late-lamented Movies On Exchange Street, even if only on the weekends.
A personal thanks to local places that cater to the movie geek in us all. Sometimes you just want to pick through a wall of old VHS copies of ’80s horror flicks, so thanks for existing, Strange Maine. Same to you, Fun Box Monster Emporium. Sometimes, a guy just needs an original “Star Wars” Greedo action figure in his life. And here’s to the last two remaining video stores – seemingly in the world – Jet Video and Videoport, both holding the line against homogeneous Internet conglomerates and plastic vending machines. Sure, I work at one of those places, but self-interest aside, real movie fans know the subtle joys of prowling the aisles. So thanks for being weird, Portland businesses.
Finally, while there are too many to thank individually, my gratitude as a movie writer and a movie fan goes out to everyone working so hard and so brilliantly all over Maine. To all the filmmakers who’ve shared their projects and their passion with me in this column over the past year, and to all those toiling in obscurity, thank you for your hard work, your imagination and your dogged determination to follow your movie dreams in a place like Maine.
THE STRAND THEATRE, Rockland | rocklandstrand.com
Friday: “Pride.” In the tradition of “Kinky Boots,” this feel-good British film is based on a true story of unlikely camaraderie, with striking Welsh coal miners gradually accepting the support of a London-based gay and lesbian group.
SOMEWHERE … MAYBE RIGHT BEHIND YOU
Friday: “The Babadook.” While I can’t confirm any local showings of this horror movie by press time, the arrival of a great horror film is such a rarity, that I had to mention it. A young mother discovers that her child’s fears of a monster lurking around the house might have some truth to them after all in this Australian film that’s being hailed as one of the best horror movies in years. Seek it out.