September 19, 2008

A Phoenix Rises Again in Minneapolis

I've only been back in Minnesota for two years, but it's been more than enough time to know that the drama surrounding Minnesota Film Arts (MFA) and the Oak Street Cinema has been, in a word, turbulent. I missed most of the big blow up that happened a few years ago, but suffice to say rumors of the Oak St.'s death have been tossed about willy-nilly for months. In fact, yours truly wrote a eulogy for "The Oak" just last March.

even though I've volunteered at the MFA-operated Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival the last two years, I've managed to keep above the political fray with this issue. I'm just out see good movies, and I don't know enough about what happened or why to lose sleep over other people's grudges. Let's just say I fully support local movie outlets like Pepito's Parkway Theater, Cinema Revolution and Take Up Productions, but I was also devastated by the thought of the Oak St. being torn down this September to make room for unnecessary condos.

Well, I got an email this week announcing an apparent full fall line-up at The Oak, and I know I'm not the only person in town who was surprised - not only by the simple fact that there are going to be films playing there more than once a month, but also by the list of the actual films that are going to be playing.

Check this out:

This weekend: A Soul Cinema Tribute to Isaac Hayes (screening Shaft, Wattstax, and Truck Turner)

Sept. 26-Sept. 29: Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix)

Sept. 27: Manhattan Short Film Festival

Sept. 30 - Oct. 1: Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnias)

Oct. 3 - Oct. 9: Alain Robbe-Grillet series (screening Last Year at Marienbad, Trans-Europa Express, L'Immortelle, Eden and After)

Oct. 10 - Oct. 23: Jean-Luc Godard series (screening Contempt, Band of Outsiders, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Breathless, Alphaville, Pierrot Le Fou)

I would say that's a pretty impressive rebound from MFA Director Al Milgrom & Co.

Unfortunately, I think it's going to be tough to work many of these into in a busy personal fall schedule for me (plus all of the new releases coming out, plus the Walker's Mike Leigh retrospective!), but good grief, people, we need to put personal loyalties aside and get to some of these screenings. Who knows how much longer we have...(I'm trying to leave its fate a little more open-ended this time around)...


  1. Fabulous news at the Oak Cinema!!! It is wonderful to hear of news like this, and life-affirming, especially when you see some many of the beloved movie houses that helped define our youth closing regularly, as multiplexes take full control of theatrical bookings. This is not true in big cities, and Manhattan's theatres still thrive (although again, even the Angelika, Quad, Cinema Village, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, Landmark, et. al. all have at least three screens and most of these four or five) but one rarely sees the single screen movie palace anymore. We had our hearts broken several months ago with the close of our beloved Rilato.
    The new fall lineup at teh Oak is nearly worth flying in for--or maybe it IS worth it! Resnais and Godard head the list! Looks like a great little place there and it's great you are passing the word on it Dan!

  2. While I'm quite happy the Oak Street has reopened, I'm not going to hold my breath on them being able to make it out of the woods. MN Film Arts is a mess right now, especially compared to what is being accomplished at The Heights, Riverview, or even The Parkway.

  3. Well you'll obviously have to look me up if you make it out here, Sam, but I'm sure you have offerings like this in your area with some frequency. I hope I can make it to some of the Godard ones for sure.

    Calling the Oak a "palace" is a bit of a stretch, haha, but it's charming in an old-school kind of way.

    Matt, I'm only taking this as far as I can see it, too. I would guess that the theater is still up for sale, and I have no idea where MFA is getting healthy financial support from outside of its members. Maybe these screenings will help them stay afloat for a while. Again, can't take anything away from the places you mention, though, all of which are great options here as well.


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