Monday, February 26, 2007

The Movie Place Resurrected...Virtually


Back in December, I wrote a piece for The Reeler, detailing the demise of a neighborhood institution: The Movie Place on 105th St. and Broadway on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The store-- an indie video shop-- was a neighborhhod institution. The New York Times profiled its life and impending death, a cinephiliac kid tried to protest, but it was all in vain. Now, the place is gone. No more can people come in and here the store's owner opine about movies or recommend an offbeat title to fit your mom (like a community doctor, he was).

Well, now Dennis is trying to bring his personal touch, his sensibility to the Web. On his site, he offers his commentary and criticism on some of his favorites. The purpose, he writes is to fulfill the promises to "his legion of fans that his movie advice and commentary will always be available on his website and blog."

A glance at the site is reassuring. His love for and knowledge of film infuses his writings. For example, his review of an obscure Bogie film, In a Lonely Place, offers insights into this forgotten passion project of his hero and how it paved the way for Hollywood's cinematic critiques of itself. His commentary on Harry and Tonto is dotted with personal memories:

"The movie begins on the Upper West side. This is were Harry and his deceased wife raised their children. Harry does not want to go. It is amazing how some things do not change. What is amazing is how much the neighborhood is in the movie. I vividly remember watching them shoot the film, a good chunk of it on 111th and 112th and Broadway. There was an elderly couple who owned the newstand that still exists in the westside of Broadway and 108th street. The husband, Arnold, got himself in the movie and had dialogue with Art Carney. When Harry buys a paper from Arnold, he asks him “who’s Vice President this week?” Arnold replied “who cares”. Of course the day after I saw the film I had to go into Arnold’s store and ask him that very question. I always wondered if Art Carney improvised the exchange because Arnold was no actor."

It reminds me of being in his store. For him, his personal connection nd the film itself are inseparable.

My hope is that with his site, he'll be able to create a virtual community of film lovers the way he did in his store. In the faceless environment of the Web, it will be more difficult, but I'm certainly rooting for him. Creating a film community online-- a real, personal connection based on the love of film, an online neighborhood-- is what people are alwways saying the Web should be about. We'll see. Fingers crossed.

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