While the hubbub over the American Film Institute's list of top 100 films of all time has died down, the bright power of the films among its ranks has not. These celluloid masterpieces prove their visceral and technical impact with every viewing, and the bigger the screen, the better. No way did Stanley Kubrick plan for the crisp black-and-white glory of Dr. Strangelove to be undermined by crappy VCR tape and a 12-inch TV screen. Kubrick doesn't get out much, but we suspect he hopes his admirers would get off their couches long enough to see his films in a real theater. Blockbuster be damned.
So what a windfall for this town's cinephiles (and the filmmakers they love) that the Lakewood Theater has launched a two-week celebration of Columbia Pictures' 75th Anniversary by screening 12 of the West Coast studio's best-ever flicks, all of them scattered across that AFI list. And even better that the Lakewood is a 60-year-old art deco palace that evokes the golden age of cinema--balconies, table seating, and red carpet included.
Columbia started out in the 1920s and for a while stood as one of the "little two" of the Hollywood studio system (the other junior being Universal, the five biggies being MGM, Warner, Fox, RKO, and Paramount). By the time the '40s rolled around, studio founder Harry Cohn was onto something that surpassed even his success with director Frank Capra. The popularity of films such as From Here to Eternity and All the King's Men led to an even more lucrative and respectable '50s: On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Columbia was, by Cohn's death in 1958, way more than just a "contender."
The '60s and '70s continued Columbia's solid creative run, beginning with 1962's Lawrence of Arabia. All the films on the Lakewood roster precede the studio's big buyout by Sony in 1990, which is perfect. We wouldn't want to knock a screen gem like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the director's cut, no less) out of the schedule to watch something as recent and dawdling as The Last Action Hero, would we? In fact, the Lakewood has done a fine job of cross-sectioning Columbia's filmmaking history by including several films from each decade, starting with the droll and shiny 1930s and working up through the darkly seminal '70s. Below is a list of the two-week viewing schedule. Tape it to your fridge and plan accordingly--in other words, skip the insipid Jawbreaker at the horrid AMC Grand and do this instead.
Columbia Pictures' 75th Anniversary at the Lakewood Theater takes place March 5-18 at 1825 Abrams at Gaston. For times, prices, large table reservations, and directions, call (214) 821-9084 or (214) 827-