April classic movie calendar in Buffalo

Hi again film fans – here are listings for classic, repertory and specialty films being shown in the Buffalo area during April. The first list is a calendar by date. If you prefer to look up movies by title, an alphabetical list with description follows.

 April 2

“Blow-Up,” 7 p.m. at the Dipson Amherst. Part of Buffalo Film Seminars.

“We are Columbine,” 7:30 p.m. at the Screening Room Cinema Café (Boulevard Mall).

April 4

“We are Columbine,” 7:30 p.m. at the Screening Room Cinema Café.

April 5

“The Godfather,” 7:30 p.m. at the Screening Room Cinema Café.

April 6

“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” 11:30 a.m. at the North Park Theatre.

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Tough choices: My picks to see at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2019

The TCM Classic Film Festival schedule is like a maze for classic movie fans as we  weave our way through the massive list of more than 80 films, talks and special events spread over four days at six venues to create our individual viewing guides. It’s exciting and fun, but a bit frustrating all at the same time. (You want me to pick between what two films?!? Impossible.)

We circle movies, cross some off and put hearts or question marks next to others. Then we go back and do it all over again until we think we “have it right.”

But no matter how sure we are of our “final” choices, the only thing that’s really certain is that we’ll make more changes at the festival.

I base my choices off of three factors:

* How I feel about a film.

* Whether I’ve seen it on the big screen.

* Who is in attendance.

My only rule is that I will not see a film made in 1980 or later unless there is a very compelling reason. TCMFF is a chance for me to see films from a specific era (mostly pre-1960) that fit my definition of a classic movie. Since I was not able to see them in a theater on their initial release, I take advantage of being able to do so at the fest.

Here are my picks.

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Credit where it’s due: Robert Riskin’s words gave us the ‘Mr. Deeds’ we love

We’ve taken the word Capracorn for granted. Too often we throw it around  simply as a synonym for any film by director Frank Capra. It’s actually more complex.

To be a Capracorn film you need:

    • A common man
    • A feisty, independent woman
    • A big machine out to destroy the little guy
    • Overt sentimentality
    • Sharp, witty dialogue
    • Engaging minor characters
    • A deft touch with romance
    • An overwhelming sense of decency and innate goodness

That’s a lot to fit into a film, let alone make it feel effortless and real, too. But in movies like “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Meet John Doe” and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” we got all of the above and more. The common thread pulling it all together: the collaboration of Capra and screenwriter Robert Riskin.

Capra was the first director to put his name above the film title because of his belief in his singular vision as a filmmaker. Except – and this is tough to say since I always took pride in using “Capracorn” in a sentence – films are not a one-person art form. Capra had a vision, yes, and a great one, but that vision needed the talents of other craftsmen, including a screenwriter. In at least 10 of those films, that screenwriter was Riskin, whose name is in the credits of 13 Capra movies. Without Riskin, there was no Capracorn.

As Pat McGilligan writes in the intro to “Six Screenplays by Robert Riskin” (all films directed by Capra), “Capra was certainly ‘the name above the title,’ but Riskin was the man who provided the story or script, without which these would have been nothing but a title.”

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