aOn college weekends, I’d pop into the local movie rental store to grab a few stacks of popular recent movies, and work my way through some recent American classics. It wasn’t until I saw it the lives of others At Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in the winter of 2007 I became what you might call a certified movie buff. the lives of others is a transcendent German thriller about love, writing, and espionage set in East Berlin. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2007 Academy Awards, and is one of those haunting films that stays with you forever. It’s also the kind of movie that these days is rarely shown in major cinemas.
If it were released today, it would likely only be available on some streaming services, without even having the chance to spark a love of cinema. But it was fortunate for me that I came of age before the dawn of streaming’s obsession with movies. And I had the good fortune to live in New York City when the Lincoln Plaza still existed.
If you talk to enough New York movie lovers, you’re likely to find a good number with a similar story—one about how one private movie in a private theater made them fall in love. And for many New York movie lovers, that theater was probably the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Set just a few blocks from the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Ballet, it was the movie equivalent of what the great New York institutions of music, opera, and ballet stand for. I watched some of my favorite movies of all time, including There is no country for old men (2007) and Midnight in Paris (2011), in this unassuming, poorly lit, basement theater, plus the film that gave me my start as a film critic – Terrence Malick’s 2011 masterpiece Tree of the life. Like many New York movie lovers, I especially look forward to Oscar season every fall and winter at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, where the theater will release the latest batch of films that are sure to get Oscar nominations.
There was a time when you might suspect you were in a show with a famous film critic and a famous film critic later if you went there during the right season, to the right show. But, really, you can find good movies showing at the Lincoln Plaza cinema at any time of the year. The Lincoln Plaza cinema has been an integral part of New York’s cinema culture.
To the sadness of many of us New York movie fans, the Lincoln Plaza cinema closed in 2018 due to its owner’s unwillingness to renew its lease. Theater fans got together and reopened it as the New Plaza Cinema. Since 2018, this theater has roamed the Upper West Side like Adam and Eve after being kicked out of the park, bouncing from building to building until recently settling into St. Paul’s and St. Andrew’s Church on West 86th Street. But the cinema now only has one theater that seats two. 74 seats, a far cry from Lincoln Plaza’s six thousand-plus-seat movie theaters and its ambitious yet laid-back art vibe. That cinema, like The Masterpieces of Eden, lives on only now in our collective memory. And it also lives on in the wonderful new book In love with movies By impresario Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, Daniel Talbot.
In love with movies is Talbot’s memoir of career and life dedicated to film. Talbot grew up in the Bronx during the Depression going to the movies all day on Saturdays in an era when it was not unusual to go to the movies in a suit and tie. Naturally, when he was dating Toby Tolben, the woman who would eventually become his wife, he took her to the movies with him. They married in 1951 and settled in Sunnyside, Queens, within walking distance of Manhattan. Talbot first worked as a copy editor for suspense novels, publishing what he believed to be the first high-profile anthology on film in 1959. At the time, he was also writing film criticism for gradual magazine.
Shortly thereafter, he became manager of The New Yorker Theatre, and pioneer of the Upper West Side’s Lincoln Plaza Cinema. The list of people Talbot recruited to help him run the theater is a veritable list of young Turks in film and literature on the rise. When he got his start as a program director for the theatre, he got some advice from Pauline Kael, who later became a legendary film critic and ran a small theater in Berkeley, California. He brought in Peter Bogdanovich, who later also became an important critic and director, to run a series of forgotten films. He brought in Jack Kerouac, whom Talbot had known before he made him a mansion clerk On the road, For writing program notes for the Monday Night Classics Monday Night Show series for F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. “He came to the show broke, already an alcoholic,” Talbot recalled. And Andrew Sarris, another young film buff also on his way to becoming an influential film critic, took notes on stage performances of Alfred Hitchcock The 39 steps And the foreign correspondent.
Talbot ran the New Yorker Theater until 1973, and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in 1981. In love with movies It is not a comprehensive history of either play but it is selective. Through the book, we learn how important these movie theaters are not only to New York movie fans but to the movie world in America as well. This was mostly because Talbot became not only an able movie theater manager but an influential film distributor. Talbot championed Robert Bresson’s work at a time when the French director was having trouble showing his films in the United States, and was instrumental in raising awareness of authors such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Roberto Rossellini and Yasujirō Ozu in the United States. He chose distribution and screening at the New Yorker Theatre, and the Lincoln Plaza cinema will then be shown at arthouse cinemas in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He was almost single-handedly responsible for the success of Louis Malle My dinner with Andre (1981), he convinced Malle to film Wallace Shawn’s twisted screenplay and then hatch a plan to distribute and promote it. My dinner with Andre It is now considered one of the pivots in the independent film movement. Talbot has had a hand in the success of many other independent films and filmmakers in the United States, so much so that in 1991, he was honored at Cannes for his work in film distribution.
In love with movies It’s almost as fun to read as watching some of these same great movies. Talbot’s writing flows freely and is full of light comedic touches. It’s also full of amusing anecdotes about directors with whom he had personal relationships, such as Werner Herzog, who wrote the book’s foreword, and enlightening apercus on how to run a successful art house theater and how to know when a movie is going to be a hit – you have to be able to tell that “something doesn’t described and inexplicable exists within the film.” Perhaps his most important observation is that we would be better off without making the distinction between “art house” cinema and “mainstream” films entirely. After all, “should we say that John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles or John Huston or Preston Sturges or Martin Scorsese he did not do Making “art films”? The term came about because many Americans have the hazy notion that only Europeans and Japanese are capable of making art films while Americans only make… well, what? crap?”
Daniel Ross Goodman is a Washington Examiner Contributing writer and author Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Wonder and Religion in American Cinema And the novel One life.
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