These two guys climbed into what they thought was an ordinary cab on the corner of 104th Street and Broadway; it turned out to be a time machine, which took them to 1958. Fortunately, they found a clothing boutique with a farsighted clerk who didn’t notice that they paid for their outfits with bills from 2017. Unfortunately, when they thought no one was looking, they pulled out their smart phones in a foolhardy search for a wireless signal, but, in doing so, violated a fundamental law of time travel, which prevents the use of anachronistic technology. Nano-seconds after this photo was taken, these folks vanished into a worm hole, which took them to a time and place unknown.
Or maybe they were on the set this morning on the Upper West Side of Manhattan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Just maybe.
I walked passed this plaque the other day. In fact, I’ve probably walked passed it many times over the years, but this time I noticed it. Naturally, I thought “Wow! Really?” To think that the motion picture–one of the most influential forms of art and propaganda, that touches literally billions of people, that not only entertains but educates, that not only spreads truth but also lies, that has generated billions of dollars and driven people to suicide–in other words, something that does just about everything–started right here, right at this spot, at a place that once bore the charming and now ancient-sounding name of Koster and Bial’s Music Hall?
And then I Googled it. I’m not saying Googling is the be-all and end-all when it comes to fact checking; after all, the internet if full of fake news. And yet I found what I read here on a site called untapped cities under the headline “Lost and Incorrect Historical Plaques in NYC” persuasive:
“It may have been Edison’s first, but not where the motion picture began. The showing in 1896 was just the first showing of Edison Kinetoscope films on screen to a paying audience, not the first screening of a projection film which happened in Paris 1895, by the Lumiere Brothers. In fact, Edison only allowed this 1896 screening to happen after there were “wide-spread projections of the Kinestoscope films by unauthorized showmen,” reports Raymond Fielding in A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television.”
So apparently even plaques, which seem inherently honest in their fixity and stolid plainness, can be as slippery as a Sean Spicer press conference.
Often on Saturday, a choir (I think they might be Amish) sings in the busy Times Square subway station. They set up in front of a panel of back-lit ads that changes from week to week. On a recent Saturday, the juxtaposition of puritanically-styled singers next to a promo for the latest Alien flick seemed to carry a hidden message. The end is near? Ain’t life funny? What we define as ‘alien’ is only a matter of perspective?
In any event, it made me think that advertising isn’t a modern idea. Humans have always tried to sell each other stuff–whether it’s goods, or an experience (like a film), or a religion, or a political ideology.
What’s surprising is that you’d think the pretty sounds of a chorus — their voices are lovely, echoing through a station usually dominated with groaning, screeching trains — would attract far more people than a black-and-white image of an anonymous mouth contorted in a terrified scream. And yet I for one would rather watch Alien: Covenant than hear a sermon of any stripe. And I suppose the fact that in just a few weeks Alien: Covenant has earned over $100 million means that I’m not alone in that regard.
I was lucky enough to attend the opening of Moonlight last October at the New York Film Festival. I remember reading the description of the film and thinking, “A movie about being black and gay? Sounds interesting.” And of course I was happy we bought the tickets because it turned out to be amazing.
I never posted the photos because I took them with my phone, which does a lousy job in low light. But in honor of Moonlight’s Oscar win, I thought I would celebrate by sharing them.
Congrats Barry Jenkins, Mahershala Ali, and the rest of the creators, cast and crew!
Todd Haynes, director, bottom right, and Christine Vachon, in a q&a about their film Carol at the Paris Theater. Afterward, they went outside and snapped a photo of the marquee, right. I love how even totally amazing and accomplished filmmakers don’t take the wonder of their accomplishments (as evidenced by the beautifully understated, class Paris marquee) for granted.