A still from the Oscar-nominated short Curfew
This time of year is a real boon for fans of moviegoing. These are the people who enjoy going out to the movies almost as much as they enjoy the film itself—you can recognize them by their familiar banter with the ticket-takers and concessions crew, or by the way they always seem to be sitting in the best seats before you even get in the door. While the lights are still up, you can get a good idea of what to see on your next visit by eavesdropping on their conversation; if they aren’t talking about movies, they will be soon.
There’s a problem, though, for those kinds of diehards: they run out of movies. Which is why Oscar season is such a windfall; not only are studios falling all over each other in a mad rush to get their movies into the public eye, but there is a second wave of smaller features—short films, documentaries, animation, and so on—that are also vying for awards. For many, getting included in an art house festival is the major screening of the year. Two of those fests come to Amherst this week.
But before we talk about films for diehards, let’s talk about plain old Die Hard—the film.
This week, that long running action franchise will see the release of its fifth installment, A Good Day to Die Hard, opening locally at Hadley’s Cinemark Theater. Almost 25 years after the first feature hit theaters, Bruce Willis continues in the role of John McClane, a crusty and begrimed New York cop who seems to run into over-the-top terrorist plots everywhere he goes. The kinds of things that involve bearer bonds, C-4 explosives, and vaguely European accents.
Fans of the series—and let’s face it, that includes an awful lot of grown men who, had they not caught the bug in their teen years, might know better today—might recall that the original found Willis’ character patching things up with his estranged wife while dodging bullets. This time around, McClane is traveling to Russia to smooth things over with his seemingly wayward son—only to discover that he is father to an undercover operative for the CIA. Like any good father, he takes an interest in his boy’s work: the pair are soon fighting side by side to stop a nuclear weapons heist. It’s enough to make a man misty-eyed.
For the true diehards, Cinemark is going the distance on Feb. 13, offering a one-day only marathon viewing of all five films, screened back-to-back. Beginning around noon and ending near midnight (and filled with a lot of discounted concessions to keep you going), the only thing missing will be your own couch.
Also this week: back to those festivals mentioned earlier—Amherst Cinema continues its tradition of bringing in the short films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. With one collection each of live action and animated works, the series is a favorite with those filmgoers who make their own bingo cards on Oscar night. This year, the nominees are introduced by last year’s winners.
The nature of the series makes it unfair to go into too much detail about each film—part of the joy of the shorts is that, like some beautiful stranger, they often come and go before you’ve realized that they made you feel something—but rest assured that, whatever your tastes, there is something in it for you. And in a world where “art” films and Die Hards alike can be equally by the numbers, there is a lot to be said for the power of surprise. Besides, if it turns out that you can’t stand the first one, you’ve won’t have to wait long before another comes along in its wake. But if you do like what you see—well, that will surely last much longer.•
Jack Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.