New York City, baby.

Monday, March 15, 2004

The Eternal Sunshine Of The Lower East Side

Every time we pass by the Angelika, that once great bastion of independent film for downtowners, we look to see what’s showing.

Considering we haven’t visited their cramped, crummy theaters in ages, it’s a quixotic little habit – like keeping abreast on who your ex-girlfriend is dating, even though you haven’t the slightest interest in ever returning to her bed (which, as we recall, was also cramped and crummy.)

What was the last movie we saw there? The Tao of Steve? The House of Yes? Who can recall?

We’re just glad that the requirement for seeing a movie no longer includes "breathlessly" waiting inside a velvet roped maze to be admitted to our seats, or sitting in a “hauntingly” drab café that sells “thrillingly” over-priced chocolate brownies that “take your appetite away”.

Now we can go to the Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street, where not only is seeing an indie film on the weekend much less of a hassle, but they have eight different kinds of popcorn seasoning. You heard me right. Eight kinds! That includes white cheddar!

Yesterday, we went to the Sunshine and saw the documentary Touching The Void – and, you know what, we had a remarkably pleasant movie-going experience.

Some credit has to be given to the fact we went to see a film that was a few weeks into its run and had suffered no Oscar attention. “We avoided that whole Triplets of Belleville mess,” we explained to the Blubox Intern.

But we were also blessed by a smaller than usual crowd for a Sunday afternoon – we chalked it up to Madrid-inspired fears of riding the subway or everyone finally moving to Los Angeles for the weather.

We found our seats, two beauties half way down that failed to set off our acute talker-detection telepathy. We put our coats on an empty seat, which we shared with another adorable downtown couple.

Some might not like the theater’s seminar-like seating, but it warmed us with the nostalgia of sitting through bullshit American Civilization classes, while recovering from a Thursday night hangover.

We loved the movie, which was a documentary about two climbers and the gruesome agony they suffered descending an untried mountain in Peru.

We got a lot of sick pleasure applying the lessons of their ordeal to our lives in New York. For instance, paraphrasing one climber, as he describes the strange voice that kept him moving despite a broken leg, severe frostbite, and no realistic hope of surviving: “This part of me. It was unsympathetic, almost cruel. Telling me I had to keep moving. I couldn’t stop to rest or I would die.” Dude, that’s a Monday at the office.

We highly recommend this gorgeous, briskly-told picture, which avoids all the usual conventions of the true-life disaster tale.

Absent is the prerequisite subplot about the inspiration of loved ones; you don’t hear anyone say, “if only to see my child’s face one more time, I knew I had to keep going.”

One of the best lines of the movie comes when one of the climbers finds himself stuck in a crevice, his situation hopeless. He tells us: “I’ve never been a big believer in God, but I always wondered if I got in jam like this if I'd start doing a few Hail Marys and start praying like crazy for help. But I didn’t, which told me I was right. There is no God.” And then he survives anyway.

The only sour note occurred soon after we left the theater, when the Blubox Intern realized she was without her black leather gloves.

We returned to the theater in an attempt to recover the items. The dopey kid in the box office told us he had found one black leather glove.

We waited five minutes for him to retrieve it from his garbage bag full of lost crap. (Why are we waiting? What is one glove going to do for us, even if it is hers?)

After locating the glove, the kid passes it (skeptically) across the ticket window for us to examine. The glove was not hers – which was an odd relief. One glove would serve only as a reminder to the self-incriminating carelessness of the owner with regard to items of clothing.

But even with no gloves, the Blubox Intern knew she had to push on. And so she bravely walked down 2nd Avenue, fighting the elements, the cold wind numbing her soft little fingers.

Then she said to me “I’m cold. I don’t like this” so we flagged a taxi for her, which drove us both back to Blubox.


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