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A real screen gem

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

It was raining like a scene from “Key Largo.’’

The Blackhawks were down 2-1 and playing Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

And yet more than a dozen people – including a couple of big-time Blackhawk fans, spent their June 10 evening watching a couple of old-time comedies. The Marx Brothers’ “Horse Feathers” and
“Duck Soup” were presented at the Oak View Center in Oak Lawn.

CineVerse celebrated its 10th anniversary in early June and the Oak View Center has hosted screenings and discussions about various films on Wednesdays for a decade. Running the show is movie buff Erik J. Martin, who shows the films and then asks the group for input on them.

Almost all of the films are either old or obscure. Black and white, silent and foreign films make up a bulk of the movies shown and discussed.

Martin insists this isn’t some snooty highbrow group, but anyone coming to a meeting hoping for a showing of the super hero movie of the month or sci-fi movies where computer-generated robots destroy each other will probably be disappointed.

“I’m not saying were the cultural conciseness of Oak Lawn,’’ Martin said. “But to the group’s credit, we cater to the tastes of the members. A lot of people show up because they want to be exposed to something they wouldn’t ordinarily rent or watch on TV on their own.’’

Martin is a guy who loves moves and is fascinated enough by them to research them.

“I don’t pride myself on being a know-it-all on this stuff,’’ he said. “I think the majority would agree that one of the great pleasures of CineVerse is discovering stuff that you would have never seen on your own. And it’s important to hear other viewpoints. It’s great to hear what people like and don’t like about a movie. It’s a communal, social experience.

“The crux of it, to me, is that you watch movies all the time, but how often do you really talk about them? That’s what keeps everybody coming back.’’

Hometown’s Brian Hansen and Tom Nesis kicked off the discussion on the Marx Brothers double feature.

While casual film viewers notice the obvious slapstick gags, from Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo, people like Hansen and Nesis observed some of the more subtle humor, double entendres and its satire on world events during the 1930s era in which the movies were made.

Martin likes to bring facts about the movie to the table. He examined the Marx Brothers movies of the early 1930s with some of their later works for MGM, in which more music and love-interest storylines were featured.

“This isn’t trivia,” he said. “I try to find out what is contextually interesting. Historically interesting. What’s relevant? What still resonates today? What were the themes? Were there any symbols or repeated patterns? What was the director going for? Why does this movie still hold up today? Or does it not hold up? Those important kinds of questions that I ask.’’

Ten years ago, the group started by watching the Orson Wells’ classic “Citizen Kane.’’ It’s been shown three times in 10 years. Martin remembers spirited debate over D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent movie “Birth of a Nation,’’ which features the founding of the Ku Klux Klan.

Coming up in July and August include “Casablanca,” “Cool Hand Luke,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.’’

Martin did have an off-night, in which he snuck in some classically bad films.

 “It fell on April 1 and I told them a week before to show up because I had a special surprise planned,” he said. “I told them they would be watching clips from some of the greatest movies of all time. I told them I put a special package together and we will talk about these.

“We got a pretty good turnout. We hit the lights. I hit ‘play’ and suddenly we started watching ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ skewering ‘Manos the Hands of Fate,’ which is a real bad drive-in horror movie, and ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.’ We tried to get those both in and we just couldn’t take it anymore. We had to turn it off. It was that bad.’’

Films are shown at 7 p.m. at the Oak View Center, 4625 S. 110th St. in Oak Lawn.