A vibrant film scene

City offers plenty to see, if you know where to look


September 09, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

For a city its size, Baltimore has surprisingly few operating movie theaters. There's the Charles, 1711 N. Charles St., which showcases first-run films that are unavailable elsewhere in the city. The Senator, 5904 York Road, with its state-of-the-art projection system and movie-palace ambience, remains one of the best places in the country to see a movie, any movie. (In fact, it was just named one of America's best 10 theaters by Entertainment Weekly magazine.) And the Rotunda Cinematheque, 711 W. 40th St., offers an intimate, cozy experience that is difficult to duplicate in a mega-mall.

But serious moviegoers - those who long to be on the cutting edge - know that despite the seeming shortage of city theaters, a treasure-trove of offbeat new films and revival series, in which the past is celebrated with great films and lively discussions, is offered in Baltimore throughout the year.

On most Sunday mornings, the American Film Institute's Gabe Wardell presents Cinema Sundays (www.cinemasundays.com). Held at the Charles (410-727-FILM, www.thecharles.com), the event features films that have yet to be released in the Baltimore area. Each screening is followed by a guest speaker who offers an expert perspective. What could be cooler than getting the lowdown on a movie before anyone else on your block?

One of Baltimore's best movie bargains ($5) is Saturdays at noon at the Charles (repeating the following Monday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 9 p.m.). The theater's continuing revival series offers movie classics where they belong: on the big screen. The current schedule ends Sept. 10, 12 and 15 with the hard-boiled 1942 film noir This Gun for Hire, the first screen pairing of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.

The Creative Alliance, a nonprofit arts venue in Highlandtown (410-276-1651, www.creativealliance.org), offers an array of films both traditional and anything but. Best of all, they are screened inside the old Patterson Theater, 3134 Eastern Ave., which has served as home to the alliance since May 2003.

Beginning Oct. 20 and running through spring 2007, the alliance is presenting a Criminal Justice Documentary Series. The lineup includes eight films, each centering on an aspect of the criminal justice system.

There's also the alliance's annual CAmm Slamm, a chance for Baltimore's homegrown talent to spend a high-octane 48 hours making and showing their own videos. (The next competition is set for Feb. 23-25.) Silent films, too, are frequently screened.

Films to make you ponder are featured in the monthly Film & Social Consciousness Video Series at the American Friends Service Committee, 4806 York Road (410-323-7200); up next is Frank Capra's Meet John Doe (7:30 p.m. Sept. 30). And film classics, such as Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street (10 a.m. Sept. 17), are dissected monthly at the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Film Talk series (400 Cathedral St., 410-396-5487). Both series are highlighted by intricate and often spirited discussions.

Baltimore also boasts several annual film festivals. Most anticipated may be the Maryland Film Festival (410-752-8083, www.mdfilmfest.com), typically held for four days in late April or early May.

There are also Microcinefest (October), dedicated to underground and experimental films (www.microcinefest.org); the Jewish Film Festival (April), for films by and about the worldwide Jewish community (www.baltimorejff.com); and the student-run Johns Hopkins Film Festival (April), which offers, in true liberal-arts spirit, a little bit of everything (www.hopkinsfilmfest.com).

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