MOVIE REVIEW: A Prairie Home Companion

Before that, though, I need to tell you about the venue: Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady. It was an old vaudeville house, the “site of the first public demonstration of a new technology – television” on May 22, 1930.

By the 1970s, though, it has fallen into disuse and disrepair. I walked in the arcade in 1977 and was nearly overwhelmed by the smell of bodily wastes. Yet, it was at that time when the revival of Proctor’s took place. Among the many supporters of Proctor’s was the Schenectady Arts Council, which obtained a grant to provide arts in the schools of Schenectady in 1978. The offices of the artists and the administrative staff, which included me doing the bookkeeping, were located on the second floor of Proctor’s. My very first task was to sell ad space for a program that would be a benefit for Proctor’s in April 1978. There were a number of performers on stage for that show, and even more including our secretary, Susan, two of her friends, and me, singing in the arcade. I was also in charge of an Artisans’ Arcade, a biweekly event, not surprisingly, in the Proctor’s Arcade.

So, I have a great deal of affection for the elegant Proctor’s, and am thrilled by its comeback. Its director, Philip Morris (really) is leading an expansion of the facility that will include two new theaters. Meanwhile, it’s a great place to see a film, with a BIG screen, rather than one the proportions of an oversized home entertainment theater. The ticket prices skyrocketed from $2 to $3 last year, though.

After the previews for Ant Bully, Superman Returns, and An Inconvenient Truth, all showing in the near future, the featured film came on. I liked it well enough. The performers are uniformly excellent, including Lindsay Lohan, who holds her own. Meryl Streep’s singing was a revelation. The music throughout was great. But…

Both my wife and I remember quite distinctly Ebert and Roeper’s review of the film. Roger gave it a thumbs up, while Richard gave it a thumbs down. The difference? Ebert listens to, and likes the radio program upon which the film is based, and Roeper does not, or more to the point, has heard it and hasn’t especially enjoyed it.

It is true that nothing much happens in the film. Yes, it’s “the last show” but Garrison Keillor’s character, GK, treats it like any other show; must be that Norwegian bachelor farmer reserve. Oh, Virginia Madsen wanders around, but that mystery is resolved soon enough. And there’s no “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon,” probably because it was decided that such a monologue wouldn’t be very interesting in a cinematic product.

The Robert Altman-directed film will be available on DVD on October 10. I think it’s worth a look-see.

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