Spectrum movie theatres are back!

mint brownies

Since I publicly mourned its closing on February 24, I’m happy – nah, ECSTATIC! – that the Spectrum movie theatres are back!

Per the press release: “Spectrum 8 Theaters first opened in 1983 by two couples who previously had owned and operated an independent movie theater, the Third Street Theatre, in Rensselaer.” I used to attend the Third Street. “For decades, the Spectrum has been synonymous with independent, upscale programming of avant-garde, foreign, independent, and widely-released features.”

Scene One Entertainment and its CEO Joe Masher is promising  to “restore the selections that made the Spectrum’s concession stand a treasure: locally-sourced cakes, pastries, cookies, gluten-free delights, real butter on fresh, hot popcorn, and mint brownies.” Many of these elements disappearted during Landmark’s seven-year operation at 290 Delaware Avenue.

“The old new Spectrum” has installed an exhibit titled ‘Looking Back, Heading Forward’ featuring 12 local artists with a nod to the past and to the future showing portraits and people gathering together around the arts.

The theater is now “hiring for all positions here at the Spectrum. Be part of the comeback story in Albany’s Delaware Avenue neighborhood.” A very small part of me is tempted, but no.

My first film…

I’m enough of a geek that I feel as though I should go to the grand reopening. I’ve seen Amelie, Cinema, March of the Penguins, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, all at the Spectrum. I also watched The Wizard of Oz at the Spectrum in 2022, and even if you’ve seen it on television, I’m recommending that you view it on the big screen.

And I saw Polyester at the Third Street Cinema! They will be offering the  ODORAMA CARDS, which you obviously need.

Still, I’m going to opt for a film I’ve never seen, which meanseither The Bodyguard or Rebel Without A Cause. Having seen NONE of Jamres Dean’s films in a cinema, I’ll probably opt for Rebel.

I still don’t kno what “regular” film I will see. The rrailers have often helped me to decide, and except for Covil War, I don’t know much about the current films. 


My wife and I saw the Spring Awakening at Cohoes Music Hall on Saturday. As this review in Nippertown notes, it is excellent. You should know that it deals with mature and intense themes.

It’s playing one more Thursday through Sunday. A member of the cast and one of the musicians attend our church, and another musician sold us our house back in 2000; I knew about the actor but not the musicians beforehand.

We saw a production of this musical back in 2010. while the set in the new profduction wasn’t as snazzy, I thought this production flowed better than the earlier one.

The theater and other diversions

Some Like It Hot; Hadestown; Gordon Parks

While filling out one of those quizzes, I realized I must be missing some other diversions. I’m not watching much television. The movies I see (primarily) get reviewed here. So what else have I been doing?

My wife and I went to the Albany Institute of History and Art and saw “Gordon Park: I, too, am America” in early February, just before the exhibit closed. I loved his work, which I remember from the pages of LIFE magazines in the 1960s. He exposed the disparity of American life with his camera. A reviewer called the installation “incomplete but still rewarding.” The description of the works in one medium-sized room and a tiny annex seems accurate.

I realized that I related to Parks as a singular figure, the only black photographer I knew of, just as Arthur Ashe was the sole black male tennis player in my awareness.


My wife and I have season tickets to musicals at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.  The first one scheduled was Aladdin in October 2022. Unfortunately, that was the timeframe when my spouse was experiencing her leg injury.

I could have gotten the money credited to our theater account, but at that late date, Proctors wouldn’t fill those seats. Instead, I posted my issue on Facebook; I got a taker – a guy and his very enthusiastic mom – and our digital tickets could be used, which made me happy.

Thus, the first show we saw was Hairspray in January. I’d seen the original  1988 movie, written and directed by John Waters. The iteration we saw was more moving than a previous production I had seen, especially when Motormouth sings I Know Where I’ve Been.

The best part of going to a Thursday matinee at Proctors is that a few actors will come to a smaller theater and talk to the audience. They told their stories of putting on a production in the midst of COVID. One performer was cast two years earlier, while another auditioned online on a Thursday in Mississippi and was in NYC the following Monday. That first rehearsal involved practicing the exhausting finale. You Can’t Stop The Beat.

Hell, you say

In March, we saw Hadestown. The Tony winner still plays on Broadway but also has a touring show. The musical by Anaïs Mitchell tells a variation of an ancient Greek myth about Eurydice, a young woman desperate for something to eat. She ends up in “a hellish industrial version of the underworld. Her poor singer-songwriter lover Orpheus comes to attempt to rescue her.” The tour will continue through May of 2024. Well worth your time.

My wife and I saw Rent at UAlbany in March; some great performances. Ditto Sister Act at the newly refurbished Albany High School, where our daughter, home from college, joined us. Some difficulties with the sound marred both shows.

Norma Jeane

My wife and I also saw the movie Some Like It Hot (1959) at the Spectrum in Albany. While I had seen a movie ABOUT Marilyn Monroe, this was the first film I saw that she starred in.

The movie was very good. Indeed, it has been “voted one of the best films ever made in polls by the BBC, the American Film Institute, and Sight & Sound.”

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play two musicians on the run from the Chicago mob in 1929 who dress up as women and join an all-female band heading to Miami.  Marilyn as Sugar Kane is more than another “dumb blonde,” even though the band’s singer describes herself that way.

I had heard about her clashes with director/producer/co-writer Billy Wilder, with her demanding many retakes. Ultimately, Wilder acknowledged: “Anyone can remember lines, but it takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did!”  She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

My wife and I thought that the lighting made Marilyn seem to be topless in a couple of nightclub scenes, though she was wearing clothing.

There is a bit of mob violence in Some Like It Hot. But fortunately, it wasn’t like seeing a Scorcese or Coppola film.

Also, I imagine that they should ban the movie in Kentucky. Lemmon and Curtis are in drag. And Joe E. Brown’s famous last line just nails that down.

Movie review: A Star Is Born (2018)

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were not the first actors attached to this project over the years.

A Star Is BornI saw A Star Is Born (2018) without a lot of preconceptions. I never saw the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. And I’d all but forgotten the existence of the 1954 iteration with Judy Garland and James Mason. Both were mentioned in the credits. According to the IMBD, the 1937 take with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, which I was totally unfamiliar with, is NOT credited.

The current film was really solid from the beginning when we first meet Ally (Lady Gaga). She is a shy performer who lives with her loving, though blowhard, father Lorenzo (Andrew Dice Clay).

By chance, she meets Jackson (Bradley Cooper), a superstar singer and guitar player. The movie, from the beginning until when Ally finally goes on the big stage, I love.

After that, A Star Is Born is pretty solid, though there are probably a couple scenes the director (Bradley Cooper) or one of the writers (including Cooper) might have trimmed. Still, not bad for a first-time director. Lady Gaga is excellent; expect an Oscar nod. Cooper is a very good singer in the country-rock genre.

They weren’t the first stars attached to this project over the years.

Clay, a comedian I didn’t like in the day, I thought was quite fine. And Sam Elliot is always great; here he plays Jack’s protective older brother Bobby.

But a technical glitch at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany diminished the experience. It wasn’t the quality of the filmmaking, it was the quality of the film. It stuttered – think of a compact disc that is stuck – at least six times during the previews.

It happened at least five times during the movie itself, usually not in critical points, although there was an important scene near the end which was negatively affected.

It stuttered so often during the closing credits that I, a huge credits fan, left after the 12th interruption. I know others had already complained, but we went to the concession stand to add our voices. We were told the theater thought it was only on the preview section, not the film itself.

Also, they didn’t want to disappoint viewers by canceling the showing. Guess what: We WERE disappointed that they DIDN’T cancel. I also went online to complain, and to the Landmark Theatre’s credit, they mailed me coupons good for two movie tickets and two small bags of popcorn.


Brooklyn was the first film The Wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre since it was taken over by Landmark Theaters.

brooklyn-movie-saoirse-ronan1The very first time I saw Saorise Ronan on screen in the wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), I realized I’d seen her before, as a much younger actress. It’s those eyes. As it turns out, she was in Atonement (2007).

In the movie Brooklyn, though, she is the protagonist Eilis Lacey, a young woman in her native Ireland, who has few prospects in her hometown. Her beloved sister Rose encourages her to leave her and their widowed mother and move to America. Specifically, she’ll live in a certain NYC borough in a boarding house with other, mostly beautiful women, and their crusty but caring landlady (the wonderful Julie Walters).

Eventually, Elias finds love with a plumber named Tony (Emory Cohen). But a tragic turn forces Eilis to deal with changing realizations about her homeland and her own sense of self-worth.

There were only 2 negative reviews at Rotten Tomatoes out of 152. One read: “Wonderful performances but do we really care about a teenager from Ireland trying to decide between guys?” This person is right about their performances but has totally missed the point of this film, which is that leaving home is sometimes exquisitely difficult.

There are LOL moments involving the boarding house dinner table and at Tony’s home. Jessica Paré played Miss Fortini, Eilis’ supervisor at a fancy department store not unlike Macy’s of the 1950s with a nice mix of sternness and compassion. But you may be inclined to hiss at the screen when Brid Brennan’s crotchety Miss Kelly, Elias’ part-time employer in Ireland appears on the screen.

I’m not familiar with the work of director John Crowley, but writer Nick Hornby was executive producer of two films I liked, About a Boy and An Education, and screenwriter for the latter.

Not incidentally, this was the first film The Wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre since it was taken over by Landmark Theaters, on Black Friday night. One change: those cards we used to buy, 10 for $80, are now gone, replaced by a booklet one can purchase, 25 tickets for $200. Also, they don’t take Discover, but they do accept American Express.

Movie Review: Heart of A Dog

Heart of a Dog is a documentary by artist/musician Laurie Anderson about her very deep relationship with her canine.

heart of a dog.laurie andersonIt’s Tuesday, November 17, the last day that the Spectrum 8 Theatre will be under the current ownership. Come Friday, November 20, the cinema will reopen under the control of the chain, Landmark Theaters.

The current owners insist the new company will keep it just the same. Keith and Sugi Pickard gave me that message the previous Saturday at the APL Foundation Library Gala, and Keith, who’s helping with the concession stand queue repeats the message this night to the Wife and me. I’ve been going there, or to its predecessor, the 3rd Street Cinema in Rensselaer, since 1980.

There are a number of films I’d like to see. But the one playing that seemed avant-garde, least mainstream, most Spectrum-like, was Heart of a Dog, a documentary by artist/musician Laurie Anderson about her very deep relationship with her canine, but also about her late mother, post 9/11 surveillance, and memory. Her late husband Lou Reed makes a brief appearance. It’s impressionistic and meditative and contemplative and musical, and occasionally very funny. Go read some nice reviews, 97% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

Sugi Pickard watched that single screening. So did Cathy Frank, the legendary namesake of Cathy’s Waffles in ’80s Albany, who posted her disastrous-looking but still apparently tasty waffles on her Facebook page. It was a Smallbany event of sorts, the end of an era, like the apparent demise of Metroland after 38 years, or the closing of Bob and Ron’s Fish Fry in Albany after 67 years.

Oh, and it was my mom’s birthday, and Laurie was remembering what thing her mom said to her that most sticks to her mind. And it got me thinking some more about MY mom’s words to me. And it was…soothing to contemplate.

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