A Note from Our Programmer, John Moret

Omega Man (1971)

What is the nature of the search? you ask. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair. 

—Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

It is the strangest of times. So many of us are trapped in our homes, surrounded by endless entertainment—and yet, it all seems so limited and lonely. When I began to fall in love with movies, it was the height of the video store era. My parents were not huge movie people, but they liked going to the theater. My early cinema experiences (the Bambi re-release, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze, Return of the Jedi, Home Alone…etc) made a deep impression on me, but it was the video store where my mania took hold. In junior high, we moved to a small town in southern Minnesota, which left me melancholy and searching – what I found was the genre movies at Video Max and Cash Wise Video. I fell in love with the vast selection of horror, action, science fiction, war movies, and comedy. (I wouldn’t discover a true love of westerns or film noir until well into my adulthood.) It was the workers at these video stores who led me to the really interesting stuff—the “Staff Picks,” the 5 movies for 5 days for $5 deal, and more. In the store full of 4,000 films, I needed direction. I began to outgrow the video store near the middle of high school, and that’s when I found the kung fu collection at Suncoast Motion Picture Company. Through my love of Bruce Lee I made friends, and for a bit, only searched for the oddities of film. 

The point is, I know what being in solitude and loving movies is all about. I have had the joy of watching dozens of films to find one more you can fall in love with. 

But, this is different. In the past, I would have relished this moment and devoured the films stored on my shelf, the vast pile of movies yet to be watched. But, like most everyone, my world has turned upside down. Sure, my job is generally a dream of watching, thinking about, organizing, and writing about movies. But, for now, I am left astray. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending my time building LEGO castles, outfitting action figures, and playing baseball with my five-year olds. But I also miss the community I’ve come to rely on; I feel lost because I miss all of you, my fellow moviegoers. The rapture of seeing the long one-take in Hard Boiled or the fingernail-curling botched caper scene in Straight Time is exciting at home, but reaches an entirely different fever pitch when projected from a rare 35mm film print and surrounded by others feeling the same thing. In the theater scene in Omega Man, as Charlton Heston threads the projector and then goes to watch Woodstock for the nth time by himself in that epic wasteland, I used to see an existence of entertainment without responsibility. Now, I only see sorrow. The search for gems among the rough becomes null if there is no one to appreciate the gem once you find it. 

No doubt, in these difficult times, films are frivolous, and closing the theater for the moment is the right choice. But, when movies are a huge part of your life, and sharing them with others helps you to swallow the bitter pills of existence, it is a hard blow to sustain. Maybe Alex put it best in Clockwork Orange, “It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.”

I miss you all. Stay Strong. Can’t wait to see you again soon. 

—John Moret, Film Programmer

A 10th Anniversary Reminiscence

|John Moret|

From the moment I first walked into the Trylon nearly 10 years ago, I was enamored with it. It screamed a love of movies more than anything else. At the time I was working for a corporate movie theater chain, and the Trylon was refreshing in every way. Ticket prices were low and there was no upsell on concessions. But the real reason I loved the Trylon from the get-go was that it was about movies. There was  no bar or restaurant. There were no shot glasses with the Trylon logo on them. The volunteers, projectionists, and patrons were all talking about movies! The Trylon was everything I was hoping to find. 

I began going to the Trylon every chance I got. Because I was working in a movie theater and had to work during some of the best stuff, I missed so much during those first few years. The only film of the 1970s Jack Nicholson series that I caught was THE LAST DETAIL, which blew my mind. I completely missed the race car series, Color Me Gone—VANISHING POINT on 35mm included. I regret to this day that I didn’t quit my job to make time for that one. 

When I started volunteering, it was mostly so that I had a reason to be there as often as possible. With a shift to cover, I could make twice as many screenings, most of which were Trylon Premieres, expertly programmed by Kathie Smith. Though the new movies weren’t really my passion, I knew that whatever I saw would be excellent. And, indeed, I caught some unforgettable films. One that has really struck me and comes to me sometimes in my dreams was LEVIATHAN from 2012. It was a little seen “documentary” that put you in the bowels of a commercial fishing ship, punished by the waves and bludgeoned in the cleaning room. It was a bloody, wet, sensory overload. I could never have seen it without sitting in that little room with a few other fortunate souls—all of us stunned by the experience. 

After being hired as film programmer, there have been so many unforgettable, indelible moments I have had a hard time choosing which ones to point out. Fragments of moments stand out—a silent crowd at a sold out show of TOKYO STORY, the crashing of wood as we took down the old screen surrounded by dedicated volunteers, the sound of the projectors changing over, my 3 year old boys running in the dirt pit that would become the bottom half of the auditorium, secret moments of devastation shared with Barry during construction, the excitement of reopening… the list goes on. 

In celebration of the last ten years, it seems appropriate to share a few in detail. 

In September of 2012, I had a rare Friday off and my wife was out of town. It was warm and I was busy with something or other and was not paying attention to the time. I looked up and saw that it was 6:40pm, just barely enough time to make it to the 7pm show of LIFE OF OHARU (1952)—a film I’d been looking forward to seeing for a long time. I remember that I felt I didn’t have enough time to put on socks, so I went without—which I find repugnant and do not recommend. Coming in from the heat, the cold temperature of the auditorium was refreshing, reminding me I had no socks on. It was a tiny crowd and I sat in Terry’s blue seat and leaned against the pole. The lights went down and I was very excited. Hoping to see a small masterpiece and treasuring the experience by myself, I was wrapped up in the moment. Though the pacing was plodding, the 35mm print was gorgeous and I was enthralled. I left the auditorium moved and struck, stepping into the now cool evening and thought of the film the whole way home, not even minding the sockless shoes.

A different but memorable movie-going experience was the first film in the short-lived All-Star Video series—a product of a small group of friends programming a series that took place late-nights after Trash Film Debauchery. We went with only shot-on-video oddities from the video store era—films that never had a proper release (including home video in some cases) but found themselves on the shelves and seared into people’s minds anyhow. The first film in this series was SLEDGEHAMMER (1983). We were determined to make it a special night with playbills, essays and the like. The show was sold out and I’ve never laughed so hard before. My chest hurt at the end of the show. I was weirdly proud of introducing all those people to that little movie, it was as if I had shown them all HALLOWEEN for the first time. 

One particular film experience that continues to stand out in my mind is a screening of THE HIRED HAND from April of 2018. This is a film that I care deeply about and was within a series of films I had put together on Warren Oates. I was incredibly proud of the series and had high hopes. Unfortunately, admissions-wise, it turned out to be one of the bigger flops. Minneapolis was on the verge of the biggest April snowfall in years. It was “snowmageddon” coming for us. I was determined to see that print that I had been so excited about. When I arrived it was a small crowd. I found a friend who was there and had never seen the film. We sat in silence, the anticipation of the film and the snowstorm looming created a unique kind of excitement. The print came on-screen and it was lovely, with beautiful color and in great condition. That Bruce Langhorne music washed over us and I was transported. As the film ended on a melancholy note, I wandered out into the falling April snow and was in the perfect place. 

Though there are too many other memories to share—seeing HUSBANDS, STRAIGHT TIME, 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, SECRETS AND LIES and HARAKIRI on 35mm—and those torturous, and amazing, Horrorthon nights…

It’s worth pointing out that these past ten years have been possible because of the many lovely people who have put their blood and sweat into this place. Barry Kryshka, our Executive Director, worked for free for 9 years and is the bedrock of the organization. Nikki Weispfenning, our lead projectionist and theater manager, is as professional and thoughtful as people come. You’ve seen so much of her work on screen and can attest to it as well. Nicole Pamelia is our incredible designer, who has spent countless hours laying out our programs, working on our website and organizing poster designers. Mark Sherman and Kathie Smith, both amazing projectionists in their own right, have volunteered their time every other Saturday night to project films for the last 10 years. Beyond that, our box office volunteers have been so incredible. 

This is a personal thank you to all of you. You have made this place so special and it means so much to me. 

I’ll leave it at this: I can’t wait to share the next ten years of memories with you. See you at the movies.

Edited by Olga Tchepikova-Treon and Michael Popham

NOTE FROM THE PROGRAMMER: Magnificent Desolation

| John Moret, film programmer |

The way I see it, the intersection of space travel and cinema is one of the defining elements of the 20th Century. These technologies changed our view of ourselves and expanded our imagination beyond our planet. They came to being alongside the fallout of the Industrial Revolution—the fall of the Russian and Ottoman Empires, the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the warming of the oceans.

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