SMG Helps SafeHaven of Tarrant County by Donating Movie Proceeds

Sunday, March 3, 2013, Studio Movie Grill in Arlington, TX has committed to donate $1 from every ticket sold to screenings of the romantic film Safe Haven, starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough   to Tarrant County’s own SafeHaven organization.

Based on a best selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven (the film) stars Julianne Hough who portrays a troubled woman seeking to escape an abusive relationship with her alcoholic husband who starts over in a small town.  In a Q&A promoting the film, Hough said that her performance was inspired by her own experiences with abusive relationships.

SafeHaven of Tarrant County provides resources for battered women and children to free themselves from their abusive relationships by offering clothing, shelter and education resources.

The two emergency shelter facilities have a 174 bed capacity and provide 24-hour care to families fleeing life-threatening situations. The shelters provide living quarters, meals, clothing, transportation, counseling, children’s recreational and therapeutic activities, medical and dental care, and case management.

In 2006, SafeHaven answered almost 44,000 hotline calls; sheltered 1,095 abused women and 1,624 children; provided 150,036 meals; 100,024 snacks; housed 128 clients through the agency’s transitional housing programs where stays range from 3 months to 2 years; and educated over 60,000 community members on domestic violence and shelter services.

To support SafeHaven of Tarrant County, simply buy a ticket to any screening of Safe Haven at SMG Arlington on Sunday, March 3.

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What Is An Actor?

When Daniel Day Lewis won the Oscar for best actor and Jennifer Lawrence won for best actress this past Sunday, I began to ask what makes a performance worthy of such an accolade? In the workplace, we use the term acting to refer to people temporarily doing the duties of another person – such as an acting CEO. In plays, movies and television, acting refers to a profession… or to put it in other terms: assuming the role of another (i.e. performing his or her duties).

If you take the case of Daniel Day Lewis, acting is the ability to not only assume the role of another; it is also the ability to become another. In taking on the persona of Lincoln, he not only changes himself physically to look like Lincoln, he also assumes the mannerisms that we accept Lincoln possessed (bowed back, speech idiosyncrasies, a sense of weariness). In essence he becomes Lincoln. Lewis has throughout his career become others, whether it be Cecil in A Room With A View, or Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, or the role that brought him to the attention of the world as Christy Brown in My Left Foot.

The British appear to be more strongly rooted in the art of acting, but America has its great actors. Meryl Streep comes to mind. Whether she is playing Margaret Thatcher, Julia Child or Miranda Priestley, she assumes another’s persona with a level of perfection rarely seen in the movies throughout an individual’s career. With 17 nominations for either Best Actress or Best Actress in a Supporting Role, every time she is on screen she becomes a new character.

An actor is different than a movie star. In his essay ‘Charisma,’ Richard Dyer refers to the star image. A star has his or her own distinct persona, but unlike an actor the star’s persona remains consistent throughout all his or her films. The audience knows what to expect from the star in each film, and it provides a level of familiarity to the star that allows us to develop an audience/star relationship. What makes a great movie star? Stardom is based on the appropriateness of a star’s persona to the contemporary social situation. Or in other words, a star reflects the needs and desires of contemporary society. This may be because of a political persona/persuasion or it may be something as simple as beauty. In order to be successful, the audience must identify with the star as well as desire to be him or her.

The idea of identification with a star/character in a film is reflected in the line from Tropic Thunder by Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) to Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller): “Everybody knows you never go full retard.” On the surface, this comment may seem to contradict my interpretation of great acting but it actually reinforces another tenet of what makes a great character/star. Kirk’s follow up included this reference:

 ‘You know Tom Hanks’s, Forrest Gump. Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain’t retarded.’

We enjoy these characters because they remain accessible to us as an audience. It is also because we see their flaws as a mirror image to our own flaws. In the case of Forrest Gump, we struggled alongside him as he tried to love Jenny. On the other extreme from the mentally or physically challenged, we have the superhero persona. The reason we enjoy superhero films is because we want to be the hero, and the hero remains accessible to us as an audience because they possess flaws. Perfection in a character cuts us off as an audience. Would Superman remain an interesting character if he didn’t struggle with his feelings for Lois Lane, had no weakness for kryptonite, or was able to easily overcome all odds? The Dark Knight is a popular character because his persona allows us to identify with the darkness that exists within all of us.

Lacanian psychoanalytical film theory attempts to explain this system of identification. The audience, through the characters/stars on screen, is offered particular identifications to choose from. The theory stresses the subject’s longing for a completeness which the film may appear to offer through identification with an image. In essence, when we are watching a movie we are attempting to place ourselves in the film, almost as if we desire the film/character/stars to be mirror images of our own lives/self. However there is a catch–Lacanian theory also indicates that identification with the image is never anything but an illusion; the mirror isn’t real.

In my last blog entry, I referred to the implicit contract between a filmmaker and the audience. Our identification with those depicted in cinema is also part of this implicit contract. We have to agree with their values. The difference is that a star’s value system carries through all his or her films, while an actor becomes a character who possess new values in each film. Interestingly, regardless of whether someone is an actor or a star, film theorists will refer to a character’s name and not the actor when describing a scene in a film (see my reference to Forrest Gump and Jenny above), because film theorists believe that there is always distinction, albeit sometimes small, between the person playing the character and the actual character.

Regardless of the distinction, can’t a truly great actor become a star? Is Meryl Streep a star? Possibly yes. I know I would be kinda gaga if I ever met her.

But have you ever noticed that many of the great actors are reticent to give live interviews?  Streep says she suffers great anxiety during live interviews. A star, on the other hand, is as comfortable on screen as they are on a late night TV show couch. They appear so much more self –assured, which makes me wonder:

Would I prefer to be a star or a great actor? 

An Homage to Whitney

Beloved actress/singer and songwriter Whitney Houston passed away on February 11, 2012.  Studio Movie Grill pays homage to the woman whose songs we sang when our hairbrushes were microphones and our heads were full of dreams for this “Girl’s Night Out.”

When I wrote those words to market our February 13 Girls’ Night Out event in SMG theaters across the nation, I had no idea how much attending the event would drive that thought home.

The folks from E&J Gallo supported our tribute to Whitney by coming out to our Spring Valley theater and offering a sampling of their Apothic Red wine, a blended red comprised of zinfandel and merlot varietals that strike notes of vanilla and chocolate, creating a rich flavor, the perfect complement for red meat or desserts.  The wine is featured as our monthly special for February.

Before the lights went down, our guest host, Shannon Powell Hart of Good Morning Texas, gave introduction to the film, inspiring members of the audience to engage with the content by giving away prizes for knowing trivia from the movie, and three women came up to the front of the auditorium to sing a few lines of “And I Will Always Love You,” to win an admit two pass to come back for another movie of their choice.

Kevin Costner was definitely not at his best, and Whitney was pretty inexperienced as an actress when this movie was made, but I can still think of no greater homage to the fallen star than this movie, in which we revisit the best selling soundtrack of all time.

Whitney’s vocal performances were stunning.

Everyone in the audience danced in their chairs to the beat of “Queen of the Night,” and I realized that one of the reasons Whitney was such an amazing performer is that over the years she provided so many wonderful songs for the soundtrack of our lives.

Sometimes we don’t love movies because of the performances.  We love them for the memories they evoke that are forever tied in our hearts.

I remember when the movie first came out in 1992.  I was a dorky, awkward eighth grader with glasses and a huge crush on an equally quirky boy with red hair and blue eyes, who was my lab partner in Biology.  I admit he probably just liked the song, but I melted when he sang, “And I Will Always Love You,” in a fleeting moment alone with me before class.

As Studio Movie Grill continues to offer retro series as part of our alternate programming, we will be showing other favorites – for women with Girls’ Night Out, for men with Brews ‘n’ Views, and for everyone with $1 Classics.

Shannon and Jessica

Jessica Kirby from EJ Gallo (left) introduced Apothic Red to our Girls’ Night Out host, Shannon Powell Hart (right), TV personality from Good Morning Texas.

I hope every movie we revisit for these series evokes as fond memories to share with younger generations as they did for us when they first came out.