The feature film of the night was selected by me because our Meetup group is the Screen And Stage group ("Stage" as in "Plays"). There are many plays by the great, great dramatists, the pioneers of the modern drama, (such as August Strindberg, Paul Claudel, Eugene O'Neill, and Sean O'Casey), that SHOULD be staged in Dallas, I wish they would be, but they're not, and probably won't be any time soon.
For instance, I have never known of any instance of a live stage production of a Sean O'Casey play here in Dallas. But some of these plays HAVE been performed, completely unabridged and in their entirety, for the purpose of being filmed, or, in the case of this play, broadcast on television.
"The Shadow of a Gunman" is a DVD of a television broadcast performance of the great Sean O'Casey's first major play, written in 1923 and his first play to be accepted for being produced and performed at Dublin's legendary Abbey Theatre, which is one of the world's greatest live-performance theaters and the first state-subsidized theatre in the English-speaking world (from 1925 onwards, it has received an annual subsidy from the government of Ireland ), and which also staged productions by William Butler Yeats and John Millington Synge. And 110 years after it first opened, the Abbey Theatre is still in existence and is still staging productions of great plays.
And this play is the first of the plays in O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy, which also includes "Juno and the Paycock" and "The Plough and the Stars".
O'Casey was a passionate Irish Republican, deeply committed to Ireland's independence from Britain. And this play (the performance that we're going to see was performed for broadcast on American television in 1972 and stars Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfus and Frank Converse ["Movin'On"]) has a very heavy Irish Republican theme.
The story, a comedy-drama, is set in 1920 during the Irish War of Independence, and is about Donal Davoren, a poet who comes to room with disillusioned peddler Seamus Shields in his poor Dublin apartment. Donal is mistaken by many people in the apartment as being an Irish Republican Army gunman (in other words, an assassin fighting the hated British). Needless to say, in a Dublin apartment building filled with people who heavily sympathize with the IRA, an Irish Republican Army gunman is a MAJOR hero.
Donal does not try to refute this mistaken identity, especially since it wins him the affection of the attractive young woman Minnie Powell, who also lives in the apartment building.
I understand that "The Shadow of a Gunman" is very, very Irish, loaded with plenty of heavily colloquial dialect and unusual words and phrases. So the play has a rich, delightful, exotic regional flavor.
Since this play is not very long, well under an hour and a half long, we'll have plenty of time for the second feature in our double feature, "Gravity", directed by Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuaron, and starring Academy Award winners George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, and which, even though it lost out to "12 Years A Slave" for Best Picture at the recent Academy Awards, was still the big winner of the night, winning more Oscars than any other film that night, seven, including one of the night's biggest, Best Director for Cuaron.
Many of you have already seen this film; I scheduled it as an activity for our group a few months ago, when it first opened at the theaters. And it was such a box office smash hit that I know that many of you who did not go to that Meetup activity have also seen it. But, at our last Meetup activity at Mike's house, some people said that they'd like to see it as the second movie of our next double feature at Mike's. And it certainly doesn't hurt to see a great, great movie more than once.
The story involves two American astronauts, played by Clooney and Bullock, who are trapped in space when a debris storm, (caused by the Russians intentionally destroying one of their spy satellites with a missile so that its secrets will not be detected by other nations), almost completely destroys both the International Space Station and the American space shuttle, as well as most of the world's communications satellites, leaving Clooney and Bullock trapped in space with no food, water, or oxygen, and no way to communicate with Earth to call for help.
It all seems very hopeless, but they must figure out how to stay alive and how to get back to Earth.
The special effects are breathtaking, state-of-the-art. But special effects alone are not enough to ensure timeless longevity for a movie (for one thing, technology is always advancing, and so special effects that seem state-of-the-art now will no doubt seem commonplace twenty, even ten, or five, years from now).
So a movie needs to have a really profound story. And "Gravity" does: it superbly captures the sense of the total inhospitality of space to any kind of life at all, and how dependent that humans in space are to nothing going wrong, and how utterly hopeless they feel when things DO go wrong.
My friend Mike Ivie's Cine Mike home movie theatre is a great, outstanding place to see movies. It has a large-screen projection DVD player and plush media chairs. And there'll be plenty of yummy snacks and lots of time to talk about the films that we see and just to be with others who love movies and plays.
So come join us!