Everybody who has ever had their mind blown by a small-budget, outside-the-mainstream, un-Hollywood movie owes a debt of gratitude to Amos Vogel. Vogel and his wife, Marcia, founded Cinema 16, a cinephiliac society devoted to presenting film as art, back in 1947. Cinema 16 was the first such group in America, and its influence is arguably immeasurable. The Vogels championed many styles of film, providing an outlet for the works of everyone from the avant-garde filmmakers to documentarians to narrative stylists. Thanks to Cinema 16, American audiences had their first looks at the films of Roman Polanski, Maya Deren and John Cassavetes, among many others.
The life's work of the Vogels is celebrated in film (naturally) in Paul Cronin's documentary Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16. Cronin allows Vogel to tell his own story through interviews and archival footage, as well as via snippets of those precious movies that Cinema 16 first brought to American theaters.
One of the few knocks against Cronin's documentary is that Vogel does too much talking about and not enough showing of the films in question. The Webster University Film Series solves this problem neatly by following up Film as a Subversive Art with a dazzling selection of the films that Cinema 16 screened in its heyday. Among these are Roman Polanski's Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958), Kenneth Anger's seminal (literally) dream-drone Fireworks, and Weegee's New York, a twenty-minute-long documentary shot by noted New York photographer Arthur "Weegee" Felling.
Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (February 4 and 5) at Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-968-7487). Tickets are $4 to $6. -- Paul Friswold
Mitch Is the Man
Man, it's Mitch
Is Mitch Hedberg a genius? After a strangely elongated pause, the answer is "yes." With a head that was clearly borrowed from 1977 (with his long, straight hair and aviator-style sunglasses, you can hardly see his face), Eddie Money's wardrobe and a sleepy delivery that comes between "man"s, Hedberg seems the least likely person in the room to hold anyone's attention. But then he begins talking, stringing together an oddly compelling series of non-sequiturs about restaurant hostesses and getting a receipt when purchasing a doughnut, and you find you just can't stop listening to this guy -- and he's not even paying attention to you! With his eyes closed or looking down, Hedberg rambles on about randomness for an hour and then wanders offstage, leaving you to wonder how an hour passed while listening to a man discuss toast. Genius. Mitch Hedberg unleashes his sleepy brilliance at 8 p.m. at the Pageant (6161 Delmar Boulevard; 314-726-6161). Tickets are $29.50, and Stephen Lynch is no longer on the bill. It's all Mitch, man. -- Paul Friswold
And raising money
Theres something so satisfying about trying a new restaurant before any of your friends or coworkers. While theyre all going to the same old eateries day after day, you get to name-drop all the new places youve tried -- you tastemaker, you. So youve kept up and hit all the new hotspots downtown, but betcha havent been to Sekisui Pacific Rim in Clayton yet (7443 Forsyth Boulevard). And we bet that you keep forgetting to donate money for tsunami relief -- its OK, we wont tell anyone. Now's your chance to take care of both: This new restaurant is hosting a cocktail reception to honor its "official" grand opening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and starting at 8 p.m. (and through February 10), 10 percent of SPR's sales supports the American Red Cross' tsunami-relief efforts. Try everything on the pan-Asian menu and enjoy drinks, too. And don't forget to tall all of your friends about the restaurant after the opening-night festivities. -- Alison Sieloff
Perhaps in your younger days you, too, sat through a sociology-class discussion of Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock. In it Toffler and his wife, Heidi, noted that the rapid cultural, political and economic changes in late-'60s America caused a peculiar type of stress for people, which the Tofflers dubbed "future shock."
The Washington Avenue Players Project tackles future shock in its new production, So to Speak. The WAPP members created this piece of experimental theater as a group effort and describe it as a "theatrical happening" that explores how people cope with too much stimulus as they pursue happiness, a companion and a "better" life. So to Speak plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday (February 3 through 12) at the ArtLoft Theater (1529 Washington Avenue; 314-412-5107 or www.thewapp.com). Tickets are $10. -- Paul Friswold
Be the One That She Wants
Chances are, if you're a woman, you l-o-v-e the movie Grease, and you know every word, and you have the soundtrack. And chances are, if you're a man who loves one of these Grease-loving women, you haven't seen the classic musical, so you have no idea why she adores it so much. Take her to the Touhill Performing Arts Center (on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, 1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949) Friday at 8 p.m., or Saturday at 2 or 8 p.m. (February 4 or 5) and find out. Tickets for the stage version of Grease cost $15 to $45 -- not too much at all for an early Valentine's Day present that's sure to score big points. And when you're doing the bedroom "hand jive" on February 14, don't worry about thanking us. -- Alison Sieloff