date published: March 31, 2003

Where indie flicks reign in Boston
by Aaron Ansel

When the weather is dreary and damp, sometimes nothing is better than huddling in a dark theater in front of the silver screen with an extra large bucket of buttery popcorn. Multi-plex cinemas screening big-budget Hollywood movies abound in Boston. But if you're the kind of movie buff who prefers re-living classic black and white movies from the early days of film, or would rather see Boston-faves Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in a low-budget Gus Van Sant picture like Good Will Hunting over testosterone-driven action flicks like Bourne Identity and Daredevil, the independent film scene might be just what you're looking for. The following are the best places for indie flick fans to satisfy their celluloid appetites.

Two of the local veteran art-houses, The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge and the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, top our list of theaters catering to the independent crowd. The Brattle (40 Brattle St., Harvard Square, 617-876-6838), a prominent landmark amidst the cultural hubbub of Harvard Square, warmly welcomes the savvy Cambridge crowd of academics and intellectuals and is known for showing classic films on the big screen, such as Lawrence of Arabia playing April 11-13. Monday nights remain dedicated to showing film noir, part of the theater's ongoing mission to showcase films and directors that they feel deserve a nudge back into the spotlight. If you're still not convinced this theater's worth checking out, we've heard the Brattle's popcorn is top of the line. Now there's news to make any true theatergoer excited!

A stone's throw from the Coolidge Corner stop on the MBTA's Green Line is another well-known art house, the Coolidge Corner Theatre (290 Harvard Ave., Brookline, 617-734-2501). The Coolidge (graced with an eye-catching new neon marquee) is well known among the hip twenty-something crowd, largely due to the theater's goal of pushing the boundaries of how film is defined. Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, the birthplace of irreverent adult cartoon classics like "Beavis and Butthead" and "South Park," begins April 4 and runs through the week. Midnight movies, a theatre tradition celebrated by college students and insomniacs alike, are screened every weekend at midnight. Midnight shows during the month of April are tied to the animation festival, for anyone who loves some good, late-night laughter.

In a city with as many schools and museums as Boston, it comes as no surprise that two of the best-known contenders in both categories, Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, have their own venues dedicated to independent and foreign film.
Supplement a day gazing at masterworks on the wall by checking out some fine art on the big screen. The Museum of Fine Arts Film Program (465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300) moves beyond Hollywood productions by featuring imports and local works along with playing host to numerous film festivals like the upcoming "Words on Fire" being curated by the Boston Jewish Film Festival. "Words on Fire" marks the 75th anniversary of the Nazi book burning and includes Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, a critical look at Hitler made before the U.S. had committed to World War II, screening April 12 for only the second time ever on American soil.

If you've ever wondered what students at one of the nation's most elite and competitive universities do with their spare time, one visit to Harvard University's Harvard Film Archive (Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy St., Harvard Square, 617-495-4700) will show you-they watch movies! Fortunately you don't have to be a smarty pants to enjoy the films: The theater is open to the public and is the place to enjoy an intellectual movie experience. The Film Archive likes to bring in directors whenever possible to answer viewers questions, which it does April 11 when German director Reinhard Hauff screens his films Stammheim and Knife in the Head as part of a series focusing on German cinema.

Today, low-budget doesn't always mean no box office (can you say My Big Fat Greek Wedding?), and the corporate multi-plexes are well aware of this. Looking to cash in on such indie success stories as Greek Wedding and last year's Amelie, Landmark Cinemas and Loews operate a new breed of art house in Boston. These venues are often state-of-the-art, boast several screens and offer concessions like espresso and baked goods.

Landmark's Kendall Square Cinema (One Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-9800) offers nine screens of the "must see" independent films of the day in an architecturally intriguing theater with a facade reminiscent of '50s-era marquees. Now playing are Oscar winners The Pianist, Talk to Her and Bowling for Columbine. The more conveniently located, albeit considerably more dowdy, Loews Copley Place (100 Huntington Ave., 617-266-1300) offers 12 smaller screens of similar art house films, along with family-friendly flicks like Piglet's Big Movie.

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