Lists, lists, lists: As we grow ever nearer to the day when "1999" rolls over to "2000," more and more organizations are attempting to determine the best, the biggest or the most significant of the century or the millennium, thereby precipitating the onset of a very late-Nineties malady: survey fatigue. But Landmark's Favorite Foreign Film contest, which runs through October 31, has several distinct advantages over many such polls. First of all, participants have an opportunity to win (imagine a game-show announcer's voice) fabulous prizes. But just as important, the assembling of this particular roster is being used as an excuse to let foreign-film lovers in Denver see some great movies as they were meant to be seen -- on the big screen.
According to local Landmark spokesman Dave Kimball, who helps oversee Landmark's Denver properties, which include the Esquire, the Mayan and the Chez Artiste, the poll was conceived to celebrate the 25th anniversary of what is currently the country's largest chain of theaters dedicated to what he calls "specialized films." He adds, "Foreign films are a big part of what we do. We book films like Nights of Cabiria whenever new prints are struck. And prior to The Blair Witch Project, the highest-grossing film for Landmark was Like Water for Chocolate, which played in some theaters for over a year. So we thought doing a list like this was perfect for us, and a nice complement to the best-100-movies list that was done by the American Film Institute."
Participants can pick up ballots at all area Landmark theaters and any Borders store, or they can play along at home by going to the Landmark Web site, at www.Landmarktheatres.com. A few clicks later, visitors will find an inventory of 600 foreign works ranging from the well-known, like Il Postino, a multiple Oscar nominee in 1996, to quasi-obscurities such as Xica, a Brazilian effort that received its stateside release in 1982, six years after it was filmed. Players can pick up to five of their favorites or nominate as many as five write-in candidates. The most popular flicks are scheduled to be announced in January, and a random drawing will determine the winners of prizes that include year-long Landmark passes and trips to Hong Kong and the Maui film festival.
At this point, Kimball's not sure if the top vote-getters will receive special showings at Landmark theaters next year. But in conjunction with the poll, the Denver branch is putting on "The World Cinema Series" beginning this weekend. On Saturdays and Sundays for six of the next seven weeks (Thanksgiving weekend excepted), the Chez Artiste will spotlight prominent pictures on the list. On October 30 and 31, catch the 1931 Fritz Lang shocker M, with Peter Lorre as arguably the creepiest child killer ever portrayed on celluloid; on November 6 and 7, view one of Federico Fellini's strongest efforts, 1954's La Strada, with Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina; on November 13 and 14, join Max von Sydow in a chess match with Death in 1957's The Seventh Seal, directed by Ingmar Bergman. Subsequent weeks deliver another trio of fine films: Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali, Juzo Itami's Tampopo and Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun. All of them will require some reading, but you know how, right? -- Michael Roberts