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Screen Slate’s Jon Dieringer Wants You to Go to the Movies

The editor-in-chief of Screen Slate recommends where to find independent and repertory film.

Spectacle Theater interior (via Spectacle Theater)

Fans of New York's independent cinemas have reason to rejoice. While theaters are feeling the same livability squeeze as other small culture venues, Screen Slate editor John Dieringer told us the indie film scene is actually thriving.

"New York really is the most important place for repertory film programming and independent cinema," Dieringer said. "Paris has an incredible film culture, and L.A. is definitely catching up, but in terms of curation and adventurous programming, no city really touches what's happening in New York." 

Since 2011, Screen Slate has published a daily email with film criticism and interviews with filmmakers and critics, and the outlet now has a podcast where Dieringer talks to filmmakers, curators, and other members of the film scene. Screen Slate, Dieringer said, is "trying to carry the torch of local film criticism," inspired by the old Village Voice, whose NYC coverage helped support an entire ecosystem of small theaters and offbeat film screenings. (One example of that torch-bearing: former Village Voice critic Amy Taulbin writes for Screen Slate.) 

Jon Dieringer at the stairs Keanu Reeves falls down in "John Wick 4." (courtesy of Dieringer)

The major difficulty facing those who seek to champion independent theaters in New York is, of course, real estate, Dieringer noted, and in particular finding enough space to project 35 mm film. But the switch to digital has opened up more DIY and fugitive possibilities for cinema in the city, including Spectacle in Williamsburg, a seven-day-a-week cinema where Dieringer was one of the first volunteer/programmers, and which continues to be run by volunteers in a "functionally anarchic way." 

He also recommends Light Industry, which just relocated to an upgraded location in East Williamsburg, and hosts screenings once a week on Tuesdays. Their films, he said, "tend to be more rare and intellectually provocative, but it's still a very inviting and friendly space that people should check out."

In the grand scheme of things, Dieringer said, "The film exhibition and screening landscape feels pretty healthy at the moment." Every cinema is packed, he told us. So don't miss out.

Friday, July 7 to Sunday, July 23: Nagisa Ōshima retrospective, Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, Manhattan ($13 per film)

"He's a pretty major Japanese arthouse filmmaker. His best-known films are probably 'In The Realm of The Senses,' which is known for shattering taboos around the depiction of unsimulated sex in films, and 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence,' which stars David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also did music for the film. He's always had a really unconventional and boundary-pushing style both in terms of the form and the content of his work. The opportunity to dive deeply into his full body of work beyond those two well-known films is really exciting. It ranges from conventional teen rebellion films he did earlier in his career to things that are more out there, like 'Death By Hanging' or 'Diary of a Shinjuku Thief,' which are really exciting films."

Thursday, July 13: "The Exterminator," Nitehawk Williamsburg, 136 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn ($19.50)

"I love trash and B movies. This is made by this guy James Glickenhaus, it's kind of in this wave of 'Death Wish,' Charles Bronson-style movies, but it's like the most extreme, violent, reactionary portrait of 'gritty New York City, gotta clean up the streets,' where Nam vets come back and they're like, 'the city's worse than Vietnam, we've gotta do something!' When we watch it today, it's kind of comical, it's like a parody of that style of film. I love those kinds of ridiculous movies. Also, Glickenhaus has left filmmaking and is now a car manufacturer and collects the fastest race cars in the world, I think." 

Wednesday, July 5: "Uncle Sam," Roxy Cinema, 2 Avenue of the Americas, Manhattan ($18)

"I love Roxy Cinema, we do a lot of collaborations with them. It's a venue that has been doing screenings for a number of years, but was really under the radar for a long time, and a lot of their programming was marketed toward their hotel guests. Now it's really blown up as a theater that tons of people are going to. They put a real emphasis on showing 35 mm. They're showing a film called 'Uncle Sam,' which I like, by the director William Lustig, who did 'Maniac Cop,' and films of that type. It's basically about a Desert Storm vet who's killed in friendly fire, and he comes back and wreaks havoc during the Fourth of July celebrations of this small town."

Friday, June 30 to Thursday, July 13: "Contempt," Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, Manhattan ($16.50, free for students, seniors, and people with disabilities)

"Film Forum has been wrapping up its Ozu series, who I would say even more than Ōshima is the quintessential Japanese arthouse director, and next month they're doing a run of Godard's 'Contempt,' which is one of his masterpieces. In July, they're not doing any of the major blow-out retrospectives that they're known for, but they have a lot of cool stuff coming up in August and September."

Saturday, August 19 to Tuesday, August 29: "John Wilson Selects," Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, Manhattan ($13 per screening)

"Anthology has been around since the '60s and evolved out of other underground film things that were happening at the time. It's still holding it down in the East Village in an old courthouse. In some ways it's a home base for Screen Slate as well; their programming is always fantastic. John Wilson, who does the HBO show 'How To With John Wilson,' has a series coming up which is a mix of offbeat documentaries and interestingly programmed nonfiction films. There's a funny one that Robert Downey Jr. did in the '90s, it's his attempt at doing a sort of gonzo documentary like his father, Robert Downey Sr., who was an underground filmmaker. And you can really feel him trying to live up to the cultural legacy of his father somehow. So John is gonna screen that, and he's gonna show work by his crew, and stuff by George Kuchar who's a really incredible artist and diary filmmaker whose work really resonates strongly with what John has been making. He's also showing 'Overnight,' about the making of 'The Boondock Saints.' The film is kind of known as this unflattering portrait of this blustery, egomaniacal filmmaker, but it's interesting to watch now because he was one of the first people to call out and push back against Harvey Weinstein, so it's kind of a funny relic of its time. It's aged kind of interestingly in that aspect."

Updated (6/29/23, 4:54 p.m.): This story has been updated to clarify that Dieringer was one of the first volunteers at Spectacle Theater, rather than one if its founders.

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