Tacoma Film Club a haven for film buffs
If you love movies and like to talk about them, the Tacoma Film Club has a cushy chair waiting for you.
Consider it a book club for film buffs. Each month, members watch three films, two on DVD at the club’s meeting place, and another in a theater. Later, members gather to discuss the films.
The club was started in 2003 by artist James Hume and Stadium Video owner and current Tacoma councilman Marty Campbell. It now has 150 members with about 50 of those described as the core membership, according to current director Glenn Buttkus.
Each month a producers committee made up of three members chooses a theme and films for the following month. The club gathers in their meeting space in the Pythian Temple the first two Fridays of the month to view the older films.
It’s up to the members to see the current theatrical release before they meet again on the third Wednesday of the month for a discussion of all three films.
They’re not watching fluff.
In November, the club screened the first two Stieg Larsson films in the “Millenium” triology. They saw the third while it was showing at the Grand Cinema. The Swedish series chronicles the detective work of a disgraced journalist and his emotionally damaged but tough-as-nails computer hacker sidekick.
“If we lasted 20 years, we wouldn’t make a dent on the great films and new themes,” Buttkus said of the club.
Buttkus will never run out of movies to see. The movie buff has 30,000 movies, mostly on VHS, in his 1,300-square-foot basement. A former actor, Buttkus said he lives and breathes movies.
The hardest part for the movie selection committee is choosing a theme timed with a current release and finding two vintage films to watch, Buttkus said. But not always. The Larrson trilogy was a natural, of course.
On a wet Friday night in November, a group gathered in the back room of their digs to eat homemade chili and catch up on news. Eventually, the group wandered out in to the main room where comfortably padded chairs were set up in rows in front of a large screen flanked by two speakers on stands.
Buttkus introduced the movie, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” For the next two and a half hours, members watched Lisbeth Salander fight and sleuth her way across Sweden in the mold-breaking mystery-thriller.
Some club members left early. Another slept through a good chunk of the film, but most sat rapt with attention. The mostly middle-aged crowd quickly dispersed after the movie was over.
Buttkus said they look for movies with depth and those that would provide good discussion. They generally stay away from musicals, mainstream comedies and action-adventure. They take into account members’ desires and interests, which are gleaned from the discussions. “You never please everybody,” Buttkus said.
The themes are often built around an actor or director. But some are quite esoteric. A recent month’s films were built around the theme of men who commute from Connecticut to New York in the 1950s: “Revolution Road” “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” and “Far From Heaven.”
Occasionally, the theme is an actor and the actor has gone to that movie set in the sky: Both James Dean and Paul Newman have been themes. In those situations, the members will just watch vintage films.
January’s theme will be people who struggle in the performing arts. Built around the Natalie Portman ballet drama, “Black Swan,” in theaters now, the club will show Albert Finney’s “The Dresser” and Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of a tortured piano virtuoso in “Shine.”
On discussion nights, the films are examined for their artistic and technical merits. Even the club’s website has discussions between members that reveal their in-depth knowledge and passion for film. Cinema fans who just have a basic understanding of film can learn much from joining the club, Buttkus said.
“They get a free course in film appreciation,” he said.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541
TACOMA FILM CLUB
When: First and second Fridays and third Wednesdays every month
Where: 924 Broadway, Tacoma
Dues: $20 per person per year, or $35 per couple