The Angelika:End of an Era by Randy Webb

500 Texas Avenue
Houston, TX 77002-2737
(713) 225-160

November 2010– Anton Chigurh was the human embodiment of death he represented the fury of mankind. The only mercy that he offered was the flip of a coin; if you lost, your demise was soon to follow. I encountered Chigurh once at the Angelika film center two years ago, when the Coen Brothers film No Country for Old Men was released. Now the Angelika which served as a film culture hub of Houston has passed on in the quick and viscous manner that most of Chigurhs victims fell prey to. All that is left of the old Angie is a representation of the dying film culture in Houston. When it was thriving it brought Houston a rich film culture which is sadly gone at the current moment.

The Film center began its service to the citizens of Houston in the late 90’s. Over the years it offered moviegoers a place to relax, and enjoy pieces of projector artwork. Yet during this eleven to ten year period it began to deteriorating rapidly. It was if the center had been struck by some type of terminal cancer and the Angie was slowly reaching its demise. You could visually see the interior of the facility falling apart. Ryan Rogers a frequent visitor of the Film center agrees “Yeah I could tell the place was going downhill. Near its closing they had some theatres that lacked air-conditioning and they also kept nasty bathrooms.” The cool atmosphere of the Angie still wasn’t enough Botox to hide the wrinkles of age. The Restroom always had at least one out of service sink or toilet. Visible piping was covered in rust, and you could see the corrosions all over the place it was if the Management had lost the funding to maintain it. Their Bar, one of the most emphasized features of the facility was never actually in use it seemed like a show piece of the good days when the place was a forum of cinema lovers.

As apparent as the decay was, there were still things that gave the Angelika its own unique look and feel. Covered along the entrance hall to the theatres were posters of films from different countries and of different periods, the majority of which were from the fifties and sixties. It gave the Center a whole different vibe than your typical AMC or Cinemark. The aesthetics alone are not all that made Angie standout from its counterparts: the Angie was also one of the few places that featured multiple theatres playing Independent and Foreign cinema in Houston.

This made the Angelika more of a cultural crossroads for film rather than a viewing center. The usual playlist consisted films from almost every corner of the globe, including places far out as Antarctica or Kazakhstan. The Quality cinema that was often shown struck the hardest spots, covering topics that you would not find at your standard AMC. Films like Restrepo a documentary

about a platoon of paratroopers and there hardships in the deadliest place in Afghanistan, The Korengal Valley; The White Ribbon a symbolic allusion to World War 2 and the birth of Fascism. The duds, on the other hand, were usually mediocre yet extremely funny. The Korean film mother had such immense stupidity that just made it hilariously bearable.

Occasionally the Angie would play awesome movies which, combined with its dilapidated appearance and empty rooms would become mind blowing experiences. Such is with the movie Moon,by Duncan Jones (aka David Bowie’s kid). About a year ago I went to see moon with a couple of friends. When we arrived in the theatre it was totally empty. This would begin my epic journey through the Film Moon. The premise is that a lone worker has to maintain an H3 mining facility on the Moons surface. Throughout the film the idea of isolation and madness are heavily emphasized. Being in this massive room, with only two other people, helped us relate with the main Character. These factors, combined with the films, made the Angelika an awesome place to go watch movies.

Sadly, though not many people in Houston knew about the place. Perhaps not many people watch the genres that were often shown. What I’ve seen and heard, is that mainstream people don’t enjoy going to a theatre and watching something with an amazing message or awesome story. Just like in High School English classes’ people can’t sit through and absorb a great novel as they don’t know how exciting it is. Rather than go the Angie and witness a masterpiece, many prefer unrealistic machismo heroes riding pterodactyls shooting machine guns. This social factor must have played a big role in the decline of people coming to the center.

The terrible management also contributed, not only was there no push for maintenance, but they failed to keep the place clean. It always had too many people on the job or too few they couldn’t figure out that there were certain days of the week that required a certain amount of people. The managers of the facility even failed to mention the place was closing, they basically closed down the facility and failed to tell the whole staff “Hey we are closing forever tomorrow.”
This angered people such as Faye Ticzon, a frequent visitor of the Angie, said it pissed her off.
“Because it closed down so suddenly?”
She said “Yeah, But mainly what pisses me off is how they informed the employees. They didn’t mention or utter a word that they were out of business so a lot of employees showed up thinking they were going to work their shifts and only to find the place locked up, with closed signs all over the windows.” That kind of treatment is its own kind of toll bell in the Angelika’s final demise.

With the Center being dead, I feel as if I was never really in tune with what was happening. Even though I frequented the place all the time, I seemed to subconsciously put all the pieces of the puzzle in backwards so I couldn’t get the big picture. Maybe it was the films acting as a visual mask blocking my mind from the realization that the place was on its last lap.

It’s terrible that the Angie is gone but I still have a lot of memories of my various crusades to Houston just to go watch movies. In fact a majority of my Junior and Senior weekends of High School were spent at the Angelika. For two years my clan spent thirty minutes to an hour driving. These longs drives usually served as great time for us to talk about some of the dumbest subjects. I probably spent more time there than studying for tests or classes. Though I regret not studying for school, I definitely do not regret a single minute spent at the Center. All that time driving and chatting led to a strong friendship among my buddies. It also expanded our thought on stupid ideas. Are trips downtown served as cultural revelations; I felt like I had come out of the backwoods of Seabrook and arrived on the doorstep of civilization. It introduced me to a wide array of cinema and also served as great way to expand my thoughts on certain topics. It brought a lot of culture to my life as I experienced a totally different lifestyle downtown.

One story, juts out the most whenever I think of the AC. Right after I saw the Movie No Country for Old Men, my posse was heading back to our car when a random homeless man came out of nowhere. “Hey! Hey! Hey man! Don’t hurt me I’m black!” he cried. At first, we were just confused as we had never had a homeless guy come up to us telling us not to hurt him due to his ethnicity. But since we stopped, he asked us for some cash and Nico handed him five bucks! The man then scurried off to who knows where, and left us. That has to be one my most memorable and hilarious experiences at the now empty relic that was the Angelika.
Several days ago I mentioned the Angelika’s closing to a friend of mine who now lives out of state.

“Culture has now left Houston,” he said. In terms of films I would say in a way it has. Yet someone has to pick up where they left off. They introduced a lot of genres to Houstonians, and someone could capitalize on what the Ac had started. Maybe the Angie’s passing is sign that blockbuster mega hits will always dominate and that Indie will never thrive in a wider community than what it has. Though all the reasons and whining in the world will not change the fact that this beloved place is gone, as of now, and that citizens of Houston are left in a state of Limbo. There is no certain future for the Angie. Hopefully someone will continue their legacy.

The inevitable end is an event that all things must encounter but it seems as if the Angelika encountered too soon. Like a sickness coursing through the veins of a man all the negative variables finally overwhelmed the Angelika causing a sad end to something so awesome. Yet this eulogy can’t really some up what has happened to the Angelika. All you can do is look at the old shell and live off of the nostalgia that it conjures up about the good old days when it was thriving place of cinema. There is a segment at the end of No Country for Old Men that in a way seems almost relatable to the ACs demise. It starts off with Carla Jean entering her Home to find Chigurh sitting in the dark looking ominously evil. They proceed to have a conversation about her fate which then followed by Chigurh leaving the house taking his bloody socks off and walking away like nothing had happened.


MAP

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LINKS

Angelika Film Center

Angelika Film Center Closes

Decline of Foreign Cinema in the US

Author Bio

Randy Webb is a first year student at the University of Houston-Downtown, who is considering Business Administration as his major. He is also plans becoming a career Officer in the United states Army. Randy grew up in Seabrook, Texas, He is enthusiast of foreign and independent cinema.

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