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By Rory L. Aronsky | May 17, 2003

“No….but….wha….NO WAY!!!!….huh?…..that….but….” Thinking of what words to sputter next while being taken by complete surprise during “Cinemania” was no match for what I found myself relating to in the course of this documentary, directed by Angela Christleib and Stephen Kijak. For there, nestled in 80 minutes of fascination and eccentricity, was my list where I write down every movie I have seen (even with all the ones I have seen, it’s never enough). This time, it was in the hands of Jack Angstreich whose list encompasses all of the films he has seen since December 1986. On two separate occasions, I found my messy room, rife with movies on VHS and DVD, press kits, and movie books, now transformed into two messy apartments of two denizens of cinema, movie buffs to the extreme.
Jack proclaims films to be “better than sex” and “better than love” and won’t go to a wedding or a funeral or even visit someone in the hospital if he has to go to a screening. Those things have to be structured around his day. In movie buff Roberta Hill’s apartment (she’s the sole woman of the group), you’ll find scads of programs (booklets, flyers and catalogs of upcoming films at various venues) lining her place and even plastic cups from such films as “Last Action Hero”. The most interesting item she has is bottled water, used to promote an indie entitled “Water”. Favorite places to sit in the theater are given ample attention as well as the theaters themselves, including a favorite projectionist of movie buff Harvey Schwartz. Others give their insights on these people including curator David Schwartz (no relation to Harvey, whose laugh is unique) and Tia Bonacore, a former staff member of the Museum of Modern Art, who had two memorable encounters with Roberta, who is known as the “Queen of Cinemaniacs”.
These people see about 600-2,000 films a year. Jack mentions seeing one, two, or three a day and even four or five. So how do they manage it? Roberta, Harvey, and Eric Chadbourne collect disability, Jack lives off his inheritance from a deceased aunt, and Bill collects unemployment, along with bouts of anxiety and sleeping pills.
Pay close attention when the buffs are introduced in the beginning. The footage shot does differ during the film and people like Jack change. At one point, he has a beard, it’s shaven off at another point, and during a few parts, there’s shaving stubble. It’s a bit troublesome in keeping tabs on who is who because the film does not remind us of the names of these people throughout. Eric doesn’t appear too often in the movie, and when he does get his chance, it’d nice if we could be reminded as to whom he is.
Despite that, all five people are fascinating. They are truly a rare breed and a great one at that with their love for the movies, and Christleib and Kijak have captured them perfectly, especially with an ending that fits the group. Undoubtedly, other movie buffs, besides me, might relate to something they find in this well-made documentary. It’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding for our crowd, better entitled “My Big Fat Movie Obsession”. For others, slack jaws might be commonplace, but you’ll have just as much of a good time.
“Cinemania” is a fun time and a must-see.

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  1. Jeffrey says:

    I actually remember seeing Roberta at NYC screenings before her death. One day, at the Village East, she had an apple in one hand and a wedge of cheese in the other, alternating bites. Another time, at the Film Forum, she walked up to someone sitting in her row and asked if she could borrow a few dollars. Another time, at the AMERICAN Museum of the Moving Image cafe, a young woman sat at the same table as Roberta. Roberta said, “now I have to stop working.” The young lady smiled and said “I’m sorry?'” “Because you sat down,” Roberta said. The young woman scampered away. What’s truly amazing is how I actually remember all this…which I guess was part of Roberta’s legacy.

  2. Rory L. Aronsky says:

    I was younger back then. It was a different time.

  3. Dave Nielsen says:

    it’d nice if we could be reminded as to whom he is

    That should probably be “who” in this case.

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