Film making in the meadow

Note: Parkside Movies in the Meadow 2022 kicks off tonight at dusk with Encanto

Today, Mayor Brown proclaimed August as “Movies in the Meadow Month” in Buffalo.

Alright, not really. But he should.

For me, the Parkside Community Association’s “Movies in the Meadow” series – every Friday night in August – is the epitome of a summer in Buffalo. Located in Delaware Park, Buffalo’s Central Park, where all parkways lead – or once did. Timed for the summer grand finale, following the peak of the GardenWalk season, and ending as Labor Day approaches. This can make the series bittersweet, as each film begins at dusk, which arrives a little earlier each week, a constant reminder of the approach of fall.

As befits all Buffalo, MITM also involves wine and beer. Not just in the screenings which, like Shakespeare in Delaware Park, are BYOB, but in the making of it. I had heard about this process from Parkside Board Member Matthew Pelkey, and this year I got to see it for myself.

Last March, like Anna Pavlovna’s living room, the back floor of the Central Park Grill slowly began to fill up. As with any trade show, a lot was discussed – including, possibly, movies.

Because memories are short and new residents are new, a list of previous films has been circulated, apparently to avoid duplicates. It was fun to reminisce about some favorites, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and A thug — where the characters appeared in person for a lightsaber duel and whose line “Rebellions are built on hope” helped fuel the pushback for the DOT’s Scajaquada hallway plan.

But a secondary goal of the list, I think, was to subtly continue MITM’s formula for success. As I’ve written in years past, what makes this summer film series a star among local offerings isn’t just the Olmstedian setting and the large neighborhood association involved (the ‘one of Buffalo’s oldest and most distinguished), but still excellent selections. I went to find out how this curation happens.

As simple as it sounds, a lot of it is down to the list. Going through the list, you understand the mission: extrapolate the formula that selected these past offers to the present. For recent films, new memories quickly sort the stars from the stinkers. For older films, people make suggestions and use a sort of rating vote. (Note: we should also try this with municipal elections.)

The list shows the instantiation of the formula from year to year – the phenotype of the genotype, if you will. As I wrote in 2018, the MITM formula yields selections that are consistently superior to other outdoor movie series in the region. But, as I’ve learned, not in the sense of crowding around a computer watching flashing lights as it crunches reviews and spits out picks. Much more simply, rather, using the list as a model and as a guide. A successful formula based not on algorithms or second derivatives but on a compendium of past successes as a guide to the present. Simple, elegant and effective.

Here’s that formula again, updated for 2022 (full list with links at the end):

  • An animated movie (think Disney/Pixar), but one that’s equally suitable for adults and children. This year it is Encanto.
  • A quality science fiction or comic book film. This year it is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
  • A few classics and favourites, usually one from the studio system era and a newer one. A pair like From North to Northwest and ghost huntersWhere Citizen Kane and The princess to be marriedWhere The Wizard of Oz and Natural from previous years. This year there is Bell, book and candle and Honey, I reduced the children.

See you soon in the meadow!

Note: As in the past, moviegoers are encouraged to bring picnic baskets, chairs, blankets, family and friends. I was unable to confirm if PCA will be offering refreshments for purchase including popcorn, candy and ice water this year. For more information on this subject, contact the PCA directly.

Be connected:

Parkside Community Association

Parkside Community Association Facebook

“For more than a decade, this free series has allowed parents to share the classics with their kids, friends to say all their favorite lines out loud, and the community to come together and enjoy one of the greatest Buffalo’s outdoor gatherings. – Parkside Community Association

The series is as follows:

Friday August 5: Encanto

Friday August 12: Honey, I reduced the children

Friday August 19: Bell, book and candle

Friday August 26: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Films begin at dusk and will be screened on the meadow in front of Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park.

Another note: Parkside fans will also appreciate this summer Unique Nature of the Parkside Scavenger Hunt also runs until the end of August.

Chris B. Hall