Aside from the occasional snowstorm, Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre has rarely gone dark. The venue didn’t have a choice, though, when New York state ordered all movie theaters to close as part of an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the oldest art-house theaters in the country, and one of Long Island’s most cherished cultural institutions, has been closed since Mar. 17.
“It’s so unprecedented,” says Cat Kim, the Cinema Arts Centre’s associate programmer. “It’s the antithesis of community, what we’re doing right now.”
To that end, the venue has launched a series of staff-curated movie lists for audiences to watch at home. Kim’s inaugural list comes with a slightly dark title, “It’s Only the End Times,” but she says her recommendations are meant to encourage laughter and empathy. Kim, who was born in Korea and raised in Jericho, also made sure to include films with Asian casts as a way to calm xenophobic rumblings about the virus, which originated in China.
“It feels like a movie, is what a lot of people are saying,” Kim says. “So I thought I could identify some movies, where it’s nice to get indulged in them and process those emotions.”
Here are a few of Kim’s recommendations:
REAR WINDOW (1954). Stuck in his apartment with a broken leg, a photographer (James Stewart) begins to suspect a neighbor of murder. “Everyone’s feeling stir crazy,” says Kim. “I broke my ankle a couple of years ago and found it a very traumatizing and debilitating experience.”
HUMAN FLOW (2017) This documentary about the global refugee crisis looks at people in more than 20 countries, from Afghanistan to Germany to Mexico. Directed by the Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei. “What is a refugee?” says Kim. “When we see this scramble for staples like toilet paper, this brings out the fear in you. And that’s what it’s like to be a refugee. We’re feeling the fear.”
DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964). Stanley Kubrick’s dark farce hinges on an insane general (Sterling Hayden) who sets off a nuclear crisis. “Watching all these press conferences, it reminded me of this absolute classic,” Kim says.
THE FAREWELL (2019). Awkwafina stars in this comedy-drama about a family that decides not to tell its elderly matriarch she’s dying. Writer-director Lulu Wang based the story on her own experiences. “You don’t have to be Asian to appreciate it,” says Kim. “It’s an American film, an emotive comedy. Especially now, when we’re all thinking about our families, this is a gem.”