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Life & Arts

Paramount's Summer Classic Film Series kicks off first week with scene-stealing performances

Claude Rains stars as a French captain alongside Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca
Warner Bros.
Paramount film programmer Stephen Jannise says Claude Rains, who plays a French captain, steals the scene in "Casablanca."

If this summer brings anything close to the heat we've already seen this month in Austin, a two- or three-hour (or four — I'm looking at you, Lawrence of Arabia) respite in an air-conditioned theater, cold beverage in one hand and the other dipped deep in a buttery popcorn tub, will be one way to cool off.

Right on time, the Paramount Theatre revealed Wednesday the first third of this year's lineup for its Summer Classic Film Series. The summer run of movies kicks off with the traditional opener, Casablanca. The fun part for film programmer Stephen Jannise is to then find a way to choose a theme from the movie that can link the first week of screenings.

This year that theme is "How to Steal a Movie" — not literally, of course, but instead highlighting actors whose performances go toe-to-toe with the top billed stars they share the screen with. The first run of movies in this year's lineup includes a Saturday stacked with two French new wave films celebrating their 60th anniversaries, in addition to a run of six screenings in partnership with the Hyperreal Film Club, all of which will be paired with a locally produced short film.

The film series opens Thursday, May 28, and tickets for the first run of films are on sale now.

We spoke with Stephen Jannise about this year's series. The conversation has been edited lightly for clarity.

KUT: For our new listeners, and those who might not be familiar with the summer film series, can you give them a quick rundown of what they can expect?

Jannise: Every summer over about three and a half months, we show anywhere from about 90 to 100 films that range from the silent era to as recent as a few years ago. Obviously, as with any movie-going experience, the draw is seeing these movies — some of which you may have seen before or at home — on a big screen with a live audience. I think for us, in particular, the draw is seeing them in these amazing old movie houses. The Paramount, built in 1915, is a 1,200-seat grand movie palace. And there just aren't that many spaces like that left still showing movies on a regular basis.

So to have close to 100 chances to experience a movie in a space like that over the summer is always a real treat.

KUT: This year's series is kicking off with the classic Casablanca, and one of my favorite parts of the series is that movies are generally programed according to themes. Casablanca kicks off the "How to Steal a Movie Week." Can you tell us more about that as well as the stealing theme that follows in week two?

Casablanca is the film that we open every year with. It's sort of become an annual tradition, and a fun challenge for me is always finding a new way to contextualize that movie or an interesting new theme around that film.

This year I decided to go with my favorite supporting actor in that movie, who for me steals the film, which is Claude Rains playing the French captain. I think he's got all the best one-liners, certainly the ones that you haven't heard ad nauseum in popular culture. He's probably the reason I come back to that movie every year, and I figured we'd do a whole theme around some of the great supporting performances that have stolen the films right out from under the top-billed actors.

We've got other titles in that theme like "Singin' in the Rain," which has a great supporting performance by Jean Hagen as the villainous Lina Lamont. She steals that movie. And of course, you've got Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, who won the best supporting Oscar and probably has some of the most quotable lines from that film.

The week after that, we'll follow it up with "How to Steal Everything Else," which is really about the heist genre, something that really has never gone away for moviegoers. Everyone loves to root for a good heist. We've got films ranging from The Italian Job to Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket to "How to Steal a Million," which is a sort of a heist romance with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole.

A group of LGBTQ folks smiling with their arms up
Off White Productions
Stephen Jannise, a film programmer for the Paramount, recommends movie-lovers come out to see "Paris Is Burning," a documentary about the drag ball culture in New York City in the '90s.

KUT: There are a quite a few blockbusters on the schedule so far, but is there a film with lower name recognition that you think people should absolutely not miss?

We're showing a documentary called Paris Is Burning, which I think easily is one of the best documentaries ever. I think it's one of the great films ever made. It was made in 1990, and it's all about the drag ball culture in New York City. So aside from the artistry of the dancing that goes on at those events, it's really about the community that was built up around those events. The LGBTQ+ community sort of created this space where, you know, when the rest of the world surrounding them was not treating them very well, they had this space to retreat to.

It's an incredibly moving film, as well as an incredibly exhilarating film to watch. The voguing has sort of been co-opted in our culture to a certain extent, and you see some of that happening in the film. The film really introduces you to it, I think, in a very pure way. So, I highly recommend that one.

KUT: The film schedule up until July 1 has been revealed. Any hints about what we can expect in the next slate of programing?

I think our regular attendees know that we'll always do a Hitchcock week every year, bringing some of the more well-known films, along with some that maybe you haven't seen before. We'll also be bringing back a lot of epics — films like Lawrence of Arabia and The Godfather Part II — these really long films that I think are increasingly more difficult for people to watch at home with all the distractions that we have. I think these are films that, more than any other, are worth seeing for the first time on the big screen.

For more information and showtimes, go here.

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