Named in honor of legendary San Francisco film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922-87), this award is given annually to an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public's knowledge and appreciation of world cinema.
Photograph of Bruce Goldstein by Robin Holland.
Nights of Cabiria
An Afternoon with Bruce Goldstein
Sunday, May 3
5:00 pm Castro Theatre
429 Castro Street (near Market)
The distinguished recipient of this year's Mel Novikoff Award—bestowed on an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public's appreciation of world cinema—is the innovative programmer, archivist and showman extraordinaire Bruce Goldstein. He will present a reel of trailers from his distribution company, Rialto Pictures, followed by an onstage interview with Anita Monga, and capped by a screening of Fellini's enthralling Nights of Cabiria, in what is destined to be a fascinating treat for all citizens of film culture at large.
The Indispensable Man
By J. Hoberman
There are programmers, there are programmers' programmers, and there is Bruce Goldstein, programmer's programmer and cine-showman extraordinaire.
Is there any aspect of movie exhibition where this guy lacks firsthand knowledge? The teenage Goldstein dropped out of college to run a movie house in the outermost town on Cape Cod. Returning to New York by way of London, he became a legendary publicist (for New York's no less legendary Thalia revival house). He's now a canny distributor (founder of Rialto Pictures, an outfit dedicated to making the black-and-white art house hits of the '50s look better than new) and, since 1987, he's been the man who books the retrospectives and premieres the restorations at New York's Film Forum.
Film Forum director Karen Cooper recruited Goldstein even as revival programs all over America were buckling under the home-video onslaught. Taking a cue from post-television Hollywood, he devoted his first series, Bigger Than Life: Movies in Scope, to the wide screen. Showman that he is, Goldstein believes in showing movies as they were meant to be seen. (Indeed, dedicated to giving the public the best that motion pictures have to offer, Bruce is the most print-conscious of exhibitors.) Another early Film Forum series was Gimmick-o-Rama, for which Goldstein appropriated William Castle's Percepto process, wiring every third Film Forum seat with a small motor for a screening of The Tingler-undoubtedly the first time in three decades that the movie was shown in the form that its director intended. (Goldstein has subsequently presented The Tingler in Percepto in Paris, Munich and Tel Aviv.) It's thanks to Bruce's various 3-D series and individual presentations that Film Forum was for many years the lone New York City theater with an old-fashioned silver screen and the double-system interlock necessary for 3-D projection. (When Martin Scorsese purchased a number of vintage 3-D prints, he had to come down to Houston Street to screen them.)
As anyone who has ever had the benefit of his voluminous press kits can attest, Bruce Goldstein is an archivist as well as movie historian who has organized pioneering retrospectives for filmmakers ranging from Chantal Akerman to Samuel Z. Arkoff-and also promoted them. (For years, he kept Arkoff's thank-you letter framed on his office wall: "You're a brilliant publicist!") Bruce believes honest ballyhoo is no vice. Old hands at the Thalia still remember the Fay Wray scream-alike contest, complete with man in monkey suit, that he organized for the 50th anniversary of the original King Kong. No detail is too small. Bruce spares no effort in producing a quarterly calendar that is studied by buffs and emulated by programmers across the nation. Coprogramming a theater known for its cosmopolitan mix of the arcane and the popular, avant- and derriere-garde, he has based series on half a dozen newly identified strains of film noir while more or less inventing the idea of Pre-Code Hollywood cinema as a genre. (I can almost believe the ultimate '30s bad girl movie, Barbara Stanwyck's Baby Face was his creation-in fact, thanks to a call from a contact at the Library of Congress, he was the first to show the uncut Baby Face at the first sold-out weekday matinee in Film Forum history.)
Can we doubt that this man loves his job? Although Bruce's mother, Betty Horowitz Goldstein, worked for years for the Screen Publicists' Guild and his father, Murray Goldstein, was employed by Columbia Pictures as a commercial artist, their son attributes his vocation to the richness of the TV programming available in New York in the '50s, in particular the week-long runs afforded by Million Dollar Movie-proof that if television ended the golden age of moviegoing, it also kept movies going, albeit by other means.
I began by calling Bruce a programmer's programmer and a cine-showman extraordinaire. But he's more than that-he's a man of remarkable good humor and great, great taste, a guy characterized by admirable ingenuity and a boundless, infectious enthusiasm. He's remarkably persuasive-a skillful wrangler of studio execs and film collectors alike-and he obviously has a good head for business. Rialto Pictures, which Goldstein runs with entertainment lawyer Adrienne Halpern, began in 1997 with Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt and now boasts a library of some 40 titles-all of them, as Mae West might say, cherce.
Speaking of which, Bruce is also a chevalier (perhaps the only son of Hicksville, Long Island, as he likes to claim, awarded France's medal of the Order of Arts and Letters.) I guess that makes him a knight-errant but he's also something rarer, maybe even sui generis. Bruce Goldstein is a celluloid warrior, a dedicated cinephile-activist, a fighter for old movies and new prints, for weeklong revivals and knowledgeable reviews. For going on a quarter of a century, he's been New York film culture's indispensable man.
J. Hoberman recently celebrated his 30th year as a film critic for the Village Voice. He teaches film history at the Cooper Union and is the author of ten books including The Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Mythology of the '60s, and was last year's recipient of the Mel Novikoff Award.
Nights of Cabiria
Mel Novikoff Award Previous Recipients
2008 J. Hoberman
2007 Kevin Brownlow
2005 Anita Monga
2004 Paolo Cherchi Usai
2003 Manny Farber
2002 David Francis
2001 Cahiers du Cinéma
San Francisco Cinematheque
2000 Donald Krim
1999 Enno Patalas
1998 Adrienne Mancia
1997 Judy Stone
Film Arts Foundation
1996 David Robinson
1995 Institut Lumière
1994 Naum Kleiman
1993 Andrew Sarris
1992 Jonas Mekas
1991 Pauline Kael
1990 Donald Richie
1989 USSR Filmmakers Association
1988 Daniel Talbot
Mel Novikoff Award Committee 2008
Francis J. Rigney, chair
Linda Blackaby, ex officio
Helena R. Foster
George Gund III