Growing up in Minnesota, Michael Anderson always enjoyed watching movies mostly the anticipated Oscar winners throughout the 80s and 90s. With a sampling of Hollywoods best and latest releases in his hometowns theaters, Anderson had acquired a taste for film by the time he was 18. But it wasnt until he attended Hillsdale College in Michigan that he became a passionate connoisseur.
Small-town life and sheer boredom had Anderson going through the lists of the great L.A. blockbusters, foreign works, art films and repertory masterpieces. Anderson traveled nearly four hours just to see new limited releases, ordered obscure movies for the colleges library and even begged one of his professors to let him skip three days of classes to see three movies in Minneapolis by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien: The Puppetmaster (1993), Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996) and Flowers of Shanghai (1998).
Theyre very, very arty movies, Anderson said. And at that point, he was considered one of the two best directors in the world, so I didnt want to let that opportunity go. Little did I know that DVD changed everything and I could easily see them a year or two after that. But still, it was great.
Although Andersons undergraduate experience was in a sleepy college town, he said movies werent ever an escape for him but simply something interesting to do that built on the art history knowledge he was establishing at school.
Almost 15 years later after attending New York University for his masters degree and Yale University for his Ph.D., serving on the program and screening committees for Starz Denver Film Festival and critiquing films 35-year-old Anderson brings his blended prowess for art history and film studies as Oklahoma City Museum of Arts new film curator. He is replacing the museums former film curator of 19 years, Brian Hearn.
Anderson first heard about the job opening on Twitter and Facebook after a couple connections shared the news. When Anderson interviewed, he had never been to Oklahoma. But after starting the job Aug. 13, he learned OKC had an advantageous position in the film programming and curating market.
Its almost kind of the perfect size because Oklahoma City is a large enough city [that] we can do art house programming, but theres really no competition here, Anderson said. Were the only art house in Oklahoma City, so it really kind of gives us enormous latitude as to what we can program.
Like Hearn, Anderson agrees that new indie releases, such as Richard Linklaters summer hit Boyhood, are the bread and butter of the program, bringing the most successful runs and audience turnouts.
Hearn very wisely booked Boyhood for a week in mid-August, and it was one of the biggest successes the museum has ever had, said Anderson, who introduced the film to museum audiences for the first time.
It just shows that theres a real interest and thirst for different and exciting art film in Oklahoma City, he said.
Anderson plans to build on the foundation Hearn has laid, but he also will incorporate his taste for the obscure that he developed in college to the calendar. With a background in academia, Anderson approaches film curating for the museum much like creating the syllabus for a class, an experience he had most recently teaching at Yale this summer.
Were different than some of these AMC theaters around in that were really trying to curate a program and kind of teach and enrich through what were showing, he said. A lot of what were doing has to do with bringing films together within a context.
In September, the museum will show Mood Indigo, Michel Gondrys latest film; The Trip to Italy, the comedic sequel to The Trip; and Listen Up Phillip, starring Jason Schwartzman, two weeks after it opens in New York. On Saturday, the museum will screen Norte, the End of History, a four-hour Filipino film and adaptation of Crime and Punishment. Norte was a hit at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in France.
Were taking some chances and some risks with the films that were showing, but its interesting, Anderson said. Its just the only place that youre going to be able to see something like that. Thats whats really changing.
When calculating those risks, Anderson references his art history background, his diverse palate in movies and his fundamental beliefs about what film can show a community.
It provides a broader understanding of the world that you live in; its an art form that has its own rules, he said. And by spending time with the medium, it teaches you how to think in new and different ways.
With foreign, art and repertory films, Anderson hopes to coordinate movies with art exhibitions as well as organize discussions that delve into the theme, director or era of the film currently running. For example, Anderson plans to screen three corresponding films that play off of My Generation: Young Chinese Artists, an exhibition which runs from October through January.
With the digital renovations that took place during Hearns last few years and the accessibility of film itself, Anderson believes the best quality of material will be available to audiences. This technology will allow him to focus more on different ways of presenting films, showing them in series or mini-festivals that will channel his skills from his time in Denver.
Different venues are starting to move towards a festival approach, where they show a number of films and people can get all access to the events, Anderson said. We will be experimenting with that in the coming months as well.
As for now, the September calendar is booked with screenings, and October and November are not far behind. Also, in the coming months, Anderson has personal aspirations to see more of Oklahoma besides the 10-minute walk downtown from his house to the museum.
Im getting my bearings, Anderson said. Everybody Ive talked to thats ever spent any time in Oklahoma has said its a very diverse state. I want to explore the state more in the coming months when I have a moment to breathe.
In the meantime, hell be doing a job hes really excited about: watching movies.
The movie man