Festival has film fan seeing stars
Paul Bingman figures he'll watch five dozen movies in 15 days
As the days get lighter, Paul Bingman's days get darker.
By the time the last credits roll for the 26th Portland International Film Festival on March 1, Bingman reckons he'll have seen more than 60 of the 114 movies coming to town.
That's about 120 hours Ñ or five days Ñ of continuous filmgoing and who knows how much popcorn.
'I got to 61 movies in last year's festival and 63 the year before,' Bingman says cheerfully. 'Overall, I saw 203 movies last year.'
This year's festival opened on Valentine's Day.
Before you start figuring how on earth he fits all this into a normal life, bear in mind that the affable Bingman is a very organized, self-employed Internet programmer with an Excel scheduling spreadsheet. And he's single.
Bingman, 54, is a member of the 100-member-strong Silver Screen Club, a group dedicated to seeing dozens of Northwest Film Center movies a year. And through the club he's made friends as passionate about films as he is.
'I'm a back-row person, and I've met people who sit in the same area,' he says. 'I'm totally blown away that people who love and respect each other can have such different takes on the same film. One person will think it's trash and the other an avant-garde work of greatness.'
Growing up in a city with multiple theaters had a profound effect on him, Bingman says.
'I was mobile early, and I'd ride the bus downtown to the Orpheum, the Fox and the Broadway,' he says. 'I remember when the Music Box opened in the '60s, and I was amazed to find it was the third theater of that name.'
He also was a member of the Portland State University Film Committee in the 1960s 'until they found I wasn't a student and kicked me out.'
The first week of the film festival is always hardest for Bingman, who's in his 12th year of festival-going. During that week, he attends daytime media screenings with other Silver Screen members and juggles evening shows at the Broadway Metroplex, the Guild Theatre and the Whitsell Auditorium at the Portland Art Museum.
'It's mutually beneficial to go to press screenings,' he says. 'It helps me get to more films and also means I won't be taking seats away from people who will buy tickets to the more popular films.'
He has his own rating system for the schedule, based on how badly he wants to attend a film:
'I do the pre-film buzz thing. I talk to people, I search the Internet and I see what the press has said. We're downstream from a lot of festivals, so you can see what people have written. I have four categories: Three stars is a must-see, two stars is a film I really like the look of, one star is something I'll see if nothing else is playing. No stars? I'd rather go to the dentist.'
Bingman says film viewing falls into three categories: voyeuristic, vicarious and visceral. He explains each category.
Voyeuristic: In an Iranian film, 'You wouldn't be able to sit in a kitchen with two women talking.'
Vicarious: 'A couple of days ago, I was paddling through Venice.'
Visceral: 'James Bond or Vin Diesel.'
Bingman also checks to see if films have distribution deals set up with Fine Line Features or Miramax, which means they'll be shown later and he can miss them at the festival. That helps when his connections are tight and one film starts minutes after another finishes elsewhere.
'We call it a movie triathlon,' he says, laughing. 'It's the stand, sit and run. You stand in line, sit in the movie and run to the next one.'
This year's festival lineup surprised Bingman because few of the Sundance Film Festival favorites have made it to Portland.
'There were a lot of things that got good reviews, but they're not here,' he says, 'and the classical Iranian directors all have new films out this year, but none of those are here, either. I don't know if it's getting harder to get big names or the festival figures they'll come to town anyway.'
Oh, yes, past favorites. He mentions last year's 'Behind the Sun' from Brazil, 'Violet Perfume' from Mexico and 'Under the Moonlight' from Iran.