Hollywood Theatre presents Mid Century Oregon Genius

Hollywood Theater will host two evenings dedicated to the work of Oregon filmmakers Harry Smith and Homer Groening from Jan. 16–17 at 7 p.m. each night. The event is part of Oregon Cartoon Institute’s series entitled Mid Century Oregon Genius.

On Jan. 16, Smith’s 1962 film debut Heaven and Earth Magic, a feature-length cutout animated film, will screen. On Jan. 17 a selection of Groening’s short films with play, curated by the Groening family and never before shared with the public in this way.

Mid Century Oregon Genius is a four-part series celebrating the artistic contributions of several Oregonians who made their film debuts in the 1960s.

The series offers film lovers a rare opportunity to delve deeper into Oregon’s lush film history. For instance, Heaven and Earth Magic was made over the course of four years, entirely independently, using Smith’s bed as an animation stand.

Dennis Nyback, film historian and OCI co-founder, extensively researched the equipment and technique Smith used, and duplicates the approach in his presentation. Nyback uses projectors accurate to the time period and utilizes duplicates of the slides that Smith designed himself for this show.

OCI screened Smith’s Heaven and Earth Magic in 2013 with a score performed live by three musicians. This time the film will be presented with its original score, composed entirely of sound effects.

“Regarded as his masterpiece, it is rarely seen in the format which he intended for it. This presentation restores that format,” said OCI director and co-founder Anne Richardson.

Likewise, Groening’s films are rather elusive. Working primarily in advertising, Groening had a long career producing award-winning television commercials, industrial films, public service announcements, documentaries and experimental art films.

“This evening will be the first chance to see the work of the man whose success as an artist and as a businessman inspired Will Vinton, Bill Plympton, Matt Groening and Gus Van Sant,” Richardson said. “Homer Groening’s career proved it was possible to thrive and grow as an independent.”

In addition to the film screenings, each evening will be accompanied by speakers and moderators. Heaven and Earth Magic will feature a post-film discussion panel with Nyback; Chuck Pirtle, a Harry Smith historian; and Eric Isaacson, owner of Mississippi Records.

Bill Plympton will introduce Groening’s shorts and there will be a post-program discussion moderated by Lisa Groening and featuring panelists Tom Shrader, a professional colleague of Homer Groening; Ted Mahar, a friend of Homer Groening; and Plympton.