The summer of 2019 belongs to one man, and his name is Keanu Charles Reeves.
Don’t believe me? Look to the movies, where the actor’s bullet-ballet bonanza “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” easily outgrossed its predecessors when it hit theaters last month, earning the franchise’s strongest reviews along the way. Keep looking, and there’s Keanu again, skewering his own self-serious image with scenery-devouring cameos in “Toy Story 4” and the Netflix rom-com “Always Be My Maybe.”
But there’s more to the Keanussance — or, if you prefer, KeaNu-Wave — than his recent box-office ubiquity. The actor’s newfound status as the Internet’s boyfriend — minted as much by endless memes as fawning critical appreciations — owes something to his reputation for being pretty much the nicest guy in Hollywood, whether he’s answering questions while playing with puppies for Buzzfeed or keeping a respectful distance from women who ask to take photos with him.
Viral stories of his random acts of Keanu-ness abound, both on set and at large, from that time he courteously surrendered his seat on the subway to that other time he bought an ice cream cone he didn’t want just to sign the receipt for a visibly star-struck fan. And how about a dash of philosophical introspection? Asked what happens to us after we die by Stephen Colbert on a talk show, Reeves sagely replied, “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” Whoa, indeed.
Reeves’s combination of common decency and dramatic range made him an ideal actor to honor with a summer movie marathon, according to Mark Anastasio, director of special programming at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theater, who’s plotting exactly that for this weekend.
“You hear all these stories about what a completely excellent human being Keanu Reeves is,” says Anastasio. “His humanity and decency comes through on screen. I think people connect with him on a very human level.”
On Saturday and Sunday, June 29-30, the Coolidge is embracing the Keanussance by hosting Keanu-Thon, a 12-hour, 35mm marathon of Reeves films that opens with Kathryn Bigelow’s hang-Zen surfer saga “Point Break” (1991) at midnight Saturday and runs through Sunday at noon, ending on a screening of cruise-control classic “Speed” (1994).
Anastasio programs a 12-hour horror marathon each October and wanted to plot a similar event, built around one performer, to kick off summer.
“I was attempting to think about which actor could captivate an audience for 12 straight hours without you getting tired of looking at his face,” he says. “And honestly? Keanu Reeves was the first person to spring to mind.”
The theater’s staff fully behind him, Anastasio set out to program six of the actor’s most interesting performances back-to-back. The Coolidge is celebrated for its insistence on screening 35mm film to ensure the highest-possible presentation quality, but Anastasio never imagined he’d succeed in tracking down six archival prints of Reeves’ films, especially more obscure ones.
“When we first conceived this, I wasn’t going gung-ho for full 35mm,” says Anastasio. “I figured many of these films probably wouldn’t be available on film, that a digital print would be acceptable. But when we heard back from all these distributors, everyone offered up these gorgeous archival prints.”
The only print not available from its distributor, ironically, was the one title Anastasio knew was non-negotiable from day one: “Point Break.”
“That’s my desert island movie,” says Anastasio. “If I had one movie to take with me to isolation, to be my one form of entertainment until the end of my days, ‘Point Break’ would be it.”
Luckily, Anastasio already knew where to look; back in 2012, he’d spent six months hunting down the one 35mm copy of “Point Break” thought to exist in North America and struck a deal with its owner, a private collector.
Though most of the marathon’s titles are being kept under wraps, Anastasio teases one deeper-cut Reeves film that he’s especially excited to screen: “Johnny Mnemonic” (1995).
“It’s a cyberpunk movie where he plays a courier who can have information downloaded directly into his brain,” says Anastasio. “It’s weird, and I can’t wait for that to play for a crowd.”
The Coolidge will stay open all night for Keanu-Thon, with coffee available to attendees and a continental breakfast spread planned at 10 a.m., right before “Speed.”
Erica Hill, who’s worked at the Coolidge since 2009, is preparing to power through Keanu-Thon. Hill, who has a “Point Break” tattoo, sees the marathon as a chance to highlight Reeves’s versatility while introducing audiences to some hidden gems.
“He takes great care with his roles,” says Hill. “There is constant talk of what he shouldn’t do with his career. Will he always play a dumb character? Will he ever move on from being an action star? It’s admirable that he has been able to take on projects that he is interested in and not what might make him a ton of money.”
No stranger to marathons after nine years of attending the theater’s 12-hour horror event, Hill encourages attendees to get up between movies and bring a change of clothes — or at least socks. “If there is a movie that you have seen a bunch of times, that is your nap movie,” she adds. “It also helps if you do not look at the time.”
Anastasio anticipates a nearly full house in the Coolidge’s main theater, which seats 442; he attributes the marathon’s strong presales to its low $25 price (which will scale down even further to $15 for those who want to show up at 6 a.m. to see the marathon’s second half), as well as to a particularly fierce loyalty fans have for the actor.
“In the times we’re living in, there’s a need to see gentleness as part of a Keanu Reeves-type of masculinity,” said Anastasio. “As a society, we’re all really happy to see that and root for it. That may be a big reason why people are gravitating not only toward his performances but Keanu Reeves as a person.”
Isaac Feldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org