Co-opting a variety of docu styles to little effect, Michael Sladek’s “BAM150” is a celebration of/advertisement for the Brooklyn Academy of Music on the occasion of its sesquicentennial, but runs out of storyline long before it runs out of footage. Unsure of its strategy or its point, the pic comes off as part PSA, part movie trailer, and takes several stabs at verite that just seem silly. Subject is a much-beloved institution, so airplay in New York seems likely; its target audience otherwise is a mystery.
Perhaps trying to emulate BAM’s trademark eclecticism, the docu attempts some Frederick Wiseman-style, fly-on-the-wall observations of staff meetings, program planning and executive decision-making; moves on to tell the BAM story via a Ken Burns-ish history lesson (the movie’s best sequence, featuring historian Mike Wallace and critic Philip Lopate); and then proceeds to cherry-pick performances that either made the 150-year-old theater’s name or illustrate its mission: “Three Penny Opera,” “Einstein on the Beach,” “Nixon in China,” works by Steve Reich and Laurie Anderson. The techniques are then repeated. The intent seems to be less about making a coherent film than increasing subscription sales.