Cinephile. Swing dancer. Vintage enthusiast. DJ. Vivian Martin, better known as Vivian “Martian,” has quite the cultural pedigree in Vegas, beginning with the title of co-host of Cinemondays at the Sci Fi Center. For four years 28-year-old Martin has been curating Monday screenings for adventurous movie lovers, from silent films to October’s monthlong horror series. Amid the hype of big-budget blockbusters and fast fashion, Martin shares her love of film craft and all things vintage, and how she’s carved out a nostalgic scene of her own.
How long has Cinemondays been going on? Four years, on and off. The Sci Fi Center has moved three times, so during those moves we took short breaks because we felt like maybe people were losing interest. It was good—every time we’ve started new again we’ve got a whole entirely new group of people, really different than the ones before.
Who’s involved in Cinemondays? I co-host with a good friend of mine; his name is Kris Krainock. We got pretty lucky because [Sci Fi Center owner William Powell] was just like, “Yeah, of course you can come and do this for free.” He used to open it for us, but now we have our own keys so we pretty much run Mondays by ourselves. Every time we go in there, we never really know what we’re getting into because the weekend is Rocky Horror, so there’s condoms on the floor and popcorn and feathers and all kinds of weird props. [Krainock and I] both curate the films. He owns most of them—he has a huge, huge collection of films, and I’m just a big cinephile and movie lover.
What kinds of films do you show? We’ve shown cult classics. We’ve shown well-loved classics like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca. We’ve shown foreign films, silent films. One thing we started a few months ago was showing more films that have limited or no release in Las Vegas, ’cause we’re not really viewed as a culturally significant place so a lot of films don’t get distribution here. Or when they do, it’s for such a limited time that you wait all this time to see this film and it plays for a week and you don’t get to see it. We’ve been selecting more films that most people here don’t have the opportunity to see, or have never heard of. Last month we did all horror films and we showed It Follows, which had a limited release here. We showed a Polish film from last year called Ida that was really nice. And then we showed The Zero Theorem, I believe that’s Terry Gilliam.
Is it just a bunch of people watching together, or do you geek out? We recently started doing discussions because a couple months ago we had some new people come, and they’re friends of mine and they said, “We kind of felt awkward as we were leaving,” ’cause no one talks. I didn’t like hearing that, so we decided we’ll have a discussion after. Even some of the more disturbing films we’ve shown generated really good, positive discussion. Just two weeks ago, a friend of Kris’ started his own branch of Cinemondays in Maryland, so now we’ve expanded. It’s almost like we’re franchising. (laughs) But the whole reason Cinemondays started was because we don’t have what a lot of cities do, and that’s an art-house cinema. We figured if we can offer it at least once a week for free, maybe people will come. We’ve had big crowds and small crowds, but we’ve stuck with it because we think it’s important and we think we need it here.
What got you into cinema? I started watching Turner Classic Movies when I was a kid. I’ve always loved the old films, and it grew from that. I took a bunch of film classes at UNLV, specifically I took a bunch of foreign film classes because my major was romance languages, so that sort of killed two birds with one stone.
What are some of your favorite movies? My all-time favorite movie is La Dolce Vita, which we actually showed a couple months ago when we started again at this new location. That’s about a journalist—he’s a journalist for like, celebrity, aristocratic-obsessed magazines and newspapers. It takes place in Rome in the ’60s, and it’s his struggle trying to figure out what he wants to do in life. He wants to be taken more seriously but he can’t get away from this glamorous lifestyle, being out with all these celebrities and wealthy families. It’s kind of about that, about his struggle.
What do you look for in a film? I like watching films several times, because every time you see something different. The first time I watch a film I’m more or less just focused on the story, and I get very consumed by the story. Then I look for the artistic elements, like cinematography, how things are composed, how the story plays out, music, editing, that sort of thing. The story for me is the most important. What keeps me interested, what keeps me guessing. I don’t like films that are predictable and follow that traditional structure.
Right. I never go to the theater because most of what’s showing doesn’t interest me. That’s exactly it. The films I do want to see, I wait for, and then I’ve got a two-week window. ... That one theater is really good, Village Square. Between there and the Suncoast, they show most of the independent and foreign films I want to see, but like I said, they’re only here for a short time.
Film isn’t your only love. You’re an avid vintage collector, too. Most of the stuff I have, I didn’t even have to collect it—people just give me stuff ’cause it’s old. ... Everyone’s always giving me, like, “Oh, my Grandma died. Do you want her stuff?” And I’m like, “Sure, I’ll take it.” I just slowly started collecting more vintage. I’m a big thrifter and kind of a recovering eBay addict. I have the most impractical wardrobe, because I would say 75 percent of it is made up of cocktail dresses, and I can’t wear a cocktail dress five nights of the week. But I can’t get rid of the stuff because it’s so unique.
Where do you go for your clothing? I love Savers. I always find really good stuff at Savers. Last week I found a ’50s wool dress, a nice winter dress, for five or six dollars. My friend owns a shop called Glam Factory Vintage, and she has the best prices by far of almost any vintage shop I’ve been to in any state or city. She’s very reasonable and she only sells top quality.
You’re a swing dancer as well. How did that start? Someone told me about it and I always wanted to learn how to dance, but I was under the common misconception that you have to have a partner to learn. You do not need a partner. It’s social dancing, so you dance with whomever you want to.
Learning how to dance has been the hardest undertaking of my entire life. It’s so challenging; nothing will make you feel more humble than learning how to swing dance. That’s not to dissuade anyone who wants to learn, that’s just my experience. I did dance when I was a kid, and then I kind of lost interest in it. But my grandma was a dancer, her and her sister were dancers on the Strip and my great grandma was a dancer, so it’s kind of in my blood in a way. I love the music and I love the style, so that’s initially why I wanted to get into it.
Probably the most fun I’ve ever had, is dancing. I don’t know what it is about it. There’s no way you can be sad when you’re swing dancing. There’s just something about it, it sounds cheesy, but it lifts up your spirit. Something about the music and the way you move your body. It’s exercise, too, so you’re getting endorphins and the music’s fun and you’re moving. It’s a whole thing and it just brings you such joy. I’ve been so sad because I fell out of a window and I haven’t been able to dance or do yoga and my arm still hurts.
You fell out of a window? Yeah. (laughs) It’s no secret now because I’ve had to explain it so many times. I fell out of a window—almost a two-story window—exploring an old abandoned hospital in Boulder City, which is kind of ironic that I injured myself coming out of an old hospital.
At least you can still DJ. I’ve DJ’d at Golden Tiki twice now. I will again on Friday the 13th. I’ve DJ’d at City Bar and Davy’s Locker for a ’60s record hop called the Big Beat. The next one of those is on December 19. Within this group of friends there are so many vinyl enthusiasts, and some of us just collect whatever, but some of us collect a very specific genre or era of music. I started off collecting only ’60s pop from France and Spain, more or less like world pop music from the ’60s. I’ve got some Japanese, Chinese, German records, but mostly French. It’s a specific genre called yé-yé. I started collecting those records in high school and it’s very expensive because they all come from France, so I’ve kinda slowed down collecting those records for now, even though I recently discovered Discogs, and that’s like eBay for record collectors. But I collect a lot of that stuff and a lot of swing-era stuff, too.
I just started within the last year getting into collecting 78s and phonographs. I was helping out [Doug Franck at the Las Vegas Phonograph Company]. He had to close due to health problems, but he was sort of mentoring me. He still does repairs out of his home, but I was volunteering at his store once a week to help him out, so he would teach me about the machines and we talked a lot about music.
Circling all the way back to Cinemondays, what are you showing next Monday? On the 16th, it’s called Closely Watched Trains. It’s one of my favorite films. It’s a Czech film from ’66. It’s not too well known but it’s just wonderful. I originally saw it on Turner Classic Movies when I was in high school and it’s just brilliant. There’s this wonderful scene, it’s so sickly erotic. It’s about this teenage boy that works at a train station and just all the awkwardness of being a teenager and being lonely and sexually frustrated. There’s this scene where he walks in to see this woman force-feeding a goose, I’m assuming to make foie gras, but she’s force-feeding this goose and she’s got it in her lap and is like stroking the neck and it’s so erotic but grotesque at the same time. (laughs) The teenager is just, like, very awkwardly and uncomfortably staring at her, and she’s just talking to him like it’s no big deal, but the action is obviously indicative of something. (laughs) It’s a great film.
Cinemondays Mondays, 8 p.m., free. Sci Fi Center, 702-281-4143.