Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Let's All Go To The Movies

I haven't been posting. Short on things to say, I suppose. Which, if you know me, is a true rarity, so get it while it's hot.

The 80th Annual Academy Awards are coming up. There was a time, not long ago, when I'd see every nominated film, dissect every performance, spend hours considering the art direction and costumes, and when I'd buy up all the soundtracks to relive every orchestral moment. When I watch a movie, I tend to really watch it. I've been known to see movies at the theatre several times in one week (The Hours, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and enjoy Inside the Actor's Studio immensely.

I have that guy tendencies.

In recent years, though, my dedication to the filmic arts has dwindled. I work in the evening, so I simply don't have time to see as many movies, and, truthfully, can't stand being around people in theatres. No one is there to be quiet and take in the cinematography. They are there for the snacks, maybe they like the washrooms? I don't know. I saw Juno several weeks ago and was seated next to a woman and her daughter who spent most of the time text-messaging, beep-beep-beeping, keypad-volume somewhere in the vicinity of thunderous. I stared her down until her mother told her to put it away. They chatted, they munched on popcorn, the teenager asked stupid questions about the plot - It was horrific.

So, rather than spend $15 on an accidental-date with some jackass, I miss a lot of movies. Particularly this time of year when they just keep coming. I've seen a pathetic one Best Picture contender, and a paltry 4 of 20 Best Acting performances. I used to be someone with a genuine opinion. Who have I become?

And I remember the day movies became something to me. Really something.

In 1999 Sandi and I hopped the 2A Dundas to the Galleria, a mostly-abandoned shopping mall built to revitalize the downtown. When it opened it was fairly fantastic; glitzy, with fountains and glass elevators. Very 1990s. A big food court, a shiny new Gap store, and a movie theatre. Eventually, as the suburbs expanded on all sides, it became clear the downtown could not be rescued by Mrs. Vanelli or anyone else. Downtown was a place for used CDs and shitty bars, stripclubs and darkened storefronts.

Years later the decaying Cineplex Odeon in the mall became something new, a place where "art films" played. A dream! Sandi and I (happy to be the kind of people who took-in an art film on a Saturday afternoon) got off the bus and walked to the mall, quiet aside from the whir of escalators and a distant thumping dance beat from the Le Chateau that seemed suicidal in its refusal to move out. We bought our tickets and hunkered down in the dated (yet utterly comfortable) seats.

And then a voice: "One is the loneliest number, one is the loneliest number . . ." I was captivated like I'd never been before. Magnolia, a P.T. Anderson film. Initials for a name, he was really something! And for more than three hours, I didn't take my eyes off the screen, my ears off the music. Its manic Tom Cruise, its remarkable Julianne Moore, this movie changed everything for me. It made me believe frogs could fall from the sky and it made me listen to music differently, soon discovering not all musicians are gifted in the ways of Aimee Mann. That little boy, do you remember? When he says to his Dad, "You need to be nicer to me." That kid changed things too.

I don't know how I'll ever have time to see new movies, when there are so many old ones I need to watch again and again.


  1. "It became clear the downtown could not be rescued by Mrs. Vanelli or anyone else."

    You are hilarious.

  2. You made two mistakes with your decision to go see Juno: first, if you go to the theatre, go see movies like Inland Empire or the Death of Mr. Lazarescu. Go for the subtitles, if possible. I guarantee you will not have people text messaging around you. Or sitting around you at all, for that matter.

    Secondly, if you insist on seeing something that appeals to the canaille, go to an extra-late show. At least the teenagers will be at home by then.

  3. You obnoxious son of a bitch!
    Juno is a fantastic snapshot of this time in history. Ellen Page is a national treasure.

  4. I never said Juno wasn't the gem in the crown of 21st century film. I just said it's a little bit ... populist, that's all.

    If you think "populist" is an epithet then that says more about you than it does about me. So there.

  5. I think Juno was overwritten and overrated, zeitgeist or not.

    I also think that going to movie theatres can be dispiriting, even though I'm often one of the obnoxious louts you describe.

    I remember when I discovered 'art film' - it was 1995 and I rented a videotape (!) of 'Blue' - there was something compellingly enigmatic about Juliette Binoche's face. I've watched that movie over a dozen times, and my taste hasn't been the same since.