Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Films That I Saw: June 2020

Half of 2020 is almost over yet it does feel like a world is coming to an end with more than 10 million cases and over half a million have died in this pandemic as here in the U.S., we have 2.6 million cases and more than 127,000 have died. Amidst all of this chaos including the fact that a man was killed in Atlanta by cops at a Wendy’s parking lot is further proof that the world is going to shit. Especially as I’m now thinking about my father who died exactly one year ago today as I’m starting to think it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. If the cancer didn’t kill him, the idea of not watching sports and not really going anywhere as well as not hang out with friends and such would kill him. Plus, I’d think he’d be extremely appalled by the culture in general with people wanting to cancel certain people, pieces of art, and all of these things as it would just suck the life out of him. It hurts and it also pisses me off as I began to understand that some of the things my dad said about all of this political correctness and what is and isn’t offensive was right.

Now I may not have rated a film like Gone with the Wind highly amongst the many films I had seen but putting a disclaimer in the film I don’t think helps. It’s just making things worse while I’m really upset that Mike Henry has been forced by this culture to step down in voicing Cleveland Brown of Family Guy. I never watched the show but I enjoyed its spin-off The Cleveland Show as I was aware that Henry was white and he was voicing African-American characters but I had no problem with it. It’s not just these things that are going on that is just making my eyes roll but there’s also the world of professional wrestling as it relates to a lot of sexual assault/harassment incidents in Britain and in some promotions in the U.S. that are just horrendous. Realizing that Joey Ryan, who is famous for oiling himself and being involved in intergender matches as well as getting his opponents to touch his dick for a stupid comedy move, is really one of the sleaziest people ever and I can’t watch him anymore.

This month has been a really trying time for professional wrestling as AEW has at least managed to do a good job in handling the pandemic with wrestlers being tested frequently although two of them in Q.T. Marshall and current AEW world champion Jon Moxley both came into contact with those with COVID-19 as they both sat out in order to not affect anyone else. The latter unfortunately is married to WWE interviewer Renee Young who has been tested positive for COVID though it’s good to know she’s doing fine as I hope she leaves WWE for good. The way WWE has handled the pandemic has been horrendous. You have a multi-billion dollar company that had a lot of resources to handle this but they prefer to try and sell the idea that they’re an essential business in Florida and they put smiles in people’s faces. Having several of your employees tested positive for COVID while not doing much to bring actual tests makes them look like assholes. AEW and New Japan at least put their resources to make sure their wrestlers are OK as the latter company have done a hell of a lot more to make sure their employees are safe with some stars and executives in New Japan at least made the decision to make pay cuts to help themselves. WWE however is proof that they don’t give a fuck about anyone as long as they can money and be seen as leaders of sports entertainment.

In the month of June 2020, I saw a total of 24 films in 12 first-timers and 12 re-watches with only one first-timer being directed by a woman as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. The highlight of the month has definitely been my Blind Spot choice in Satyajit Ray’s The Big City. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for June 2020:

1. Wildlife

2. Capernaum

3. The Housemaid

4. 8:46

5. Be Water

Monthly Mini-Reviews

3 Brothers: Radio Raheem, Eric Garner, and George Floyd

Spike Lee is right now the voice in American cinema that people need more than ever as he just uses footage from his own film Do the Right Thing and video footage of what happened to both Eric Garner and George Floyd. It shows how little things have changed since 1989 and so on as it’s just 3 minutes of uncompromising truth. Lee has used this time during the pandemic to be really creative as well as just telling it like it is and based on what I’ve seen so far in his new film Da 5 Bloods, it is clear that Lee hasn’t just got his mojo back but is now becoming this elder statesman in cinema that is embarking on a new phase in his career where there is nothing that’s going to stop him.


This was an OK action film about an Uber driver who has to accompany a detective who had just gotten laser-eye surgery to go after a drug dealer who killed his partner months before. It’s got some funny moments and some nice action though the story doesn’t have enough depth to keep things interest despite the performances of Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani as well as a nice cameo from Karen Gillan as Bautista’s partner in the film’s opening minutes. Other than that, it is just a typical mismatched buddy film that had some laughs but not enough to be a total recommendation but it’s not a total dud.

Peckinpah Suite

This documentary that was shown on Turner Classic Movies about a famous hotel suite where Sam Peckinpah lived in a small town in Montana is really more about his daughter trying to get know the father she didn’t know much about aside from scattered memories. It showcases the world that Peckinpah lived in during his times of exile from the world of film but also commentary about his complicated legacy as a filmmaker from locals and various film historians. It’s something fans of Peckinpah should seek out as it does feature this nice intimate story of a woman trying to learn about her father.

Vadim Mister Cool

Another documentary film about a filmmaker shown on Turner Classic Movies is about Roger Vadim who was considered the idea of cool in the 1950s and 1960s beginning with And God Created Woman that made Brigitte Bardot an international icon. It’s a film told largely through archival audio and video footage with comments from those who knew him. It is a fascinating documentary that also explore the director’s decline in the 70s and 80s until his marriage to actress Marie-Christine Barrault in 1990 where his 1990s TV films showcased a new direction that reflected his happy life until his passing in February of 2000.

Be Water

From 30 to 30 is a new episode as it focuses on the life and influence of Bruce Lee. Told largely through audio interviews with those who knew him including his daughter Shannon reading her father’s letters. The film focuses on not just Lee’s influence in the world of martial arts but also some of the prejudice he endured as an Asian-American including the culture of how Asians were depicted in the 20th Century before and during Lee’s arrival to the world of entertainment. It is definitely one of the best films that 30 for 30 has created as it also show some insight into Lee’s philosophy as a man and what he wanted to do for the world including his children that includes a brief tidbit on his late son Brandon.


In these trying of times, comedians often find a way to say something but also make us laugh but Dave Chappelle did something much bigger and grander. A 27-minute film for Netflix is a Joke YouTube page has Chappelle talking to a small audience about George Floyd and the state of the world. There are some funny moments but Chappelle doesn’t hold back into what needed to be said. He talks about the shit that is the year 2020 as well as the lack of response from African-American celebrities as he states like anyone gives a fuck about what they think. He also goes off on African-American conservative commentator Candace Owens as he gives that cunt words that are beyond insulting and for the right reasons. While it’s great to see Chappelle doing bits, his social commentary is what the world needs as his uncompromising words is exactly the kind of things that Richard Pryor and George Carlin would be proud of.

Crazy Rich Asians

I saw this film on scattered bits for about a year on HBO as it’s a film my mom likes a lot as she’s always into films about Asian culture. While I don’t think it’s as great as some say it is, it is a film that does have value in its exploration of social classes and how it play into the world of rich Asians in Singapore. The story may not be original but the characters at least are interesting and engaging as the performances of Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, and Michelle Yeoh are incredible. Especially as they manage to provide some laughs and heartfelt moments as it’s just a nice film to watch and relax while not taking anything seriously.

Top 10 Re-watches

1. Terminator 2: Judgement Day

2. Crimson Peak

3. The Terminator

4. Ad Astra

5. Lady and the Tramp

6. Hanna

7. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

8. The Running Man

9. That Thing You Do!

10. Joker

Well, that is it for June 2020 and half of this awful fucking year. In July, I will focus largely on films from Samuel Fuller, John Ford, and other American films including recent movies as well as Da 5 Bloods. Speaking of Ford, my next Blind Spot will be The Grapes of Wrath as I want to try to explore some of the finer aspects of what America was as it’s now become a fucking laughing stock around the world. I know I’m approaching my 20th anniversary of becoming a critic on July 5th but I don’t have anything planned and probably won’t do anything at all as I’d rather focus on watching films and writing about them. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and hoping everyone stays safe and fight the power.

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: The Big City

Based on the stories Abataranika and Akinchan by Narendranath Mitra, Mahanagar (The Big City) is the story of a woman who decides to get a job to support her family much to the protests of her bank-clerk husband amidst the struggles of their working class life. Written for the screen, scored, and directed by Satyajit Ray, the film is a study of a woman trying to find her own identity in the modern world during a time of social change in India. Starring Anil Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Jaya Bhaduri, Haren Chatterjee, Sefalika Devi, Prasenjit Sarkar, Haradhan Banerjee, and Vicky Redwood. Mahanagar is a riveting and evocative film from Satyajit Ray.

The film follows a family as a housewife decides to take a job to help her family despite her bank-clerk husband’s reluctance as he believes a wife’s place is in the home amidst social changes around them in Calcutta. It’s a film that is set during a time in Calcutta where cities were becoming bigger as this middle-class family is trying to adjust to these changes with the bank clerk’s parents struggling to comprehend everything as his father feels out of step with the changing times. Satyajit Ray’s screenplay follows a simple and straightforward narrative of this family who lived in a cramped home nearby Calcutta as Subrata Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee) is a bank clerk who is doing well but not enough for his family that includes his wife Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee), their young son Pintu (Prasenjit Sarkar), Subrata’s teenage sister Bani (Jaya Bhaduri), and his parents in Sarojini (Sefalika Devi) and his father in former professor Priyagopal (Haren Chatterjee). Arati suggests in taking a job to help out though Subrata isn’t sure while Priyagopal isn’t fond of the idea.

Taking the job as a door-to-door saleswoman, Arati would find happiness in her work while befriending the Anglo-Indian colleague Edith (Vicky Redwood) who isn’t given a great reputation by their boss Mr. Mukherjee (Haradhan Banerjee) while Arati’s family is also disapproving of the friendship. It’s a small subplot in the film that play into Arati’s own independence as it makes Subrata insecure as he thinks about getting a second job while his father isn’t immediately fond of Arati’s success as he turns to old students for help as he prefers not to speak to his son. Much of these stories take place during the first half of the film as Ray explores one generation’s struggle in these changing times with the younger generation seeing the benefits of these social changes but also some of its faults.

Ray’s direction is mesmerizing for the way he presents the world of late 1950s/early 1960s Calcutta at a time of social changes as it is shot on location in areas in and around Calcutta. Much of the direction at the Mazumdar home is intimate as it play into how small the home is and how cramped to establish Subrata’s need to give his family a better life and a bigger home despite his father’s reluctance to leave. The usage of close-ups and medium shots add to these constraints while there’s looser images in the scenes in the city including the bank that Subrata works at and the posh streets where Arati would get people to buy things. Ray’s usage of wide shots and hand-held cameras add to the splendor yet overwhelming tone of the city as Arati seems to enjoy what it offers. For Priyagopal, the city is just this monster where he’s walking with a cane in need of new glasses and money from former pupils who care about him yet the atmosphere is immense for a simple man like Priyagopal. Also doing the film’s score, Ray uses elements of strings and traditional Indian string and percussive music to help play into the drama as well as creating pieces that help maintain a somber tone where Ray doesn’t dwell too much into melodrama with his music nor with the scenes he creates to play into the struggles that his characters endure.

Notably in the second half as it relates to Subrata who encounters a harsh reality of what is going on socially in Calcutta as he has to rely on his wife’s job for security but also to swallow his pride as a man. Particularly in a scene at a restaurant where he is in the background listening to Arati from afar as she is talking to a client with some lies about her husband with claims that he’s really successful. The third act is about the role of the breadwinner in the family though it’s a role that isn’t easily accepted by Arati as it relates to the fact that she has to take a lot responsibilities while dealing with how badly mistreated Edith is because she’s Anglo-Indian. It all plays into Arati not only thinking of herself but also her husband who realizes what must be done for both of them and their family to share the role of breadwinner. Overall, Ray crafts a touching and rapturous film about a middle-class family trying to adapt to changes and new prospects in Calcutta.

Cinematographer Subrata Mitra does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it is largely straightforward with its lighting for the scenes at night inside the Mazumdar home with some lush imagery for the exterior scenes in the day at the posh area of Calcutta. Editor Dulal Dutta does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward for much of the film with some rhythmic cutting for the dramatic moments. Art director Bansi Chandragupta does amazing work with the look of the homes that the Mazumdar family live in as well as the more refined homes of Priyagopal’s students and the building where Arati works at. The sound work of Atul Chatterjee, Debesh Ghosh, and Sjit Sarkar do superb work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as the array of sounds surrounding the city to play into its overwhelming nature in contrast to the more subdued posh areas in the city and at the home of the Mazumdar family.

The film’s incredible cast feature notable small roles that include Bibhuti Banerjee, Shyamal Ghosal, and Shailen Mukherjee as a trio of former students of Priyagopal that help him out, Haradhan Banerjee as Arati’s boss Mr. Mukherjee, Prasenjit Sarkar as Subrata and Arati’s young son Pintu, Jaya Bhaduri as Subrata’s teenage sister Bani, Sefalika Devi as Subrata’s mother Sarojini, and Vicky Redwood as the Anglo-Indian Edith whom Arati befriends as she endures prejudice and questions about her background and worth as a saleswoman. Haren Chatterjee is fantastic as Subrata’s father Priyagopal as a former professor who refuses help from his daughter-in-law in his belief to do things himself despite being an old man while feeling ashamed that Arati is the breadwinner as it plays into a man whose ideals have now become irrelevant.

Anil Chatterjee is remarkable as Subrata as a bank clerk who was the primary breadwinner of his family as he tries to help out as he is reluctant to let his wife work only to lose some pride and later appreciation from his father where he later copes with circumstances beyond his control. Finally, there’s Madhabi Mukherjee in a phenomenal performance as Arati Mazumdar as a housewife who decides to take a job to help her family where she finds a sense of freedom and sense of pride while dealing with some of its faults as well as injustices around her as it is a radiant and graceful performance from Mukherjee.

Mahanagar is an outstanding film from Satyajit Ray that features great performances from Anil Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee. Along with its themes of social changes as well as women’s role in these changes as well as its visuals and Ray’s eerie music score. The film is a fascinating study of social changes that is emerging in late 1950s/early 1960s India and how women prosper with these changes despite some of its faults as well as its look into racism towards mixed-races in the country. In the end, Mahanagar is a tremendous film from Satyajit Ray.

Satyajit Ray Films: Pather Panchali - Aparajito - (Parash Pathar) – The Music Room - Apur Sansar - Devi – (Teen Kanya) – (Rabindranath Tagore) – (Kanchenjunghar) – (Abhijan) – Charulata - (Two) – (Kapurush) – (Mahapurush) – The Hero (1966 film) - (Chiriyakhana) – (Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne) – (Aranyer Din Ratri) – (Pratidwandi) – (Sikkim) – (Seemabaddha) – (The Inner Eye) – (Ashani Sanket) – (Sonar Kella) – (Jana Aranya) – (Bala) – (Shatranj Ke Khilari) – (Joi Baba Felunath) – (Hirak Rajar Deshe) – (Pikoo) – (Sadgati) – (Ghare Baire) – (Sukumar Ray) – (Ganashatru) – (Shakha Proshakha) – (Agantuk)

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Wildlife (2018 film)

Based on the book by Richard Ford, Wildlife is the story of a family coming apart where a teenage boy watches his father tend to raging forest fires while his mother begins a relationship with an automobile dealership owner during the 1960s. Directed by Paul Dano and screenplay by Dano and Zoe Kazan, the film is an exploration of a family disintegrating as the roles of parents begin to change as well as those trying to find themselves during a time when everyone had their place in life. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, and Bill Camp. Wildlife is a mesmerizing and ravishing film from Paul Dano.

Set in 1960, the revolves around a family as they had just moved to Great Falls, Montana as their lives to begin to disintegrate after the father loses his job and volunteers to stop a growing wild fire nearby while the mother finds work and begins a relationship with a much older man much to the shock of their teenage son. It’s a coming-of-age film as well as the study of a family whose life is hampered by not just uncertainty but also disappointment just as this 15 year old kid is trying to understand what is going on. The film’s screenplay by Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan follows the life of the Brinson family as Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) was working at a country club as a golf pro until he’s fired as he gets rehired but refuses to take his job back. Jerry’s pride creates tension with his wife Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) who takes a job as a swimming instructor while their son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) works at a local photography studio when Jerry leaves to take a job in fighting forest fires nearby.

Joe does what he can but becomes troubled by Jeannette’s time with one of her students in the elderly automobile dealership owner Warren Miller (Bill Camp) as a relationship occurs that makes Joe uneasy. The script succeeds in not just understanding what Joe is seeing but also Jeannette herself as it is clear a side of herself that she had repressed in her marriage is starting to re-emerge but with an air of uncertainty. Even as she had fallen out of love with Jerry whom she felt had failed her while Miller is offering to help her out as well as Joe and Jerry with Joe becoming unsure of what he’s seeing though he doesn’t think Miller is a bad guy. Jerry is a flawed individual who feels hurt upon losing his job as him volunteering to fight fires is a way to instill his role as the breadwinner but upon his return. Things have changed and things become more complicated.

Dano’s direction is definitely rapturous for not just setting and its location but also in some of the compositions he creates to play into this growing disintegration within this family. Shot on various locations in Montana and parts of Oklahoma, Dano maintains this quaintness of this small town in 1960 Montana that does look and feel like it is from that time while playing into this world where everyone had a role and identity that they should play. Dano would maintain an intimacy for much of the direction as it relates to characters interacting with one another as much of it features Joe and whoever he’s with as there are some close-ups and medium shots that help play into the dramatic tension that occurs throughout. Even as Dano would often create shots from Joe’s perspective as he would get a discomforting look of Miller walking out of a bathroom and into his mother’s bedroom. It’s followed by moments of Joe looking at his mother and Miller talking in a car as it adds to this dramatic tension as it is shown largely from Joe’s perspective.

Dano also uses the wide shots to not just get a scope of the locations and what Jerry is facing but also in the home as there’s a great shot of the family home shot from the outside as Joe is in his room getting for bed while Jerry and Jeannette are in the kitchen. It plays into the growing disconnection between all three members with Joe having to realize that his parents not only don’t have all the answers but are deeply flawed as people. Dano does maintain some restraint into heavy drama as he prefers for the actors to find the conflict from within as well as realize that the bubble they live in has already burst. Even as the ending is about three people who are a family despite the fact that they’re not as close as they once were but probably found a way to make peace with themselves. Overall, Dano crafts an intoxicating and riveting film about a family disintegrating through failure and uncertainty in the eyes of a 15-year old boy.

Cinematographer Diego Garcia does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is naturalistic and understated approach to the images including the colors of some of the objects with some low-key lighting for some of the interior/exterior scenes set at night. Editors Matthew Hannam and Louise Ford do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few jump-cuts and other minimal stylish touches to help in structuring the story. Production designer Akin McKenzie, with set decorator Melisa Jusufi and art director Miles Michael, does amazing work with the look of the house that the Brinson family live in as well as Miller’s auto dealership and his home. Costume designer Amanda Ford does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward to play into the look of 1960 with the exception of the clothes that Jeannette wears that is stylish including a dress she wears on her dinner date with Miller.

Hair stylist Alexandra Ford does nice work with the look of Jeannette’s hair as it ranges from casual to more stylish during her time with Miller. Visual effects supervisors Philippe Desiront, Sergey Kononenko, and Simon Lecavalier do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it largely relates to the forest fires on the mountains. Sound designer Jacob Ribicoff and sound editor Tony Volante do superb work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the sparse textures in some of the film’s quieter moments. The film’s music by David Lang is wonderful for its somber yet radiant music score that mixes piano, strings, and woodwinds to capture the sense of uncertainty and despair that Joe copes with as he watches his family’s life disintegrate while music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a soundtrack of the music of the times that feature pieces by the Moonglows, Connie Francis, the Elgins, Virgil Warner, Yvonne Devaney, the City of Tomorrow, Dinah Washington, Sue Thompson, the Chantels, Serge Gainsbourg, Kenny Brent & Donna Harris, the Flamingos, and the Marvelettes as well as a classical piece by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and an ambient music piece by Johann Johansson.

The casting by Jodi Angstreich and Laura Rosenthal is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Travis Bruyer as the Forester, Darryl Cox as a country club member Jerry befriends, and Zoe Margaret Colletti as Joe’s classmate/love interest Ruth-Ann. Bill Camp is excellent as Warren Miller as a former war veteran/automobile dealership owner who becomes a swim student of Jeannette as he offers to help her as well as be in a relationship where Camp portrays him as a kind man. Ed Oxenbould is incredible as Joe Brinson as a 15-year old kid who watches his parents’ marriage disintegrate as he tries to understand everything while dealing with his own anguish and growing pains in his own role in life.

Jake Gyllenhaal is marvelous as Jerry Brinson as a former golf pro who gets fired from a country club as he becomes a volunteer to get his pride back only to deal with something far more difficult and then come home realizing that his family life is on the rocks. Finally, there’s Carey Mulligan in a sensational performance as Jeanette Brinson as Jerry’s wife and Joe’s mother as a housewife who is angry at her husband’s pride as she takes a job as a swimming instructor while becoming lost in her affair with a much older man as Mulligan provides an understated performance as a woman wracked with internal conflict and confusion as it is one of her finest performances to date.

Wildlife is a tremendous film from Paul Dano that features great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, and Ed Oxenbould. Along with its rich script, gorgeous visuals, somber music soundtrack, and study of a family coming apart. It is a film that explores a family whose identity is shattered by pride, hardship, and decisions that is seen from the eyes of a teenage boy who copes with these sudden changes. In the end, Wildlife is a phenomenal film from Paul Dano.

© thevoid99 2020

Saturday, June 20, 2020

At the Movies Blog Challenge: My Life at the Cinema (21st Century Edition)

For many of us who love films, going to the movie theater is a thing that we all do whether it’s every weekend or a few times a month. It’s the chance to see a new movie that is out that is a big event or to discover a gem that not many people are seeing. It’s also a chance to see an old film in the big screen if it’s given a special presentation while it is either seen with a large audience or a small audience. It allows people to watch something and share that experience whether it’s a good movie or a bad movie. However, in these uncertain times as the whole world is stricken with the COVID-19 pandemic and hundreds of thousands of people have either died or are dying from this virus. The whole world has definitely gone into shutdown mode and going to the cinema is something we can’t do anymore. After all, if someone decides to open a movie theater against the advice of scientists and doctors and someone with the virus show in a room full of people and infect everyone. Then the whole world is absolutely fucked.

Katy Rochelle of Oh So Geeky is hosting a blog challenge that is about going to the movie theaters as a way to bring many of us bloggers together to share that experience even though we can’t do it in person. The idea of the blog challenge is simple:

Create a list sharing your favorite memories of going to the movies. The post must feature a minimum of five items, but feel free to write more than five and choose any "theme" you want.

Having spent a lifetime going to the movies as I’ve written experiences about going to the movies through lists and essays that either explore my adoration for a film or a filmmaker. I want to do something different as it’s more about the different experiences I had of going to the movies in the past 20 years of my life even though it doesn’t feel like 20 years. In order to make this interesting, I will avoid discussions about talking about seeing my all-time favorite film in Lost in Translation as well as the experiences I had in watching the films of Quentin Tarantino. I’m also going to avoid discussing some of the more unpleasant experiences I’ve had in the bad movies I’ve seen. This list of 30 films is going to be about the movies that I saw and how it impacted my growth as a cinephile chronologically from 2002 to 2019.

Before I begin this list, let me preface some background of where I was coming from and why I chose the 30 films on this list. If I was to pin-point my life through watching films, I would say that it would be before seeing this film and after seeing this film. Before 2002, a lot of the films I had seen were mainly from major studios and mainstream fare in the 1980s, there were 3 movie theaters in Smyrna. One at the Galleria across the street from Cumberland Mall, the second a mile south was one at Akers Mill Square that is now a pet store and a Hobby Lobby, and another one just a mile north from the mall that is now a Best Buy and other stores. By 2000-2001, there was only one in the form of a multiplex that AMC Parkway Pointe 15 just half-a-mile south where the one at Akers Mill was. The only other time I went to a movie theater outside of Smyrna was somewhere south of Atlanta during Thanksgiving where my younger sister and I joined our cousins to see The Ringmaster. By the time I got my driver’s license and was able to see what else is out there, I knew it was time to see what else isn’t playing at the multiplexes.

1. 24 Hour Party People

Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 film about the rise and fall of Factory Records that would help launch the local music scene in Manchester from the late 1970s to the early 1990s remains one of my all-time favorite films. I saw the film either around late August or early September in 2002 at the Tara Theatre near the Cheshire area in Atlanta as this was the first time I went to an art house theater and this wouldn’t be the last time. The theater was nearby the home of an old family friend of my parents who had sadly passed away a decade ago as I would inherit three of his cats who sadly passed years later. Seeing a film in this small theater that only has four screens is an immense experience as there weren’t a lot of people there but I was enthralled by what I was seeing as it made me realize that there was so much out there and not every film will be at my local multiplex.

2. American Splendor

Nearly a year later at the same theatre, I went to a screening for this film and it was packed as it was hard for me to get a seat. Yet, it was a screening I wouldn’t forget as there were a lot of laughs and some cries and all sorts of things. It was the screening where I saw the trailer for what would become my all-time favorite film. The film was great but it was the experience seeing it with a large crowd for a film that wasn’t being played at a local multiplex as well as not being some blockbuster comedy nor anything that is mainstream. When the credits rolled, a loud applause occurred as that was something I never expected as it would be the first of several moments I would have at a screening.

3. Girl with a Pearl Earring

I saw this film on my 23rd birthday at the Atlanta Museum of Arts for a special screening as it was quite full while parking was expensive at the time at $10-$15. The ticket to see the film was $5 as it was weird going to the museum where they’re going to have the screening as there’s people older than me drinking champagne and eating fine cheeses as well as all sorts of posh food while I had pizza from Fellini’s for dinner earlier. The film was amazing yet it made me cry as everyone else was applauding for the film but I was a wreck as I sat down in tears. Having seen Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation twice already at that time and to see the film for a third time, I knew that was someone to watch as I’ve become a fan of hers since and have stayed on through good films and some shitty films.

4. The Dreamers

The first NC-17 film that I saw at the Landmark Theatre on the Midtown Arts Center just near Piedmont Park was definitely an event and certainly a theater I haven’t been to in nearly a decade mainly because it’s in the city and a little far for me at this point as I don’t like to leave my mother all alone for a long period of time. This theater is probably one of the best I’ve been to as it has walls of posters of film classics from different countries as it’s always something I’m in awe of. The screening for this film is unique mainly because of not just the film but the thrill of watching erotic sex on the big screen as I had seen nudity on film but not in this context as it was exciting. Yet, it was a big deal as it was a film that introduced me to the French New Wave and other films.

5. DiG!

Working as a volunteer at the Atlanta Film Festival in late spring/early summer 2004 at the Midtown Arts Center, I saw a slew of films there including Strayed with Emmanuelle Beart by Andre Techine, Easy starring Marguerite Moreau, The Mother by Roger Michel starring Anne Reid and Daniel Craig, and Some Kind of Monster as well as some short films. I saw I think 3-4 films on the same day as one of them was Ondi Timoner’s documentary about the friendship/rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre as I chatted briefly with Timoner as we both discussed TVT Records founder Steve Gottlieb as we both agree that he’s an evil person. After all, anyone who follows Nine Inch Nails about Gottlieb and the man is a fucking douche. It was a great screening that was followed by Q&A as it was fun.

6. Primer

Later that night as I had finished my volunteer work, I decided to buy a ticket for a screening of Shane Carruth’s debut film which was the only other film I could see that night as Baadasssss! was also having a big screening that was sold out. I chose Carruth’s film instead as it was another interesting experience at the festival as it ended with applause as it was followed by a Q&A. It was an excellent film though I would appreciate it more as I got older while I also chatted with Carruth for a while as we talked about the film and such as he was a cool guy.

7. The Brown Bunny

Nearby midtown Atlanta and one of the older theatres that is the Plaza Theatre as it is legendary as it showed all sorts of films and some art movies. It is also known for having midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for many years and it’s still going. I’ve seen two films in that theater as one of them is John Sayles’ Casa de los Babys and in the summer of 2004, Vincent Gallo’s sophomore feature. There weren’t a lot of people at the screening as I think it was only 3 or 4 including myself. It wasn’t one of the best screenings that I saw yet I think the only reason those who attended the film was there was to see the infamous blow-job scene. We saw it in all of its glory though I learned years later that Gallo was actually wearing a prosthetic that he borrowed from a film he did for Claire Denis years before and that killed whatever joy I had for the film.

8. La Dolce Vita

Returning once again to the Midtown Arts Center on September 21, 2004 which is the one-year anniversary of the time I saw my all-time favorite film and what better way to celebrate it than watch a restored edition of a film that my favorite movie showed for a bit. I had never seen a Federico Fellini film before and what a way to start all of that. I don’t remember if I had seen a black-and-white film before this yet it was immense as it was a rapturous experience. Even though the screening only featured half the audience, it was still just this indescribable experience though it wasn’t the longest film I had seen in that time. I was so entranced by what I was seeing as I wasn’t sure when the movie was over as I went in there absolutely blind as it remains my favorite Fellini film so far.

9. The Motorcycle Diaries

One of a bunch of films that I saw as part of a free screening in 2004 that also included a remake of Nine Queens in Criminal with John C. Reilly, Diego Luna, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is one that I saw through a magazine ad as myself and many others got a free pass the week before its screening. Shown at the Midtown Arts Center, it was a packed screening as well as hard to get a seat as it was another immense experience. Especially for a film about a controversial figure in Che Guevara in his early years where he travels through South America as he would discover things that would impact him in many ways. There was a loud applause at the end as it was another great experience for me.

10. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Attending a preview screening for this film at the Midtown Arts Center just before Christmas was a film that I was definitely anticipating for as I had started to discover the films of Wes Anderson as I really wanted to see this. The screening was packed as there were a lot of people wanting to see this as there was trivia before the screening as I answered a question and won a winter beanie hat that I lost a few years ago. It was like the beanie the characters in the film wore as losing it sucked. I had fun watching the film but there wasn’t much of a reaction during the film as it ended with some including myself applaud with others just not really enjoying it. It is Anderson’s most polarizing film to date but it was still fun to watch.

11. Happy Endings

In July of 2005, I went to a screening for Don Roos’ film as I saw it largely because I’m a big fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal as I decided to go to this special screening that would be followed by a Q&A with one of its stars in Jesse Bradford. There weren’t a lot of people at the screening yet it was still an incredible screening as I think it’s an underrated film with a phenomenal ensemble cast that include Lisa Kudrow, Steve Coogan, Tom Arnold, Jason Ritter, Laura Dern, and Bobby Cannavale. It was funny and full of compelling characters with Gyllenhaal in a tremendous performance as a singer for a band who seduces one of her bandmates and her father while Bradford plays a wannabe filmmaker trying to find Kudrow’s long-lost son. Bradford at the Q&A was a really cool guy as I asked him about his look and praised his role in Hackers (which is still a good film). I chatted with him a bit as myself and another guy learned that was going to be in Clint Eastwood’s film Flags of Our Fathers but wanted to keep it a secret which I did until it was officially announced.

12. The New World

Much of my time from 2003 to 2006 was an educational period of discovering about cinema as I realized there was a whole world out there and learning about filmmakers and the films they made. One of them was Terrence Malick as I spent the fall of 2005 watching his films and re-watching The Thin Red Line as I never understood it as a teenager. Yet, I was aware that not all films are meant for the small screen as there was something indescribable about his work as I was anxious to see this though I became aware that his films are often delayed due to last-minute touches. I finally saw the film at my local multiplex and there weren’t a lot of people there yet it was a mesmerizing experience in seeing Chivo’s photography shown like that and with this immense soundtrack as I learned that if Malick was to make another film (and he would) that I have to patient as I understood about the idea of films as an event.

13. I'm Not There

Seeing this at the Midtown Arts Center on my 27th birthday as my birthday movie which is often an annual thing (depending on what’s playing and where). I had been a casual fan of Bob Dylan around that time and Todd Haynes was a filmmaker I enjoyed watching based on the few films that he did. I don’t remember whether the screening I went to was about half or less than half but it was still an incredible moment. Notably as it was just this film that didn’t play the rules as it made me into a super-convert of the gospel according to Dylan. Even as the casting for the actors playing different versions of Dylan made it different as it made me realize that not all film bio-pics had to follow a certain formula or narrative which was becoming the case with every bio-pic that was coming out in those times.

14. There Will Be Blood

I saw this film in early January of 2008 at the Tara Theatre as it was sold out as I was lucky to get a ticket for a showing though finding a seat was fucking hard. I sat second row just really close to the screen. Honestly, it’s not the best way to watch a film as you had to look up to get a proper look as my seat didn’t have cushions at the time. Another reason why I don’t recommend sitting close to the screen and always buy tickets in advance is what I’m about to describe. During the film, there was an oil well explosion and the explosion was loud. Yet, it was the loudest thing I heard as all of a sudden. My ears hurt and I temporarily went deaf during the screening. It took minutes for me to get some of my hearing back but goddamn. That was fucking loud.

15. The Dark Knight

Seeing this in the summer of 2008 as it was the event blockbuster of the season and at my local multiplex. It was nearly full at the screening that I went to as it was like watching something bigger than a blockbuster. Notably as it played more like an action-epic than a typical superhero film where it was the scale of the presentation of it that stood out to me. The visuals along with the soundtrack as well as being something more nihilistic in its themes. Up until the films of the MCU in its third phase, I always felt that this film set not just new standards of what superhero films should be but also blockbusters.

16. Che

Attending a one-week only screening at the Midtown Arts Center during what was a traumatic period for myself and my entire family as it relates to the passing of my youngest sister. I needed to go somewhere and watch something to get away from my lecherous relatives. I had money to watch this special screening as it was double the ticket-price since I’m watching a two-part film as it was the first roadshow film presentation that I ever went to and it’s something that I think audiences need to experience once in their life. Fortunately, it’s twice for me so far as the other was The Hateful Eight. With this film, I’m given a book that features all of the credits as both films don’t feature credits as it opens instead a country and after the first film ends. There’s a 30 minute break and then you get back on board. A lot of people weren’t at this screening but it was at least something immense.

17. Antichrist

Months later in the fall of that year during a time where grief definitely channeled my worth as a writer where I was kind of writing non-stop at the now-defunct Epinions.com as I had become a top writer of sorts. Yet, it was becoming unsatisfying as I felt unchallenged and constrained by what I couldn’t write as well as being frustrated over the lack of value I brought to the site which would close 5 years later. This was a film that didn’t just express a lot of the anxieties and emotions I was going through at the time but it would also foreshadow events of what I would go through in the next year. There weren’t a lot of people at the screening as I was anxious to see this and it delivered but it was also confrontational in its depiction of depression as it was indeed a film that is not meant for the multiplexes.

18. Avatar

To end the 2000s and on New Year’s Eve, I chose the biggest film of that year and it would be my only experience to watch a film in 3D. While I thought it was an excellent film despite the lack of originality in the narrative and some of overwrought ideas of environmentalism. I was underwhelmed by the 3D presentation of it as it really didn’t do anything and I didn’t think the plastic 3D glasses helped at all. I think the film was better upon re-watches and didn’t need the 3D. I still liked the film but it is highly doubtful I will ever watch a film in 3D ever again.

19. Somewhere

Being a major fan of Sofia Coppola, I was anxious to see this but I wanted to see it properly and upon realizing that it wasn’t going to be in multiplexes or at an art house theater nearby. I went to the Midtown Arts Center to see this during one of the coldest winters in Atlanta at that time. There weren’t a lot of people at the screening and it was quite cold but watching this film that is set in sunny Los Angeles made me feel warm. Having watched Coppola’s last film Marie Antoinette with an air of anxiety due to the polarizing reception it had received at Cannes four years earlier. I came into watching this film with no expectations and just the beauty of it as well as the minimalist approach Coppola went with her story just the experience a joy to watch though it’s kind of bittersweet as that was the last movie I had seen at the Midtown Arts Center as I haven’t been there in 9 years.

20. The Tree of Life

Seeing this in June 2011 at the Tara Theatre, I knew I was coming into something that wasn’t going to be something typical of the films I had seen in multiplexes as well as a few art-house movies that I had seen in my lifetime. It was kind of half full yet the screening has specific instructions of how to present the film based on notes that Malick wanted for projectionists. It is an indescribable experience in watching this film as I felt like I was watching a piece of art that not everyone will like (which is often the case with anything by Malick) yet I was entranced by its visuals and the story as it is kind of a spiritual film that made me question the ideas of existence.

21. The Avengers

Every generation of moviegoers will often ask that question of what was it like to see certain films. There’s probably those who will describe what it was like to see Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Sound of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jaws, Star Wars, and Titanic. Films that were big upon its release and were like events. I think the same will be asked for those when it comes to this film as I can remember what it was like. It was hard to find a seat at my local multiplex as I saw on an upper deck corner seat yet the atmosphere of it was immense. The cheers were loud and the laughs were also just as loud including the moment where Hulk beat the shit out of Loki like a rag doll as that got some of the biggest laughs I had ever heard. I knew then and there that the MCU is going to be a whole lot of fun these films would deliver and more.

22. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

There’s only been a few times I went to a restoration or revival screening as in 2010, I went to a revival screening of Casablanca at the theatre in Marietta Square and Back to the Future in a 25th anniversary screening at my local multiplex as I don’t really remember much about them. With this film which I saw at the Lefont Sandy Springs which is now a regular movie theater that would show a few Bollywood films. I saw a restoration for Jacques Demy’s film as I remember that even though there weren’t a lot of people at this restoration. It was still this gorgeous experience in watching this musical and all of the lush colors captured as I had no idea what to expect as it was a great way to see a film like this for the first time as it made me fell in love with the film as well as talking to people including a few who had seen but not on the big screen as they say seeing it like that makes the film even better.

23. Blue is the Warmest Color

Two months later at the same theatre, I decided to see this knowing it wasn’t going to play at my local multiplex since they never play any films relating to gay/lesbian relationships or anything with a NC-17 rating. This was the third NC-17 movie that I saw as the second was Lust, Caution yet this was a more immersive film as I saw it with a half-packed audience as some of them were from the gay/lesbian community as I think was the only straight guy there. It was an enthralling film to watch in terms of its sexual content but it was also emotional given the trials and tribulations of the relationship as there was a reason why it deserved the Palme d’Or despite the controversy that Abdellatif Kechiche has created during the production and what he would become with his subsequent films.

24. The Wolf of Wall Street

I saw this on Christmas Day 2013 as it is kind of tradition for me to watch a film during the Christmas holidays as I wanted to see this mainly because I’m a fan of Martin Scorsese and I heard this film was fucking insane. Well… I think insane just understates exactly what I saw as I was in for a 3-hour ride that I wished never stopped. There wasn’t a lot of people at the screening but I’m sure we were the loudest when I saw at my local multiplex. Most notably the Quaaludes sequence in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character gets paralyzed by its effects and started to crawl and such. It was in that moment where I started to laugh my fucking ass off and everyone else watching that sequence just laughed their asses off. It wasn’t just how loud the laughter was but how hard and how long it was as it went on for minutes during that entire sequence. It was hard to get our composure after that scene though I’m sure someone at the screening did accidentally wet him/herself. I was like “fuck it” as I came out of that screening with a smile in my face but also in a strut. Not just any strut. A kiss-stealin’, wheelin-dealin’, rolex-wearin’, limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’, son-of-a-gun, and I’m having a hard time holding on to these alligators on my feet kind of strut. Nature Boy… Ric Flair… WOO!!!!!!

25. The Raid 2: Berandal

The multiplex at the Phipps Plaza near Lenox Mall at Buckhead is a more lenient multiplex for the fact that it showed more independent and arty films as well as films relating to gay/lesbian relationships unlike my local multiplex though it’s been six years since I’ve been there and this was the last film I saw at the Phipps Plaza. Yet, it was a preview of what was to come at my own multiplex in terms of the seating as it was the first showing where I sat on a very comfortable chair with a recliner and such as it made the screening for this film not just enjoyable but also exciting. It was this action film that had a lot to offer and more as there wasn’t a large audience there yet it was still energetic and full of joy.

26. Mad Max: Fury Road

What do you do after you had just seen one of the worst movies ever made and two hours of your life that you will never recover from? Well, during my brief time with Cinema Axis as I was asked to review the horror that was Aloha. I was at the bar at my local multiplex just writing my review of that film and getting ready to watch the next film in about an hour. Man, it was what I needed as it was the exact opposite of Aloha as this was a film that was enthralling and it had everything you wanted in an action-epic film and it was full of joy while the screening was packed (in comparison to the 5-6 people at the screening for Aloha).

27. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I had seen 2 films of the franchise in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as the experiences I had with them were… eh… I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back on board yet the trailers made me realize that things were going into the right direction. Well, for a while. I attended the screening on opening weekend as it was packed as it was the first show where I used Fandango to get a ticket and that actually helped where I was able to get a seat for the show on Sunday at my local multiplex. It was packed and full of energy as it had an audience of all ages as it was loud and full of joy. Even in some of the dark moments as it made me a fan of the franchise all over again despite the emergence of fanboys who bitch over everything as they have sand in their vaginas.

28. Dunkirk

Though I saw the film as part of a double-feature with Spider-Man: Homecoming as it was two different films that both had something to offer. It was Christopher Nolan’s World War II film that was the better of the two films in not just quality but also in experience. There was a fair amount of people at the screening at my local multiplex for this film but it was in the presentation of it as it felt more than just an ordinary blockbuster or a typical war film. The soundtrack and the scope of what Nolan was telling for a simple story made the film a joy to watch.

29. Avengers: Infinity War

Having followed through many of the films of the MCU, I knew that this film was going to be big and I saw it with a packed audience at my local multiplex. The atmosphere made the screening enjoyable as we booed towards whatever lame trailer that was coming before as we all just wanted to see the film. There were cheers and when Spider-Man appeared, lot of fanboys and fangirls screamed as well as cheers for the heroes they love. Massive pops for Black Panther and big screams for Thor’s arrival in Wakanda as it just made the screening a whole lot of fun until… what Thanos did and the gasps and sense of shock just sucked the life of everyone. There were cries and all sorts of emotions right until the last post-credit scene where there were some cheers for what is to come.

30. Avengers: Endgame

Nearly a year later at the same multiplex and with such anticipation, I knew this was going to be intense. What I didn’t expect was how emotional the screening it was going to be for the people around me in my seat. After the first fifteen minutes of the film and it went black, there was murmurs of confusion as someone said “that’s it?” Then came “five years later” as I knew we were in for something different. There were a lot of funny moments but also sad moments as I cried during one key scene involving the death of a major character. Then came moments that elicited a lot of cheers that lead to the climatic portals sequence as that sequence is why cinema is made. Fanboys and fangirls screamed for Spider-Man which was louder than any ovation I heard and this wave of emotional excitement rushed in as I was part of it as well. When the women Avengers assembled, there were little girls and women that cheered their asses off as it was a fucking incredible experience that will be unmatched and why being at the cinema is something we all cherish.

© thevoid99 2020