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 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


Katy said...

Thank you for joining my blog challenge! I appreciate all the time you took writing this and participating. I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen a lot of the films you mentioned, but it's great that you were able to see so many smaller independent films at screenings, arthouses, and museums. I think I saw The Dark Knight in theaters like eight times, and each one made me rethink how superhero movies should/could be done. I can't believe I forgot to put Mad Max: Fury Road on my list, which I saw in IMAX. So it was totally wild. And Wolf of Wall Street was a great showing for me too. It was packed with people, and everyone was howling during the Quaalude scene. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame would've been in my top #2 picks as well, but I've featured those movies so many times on my blog, it's becoming pretty predictable. There were absolute riots in our theater for IW, and Endgame was a real rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Brittani Burnham said...

This was a really cool variety of films on this list. I'm happy to see ones like The Dreamers mentioned. Seeing Girl with a Pearl Earring in a museum sounds like a cool experience.

God, Epinions. I used to write there too and then I got some truly horrendous feedback on one of my reviews and it scared me off. I can't even remember what it was that bothered me so much.

thevoid99 said...

@Katy-You're welcome as I'm glad I did this as it made me reflect on the times I had in the movie theaters but also what changed before my 20s and what changed afterwards.

@Brittani-The people at were fucking assholes. They nitpick over grammar and all sorts of shit as you end up being constrained by how they wanted to do things and as I had evolved as a writer. I found myself becoming frustrated not just creatively but also in worth as it's no wonder it went dead towards the end as I'm just glad I left before it sank. Going to a museum for a screening is cool as I did the same with Dogville in that same museum but it was a different experience as there weren't as many people aside from myself and other fans of Lars von Trier.