By Caitlin Kelly
I loved and totally identified with this piece by New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis:
For those who came of age with home video it can be hard to grasp why anyone still bothers to go out to see movies. This bafflement has become part of a steady drumbeat of complaints about watching movies in theaters: the pricey tickets, bad projection, overpriced junk food, the creeps, potential maniacs and selfish people texting or talking on their phones. Just stay home, kick back and binge on another suboptimal Netflix show. But moviegoing helped make me who I am, shaped my world and my sense of self, beginning in childhood.
It started with my film-crazed parents, young East Village bohemians who couldn’t afford babysitters and so brought me everywhere, including to the movies. This was in New York in the mid-1960s, a heroic age of cinephilia before home video. When I was 3, they took me to see Vincente Minnelli’s “Lust for Life,” a glorious, overheated drama with Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh.
The first movie I remember vividly was Dr. Zhivago, directed by legendary director David Lean, starring Omar Sharif as Zhivago and Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya and Julie Christie as Lara. It’s more than three hours, and even has (!) an intermission.
It has everything: great characters, costumes, landscapes, music, history, romance, broken hearts, revolution. Watch the costume colors change as characters change their behaviors, especially young Lara.
I was eight when it was released and have watched it many, many times since, never tiring of it.
My father made films for a living and thought nothing of showing up halfway through any commercially-shown movie. We’d waltz in and just wait in our seats (as you could then) for it to start again.
At 18, I tried, with my late stepmother, to watch The Exorcist, and fled back quickly into afternoon daylight, terrified. I’ve never tried since.
More of Dargis:
So many of my memories are connected with moviegoing; some are of being alone in a theater full of people, which is a metaphor for my life, though also a metaphor for being alive. I love laughing and crying and shrieking with an enthusiastic audience. And while I now go to the movies for work, I also go to the movies for pleasure and for the love of the art. I go because I’m curious, because I like the director or star. I go because I’m happy, anxious or depressed. I go because films have provided comfort throughout my life, offering me an escape from my own reality but also a way of making sense of it, giving me glossy and gritty worlds to discover and reassuringly disappear in.
I spent most of my childhood at boarding school, but Christmas break meant fleeing school to watch multiple movies in a theater with my mother, two or three in a day, popcorn for meals.
She had a firm rule — if we saw a movie that day, no TV. I get it. You really need some time to process and remember what you’ve seen, not chase it all away too quickly with more images and content.
Her favorite, which we saw together, was Gone With the Wind.
With my maternal grandmother, it was the movie musical Paint Your Wagon, whose songs I still remember even though she died in 1975.
One of my favorite things about where we now live is the independent art film house a 15-minute drive north, The Jacob Burns Film Center, housed in a 20’s vaudeville house beautifully restored. I’m a member and sometimes go two or three times a week. Directors visit to discuss their work. Just before the coronavirus sent us all into isolation, I’d taken a terrific three-week class there on documentary films.
One great movie that really shows how a movie theater, especially in a small town, can create community is 1988’s Cinema Paradiso, which won best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars that year. Plus its gorgeous score by Ennio Morricone; (if you’ve never seen another of my faves, The Mission, you must listen to its haunting soundtrack, also by him.)
Yes, I’m obsessed!
So, while we’re forbidden now to go to the theater, I’ll keep watching movies greedily at home, eagerly awaiting the next time we can all once more sit, mesmerized, in the dark together.
11 thoughts on “Really missing movies!”
I love going to the movies! It was a rare treat for me growing up, because both my parents worked on Saturdays and Sundays (the price of being a rabbi). We maybe only went to the movies twice a year, if we were lucky. And because I had sisters who were 5-7 years younger than me, it was usually family films. Which, by the time I was in my teens, annoyed me to no end. Especially when I heard my friends talking about the latest awesome movie and I was like, “Um…I saw the Pixar film that came out back in the fall. It was okay.”
When I got to college, there was a theater about twenty minutes from my dorm that gave discounts to students, so I went as often as possible. Which, as you can guess, has become a habit for me. Every month, I’ll check online to see what movies are coming out in the next four weeks so I can plan my weekends accordingly.
And I LOVE the experience! Sure, I hate the noisy or distracting patrons who sometimes show up (the stories I could tell!), but I still go for the chance to see the movie and experience it on a giant screen in the dark (and let’s face it, horror films are best that way). It’s even better when you’re in a theater full of like-minded people who’ve been waiting for this film as much as you have, and enjoy it just as much. The audience I saw Last Jedi with were having a blast, laughing and applauding all the silly and cool stuff that happened. And when Color Out of Space came out, we all applauded at the end because it was everything we were hoping from this adaptation of a beloved Lovecraft story.
So yeah, I’m sad that the theaters are, if not closed, not showing anything I would want to see. All the movies I was looking forward to over the next couple of months have been moved, and there’s no word on when they may come out. But I’m keeping myself occupied. When I’m not reading, writing or working from home, I am watching movies. I just started rewatching all the Marvel films last night, starting with Iron Man. Hopefully that, and my Blu-Ray/DVD will satisfy me until something new releases.
Nice to know how much you love them as well!
We are watching as many as we can on TV (Last night re-watched the Hitchcock thriller, 1954, Dial M for Murder) and through various streaming services.
I have the next post cued up about my favorite TV show…
I look forward to reading that one as well. Especially since a lot of shows I enjoy are either ending after their current/next season or the upcoming seasons are delayed due to the virus.
Or, as the movies say…”Coming soon…”
Going to the movie theater is just an experience for me. Always has been. The smell of the popcorn, the convos/critiques you hear on the way out–I love it. My boys and I go quite often together. I can’t wait until it’s a safe thing to do again . . .
I love that it’s still something deliberate we choose to do and make plans for. I know whenever I go up to Jacob Burns I’m with fellow fans.
I was thrilled when, just from reading me on Twitter, their PR team asked me to come in twice and help their PR team spread the word.
The only time it feels like an imperative to see a movie in the theater is when the visuals are an integral part of the story. The last movie I saw in the theater was 1917. It really just had to be big. Now the Exorcist, one of my all time favorites, is far too intimate for a big room. A middling television in a real dark living room is going to give you everything you (Don’t) want with some real atmosphere to make it tasty. Don’t order the soup.
I’ve never seen Doctor Zhivago, except for a little piece here and there. If it’s even a little bit as good as Lawrence of Arabia then that’s one for a large bucket of dud corn and an equally large bucket of something sweet and fizzy so you can feel extra super bloated when you’re walking out. Good times,, I hope to see them again. Love you all.
Dr. Zhivago is every bit as good as Lawrence of Arabia; same director. I prefer the former but have seen both a few times.
i am so aligned with you on this! I have always loved movies, my job used to be promoting them, i made them with students, and see one every chance i get. it is one of my favorite arts. like you, i was smitten with dr. zhivago the first time i saw it, and it has remained one of my favorite films, along with the amazing ode to movies, cinema paradiso. so many have. made an impact on me in so many ways. i miss the moviegoing experience right now, but like you, will watch as many as i can while staying safe.
My challenge is that I have seen so many — and the ones I haven’t I don’t want to (horror, for example.) I love 40s film noir, the 70s. Not a fan of a lot of popular stuff.
I still need to see some classics like the Seventh Seal, Rashomon, etc.
I love 60s B and W like Jules and Jim and A Taste of Honey.