Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Say what you will about the diminishing quality of Hollywood’s output, about ridiculous theatre prices, about inflated box office figures that don’t reflect the shrinking number of ticket purchases. Pontificate all you want about the advances of DVDs and home entertainment systems, not to mention computer and mobile technology. Just stay outta my lane when watching the podcast from your PDA while driving your Prius and I won’t disagree.

It’s probably why the movie business is so frustrating. And I’m looking to make a living in television because there are more creative opportunities with the idiot box. Yet ironically, I cancelled my cable (and if the cable guy ever actually came to disconnect me so that I stopped getting reception for free, I wouldn’t even be able to watch reruns of the show I worked on). Meanwhile, I’m using Adelphia’s money on Netflix, so I can catch up on shows I’ve heard are better than movies like "Lost" and "24", not to mention rent all the great cinematic masterpieces I’ve missed.

But I’ll tell you this: There’s nothing like seeing a flick on the big screen.

I hate to sound like the friggin’ Academy here, but it's not self-congratulatory coming from me: How many experiences do you remember sitting at home watching a DVD? Probably not many. Usually the best ones were notable only because your attention toward the latest video release was interrupted by the person sitting next to you on the couch… and maybe while you and your date were saying, “oh, I can see why this got so many Oscar nominations -- what wonderful cinematography and check out that costume design and sound effects editing,” you were really just hoping one of you would make a move on that cheap date already.

But in the theatre… well, I’ve got so many great memories. From when my family took me to see now-classics by Spielberg and Lucas to years later catching old epics re-released on widescreen, how could I forget where and when I saw ‘em? Or the way the film affected me -- while seated with hundreds of others, and the music swelled during the fifty-foot close-up of the pensive protagonist, my emotions were soaring. Then I got up and by the time I was walking up the aisle, I realized that Forrest Gump or Good Will Hunting was a big manipulative piece of crap.

And then there’s flicks you know will be schlock.

One of my best times at the movies was as a teenager when my friend and I were roaming around Manhattan all day. But we ran outta money fast, and had just enough cash to catch the train home… plus a few dollars. We were near Penn Station, getting ready to go, but I hated to cut our jaunt in NYC short -- the night was young, the city were dirty and so were we… but unlike the streets congested with commuters, our pockets were practically empty. What could we do? Where could we go?

The answer was just uptown a few blocks: Times Square.

This was before Giuliani and Disney ruined the most gloriously ruined area of New York. Back then, 8th and Forty-Deuce was beautiful -- a cesspool of sex shops, street hustlers… and cheap second-run movie theatres.

So for about three bux, we got to attend a double feature of… shit, I think it was one of those Fletch flicks and Friday the 13th Part Duh. It didn’t really matter. The first film was hard to enjoy. Chevy Chase’s deadpan lines were drowned out by all the loudmouths in the audience. Clearly the wrong crowd for that kinda movie. Most of my fellow cinephiles were too busy shouting about who stole their crackpipe and throwing 40 ouncers across the aisles.

The second movie was different. ‘Til then, I never understood the allure of slasher films. So the hockey-masked unkillable killer’s gonna kill the next moron. Where’s the thrill in that? I realized the problem was I had only seen these movies on VHS or cable -- at home -- thinking perhaps watching ‘em alone would make ‘em scarier, and of course they weren’t. But that’s not the point. These movies aren’t truly terrifying -- they’re tailor-made for Times Square viewers talking back to the screen.

Whatever dialogue or plot the screenwriters might have intended was superfluous. The soundtrack from the seats made the mediocre movie magnificently more memorable:

“Oh, shit, girl, don’t go in there, you gonna die!”
“Get her, Jason! Chop her up!”
“Haha! That’s what you get, bitch. Stay the fuck outta Crystal Lake!”


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