Friday, 12 November 2010

My most memorable movie viewing experiences #1...

Best Silver Screen Experiences:

Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, 2002):
When – Summer 2002
Where – The Savoy Theatre, a small independent theatre.
Why – not only was it a thoroughly enjoyable werewolf flick, and Neil Marshall’s debut, but it spooked us so much that on the way home we were all creeped out by what could be out there in the darkness of the woods and fields all around us.

Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007):
When – Spring 2007
Where – Cineworld Multiplex
Why – Danny Boyle’s sci-fi actioner was so well shot, edited and scored that I felt truly moved by the whole experience of seeing it. Rarely have I literally been gripped to my seat when watching a movie, my heart-beating faster and faster during certain tense sequences (such as mending the sun shield). The flick’s physical impact upon me as a viewer was what really cemented Sunshine in my mind as a great cinema experience.

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008):
When – July 2008
Where – Cineworld Multiplex
Why – I’d rather enjoyed Batman Begins, but Nolan’s all-conquering sequel was the event of 2008. A friend and I went along to a morning showing, and while he preferred Iron Man, I got totally swept up in it all. The time flew by for me, so involved was I in the twists and turns of the tale, but the moment that really stuck in my mind was when during one sequence an entire articulated truck does a front flip into the air and, several rows behind us, a young boy screamed out “WOW!” with genuine awe and wonder. It summed up what I thought of the movie, and it made me smile just hearing such an enthused reaction.

The Pit and the Pendulum (Roger Corman, 1961):
When – November 2006
Where – The Cube Microplex, Bristol
Why – in 2006 I went to the Bristol Bloodbath Film Festival (my short film VHS was being shown as part of a series of indie shorts), and the first film on the schedule was this Roger Corman flick. I’d never seen it, nor many Vincent Price roles, before and I really quite enjoyed it. However, what made this a memorable screening was the print itself – here we are sat in a half-remodelled independent theatre somewhere in the depths of Bristol, and the print is rough, gritty and raw. It broke down entirely two or three times, the reel got jammed, and even when running just fine it was full of damage. It was still certainly watchable, but this particular viewing just had so much character and charm, and it reminded me of some of the screenings we’d have at Univeristy of restored prints. It felt like a real grindhouse experience.

Boy Meets Girl (Ray Brady, 1994):
When – November 2006
Where – The Cube Microplex, Bristol
Why – again at the 2006 Bristol Bloodbath Film Festival, this was the third film on the schedule the day that I attended (which, if I remember correctly, was Saturday the 26th). Even with short breaks between films, it was this third one in a row – one with its own history of controversy and moral panic around it, and one which is undeniably brutal on the viewer – that really drained me. I began to feel like I was experiencing the Ludovico Technique, and was really quite glad when we had a break afterwards. It’s a good movie, and a tough movie, but it was even tougher in the circumstances in which I viewed it.

Drag Me To Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009):
When – 31st May 2009
Where – Cineworld Multiplex
Why – so often on documentaries and featurettes about classic horror films have I heard statements along the lines of “the audience just went nuts, everybody was screaming!”, and I was beginning to wonder if this was just filmmaker hyperbole. Fast forward to the lads and I viewing Sam Raimi's return to the horror genre, and what became quite possibly my all-time favourite cinema-going experience as the entire audience bucked and weaved in their seats as the tension and shocks worked their full fun-house magic upon them (and us). The audience was all in it together, chuckling at isolated mutterings of tense desperation, and laughing at themselves after a good scare. As I’d said before, I'd thought that these sort of audience reactions were essentially hyperbole by filmmakers on retrospective documentaries, but with this film I experienced exactly that kind of atmosphere for myself – and it was fantastic.

Avatar 3D (James Cameron, 2009):
When – 20th December 2009
Where – Cineworld Multiplex
Why – say what you like about James Cameron’s block busting eco-flick event-of-the-year about 10ft tall blue alien cats, I rather enjoyed it, and what’s more I enjoyed the spectacle of the event itself. I’d never seen a movie in 3D before, let alone this new fangled “it actually works” 3D, and so – with the theatre packed with people – we all got thoroughly stuck into the visual wonder of the 3D effect, and the fully realised world of Cameron’s Pandora. 3D is still an imperfect gimmick, but for the duration we were all transported to Pandora.

GoldenEye (Martin Campbell, 1995):
When – November 1995
Where – The Savoy Theatre
Why – I’ve never really gotten into the James Bond movies before Pierce Brosnan’s debut as the gadget-carrying, heavy drinking, shag machine secret agent, but I’ve seen all of them after (and including) GoldenEye. I went to see it with my Dad at the same small independent theatre where I saw Dog Soldiers (and several other flicks), but at the time it had recently re-opened. The décor was unfinished and the heating wasn’t working, but there I was as an 11 year-old, just me and my Dad, enjoying the hell out of it.

The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers, 1999):
When – June 1999
Where – The Savoy Theatre
Why – once again at the same small independent theatre, now in my mid-teens, and just me and my Dad, sat on the stiff seats with my jaw on the floor as I witnessed the movie event of that year. We were both blown away. It was just awesome, 'nuff said.

No comments: