Reel Talk

The Magic of the Movies

I don’t think it’s any secret that I love movies. I always have. Growing up my grandma babysat my brother and I, so during the summer we spent pretty much every week day over at their house while my folks were at work, and my grandparents had a pretty crazy movie collection. In retrospect, I’m not quite sure why they did this, but my grandparents were obsessed with straight up pirating movies. Every Friday we would go to the video store and rent pretty much everything, then using some weird setup involving two VCR’s connected to the same TV we would record the rentals over to blanks VHS tapes. About three movies would fit on each tape, and around the time DVD took over and they stopped doing this there were around 500 tapes. So my brother and I would spend most of our summers just grabbing random tapes and watching movies. The best thing about that was the fact that the tapes would be organized based on whatever movies we rented that week, so there was no rhyme or reason. It’s not like the three classic Star Wars movies were on the same tape, no they’d be on three completely different ones. So we ended up getting these insane triple features where you could get like, Forest Gump, the Terminator, and Batman Forever. They would be very bipolar viewing experiences, but it really fostered a deep affection for cinema.

Now, for a lot of my life my main viewing experience with movies was old VHS’ on a TV in a basement. We didn’t go to the movies all that often, and it really didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. We loved renting movies, and it just seemed easier to me to watch them at home. But there was a pretty momentous change for me in 1997 when the rerelease of Star Wars happened. Yeah, we could complain about all the bullshit Special Edition changes, but it was amazing to see this movie that I’d watched dozens of times on little twenty-something inch TVs up on the big screen. There’s just something magical about watching a movie in a theater, up on the big screen where it belongs. I started to really appreciate theaters, and tried to go often. When I reached high school and had my own car my friends and I would go to movie theaters constantly, hitting pretty much every movie that came out on Fridays, regardless of quality. The trend continued in college, when movies were a super easy and relatively cheap thing to do when I was bored, especially since my college was closer to downtown Denver than I’d ever been and I gained access to some new theaters.

And then I became aware of the concept of revival houses. Pretty much all of my life, theaters played new movies. There would be the occasional outlier like the Star Wars rereleases, but by and large the theaters around me growing up would never play an older movie. But suddenly I was aware of theaters in Denver that would play classic movies, movies that I’d seen dozens of times on my own could now be seen on a screen with an audience. Midnight Movies and special film series’ played in the Landmark Theaters around Denver introduced me to the magic of seeing a movie I love in its original context. A lot of movies that I love I wasn’t able to see in the theater; because I was either too young when they were released, or are potentially so old that even my parents weren’t alive. But now I had to opportunity to see them in all their glory. And I love it. I fully encourage people to see movies they love in theaters. For the longest time my wife didn’t understand it, making fun of me for spending money to go see a movie in a theater that we own on DVD. But boy did her mind change when I convinced her to see a screening of one of her favorite movies, Singin’ in the Rain, in 35mm at a great theater in Denver called the Esquire that’s been around since the 1920’s. And she got it. It’s hard to put into word. You can see a film that you know backwards and forwards, but when you see it in a theater, stretching across a massive screen with the sound rumbling around you, and it’s like seeing it for the first time. I also don’t want to get too hipster here, but I especially love to see movies in the format they were filmed. If it was made on film, I really feel like it’s better to view it on film. I don’t mind that movies now are primarily filmed on digital cameras, and that’s fine with me, they look different, but it’s just changing times. But if I ever see that a theater is playing a movie I love, and it’s being played on film, I’m gonna go.

I suppose this was an odd article. But after seeing O Brother, Where Art Thou? At the Alamo Drafthouse the other night, I just felt compelled to ramble for a while about my love of movies, especially when seen in their original context.

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Categories: Reel Talk

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