Another Little Piece of Time: The 2013 Experience(s)
In late 2011, I had an idea for a series of essays about how the timeline of my life could be constructed based on certain movies I had seen and the circumstances surrounding those viewings. In my first piece, I wrote the following:
“Not only are the movies little tiny pieces of time that we never forget, the movies are little tiny pieces of time that we live through. When we watch movies, we aren’t just bearing witness to history, we’re making history of our own — through decisions and events and circumstances that take place as part of the overall moviegoing experience.”
(“Little tiny pieces of time” is a reference to a quote from actor James Stewart about movies.)
Since then, I’ve also written about Nora Ephron and Event Movies, and I thought it was about time for another installment. Rather than pluck something from the list of events of my youth, I thought I’d take a look back at 2013, but not the whole year – just choice moments from it.
Because I watch a lot of movies (nearly 300 in 2013), and because I do so much writing about them (95 published long-form reviews plus many shorter works and countless tweets), it’s easy to forget that watching a movie is more than about watching the movie and sharing my thoughts on it – it’s about the overall moviegoing experience, too. While many screenings are relatively the same (in the theater or at home), some stand out not for what I was watching, but for what I was experiencing. With that, here are a half dozen of my most memorable movie-watching/movie-related experiences of 2013, in chronological order.
Struck by Lightning – June 16 – Home: As films go, this teen dramedy is middle-of-the-road stuff, but it’s an important film to me because it is the first film I reviewed for DVD Verdict. The website has been around for about 14 years and I’ve been a fan and frequenter of the site for almost that long. Where IMDb has always been my first go-to for film references, Verdict has always been my go-to for film (and video) reviews. And now I write for them. This has the makings of not only a 2013 highlight, but a career highlight as well. Stay tuned.
The Purge – June 19 – Cinemark Movies 10 – Wilmington, DE: I had wanted to see The Purge for a couple of weeks but the opportunity never presented itself until the day the scheduling gods smiled and I was able to catch a screening immediately after work. Because the film was stale and screening at an odd hour (5:00-ish), I was the only person in the theater to see it. That’s right – screening, party of one. It was the creepiest movie-going experience of my life. There I sat, back-row center, with not a single head in sight. But the emptiness of the auditorium is about more than just that. It’s about the lack of white noise. There is no one fooling with cellophane wrappers or slurping soda through straws or whispering or fidgeting or even breathing. It’s ultimate silence. Every ambient sound onscreen is crystal clear, to the point that voices I heard that were deep in the distance on the screen sounded like they were down the aisle from me. I was freaked out for the next 90 minutes, and the circumstance certainly added to the experience (as did my first viewing, in advance of The Purge, of the trailer for The Conjuring … did I mention I was alone in an empty theater?).
Back to the Future – July 14 – AMC Deptford 8 – Deptford, NJ: Just as movies are pieces of time, so too are they heirlooms – things we pass to the next generation for our children and grandchildren to appreciate, just as our parents and grandparents passed their movies down to us. One such heirloom is Back to the Future. My younger daughter (now 12 years old) has been a fan of the film since I introduced it to her when she was about eight or nine. The Robert Zemeckis film, with a mildly racy moment or two and barely a pinch of salty language, is excellent family fare thanks to so many things, including the effortlessly charming star, Michael J. Fox. Despite my countless viewings since the film’s original release in 1985 and my daughter’s countless viewings since that first home watch, when the film came to the big screen, we had to be there, and we had to be there together. We listened to the full soundtrack on the way to the theater – and on the way home, too – and it’s a bonding moment I’ll never forget.
Gravity – October 3 – Penn Cinema Riverfront IMAX 15 – Wilmington, DE: When you see enough movies in your lifetime – or at least as many as I’ve seen – it’s easy to forget the magic that movies can make you feel. I don’t mean joy; I get that from movies all the time. I mean eye-popping, jaw-dropping, feels-like-the-first-time mystification not about what you just watched, but what you just WITNESSED. I’ve had a few cinematic moments like this in my life, and the most recent had been way back in 1993, when that sneaky Steven Spielberg made me believe he wrangled himself some honest-to-God dinosaurs for Jurassic Park. It happened again this year. It happened with Gravity. Director Alfonso Cuaron‘s vision of outer space, masterfully presented in 3D (a format I normally dismiss as nothing more than shallow gimmick, but used here to breathtaking effect), and presented on an IMAX screen almost as big as outer space itself, left me motionless for 90 minutes and speechless for hours. I’ve said it a million times and I will say it a million more, watching Gravity in that format was like watching my first movie all over again.
Nebraska – December 8 – Carmike Ritz Center 16 – Voorhees, NJ: This is not a case of the viewing or the viewing experience, but rather the journey. There is a theater about an hour or so from my house. It’s a 16-screener, but they always reserve space for smaller films, usually weeks in advance of when (if) theaters closer to me show them. Nebraska was one of those films. I arrived at the theater late Sunday morning under cloudy skies. I left the theater early Sunday afternoon under two inches of snow, with much more falling. Away I slowly drove … and drove … and drove … and drove … until my usual one-hour commute turned into a six-hour nightmare, with three states (NJ, PA, DE) and thousands of drivers completely unprepared to deal with the precipitation. In the immediate wake of the experience, I said that had I known it was going to snow, I wouldn’t have made the trip, but the reality is that I probably would have rolled the dice (and lost – haha). Was it worth it? Yeah. Nebraska is Top 10 stuff.
Frozen – December 15 – Regal Peoples Plaza Stadium 17 – Newark, DE: Every father’s daughter is a princess, but my older daughter is more than that; she is a Disney princess – at least she looks like one: Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, another Top 10 film for me. The resemblance (see above and below) between Disney’s princess and mine is so uncanny, my daughter has turned the heads of countless children at the theater and at the Disney store in our local mall. In fact, she has even made one personal appearance as the princess, sending a friend’s two small children into OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S ELSA PLEASE HIDE ME NOW embarrassment mode. She even has her kid sister to play the role of Anna. The film’s themes hit home too, adding something deeper than just the resemblance, which is kind of nice too.
So there you have it – not necessarily a year in review so much as a look back at those little pieces of time that made 2013 a special year in movies for me.