I love seeing movies in theaters. I always have. One of my earliest memories is seeing Willow on the big screen when I was about three years old. In recent years I haven’t been able to go to movies on the big screen as often as I used to. And most recently I’ve been really into classic film, so it’s been doubly hard to see anything on the big screen. Though, when I was in college I went to the Pacific Film Archive to see classic films occasionally. I saw my first Buster Keaton film there (Seven Chances) and I saw The Shop Around The Corner (twice). One of the first things I did when I went to college was to see Nosferatu at the PFA with a live organ accompaniment. I saw a handful of other films over the years there, too. When I lived in San Francisco I only managed to see one classic film at the Castro – George Stevens’s Giant. It was amazing. I did, however, see a few cult 90s films there, too. This past weekend at the TCM Classic Film Festival I saw about 11 classic films or so on the big screen within a four day period. It was mind-blowing. Seeing Citizen Kane on the big screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theater was life-changing. I fell in love with A Place In The Sun, a film I was previously eh about. I discovered the humor in Becket. I lost all ability to function while watching West Side Story. So what is it that makes seeing a film on the big screen so dynamic?
I’m sure you’re probably wondering how I managed to watch so many films in one year. To answer that I have to give you a little background information. For about 9 months out of the year I was unemployed and for those other 3 months I was only employed about half-time. That left me with a lot of free time. I figured with so many free hours I ought to spend my time doing something I love and maybe something constructive as well. If you ask me, watching as many films as possible counts as something constructive. My brain hasn’t felt this stimulated in years. A lot of my viewing came courtesy of Netflix, instant Netflix and the best channel on television: Turner Classic Movies. Throughout this epic film-watching year I managed to watch all the remaining Best Picture Winners I hadn’t seen, as well as multiple classic horror films in October and about 38 of the top Film-Noir films (I plan on referring to November from now on as Noirvember). In fact, I watched so many wonderful films in the last year it’s hard for me to imagine there are any films left for me to watch in 2011. That is, until I look at my completely full Netflix queue and all the films TCM has scheduled in January and February that I haven’t seen.
Last night I watched William A Wellman’s 1927 masterpiece Wings, which was the very first film to win the Academy Award for Best picture. Within the first 15 minutes I thought it was more dramatic, romantic and exciting than most films made today. How wonderful, I thought, a film that was made 83 years ago can still feel so fresh and amazing, positively timeless. (On a side note, this film is not available on DVD and it’s a crying shame. You can vote here on TCM to try to get it released on DVD, and even if you haven’t seen it I urge you to do so).
This got me thinking about how much I love film, and why I love film. The other day someone on Twitter asked me how many films I watched a day and I replied, “as many as possible!” I told someone else that I think I have celluloid in my blood instead of iron. I can’t remember my life before I discovered films; I’ve been watching them always. Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to watch more than ever; I’ve already seen 271 new-to-me films this year! This is because I’ve graduated from college, but have yet to find a full time job (I substitute teach once or twice a week), I’m single and I’m childless. That leaves a lot of time to watch films. I also live in a household that has TCM, my absolute favorite channel on television.
I haven’t yet answered why it is I love film so much. I think part of it has to do with the escapism film allows. For two hours you’re in a perfect world, or a dystopic world or whatever, and it can be the best place you never knew existed. With each new film you meet new friends, characters that are as dear to you as anyone you’ve ever met in real life or ones you hate more than you ever knew you could.
But I’m also in awe of the people who make the films, not just the actors and directors and screenwriters, but the crew. Every single film you see was put together by hundreds of people, who spent hundreds of hours working to bring this new world alive. It’s just so incredible.
Also, with every film I watch I always think, “This is someone’s favorite movie ever” or “I bet someone absolutely loathes this film!” It’s phenomenal the emotional response a film can get out of people. And then there are people who can’t see the art in any film, who don’t see the point of film at all. Those people make me sad. How could something that brings me and so many others so much joy, mean absolutely nothing to others? It’s unfathomable.
So while I’m at this unique place in my life where I’ve got more free time than I probably will ever again, I’m going to fill it with films. All films. As many films as I can get my hands on, as often as I can stand it. I don’t know that’ll I’ll ever have another opportunity like this, to spend all my time with the love of my life, with film. I just hope film loves me as much as I love it. Regardless, this is how I choose to spend my time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.