By – Gareth Jones
Every week on Sleep In Cinema my wonderful co-host Craig Ceravolo gives me the last word, so I end the show with a brief plea for people to go see movies and then talk about them, followed by the mantra, “Long Live Cinema.” I would like to expand on that a bit more into a philosophical approach to re-engagement with the public viewing.
Before the pandemic, the streaming services had really started to take over the film landscape. Once the pandemic hit and folks were isolated in their homes, the streaming services took an even bigger bite of the cinematic pie. I myself subscribe to way too many services, but I felt compelled in order to view films at home and keep abreast of the latest and greatest cinematic triumph. For me it is an addiction. For a while, the appearance of everything, everywhere, all at once was not just a new film but a perception of the streaming world. Of course, this is not reality. We are now chasing films as they move from streaming service to streaming service or they simply disappear into some digital vault. This is especially true of independent or international cinema. Even the mighty Criterion Channel has to rotate films due to the cost of providing space for films in its library. Naturally this leads to frustration and cynicism. Inevitably, the cyclical argument that film is near death is not far behind.
What is a way to counter this isolation of streaming services and lunacy of the death of cinema? Go see a film in a theater. I will continue to argue that seeing a film in a theater in the dark with like-minded folks cannot be equaled at home. Filmmakers are still making films to be seen on the big screen as they always have. The atmosphere in a crowded theater is a magical place. Each gasp or burst of laughter is contagious and enhances the experience tremendously. Great filmmakers know how to manipulate us as a collective. Heck, even adequate filmmakers know the value of the shared viewing or screaming. Recently, my wife and I attended The Awful Truth as part of the Film School 101 series at the Sidewalk Cinema. I have been teaching Film Studies for 15 years and have seen this film multiple times, but seeing it with a fresh audience in a great viewing space gave it new life and I felt transported to the era of classic Hollywood. A few nights later, I went to the free screening of The Prowler at Saturn presented by the dynamic repertory troupe TVs of Terror. In this case, I had never seen this “classic” film. The combination of watching the movie on VHS and the pure joy and enthusiasm of the presenters and audience was an intoxicating experience (and not just because I had sampled the Carnation drink concocted for the film.) In both cases, it was the shared viewing experience that made it special. It was even more memorable because these venues and the people behind them are equally in love with the art of film and the shared experience. If you have not returned to seeing movies in the theater, I challenge you to attend one of these local houses. Support the film community and have a fantastic time. I also challenge you to talk to your fellow audience and friends about the movies you see. It will enrich the experience and connect you in a new way to the film community. A few weeks before seeing The Awful Truth I attended a screening of Enys Men, also at the Sidewalk Cinema. It was a challenging film. So much so that when I stood up in the credits, two fellow patrons looked at me and without knowing that I am a film professor and co-host of a film radio show asked, “What on Earth was that film about?” It started a wonderful conversation. I am sure that seeing a film in a theater and then talking about it to others will make your cinematic experience better. It always improves mine. Local places like Sidewalk or Saturn are the perfect venues to see films as they were intended to be see. Long live cinema.
P.S.- Always be a good audience member.
Written by: Gareth Jones
By - Kristi Houk “These are dangerous days. To say what you feel is to dig your own grave.” -Sinead O’Connor, “Black Boys on Mopeds” from I Do Not Want What I haven’t Got, (1990) I wasn’t supposed to write this. I was slated to review the latest Guided by […]
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