Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another List?

There is a huge backlash against the Facebook "25 Random Things About Me" exercise, which to me seems like getting mad at people for keeping a diary, or writing a blog, or being on Facebook to begin with. So flying in the face of opposition, here's another self-indulgent list.

I was inspired by my favorite podcast Filmspotting when they recently discussed transcendent filmgoing experiences, where what happens in the theater goes beyond just seeing a movie. (A listener had written in with a story of the stars of "Once" doing a Q and A at a screening and unexpectedly performing the film's signature song. One of the podcast's hosts mentioned feeling hugely energized by watching "The Matrix" and, curiously, "Meet The Parents." Say what? That's why I love that podcast.) 

This was right up my alley, and as Filmspotting is known for their top five lists, here's mine. They are in reverse chronological order, which also happens to be in order of increasing significance, which seems logical. The most recent isn't on the list, but "Pan's Labyrinth" just blew me away, thrilled me, and left me emotionally drained.

Greg's Top Five Transcendent Movie-Going Experiences

5. 2004: The Last Waltz. It's always good when a long-anticipated film surpasses expectations, and this did. Pristine print, and the best sound I have ever experienced in a theater. Still probably the best time I have ever had at the movies.

4. 2002: Chicago. This was a special preview screening and Q and A with director Rob Marshall and critic Janet Maslin. While it was an entirely enjoyable film, the real thrill was seeing Maslin helping Marshall navigate through his dawning realization that this would be not just a hit, but a grand slam. He had clearly never seen it with a full audience before. Two hours earlier he was probably just hoping people liked it, after the screening he seemed transformed.

3. 1986: Blue Velvet. A Philadelphia college student, on a rare afternoon free, goes alone to see the latest movie by the guy who made "Eraserhead" and "The Elephant Man" and has his mind exploded. Luckily the staff of the dumpy little theater off Rittenhouse Square didn't come and clean between screenings, so he could sit through it again.

2. 1984: This Is Spinal Tap. The night of high school graduation, three friends went in knowing it was supposed to be funny, but not knowing we were in for the funniest two hours of our lives. Bonus: The angry metalhead who stormed out of the theater when it dawned on him, a half hour in, that he was watching a parody of all that he held dear.

1. 1977: Star Wars. Like "The Last Waltz," a long-anticipated (three weeks is LONG when you are eleven and EVERYONE is raving about this thing) film that exceeded expectations. I am sure I am not the only one who watched the opening sequence with the massive Imperial Star Destroyer looming over my head and realized, "movies can do ANYTHING."

Oddly enough, I only own one of these movies ("Star Wars," obviously) and don't have a great desire to watch any of the others over and over. The intense experiences were enough.