25, By the Numbers

This weekend, I completed my biggest movie-related goal of 2012. With Goodfellas (1990) on Thursday and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) on Saturday, I officially watched my 24th and 25th classic or non-new release films on the big screen this year. I’m not going to go crazy and make an infographic for it- how much of a narcissist would someone have to be to make an infographic about themselves?- but there are a lot of neat facts and figures about the 25 that made up my movie journey this year.

This was awesome on the big screen.

3
The most films seen from one director. That honor is a tie between Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. Scorsese chimed in with The Last Waltz (1978), Taxi Driver (1976), and Goodfellas. The Coen selections were Barton Fink (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998), and Raising Arizona (1987). I also saw two films from Jean Vigo, Sergio Leone, and Alfred Hitchcock.

8
The number of AFI Top 100 films. This number could have been much larger if not for a lot of missed opportunities, but I’ll address those later. I think the fact that 8 of the films that I saw were AFI Top 100 films attests to the quality of the movies I saw on the big screen. And I gained a broader appreciation of all of them except for Some Like It Hot (1959), which is as much of a function of how much I already enjoyed the movie as it is anything else.

9
The number of genres. Along the way, there were dramas, comedies, silent films, foreign films, thrillers, horrors, westerns, and even a concert film and a musical. There is a little bit of overlap, with horror and thriller working mostly on the same level. Although I don’t think anyone would call North by Northwest a straight horror.

A double dose of Eastwood made for a great night in a theater.

5
Number of times I saw more than one film in the same day. When you’re trying to bust out 25 in one year, you have to strike when the iron is hot. So if two classic or non-new release films I wanted to see were showing on the same day, that meant that I had to be a glutton by cramming in two films. Some pairings made perfect sense- for instance, the two Jean Vigo films as part of a double feature, and A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More. Others were wildly different. I saw The Italian Straw Hat (1927), a silent French comedy, just hours before seeing Ghostbusters (1984).

Best Experience: (tie) The Godfather (1972); A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More; A Trip to the Moon (1902). The Godfather makes it mostly on sheer quality- I had never seen a movie that good in a movie theater. Seeing it with my brother, who can quote the movie backwards and forwards, made it that much better. In fact, both of my brothers and even my father joined in on the fun in the Eastwood double feature back in early April, which is why it ties for best experience. And seeing a 109-year old movie, A Trip to the Moon, on the big screen was nothing short of amazing. I also had a blast at Ghostbusters with two of my best friends, and The Blues Brothers when my brother and I took a 5-year old (my nephew) to see an R-rated movie.

6
Different theaters attended. I’m very fortunate to live in a major metropolitan area that has so many theaters willing to offer classic films like these. The list: the Hi-Pointe, the Wildey, Webster University’s Moore Auditorium, the Schlafly Bottleworks (complete with great Schlafly beer!), the Tivoli, and the Moolah. The Wildey and Webster University tied for the most visits, with eight, although the bulk of the Webster visits came during Cinema St. Louis’ Classic French Film Festival. The Hi-Pointe received five visits.

Webster University’s Moore Auditorium (image via webster.edu)

Missed Opportunities
You’d think that if you see 25 classic or non-new release films in theaters over the course of a year, there wouldn’t be a lot of missed chances. But there were a lot. The list of missed opportunities includes Pulp Fiction on TWO different occasions; The Grapes of Wrath (1940); Casablanca (1942); Citizen Kane (1941); Frankenstein (1931); The African Queen (1951); Major League (1988); Rear Window (1954); Jaws (1975); Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989); Ferris Bueller (1986); Fight Club (1999); The Maltese Falcon (1941); and The Wizard of Oz (1939). In a perfect world, I would have seen all of those, but life interfered in some way or another.

In a theater this fall, I’m going to burst out laughing when the kid in Hitchcock’s Rope starts talking about how choking chickens is so traumatic.

What’s Next?
As I type this, I’m missing a chance to see Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)  in IMAX. It’s something I would have rushed to the theater to see a week ago, but now I don’t feel obligated to do so. Still, I’m going to plug on and see how many I can get, without going out of my way. Between now and early November, I’ll have a chance to re-visit Casablanca, and I already plan on seeing 12 Angry Men (1957), The Shining (1980), and two Hitchcock films- Rope (1948) and To Catch a Thief (1955). I haven’t even checked half of the theaters in town to see what they have in store as Halloween approaches but I’m sure there’ll be a few horrors that will lure me out.

Lessons Learned
I can’t stress enough- if you have a chance to do this kind of thing, you owe it to yourself to try it at least once. For a year or two now, I’ve come to the realization that theaters are the optimal viewing experience and this project has only solidified that thought in my mind. It’s how filmmakers intend for you to see their movies, and I’ve gotten so much more out of the experience than I would have watching these same movies at home. I’d also add that classic film audiences are more respectful- no talking during the movies, no cell phones, no leaving garbage after the movies. In a lot of ways, this project has put me in touch with my inner-film nerd.


31 Comments

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31 responses to “25, By the Numbers

  1. I’d really like to be able to see more classic films at the cinema but it’s not something that’s really done that much here in the UK, at least where I live anyway. I’m sure you can find them in London and other bigger cities, but that’s a bit of a way for me just for a film. Shame, really.

  2. Man, I almost never go to the theater anymore. And living in New York as I do, there are chances to see so many revivals all the time. I really gotta take advantage.

    • Oh yeah… granted, I don’t know how close you are to the various theaters, but you’re in the mecca of theaters, along with LA and, to a lesser degree, Austin.

  3. We’re not blessed by Classics in Quebec City. Major Theaters don’t do these and Art houses did some retrospectives but you have to keep your eyes opened becuase they are presented once or twice…
    The greatest Classic Films I’ve ever seen on the big screen was Chaplin’s The Great Dictator with an audience laughing so hard all along the film. As I’m writing those lines I actually have goosebumps!
    Great project John!

    • Chaplin classics on the big screen would be breathtaking. I’ve started annoying the people at the Wildey about possibly showing silents. They don’t seem to be budging (I understand their point of view) but I’d sure love to see Keaton, Chaplin, Chaney, Lloyd, etc… on the big screen.

  4. The two I wish we had seen are Raiders in IMAX and Pulp Fiction. Sorry it didn’t work out! Let’s try for 36 this year, I bet you’ve got 11 more in ya…

  5. Phil

    You’re very lucky to have so many theaters that play classic film. I’m about 75 minutes away from the Castro Thater in San Francisco. I only rarely get there, so my list of missed movies is almost endless… They played The Master in 70mm a few weeks ago. I did get to see A Trip To The Moon and 2001, and both were amazing.

  6. impsndcnma

    I was able to see Raiders on Friday night and I really enjoyed it, but you bring up a wonderful point. We can only be in so many places and do so many things. While as much as I would’ve loved to be in Toronto over the weekend I wouldn’t of been able to see Raiders or watch the first football Sunday of the season. It’s all about priority and time.

    I missed Casablanca and Singin’ in the Rain and I wanted to see both. Now I have tickets for Lawrence of Arabia. I’m looking forward to that screening.

  7. biochick

    mmm, I love seeing movies in the theater. I can’t wait to see Sunset Blvd next week. My movie goals are to see all the films ever nominated for best picture and a fair chunk of the Library of Congress’s list of culturally significant films.

  8. Hope you get to re-visit Casablanca John. I missed out on ‘Raiders’ too but hopefully if they show ‘The Last Crusade’ I’ll be able to see it. I LOVE those two Indy movies!

    • There are books to be written about the Indy series, both in how it relates to past cinema and how it changed the future of cinema.

      Casablanca’s next week. I’ll have a tough choice to make. I just saw it on Blu-ray very recently, so that lessens the urgency.

      • Ah that is a conundrum. I’ve been fortunate I guess that I’ve missed out on a lot of the classics so seeing it for the first time on the big screen was magical!

  9. Nice job completing your resolution already. There really isn’t much better than catching a classic in the cinema, especially when they are restored prints. I caught quite a few over the summer, and you’re right — the audience tends to be a lot more respectful, too.

    • It’s made me a lot more selective about what I’ll watch of the new releases. Why bother with something that’s probably mediocre when I can wait a week and see one of the best movies ever made?

  10. YEay!!! Well done matey

    Interestingly and not completely linked, but I have found a film club that does on location screenings…. Well sort of.

    For instance they have a screening of blair witch in the middle of a forest…. scary

    I am looking forward to attending

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