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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.