Thursday, March 23, 2006

Motionless pictures

At this year's Academy Awards ceremony, actors and others used the television medium to tell us to er, not watch so much television and go to the movies. Various panoramic blockbusters were cited in support of this appeal, meant to show us you can't get the full experience sitting on the couch before the little picture box. In point of fact, the studios are making their big bucks these days on DVD sales, while cinema audiences continue to decline.

I certainly agree there are films you simply have to see on the big screen -- my viewing of The Matrix was mindblowing; I doubt it would have had that kind of impact if I'd waited for the DVD. The night I went to see it with an SF addict nephew the crowds at the multiplex were heaving in the foyer and the buzz was palpable. By the time we found our seats, the adrenalin was surging. And then we all went on an amazing ride. This is the experience of film that cannot be duplicated in your home cinema, however stupendous. The director John Boorman once said it was like a communal dream, and I like that description.

The dream is fitful now, shot through with the crackle of parody-sized popcorn containers and the slurping of Coke straws, an effect rather like a few mopeds being started with some difficulty. And the constant chatter of those who have simply transplanted the TV experience into moviegoing. Not forgetting the cellphones, of course.

I was wittering on to a friend about needing to live near enough to the city to engage the culture
when she challenged me: "OK, when did you last go to the cinema?" After a bit of thought I realised it was a month or more ago. And I love the movies. The magic hasn't gone out of the films (the few good ones); it's gone out of the audience. We're media-knackered. The most enjoyable way to watch is with a cinema full of kids. My grandkids and I were totally engrossed in Pirates of the Caribbean; if I had seen it with adults in a cinema full of grown-ups, I am certain it wouldn't have been a tenth as gripping ... magical, even. Kids still have it. If Hollywood wants to get bums back on seats, that's the quality it has to rediscover. Marketing is part of the problem, not the solution.


Blogger Pashmina said...

I'm a bit of a sucker for the posh cinemas that have sprung up in Zone 2 London suburbs in the last few years. You'll be glad to hear that Willesden Green is within reach of several of them, including the Electric in Porobello (the sine qua non of upmarket cinemas), the Tricycle in Kilburn and the Hampstead Everyman.

See what joys await you?

1:23 AM  
Blogger First Nations said...

you are absolutely right. without that sense of event and fun, going to the movies is just sitting in somebody elses' living room with sticky floors.

8:33 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

The Everyman goes back a bit to when I was there, and the Tricycle started up around then too. I must visit the Electric. As an aside, we have a lovely oldfashioned cinema in Cape Town called The Labia. The movie actor David Arquette told our entertainment editor he thought it was a lesbian bar at first ...

8:51 PM  
Blogger patroclus said...

The...Labia? Dare I ask how it got its name?

10:51 AM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

In fact the cinema was endowed by an Italian family of noble lineage called Labia. Count Labia also entrusted his seaside mansion, with its exquisite interiors and period furniture, to the city as a museum. The "Labia Museum" must give the odd passing tourist pause.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Pashmina said...

That story is waaaayy too good to be true, Dave...

11:23 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

It is absolutely true. Count Labia was the Italian consul here. I've visited the museum and I assure you the facts are as stated.

7:38 AM  

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