Monday, November 19, 2007

Top 10 Theatrical Experiences

1) Pink Flamingos (April 1997, Age 14, Landmark's Ken Cinema, San Diego)
Though I still get a thrill out of seeing my favorite movies on the big screen, the most thrilling experiences are always gonna remain in my past, when I was just discovering the magic of movies, and everything was still fresh and new. My movie obsession started with Pink Flamingos. Seeing it, sometime in mid-to-late 1996, changed my life, and it instantly became my favorite movie of all time. And though I've had a lot of favorites over the years, and a lot of movies that I've completely fucking obsessed over, I don't think I have ever been as obsessed with anything as I was with Pink Flamingos from the age of 13 to about 18. So when I found out it was being re-released for the 25th anniversary, and with deleted scenes, it was pretty much the biggest event of my entire life. Nowadays, there are quite a few movies I think are a lot better than Pink Flamingos, and I've even seen it in the theater since, and it wasn't that big a deal, but as far as its significance at that particular point in my life, I'd say I enjoyed myself the most of any other theater experience.

2) Spice World (February 1998, Age 15, Pacific Town Square 14, San Diego)
This was another huge landmark in my life. Up to this point, I was very jaded and hated anything having to do with pop culture. I had already been dragged to see Spice World by the girl I was dating, and I actually didn't dislike it, but I hadn't exactly been won over either. But then Jennifer forced me to watch it yet again, and sit in the front row. I've always attributed the acid we were on at the time to the resulting intensity of that viewing, and indeed, the drugs may have sped up what I now believe to have been inevitable, but really, the film felt so intense because fucking paradigms were shifting inside me, and I was having a motherfucking revelation about what I had been missing out on. Initially, I thought it was just The Spice Girls. That them being such an unbelievably amazing band who had made such an unbelievably amazing movie was a rare exception in the pop culture universe. But gradually, I began to realize there was a lot of amazing shit out there if you let yourself be open to it, and I have never looked back.

This reminds me, I don't think I've mentioned here yet that I'm seeing the Spice Girls in LA on December 5, the very first date of their reunion tour!!! I can't fucking wait!

3) Gummo (October 1997, Age 15, Laemmle Sunset 5, Los Angeles)
I've always been close with my dad, and my teenage years weren't especially short of bonding moments with him, but this is one that has always stood out for me. We were two of five people in the theater, and the only ones who seemed to be laughing, and I don't know how to describe sentiment, but it was an amazing shared moment. I was amused by the film, finding it one of the funniest things I had ever seen, but also completely awed, having never seen anything else like it. It was a definite feeling of discovery. And it's a film that, unlike my other favorites of the time (Pink Flamingos and Eraserhead), I think I would feel exactly the same way about even if I saw it now. Pink Flamingos and Eraserhead I still think are amazing films, and I would still love them to pieces if I were seeing them tomorrow for the very first time. But a lot of what keeps them in my Top 20 or so Films Of All Time Ever is the impact they had on me, because I saw them at the exact right time in my life. Gummo, however, remains unlike anything else out there, and if there does exist anything remotely similar, Gummo is better. Maybe 10 years is too soon to tell, but so far, it holds the fuck up. And it's a film that many people don't like, including many people with good taste, and it is definitely one I will always defend. I try (not especially hard, admittedly) not to say things like this too often, but if you don't like Gummo, you are stupid and wrong.

4) Showgirls (July 2002, Age 19, Landmark's Bridge Theater, San Francisco)
And on to Showgirls, another film that I tend to judge people on. If you don't like this movie, I will not be friends with you. I actually checked Netflix and saw that there are two people on my friends list who I like a lot that gave this movie a very low rating. I am positive that both of you saw it under bad conditions and with the wrong outlook, because Showgirls is literally impossible not to love if you are someone who has any interest whatsoever in being entertained. Both of you seriously and desperately need to re-visit it. You won't be disappointed.

But back on topic, it's really not even necessary for me to say much at all about Showgirls. It's a well-known fact that it's my favorite movie of all time, and that it is the greatest, best-made, most perfect film that has ever been made (which is not an opinion, it's an absolute fact). I didn't get to see it when it was first released (it came out the day after my 13th birthday), but I saw it right away when it came out on video, and instantly loved it. Later, I taped it off of Cinemax (the R-rated version, unfortunately) and watched it just about every day. I was about 14 at this point, and honestly, I was turning it on every day to jerk off to (speaking of which, I have a huge issue with people who say this movie is not erotic, and an even bigger issue with those who say that that's the point, it's supposed to be un-erotic. This is not true. 1. Learn some more about Paul Verhoeven. That guy loves him some sex. 2. This movie totally got me the fuck off when I was 14. Granted, I was 14, and it didn't take much, but even still, I find the nudity to be "very nice" (it's a reference!) to look at, and as arousing as any non-porn movie is capable of being to someone who is now 25). But then after I was done, I would find myself compelled, unable to turn the movie off. I went through stages of loving it in different ways, and it took years before working itself up to the #1 spot on My Faves list. I'd say it reached this status right around 2002, which is when I finally had the opportunity to see it on the big screen at Midnight Mass. I had missed it the previous year, having moved to San Francisco literally only a couple of weeks after it's annual summer screening. But in a way, it worked out better this way, because in '02, I was able to bring a group of friends with me. And it was people who understood why this movie was so good, as well as understood what the movie meant to me, and how significantly my life was going to improve once I had seen the seizure sex pool scene on 35MM. It was definitely the most excited I had been since Pink Flamingos 5 years earlier.

5) Forbidden Zone (April 2004, Age 21, Landmark's Nuart Theater, Los Angeles)
If there's any movie I've seen as many times as Showgirls, it's Forbidden Zone. And as soon as I started getting into midnight movies, I always thought Forbidden Zone was a natural choice. But nobody ever fucking played it! It's the kind of cult classic that begs for multiple midnight screenings, and it took until 2004 for someone (Landmark) to finally fucking figure this out. April '04 was a pretty great month for me in general. I had just inherited a bunch of money and I had just met Erin. So it was exciting enough getting to see the film I had waited so many years to fucking see on 35, not to mention with Richard Elfman being there in person and doing a Q&A, plus Matthew Bright, Marie-Pacale Elfman, and Richard and Danny Elfman's mother being in the audience, but the experience managed to be enhanced even further just through my general happiness with life.

6) Eraserhead/Lost Highway/Eraserhead (May 1997, Age 14, Landmark's Ken Cinema, San Diego)
Nothing could top Pink Flamingos at this time as the Best Movie Ever, but Eraserhead came the closest. This was another enormous event in my life, getting to see a print of Eraserhead, plus Lynch's new film Lost Highway, that I had just missed on its wider release. I ended up having such an intensely great time that I went ahead and stuck around for the second showing of Eraserhead.

But what was most notable about this experience was that the version I saw of Lost Highway was unlike any I've seen since. Mostly subtle stuff, like Pete would be looking at someone, then it would cut to his face, then cut back to where he was looking, and there was nobody there anymore. But there was also one scene that after about two minutes, just started over. So it was two minutes of film that was shown twice. I found this to be so confusing and weird that I had to ask the person I was with if it had actually happened. For years, I've wondered about how I came to see this. Was this actually some unknown alternate cut that the Ken had accidentally gotten a hold of? There are rumors of an extended cut of the movie, but the descriptions don't match up with what I saw. It's possible that the people disappearing stuff is just a false memory, but the repeating scene definitely is not, and from what I knew about film, it's not like it could have been some kind of projection glitch or something. It simply couldn't happen unless it was there on purpose. Now I am a projectionist and do a lot of film work, and I still don't know

7) SICK: the life & death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (November 1997, Age 15, Landmark's Ken Cinema, San Diego)
Toward the end of this movie, Bob Flanagan hammers a nail into the head of his dick. I had heard about this beforehand, so when I saw it, I remember thinking it really wasn't so bad. But then he pulls the nails out, and blood starts squirting out all over the place, even getting on the camera lens. It was the most horrifying and traumatizing thing I had ever seen, and the imagery has never left me. To this day, it's my favorite documentary of all time, mostly because of the impact of that scene.

8) Funny Games (June 2007, Age 24, ArcLight Hollywood, Los Angeles)
Not much needs to be said. Funny Games is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I got to see it in the theater. It may have been in a different language with different actors, which made me slightly nervous going in, but it proved irrelevant. And getting to see a packed theater full of people reacting to the Rewind scene was better than I ever could've imagined.

9) Happiness (October 1998, Age 16, Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas, San Diego)
One of the first new movies I remember seeing the trailer for, and being really ridiculously excited for. I had loved Welcome to the Dollhouse, and I had also read a review of Happiness that mentioned a scene with a father explaining to his son that he's a pedophile. The review included a spoiler of the father's response when his kid asks "Would you fuck me?" and I thought it was hilarious. And I was like Oh man, this movie's gonna be sooo funny. And through the whole movie, which is for the most part, pretty fucking funny, I was looking forward to that scene, to see how it was delivered, and if the friends I had dragged to it were gonna laugh as I hard as I would. But then I saw it, and instead was just completely fucking stunned and disturbed and fucking traumatized, and was not laughing. It's so effective and moving and depressing. To this day, I think it's the most emotionally incredible piece of filmmaking I have ever seen.
But even aside from that scene, it's an amazing film, and one of my all-time very favorites. Seeing it in the theater was so awesome I saw it again two days later.

10) Pecker (September 21, 1998, on my 16th birthday, Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
The first new JW movie to come out after my obsession with him started. What was especially great about this, though, was that John was there, and did an onstage interview, and I got to meet him afterwards!

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