It's only been three months since I began this column on theater exhibition and movie going, but already I've covered all kinds of experiences, both good and bad. And now I'd like to recap the year, concentrating on that quarter year in which The Exhibitionist existed, in order to present you with the best and the worst theatrical experiences I had in 2007. However, while this may seem like a cheap way to link back to previous writings and make an easy article out of that, I assure you that it's only a coincidence that some of my favorite and least favorite moments in exhibition happened since October. Anyway, there are plenty of moments I cite that were never mentioned in The Exhibitionist, so regular or new reader, read on:
Theatrical Experiences of 2007 Part I: The Worst
Pan's Labyrinth at Cobble Hill Cinemas, Brooklyn, NY, 01/16/07
I came away from watching Guillermo del Toro's "masterpiece" underwhelmed, thanks primarily to my inability to appreciate the Oscar-winning cinematography of Guillermo Navarro. How so? Well, the projection of the film where and when I saw it was terribly underlit. At least, I'm guessing it was. I've only seen the film partially since then, on DVD, and at that time it looked much brighter than I remembered.
At the time I saw the film theatrically, though, I just assumed the film was really that dark. Well, actually I thought it could be faulty projection, but I didn't want to get into the issue with the management. Most theaters are quite defensive when it comes to the subject of whether or not they dim the projector bulbs, and whether or not it matters. Even before I became a projectionist I knew thanks to Roger Ebert's Answer Man columns about the stupidity and annoyance of turning down the power on projector bulbs, but unfortunately not everyone else seems to know.
No Country for Old Men at Cobble Hill Cinemas, Brooklyn, NY, 11/23/07
I hate to use Cobble Hill for two bad examples back to back, and I assure you that neither of these complaints is exclusive to this often-satisfactory, independently run cinema. It just happens to be my local theater, and I happened to have two bad experiences there this year. Both problems have actually been experienced more often in previous years when I lived elsewhere and had different local theaters.
Anyway, you may have read about this experience, which did not ruin the movie for me as much as Pan's Labyrinth was ruined for me, but was still annoying and distracting. I've always been conscious of the problem, because I worked as an usher and/or concessionist in so many theaters that had bad soundproofing. And I always tried to be quiet enough when working around doors that weren't well soundproofed. In the end, though, it's impossible to both do your job and appease the customers inside the auditorium. It comes down to a problem of construction, of ownership and the cheapness of both.
Juno at Regal Union Square Stadium 14, New York, NY, 12/11/07
There was nothing wrong with the film, nothing wrong with the projection. But there was a problem with the pre-show entertainment. Now, normally I don't mind the pre-show commercials. Yet I do find one type of commercial that is more difficult to ignore than others: the military recruitment ads, which typically make me angry, though that's besides the point in this situation. No recruitment ad has ever been as awful as the new overlong National Guard commercial that features a full-length music video from 3 Doors Down, a band that performs a hypocritical tune, which makes me despise them also more than I had prior. Fortunately, there was some good to come out of it (see the best of list).
Across the Universe at Tribeca Cinemas, New York, NY, 09/07/07 (no ticket saved)
One of the perks of living in New York City is having access to all the special screenings that feature post-film discussions with filmmakers, film historians and other related experts. Unfortunately, at times those Q&A sessions can really leave you with a bad aftertaste, as that director or whoever you've gone to see is not quite as enjoyable as you had hoped. In fact, sometimes they're downright disagreeable. This year alone, I've been turned off by many people, most of whom I'd consider myself a fan. Nobody was as frustrating in 2007, though, than Across the Universe director Julie Taymor. Of course, it didn't help that I had just sat through her film and despised almost every second of it. I won't go into detail with what she said, because my disappointment in her was highly subjective. I'm simply acknowledging that it's a hard thing to face when a person you put on a pedestal doesn't live up to your expectations of him or her.
Beowulf in IMAX 3D at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, New York, NY, 11/19/07
This is another disappointing experience, which I've previously written about. I'll let that post speak for itself, though I wanted to point out the lasting effects of what that experience has done to me. Despite my claims that I am willing to give both IMAX 3D another shot, I realize that I can't imagine traveling the distance and spending the added costs just to hope that I'll have a better next time. Already I have been torn about whether or not I should try out the non-3D, blockbuster movie IMAX experience with I Am Legend. I came very close this past week, yet factors such as it selling out every show and my not having a lot of free time or cash this time of year ultimately kept me away. Now, I may never end up seeing the movie in that format, because it's pretty much old news. And as for IMAX 3D experiences, well, they are far from being old news. In fact, they'll continue being big news throughout the next year. I guess I've got another twelve months to force myself in front of that giant screen while wearing those uncomfortable glasses. Maybe next year, some IMAX 3D experience will make it on the best of list. Let's hope so.
Stay tuned next week for Part II of my year-end summary of theatrical experiences, in which I will present the best of 2007.