Top 5 film watching experiences

Andrew Mack, Contributing Writer

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We all love movies and film. We don’t write here because someone is twisting our arm and no one is holding a gun to your head making you read our site. We’re all here because we love movies and film. But I believe there is something greater than just watching a movie or film. A great movie is only made greater by the experience of watching that movie. Even a bad movie can be redeemed by the experience you have watching it. There is the build-up leading up to the viewing. There is the type of audience you watch the movie with. Anything that is done by the presenters can also enhance the screening. Even the venue you watch it in can play a part. These things and among others only make the movie going experience so much better. So, to celebrate the experience of film watching I have compiled my list of five great experiences.

And then afterwards, if you feel so inclined, share with us your great film watching experiences.

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Army of Darkness – During one of our college years Todd was the Creative Arts Chair of our student council. That year he managed to blow most of his annual budget on a concert so with the little money he had left he bought a train ticket for Canfield to come up from Chi-town and talk to the students about film in a number of workshops. It was bliss. We marveled at his knowledge and prowess. He marveled at our Ketchup flavored chips. The days were filled with insightful talks and lively discussions. All of this was held in Room 156. Room 156 was tucked away underneath the library, in behind the bookstore. One of the last night’s of the week Canfield hosted a B-movie night. I can’t remember all of them but there were some notables; The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and Godzilla vs. Mothra. And then, there was Army of Darkness. AoD itself is an undeniable classic and I was an AoD virgin. But it was the atmosphere in the room that also stuck with me. Room 156 was rammed. We laughed. We cheered. There we were, a room full of Jesus Freaks, late into the morning hours, watching a movie that we all knew the school faculty would frown on, having the time of our lives. That night my love affair with Sam Raimi began.

A couple of side notes related to this posting. We also went out and saw Rumble in the Bronx that week and I fell in love with Jackie Chan as well. If we ever meet ask me sometime about how I got the Bible College to buy me a new copy of John Woo’s The Killer because one of the school VCRs ate mine. It’s a good story.

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Bubba Ho-Tep - You take any sort of genre program, be it in an eclectic international festival such as TIFF, or in a genre centered festival like FantasticFest or FantAsia, and you can be guaranteed to have a theatre full of viewers with the same mind-set and goal- to enjoy themselves. Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes has picked some real gems for his program at TIFF and this particular night was extra special.

I hadn’t been fully indoctrinated into the festival life. In fact, Twitch wasn’t even off the ground yet. Bubba Ho-tep was at the long gone Bloor Cinema and so was The Bruce. The mighty chin himself. God it was glorious. Bubba Ho-tep itself was awesome, but, to have Bruce Campbell standing there in front of you? Ash? Damn, that was exciting stuff. The Q&A went long. He was funny. He was charming. We were saturated with his charisma and loving it. And when the inevitable question about Evil Dead 4 came around well we just about went into hysterics. Of course he skirted around the question and wouldn’t give an answer but in the end it didn’t matter. Bruce Freaking Campbell stood before us a demigod. We lavished our praises upon him and he allowed us to bask in his glow.

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Gorgo - This screening only just happened the other week so this is excellent timing. Here in Toronto, a group of devoted Cinephiles has been test screening an invite-only night of cinema and it is glorious to witness. It is the hope of this group to inject a bit of life into an otherwise perceived bland movie scene here in Toronto and offset the sad disappearance of some of Toronto’s great movie houses. For starters, just to get to the screening venue you have to walk down an alley. Also, the mandate of this group is that every film, every trailer, every news reel, is shown via 16mm and 32mm projectors. There will never be digital projections at these screenings. I can’t divulge much more than that because I don’t know how much I am allowed to say. Plus, I do not want to endanger my chance of getting membership into this group. These test screenings have been invitation only and once it gets started it will be a members-only type of group.  The night was bliss. We watched the 1961 monster spectacle Gorgo in 16mm glory. I use the term spectacle in the loosest of terms. Gorgo is camp and so bad it was good. We drank wine and beer along with our small cups of popcorn. We laughed. We cheered. All the guys wanted to move to Bali [if you were there you would know]. The sooner these secret members-only screenings take off the greater the shared experience I am sure we’re going to have together will be. But, shh, it is a secret.

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THE STAR WARS PREQUELS - There is little disputing that Star Wars fans didn’t throw a great party when a film opened up. The days leading up to each opening night you could drive by the theatres hosting a midnight screening and see the hardcore fans camped out in the line. Does any other fan base do the line as good as them? And the atmosphere the night of the screening as you got closer and closer to midnight was nuts. The geeks, the fans and the curious were whipped into frenzy as the hardcore fans paraded around in their costumes. Impromptu light sabre battles erupted on the sidewalk. I bet $20 on my friend, John, then he lost when he tripped on his Jedi robe. His sister Elaine tried to help but because she had the same colored light sabre as her brother’s assailant Jedi logic states that you cannot fight each other. Shame. You’ll never find a more resilient crowd either. They endured the jeers and taunts from passer-bys and drive-bys, which was relentless [we’ve all seen that cigar smoking rubber latex pooch taking names in New York]. But when we got inside the theatre we were one. And when the Lucasfilm shimmer came up we went insane. For each warm spring evening that a Star Wars prequel opened over those six years our faces were lit up by the glow of our light sabres and dazzling special effects on screen that diverted our attention away from the fact that George was ruining our lives and precious childhood memories.

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FUNKY FOREST - A bit of personal history which will help put this entry in context. I have never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not in a theatre let alone in its entirety. My circle of ‘friends’ in high school saw it many times- without me. So I have never had a theatre experience like that, until this year. Funky Forest has become my Rocky Horror Picture Show. I had seen it many times on DVD but never in a theatre/group setting until the Toronto After Dark Festival last October. It started a bit slow. I am sure there were a bunch of WTFs but it took no time before everyone was caught up in the glory of Funky Forest. We were laughing. We were cheering. Soon everyone was oozing cool along with sketches like Guitar Brother. Folks were scrambling up the aisles and stairs to the bathrooms during the intermission saying, ‘I hope this is a real intermission. I don’t want to miss anything’. How suitable that a movie, with its core message about how people feel that their lives are full of loneliness and isolation but are in fact truly connected to those around them, brings together a group of strangers in a celebration of Japanese surrealist sketch comedy.

So why bring up the Rocky Horror Picture Show? When I reviewed this film during Toronto After Dark I said that I believe that Funky Forest, if given the time and the right atmosphere each time is screens, it can achieve the same status as Rocky Horror. It just needs nurturing and a chance to take with an audience. Give it enough time and I am sure that there is a masturbating butterfly joke in there somewhere. If Funky Forest hits the right note it is an awesome experience in audience participation.

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