(pic courtesy of my friend Tom's iPhone)
You know that I see movies almost exclusively in the theater, because you know that I revere the theater experience as sacred. Here follows, in a lazily copied format from last year's list (meaning no logical order other than by date), my most memorable theater experiences from 2008:
Cassandra's Dream (The Lagoon): With a few friends, the first official movie of the year. I was the only one who didn't hate the movie. Afterwards, we went to Old Chicago and argued about who the best living actor was. This was right before Oscar nominations were announced, and I declared myself the victor by choosing Daniel Day-Lewis. I still think it's a good call.
Cloverfield (AMC Rosedale): With my brother and sister at a packed opening weekend showing. One of the most hyped early movies of the year, this ended up being pretty terrible. Which is to say it fully met my expectations.
U2 3D (IMAX - Minnesota Zoo): With my brother and sister on a weekend afternoon. This wasn't quite the experience I hoped it would be (meaning I hoped it would be like seeing them in concert again), but it wasn't a complete waste of time, either. Something needs to be done with these "concert movies" to make them more engaging, I just don't know exactly what it is. Guess it worked for Hannah Montana anyway.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Walker Art Center): Alone, this was a horrifying affair to watch on that huge Walker cinema screen. Definitely peeking through my fingers for a couple scenes.
In Bruges (The Uptown): With Matt, this was the first indie of 2008, arriving with fresh buzz from Sundance in January. Opening night, empty theater. It would remain in theaters until June.
The Band's Visit (Landmark Edina): With my parents, brother and sister on a Sunday afternoon. Had some memorably bad coffee at the Starbucks around the corner beforehand. I had hyped this movie quite a bit and I think I ended up liking it the most, which is a little embarrassing.
Shine A Light (Marcus Oakdale): Alone on an early Saturday afternoon, I saw this sucker on the ULTRASCREEN, and for some reason I sat waaaaay too close to the front. Kind of like seeing the Stones live! Except not really. (Incidentally, this is the first movie I reviewed in my "300 Words" format, which eventually led to my current format.)
Standard Operating Procedure (Walker Art Center): With my brother on a Tuesday evening. Errol Morris was in attendance for a post-discussion following the film, at which he absolutely unloaded on an innocent audience member asking about the soldiers at Abu Ghraib. Read more at the end of my review.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (St. Anthony Main - MSPIFF): Alone on a weeknight during the first week of the MSP International Film Festival. Jumped into this one after my volunteer shift and, along with a packed audience in a hot theater, laughed like crazy. Stepped into it for a few minutes at the second screening two nights later and enjoyed it just as much.
American Teen (St. Anthony Main - MSPIFF): Alone, followed by an audience Q & A with Nanette Burnstein. I was giddy with emotion during this movie (thanks to a sugar rush from a soda and some Dots), which caused me to laugh louder and tear up much more than I normally would. Great trip down memory lane back to high school.
Dry Season (St. Anthony Main - MSPIFF): With my family on a Sunday afternoon. Definitely one of the most interesting movies I saw all year, this screening was a minor disappointment because the director, from Chad, apparently couldn't get a visa or some kind of paperwork to leave the country and attend the festival, where he was supposed to present the film. Highly, highly recommended movie for your Netflix queue.
Up the Yangtze (St. Anthony Main - MSPIFF): With my parents, whom I met after another volunteer shift. Standing room only (there were literally people standing throughout the aisles), this movie left an indelible mark on me for the rest of the year. Watching the great river rise on the big screen was truly and unforgettably shocking.
His Girl Friday (The Parkway): Alone, and the first time I'd seen this in its entirety. Had a cup of soup at Turtle Bread Co. before joining a raucous crowd for this installment of Barry Kryshka's Screwball Comedy series. Best $5 I spent all year.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (AMC Rosedale): With Matt, a weeknight doubleheader of grown men acting like children. Why we went to Harold and Kumar, I do not know (I never even saw the first one) - but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hysterically laughing during the George W. Bush scene. I reviewed neither of these movies, but only Forgetting Sarah Marshall is worth a memory.
My Blueberry Nights (The Lagoon): Alone, I spent a couple hours indoors on one of the nicest Saturdays of the spring - and it was totally worth it. Lost in a sea of color and light, this was my first WKW film as well.
Encounters at the End of the World (Kerasotes Block E): Alone at the closing night film for MSPIFF, followed by a decent get-together at Seven Sushi afterward. The underwater scene remains one of the most memorable of the year.
Young @ Heart (Landmark Edina): Alone at 9:00 PM on a Monday night in an empty theater. I don't think I cried the rest of 2008 after this movie because my tear ducts were worn out. The movie shook me to the core, and was the first ever to receive an A+ on this site. Trivia - what's the second...?
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (AMC Rosedale): With my girlfriend, brother, sister, and sister's friend, late afternoon showing on a beautifully warm opening day. Absolutely electric atmosphere in the theater that didn't die until...well, the ridiculous electric skull aliens took over the screen. Went to La Chaya Bistro in South Minneapolis afterward, where a deafening table of gabbing housewives nearly ruined the evening.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (The Parkway): With my girlfriend, a couple days after seeing Indy IV, chips and salsa at Pepito's beforehand. Boy, this was a bizarre experience, complete with a dad dressed up in a full Indiana Jones costume. More details in my review, and keep an eye out for the adaptation of this adaptation.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (The Lagoon): Should I go? Should I not go? Should I go? Should I not go? I thought about it all day at work. The movie just wasn't grabbing me. I made a last minute decision to go, alone right after work, and ended up seeing one of the best documentaries of the year. Definitely made the right call on this one and would have really regretted missing it.
Quid Pro Quo (Walker Art Center): Alone, followed by an audience Q & A with producer and local heiress Sally Pillsbury. I had no idea what this movie was about when I walked in, so it was a totally gripping thriller as I sat there. In hindsight, eh, maybe it wasn't as good as I remember, and it was never released locally. In D. C later in the summer, I would see it offered on the hotel's pay-per-view for $19.99. Mind-boggling.
The Happening (Kerasotes Block E): With Matt, opening night. You never forget seeing the worst movie of a particular year, and this was it. I was speechless, yet I couldn't stop talking afterwards. It just didn't seem possible that Shyamalan had made something worse than Lady in the Water. I still don't know where they stand in relation to each other, but I'd rather not spend any time thinking about it.
WALL*E (Shattuck Cinemas, Berkeley): With my girlfriend, following what would be our first of two meals that weekend at Jupiter Pizza near the UC-Berkeley campus. It was freezing that night (compared to MN, ironically), and I had to bundle up in a hoodie I had purchased upon arriving in San Francisco that week. I almost caught a cold. Anyway, packed theater, opening weekend. Everyone stayed through the entire credits and we couldn't figure out why - turns out one of the animation studios was based right their in town. Cheers and applause.
The Dark Knight (Kerasotes Block E): At midnight with about a dozen friends and about a thousand strangers (pictured above). It was playing on several screens and the theater tried to stagger the seating times, but when the first screen opened its doors the line system completely broke down. I mean it was almost a trampling. As we involuntarily surged with the crowd, a second screen opened its doors right next to us. Bang, right in, 2/3 of the way up and dead center. Perfect.
Tropic Thunder (AMC Rosedale): With Colin Covert and pals at a promotional screening on a hot summer evening, followed by a rousing discussion at Granite City - everything a summer movie-going experience should be.
Boy A (The Lagoon): With Matt, the first movie I was able to walk to after moving to my new apartment. That's it - but it was pretty satisfying.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (AMC Southdale): Alone, the first movie I reviewed for the Star Tribune, with 24 hours notice. No idea what to expect, or what to do when I arrived, and certainly felt out of place amongst a theater full chattering teens. But it was great fun to take on the challenge, and fortunately a decent movie to take time to write about.
Blindness (Kerasotes Block E): With a handful of friends on opening night. I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn't know it was going to be horribly, viscerally, mind-numbingly awful. I was in shock for the rest of the weekend.
Ballast (Walker Art Center): Alone on a Wednesday night, followed by an audience Q & A with Lance Hammer. A beautifully evocative film that never received enough attention this year, I now wonder if Hammer's decision to go it alone on the distribution front might have backfired. Hopefully he made some good connections along the way for future projects.
Quantum of Solace (Kerasotes Block E): With friends the night before it opened wide, preceded by a ridiculous Smirnoff promotional party at NBA City beforehand that we dutifully avoided from the other side of the bar. The movie was started at 7:30 - the party planners unsuccessfully called last call at 7:15 PM. Needless to say, the theater was half empty. So was the movie.
I've Loved You So Long (The Lagoon): With my girlfriend on a Friday night, mostly memorable because it was the first movie we saw together after her move to Minneapolis. For some reason the movie didn't grab me enough to inspire a review, but the occasion was much more important anyway.
Slumdog Millionaire (Landmark Edina): With my girlfriend at the 7:00 PM Saturday night screening, opening weekend. We tried to go at 4:00 PM but it was packed, as was every showing that weekend (which means I wasn't the only one with a blabbering lady sitting behind me). Hot, hot theater for a movie that made your temperature rise anyway. I was literally sweating by the end but I didn't care in the least. During the end credits I kept mumbling, somewhat incredulously, "I can't believe how good that was." I still can't, two months later.
Let the Right One In (The Lagoon): Alone on a Sunday afternoon, this was another movie that I almost let get out of theaters before seeing. Walking back to my apartment in the quiet, snowy streets, it was like the movie never even ended.
Sunset Boulevard (The Parkway): Yep, that's right - I'd never seen this one, either. With my girlfriend on a Monday night in the middle of a near-blizzard, shared a chicken quesadilla at Pepito's beforehand. Great crowd despite the storm and a timeless classic to boot.
Bedtime Stories ("Theatres at Mall of America"...ugh...that name): With my girlfriend, at a promotional screening to review for the paper. Mostly full theater with a couple hundred kids clad in pajamas, presumably the result of some senseless radio station contest. Nice idea, tossing all the kids out into the snow wearing next to nothing the week before Christmas.
Looking back, it's evident that my most memorable experiences at the theater happened in the first six months of 2008, which surprises me (though I have to consider MSPIFF). Turns out that's also when I saw some of the best movies...(that's a teaser for my upcoming year-end list)...
What were your most memorable theater experiences in 2008? Any wild stories?