September 13, 2005
Going to the Movies
In the late 1980s, I maintained subscriptions to two film series at the University of Arizona. The first met on Mondays and showed classic American films, and is where I acquired my Gary Cooper festish, after seeing Pride of the Yankees, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Morocco--especially Morocco, where he and Marlene Dietrich are just so freakin' HOT. Friday at 5:30 was the foreign film series, which is where I first saw The Seventh Seal.... I loved Max Von Sydow; I loved the chess game with death; I related to the end, where the girl is just so glad life is over. (It was not a happy time in my life.) The Friday series was also where I first encountered those bizarre movies done by Ealing Studios in the 1950s and 1960s: things like The Knack and I'm All Right Jack–-something about their resolute, eccentric Britishness made them seem more foreign than Bergman.
The art house theater in Tucson was the called the Loft, and was housed in a tiny white building on the corner of Sixth Avenue and.... Fremont, I think.... In any event, it was almost entirely swallowed by the UofA campus and has since been torn down. It had been a porno theater for a while, and well before that it was the first Mormon church in Tucson, attended by my great-grandparents and their children. I went there a lot in its art house days, and I also hit a lot of dollar theaters.
I did this partly because I really liked movies and partly because I was lonely and bored. By 1987 I was in the weird liminal state, preparing to leave the Mormon church but not yet out of it. I was too clearly dissatisfied with the church to be attractive company to many people in it, and I was too clearly obsessed with the church to be attractive company to many people outside it.
Mormons have this stupid thing about movie ratings: they're not supposed to see any R-rated movie. They can watch the most inane, offensive crap as long as it's PG (or even PG-13); furthermore, something that would earn an R rating if it was a movie is OK as long as it's in some other format--Rent, for instance, which is full of profanity and sex, is beloved by a decent number of Mormon women, and that's OK because right now it's merely a play. But its Mormon fans will be expected to relinquish their affection for it when the film version comes out November 11, slapped as it no doubt will be with an R that pushes it beyond the pale.
I never paid any attention to that. Uptight and prissy in many ways, when it came to movies, I figured a good movie was a good movie and if I had to sit through a graphic sex scene or two and hear a few swear words in order to watch a compelling story unfold, well, it was a small price to pay. I saw my first R-rated movie as a junior in high school, with my mother's permission: The Jerk, which I liked well enough. In 1984, again with my mother's approval, I took my 12-year-old brother to his first R-rated movie, The Terminator, which of course we both loved because it's a great movie.
Not only that, but at the end of my freshman year in college, in May 1982, I went to an X-rated movie, by myself. Admittedly, the X-rating has since been changed to an R, and the movie is tame by today's standards. But still, Midnight Cowboy really upset me. I just didn't know human lives could spiral so far out of control. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of Jon Voight's character, but Ratso Rizzo, the character played by Dustin Hoffmann, is not a name you soon forget. That final scene, on the bus, where JV's character realizes Ratso Rizzo is dead, and the bus driver just says, "Yeah, he's dead, but we'll have to wait til we get to Florida to do anything about it...." At least, that's how I remember it (it's been 23 years, so I might be wrong)--but whatever happened, it wasn't a happy ending, I know that much. I went home to an empty apartment--my roommates had all gone out of town--but I didn't dare go to bed, because I had somehow become afraid of the dark again. I left all the lights on and stayed awake until sunrise.
The first movie I went to see as a college freshman (I dragged my unsuspecting roommate along) was A Clockwork Orange. I lasted through the first rape scene before I turned to her and said, "Wanna go?" I later dated a guy whose favorite movie was A Clockwork Orange, and he insisted I watch it, but I think I might write about that later.... In any event, whenever I mention that one of my very favorite movies is Singin' in the Rain, and someone responds by saying something about A Clockwork Orange, I know that person is not someone I want to be close to.
I went to so many movies! I went to them. I saw amazing movies on very big screens: I saw Lawrence of Arabia on the biggest screen in Tucson, and it was a life-changing experience. But I rarely go to movies any more. The only movie I'm dying to see in a theater is the Keira Knightley-Matthew MacFadyen version of Pride and Prejudice, due out November 18. (Though I admit I don't see how it will be very good, since it's only two hours long and since, if the preview I watched online is a good indication, they added a bunch of stupid dialogue that's just not as good as what Austen herself actually wrote.) I haven't been to a movie since I saw The Aviator in Mesa with Wayne over Christmas break. I've seen dozens and dozens of movies since then, but I've watched them on dvd.
Which is another reason I need to talk about Netflix.
Posted by holly at September 13, 2005 7:25 AM