Thoughts from a Cinema Junkie
It was a breezy November afternoon and I watched as the leaves danced above the sidewalks. It was one of those autumn afternoons in New York that you see in movies or read about in stories. While everything is dying, New York, she, becomes most beautiful.
It was a perfect afternoon cascading off of a perfect morning. I’d tasted the dragon; I’d surfed the ultimate high of a Cinema Junkie; I’d just watched Interstellar on the biggest I-Max screen in New York City, which, when you think about it means one of the biggest I-Max screens in the world.
My bones were still vibrating from the intensity of the Dolby sound. I could literally feel this film as I watched it. At one point, I wondered if this wasn’t some new 4-D trick like the once upon a time attempt of Smell-O-Vision. But no, it was more like the old days, riding in the back of someone’s low rider and my seat doubled as a speaker. Not only did my ass bounce around every time we hit a bump, but I awkwardly learned about the pleasures of vibration. Interstellar, really took me back in time.
That seems appropriate for a film centered on the mystery of time travel. Certain films can transport me to a different place in time, often, one I’m quite familiar with. Movies are my memories. Movies were my first love. And like any memory conjured by a first love, you’re taken back to that moment when your heart sighs and lets itself go.
I fall in love with movies. I always have. Hopefully, I always will. I love movies because they inspire me. As a Cinema Junkie, that feeling of inspiration is my favorite drug.
When I left Interstellar I felt inspired and as I walked through the New York streets, I smiled thinking of all of the times I’ve felt inspired by films from 2014. That is an oddity in itself. We’re coming off of 2013, which was like the equivalent of a second moon landing for Cinema. It was a year worth comparing to 1939, which is non-debatably the best year in cinematic history.
2013 was a year that’ll be discussed in film books for years to come. It was a year in film history worth popping champagne to. But like Newton taught us, “What goes up must come down.” This is a truth of the world. My most poignant example of this: the 2007 New England Patriots Super Bowl run and their soul shattering loss, then game one of 2008 Brady goes out for the rest of the year.
This is what I expected for 2014 cinema.
But I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Now let me be clear, I have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve been overwhelmed with trying to scratch the surface of being a New Yorker that it’s taken me away from my sanctuary, the dark room, lit only by a glowing silver screen.
Fortunately, the white death a.k.a. a New York winter is speedily edging its way into the atmosphere and my southern bones are already rattling, which predicts I’ll soon be spending many hours back in my sanctuary. (And at that point, when I catch up on 2014 films, I reserve the right to retract anything I’ve said in this article.)
But so far, 2014 films feel like they’re getting back to basics; or at least taking me back there. I’m reminded of what I love about films. And sometimes to regain perspective, you need to be reminded of why you fell in love with something.
In a year when my life feels like it’s been turned upside down like a snow globe and I’m fighting to grasp hold and find my positioning, I really needed to be reminded of why I fell in love with films and why they have driven me to such extremes as to center my life around them.
2014 Films like Boyhood, Begin Again, Maleficent, The Fault in Our Stars, Chef, Gone Girl, White Bird in a Blizzard and now, Interstellar, have reminded me why I am and always have been madly in love with Cinema.
In Grad School, I was still coming to terms with myself. One of my great internal struggles was the fact that I was a sucker for romance. I didn’t want to be that girl anymore. I wanted to be a realist (says the girl obtaining a Cinema Studies degree . . .)
I was so ashamed of my love for romance that I took it to the extreme of making War Films my concentration. In hindsight, I’m glad that I took myself out of my comfort zone, even if it wasn’t for the right reasons. I broadened my perspective, but I also miss the girl who could argue the integrity of romantic films.
I got the best of both worlds with Begin Again and The Fault in Our Stars. They rekindled the romance. They returned me to me. Sure, the fact that I loved John Green’s novel helped, but I felt the movie perfectly captured the explicit memories hiding in all of us of our first loves. And while a film is rarely better than the novel it is based on The Fault in Our Stars held its own against John Green’s remarkably written words.
Begin Again offered me a different kind of romance. It’s the romance my heart knows best. It’s the blossoming love between a person and their art, or even a person and a city. Begin Again also offered more traditional forms of romance, but it focused on how love shapes all faculties of our life and how a broken heart can sometimes force us to become our best. It was a film, but it was also a folk song, similar to the poetic work of Cameron Crowe.
Both of these films reminded me of that romantic side of myself and reassured me that emotions don’t make you weaker, they make you human. They also reminded me of how love inspires. I love the possibility of love. I love the heartache of love. I love the unfairness of love. And I love the unknowable future of love. I love LOVE because it’s filled with possibility. Love is inspiring and I’ll take inspiration in any facet that I can find it.
But it’s not just love that has kept me loyal to Cinema, it’s the magic. It’s the feeling of imagination. It’s being lost in another world. Cinema will always be my favorite hideaway and my rabbit hole back into the feeling of childhood.
As I’ve traveled the winding road of adulthood, I wandered further and further from my roots. Like most children, the roots of my cinematic passion arose from children’s films. I fell in love with The Wizard of Oz (1939), Labyrinth (1986), Peter Pan (1960, TV Movie), The Princess Bride (1987) and Drop Dead Fred (1991) at a very young age and I was completely sold on movies forever. It was movies like these that inspired me early and have continued to keep me inspired throughout my journey.
As the years passed, I lost touch with children’s films. I was too interested in expanding my horizons to realize sometimes you need to be reminded of the magic that made you fall in love in the first place.
However, on my first plane ride home from Los Angeles that magical feeling was exactly what I needed. It’d been a long week, hell, a long year and I just needed to escape and be a kid again, if only for two hours. As I scrolled through the plane’s movie selections I came to Maleficent.
I could’ve watched something “smarter” or something to prove that I’m more of a film snob than the person watching a foreign film beside me, but I wanted magic and Disney is the kingpin of that drug.
I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, I was blown away. The film was beautiful – from the set designs, make-up, costumes and even the revisions of the classic story. Most importantly it was fun. It reminded me of the magic offered by the wonderful world of movies.
Chef and White Bird in a Blizzard maintained my faith in the fact that indie films are still the best. They’re an honest portrait of reality. They’re the documentaries of human nature. They’re the films that most often speak to my soul because they offer truth. They tell the real stories whether it be the struggles faced through our career and family or the coming to terms with who we are and the many changes forced upon us in this life.
While on the subject of life, Boyhood, kind of nailed it. Richard Linklater may not be a household name, but by god, he’ll go down in the cinema textbooks. In a world where directors so often try to duplicate and reiterate what other directors have done before them, Richard Linklater is a true original. Linklater is an artist that spews with authenticity and each time he releases a film he bestows a gift onto the cinematic world.
Boyhood was breathtaking, not just in the way it was shot and because it was literally a person growing up in front of your eyes, but its beauty was the honest portrayal of life’s imperfections and the way that shapes the people we become. It was the pure essence of what every coming-of-age story hopes to be.
And if we’re talking stories . . . how about Amazing Amy, huh? Gone Girl – whoa! As a writer, I respected the hell out of the book, Gillian Flynn, brilliantly pulled off the challenging task of multiple narrators, but from a Cinema Junkie’s perspective, I knew that challenge would be greater for a filmmaker. Of course, Hollywood went and called in the modern day thrill master, David Fincher. In my mind, Fincher does not fail. Like all artists, some of his work is better than others, but Fincher is one of the true cinema auteurs.
Fincher has the ability to infest his work into your brain so eggs of remembrance continue to hatch for years to come. Gone Girl was no exception. He made a horrifying story even more horrific. And the brushwork that classifies Fincher as a master is painted across every single scene.
Of course, while on the subject of master’s, I’m brought back to Christopher Nolan and Interstellar. I’m not saying Interstellar was a masterpiece. It was by no means my favorite Nolan film. Nolan has quickly become one of my favorite directors. I like Nolan because he is a true warrior of Cinema in his fight for the preservation of its past, present, and future. I like Nolan because his films are thought-provoking alluding to larger issues.
Nolan’s films are big in size and even bigger in imagination, but most importantly, his characters are big – so big – that they’re unforgettable. Nolan highlights the most shameful sides of human nature and breaks them down so we’re forced to find them relatable. He makes us understand why people are bad.
I’ll always get excited about any Nolan film because like Spielberg, you know Nolan is still a teenage boy at heart and he just wants to make awesome films. He is still amazed by the magic and possibility of filmmaking and this is what makes Interstellar worth every penny. But what also excites me about Nolan’s films is that they scare me. He shows me a side of human’s that I’m afraid of, and does it in an honest and truthful manner so it stays there. He’s like Kubrick in that way.
So, yeah, leaving the theatre on that perfect autumn afternoon I felt pretty good about Cinema and my restored faith in it. Like our lives, Cinema is always changing, but at the end of the day, it’ll be there to take you wherever you need to go. It’s the universal transportation into another world. It’s a friend when you need to be comforted. It’s a laugh when you’re fighting tears. It’s a memory. It’s inspiration at our fingertips.
As I walked further away from the grand theater, I was still wrapping my mind around the size of the screen. The vibration of my skin was finally starting to settle and I felt happy and inspired. I felt satisfied for what my lover had offered. And the only lingering thought of this satisfied woman was, “Maybe size really does matter.”