#FilmFriday: The dream theater
MANILA, Philippines - In his book and podcasts, Kevin Smith talks about his experience of taking trips from New Jersey, where they had big cineplexes that showed only big Hollywood movies, to New York so that he could watch independent cinema, foreign films, and smaller productions.
Such theaters in New York also help to cultivate subcultures with screenings of classics, midnight matinees, and themed showings.
It’s from such screenings that the idea of Cult Cinema has emerged, with cinephiles showing love and coming out to see movies that are past their initial run.
Richard Kelly’s "Donnie Darko," George Romero’s "Night of the Living Dead," and innumerable others found their audiences through these, rather than traditional distribution and release.
Do we have similar options? Are we developing a film-going culture like this?
We have some major malls that will accommodate local indie as well as foreign indie and smaller foreign films, like the Ayala and Robinsons malls. We also have venues like U-View in Fully Booked. And there used to be Mag;net and Mogwai, both sorely missed.
But a moviegoing subculture that takes in alternatives to the major studio films shown in our malls? I think it is in the works.
We have pockets of resistance in the form of film festivals like the Cinemalaya and Cinemanila, and Cinema One Originals. Adding to that list this year will be the Quezon City Film Festival, the CineFilipino, and rumors of another grant-based festival.
We’ve got packed screenings, and the lines that get crazy, for Eiga Sai, French, and Italian film fests in Shang-ri La Mall. In the provinces, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has set up Cinematheques which highlight regional film.
We’ve got a wealth of indie filmmakers who are getting attention abroad. Unfortunately, this attention has not translated into wider theatrical release and local attention, but I remain optimistic. It’s a matter of buzz, of opening up our options, broadening our horizons.
One might see it as a chicken and the egg dilemma.
Why don’t we have more options? Because all that people want to watch are Hollywood and local studio cinema. Why is that all that they want? Because they don’t get to experience alternative cinema. Without being exposed to the very different aesthetics of other cinema, one becomes conditioned by Hollywood to expect only a certain kind of thing from film.
So it’s a matter of people being willing to try out new and different kinds of film, and at the same time those films being available to them.
I grew up on Hollywood cinema. It’s pretty clear in the way that I watch and review films. It shows in my aesthetics. But being aware of Hollywood as my major influence, I tried to watch more films, and other kinds. As a kid I lived across the way from a video store, and I got to watch film classics and indie movies that weren’t available at the Blockbuster Video.
And as an undergraduate I was lucky enough to have a class schedule that allowed me to watch a lot of movies at the UP Film Center, now the UP Film Institute (a hotbed of the resistance).
Most of us now are part of the resistance thanks to piracy.
Torrents and pirated DVDs allow us access to films that we would otherwise not be able to see. It’s a sad thing that we are forced to such means. But then distribution and availability are problems.
Sure you’ve got discount racks selling original copies of "The Spirit" or "Failure to Launch" or whatever, but then we don’t really have such access to, say, "The 400 Blows," or "Breathless," or a lot of other landmark films. Not to mention great copies of our local films.
Great that I finally got a copy of "Batch ’81" but it is in such frustratingly low-res that I would be better off watching it on a crappy little CRT TV. So we turn to piracy, or even to YouTube, to watch films.
But I want to see these films as they were meant to be seen. I want to watch these films on the big screen.
Sure I’ll watch things on DVD, I’ve got stuff on Blu-Ray or whatever. But despite all of that, I still believe that the moviegoing experience is something special. Getting your ticket, going to your seat, watching trailers. (And here’s an aside for cinema operators: please, please show us our trailers. Fine, dude, you guys gotta make money and show us ads and whatever. But give us the good trailers, and put them right before the film. Watching trailers gets us excited, puts us in the mood to watch the movie. Respect that, appreciate that.) The excitement as the theater darkens and the movie begins.
All of these are part of the experience, I believe, and I think we should appreciate that. I also think one reason why there are people who talk during movies, who don’t have the courtesy to NOT answer their phones — those are people who do not think of going to movies as such an experience. So the world would be better if it were treated as such.
So what do I hope for? What is this dream theater?
I think it would show all kinds of movies, from great movies that fans feel need re-assessment, to classics that would allow us to beef up our film vocabulary, to new local indie film that would both expand viewers’ minds as well as provide local filmmakers with much-deserved attention.
I want a place where I can go to midnight matinees of horror flicks, a place for movie musical sing-alongs, a place where, after the flick, you can hang out outside the cinema at a bar with other people and down beers or coffee while talking about the movie you just watched.
I know that place probably can’t exist, but I do think that we can try to build places and communities that will allow for something like this. - Rappler.com
(Do you agree with our writer? Have suggestions on how today's cinema and movie-watching experience can be improved? Tell us by posting your comments below. Remember to read Rappler's community and site use rules.)
(Carljoe Javier doesn't know why people think he's a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he's not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games...Then again, those people could be right.)