Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movie Rant: When Theatres Screen Classic Films

James Dean, a Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
I've found a new obsession and I need to start making it a weekly thing.

About three weeks ago I finally got around to actually seeing a film at the TIFF Bell Lightbox here in Toronto. I've been there before, most notably for the Tim Burton exhibit a few months back. But, for whatever reason, it has taken me this long to actually buy a ticket to see a movie there.

Maybe I was subconsciously waiting for the right one, the perfect movie for the perfect first experience.

Well, it came along in the form of a Spotlight on director Nicholas Ray. I bought two tickets to see Rebel Without a Cause and took my sister. It's unlikely we could have found a better film to introduce us to the TIFF experience. I got to watch an iconic film in all its scratchy, crackly glory. No high-definition Blu-Ray edition just popped into a player. No DVD anniversary edition. It was actual film. It popped, cracked and showed its wear and tear.

I've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) in an anniversary theatrical run a few years back, but it was essentially just the DVD copy projected on the screen. Still incredible, but not quite the same experience.

Another miracle of miracles: the audience remained silent throughout the entire screening of Rebel. No talking, no cellphone-checking and no heaving around their weight in restlessness. You could have heard a pin drop. They laughed at the right moments, but other than that, nada. It's rare to have such a perfect viewing experience.

I told my friends about the great experience I had while watching Rebel Without a Cause (oh, and seeing James Dean on the big screen for the first time wasn't too shabby, either) and I recommended that we see a movie together sometime soon.

Jon Cryer and Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink (1986)
That "sometime soon" happened to be this past Friday night. We had a girls night and chose John Hughes' teen angst movie, Pretty in Pink. To see that wonderful piece of melodramatic teen fluff ("What about prom, Blaine? What about prom?") on screen was equally awesome -- ragged and scratched, it looked and sounded so good.

You could almost feel the audience drowning in nostalgia. With its fantastic soundtrack and quotable lines, it would appear that John Hughes movies are still meant to be viewed in their natural state -- on the big screen.

There's just something about seeing your favourite films on the big screen, especially if they were originally released before your time. To have that opportunity to go back and enjoy it the way film audiences of the past did is a huge treat for any film buff.

This must be the equivalent of what music buffs feel when they sit back with a glass of wine and listen to their vinyl records.

What classics or old favourites have you seen on the big screen?


  1. The Lightbox has become my addiction in the last year. Through them I have been party to...

    BATMAN (1989)

  2. A Clockwork Orange, Casablanca, Metropolis, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Lawrence of Arabia, Ryan's Daughter, Doctor Zhivago, A Passage to India, The Conversation, Some Like it Hot, Charade, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Wife vs. Secretary, The Women, The Public Enemy, Possessed, just off the top of my head! I'm been very, very fortunate over the years.
    But this is something I've been saying for cannot beat classics on the big screen. As a film buff there is no comparison at all.
    So go more often!!!!!

  3. @Ryan: I envy you for having seen all those films at TIFF!! Lawrence of Arabia, Batman and 2001, especially, must have been fantastic. I'm hoping to catch Ghostbusters there over the Christmas break!

  4. @Brent: No kidding! Those are all great films. I would love to see Some Like It Hot and Metropolis on the big screen! Here's hoping it makes the TIFF list in the near future.

  5. @ Laura... Well between now and Christmas, they've already annonuced a bunch of Hitchcock films that are gonna play (VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE BIRDS), and the week between Chrtistmas and New Year's they've said that they'll be bringing back the 70mm print of 2001 for another week-long run.

    Likewise, in early 2012, they'll be hosting a Polanski retrospective. So if you've ever wanted to see CHINATOWN or ROSEMARY'S BABY on a big screen, your chance is nigh.

    By the by - you're still always welcome to come out and have a beer with the Toronto movie bloggers. We meet-up once a month or so around U of T.

  6. Yeah, I have the full guide that has all the screenings between now and the new year. I've marked down quite a few of them. Can't wait! :)

    I can't wait for the Polanski retrospective!!

    When is your next meet-up?

  7. Oh..and Dr. Strangelove! And, and....!! My memory isn't in gear at the moment but there are many more. Dr. Strangleove was magnificent on the big screen. What gets me though is for all the classics I've seen not one has been a Hitchcock film. There has never been one played at a local cinema.
    What sort of audience numbers do classic screenings get where you are?? In my reviews of the 4 classics I've seen this year I lamented the poor audience numbers. I mean L of A attracted about 9 people if my memory serves me right. I was shocked by such a poor turn out.
    Dr. Strangelove got less than 20, and Breakfast at Tiffany's about the same, and yet they are both fine films. It annoys me because it can affect a cinemas decision to play them if numbers are so low.
    Conversely I not only look at what I have seen but what I would like to see! The list would be endless!!! I mean as I watched The Exorcist the other night as an example, I thought to myself how much I'd love to see it on the big screen.

  8. @ Laura... I *think* we're rallying up in two weeks or so. We usually gather around month-end, but we're trying to get December's in before the holidays hit full-swing.

    Drop a note to Shannon the Movie Moxie. She's the co-ordinate for these things. Hope you make it out some time!

  9. @Brent: LOL! There is currently a Hitchcock fest at TIFF. I just might beat you in that regard when it comes to seeing classics on the big screen.

    Rebel Without a Cause was sold out, from what I could tell. It looked like there wasn't an empty seat in the theatre. Pretty in Pink was pretty busy, but not sold out.

  10. @Ryan: Two weeks is actually totally doable. Things at work slow down a bit before the holidays. :)

  11. Actually it looks like it's sooner than I thought. You free next Tuesday (12/6)?

  12. We gather starting at six and tend to go to mIdnight (or sometimes later) people come and go all night.

    If you're interested, send an email to moviemoxieatgmaildotcom. Tell her I invited you and she'll send you all the details.

  13. I live out in Vaughan so I wouldn't be there super-late, but anything that starts around 6 sounds good. Thanks Ryan.