' ' Cinema Romantico: My Favorite Movie-going Experience Of 2013

Friday, January 03, 2014

My Favorite Movie-going Experience Of 2013

Perhaps problematically, I have often viewed the physical act of going to the movies as akin to a church-going experience, the theater itself my sanctuary, The Evangelical AMC River East 21. Church, however, while capable of containing vast reaches of emotion, is typically a more solemn affair……well, at least if you grew up Lutheran. The Liturgy, the Sacrament, even the fellowship (“peace be with you”) was more restrained than joyous. And a movie-going experience – that is, the best kind of movie-going experience – is not solemn. At least, not internally. Internally the best kind of movie-going experience is the banggerreng, the “knock ‘em down storm season” in the language of the Australian aborigines.

Last year at the very end of my Oscar ceremony live log post, I mentioned how the best part of each and every movie-going year is never knowing precisely what film will hit you most in any given year except that it’s very nearly never a film remotely close to the one(s) you expect. Like clockwork, 2013 proved the rule. Oh, I was intrigued by David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, much like I am intrigued by all manner of films each and every year which is why I go see so many, but it was not even one of the three or four dozen I was most anticipating. This was late August, nearly the end of August, the end of a long, hot and generally awful summer that marked my first foray back to school in years and years (reader's note: I really do not care for school). In fact, that very sweaty, sticky day had marked my concluding final, and so I decided to toast my good riddance to it in my favorite way - going to the movies.

On the walk I'm entirely certain I noticed the ominously dark clouds rolling in from the west, but I'm not entirely certain their presence registered. After all, it was, like, 250 degrees. My mind was kaput. So I bought my ticket and found my seat and said a hail mary for the theater's air conditioning (not really) and the lights went down and the projector whirred and onto the screen came "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and I swiftly entered my mental magical kingdom. Gone With The Cinema. On the outside I sat quietly and attentively, wholly invested, but I kept welling up, again and again, at lines and line readings and reactions and shots and developments. Inside, I was overwhelmed, my heart pounding, a whirlybird of emotion.

This is why I found it so appropriate when I heard the first crack of thunder. At first I assumed it must be emanating from the screen. Then I noted the scene presently unfolding was set in the sunlight. Then it thundered again and I realized the storm I had glimpsed roughly forty-five minutes earlier had arrived. Did it ever. Thunder rolled and lightning cracked and torrents of rain and hail pounded against the roof of the rickety old theater where I sat. There were maybe seventeen other people watching with me and several seemed annoyed by this meteorological development. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" can be a quiet, contemplative film, and a raucous thunderstorm does not pair well with it.

Yet, it did. For me, anyway, since the storm mirrored the exuberant tempest coursing through my insides. It was a strange moment - I'm never taken out of my favorite movies and I'd been taken out of this one. Except, upon further review, I was not really taken out of it at all. The banggerreng in my heart mirrored the banggerreng in the sky, and for a few minutes the whole world and I were singing in harmony.


Bob Turnbull said...

I loved your comments here Nick...I didn't quite have the same experience with that film (seeing it just recently at home on a chilly evening just before Christmas), but I totally see how the thunderstorm would have not only added, but heightened any feelings it elicited.

It reminds me of several theatre visits I've had where you look around at the audience and realize that they aren't having the same experience as you. Though it makes logical sense, it's always somewhat surprising to me and even heartbreaking when you see someone with their arms folded and scowling during a film that is causing waves of emotion in you. Of course, I'm sure I've been on the other side of that too.

Derek Armstrong said...


(Not for the movie, which you know I don't care for as much as you do, but for the experience you had.)

I sense this may be a preview of your favorite of the year ... when do we get your top ten? I don't know your own self-imposed deadline for cramming on late-season movies, since you don't advertise it like I do on my blog.

Nick Prigge said...

Bob: It is interesting sometimes to look around at the audience during a movie to see what sort of reaction everyone is having. Which, as you say, probably means others are checking out your reaction. It makes me think of an Alyssa Rosenberg in the wake of Aurora and about how we surrender our brains and our hearts and our bodies when we go to the movies.

Vance: Hallelujah indeed. And at the risk of spoiling it (which I officially already did on Twitter), yes, "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is definitely my #1 of the year. My Top 10 will go up next week. And on top of that I have ANOTHER post going up about "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" next week in addition to the Top 10. Which is why I put up this post this week. I feared overkill, which will probably happen anyway.

Derek Armstrong said...

It's a worthy #1. And by that I mean that it does the specific thing it does exceptionally well. I just don't happen to be looking for the specific thing it does as much as you're looking for it, but I don't need to be. As you've said before, this movie was tailor-made for you, and I am overjoyed that it brought you so much pleasure. It appears that I am the world's biggest Ruby Sparks fan, as you know, so to each truly his own.

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks, Vance. I always love that we can agree & disagree simultaneously, and do so civilly. Cheers.