70MM

I went to the movies last night.

I don’t know if you know this, but I enjoy going to the movies.

A lot.

I like the emersion into another world, and the escapism from our own, if for only a couple hours.

Last night I went with a few friends to see Quentin Tarantino’s eighth movie, coincidentally titled ‘The Hateful Eight’.

While I am a fan of movies, I am by no means a movie trivia buff, or rather I don’t remember movies verbatim like some people. So I won’t really give you a review that compares this movie to his others. Some of his movies such as ‘Reservoir Dogs‘ I could see again tomorrow and it would a new experience. And others, including ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2‘ I haven’t even seen. I suppose in a way this makes me a less than stellar self proclaimed lover of motion pictures, but I don’t really care. I still enjoy them. If anything my movie amnesia is a blessing: it’s always a new experience for me in a way.

The movie was classic Tarantino is all you need to know. Which is to say a healthy dose of incredible scenes, twists, bad language and bloody violence. I gave it an 8 on a scale of 1-10. I think ‘Django Unchained‘ was slightly better at a 9. ‘Pulp Fiction‘ a 10.

But that’s none of this is the point.

How we saw the movie is the point. Or rather how the movie was made to more precise.

The film was shot in 70mm which basically means it was shot analog in a digital world. Just like the “old days” so to speak.  Here’s an article from Vox that helps explain it, no need for me to regurgitate it. (How’s that for lazy writing?).

Here’s is the overview from the movie’s website:

The exclusive 70mm Roadshow engagement of The Hateful Eight pays homage to and recreates the grand film exhibition style popularized 1950s and ‘60s and that brought audiences to theaters with the promise of a special event. Taking place in the nation’s largest cities and grandest theaters, Roadshows presented a longer version of the film than would be shown in the films subsequent wider release, included a musical overture to start the show, an intermission between acts and a souvenir program. (Limited supply, first come, first serve at 70mm locations only.)

Ultra Panavision 70 refers to the very rare and exceptional format that Quentin Tarantino and his team used to shoot The Hateful Eight. Panavision’s unique anamorphic camera lenses capture images on 70mm film in an incredible aspect ratio of 2.76:1. Almost all films you see today are shot in ratios of either 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. So, to put it simply, Ultra Panavision 70 provides an amazingly wider and more detailed image.

Says Tarantino of this special event release: “The thing about the roadshows is that it made movies special. It wasn’t just a movie playing at your local theater. They would do these big musical productions before the normal release of the film. You would get a big colorful program. It was a presentation. They would play a Broadway show overture version of the soundtrack. If you’re going to shoot your movie and release it in 70mm, it’s really the way to go: twenty-four frames a second flickering through a projector, creating the illusion of movement.” 

This Ultra Panavision 70mm Roadshow presentation of The Hateful Eight is an experience that hasn’t been had in over fifty years.

As part of that ‘Panavision Super 70 Roadshow‘ put on by Tarantino and the Weinstein Company, viewers could see the film in it’s original 70mm format at select theaters throughout the country.  Lo and behold our local Valley View Cinemark was the only theater in Ohio showing the film. I actually learned about this unique experience from someone I met at a New Year’s Eve party. But I was under the impression that the road show was over. Turns out it wasn’t (today 1-7-16 is the last day to see it in this format here). So we scrambled to see the film as god (Quentin) intended, in all of it’s wide aspect glory.

It was a grand experience.

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‘The Hateful Eight’ movie poster from IMDb.com

 

Snap, Crackle, Pop

I didn’t know what to expect crowd wise, but I have a natural aversion to being forced to sit up close to the screen. I like to sit in the middle and preferably away from any other example of humanity.

I bought my ticket ahead of time to assure entry, and we arrived in theater by 8pm for an 8:20 show. Taking our seats mid row, halfway up, there were about a dozen other people already there.

Uniquely this movie has no previews. No commercials. Nothing but a black screen until the movie starts. It was a refreshing change. As people filtered into the theater a low dim of conversation provided a nice change of atmosphere compared to today’s digital commercial ridden pre-movie onslaught. There was anticipation in the air. The modern era of movie theater experience has worked to numb that idea of anticipation, and here it was in all its glory again.

The theater did in fact fill up despite it being the third or fourth week of the roadshow. But this is what was remarkable:

The theater filled up from the center outward.

People sat next to each other.

I should say strangers sat next to each other.

I’ve gone to a lot of movies, and the rule I’ve found is you pick a seat that presents a comfortable viewing angle, but also far away from other movie goers. Lest you want to endure two hours of being near other humans with their talking, phones, sticky pop cups and overflowing buttered popcorn.

Not so. These were people who were here for the sole purpose of seeing a unique movie experience. Social norms be damned. As if to say – I don’t care if you smell, I paid my money and I’m sitting next to you because I want to sit in the middle.

Promptly at eight twenty the theater darkened and with a subtle click-click-click the projector started. A real freaking projector. In an otherwise homogenized, sensory numbing world, here we sat in a darkened theater with real people, eating popcorn, wide eyes staring at a screen like children on Christmas morning.

You could see imperfections, dust and and blips in the image projected on screen.

It was glorious.

Snap, crackle and pop from the soundtrack and equipment.

Then we were immersed into an incredible wide screen snowy white landscape, never to be seen or heard from again. Or at least not until the end of the movie.

This was an experience.

Halfway through the three hour experience we were treated to an intermission to stretch our legs and take a bathroom break.

Afterwards we mentioned amongst ourselves that this was a nice touch. It’s a shame more movies don’t do intermissions anymore.

None of us had a problem with the length of the movie. It essentially takes place in one location and other than violence, it is pure dialog. I never found it to be monotonous or boring. I probably could have sat there for another two hours without knowing.

My mind was transported.

My eyes and spirit were affixed on Hollywood magic.

Mr. Tarantino himself could have been on the screen plucking a chicken in a snowy field for an hour and I would have watched. That’s not to say the format overpowered the movie, or the movie was bad, it’s just that…it was almost like a time machine. Something so pedestrian and taken for granted like wide format 70mm was brought back again. It was special. It was seeing grand art as the artist intended.

It was pure unadulterated visual and emotional crack for any lover of cinema.

We’re going to see ‘Star Wars’ this afternoon. And it will be fantastic. But it won’t be the same. And actually I’m not sure I need to see ‘Star Wars’ in any way other than digital light fantasy and surround sound.

Maybe the point is, movies aren’t just magic, they’re also art. And as such maybe we need to get back to creating the art of movies in a variety of ways and mediums, just as a painter paints and and sculptor sculpts. The same goes for viewing them as well.

I hope roadshows such as this 70mm one become more of the norm instead of the exception.

I believe people want to be transported to another time and place, after all isn’t that the point of movies as an art form.

Seeing this movie, this way celebrates everything I love about cinema.

-Chris

 

 

 

 

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