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.

MV5BMjA1MTc1NTg5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTM2MDEzNzE@._V1_SX214_AL_.jpg

‘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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Ranking Movies My Kids Watch – Part 2

Lorax. photo from IMDB.com screenshot.

Lorax. photo from IMDB.com screenshot.

Well the wife and I never connected to arrive at a consensus on the top ten list, so I’ll take a stab at it with my thoughts. I’m not sure I can rank them in order, so consider this our top ten (plus some more) animated movies that our kids (and we watch) but not necessarily in this order. Because they’re all kind of different, I’m not sure we could rank them anyway; sort of like comparing apples and oranges. Besides, even if we’re on a deserted island, we could grab more than one DVD for entertainment, I bet.

Drum roll please….

The Lorax – We saw this gem at the theater while on vacation with our oldest. I believe I liked it then but the wife luke-warm. For whatever reason we bought it on DVD and it grew on us. I love the environmental message. For the non-tree hugging crew there are plenty of great songs and the Dr. Suess inspired story line is fast paced, cohesive and illustrated very nicely. If it’s not our number one, it’s definitely in the top five.

Despicable Me – I didn’t know what to expect when we first saw the movie, but turns out it’s one of our favorites. It’s hilarious, heart warming and there are plenty of one-liners, memorable moments and subtle distractions to keep you coming back for repeat viewings. The animation is artfully fantastic.

Despicable Me 2 – The sequel is nearly as good as the original, and in our top ten regardless. New characters, new story but the same great animation, humor and action to keep the whole family engaged.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – I suspect this might be Christine’s favorite set of movies. Cloudy does a nice job, despite a departed mom, of keeping things upbeat. The movie is a cornucopia of visual delights and requite subtle dialogue details that we seemingly see or hear something new every time we watch.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 – Another sequel makes our list. It’s more of what we love, including all of our favorite characters. Probably the only reason I might like this one less than the first is a couple of the new characters, but all in all the movie comes through with more visual delights and snappy one-liners.

Tangled – This newer classic is my favorite Disney movie of all time. ‘I’ve Got A Dream’ is the best song in any animated movie, ever. Bar none. There’s more to love than just one song though: a good story, funny characters and even a cute little chameleon make for a wonderfully good time.

Turbo – We had no interest in ‘Turbo when we saw the previews. I’m not even sure what prompted us to rent it. But we’re glad we did. It’s a really cute upbeat movie, which is important with any kid movie that you’re likely to watch over and over again. The action is non-stop.

Hotel Transylvania – Another movie that we didn’t pay much attention to. And another one that delights the whole way through, from start to finish. Once again there’s a missing mom, but that doesn’t bring us down as the movie is humorous and the animation is fantastic. Well worth checking out.

Ratatouille – Who would have thought a movie about rats would be good? Well turns out this one is more than just good. A Disney / Pixar combo means the animation is top-notch. The story line stands out and is heart warming. One of my personal favorites.

Cars – I have a love hate relationship with cars. The animation is great and our one son watches Cars…..actually Cars 2, all the time, so it deserves a showing in our top ten. It’s an emotional roller coaster with funny moments, sad moments and heart-felt moments. At some point I probably well up every time I watch, even to this day. I have issue with the fact that cars don’t have arms and hands so how do they take care of themselves in a decidedly human centric world, devoid of actual humans. Regardless, ‘Cars’ earns it’s spot.

Honorable mentions (or the movies beyond the top ten)

Rio – we just saw this gem about a blue parrot a few weeks ago when it was on TV for free. For me, I have it a 9 right out of the gate, in fact I’d put it in my top 5 quite possibly. It’s upbeat, cute, and has a fun story. And it stays away from being too annoying at times, when it easily could have been. After ten minutes, I was smitten.

How To Train Your Dragon – I don’t know how this isn’t in the top ten. It’s a delightful movie. Though yet again, the mom is missing – what the hell is it with people who write these kids movies. Anyway, the main dragon reminds me of my black kitty which that alone earns it extra points. The animation is good, and the story packs plenty of interest and top-notch animation.

Cars 2 – It’s been on almost every day for the year. I’ve never actually watched it start to finish, but have seen it all. Same great animation, car crashes, and some new characters.

Ice Age 1 & 2 – The first two installments, of this four part series are likely the best in terms of music and one-liners. The other two are okay, but the return on investment dwindles with every subsequent installment.

There you have it, our top ten plus list of animated movies for our kids.

What movies would you add to the list?

What’s your favorite?

Share in the comments below.

 

Ranking Movies My Kid’s Watch – Part I

Screen shot from the Disney 'Tangled' website - used without permission because I'm a bad person. Visit them at http://movies.disney.com/tangled

Screen shot from the Disney ‘Tangled’ website – used without permission because I’m a bad person. Visit them at http://movies.disney.com/tangled

As any parent knows, once you have kids in this day and age, you tend to watch a lot of animated movies. You can be as idealistic as you want but there’s no way around it. We always have something on in the background. And if we like a movie (we rate them on a scale from 1-10), we’ll bestow the greatest of honors upon it: we’ll buy it on DVD. Yes, I know you can see most of this stuff for free through streaming video, but really it’s just easier to put a physical disc in the player. We are old-fashioned I guess. Heck we even have quite a few VHS tapes as well.

I love movies. I love going to the theater or watching them at home. It’s probably one of my most favorite things in the world to do. Call me an escapist I guess. But with two small children in the house I, my wife as well, get to watch very few grown-up movies. I can count on one hand the number of dramatic, scary, violent movies I’ve seen in the last several years. Maybe if we’re “lucky” we sneak in a romantic comedy on a rainy Saturday afternoon. If I do want to watch something R-rated, or even PG-13 I have to wait until after the kids are in bed. By then it’s usually 10pm and I’m exhausted from watching my wife raise the kids all day long.

So when life give you lemons, make lemonade. In fact there are plenty of kids’ movies that we throughly enjoy. Could be that I’d even watch one or two in my studio by myself if I was painting or needed background noise.

Over dinner last night the wife and I made a list of our favorite animated kid movies. We then listed the qualities we would use to rank the movies. In this post I’ll go over our not-scientific-at-all criteria as well as the list of nominees. In the next post I’ll share our rankings for the our top ten (maybe twenty if I’m feeling frisky).

Our Criteria For Liking A Kid’s Movie

Music – Off the top of my head I think all these kids’ movies have music, either songs written specifically for the movie, like that non-sense they keep playing from ‘Frozen’ on the radio, or regular songs such as ‘Send Me On My Way’ by Rusted Root in ‘Ice Age’. If there is at least one catchy tune, and not too many bad ones, rest assured it will increase our chances of liking it.

One Liners – Witty, clever, memorable dialogue can make a kid flick stand out. If we watch the same movie forty-two times in a row and we still chuckle at the same line every time, then that movie definitely “Snailed it”.

Plausibility – Ok, this is mostly my criteria and it’s hard to explain. See, most…okay all of these movies are not realistic compared to the real world. And I don’t have a problem with that. Fast snails, talking birds, monsters going to school…I’m down with all of that. What I’m not down with is a world made up solely of ‘Cars’, where everyone has very human like qualities and needs. They don’t have opposable thumbs…how do they manage doing anything remotely human without actual humans or even small helper robots. How do they apply their rear bumper ointment? Do other cars have to do that for them?  Gross. Usually in sequels and whatnot the producers will back off a little and start to apply fixes for this sort of thing, such as a fork lift that can mix drinks, after they realize the insanity of their ways. How do they pick up a martini glass though…

Animation – This is the eye candy part. Technology has gotten to the point where everything is essentially photo realistic. Regardless though, the look, style and quality play into how well we enjoy a movie. Back in the old days, like when ‘Bugs Life’ came out, animation was pretty good. Movies like ‘Open Season’ lose out because the animation isn’t our cup of tea. We need to be immersed in another world, and balance tech wizardry with cuteness and plausibility. Pixar is likely the gold standard for animation, but now days almost everyone has got their act together, unless they’re trying to be edgy or arty.

Feel Good – It goes without saying, the story has to make us feel good and be happy. If I want to be depressed I’d pay Disney to animate my life story. We didn’t even bother watching ‘Toy Story 3‘. And ‘Up!‘ may as well have come with a bottle of sleeping pills and a bottle of Jack. Look, I’m likely to cry even during a happy movie, I don’t need to bring an entire box of Kleenex with me. Beware of movies that transcend generations or time periods – death is unavoidable.

Storyline – As with any movie a good storyline is a must. All the other stuff doesn’t matter if the story isn’t engaging. We need a start, middle, ending. We need good characters, heroes, bad-guys, and preferably a cute sidekick or animal. Bonus points for a car crash.

Who’s Dead Or Dying – No one should be dead or dying, but if someone must, we’ll factor that in subconsciously. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, like when Paul Newman died between ‘Cars’ and ‘Cars 2’ they had to knock off his character but it was handled nicely – the kids would never pick up on that, just us old farts who miss the actor. Other times they knock off a character, usually a wife or mother, much to the chagrin of my wife. Usually dad’s are okay in kids movies.

Kid Friendly – Some animated movies seem kid friendly but if we feel uncomfortable watching them for fear we may have to explain something messy, like death, to our kids; or if the animation is scary, we likely will stop the movie or at least not watch it again. I think we watched ‘Frankenweenie’ and I spent the whole movie asking myself what have I done as my kids watched in mild horror.

Watch-ability Over And Over – After all, my kid is likely going to want to watch the movie a few thousand times. Which means we’ll have to listen to it over and over again while we hide in the other room. I’ve never actually sat down and watched ‘Cars 2’ from start to finish, but I’ve seen it 37,659 times already.

Previews – One other note, a movie trailer or the name of the studio making the film will sway our decision to watch it or not initially. Some movies got good reviews but we’re just not interested. Others we felt that way and stumbled upon them for free on TV and loved them.

There you have it, those are the general criteria we use. Below is the list we compiled of contenders for our rankings. If movie isn’t here then we don’t even consider it to be close to the top ten for the reasons stated above, or we simply haven’t seen it.

Add your favorites in the comments below!

Also, parents, what’s your criteria for evaluating kids’ movies?

The List Of Nominees For Our Top Ten (maybe twenty)

Turbo

Tangled

Despicable Me

Despicable Me 2

Lorax

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Frozen

Finding Nemo

Over The Hedge

Ice Age

Ice Age 2

Ice Age 3

Ice Age 4

Toy Story

Toy Story 2

Rio

Horton Hears A Who

Cars

Cars 2

Ratatouille

Hotel Transylvania

Megamind

Monsters vs. Aliens

Monsters Inc.

Monsters University

Meet The Robinsons

Brave

How To Train Your Dragon

Wall•E

A Bugs Life

Planes

The Incredibles

Bolt