I think we all need at least one really nice positive thing about the entertainment
business every single day of the year, including weekends. Sometimes it
may be something simple, like a video that showcases something fun and
sometimes it may be a movie
poster that embraces the aesthetic we all want Hollywood to aspire to.
Sometimes it may be a long-winded diatribe. Sometimes it’ll be from the
staff and extended family of CHUD.com. Maybe even you readers can get in
on it. So, take this to the bank. Every day, you will get a little bit
of positivity from one column a day here. Take it with you. Maybe it’ll
help you through a bad day or give folks some fun things to hunt down in
their busy celluloid digesting day.
By Joshua Miller (Facebook)
What I’m Thankful For:
I can’t lie – I have had a pretty uniformly good life. I have traveled to a lot of amazing places, both foreign and domestic, already realized several lifetime career goals, and been fortunate enough to achieve some things the average person likely never will. And though I spend a good portion of each week sitting in my boxers on my couch working, I like to think my life has generally skewed towards the exciting side too. In my time I have lived briefly in Eastern Europe, spent two days in jail, was trapped on a Canadian bridge on 9/11, survived a near fatal fall, successfully evaded a moose attack, unsuccessfully evaded a crack-head attack, dated not one but two cheerleaders in high school, awoken lost and confused on the outskirts of Vegas, and I once saved a girl from falling out of a moving truck like an action hero.
Why am I telling you about all this? So you won’t think I’m a complete fucking loser when I tell you that some of the happiest periods of my life have been when I had a regular movie night going.
The theater is of course my favorite place to see the majority films. There are the obvious aesthetics of the giant screen and sound system, the potential for an enhanced experience owing to audience reaction (be it laughter or screams), and of course just the nostalgia of the overall theater going experience. Watching a film at home always feels perfunctory to me, brought on by a desire to save money, pure laziness, or because I need to watch something quickly for work related purposes. Usually the only time watching a movie at home feels right is when it is part of a date, and that has nothing to do with the movie itself and everything to do with the hopes for sex.
But there are times when watching a movie at home appeals to me more than going to the theater…
I love movie nights. It is community at its most basic. Gathering all your dorm friends into your room to watch Big Trouble In Little China is the modern equivalent of getting your village together to watch to the medicine man do his spirit dance.
There are certain movies that almost beg to be watched in this setting. Have you ever tried to watch Troll 2 by yourself? Sure, a film like that is often even better with a full theatrical audience, but having only lived in Los Angeles for a small part of my life, I know such theater going experiences are few and far between for most people (if they are available at all). For most people a movie night is the best and only option for that specific kind of intimate-yet-communal experience that comes from gathering a collection of familiars (be it three or fifteen) to munch chips, sip beer, and watch some cinema.
Movie nights have their pitfalls, to be sure. I think light chatting about the film while it is happening (or some well-placed MST3King if you’re watching a turd) is part of the movie night tradition, but this can easily go off the tracks if the conversation gets tangential and overtakes the film itself. But this is easily avoided by knowing your group and matching the kind of film you’re watching accordingly. Don’t watch Interiors with people who like to chatter during the film; that is a group to get drunk and watch Bad Boys II with.
Random movie nights are great, but the real magic happens with regular movie nights – ones that occur at planned intervals.
Regular movie nights are hard to plan. Every time I try, they end up puttering out after a week or two. It’s almost like trying to give yourself a nickname. It just doesn’t work. It needs to happen organically, it seems. At least that’s how it has always been for me.
My first ever regular movie night happened in junior high. My buddy Jeremy and I had a clockwork ritual every Saturday. My mother would drop the two of us off at Eden Prairie Center (in Eden Prairie, Minnesota – where they shot Mallrats) at noon, then pick us up at six pm. What the hell we did for six hours at that shitty mall every Saturday, I can no longer remember. But right before we left we’d always hit Mr. Bulky’s (a store that dubiously sold candy by the pound) and get a truly heinous amount of candy. All that sugar would soon become wholly necessary after we hit up Panorama Video, where my older sister worked and would give us four movies. Then we’d stay up all night watching the films between candied-out fits. Our selection process at this point in time was guided almost entirely by a desire to see boobs, so we didn’t exactly see a lot of quality cinema. Though it was on these movie nights that I was first exposed to a lot of classic horror films. In fact, I was the only kid at my junior high who knew that Army of Darkness was the third film in a trilogy when it hit theaters. My mother must have been so proud.
My second regular movie night series began when Adventures in Video (in my home ‘burb of Bloomington, MN) started having 2-for-1 Tuesdays the summer between my 10th and 11th grade. This ended up leading to another on-going four-movie a night binge, now with my friends Sean and Pat (our viewing order was chosen by throwing the videotapes against the couch and watching whatever bounced onto the floor first). Though without Mr. Bulky’s help, I remember a lot of falling asleep happening around the third or fourth movie (high school kids are always tired). We only rented horror films. And we only rented bad ones. The gauntlet thrown down every Tuesday was to search the horror aisle of Adventures in Video and find the most truly ridiculous looking films. Some highlights I recall from this period were: The Amazing Transplant, Redneck Zombies, Neon Maniacs, Silent Night Deadly Night 4, Shriek of the Mutilated, Demon Wind, Spookies. It was during this phase that I began to formulate many of the ideas that would one day compel me to write my Horror 101 series.
After that I was permanently hooked, and since then I try to force and facilitate the birth of a regular movie night wherever I sense the inklings of a possibility. They don’t always work out, but when they do it is glorious. I love movie nights with a theme, especially once you reach the point where you have exhausted all the obvious selections and need to start getting creative. I like to think I’m pretty good at handling such a situation. A random movie night was born several years ago when my screenwriting partner and I were hired to write a script and one of the actors (already cast before there was even a story) learned that we were going to be renting a bunch of movies for inspiration. He asked if he could join, and this “research” movie night lasted for about six weeks. I thought nothing of it, because my writing partner and I do this with every script we write (I had never even thought of them as movie nights), but just recently that actor told me those weekly viewings remain one of his favorite memories relating to “the Biz.” Behold the power of the movie night!
So for helping bring my friends together for the common purpose of enjoying some cinema, I am thankful for you, Movie Nights. I hope to have another regular one going soon.