(This was supposed to be posted Friday. I made the list mentally Thursday, then when I sat down to put it together, had a total brain cramp on one entry in the list. Naturally I remembered it over the weekend, so here’s my delayed list.)
Thursday I saw my first movie at a theater in over two years. I saw the Wedding Crashers while my brother-in-law was in town in August of ’05. He’s in town again, so we checked out The Bourne Ultimatum (Odd to be the only two people in the theater, but that’s what we get for taking in a 4:05 matinee on a Thursday). I’ve loved the Bourne series (I think I’ve read all the books) and its combination of classic Cold War spy thriller styles with the realities of the modern world. The final installment was no disappointment, perhaps the most intense movie experience I’ve ever had. During the chase/fight scene in Tangier, I literally started laughing out loud about 15 minutes into it. Not that it was funny, but it was so intense I needed some kind of release. It got me thinking, though, about what the five best experiences I’ve had seeing movies in theaters are. Hey, here’s a list of five things for you!
1 Die Hard. Bourne may be more intense, but it’s not fair to list it as #1 so soon after seeing it, so this list may change in a few months. It’s easy to forget what a big deal the first Die Hard was. I saw it on its second weekend and the theater was still jam-packed. It was the perfect combination of good guy – bad guy action, humor, and a just plausible enough plot. I sat near the screen, maybe second row, and remember leaning towards the screen during certain scenes, as if I was part of the action. With all the twists and turns in the plot, I think I was drained when I left the theater, although also exhilarated from such a great experience.
2 Bourne Ultimatum. A near endless series of chases and fights, like the first two movies, yet the story doesn’t get lost. The ridiculous cutting and camera angles made me feel like I was in the fights and chases, a key component for creating an intense experience. Not as funny as Die Hard (there’s little overt humor) but probably a little smarter. The Tangier chase is one of the all-time greats, although I had a hard time buying a high-speed chase through Manhattan on a work day.
3 Saving Private Ryan. A good war movie should make you fear for your safety a little. If you weren’t ducking during the Omaha Beach landing scene, you weren’t paying attention. It also made me appreciate how truly epic D-Day was.
4 The Empire Strikes Back. Standing in lines that wrapped around the block. Watching on the massive screen at the Midland theater, settled into their comfy, velvety seats. Summer of 1980. Good times! Star Wars affected me more after the film, but I didn’t know what I was getting into that day. With Empire, I had been waiting for three years and was ready for something amazing. I was not disappointed.
5 Coming to America. Back in the day, a few friends and I liked to see certain movies in certain settings. If it was a “black” movie, we liked to venture to theaters where the audience would at least be evenly split racially. We figured we would be getting a better experience that way. That generally proved to be true, although when a guy started yelling at the screen about how people shouldn’t hook up with different races during Jungle Fever, I got a little worried.
Anyway, Coming to America turned out to be the ideal test of our theory. We saw it in an area that was rapidly becoming predominantly black (the old Bannister Mall area) but was still frequented by enough whites where it was neutral territory. I’m pretty sure we saw it the first night, and the theater was packed. I was seated next to a very large black man. When I say very large, I mean fat. He was practically spilling into my seat the entire night. But he turned out to be a jolly fat man. Forget the fact that the entire audience was really into the movie, so much so that we were missing all kinds of lines because there was so much laughter. My neighbor to my left would start laughing, and when he saw I was laughing too, he would elbow me and nod, give me a little fist bump, or even slap my knee. We had just nodded to each other when we took our seats, but in a blow for racial harmony, he decided that for the next 90 minutes, we were going to be buddies. When Prince Akeem handed the bag of money to the destitute Duke brothers, I started howling. My new friend didn’t catch the reference and asked what was so funny. When I explained it, he too howled, gave me a high five, and then explained to his friends, who gave me knowing nods. For one night in southern Jackson County, Missouri, a few of us decided to toss aside our differences and enjoy one of the finest comedies of all-time as members of the human race, not as colors. I think we can all learn a lesson from this story, can’t we?
Seriously, it was a great time. It’s a shame Eddie can’t be that funny all the time anymore.