As vaccination rates increased I was able to do something in the past few weeks that I haven’t been able to do for more a year and a half: go and sit in a dark room for several hours that is not in my own house, and watch a movie. Things have changed, of course– there are still masks (although less than you might expect), buckets of popcorn, and people standing flanked by stations of hand sanitizer. But it’s not just the theatrical experience that has evolved, the way I have learned to appreciate films has evolved as well.
Despite the simple pleasure of being able to get the full vaccine out of the house for a little while, my recent forays into cinemas here in the UK – for the first time since, of all things, Sonic the hedgehog early 2020 – were not quite the messianic experience that some directors of upcoming movies would like you to imagine. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed being back in a theater last month. Shang-Chi came first because apparently like the rest of the world, the mouth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe still draws people to the movies, followed more recently by No time to die, who dominated the UK headlines as if 007 really was Britain’s last hope in light of, well, the absolute state of Britain at present.
Both were very enjoyable, the kind of explosive, explosive action movies that work well on a movie screen. Have you lived until you watched Simu Liu ring-Kamehameha a giant Cthulhu orgy of tendrils and CGI in a dazzling explosion of light and viscera? Maybe, but it’s still pretty fun to watch on the big screen. But even taking advantage of my first hesitant steps in the popcorn-strewn carpets that are the theatrical experience, I left both trips without feeling quite satisfied. That is to say, apart from another achievement: the two films that moved me more than anything I have seen this year were the ones I could only watch at home despite the opening of cinemas as if everything had returned to normal. And I wouldn’t have traded those experiences for anything a giant screen or nice chairs might throw at me.
The movies I mention are very far removed from each other in many ways—Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 and The green knight. But only being able to interact with them in the comfort of home rather than in a theater reminded me how much the accessibility of hybrid versions became. For all the romanticization of theaters we’ve experienced over the past year, the true power of a good movie doesn’t need that oft-touted “as big as possible screen” to really touch you. evangelizationthe themes of acceptance, self-realization and community healing hit me so hard watching him with teary eyes on Amazon Prime Video like they or they would have’If I had seen in a large public space with other people. His confusing visuals were still as crisp and captivating on my computer screen as they would have been sitting in front of a screen 50 times the size. Frankly, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see it at all, given the long delay between its Japanese release and its Western debut, without it. releasing as he did.
The green knight, on the other hand, was a whole different kind of experience at home, although his mood and presentation, like evangelization, struck and inspired me just as effectively at home. contrary to evangelization, I had the chance to see Green knight on the big screen, sort of: here in the UK, The haunting fantasy film by David Lowery was delayed for several months after its US release, citing covid-19 concerns, ultimately opting for dual streaming and theatrical debuts in late September. I enthusiastically went to book my ticket a week after it arrived and … there was nothing. Nowhere within an hour of where I live showed The green knight more. These projections were authorized to make room for the imminent arrival of No time to die that same weekend.
I had a choice, but it was taken from me, so i booked tickets to bond i enjoyed it then i came home and streamed The green knight and enjoyed it even more. This The green knight was still accessible even though the demand for wider rates reduced my chances of seeing it in a theater is an experience made more possible by the radical changes that the film and theater industries have made in the past 18 months to fight against a world suddenly turned upside down. What quickly became one of my favorite – if not favorite – movies of 2021 would have been impossible to see without having to wait several months for a home release, which would mean constantly avoiding articles and avoiding commentary.
The fact that these films still resonate with me despite having been seen in a perhaps unexpected way by their creators makes every time I see another argument that some things just must being seen within the confines of a theatrical experience sounds a little hollow than before. But if anything, it’s a reminder that easier access to movies means more chances of finding the ones you really want, whether or not you’re ready to go back to the movies just now.
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