Movies Are Back: A Mailbag
Summer is coming. Movies are back. And it's time for a new mailbag. Now coming to a Rough Cut near you: an entire month dedicated to the moviegoing experience and the summer kick-off films of yore. It's May at the Movies.
1. What’s the perfect Memorial Day Weekend movie experience? You may include any of the following and more:
b. Day and time of movie
c. Genre (or specific movie)
d. Fellow moviegoers (friends? Family? Crowded or empty theater?
e. Snacks or drinks
f. Pre- and post-movie activities
Carson Cook: Some big fun twisty action movie, in a theatre with both comfortable seating and good projection, the Friday or Saturday 7-8pm show. See it with friends and a packed house. Hit the bar next door for drinks and apps right after. Perfect night.
Ben Nadeau: The Cinerama in Seattle is a magical place, but on any normal trip to the theater, I’d go with 11 AM matinee night with a dash of Sour Patch Watermelons – then you get heaven on Earth. After the movie, I’m liable to get my Trader Joe’s shopping done as I am the smartest boy and double dipping in the same small mall area is just good business acumen.
Sara Murphy D’Amico: An afternoon movie, at a big theater with comfy seats and lots of fellow movie-lovers and no cell service. The movie is something that will blow your mind, like The Handmaiden or Tenet or Mulholland Drive. A large Coke Zero and a pack of gum. Post-movie activities include drinks/dinner with friends and a few rounds of Cinephile.
Jonny Diaz: The AMC Lincoln Plaza on the Upper West Side in New York. Saturday night, 7:00pm. All your friends are there, it’s a full house. Buttery popcorn, your favorite candy, and soda spiked with alcohol that you snuck in your pockets. You’re watching something with a wild ending. Maybe Inception, maybe Get Out. And when it’s all over, you’re heading out to the nearest bar to argue with your friends about what really happened.
Zach D’Amico: So it’s Sunday afternoon. You’ve got Monday off, and you just finished your cookout. You’re a few beers in, the sun is starting to set, and you hit the local stupid-big multiplex and just watch Tom Cruise run for two hours with your best buds and a crowded theater. You snack on some sour patch kids, preferably watermelon. You went in during the day; you come out at night (you do not, however, watch 2010’s horrendous Knight & Day starring Tom Cruise). Then you go home and just porch drink and talk about Tom Cruise.
2. What the best movie-going experience you’ve ever had?
CC: It’s hard to top some of the great public festival screenings I’ve been to, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun than the midnight premiere of Paranormal Activity – the absolute rowdiest crowd imaginable, yet everyone was still totally bought in on the communal experience.
BN: Probably the first time I saw Mad Max: Fury Road… beers in hand, a beautiful blustery day out in Davis Square, and meat pies afterward? (All while being too amped up to sit still?) Yes, thank you very much. MM:FR is the gold standard for perfect theater experiences and I won’t hear otherwise.
A very honorable second place finish to Arrival, a movie that genuinely left me speechless and welling up in a supermarket for 45 minutes at random.
SMD: I had a tough time picking this; I’ve been fortunate to have some incredible and memorable experiences. I think the top might be seeing Promising Young Woman at Sundance. The crowd really bought into it, and the collective applause when Cassie pulls off her big stunt at the end made the vengeance feel even sweeter.
JD: My on-campus theater in college played a handful of classics every semester—usually big crowd-pleasing blockbusters with wide appeal—including 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s no better way to see Kubrick’s sci-fi epic than on a big screen at 10pm on a Wednesday night with a couple hundred of your fellow undergrad movie lovers. It’s still the only time I’ve ever seen it, because I don’t want to touch that pristine experience.
ZD: I wanted to pick a classic or a unique theater, but that’s just not the answer here. The answer is the opening night screening of Get Out in downtown Washington D.C.’s Regal 14. A raucous, angry, laughing, screaming crowd. If I can make a single human being react the way 200 people did when Lil Rel Howery stepped outta that car, man, I’ll have lived.
3. What’s a movie theater pet peeve that you inexplicably miss after 14 months away from cinemas?
CC: I was starting to feel like 20 minutes of trailers was too much, but now I wish it was 40 minutes.
BN: I still hate all the pet peeves… or maybe I just hate people? If you’re sneaking food in that’s going to be loud to unwrap, do that during the movie trailers – candy, sandwiches, whatever, just please be nice.
SMD: Having to explain to Zach all the plot points that he missed when he ran to the bathroom because he drank too much soda in the first act (classic).
JD: At this point, there’s nothing I don’t miss about the movies. But the annoying thing I miss the most is the sensation of walking out of a dark theatre in the middle of the day into the blinding sun.
ZD: I miss the people awkwardly shimmying in front of you at a crucial moment of the movie to go the bathroom. That’s the type of annoyance I can relate to, because I hate when I have to go at a pivotal moment, but it’s happened to all of us, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Plus it happens and it’s over in a few seconds. No more distracting than any of the various ways my upstairs neighbors have found to ruin my at-home movie experience the last year.
4. And now for a controversial question: what’s the best movie theater snack?
CC: Food options are pretty interchangeable – popcorn, candy, whatever, I’ll eat it. But an obscenely large soda is a must.
BN: Peach Rings, probably. A whole bag of SPW are great, but it leaves your mouth in a state of decay. Popcorn (not super buttery) is solid, but then you need water; and if you have water, you’re liable to pee; and I simply refuse to leave once I’m in the dark. So, like, popcorn in moderation.
SMD: Eh. I don’t really care about movie theater snacks. I guess if I had to pick one I’d go with Cherry rope Twizzlers. I like pulling those things apart.
JD: Popcorn and soda. Some things are classic for a reason.
ZD: Watermelon sour patch kids! I have never had a single one outside a movie theater and yet I have eaten thousands of these fruity, sweet, tart, delicious treats!!!
5. You can pick one movie released at any point in history to welcome you back to the big screen – a re-release, no coming attractions. What movie is it?
CC: This question is nearly impossible, there are too many options to even consider – I feel like my entire movie-going essence is somehow resting on this one choice and if I pick the wrong film then I’ll have blown the best cinema opportunity of my life. I don’t know if I should even write down an answer…
...jk, it’s Point Break.
BN: Assuming I don’t get the added amnesia benefit of forgetting I’d ever seen it, I’d have to go for some big time blockbuster I didn’t watch until I was older. I’m thinking Alien, Raiders, Silence of the Lambs, Close Encounters, or 2001.
SMD: OOH boy this is exciting. And also very hard. I think maybe Synecdoche, New York. I thought that movie was fascinating the first time I saw it, and I would love to see it again on a big screen. So much PSH energy. My second choice would probably be either High and Low (so much action, so much fun) or Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a live orchestra (a girl can dream).
JD: What better way to celebrate the love of movies than welcoming everyone back to cinemas with Singin’ in the Rain? I can’t imagine a better feeling than stepping out of a theater after that.
ZD: Apocalypse Now or, and hear me out here, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
6. You see your friends for the first time in almost a year and a half. It’s the scorching heat of August. Prestige movie season is waiting in the wings. What new release are you getting a sneak peak of to see a movie together for the first time in ages?
CC: If we’re talking August 2021 it’s Candyman and it’s not particularly close. One of my most anticipated for the entire year.
BN: Did you say prestige film? I will raise you with Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
SMD: In the Heights, In the Heights, In the Heights!! Yes I am chanting. Lin-Manuel Miranda has never let me down. Granted, I haven’t seen Hamilton yet so he hasn’t had many opportunities to do so. But he was great in Mary Poppins Returns and also Star Wars. And on that one Drunk History episode.
JD: By August, I’ve already seen In the Heights one million times so
DUNE DUNE DUNE DUNE DUNE DUNE DUNE
ZD: It’s either Spiral: From the Book of Saw because I want something rowdy and fun that will give me exactly what I expect, or it’s The Card Counter, because I’ve been waiting for a Paul-Schrader – Oscar Isaac collab about a gambler since I was eleven years old.
7. What’s the best “kick-start summer movie season” to be released in May?
a. This list might be a good place to start, but I cannot vouch for its accuracy.
b. You can also go year-by-year on Wikipedia on these pages.
CC: I’m limiting this to movies I personally remember seeing in a theatre first-run, and while I’d be tempted to pick Speed Racer or Mad Max: Fury Road, those films have and will get a lot of play on Rough Cut so instead I’ll go with 2014’s Neighbors – when I’m going to a summer movie I usually want big action or big comedy and here we get the latter in spades. An absolute delight to see this in a crowded theatre.
BN: Well, I don’t know about historically, but it’s about to be Spiral, no question. Seriously, final answer, not even looking at another list. (OK, fine, I’ll be basic and say MM:FR, obviously.)
SMD: Hmm. This is harder than I thought it would be, given that May sometimes has questionable movie releases. I think to kick off summer movie season the top option would be Paper Moon (1973) a comedy-drama with a lot of Bibles and scams and wheat fields and liquor boosting. And a killer cast – Ryan O’Neal, Madeline Kahn, and Tatum O’Neal. You’ll leave the theater laughing, and what more could you want for a start to your summer?
JD: Mad Max: Fury Road is one of my top theater experiences of all time, and it kicked off one of the best moviegoing summers of my life.
ZD: I won’t complicate this one: it’s Mad Max: Fury Road. If the Indiana Jones movies were as good as they think they are, I’d consider one of them, but to paraphrase Colin Farrell in In Bruges: they’re not, so I won’t.
8. What is the best movie month? You can interpret this question however you wish.
CC: November gives you the best balance between blockbusters and Oscar contenders – plus there’s always leftover horror movies from October if you need a real palate cleanser in between prestige fare.
BN: October. I might not watch 100 horror movies again in 2021, but what a hoot they all are – good or bad. Great for a good laugh with friends or terrifying everybody around you, horror plays multiple positions. And you’ll never run out of things to see! Just pop on Chucky 18 or Rob Zombie’s Halloween X.
SMD: September/October and January because that’s when the best film festivals are!!
JD: The best movie month is December, because it has everything. A big sci fi or action epic, a serious drama, a family film or animated comedy, and usually even a musical. It’s the perfect month for double (or triple, or quadruple) features.
ZD: This probably won’t go over well, but I kind of think it’s January. And here’s why: January does something no other month pulls off, in that it completely changes your taste in 31 days. Every January 1st, I’m so sick of prestige, Oscar, “important” movies, I find myself ecstatic to sit in an empty theater for the latest mediocre Kevin Hart comedy or absurd final twist thriller or elaborately idiotic horror. And every January 31st, I’ve lost faith that I will ever see a good movie again and I just want to cancel my AMC A-List subscription and cry in popcorn-soaked bathroom stall. And 11 months later, I do it all again. January movies are a brand.