My wife and I watched Wild at Heart recently on a recommendation from my past self. I remembered liking this film so many years ago, when I had first discovered the world of David Lynch. It was weird, surreal, and sardonic. A ride that pleased me but for which I had little recollection of.
On rewatch, however, this was not my experience, and I was a little embarrassed at having talked up this film to my wife. Wild at Heart is all over the place tonally. It zigzags from scene to scene, scatter-brained and without purpose. Many of the ideas in Wild at Heart are perfected in later Lynchian works, but in this package, they’re lost and half-formed.
The end of the film is supposed to tie an idea together, but it feels tacked on and cheap. This wasn’t the whimsical, Lynchian romp with Wizard of Oz themes I vaguely remembered. It was dishonest trash.
When I opened the draft of my robot novel the next day, I was taken aback at how unenthusiastic I was for my project. This wasn’t the whimsical science fiction romp with real-world themes I remembered. It read like drivel. The plot meandered. Certain scenes felt hokey and old-timey in a silent film slapstick sort of way. Sure, there were moments of brilliance, but these moments were rare.
Like Wild at Heart, my work-in-progress felt like cutting room floor tidbids I Frankensteined together. It was dishonest, and I couldn’t find myself staring back at me from the computer screen. I was a little embarrassed. This is what I had been spending so much time on?
A little over a year ago, I decided that the best way to wean myself off of buying movies was to list them. It was a perfect way to feed that need to habitually collect without doling out cash for things that would otherwise sit on a shelf and gather dust.
Physical media is archaic, I know, but when you grow up dreaming about a Rex Harrison-sized library, you can’t help it.
It’s even more glorious than this picture lets on
I started a list on April 29, 2017. The rules were simple. I’d add every movie I actively watched 30 minutes or more of into the list, note the year it came out, and go on my way. Unlike my personal writing, I was actually regimented and consistent with updating this movie list, too.
A theater, a good theater, has just an attractive enough marquee to draw us in, and its atmosphere is both rich in character and antiquated. Like any palace, there’s a regality that keeps us alert, so when the lights dim and the show overwhelms us, we’re awake for every second of the ride. The experience is intimate and overpowering, a rush of emotions drowning connecting us while a simultaneous veil of darkness isolates us from the rest of the audience.
It’s a distinct experience you can’t get at home (and not just because the screen is larger). Theaters have a carefully blended aroma of spilled soda, popcorn, and candy. The seats are slightly less comfortable, and you dare not lounge too freely in fear that you might catch the plague from whoever sat in that chair before you. And the sound!
For my 2017 yearly wrap-up, I decided to list my top 5 theater experiences. These are the ones that moved me.
If you’ve ever stepped into my living room, there’s one thing that you’ll notice right off the bat. I own a lot of movies. DVDs, Blurays, a few rare VHS films that have yet to get a proper transfer — I’ve got them in all styles and formats. These videos are mostly alphabetized, save for the television shows (which are strewn about a private media tower in the corner of the living room), and my collection has everything from terrible guilty pleasures to Criterion Collection masterpieces. It’s a buffet of personal tastes and historically important works, and the collection rarely decreases in size, which becomes a problem after a quarter century of collecting. It’s also an expensive habit, especially when you’re constantly upgrading your personal library to reflect the most recent digital transfers and restorations. Yet, it wasn’t until about a month ago, that I decided that there had to be a cheaper, better way to collect films. For those looking for a clutter-free method on how to start collecting movies, I found an answer that works for myself, and it costs almost nothing.
My wife and I were having a discussion a while back about how many times we had seen some of our favorite movies. Though I’m prone to estimating in the hundreds and even thousands (I talk big), I had to confess that even with my absolute favorite movies, I probably only watched them maybe once or twice a year. It wasn’t enough viewings to get tired of these films, but it wasn’t too infrequent to where favorite scenes would start to fade from memory. In reality, at a rate of once or twice a year, I couldn’t have seen my favorite films hundreds or thousands of times. If I was lucky, I had seen them dozens of times, just enough to keep ’em fresh, and it was a convenience to have them lying around on a shelf somewhere, waiting for that once or twice a year visit.
Hulu added the second season of Fargo to instant streaming recently, and my wife and I devoured it this past weekend. One episode in, and we were hooked. Fargo is an even blend of style, mystery, action, and dark Midwestern humor. It’s a show that uses style, editing, and composition to fully submerge its audience into the emotions of the sequence, rather than hanging its hat on a melodramatic narrative structure.
When we finished, I felt the need to immediately blurt out, “This is one of the best comic book adaptations I’ve ever seen.” This sounded silly and confusing in that Fargo isn’t adapted from a comic book. It carries the name of a popular Coen Brothers movie and crafts crime stories in the style and tone of the film. There were no comic books to be found on the set of the film, and none of the iconic characters from the world of comics even graced the background.
But that’s what makes this adaptation interesting. While Marvel and DC continue to make films using their popular licensed characters, the second season of Fargo is more of a comic book adaptation than either of the “cinematic universes” that the aforementioned companies are dumping into movie theaters.
I originally mailed this letter off to the corporate headquarters of Marcus Theatres on February 14, 2014. I included my home address with the letter but never received a response (probably for good reason). It was in response to an advertisement they played before every movie, one they have since removed and replaced.
Dear Marcus Theatres,
There was something about your advertisement, nestled after the previews and before the feature film, that seized hold of my attention. My head was locked into place; my eyes were pried open, directed solely at the screen as that wondrous spot of theatre shimmied its way into the deep recesses of my brain…
…and my heart.
I’ve seen it at least once a week, and like clockwork, the same performance grapples me snugly, like a plummeting Gotham-ite clutched tightly by the Batman amidst a free-fall from Gotham’s tallest clock tower. Like Hooper, submerged in that cage in Jaws, my world was rocked. Shattered. Split in ‘twain from Sir Robin of Locksley’s arrow. Nestled in those comfy theater seats, it was as if I were a fair maiden on Ryan Gosling’s couch.
But I’m not. I’m a man. Rugged. Testosterone-fueled. I eat my fried chicken with my fingers, and I’m heavily Reptilian-brained, like any filmgoer raised during the height of 80’s action cinema. And even I, this hardened, steroid-raging meathead, was sold on a Magical Movie Rewards Card.