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Take Your Soul to the Movies

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Do you go to the movies? On a regular basis? Well, you should. You should go once a week, you should go more often, and you should definitely go during the day in the middle of the week when it’s just you and the movie. Take a day, take an afternoon off, but do it.

For me, going to the movies isn’t just going and watching something unfold in front of you for 90 minutes or two hours or, if it’s a Bollywood film, three and a half hours. It verges on a religious experience. Okay, I just lost a bunch of you and I know it. Just hear me out. You don’t have to feel the same way, just give it a shot. You’re not going to find God; that’s not what I’m suggesting, but it is something different.

Okay, some people have stopped reading, but back to going to the movies. I love going to the movies. There you are — you bought your ticket, went to the restroom, maybe got a popcorn (never with butter), and sat down about two thirds of the way forward and dead center. Other people are talking around you, but you say nothing. Just sit there, make sure your cell phone is off, and wait for that magical moment. Just when you think you can’t wait any longer, it happens, that glorious moment: the lights dim.

You are now surrounded by darkness. In front of you, an image flickers; it’s some useless commercial. Wait for it. The next moment will come, and about five or ten minutes later, there it is: the previews. Who knows if the movie you’re about to watch is going to be any good, but surely one of the five being offered up before it will be.

Rate them; give them all a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Not mentally, really do it, extend your arm, make a fist and give that movie a rating, right there, right then, based on the previews. If you’re truly excited, a little dance in your chair is totally acceptable (seriously, find me in a theater when they’re advertising a James Bond movie, I may even hoot).

Previews rated, popcorn in hand, the moment has finally come. Sit back for it, rest your back against the chair and even slouch a little; it’s better that way. Oh wait, maybe they’ll also tell you about the sound system of the theater. Personally I always boo THX; not that it’s not a great sound system, it is. I have my reasons.

That over with, in front of you are little mini-ads showing you what production and distribution companies put out the film you’re about to see. Guess what production company it is before the name appears. Tree getting struck by lightning? Boy jumping into a lake? Distorted shot of an amber studio lot? These are all things you should know.

Then the movie itself actually starts. There are the opening credits. The mood is being set and now you must accomplish the hardest feat in all of movie going, something I like to think I excel at: suspension of disbelief. Like the man said, you have to accept that or nothing that follows will seem magical or wondrous.

Give in to the movie; suspend your belief that it is fake. Watch, and trust the filmmakers. One immediate difference between a good and a bad movie is if the filmmakers betray your trust, if they pull you out of the movie. If you are not there with the main characters despite your best efforts, they have failed you.

You need to make that effort, though. If you’re not there trading war stories about your scars in the bottom of the boat at night after too many drinks, if you’re not just as desperate to try and get the beer back from Texarkana despite the fact that Smokey is on your tail, then it’s your fault.

If you simply can’t accept that the Smokey has two brothers, one of whom is a Mountie, that he can call in at a moment’s notice with hundreds of other cars to help him out, well, that might be the filmmaker. But give it a try, you have to.

If you can do that, and the filmmakers don’t betray your trust, well, then you really have something. The movie just washes over you and you can bask in the wondrousness of what you’re witnessing. You are there. You are communing with the people that gave this incredible gift to you.

For me, there’s nothing like it. Give me a never-ending bucket of popcorn and bottle of water, a never-ending series of movies that don’t betray my trust, a catheter, and I’m in.

I’m in.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Mat Brewster

    I hate to say it but I just don’t go to the movies very often anymore. I used to go every weekend and then some, but marriage, full time jobbage and other commitments have put me off. Ok it was really the marriage and a wife who can never be anywhere on time, and I aint going late, but don’t tell her I said that.

    I still love movies. I watch them at home on DVD, and maybe they lose a little bit being on the small screen, but they can still pack a punch.

    You nailed the experience though, just about perfect.