One of the most common questions fired at a film buff is “what’s your favourite movie?” For most worshipers at the alter of digital and celluloid projection, it’s a near-impossible question to answer. Far easier to contemplate is top cinematic experiences, the films that have made the biggest impact and lingered on the memory after seeing them on the big (often biggest) screen. Here’s some of mine.
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008): IMAX, National Media Museum, Bradford, 2008 I was never sold on 3D – it’s a gimmick, it throws up a barrier between audiences and the screen world and it more often than not negatively impacts the viewing experience. IMAX, on the other hand, is an immersive medium. Christopher Nolan is perhaps the proudest major proponent of using IMAX to enhance his storytelling working today, and it all started with Batman. Embellishing his already excellent crime-epic-with-Batman-in-it were majestic and eye-popping city exteriors plus the film’s showiest action draped across the entire 3-storey screen. Most dazzling of all was the film’s opening heist, and my heart really was in my mouth when the Joker’s gang abseil across a sheer drop between skyscrapers.
GRAVITY (2013): 3D, National Media Museum, Bradford, 2013 While most still see AVATAR as the height of 3D filmmaking, Alfonso Cuarón’s disaster/survival/existential drama in space had a far greater impact on me. Like I’ve said, I don’t really get the appeal of 3D, but films made with the technology from start to finish has a certain draw. For someone who can feel a little ill on a clear night looking up at the vast, yawning chasm of space, seeing something going very wrong up there gave me genuine palpitations. Avatar brought us to a new world but GRAVITY presented us with an extension of our own, a tangible and real person in mortal peril in the most hostile and desolate location imaginable. People talk about CLOVERFIELD causing motion sickness, but Gravity made my stomach drop straight out (in a good way).
BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II (1989): National Media Museum, Bradford, 2015 The perfect storm so rarely comes around. Watching Marty McFly arrive in the future 2015 on on the very same date of the time jump in the film was a once in a lifetime opportunity I could never pass up. It was an privileged-feeling little screening full of Marty and Doc super-fans having fun (I don’t even think me and the friend I went with were the biggest) and it had a really lovely atmosphere. For as long as I can remember, BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II has been, and still remains, my all-time favourite time travel movie. Because I’m a 90s kid I’d never seen a Back to the Future outside of my own home, and the cleverness of the plot and wit of its presentation only shines brighter on a large screen.
THE RIGHT STUFF (1983): 70mm, Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square London, 2016 Though I consider myself a cinephile, before this year I don’t think I really appreciated the benefits and drawbacks of various different film stocks and aspect ratios. I notice a difference between the formats, but they don’t tend to make the biggest impact on me. I haven’t picked a side on the film vs digital debate. That said, seeing THE RIGHT STUFF in 70mm at the unique little venue that is The Prince Charles Cinema has begun to open my eyes. The Right Stuff is among the greatest film in history in terms of effective sound use in storytelling, and the blast of high-powered engines and ominously creaking metal only has more impact as it envelops an auditorium. By seeing it on film, with all its flaws from years of use, the story seemed to have more weight. I hadn’t seen it for years, and I’d forgotten that this Space Race drama is funnier than a lot of comedies (standout line: “Our Germans are better than their Germans”) as well as being a must-see on the biggest screen possible. SSP