This column is first in a two-part series, “Much aJew About Christmas,” which will obviously focus on Movies and Chinese Food.
As a writer and performer, one of the greatest joys in life is to ask a rhetorical question knowing full well that everyone’s answer will be, “Yes.” Here is one such moment.
You guys see a lot of movies?
Of course you do. We all do! But if I’ve learned anything during this final phase of my 20s, it’s that the act of going to the movies has shifted from the utilitarian (I’m thinking the 16-year-old group-hang on a delightfully awkward, American Pie 3 Saturday night), to a deeply personal and specific experience (you and your girlfriend are hungry, exhausted, and looking to see the latest Wes Anderson flick while getting home at a reasonable Sunday night hour. We have to be at work early tomorrow, for goodness sake!).
This radical shift in the cinematic experience is only partially due to age and maturity. Mostly, it’s the ever-burgeoning array of choices for how we can see a movie these days.
IMAX? 3D? VIP? CALLER-ID?
That last one isn’t a way to see a movie. But the way things are going, it very well may be, since studios and theaters seem to be throwing in new options for us with each coming blockbuster.[1. Oh man, remember Blockbuster? Good times. I always wonder, how did they not adapt? Did they think VHS and DVD were just gonna stick around forever? Was the boardroom consensus that the internet is just not gonna catch on? Did anybody notice any of the ten million Red Boxes popping up? Ah well, something for our generation to treasure.] So, how do we make heads or tails of any of the choices? And worse even, how does one create the perfect match? Interstellar in IMAX? Gone Girl in 3D? 22 Jump Street, hopefully nowhere?
Come on, Max. Get to it. What’s the best way to see a movie these days?
The quick answer is most certainly the SHOWPLACE ICON at West End, which is the only place I’ll ever see a movie in Minnesota. But before I dive into that rabbit hole, let me expand upon a few of the options. As always, I make no promises to be fair and balanced.
Back in my day, “IMAGE MAXIMUM” was a rarity amongst movie theaters. The only place you could see an IMAX where I grew up was at the American Museum of Natural History, where I still have fond memories of watching Cosmic Voyage, narrated by Morgan Freeman,[2. I wonder if at that point Morgan Freeman was able to see the comet from Deep Impact and have a little extra lead time in his disaster prep.] filled with awe and wonder at the sheer scale of the massive display. Now, IMAX is pretty ubiquitous, and the name of the game is simply size. IMAX is just really, really big. The cool part, though, is that you actually sit closer to the screen than in standard format, so you feel even more immersed in the film. Ideal films to see in IMAX are grand, sweeping epics, the frames filled to the brim with landscapes, daring action sequences, and Christina Hendricks. Think Man of Steel, not 50 First Dates.
Indeed, a polarizing issue.[3. No pun intended, nor even accomplished. This is not a pun at all. It just felt right.] Christopher Nolan, one of, if not my favorite director right now, made the definitive point when explaining why he’ll never shoot in 3D: “3D is a misnomer. Films are 3D. The whole point of photography is that it’s three-dimensional.” A remarkably valid point, especially coming from a guy who could probably double his salary by filming any of his movies in this way. But I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve tried it several times, most recently with Maleficent,[4. DO NOT judge me. Sleeping Beauty is and always will be my favorite Disney movie. And Maleficent herself is perhaps the most badass (female) villain of all-time. The movie, however, was a load of crap. But, you know, sorry not sorry.] and I always leave the theater unable to say anything except, “Meh,” for the entire drive home. Sure, it’s pretty cool when Captain America throws his shield directly into your Dad’s popcorn, but do I really need Jim Carrey’s toothbrush in my mouth also? Plus you gotta wear those stupid glasses, which sucks if you already wear glasses, and more importantly kills any kind of mood on a date because you both look like dinguses.
Now, this is what I’m talking about. Movie-watching in style. VIP is one of the main reasons that I’m forever-loyal to the West End ICON. While the experience varies in different theaters, it boils down to a paid premium to essentially sit first class on your movie flight. At the ICON, an extra $7.50 gets you fine leather seats, a (relatively) fancy restaurant which delivers food and drink to your seats (I especially recommend the thin-crust pizza and molten-chocolate-thingy) and the feeling of success that goes along with sitting in the exclusive mezzanine level, high above the rabble peasants who could be sitting in there if, as Seinfeld says, they had worked a little harder.
The best part of choosing VIP, however, is the fact that the type of movie really doesn’t matter. Action, thriller, suspense, comedy…all are terrific. To chose VIP is to love the experience of the movies, not the movie itself. On the 20th anniversary of the film, ICON offered Jurassic Park in VIP, which yielded perhaps the most epic cinema experience I’ve ever had. Ah, would that you’d been there! Comfortably kicking back, high up in successville, a steaming hot Italian meats thin crust, ice cold beer, and scientifically inaccurate velociraptors wreaking havoc on a 90’s security system built on MAC OS8 and operated by Newman. (Full disclosure: This showing was also in 3D, but largely undetectable since it was not filmed as such.)
When choosing your movie this Christmas day, you really have to ask yourself a few simple questions. Do I want to feel very, very small? Well, go for an IMAX. Do I live a generally two-dimensional life, and wish to spend the next two hours expanding my horizons (literally) into a third dimension which I already inhabit? Or do I want to be, in those fleeting dark hours, a Very Important Person? Not a small, pencil-drawn teenager hoping to sneak in some boxed wine in a theater cup. But an accomplished 29-year old, whose long hours at the 9-5 day job has given me the discretionary $12.50 to sit in the lap of movie luxury?
The answer is clear. Well, it would probably be clearer in IMAX, since the screen size and resolution is greater. Or, it might actually be clearer in 3D, given the sense of depth and perspective. Dammit! Back to square one!!!
Email me your preferred movie experience at [email protected]