I love films.

I absolutely love going to the cinema. I love the whole buying pick n mix or popcorn (sweet, never salted), making sure I've got the perfect seat (two thirds up, four seats in, right hand side), and getting settled-in early enough to watch the trailers.

I'm old enough to have gone to the Saturday matinees at the old ABC picturehouse in Wakefield (now, sadly, abandoned & derelict) back in the late 70's and loved the old serials they used to show alongside the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck & Goofy short cartoons and those odd mini-documentaries about Yellowstone Park or kayaking in Canada.

Cinemas are great.
I love them almost as Ray Winstone is paid to say he loves them...

These days the multiplexes offer a lot more variety than the old fleapits, but I think I preferred it when you only had a choice of three films. It made it a much more communal experience as everyone at school talked about those same three films.

When I was seven years old I remember my mum taking me to see a new film called Star Wars. You may have heard of it? Anyway, I already had my Luke Skywalker & R2D2 toys but had no idea what they were.

Everyone was going Star Wars crazy and there were queues right down the street so I knew it was something exciting.

On the day we went the queues were so massive that we couldn't get in.

I never saw Star Wars on the big screen until George Lucas started digitally fiddling with them again in the 90's.

Instead I went to see a film called Sinbad & The Eye Of The Tiger (with ace Ray Harryhausen stop-motion monsters) which was on a Double Bill with the 1970's big screen Spiderman movie!!

 Pirates! Minotuars! Hypnotism! Kung Fu!
Trogs! Sexy Sorceresses! Demons! Superpowers!

I can honestly say that I was far from disappointed, and in retrospect I think I may have got the better deal, it was one of the greatest days any seven year old boy could possibly have.

I used to love films on TV too.

Any films.

Universal's monsters horrors, Warner Bros' gangsters, RKO's comedies, MGM's musicals, Ealing's comedies, Hammer's horrors, Romero's zombies, Hitchcock's thrillers, even the silent movies of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. They were all there. There was every type of cinematic experience on your telly.

From Cary Grant to Carry On, Jimmy Stewart to Jackie Chan, I loved watching every type of film that the little goggle box would beam into my room. I would even go as far as skiving off school with a "tummy bug" if there was a Bob Hope film on... especially the Road To Morocco!

Things are different these days, you'd be hard-pressed to find a decent film a week on TV. We have loads more channels but still it appears that it's the same three films on heavy rotation.

For instance, I've lost count of the number of times Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead and The Scorpion King have been on ITV2 already this year.

Recently my cinema going experiences have been limited, due to the fact that I work most evenings. I have gone to Early Bird showings, where pensioners rustle sweet wrappers as an accompanying soundtrack to the hooded chavs mobile phone conversations, but it's not as good.

For a start it's very expensive to go to the cinema, particularly the multiplexes. The other week I took my beautiful tiny girlfriend's beautiful tiny daughter to a film of her choice.

She chose Spy Kids 4D.

Possibly the worst film I have ever seen in a cinema.

If I tell you that Ricky Gervais voices a robot dog and THAT is by far the highlight of the film, you'll have some understanding of how bad it is.

For an adult and child it cost £16 to see that piece of shit, and that is excluding the cost of the 3D glasses as we actually remembered to bring our own this time (we have a drawer full of the bloody things).

Add to that £7 for Pick n Mix, £4 for two drinks and you can see that the prospect of a Ricky Gervais-talking dog movie is going to have to be pretty fucking spectacular.

It wasn't.

If you haven't seen Spy Kids 4D then just go and watch ANY OF THE OTHER THREE FUCKING SPY KIDS MOVIES as it has a plot so wafer thin it is practically translucent.

The only thing that differentiates it from the others is that it is in 4D.

What is 4D?

Well, it is 3D with a scratch & sniff card. When numbers appear on the screen you scratch a card and an appropriate aroma is supposed to appear.

Only it doesn't.

You just hold a card that has one universal stink on it like those perfume samples in the middle of magazines.

Needless to say that my beautiful tiny girlfriend's beautiful tiny daughter loved the film. She walked home high-kicking and karate-chopping herself dizzy, but that's because she loves the "cimena" also.

I love taking her to the cinema, even if the films are terrible (Mr Popper's Penguins, Gnomeo & Juliet, Yogi Bear The Movie, etc).

Sometimes the kids films are fantastic (Tangled, The Princess & The Frog, Fantastic Mr Fox, Toy Story 3), which is a bonus, but often it's just great to watch her tiny face all wide-eyed with wonder, bathed in the light of the projector.

We go for the trailers to give our Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down reviews of forthcoming attractions and that's where the excitement begins to build.

She was so excited about going to see the Disney film The Princess & The Frog that she actually wrote it into my diary three weeks ahead of the screening!

Well, drew it.
She made me write it in!

But she did draw a frog in my diary, just in case I forgot...

Another time she was so excited at the prospect of seeing The Fantastic Mr Fox that she woke us at 6am, having not slept much herself, and insisted we go down to the multiplex at 9am. The film didn't start until 11am, and by the time we'd got snacks and a booster seat she was so overcome with excitement that she burst into tears and wanted to leave as soon as the lights went down!

Thankfully, she calmed down and enjoyed a rather strange yet brilliant reworking of her favourite Roald Dahl story. Even if she was disappointed that Mr Fox didn't sound the same as when I read the story to her  

Ha! In your face George Clooney! 
In your handsome face!

But by far the worst film experience I have to endure with her are the consistently terrible Barbie movies. Yes. Barbie movies. That little plastic doll. Yes. Her. She has her own movies. On DVD. Yes. Barbie.

And Yes.


There's fucking loads of them.

And they are all consistently piss-poor and absolutely without any artistic merit.

They make Spy Kids 4D look like Citizen Kane.

Each school holiday, it seems, there's a DVD released where a badly rendered CGI animated Barbie and her identikit friends go on an adventure to learn about being true to themselves through conspicuous materialism.

For instance, in Barbie's Fashion Fairytale she leaves her job as an actress after being jilted by Ken and goes to Paris to become a top fashion designer with the aid of some "Flairies" - three miniaturised Barbies with the power to revamp frocks with "shimmer, glimmer and shine".

With the aid of these Flairies (no, that's not a typo) Barbie helps her Aunt's fashion house become an overnight sensation and "win" the fashion parade ahead of a scheming rival.

Then a poodle sings "Who Let The Dogs Out?".

This actually happens.

I actually watched this actually happen.

In Barbie and The Three Musketeers the annoying plastic doll and her three identikit annoying plastic friends are harassed maids in pre-Revolutionary France who, with the aid of some miniskirts, uncover a plot to kill the Prince, while simultaneously getting one over on the cruel Mademoiselle who forces them do their cleaning jobs....

...Only this time a talking CAT sings EMF's "Unbelievable"...

It's like a fucking cheese-dream.

To quote Delroy Lindo in Get Shorty - "I've seen better film on teeth."

And then the kicker is that ALL of these items, the Flairies, the dowdy Barbie, the Barbie in a Flaried-dress, Musketeer Barbie, the singing cat, the rapping dog, the dress-up outfits, are ALL available in the same shops that you bought the godawful DVD. 

I think they make the toys first and then take an hour or two to cobble up a story and make a shit film about them.

Which I suppose is true of all films these days.
The toys are manufactured way ahead of the scripts which is why we get such turgid action films as Tron Legacy & Green Lantern, because someone somewhere has an eye on the merchandise, rather than the script, and they are just using the cinema as an overlong advertisement.

I've just realised... Barbie is her Star Wars.

Films shouldn't just be ads, though, they are important. They transport us somewhere else, and not just to the lives of others onscreen but to a place in time. We all have cinema memories in much the same way we have sense-memory.

For instance, Rocky IV always reminds me of the first time I heard my little cousin Louise swear ("Knock his fucking head off, Rocky!!"). 

Disney's Sleeping Beauty not only reminds me of being terrified of the evil witch as she turned into a dragon but of going with my Aunty Carol when I was about 4.

Jurassic Park reminds me of the time I fancied a girl and so took her friend out beforehand to see if it was a good idea... then the next day taking the girl I liked to see any film she wanted.

She chose Jurassic Park.

I remember the day that my parents took me and my two brothers to sit in the dark and believe a man could fly. I can still smell the linoleum-style aroma from the heavy plastic screen-printed t-shirts all us boys had of Christopher Reeve in full Superman pose in front of the spinning Earth.

And when my beautiful tiny girlfriend chose, of her own volition, to watch the new Star Trek reboot with me I knew she was a keeper...

We all have loads of memories like this.

Now it's a lot less communal and we have movies on our laptops and phones. We watch DVDs at home and forget about them. Unfortunately, there are so few little cinemas like the one I used to go to in Wakefield, and the multiplexes are so expensive that it's rare that I'll see a film advertised that I really want to make the effort to go and see in the company of strangers.

Still, I wonder what's on telly..?



Fuck that, let's go to the flicks.

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Happy 109th Birthday to Georges Melies lovely film "Le Voyage Dans Le Lune".
If you're any kind of film fan then you'll love this beautiful film from 1902.

....otherwise known as the prequel to The Smashing Pumpkins

1 comment:

Anne said...

My little sister (when younger) made me watch Barbie & the Nutcracker. I also had to go through Cheaper by the Dozen, Garfield, Twilight... I understand the pain.
We don't live in the same country so it's not always easy but I've decided it's high time I educate her on films. That's all she'll get from me at Christmas and birthdays from now on. DVDs.