On Friday night, I was in a movie theater for the first time in months. Man, did it feel good to be back.
Here in northeast Wyoming, I could have gone to the movies, well before this past Friday but it would have been for the sake of being in a theater itself, not a new movie. It was my first time to the theater since moving here in June, and I’ve probably never had to wait so long to visit a new movie theater.
They’ve always been a big part of wherever I’ve lived. Ragtag Cinema in Columbia is still one of my favorite places on Earth, not just because of the films it shows but the way in which its curators go about it. (They’re raising money for next year’s True/False Film Fest, and if you’re looking to do some good with your money, I can’t recommend enough giving it to this cause.)
Even when the movie theaters weren’t close by, they were closely wrapped up in my experience of a place. In Lexington, Mississippi, the nearest movie theater, like most other things, was an hour away. It was a big Malco multiplex, really only showing the biggest, latest, greatest films, never anything independent or limited-release. But I made great use of that theater, often showing up on a weekend morning to catch the very earliest showing and ending up watching two more before the day was over, not thinking twice about having spent a small fortune on two matinee tickets and one regular ticket in a single day.
When I wanted an arthouse flick, I would drive north to Memphis, a little bit farther than the hour I’d drive south to Jackson, but pretty much the same experience – a straight shot on I-55, don’t get caught speeding, and make sure you have something good to listen to, usually a queue of podcasts.
When I think about how much I love the experience of going to movies, I can’t help but call Friday an overwhelming success. It was something to critique, and even though I left the theater scratching my head after the nearly three-hour overwhelming of the senses that was Tenet, I was just as buoyant and happy as I was when I walked in.
A weird quirk of the experience was that when we all walked in, just a few minutes after 7 p.m., the movie was already going. I have no idea if there were previews, which I actually enjoy. Does that particular theater just start all shows promptly at its appointed time, erasing that common knowledge that you actually have almost 20 minutes worth of extra time before the film starts? Or, in a sadder version of events, were there simply no trailers to preview? The tenuous nature of movie-going right now deserves partial credit for what made the night so much fun. When will we do it again? Will COVID-19 be a death knell for theaters? Is our entertainment future destine to be Video On Demand releases?
I sincerely hope not.
Ten Worth Your Time
Tenet. What is there to say about Christopher Nolan’s newest? Well, actually, quite a lot, and one of the perks is almost all of it could be said without spoiling the movie. As many reviewers mention, it’s damn-near un-spoilable. When I got home, I wasn’t sure what I’d just watched; I wasn’t sure what had happened. That, in itself, is usually enough to dictate all my thoughts on a movie. (It wasn’t quite the fun sort of “WHAT just happened?" like his now-decade-old Inception was; it was a much more complicated movie that that.) But like a lackluster movie seen on a first date by a couple who ends up married, the experience, its significance, the moment in time it represents, boosts the film’s reputation, in my opinion. These two reviews, by the New York Times and The New Yorker, are delightful encapsulations of the experience.
Back in 2016, I attended the Indie Memphis Film Festival (a great film festival for anyone whose based in or near the mid-South; please support it) and one of the films I saw was a commemorative screening of The People v. Larry Flynt; it was a celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary that year and also its connection to Memphis. The film, nominated for two Academy Awards, chronicled the rise of Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine and its legal battles after a controversial satirical ad poked fun at Jerry Falwell. Falwell’s son, Jerry Jr., has been in the news recently, as he stepped down from his presidency of Liberty University due to his involvement (or passive acceptance of) an affair involving his wife and a pool boy. Gossipy and salacious as the story is, an even better read is Flynt’s final Falwell farewell in The Daily Beast.
Taking part in one of the biggest film franchises in the world, Star Wars, seems like the golden ticket, right? And sure, John Boyega, the Stormtrooper with a heart that would become known as Fin, probably banked millions from his role in the film. But all that glitters is not gold, as Boyega passionately laid bare in a recent interview with British GQ. He talks about his experience, which was so defined by his race, and it’s a powerful read.
The COVID-19-induced comeback of the humble drive-in, which I hadn’t thought of in a long time until last year’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood saw Brad Pitt’s character living in a tiny trailer behind a Hollywood drive-in.
For some reason I can’t remember, one of my friends said, upon coming out of Tenet, that he might just fire up Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 Point Break. I don’t know if he did, but it put the idea in my head, so I did. Young Keanu. Next-level Swayze. Gary Busey! It was a lot of fun to watch and then even more fun to listen to the guys from The Rewatchables dissect the film.
For something non-movie related, consider this mind-boggling article (an oldie but a goodie that popped up on the magazine’s Twitter this weekend) about hyperpolyglots from The New Yorker. (A polyglot meaning one who can speak multiple languages; a hyperpolyglot meaning a person who can speak 11 or more languages.) It will make you marvel at the capacity of the human brain.
When I was a kid, I loved Mariah Carey’s songs “One Sweet Day” and “Always Be My Baby.” One Christmas, I got her live MTV Unplugged album from a cousin. It would be disingenuous to suggest she hadn’t slipped out of my mind as of late, but a recent profile of her in New York Magazine brought all those memories rushing back. It’s worth a read.
Many outside of the journalism world pooh-pooh away the worry or fear faced by some journalists for simply being journalists in a day and age where they’re called “the enemy of the people.” There are certainly a lot of people here in this town who view me as inherently suspect as soon as they learn I work for a newspaper. They’re suspicious of anything we’d want to cover, quick with the catchy but nonsensical “Fake News” insult and eager to tell me why everything I do is corrupt. Two articles recently came to my attention – one just written, the other a few years old now – that help give context to what it is we do. Ben Smith’s most-recent media column in the New York Times describes how journalists are neither the enemy of the people nor should they seek to be the readers’s friends. Margaret Sullivan teaches a basic lesson in the use of anonymous sources, which was undoubtedly circulating this week after a damning report on President Trump’s comments about the military were published in The Atlantic.
Like with how anonymous sources are used, most people don’t understand the degree to which magazine pieces, especially at a publication as reputable as The Atlantic, are fact-checked. Here’s a brief round-up of the work fact-checkers are doing on every article published for The Atlantic. Here’s a little more on fact-checking from the other big dog in the game, The New Yorker. And a little more from The New Yorker. And just a bit more.
Despite all the efforts to fact-check a magazine article, almost none happens in the book publishing world. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen; it just doesn’t happen as a matter of course where the publishers are concerned. Fact-checking in nonfiction books is often paid for by the author, out of advances paid to them for the book. Despite the greater permanence of books, magazines with a much shorter shelf life are the gold standard when it comes to fact-checking.
If you liked what you read, please sign up, follow me on Twitter (@CaryLiljohn06) and then forward to friends to help spread the word.