Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 5 movie-going moments of 2014

This was a bit of an odd year for me in terms of movie-going. I visited some venues for the first time, such as the Walter Reade in Manhattan's Lincoln Center (something I wanted to talk about but never did; oh well), Movieworld here in Queens, and Videology in Brooklyn. But I also walked out of a movie for the first time in a long time, and I saw the custodians of one of my favorite theaters do battle with the city it calls home for control of that same theater. Plus, I didn't do as many outdoor movies as in the recent past. It's okay, though; I still had a good time at the movies overall, and these are the best of those times. If you're new here, this list isn't about the best movies I saw this year (that comes in another month or so), but rather, the most memorable moments I had at the movies this year.

5. Interstellar in 70mm at the Ziegfeld. When I wrote about this, I said that I wasn't certain if the difference between seeing a movie on celluloid and seeing it on digital was that noticeable, and I was totally wrong. It occurred to me afterwards, though, that I had seen Doubt at the Loews Jersey City on celluloid, earlier this year, in fact, and I remember noticing the difference then (probably because it was a recent movie as opposed to an old one), but I never said anything about it. And I think that I should have. Regardless, although Interstellar probably won't make my top ten for the year, I am grateful for the opportunity to have seen it on celluloid, in 70mm, in a grand movie theater like the Ziegfeld.

4. Visiting the Alamo Drafthouse for the first time. I saw The Wind Rises, but really, this is a case where the movie was irrelevant: I finally had the Alamo experience! I had to go far out of my way for it - all the way to Yonkers - but it was worth it. A restaurant-worthy menu, wait staff serving my food directly to my seat, pre-show entertainment worth paying attention to, a zero tolerance policy on talkers and texters - I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Alamo is what all movie theaters should aspire to. Eagerly looking forward to the opening of the Brooklyn location next year.

3. He Who Gets Slapped with the Alloy Orchestra at Prospect Park. Any opportunity to see a film with a live score by the Alloy is a cause for celebration, and this was no exception, especially as part of such a bizarre and darkly fascinating movie as He Who Gets Slapped. Having Aurora and Joe along didn't hurt either. I had the great pleasure of seeing three movies with Aurora this year, in fact, and this was the best of them. Next time I go to Prospect Park or any outdoor venue, though, I have got to remember to bring some bug spray!

2. West Side Story with Rita Moreno at the United Palace. I haven't been back to Washington Heights' new-old theater since seeing West Side Story, but when I do, I imagine it'll be mighty hard to top the evening I had there way back in February. Dancers on stage before the show, live music and more dancing in the lobby during intermission and at the end, a packed and pumped-up crowd, and to top it all off, a rare appearance by an entertainment legend, Rita Moreno, who was as charming and candid and lively as you would expect her to be. This was truly a special night, and I hope that the Palace can continue in this vein. If you live in the NYC area, by all means, make the trip uptown to see a film at this extraordinary movie palace that has been well-preserved throughout the years.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy. Full stop. There have been other movies this year that have entertained me, whether through laughter or tears. There have been better movies overall in terms of originality, vision and theme. But Guardians was different - and if you had told me in advance that this movie could thrill and amuse me as much as it did, I would've laughed in your face! And I can't even point to comic book nostalgia as the reason why I had such a good time with this movie, because this is an incarnation of the Guardians that I'm completely unfamiliar with. Kudos to director James Gunn and all involved for making a sci-fi adventure that, while derivative, was unafraid to just let loose and be a little bit silly and have a good time, and isn't that what going to the movies should be all about, in the end?

Share your best movie-going moments from this year if you got 'em.

2013 top five
2012 top five
2011 top five

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