Let’s (Not ALL) Go to the Movies: A Handy 4-Step Safety Guide (Safety Not Guaranteed)

AMC at Night!

What’s missing from this picture? The answers may not surprise you!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: once upon a time I used to go to the movies a bit too often and write about my experiences. In 2020 I managed to catch Birds of Prey, The Invisible Man, and Onward on the big screen before the Age of Coronavirus slammed the doors shut on that hobby for the foreseeable future. On a related note, next January’s “Best and Worst Movies of the Year” entry should take me far less time to write than usual.

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My 2019 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Top Ten

The Farewell!

Okay, who wants to tell Grandma that Awkwafina won a Golden Globe and she didn’t?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2019 I made 28 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the majority from pretty-keen to The Worst. And now, the countdown concludes with the ten most relatively awesome:

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My 2019 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: Everything Below the Top Ten

James McAvoy!

James McAvoy gave his all for three different movies, all sunken into this list’s bottom half. Better luck next year, my dude.

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

I saw 32 films in theaters in 2019 — another new personal record, beating last year’s record-breaking — but four were Best Picture nominees officially released in 2018 and therefore disqualified from this list, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. Ranking those four from Best to Least Best:

  1. The Favourite
  2. Vice
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody
  4. Green Book

Of the remaining 28 contenders that I saw in theaters, we had seven super-hero films; three animated films; nine non-superhero sequels, two of those animated; just one prequel; and four book adaptations. Obviously you’ll note the following list is far from comprehensive in covering 2019’s release slate. Once again this was a busy year during which I failed to spend gas money on every film that caught my attention.

Here’s the rundown of what I didn’t miss in theaters in 2019, for better or worst-of-the-worst. Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. And now, on with the bottom half of the countdown:

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Yes, There Are Scenes During AND After the “Captain Marvel” End Credits

Captain Marvel!

My son had to remind me Brie Larson used to be on Community. I thought he was confusing her with Alison Brie, but no, he remembered Brie Larson was Abed’s girlfriend Rachel, and I’m like WHOOOOOOA.

Years from now we’ll all look back on the historical debacle that was the Not-Great Captain Marvel Flame War of 2019 and we’ll laugh about it if only to keep from breaking down in tears at how deeply the fandom-at-large had reached yet another embarrassing nadir. Until then, here’s a shout-out to those millions of kids out there finding delight and inspiration in the sight of a wondrous super-woman punching her way through an evil spaceship armada at hyperspeed, like a young Princess Diana plowing through German soldiers.

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My 2018 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Least Worst

mary poppins returns!

Off we go!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2018 I made 24 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the bottom twelve. And now, the countdown concludes with the twelve most relatively awesome:

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My 2018 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

pacific rim uprising!

We live in topsy-turvy times when Transformers don’t star in the worst robot film of the year.

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

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My 2017 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Least Worst

Last Jedi!

The indefatigable Rey, future head of the New Jedi Order alongside her new best pal Mara Jade. Look, we can dream, okay?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2017 I made 21 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the bottom eleven. And now, the countdown concludes:

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My 2017 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

Transformers 5!

Academy Award Winner Sir Anthony Hopkins, exchanging Merchant Ivory dignity for the opportunity to earn zillions spouting toy robot origin gibberish and Witwicky family lineage mythology balderdash.

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

I saw twenty-five films in theaters in 2017, but four were Best Picture nominees officially released in 2016 and therefore disqualified from this list, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. (Ranking those four from Best to Least Best: Fences, Lion, Hidden Figures, and Manchester by the Sea. Of those four, nothing has haunted me throughout 2017 more than the Attack of the 50-Foot Viola Davis.)

Of the remaining 21 contenders that I saw in theaters, we had eight super-hero sequels or continuations, though one of them didn’t reveal that till the final scene; five non-superhero sequels; one reboot; two adaptations of printed works (one already famously done); one non-superhero animated film (possibly an all-time low for me); and four live-action original works. Obviously you’ll note the following list is far from comprehensive in covering 2017’s release slate. This was such a busy year for us that spare time for theater-going was in much shorter supply than usual, to say nothing of the impact that Netflix’s strong TV-series slate has had on my viewing habits. On the bright side, 21 films is a 10% increase over my total for 2016, which wasn’t much of a year.

(For what it’s worth, I decided to set aside most Oscar-potential films until after the official nominations announcement is made on January 23rd. I definitely plan to get around to Get Out soon, and for light kicks maybe Cars 3 if it ever reaches Netflix, where I noticed the other day they now have Pirates of the Caribbean 5 for any die-hard cheapskate Captain Jack Sparrow fans willing to kill 2½ hours to catch up on his antics. Last year I was not one of those.)

In the meantime, here’s what I didn’t miss in theaters in 2017, for better or worst-of-the-worst. Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. And now, on with the bottom half of the countdown:

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“Blade Runner 2049” and the Importance of Theatrical Competence

Blade Runner 2049!

All things considered, such a beautiful film made it extremely hard to choose just one moment for our lead photo.

When I was 10 the original Blade Runner was the first R-rated film I ever saw in theaters. Mom had a strict policy against them till I was a teenager, but made the first exception while we were on vacation visiting family who wanted to see it. I’d already read and enjoyed the Marvel Comics adaptation by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson, and did Mom the unspoken favor of asking her to lead me to the bathroom as soon as I knew Joanna Cassidy’s nude scene was coming. It was the least I could do in return for the opportunity to see revolutionary science fiction cinema unfold before my eyes.

Other kids had the first two Star Wars films, neither of which I saw till adulthood. I had Blade Runner. I never needed or expected a sequel. Not every story needs to be a never-ending saga. 35 years later, here we are anyway.

That was the intro I wrote before I saw Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 on its second weekend of release, capturing my trepidation in advance regardless of whether it blew me away or offended me with corporate greed. I’m sad to say that evening was an unpleasant experience.

It wasn’t the movie’s fault. It was Regal Cinemas’.

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2015 Road Trip Photos #11: Lights of Birmingham

Electra!

“Electra” has stood atop the Alabama Power Building downtown since 1926. Her origins lie closer to Greek mythology than to any similarly named Marvel characters.

Our two-hour walk around downtown Birmingham on a Sunday morning took us from Kelly Ingram Park to Linn Park to the Art Museum and to other parts here and there. We also stopped at their bus station because Anne had it good authority that they had one of those smashed-penny machines. I don’t mention those often in our travelogues, but those are a big, BIG thing for her. You’d be surprised how many of our stops over the years appeared on her smashed-penny machine master list months before they appeared on our finalized itineraries. This time, though, either her informant was misinformed or the bus station management hid it in some far-off back room. We weren’t prepared to go that deeply into the heart of bleakness.

We took zero photographs of the bus station, but other curiosities caught our eye as we traipsed around town. Electra up there, for example.

Right this way for downtown Birmingham potpourri!

The Night Bruce Campbell Came to Town

Bruce Campbell!

Famous movie guy Bruce Campbell creates a special moment for some other fan. Hero of the autograph line!

All the major news media completely missed the fact that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the first time Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead trilogy and other favored works, directed a feature film. I was reminded this evening as I was digging through a stack of old 35mm photos in a beat-up shoebox labeled “2005” and ran across evidence of the time Campbell hosted a special screening here in Indianapolis. And I was there!

Right this way for a few old pics from the Golden archives!

2013 Road Trip Photos #1: the First of Two Springfields

Each year our family embarks on an American road trip in a different direction. My wife and I snap photos of all things pretty and peculiar. I create a travelogue partly for fun and partly for my own future reference when my memory fails in my twilight years. Someone needs to remind future-me of the good ol’ days. It might as well be present-me.

This year’s journey was a nine-day trip from Indianapolis to Boston and back again, with a few stops in each direction. Regular MCC followers were previously privy to photo-a-day highlights while we were on the road. In a series of non-consecutive entries, I’ll be sharing a plethora of photos from each of our major stopovers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, and upstate New York. Our experience wasn’t always sweetness and smiles, but we did our best to capture the sights and souls of our immediate surroundings.

The links to the full series, including the nine on-the-go entries, will be collected on a new main page shortly, same as was done for our 2012 road trip. Anyone who missed a chapter, joins in progress, or Googles their way here a year from now will be more than welcome to hop aboard. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

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Day One was spent covering half the driving distance between Indianapolis and Boston. Though some families rotate drivers and stay on the road nonstop until they reach point B, we plan our itinerary with a maximum of nine hours’ driving per day. Past experience has taught us that’s roughly the boundary beyond which we can’t stand being trapped in a car with each other and need a time-out from the road.

First tourism-based stop of the day: Springfield, Ohio — home to a few different statues, reason enough for us to drop by. My wife’s primary objective here: this Madonna of the Trail, one of twelve found along the same national highway.

Madonna of the Trail, Springfield, Ohio

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A Maudlin Moment about Moribund Marquees and Missing Metropolis

State Theatre, Anderson, Indiana

Every empty marquee tells a story:

Once upon a time, there was a community gathering place where citizens and neighbors shared adventure, laughter, heartbreak, tension, jingoism, victory, sorrow, dreams, and amazement in a cozy, rarefied atmosphere bereft of stereo sound, digital imagery, comfortable upholstery, or ads teaching you baseline smartphone manners. Many a childhood memory was born there, many a relationship begun there, many a care in the world set aside for two hours inside a temporary escape hatch offering inspiration or respite.

Something something something, and then it closed forever and now it’s an eyesore, and did you hear about the acrimonious lawsuits raging behind closed doors as we speak, but hey, at least we have a Redbox kiosk on every other corner. And they all lived in isolation ever after.

The name of the town changes like a Mad Libs answer. Sometimes the part about the lawsuits is redacted because no one cares enough to sue anyone else over its demise. But the rest of the story is frequently the same.

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Tips for Running a Movie Theater for Fun and Profit

MPAA spoofThe last time my family went to the theater, the ads that ran from the film’s scheduled showtime until the moment the feature presentation began spanned over twenty minutes. Many of the ads were movie trailers, but not all of them. Ads for new cars, smartphones, TV shows, and soft drinks are routine pre-show entertainment while you’re settling into your seat, mentally preparing yourself for temporary phone deprivation, swapping notes with your companions, and consuming your snack too early. Even when it’s ostensibly showtime, the commercial parade isn’t over yet, because a lot of manufacturers want a moment of your time, in exchange for keeping your theater in business.

According to a Hollywood Reporter article this week, the National Assocation of Theater Owners have decided that movie studios are taking advantage of your presence, and it’s all their fault that your time is being wasted. Obviously the owners can’t simply run fewer spots, because then here comes the poorhouse. To that end, NATO members are demanding an amended guideline limiting trailers to a maximum of two minutes, slashed from the current 2½-minute boundary.

We can infer from various statements in that THR article that owners believe this will reduce the length of the pre-show, instead of giving them latitude to run even more ads that eat up the same allotted minutes. They believe that it would be harder for shorter trailers to give away the entire movie, apparently forgetting that most romantic comedies can be boiled down to their primal essence in twelve seconds flat. They seem to think the current limit is a recent abuse of creative power, somehow unaware that trailers in the ’40s and other nostalgic decades could occasionally run well past the three-minute mark, sometimes spooling entire scenes instead of mere quick-cut snippets.

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