I just finished - literally, about five minutes ago - a book called A Year at the Movies: One Man's Filmgoing Odyssey. It was written by Kevin Murphy, a performer and writer on the cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000. (He was Tom Servo.) The premise was simple: Every day of 2001, Murphy went to a theater and saw a movie. Every single day. No exceptions.
The book is not a diary. It is not a review book of every movie he saw. Rather, it's a book about going to the movies, every wonderful and horrible aspect of it. Each week gets its own chapter, and each chapter has its own theme. For example, one week he decided to live on nothing but concession food. Another week he spent seeing second-run films in discount theaters. In the summer he took a weeklong road trip across the country and saw films at drive-ins. He spent three weeks in Australia, seeing films in a different country. (And also visiting the world's smallest commercial theater, run out of a man's house.) He went to the Cannes film festival. He snuck a Thanksgiving dinner into a showing of Monsters, Inc.
But the book's not limited to themed exercises, either. He also tackles some issues that pertain to seeing movies but aren't there in the cinema waiting for you when you buy a ticket. There's a chapter on critics, and what makes a good one and a bad one. There's a chapter on how fans can suck the life out of films instead of enjoying them for what they are. (Two of the movies released in 2001 that Murphy saw had huge fanbases, the first Harry Potter film and the first Lord of the Rings film.) There's a chapter on silent movies and theaters that still show them. And so on.
I enjoyed the book even more because I knew the theaters he was writing about. Murphy lives in Minneapolis and a lot of the theaters he visited I either drove by or heard about during my visit there this summer. (The two Landmark cinemas, for example, and the Mall of America theaters are both extensively covered in this book.) It made the book a more personable read for me, and I'm sure it would do the same for, say, the readers of this blog who actually live in Minneapolis.
I love going to the movies. I have since the day my mother took me to see Peter Pan at some theater in Lafayette when I was a little kid. I love the excitement of pulling up outside a theater, knowing that in a few minutes you're going to see something you've never seen before. The smell of popcorn in the lobby. The plush seats. Walking into a theater and seeing a group of strangers, all of whom will share in this experience together and then go their separate ways when its done, never to see each other again. The trailers before the show starts. The posters in the lobby. Hell, I don't even mind the advertisements. It all makes it fun and I love every minute of it. I have since 1977 and will probably continue to do so until the day I die.
However, I can't stand popcorn. I hate popcorn. It's like eating puffs of air that leave annoying remnants in your teeth that you're still spitting out hours later. Theaters must hate me since I never buy any concessions.
I picked up this book thinking it would be nothing more than a silly gimmick repeated over and over again. Instead I found a funny, interesting book that reminded me why I love going to the movies. If your passion for film runs as deep as mine - and you know who you are - read this book soon. You won't regret it.