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Scrawls Top 10: Top 10 Moviegoing Experiences

In honor of the reopening of the movies and the “new normal”, we brought in our very own Seth Monyette to look back on the past to remind us of what we have to look forward to in the future.

Note from the writer: Hello folks, here at Scrawls on Cinema we are launching Top 10 Week. None of the other Scrawls contributors have agreed to this, nor have I run it by a single one of them, but I find that lighting a fire under someone’s… YOU KNOW WHAT… often leads to one’s best work. Be sure to tune in over the course of the week for some industry-shattering listicles.

Folks, in honor of the imminent Return to the Theater, I have decided to finally document some of the more colorful moviegoing experiences I have accumulated in my lifetime. Yes, it is time to put these encounters from pen to paper to scanner to computer to Word doc to Scrawls on Cinema. 😊 What follows are but a few of those once in a lifetime movie-going experiences that happen to us all, which lead us marching right back into those hallowed grounds of cinematic bliss – a movie theater.

#10 – That Time Leonardo DiCaprio Entered my Theater with a Flamethrower and Torched a Dude Alive to Promote Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

“Leo! Leo! Leo!” – the chant echoing in that theater as this occurred is forever engrained in my brain. We even convinced him to pop a few un-popped kernels left in the bottom of our popcorn bag! Unforgettable.

#9 – When I Accidentally Saw the Parody Film Dumbkirk – AND LOVED IT

An excellent parody film that beat for beat follows the events of Dunkirk however, and here’s the twist, every character speaks at an alarmingly slow speed, and none understand how to operate a gun. Low stakes, but hilarious!

#8 – When Jared Leto Dapped Me Up in the Men’s Restroom and Then Challenged Me to a Breakdance Battle While Still in the Men’s Restroom

Our battle lasted hours, until finally Jared conceded. Afterwards he handed me a t-shirt, and by the time I read it I realized he had adorned one himself. The shirt read, “The Piss Break-dancers – Starring Seth & Jared”

#7 – That Time I Did a Butter Keg-Stand for No Reward

Although you could argue that there certainly was a reward!

#6 – That Time I Yelled at the Projectionist: “Ehhhhh how about ya do better next time pal! The movie was upside fuckin’ down!” 

Look folks, we all know that Projectionists usually bring their A-Game. Usually, I love and adore the artistic interpretation that a projectionist can bring to the movie-going experience, but in this instance the guy blew it and I got a chance to provide a critique directly to Hollywood (which was heard by the way, as my next movie-going experience provided a right-side-up film!). As the final cog in the Hollywood machine the projectionist’s role is oft-overlooked, yet ever so critical and with a surprisingly large amount of artistic input. I for one, am typically in love with that classic projectionist-director back and forth, where the projectionist says, “No this shot should be over HERE now,” or, “how ‘bout a little bam bam flipadoo when the plane does the spinny maneuver!” But the director’s over there screamin’, “No! No! My vision! My vision! Oh God, here we go!” What comes of their marriage… This is why we love the movies.

#5 – When Santa Entered the Theater While Die Hard Was Playing and Proclaimed it Not a Christmas Movie… But a Channukah Movie???

Look I know we all get sensitive about this kinda stuff, especially around this time of year, but the man himself cleared it up and so let’s shut the argument down, alright PC Police!?

#4 – When Steven Spielberg Sat Next to me During War Horse and Kept Leaning Over to Whisper in My Ear “This is my favorite part.”

My craziest brush-in with a Hollywood GOD to date. Have you ever had to hush one of your idols? I sure have!

#3 – That Time I Saw Aquaman in 4D and Nearly Drowned

Talk about immersion! I was immersed in water! (RIP to my good friend Alex, who did not manage to escape the theater in time.)

#2 – The Time the Ticket Salesman was Actually James Cameron Doing an Undercover Boss 

As he is the boss of the movies, James decided to see “what it’s like” for a regular old movie theater employee, and boy was he stunned when I recognized him underneath that beehive wig!!! What can I say, I know my James “Camera-Man” when I see him!

 #1 – “Run Forrest Run!”

IYKYK… 🙂

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How to View Cinema Correctly

Have you ever finished a film with a friend, and they proceed to immediately launch into their theory on what they believe it “meant”? They instantly seem to have the answer for what the director was “trying to say,” and meanwhile you have drool spilling out of the corner of your mouth. You are lost in thought, still trying to grasp how to pronounce Joaquin Phoenix’s name, and you’re half sure his name might actually be Joker Phoenix. Your friend rattles off a phrase like “Capitalistic Masculinity.” You nod your head like the mindless, cog-in-the-machine, drone soy-boy freak that you are… and to top it all off, you feel like a ginormous dummy.

This feeling of shame you hold is because your “friend” in this scenario, is better than you are. They watch movies better than you do. You are, in short, an uncultured caveman and a freak. Which, as we both know, is not acceptable. Your reputation is on the line, and if you don’t have a theory as to what that film “meant” ready to regurgitate in the movie theater parking lot, then your ass is grass my friend (your friends will kill you, chop you into pieces, and smoke you like they would weed and/or grass).

In this essay I will educate the reader (soon to be VIEWER (film viewer that is!)) on how to watch a film, using my professional guidelines… but I will not just teach you how to watch film. I will teach you how to absorb film, so that it truly becomes one with your being, much like the xenomorph in the Alien film series. And too, much like the xenomorph in Alien, this newfound film passion will burst out of your chest in a fiery bout of expression, and everyone in your surroundings shall exclaim, “Wow.” If ever you have wanted to “wow” your friends, well then this is the specific essay on a blog chock-full of young men ranting about movies into the void for you.

SETH’S FILM VIEWING RULES:

Rule #1: NO PHONES

You want to watch movies? Then hurl your phone into a river, or other large body of water. Phones have no place in the life of a cinephile, it is a mere distraction – and I don’t want to hear any of that BS about “emergencies”. There’s an emergency happening right in front of you! It’s called The Inciting Incident! As Alfred Hitchcock once famously state, “Movies – the final frontier.” Note how he said movies and NOT phones!

Rule #2: FOCUS

So, you just finished a film. Great. Good work. Now, quickly, recite every line of dialogue from the beginning of the film on… What’s that? You can’t? Well, looks like it’s back to frame one with you! And this time, how about paying attention?! A cinephile must have A Beautiful Mind and a photographic memory (or even better, a cinematographic memory!) if they want to earn the respect of others. True cinephiles will, in fact, often speak in terms of which frame a certain scene or line of dialogue occurred so you had better focus up.

After a film, one film buff might say, “I truly enjoyed the diction and framing found in frames 3,134 through 4,433. The delivery of such dialogue, particularly with the surrounding mise en scène illuminating the importance of such words, was incredibly profound and worthy of a Certified Fresh rating from the film critic Rotten Tomatoes.”

To which you would respond, “Frame 3,134 through 4,433. Yes. The low exposure of the film made it quite dark, and when he said ‘Rosebud’ I found myself nodding and stroking my chin with delight. Good. Thank you for saying that.” These are the conversations you have to look forward to upon completing my essay and promptly logging it on Goodreads.

Rule #3: STAND AS YOU WATCH

This rule is quite controversial. I say this as someone who has had virtually every object feasibly held in a movie theater rifled at the back of my head while standing upright in a movie theater, and yet still I stand. The fact is this, movies are the products of the hard work and toil of countless studio executives. If you cannot respect that and show solidarity by standing in respect of movies, and what movies stands for in this country, then you might as well get the fuck off of this website.

My ideal movie theater has no chairs. It has little white boxes drawn in chalk on an entirely flat surface that moviegoers will all stand in with perfect posture, and there they will respectfully stare at a 72 × 53 ft screen in sheer silence.

Rule #4: NO ESCAPE

As a cinephile, once you have begun a film, you have signed a contract of sorts with the filmmakers. This contract states that you will not quit mid-film. You will watch it in its entirety or be shunned all the way down into the Cinephile Underworld (a location I intend to write about further at a later date). The fact that the doors in movie theaters are not locked as soon as the film begins is a fact that sickens me beyond belief and has often kept me awake at night… watching movies! So perhaps I can’t complain.

Rule #5: UTILIZE YOUR FILM CHARM

I assume that, if you are interested in becoming a true cinephile, you already own a personal film charm. However, for those of you that are unaware, a film charm is a magical and unique object of importance to both oneself and cinema. After each film viewing, your film charm absorbs the energy of the moving image and harnesses it as a form of pure, unbridled, and raw moviegoing power. You must keep your film charm on your person for all film viewings if you wish to grow as a cinephile, as this power can then be harnessed to “level up” in a sense and make you a smarter person. This process is unique to each charm. As my charm is a VHS copy of Mrs. Doubtfire, I must re-watch Mrs. Doubtfire in its entirety (including special features) in order to absorb its power. I know what you’re thinking, “wouldn’t watching Mrs. Doubtfire just refill the charm, and thus creating an endless cycle of moviegoing vigor?” This would be incorrect and foolish. This is not how film charms work.­­­­

My film charm (left), a VHS copy of Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). My best friend Trevor’s film charm (right) at a recent meeting, Rate Race (2000).

Rule #6: JAMES CAMERON ONLY

You must only watch James Cameron movies.

(an exception obviously lies in a circumstance where one is absorbing harnessed energy from one’s film charm.)

James Cameron

There you have it. With these 6 rules I can effectively guarantee that you will become among the greatest film critics in the world, nay the galaxy. And after a lifelong adherence to these rules, your visage will live among the stars alongside the greats – and no… not Hollywood stars, but the real stars… up in the sky – God’s Movies.

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Blog Director Guides

Akira Kurosawa – Where To Start?

Wow. What a phenomenal question. Little do you know, dear reader, that I am the perfect person to ask such a question. You really crushed it.

Throughout quarantine, I have been tearing through my favorite film director’s filmography – which is rather immense. Clocking in at 30 films, with a career spanning 57 years, Akira Kurosawa’s body of work is breathtaking, sculpted, bursting at the seams with the sheer flexing of filmmaking muscle. It is quite the body. Which is exactly why Akira Kurosawa was given the Academy Award for Greatest Bodybuilder in 1969 (no citation; this is not true).

For myself at the onset of quarantine, the answer to the already neglected question I posed with the title of this essay was simple – the beginning. I began with Kurosawa’s first film Sanshiro Sugata, a sports drama about a young man who becomes debatably the best Judo martial artist in Japan – though I remain confident that were I around, I could very well kick his ass in half.

However, in the spirit of the very same agility and shiftiness employed by the very same Sanshiro Sugata (from the very same film Sanshiro Sugata), I must juke you out, dear reader, and say that I cannot recommend you begin your inevitable Kurosawa Quest with Sanshiro Sugata. Though certainly an inoffensive piece of filmmaking, Sanshiro Sugata is truly a foundational piece for our beloved Kurosawa and holds more value as a document in his historic filmmaking trajectory than a standalone piece.

So, now we are all asking, “Will Seth just answer the god-damn question?” Yes. And I will be answering it in the most unsatisfactory way imaginable. With a fury-inducing, “Well… it depends.”

Let us begin with the genre of Action, the genre (along with drama) that Kurosawa most frequently visited. The obvious answer is to begin with Kurosawa’s most famous and beloved epic Seven Samurai. An action-packed yet emotional journey and masterclass in directing, editing, and acting – Seven Samurai is one of the most beloved action films in film history for a reason. It is also one of many films in Kurosawa’s filmog that have had elements ripped endlessly by other filmmaker’s globally, and in the case of the beloved Hollywood western The Magnificent Seven,almost directly re-made with no writing credit given to Kurosawa. Notably, Kurosawa responded to this slight with pure class, and reportedly enjoyed the film so much that he presented director John Sturges with a ceremonial sword… LODGED IN HIS BACK!!!


(this is also un-true, Akira Kurosawa did not ever commit murder, I think)

Let us say you do not have much of an action attraction, no need to worry. For all you TNT fans, yes, all you Drama Mama’s (fans of drama) look no further than Ikiru. Ikiru is a film about an aging Japanese bureaucrat who is diagnosed with cancer, and in his final days he decides to do all that he can to get a neighborhood playground built. It is debatably the most gut-wrenching film I have seen, but I do not mean this in the same way that, say, a war film wrenches your gut. Nor do I mean this in the way that Taco Bell and 4 gin and tonics wrenches your gut. Rather, Ikiru instills a beautifully somber hope within the viewer by its conclusion, even encouraging self-evaluation in one’s own life for the better – such as the best films can do. I cannot recommend this film enough, as when I first viewed it, it ignited within my 17-year-old self a small bonfire that would soon grow completely out of control and form a roaring inferno of flames found only within the heart of a fully-fledged film freak.

Let’s say you are a romantic, shall we? Well firstly, I might recommend William Shakespeare’s classic 1500s indie novel Romeo & Juliet, and once you finish that I must recommend Akira Kurosawa’s lesser known, yet brilliant and hopeful 1947 Romance-drama film One Wonderful Sunday. A gorgeous film about a young couple in a war-ravaged Tokyo trying to make the most of a weekend with very little money between the two of them. As is standard in most Kurosawa pictures, this film is not pigeon-hole-able as a pure romance film. Its setting quite obviously denies that. However, the two inexperienced lead actors in this film act their entire hearts out and it is impossible to not fall in love with their relationship, and lovers of joy will be unable to hold back a grin of delight at this film’s stunning conclusion.

Let us say that you are perhaps a Western fanatic! You dressed as a cowboy every year for Halloween and blasted a shoddy .mp3 of Kid Rock’s 1998 single “Cowboy” right off your flip phone’s speakers every morning on the bus-ride to school and got in trouble for hog-tying your best friend David one day because he broke your copy of Red Dead Redemption. Well, if you are the person I have described, I have the perfect recommendation for you…

Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film Yojimbo, although not a western, provided the blueprint for so many beloved westerns to follow. Very notably including the Dollars trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone and starring Richard Jewell’s Clint Eastwood of Richard Jewell fame – A Fistful of Dollars,by the way, being another “unofficial remake” with no Kurosawa credit given. The origin of the endlessly clever, nameless film protagonist with strong morals had its roots in Yojimbo and as you might well know transcended into multiple genres beyond the western and the samurai film. Yojimbo puts on display an oft-seen director trademark for Kurosawa in one of my favorite ways, with strong gusts of wind blasting dust and debris (soon to be famously replaced by the most prolific star of many Western films – tumbleweeds) directly into the slew of bandits and mercenaries that have found a home in the film’s setting – a dilapidated town in the final years of Japan’s Edo Period. And if this film really got your blood pumping, boy do I have a treat for you… a sequel film by the name of Sanjuro was released following the success of Yojimbo, and it is truly just as superb a film.

“But Seth, I only like films in color.” Well, you psychopath, go and watch Kagemusha, a film less mentioned than one of Kurosawa’s other color masterpieces Ran. Kagemusha displays some of the most brilliant use of color you will witness in film. Absolutely stunning for a director who lived in the realm of black and white films for so long.

If you have not seen all of the films I have mentioned above, then I do truly envy you dear reader. You have what I view as the most exciting lineup of films to tear through and if you follow my official guide, I guarantee that you will be satisfied. Additionally, if you watch any Kurosawa film ever and even if I do not even know who you are, feel free to talk to me about the wonderful man known only as The ‘Saw-ster – I would be delighted!