Five of my most memorable moviegoing experiences...or at least what comes to mind first. I am intentionally not listing the Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Trek, and Harry Potter, and maybe a few others, because those are all among my favorite films, and I remember seeing most of them in the theater at some point, but it isn't really fair to other great films in my life because they are pretty obviously awesome, and a bit predictable in my list. Also, I never saw many of my claimed favorites in a theater. So this might be a "what you may not know about me" styled list.
1. Willow (1988). I was nine-and-a-half, and my friend Katie's mom took us, her brother, and my sister to see this film at the mall theater, when tickets were cheap. This is a time when my fear of dogs was at its most intense, and the initial moments of the film with the black devil dogs were terrifying to me. I still have nightmarish images in my mind that I don't think are quite in the movie, including an elaborate sort of kennel. Katie and I proceeded to spend at least a half hour throughout the film out of the theater, "going to the bathroom" as code for "too scared to stay in our seats." By the time the two-headed puddle monster started erupting flame, I knew that this was going to be one of my favorite movies, and genres, ever, but I didn't see the full thing until at least a year later.
2. Fantasia (1990). I was 11 or 12. I was dancing heavily. I liked classical music. I liked cartoons. Into my life came the most amazing combination of some of my favorite things in existence, Fantasia on its 50th anniversary. The pure play of color and shape, the dancing fairies and fish and mushrooms, the hilarity of an ostrich doing plies, the magnificence of Leopold Stokowski...no matter how you slice it, this film rocked. I made sure I received the video (it and Jaws are amongst my first videos that belonged only to me), and I also have the soundtrack on cassette--before they'd fixed the error on the box switching Rite of Spring and the Pastoral Symphony. During my teenage life, I spent many a happy hour watching my video and eating a bagel with peanut butter and drinking chocolate milk. I am cheating here because I don't have vivid memories of seeing this in the theater, but I think both my parents were there, and I was pretty excited, and it was so formative on my experience that I include it anyway.
3. Jurassic Park (1993). I was 14. I saw this movie four times in the theater, which has never happened before or since. Not only that, but my Dad saw it multiple times as well, which is absolutely unheard of from someone who goes to the movies maybe once a year. I was deliciously scared in a way that I had never been before, but also stupefyingly amazed by the combination of live modeling and effects for the dinosaurs--impressed in a way that I have never been by any subsequent film that uses CGI. This is the only film that comes readily to mind in which CGI looks real. I hate when films all focus on "doing stuff" and exciting the eye, instead of how it actually looks, which is invariably unrealistic and therefore dull to me. These dinosaurs looked alive, and therefore so much more like they might rip someone's arm off when the scene ends.
4. X-Files (1998). I have a confession to make: I have no idea who I saw this movie with. If you were with me, fess up...Sarah? Before you left for grad school, maybe? This was right after my first year of college. All I know is, the bee sting scene nearly made my heart stop with anticipation. SO CLOSE! Scully's "Had you big time," Mulder's "Those could be giant Jiffy Pop poppers"...neverending fun, but also awesome in that it was a turning point for the characters and a point of continuity for the series, between seasons. It was like a gift.
5. Crash (2005). While by no stretch of the imagination my favorite movie ever (nor have I even seen it since the first time), this movie stands out in that I can remember every detail of seeing it. Michelle and I had just had lunch at Biaggi's in Levis, and we trundled on to the theater. Afterward, as we left, without looking at each other, Michelle lit up a cig and I started bawling. I cried so hard, and had no idea why...well, that's not true. I knew why, but it also just impressed me that it started of its own volition. We finally looked at each other and just sort of laughed in a "look how helpless we both are right now" way. I was not even remotely surprised when Crash won the Oscar.
What have we learned? This is harder than I expected. I remember seeing films, but not the circumstances of seeing them; likewise, movies I think I should have seen in the theater I can't remember seeing (like The Neverending Story). Probably a "movies my friends introduced me to" would be easier. Maybe another day.