The first came on Saturday when I went to the Odeon in Bath to see the new romcom movie Marley & Me.
On the surface this isn’t the kind of film that would normally get me through the Odeon’s door but as a proud owner of an extremely mischievous labrador (that's my dog Snoopy pictured here as an innocent looking pup - oh boy has she changed!!!!) I was intrigued to see the film version of John Grogan’s book.
The film was pretty good (I won’t go much further than that), but why it had an impact on me in a ‘this-is-why-I-love-the cinema’ kind of way is that it produced a wonderful collective moment.
Without going into too much detail, although this is a lightly comic piece, there are a couple of scenes which do (quite spectacularly) tug at the old heart-strings and this is where watching a film in a cinema leaves seeing it at home on the TV for dead.
As we watched the somewhat sad events unfold on screen, I started to hear the odd snuffle. This snuffle started to grow into what sounded like something of an epidemic and soon we were all left in an uncomfortable silence broken only by people quietly letting their emotions show or desperately trying not to with fake coughs and yawns.
OK, you could have felt a little bit manipulated by all the schmaltz – but it still worked very powerfully.
Being in a cinema when emotions like this are expressed really does have a power. Whether it’s hearing a whole audience laughing hysterically or sharing that stunned silence at the end of a movie when nobody really wants to move (I certainly sensed that after The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas), this experience is something to behold.
Probably my favourite example of this goes way back to when I did my training as a journalist in Sheffield at the time ET came out. About 20 of us young reporters made a pilgrimage to see the movie and I should think half of these would-be cynical old hacks were blubbing like babies as that somewhat ugly alien looked like it was dying. Better still, and this still remains a one-off in my experience, the moment ET took Elliot’s bike off the ground and into the sky to avoid the police, half the audience stood up and cheered. It was an amazing spontaneous moment which reminded us again of the unique magic of the cinema.
Two days after seeing Marley, I spent a very enjoyable evening at the wonderful Little Theatre in Bath for one of their superbly organised film quizzes. It is always good to be in the presence of people who know their onions – and trust me, many people at this quiz were practically full-time onion producers.
We thought we had a crack team (me, our business reporter Rupert Hall, our leisure reporter Dan Biggane and my proud film snob son Oliver) and we went under the great name of The Bath Chronicles of Riddick. That name, however, turned out to be one of the few good decisions we made all night as we went on to crash and burn and muster a score of just 37 per cent.
I knew we were in trouble when, anticipating that we would get a question such as ‘Name the characters in the Magnificent Seven’ (pictured left) I asked one of our number (Dan) and he said ‘The Hulk’ as he thought they were a super hero team.
Despite (or maybe even because) we struggled a bit, we really enjoyed the night and it felt great to be in the presence of people (like) us who truly love their movies.
Next on my film agenda is the Brian Clough movie – The Damned United. Bet that won’t make me cry. ..