Last theatre on the right.

As Gareth's workload didn't ease up on him today, I ended up driving alone down to Birmingham to see the 3:50 showing of Memento.

For a few moments today, I considered backing out and not going. Several years ago, I frequently went to movies or watched rented movies alone, but since getting married I haven't done so very often. So today, I drove, alone. Traffic was heavy, and thus the normally 90-minute drives were two hours and two hours and fifteen minutes, respectively. I obsessively, reflexively, kept checking my watch as I sped toward Birmingham. The fluttering gut feeling said that I would be late, and I would miss my one chance to see this movie while it was in theatres.

When I whipped my car into the closest available parking spot, it was 3:56. The movie had probably already started, but I hurried anyway. Last theatre on the right. I walked quickly but tried not to look like I was in a hurry, and when I opened the door to the theatre, the darkness was disorienting.

Most movie theatres are semi-dark at best, with sconces and floor lights to help you find your way. Not here; the only light came from the screen, and my eyes took several minutes to adjust. The theatre felt empty; there were almost no rustling or breathing noises. I stumbled ahead, counted what I thought were seven rows, and blindly ducked into that row and over three seats.

Cell phone, I thought. Cell phone. I scrabbled with my right hand and turned off my phone, and looked up—and five seconds later, the movie began.

It didn't take long to get me absorbed in the plot; it had something to do with the combination of the filmmaking and the darkness of the theatre. Without the exterior light of the theatre itself, the separation between movie and viewer blurs, becomes less apparent. The gap is gone, and if you, the viewer, are not careful, you blur the line between viewing and being.

..and then I looked up, two hours later, and sat there stunned as the credits rolled. The woman behind me blurted, "What the fuck?"

As for the movie: I'm dumbfounded. I don't know what to say. I don't know what I can say without giving away the plot. It needs to be experienced in its entirety, not revealed piecemeal by a gloating, knowing friend.

All I can say is that it's one of the most original, inventive, and well-told movies I've encountered in a long time. It is what it is, in the Being John Malkovich sense, and I dearly wish I'd seen it earlier so that I would've had the chance to see it more than once.

I hope it's remembered come Oscar time, as it's deserving of whatever nominations it gets.

The rest will have to wait until my friends see it; I don't want to be blamed for giving plot points away. But…wow. It is a pity that Memento did not receive a wider screening. More people should have seen this.


The rest of the world can have their Scary Movie XVI or the latest Tom Green yuck-flick. This—Memento—is a shining example of why I care so passionately about movies. I want to think; I want to be amazed, shocked, challenged. I want to walk away with new and strange ideas in my head; I want to be floored by convincing performances filled with depth and nuance. I want movies that will hold up to closer inspection, that provide more insight the more intensely I stare at them.

In the end, I want more than just the evocation of emotion. I want art, I want craft, I want technical proficiency, I want believability.

I ask so very very much of movies, and I am so often bitterly disappointed. But I ask so much not because I want to be snobbish or prove my cinematic literacy—no, I ask because I know that there are directors, cinematographers, and actors who are thoroughly capable of producing the kind of storyline, acting, and production that I ask for.

When you know that such excellence is possible, how can you ask for less? How can you not be a little disappointed when you get less—and, how can you not be just a little overjoyed when someone produces the kind of movie that lives up to your standards?

A few times each year, a movie's ending credits roll, and I am not disappointed or frustrated. Those few times are what keeps me coming back to the theatres. They are why I watch movies—because when it is done right, it is so, so wonderful.

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