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The Joy of Movie Fest…

So, the inaugural Movie Fest is over. It was an amazing (and successful) attempt to bring pop film to Dublin, organised by Vince Donnelly and the team at movies.ie. Vince should really and honestly be proud of what he accomplished, because spending the weekend at the festival was the most enjoyable weekends I’ve had in quite some time. There’s something about that sort of communal celebration of cinema that makes these sorts of festivals and conventions so popular, the idea of drawing together movie fans of all ages and backgrounds to share in a unique experience. As a huge film nerd, I do have to concede a giddy thrill at the idea that this is “hardcore.”

Before I continue, Vince deserves huge credit for organising this. Single-handedly organising the footage with the studios, the venue and location, the logistics on the day, it’s no mean feat. And it’s a testament to how much the guy loves cinema. There were six films screened over the weekend. Some were amazing (Refn’s Drive), some were great fun (Fright Night) and some were disappointing (Cowboys & Aliens), but there was something far greater about the experience than the sum of its parts. I think that the team managed the schedule wonderfully, offering something for everybody, but I do think that I still enjoyed the whole thing more than I might have enjoyed a similar six-movie marathon.

The major studios all contributed footage and trailers for upcoming films. Just focusing on the trailers for a moment, I think – in the internet age – we’ve forgotten the wonder of seeing a new movie teased on a gigantic screen, the soundtrack pouring out of an advanced sound system. I really liked the trailer for Fincher’s upcoming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo when I stumbled across it a few months ago, but seeing it projected as intended, Led Zeppling’s Immigrant Song at full volume, nearly blew my mind. The images flashing on screen seemed fuller and richer, and more menacing. I am honestly incredibly excited for the film, as bumped up from “mildly excited” a few months ago.

I think part of the reason that I liked the inclusion of the studio footage was because it felt like some form of engagement from the movie studios. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an entitled fanboy. I don’t owe a movie company anything, and they don’t owe me anything. If I don’t like what they do, I simply don’t pay to see it. That’s the level of complexity at which I engage with the studios. So I won’t try to paint the interaction over the weekend – with video introductions and Comic Con footage – as any especially romantic act on the part of the studios. Instead, I mean “engagement” in that they were trying to sell to me and the people in that room directly. That their marketing pitch was a bit more involved and considerate than a simple two-and-a-half minutes of footage. And I appreciate that sort of thing, as a genuine attempt to engage with movie fanatics.

As an aside, with regards to this footage, I think the real winners were The Amazing Spider-Man and Total Recall. Both are fairly inessential remakes, but footage from both opened my mind a bit. Total Recall looks distinct enough that it doesn’t seem to be trying to replace or replicate the original, and I do love what little of the design I’ve seen. I’ve been pretty vocal about my problems with the Spider-Man trailer, so it was a massive relief when the footage seemed a lot more in line with what I was hoping for. The footage made it clear that Webb’s New York might be a darker place, but that Peter Parker wasn’t really an emo kid – he still has the same bad luck and sense of humour. Favourite moment of footage? Carjacker hops into a vehicle, with Spider-Man waiting to ambush him in the backseat. He asks, “You a cop?” Spider-Man pauses, gestures to his spider mask and replies, “Really?” But I digress.

But still, there is something great about getting that “exclusive” or that “sneak peek.” I don’t think it’s anything to do with being “first”, as the vast majority of footage had already aired, but I think the excitement comes from the fact that it’s being added here just for us film-geeks. I read an interesting article a little while ago that suggested a major part of the thrill of being a film buff in the old days was having to hunt down old classic films as opposed to being handed them (a feeling I can empathise with) and perhaps that’s part of the thrill here. It’s the fact that this is a little something “extra” that has helped us earn our stripes. Sure, sitting in a darkened room for sixteen hours over a weekend sounds easy, but it’s hardcore man. You weren’t there. Unless you were – in which case you know what I’m talking about and we share a bond, man.

Because, despite what you might say, there is something incredible about being surrounded by an audience that loves films. In general, I think that the larger the audience the better, but I think there’s a huge difference between the quite considerable joy of a cinema packed to the rafters with people relaxing after work on a Friday, as measured against the boundless enthusiasm of those who commuted in at 10am on a Sunday morning to see the latest from the director of Zombieland. Even if you don’t necessarily know too many of the crowd personally, I think there’s something lovely about sharing that experience. Because I think movies are one of those rare experiences that we feel completely comfortable sharing with random strangers.

Maybe it’s the fact that the lights are so low nobody can really see you, or that there’s always a guy two rows ahead who laughs louder than you anyway, but I think people are far more comfortable expressing raw human emotion – if you’re lucky, laughter, joy, tears, pity, surprise, shock – than they would be in any other social setting. And I think that the joy of getting a bunch of people like that together, to share those experiences, each with a deep affection for the medium, is always worth celebrating. Perhaps that’s the great things about hobbies and interests, they give you something in common with hundreds of complete strangers – and thus serve to make the strangers… well, less strange.

So, take a bow, everyone involved, for organising a wonderful event. And let me know when I can book for next year.

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