We soon say goodbye to Project Producer & Lead Designer Faith Stevens after being at The Grand for over five years… but not before we share this not-review of Foxtrot dug up from the Google Drive archives and never-before-published. Enjoy.
I rank art in order of importance, which is a foolish thing, perhaps, for anyone to do. Nevertheless, I do, and you may ridicule away starting now… GO!
Okay, now that you have that out of your system, let's get to my rankings:
I have this idea that there is a best thing, and then there is a derivative of that best thing. Hearing a story told (performance art) is always going to be better than reading a story (written word), etc. And among these items I have even more sub-rankings. I will point out again that this is potentially a waste of time and who the frick cares, least of all me, all of this is subjective, yada yada. But time and time again I find myself subconsciously shuffling things around based on some of these criteria anyway. For example, I feel very smug after a visit to the art museum, and much less smug after watching a bunch of tv. This may be something lots of folks do, so I'll go first and take some heat for you all.
To put it another way, which is better: a live music performance, or a music recording; watching a dance performance in real life or watching a recording of a dance performance; seeing a painting in person or a photo of a painting; eating a delicious meal or seeing a beautiful photo of food on Instagram; reading an essay on a particular piece of music or listening to it yourself; looking at a colorful sunset or seeing a gorgeous painting of the same subject? I could go on, but my point is this: there are nuances in the way HOW we interact with art changes WHAT we are experiencing. This fact is okay. There is nothing wrong with it. There are arguments to be made for the merit of each.
Our ability to approach creative work from multiple angles is valuable. Who is to say that seeing a piece of music performed live is inherently a better thing than listening to a favorite recording in solitude at the end of a long day? And, if we are completely honest, the medium of how we engage is often what dictates what we are able to experience anyway. A microphone ultimately holds the power over whether or not we can hear a musician fill a large venue with sound for a whole collective to experience together, for example. For the written word to transform storytelling into something to be consumed by many, the printing press first had to be made.
The movie theater and projector are two of the tools that filmmakers have utilized to perfect their craft. Much like painters often start with the beautiful restrictions of a two dimensional blank surface to then transform into innumerable visions, filmmakers have been working on exploring the possibilities presented by a dark room and large screen since almost the inception of motion pictures. Playing with light, perspective, camera angles, translating time and space into a visual story… yes, these can be viewed in other formats. You can watch a movie on your phone while riding the bus, you can watch a movie at home on your flat screen with surround sound, you can do this and more. Do those forums have value? Yes, they do. Experiencing creative work can always be worthwhile.
Movie making has been an art form in constant flux.** It began to change almost the moment it began. Silent films to full sound, black and white to brilliant color, 35mm to digital projection: those barely begin to scratch the surface of change that the art form has been full of. Not to mention the constant innovation on the filmmaking side: camera equipment, special effects, animation techniques, virtual reality, the list could go on and on. To point at film and say "this" is the original, or best, is in some ways impossible. However, to say that the experience of watching a movie created for a 30' screen will be the exact same experience of watching that same movie on a sh*tty laptop propped up on a pile of blankets while I fall asleep in sweatpants is simply untrue. Yes, I can still say that I have seen The Godfather, but I doubt the film had the same effect on me as it did for someone who made it a special night on the town and probably wore proper pants.
These are just a few of the thoughts going through my head while watching Foxtrot at the theater a few weeks ago. I say a few because most of my brain was riveted to the film, (so far my #1 of 2018). I knew the movie was coming. I saw the trailer and even shared it with friends and family. "You've got to see this!" I said. As someone with the job of puzzling The Grand’s theater schedule, I even set the showtimes and could estimate how long it would be at the theater. But as the weather outside got sunnier, the days slipped by until its final screening on its final day inevitably was upon me and I still hadn't made time to see the movie. The day of the final screening was seriously the nicest day we'd had up until that point in the year. Dammit.
But I did go see it and agh! it was so good. As the movie played, I felt like I could see, hear, and even taste and smell the parts that I would have missed if I hadn't seen it in a movie theater. I got to have a profound experience. I got to take a slice of my day and turn it into something I would remember for a long time.
Now, not every movie is Foxtrot, and there is lots of room for variations in tastes and experiences. Beavis And Butt-Head Do America is also a film I have seen in the movie theater. However, until movie-makers are creating work that is specifically intended to be experienced with a 4" screen and headphones, making a trip to the theater will be a worthwhile endeavor. I challenge you to put pants on and prove me wrong.
* these are actually tied
** at least I'm pretty sure