This is about as personal as this blog is probably going to get. Sure, I am going to take a playful tone with a lot of the things I say in here (we are talking about movies, after all, not world peace), but to understand why I am doing this blog is to also understand the purpose of a place like the recently opened Toronto Underground Cinema.
It will also explain why a place like this means a lot to me on a personal level and why I am willing to do almost anything to see it succeed.
Less than three weeks ago I was suicidal. I'm not saying that I was living life on the edge. I was actively trying to kill myself. Everything in my life had pretty much fallen down around me. Without getting into specifics, I was at the lowest possible point that a human being could be at. As a result of this complete breakdown, I was hospitalized for two weeks while I sorted my head out and got things back on track.
While you are staring at the same four walls for a long time you begin to think a lot about your life and where things are headed for you. You question pretty much every decision you ever made and try to rationalize everything that doesn't make sense.
I began thinking about my entire life up until that point and everything in my life that had come and gone. Friends won and lost. Love and the periods where there was none. Family. Music. Art. The list goes on. But I realized that only one thing had stuck with me since childhood; one thing that was always constant no matter how bad life got.
Movies were always there for me. My love of films has been the only constant in my entire life and the one thing I could always count on.
Growing up across the street from a 3 screen movie theatre in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, movies were the default source of amusement for me since my parents didn't own a car. I remember the first movie I ever saw (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which I apparently didn't shut up during), the first PG-13 movie my parents took me to (the Mark Harmon classic Summer School) The first R-rater movie I ever snuck into, and the first "date" I ever had (Buffy The Vampire Slayer). And it all happened within walking distance of my house. I even have fond memories of "trash" such as every Ernest movie except the one where he goes to camp, Young Einsten, and The Chipmunk Adventure (which is still the superior Chipmunk film).
It was a natural jump for me to work in movie theatres where I have worked in every position possible from the lowliest of ticket takers to the manager who listens to all of the crazy complaints and to the projection booth when I simply got sick of dealing with the customers that made the job a bit of a downer at times. It was during this period, when I could see everything for free, that I was watching every movie that was released. I didn't discriminate and I was glad that I didn't. It was kind of like an adventure. Sometimes a movie that you never heard of turned out to be one of the best things you had ever seen. You get used to seeing subtitles. Movies that look marginal at best turn out to be better than you expected. You also get to see past a lot of the bullshit that Hollywood tries to pass off as entertainment and sometimes you even like it despite knowing better.
During this time, I wanted to become a film critic. It wasn't exactly a marketable position, but I always wanted to write and talk about film for a living. It didn't matter if the film was made by Godard or Uwe Boll. I loved talking about movies and writing about them. Unfortunately, like most dreams, this one simply went unrealized. Life got in the way and my dream was realized only in random and infrequent blogging. I always wanted to get back to it and do something halfway serious with it. Something fulfilling.
When I was released from the hospital, things actually managed to get worse for me on a personal level. I had only a small handful of people I could count on and my ego was bruised beyond belief. Worst of all, there wasn't a single movie showing at any of the local multiplexes that I really had any interest in. I mean, there was, but nothing I would have paid to see.
And then came the listings for the Toronto Underground Cinema where they were showing a double bill of Timecop and Army of Darkness. The latter of these two is a movie I had seen dozens of times in the past (and in different versions), but never on the big screen in glorious 35mm. As for Timecop, I had never seen it. Well, I might have, but I had forgotten about it. Still, the allure of seeing a movie in 2010, that takes place in 2004, that was made in 1994 is just something I can't pass up.
I loved every second of that night. The crowd was really into the movies and incredibly appreciative. The print of Timecop looked great and the print of Army of Darkness was delightfully beat up (because there is nothing like watching a horror film that is dirty and scratched up). The popcorn was fresh and the fountain soda actually tasted like soda and not water with some vague approximation of flavoring. I loved the experience and my love of films was rekindled by fucking Timecop.
It was during this night and over the next few nights that I got to know Charlie Lawton, the manager of the Underground. His passion for movies and the job is just boundless. We have talked and argued at somewhat great length about everything from David Lynch to Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. Much like a friendly bartender, Charlie listened to my problems and helped me put them into perspective. Knowing there are people out there like Charlie gives me hope for the world of film. This is someone who clearly loves every second of his job and his ideas are genuine. Downstairs taking tickets is Nigel Agnew, who I have yet to see without a smile on his face when greeting people and acting sort of like a ringmaster for the circus that is about to begin. Alex Woodside mans the concession stand and has just as much energy and charisma as Charlie while more literally acting like a bartender. I think I can convince him that a whale could very well win a fight against a T-Rex and a giant squid.
These are the people that keep me coming back for the very movies that never left, and the fact that they are doing this makes my heart soar. I want more than anything for this place to succeed, and I am here to do my little part. These are people following their dreams and through that I am going to help hone my own dreams.
This blog is going to focus on upcoming features and events at the Toronto Underground Cinema. Since I have seen a lot of the movies they have been programming, I felt I could best contribute by trying to sell people on films they might not go to otherwise. There will be some criticism, but for the most part, this is a blog about the love of film and tribute not only to the Underground, but to the movies they show. The movies that never left me and that I know will always be there.