Just before the Oscars on Sunday I saw a list of a couple of dozen films a social-media friend considered award-worthy, and I realized I hadn’t seen even one film on the list.
Either I’m woefully out of touch, or I’m normal and my friend, who had seen all movies on the list, is the one out of step. I know I tend to lag behind when it comes to getting out on the town, but do most people really see every new film that hits the screen? Where do they make the time? I’m retired, and I don’t have time to see 25 movies in a year. I even missed the Oscars.
Twenty-five movies in a year is one every other week. For heaven’s sake, I don’t see that happening in my life. I will point out that “For Heaven’s Sake’’ is a 1950s film in which an angel played by Clifton Webb tries to save the marriage of Joan Bennett and Robert Cummings. I may not know many of today’s films, but I know some old ones.
The last movie I saw in an actual theater was “Frozen 2.’’ I usually shy away from movies that have a numeral in the title. Often it means somebody hit on a popular theme and decided to ride it for as many sequels as they could. (I make an exception to that general rule for any Bruce Willis film with “Die Hard’’ in the title.) And I’ll make an exception for “Frozen 2.’’ Any film a guy goes to with his granddaughter is a good one.
You know, the theater where we saw “Frozen 2’’ is the same State Theater I used to visit every Saturday afternoon for the matinee after catechism at St. James Catholic Church, which was on South Main, within walking-distance of the theater in Chamberlain. When I was a kid, nearly everything was within walking distance. The few things that weren’t in walking distance were well within biking distance back when bicycles didn’t shift gears or have brake levers on the handlebars.
Most of the Saturday matinees were westerns. That suited my friends and me just fine. The hero had a faithful horse to ride and a trusty six-shooter that he used as a last resort and only to shoot the pistol out of the hand of the bad guy, who wore a black hat and usually had a mustache and a five-day growth of beard.
The lobby of the State Theater had a concession area with a popcorn machine, a display case with Milk Duds and Baby Ruth candy bars and Juicy Fruit chewing gum. A good-sized, red-and-white striped bag of popcorn cost so little that if a guy found a dime on the sidewalk between the church and the theater, it pretty much covered concessions for the afternoon.
In those days, the theater’s concession area had a door to the outside as well as the inside. People passing on the street could stop in for snacks on a Saturday evening, even if they weren’t taking in a movie. I could never figure how that was profitable for the theater, because on Saturdays a vendor set up a popcorn wagon across the street on the corner and sold the same sort of butter-drenched popcorn in the same red-and-white bags all evening long.
On Saturday evenings the streets were lined with cars and the popcorn wagon had steady business. Of course, the theater did, too. It was a time when you might find popcorn at two locations in town, but you’d be hard-pressed to find two movie houses, not until the drive-in theater up on the east hill opened for the summer season.
I read somewhere that the Academy Awards date back to 1929. I don’t remember knowing if any movie I ever saw — a western on Saturday afternoon or a drama on the rare occasion my family took in a Friday or Saturday evening show — was Oscar quality. I saw many more movies as a kid than I do these days.
I wasn’t worried about award winners. If a movie came to town on Saturday, I liked it.