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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

November 16, 2011 at 10:26 AM

Two encounters, in and out of the movies

Two scenes from the moviegoing life, yesterday . . .
Scene I.
I’m at the Barnes & Noble downtown, killing time before a Pacific Place screening by browsing through a table of marked-down Criterion DVDs. (For those of you with Blu-Ray — I’m not, yet — it was a great deal: 50 percent off a number of titles.) An elderly man with a cane approached the table and joined me in looking at the titles.
He: “Oh, these are all old ones.”
Me: “Yes, these are all Criterion.”
He: “That was back when they knew how to make movies.”
Me: [vaguely agreeable noise]
He: [warming to the topic; emphatically] “The movies they make now are garbage! I wouldn’t take my dog to them!”
And off he shuffled, leaving me dying to know: So, if the movies were better, he would take his dog? Just what kind of dog does he have, anyway?
Scene II.
In the movie theater, waiting for “My Week with Marilyn” (which was terrific) to begin. The white-haired man next to me, who’d heard me chatting with a colleague, struck up a conversation. Turns out he was at the University of California at Berkeley when the great critic Pauline Kael was running a cinema there, in the 1950s, and he would frequently go to the theater and chat with Pauline — who was, of course, fascinating. Over a few years, he’d saved a number of the programs from the theater — complete with notes written by Kael — and was wondering if I knew of a good place where he might sell them. (He’s hung on to them for many years, but says he’s preparing to move and needs to clear out many belongings.) I couldn’t think of anything offhand, but took his email address just in case. Any of you happen to know of something more specialized than eBay for this kind of movie memorabilia? We had a brief but very pleasant chat about Kael — he commented on how surprised and pleased he was when Kael popped up at the New Yorker, decades after she’d left Berkeley.
I thought about both of these encounters on the way home — one funny, one interesting — and realized that if I got my DVDs exclusively from Amazon and my movies exclusively from Netflix, I’d never have met either of these gentlemen. And I would have missed something. Though I certainly recognize the convenience of such sources (and use Amazon myself on occasion), sometimes there’s nothing like a little human contact. Just a thought, for a rainy Wednesday.

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