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01-18-10 UPDATE :

OK…we went to see Avatar.  The theatre we chose was the Houston Edwards Marq*ee located on the I-10, Katy Freeway feeder road in west central Houston.   Before the movie, we had a late lunch at Bonny’s, right off of I-45, Gulf Freeway…was great.  But, it was a miserable afternoon, misty rain and chilly.  As I mentioned below, I’m a certifed movie nut but had never been to an IMAX showing.  As well, I’d never seen a movie in 3D.  In light of all of the “fake” IMAXs that have popped up as of late, we wanted to make sure we did not fall victim a  small screen IMAX showing, hence our choice of venues.  We got our tickets online to assure seating and arrived 45 minites early for the 3:30 screening…it was a good thing we did for, though we had excellent seat right in the center about a third of the way down, the place filled almost completely up withing 15 minutes of our arrival.  While I used the rest room, my guy got into a conversation with another gentleman who said he’d been trying to see the move for three weeks but could never get a ticket, all sold out.  Anyway, there is only one word to describe the entire experience: magnificent!

The Edwards IMAX has the largest theatre screen in Houston…an astounding 80 feet wide and 65 high; it’s sound system has an amazing 12,000 watts of power for loud, yet crystal clear, sound.  It really borders on unbelievable how large 80 X 65 is, one simply has to see such to truely experience it…amazing.

As for Avatar itself?  Yes, indeed, not just a good movie, but a great one.  I’m not about to get into the underlying sociopolitical theme.  Most assuredly it has one, but the absolute truth is that all but a very, very few films, regardless of the format, theme, or subject matter all have some underlying sociopolitical point…and I get that…Avatar was no different than the rest in this regard.  But I watch movies for entertainment, and if Avatar is anything, it is hugely entertaining…hugely.  James Cameron, the producer/director, said he had been working on the Avatar concept since 1994, but the technology required to make his vision “needed to catch up” before he could undertake its production.  Well, believe me, the technology has certainly arrived.  Watching the movie, it was almost impossible to not feel you were literally on the planet Pandora, the film’s setting…the special effect were that real, that spectacular.  I could go on and on, but won’t.  The film is a must see…period.

After the movie, my guy and I found outselves in a downpour as we had to negotiate the 40 miles back down to where we live…at 6:30 in the evening, on a Friday night, in the kind of traffic indigenous to Houston and that makes me hate the city.  We decided to check out Kemah for dinner, settling on Joe’s Crab Shack as a second choice due to a fire in one of the other restaraunts that demanded the evacuation of fully half of the boardwalk.

As others have said in their reviews, Avatar is so spectacular that it is only after a bit of reflection that one really appreciates just how awesome a film it is.  Over dinner and a couple of bottles of Pinot Grigio we enjoyed critiquing the film.  Both he and I are engineers and we both had only one criticism of Avatar, if by any measure one could actually call it criticism.  Our one slight chuckle came with the choice of the word unobtainium for the product that was mined on Pandora.  As engineers, we are certainly familiar with the very real concept of unobtainium as a material, the word has been around for decades (Google it).  And, agreed that most would not pick up on the fallacy of the unobtainium concept, we both felt it was a poor choice for the name of the material the “corporation” was mining.  Like I said, hardly a criticism…more of an observation.

See the film…it’s super!

SA-ET

Though perhaps not known to many, I am somewhat of an incurable movie fanatic.  I’ve been that way since being a child growing up in a small town in rural Louisiana. 

Though it dates me, I can remember when movies ran for only a few days.  There was a movie that ran on Monday and Tuesday…one that ran Wednesday through Friday…one on Saturday…and one on Sunday…four different movies in one week…and every week, the movies changed.  That was the way it was back in small town, Last Picture Show Louisiana in the 1950s and early 60s.  It was the same for the Drive-Ins as well. 

Of course, I didn’t get to go to see all four movies, with school and all.  But, until I was about 15, on at least one day during the weekend (either the Saturday or the Sunday), going to the movies was the highlight of the week.  There were a lot of westerns, a lot of war movies, and a lot of high drama…it was a very innocent time.  I can still vividly remember one of my older brothers dropping me off at the picture show, as it was called.  I can even still remember some of the movies I saw. 

My mother would give me $.25 to go to the movie…rarely, if I was lucky, I got $.35 for the event.  Because I was under twelve years old, it cost only $.15 to get in.  Popcorn was $.10 and a fountain Coke, with ice, was also a dime; candy bars and other such delights were only a nickel.  If I got the thirty five cents I could get both popcorn and a coke, but getting the extra dime seldom occurred.  I got two Hershey bars most of the time…one with almonds, one without.  I was a very happy toad indeed. 

My joy at escaping to the movies never waned.  In my senior year of college I found myself in need of an additional three credit hours in order to graduate, a course known as a free elective.  I chose a 400 Level English course entitled Communication and Culture that was supposed to be what was called in the day a crip course…dumb brick easy…it was a film course.  The course was described to me by my BFF who worked in the English Department of the University of Southwestern Louisiana like this:

 

“I know how much you like movies.  You’ll love this course.  Dr. So-and-so teaches it; he’s super cool.  It’s a night course.  You buy a ticket to the USL Film Forum Series for twenty bucks and every Friday night you go to the student union and watch three foreign films…the class is held the following Monday night…everyone sits around in class and discusses the movies they all watched the previous week.  At the end of the semester, a 100 question true/false/multiple choice test is given.  It’s great…you’ll love it.” 

Sounded good…I signed up. 

The first class was held.  The professor handed out the course syllabus while at the same time saying something that went like this: 

“I’ve held this course every semester for the past four years and it has gotten a reputation of sorts…a reputation of being too easy.  The Department Head has asked that I revisit the way I’m teaching it.  So this semester, as the syllabus illustrates, we are changing things up.” 

My attention was instantly captured.  This couldn’t be good. 

The professor continued: 

“As in the past, each of you will be required to buy a ticket to the Film Forum Series…every Friday you will attend, watch the movies and, when we meet in class each Monday, we will discuss the films.” 

So far, so good…

“There will not be a final exam.” 

Even better… 

“In place of the final exam, you will be required to write a series of papers involving the concepts of film.  And in order to properly teach you these concepts, I will not tell you the topic of the following paper until you have turned in the previous one, I have graded and returned it to you.  In addition, at the end of the semester each of you will be required to submit a twenty to twenty five page, typed, formal, foot noted, term paper; the subject of the term paper will be any contemporary television series…the choice of which one is entirely up to you.  If you are not prepared to do a significant amount of writing, I suggest you drop this class.” 

I moaned…so much for the crip course my friend Liz had recommended.  And, even worse, though this was an elective class for me, I had to take the course because I needed the three credit hours in order to graduate…and because this was a night class held the second week of the semester, I was past the drop-add period.  In other words, though I was still in the time frame of being able to drop the course with no penalty to my cumulative grade point average, I was outside the one week in which I could drop one course and add another in its place…and I had to have those three damn credit hours.  All of the above is another way of saying I was royally screwed 

The professor went on… 

“For next Monday, each of you is required to submit a typed, twenty page short story.” 

I nearly fell out of my chair. 

In essence, over the course of the semester we were required to develop a film.  First, there was the short story.  Once the short story was returned, we were then required to take the short story and reduce every single sentence to incorporate either an audible or visual experience…essentially rewrite the story so that every single sentence expressed something one could either hear or see.  When that was returned, we were told to take the short story and develop a text script for it.  And, when the script was returned, we were then instructed to take one aspect of the script and convert it to a screenplay.  The entire exercise was a huge pain in the rear…but once done, I finally understood how many films (not all) are developed. 

The writing was definitely the down side of the course…essentially five term papers for one course in one semester.  Though I aced the class, I’ve often said it was the single most difficult and time consuming course I took in college…and I graduated in technical engineering! 

The Film Forum Series portion of the course, however, can only be described as pure joy.  Every Friday night I got to see three movies…both “shorts” and “features.”  And, these were not just any movies.  These films ran the entire spectrum of the world’s most famous directors/filmmakers and their work…great work such as Luis Brunel’s The Golden Age, Viridiana, Belle de jour…Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, Autumn Sonata, Wild Strawberries…Federico Fellini’s La Strada, Satyricon…Phillipe de Broca’s King of Hearts…Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.  Yes, the films were great. 

Since I entered college in the late 60s, there have been few great movies that I haven’t seen…and since the advent of DVDs and video discs, even fewer.  Seldom, however, do I now go to the theatre to see films.  I’m perfectly content to watch movies at home; video stores are my friend.  The truth is I can’t even remember for sure when the last time it was that I actually saw a movie in a theatre…I think it was nine years ago in Monroe, Louisiana but I’m not sure. 

But, tomorrow afternoon I’m going to the picture show.  Me and my guy are going to see Avatar.  We are going to see it in 3D…and at a real IMAXand not a fake, AMC version IMAX…there are only two real IMAX theatres in Houston…lots of fake ones though.  Who would of thought there would be fake such a thing as a fake IMAX.  The price for the online tickets is a sharp $33.50…a far cry from the fifteen cents of yesteryear. 

There are several reasons why we chose to go to the theatre to watch Avatar.  First, it is supposed to rain all day tomorrow.  Secondly, is that it has been hard to ignore all of the hoopla over the film; almost certainly it will be a good film…whether a great one will be determined.  Another reason is that at two hours and forty minutes, it will be a long film; how good is that?  And, another is that I’ve never been to a real IMAX…can’t wait.  And, lastly, in all of the films I’ve ever seen, I’ve never seen one in 3D.  So, tomorrow we’re going to lunch before checking out Avatar in 3D at a real IMAX…and then going out to dinner after. 

YaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaHooooooooooooo… 

I’ll give you all the scoop in an update.

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