Hey! I Want to See These ‘Top Ten’ Movies Too!

David Frank knows more than you. Care to disagree?

Oh The Wrestler is that good, eh? Life isn’t complete without seeing Slumdog Millionaire?  Synecdoche, New York will blow my mind with its mighty Kaufman awesomeness? Hey thanks for rubbing it in. Please continue on how Let the Right One In is a masterpiece of masterpieceosity.  No no, don’t stop. I want to feel like That Guy. You know. That one guy at your college roommate’s sexy art student girlfriend’s party who hasn’t illegally downloaded the latest Bright Eyes album that everyone around him is raving about. Every December through January, I’m him, That Guy.  

I’ve never completed a best movie of the year list before February. In fact, when people are proclaiming their already-failed New Year’s resolutions at 12:01 AM, I haven’t even seen half the films that’ll end up on my list. You see, I live in a small Iowan city called Cedar Rapids (metropolitan population: 180,000; movie screens: 33, or 56 if you include nearby Iowa City). And when it comes to the year-end indies and limited-opening prestige flicks, Santa brings us jackshit.

We get these films eventually…usually. Yet just to torture us Cedar Rapid movie lovers, the state capital and slightly larger city of Des Moines (two hours away) almost always gets the big-buzz films weeks/months ahead of us. So, I’m regularly a couple of months or more behind the big-city folk movie fiends when it comes to being in the end-of-the-year know. This makes reading the Internet, even the site I write for, frustrating. Depression sets in, as does paranoia. Am I being mocked? And yeah, I stomp my feet and shake my fists at the clouds over this slight from the film Gods (A.K.A. film distributors and theater management). Yet, I enjoy where I live, and that’s the way it is.

You can’t open something like The Class here without a few months of critical buzz to boost awareness. There’s no money in it for either the movie theater or distributor. Why give an auditorium to a movie that sells 5 tickets a day when you can cram it full of old people who must see Marley and Me per their bucket lists? A month ago I was dumbfounded to see Happy-Go-Lucky find its way here. Guess what? It lasted one week (and I missed it, wah wah wah). But if you would bring it here now since the film has received some top-ten love, it just may last two weeks. So I get it. All about the money. Okay. Yet, that doesn’t make it go down any easier. Nor does it really explain why the oh-so-cosmopolitan, but not that much larger, Des Moines, sees these movies long before we do. And it definitely doesn’t excuse the local absence of Frost/Nixon (c’mon it’s a Ron Howard movie, and small-city folk love Opie) or Revolutionary Road (what, you need a bigger star than Leonardo DiCaprio to open your film?).

There’s only one reasonable solution to this madness. And to some, that’s even more madness. I’m talking movie road tripping. Yes, if I really want to see a film–even if I know it’ll open near me within a few weeks–I’ll hop into the Honda and journey a few hours to where it’s showing. Make a day of it. Maybe catch another movie that isn’t screening in my area. Last year I traveled three and half hours to Chicago to catch the re-release of Blade Runner, two hours to see There Will Be Blood, and an hour and a half for No Country For Old Men. And this year, I’ll take a trip if it means seeing The Wrestler earlier. And next year, almost no distance will stop me from catching The Road as soon as possible (assuming those bastards at Dimension Films release it in 2009). Sure it sounds insane. But years ago, people actually used to do this regularly (as much as I whine about my city not obtaining smaller movies in a timely fashion, people had to wait weeks for films like Jaws and Star Wars).

To me, the movie road trip is how you earn your stripes in the film fiend brigade. You can say you love fine cinema and blah blah blah. But save it for Flowery Film Theory 101. The physical, monetary, time-consuming act of seeking out one small, great film in a far away land (like Des Moines) says a lot more about your dedication to movies than wordy adoration. If you happen to fall into a similar situation as me, I suggest proving your worth by grabbing a few friends for an odyssey to some city playing a movie you all want to see immediately. Or go existential style and brave the roads alone. Who knows? It may be an adventure. Or at the very least you’ll probably get a good movie out of it.

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