Oh The Wrestler is that good, eh? Life isn’t complete without seeing Slumdog Millionaire?Â Synecdoche, New York will blow my mind with its mightyÂ KaufmanÂ awesomeness? Hey thanks for rubbing it in.Â Please continueÂ on how Let the Right OneÂ In is a masterpiece ofÂ masterpieceosity.Â Â No no, don’t stop. I want to feel like That Guy. You know. That one guy at your college roommate’sÂ 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.Â Â
I’ve never completed aÂ best movie ofÂ the year list before February. In fact, whenÂ people areÂ proclaimingÂ their already-failed New Year’s resolutions at 12:01 AM, I haven’t even seen half the films that’ll endÂ up on myÂ list. You see, I live in a smallÂ IowanÂ city called Cedar Rapids (metropolitan population: 180,000; movie screens: 33, or 56 if you include nearby Iowa City). AndÂ when it comes toÂ the year-endÂ indies and limited-opening prestige flicks, Santa brings us jackshit.
We get these filmsÂ eventually…usually. Yet just to tortureÂ us Cedar Rapid movie lovers,Â the state capital and slightly larger city of Des Moines (two hours away) almost always gets theÂ big-buzz films weeks/months ahead of us.Â So, I’mÂ regularlyÂ a couple of months or moreÂ behind the big-city folkÂ 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. AmÂ I being mocked?Â And yeah, I stomp my feet and shake my fists at theÂ cloudsÂ over this slight from the filmÂ Gods (A.K.A. film distributors and theater management).Â Yet, I enjoy where I live, and that’s the way it is.
You can’t open somethingÂ like The Class here withoutÂ 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?Â AÂ month agoÂ 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 wouldÂ bring it here now sinceÂ the film hasÂ 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 thatÂ much larger, Des Moines,Â sees these movies long before we do. And it definitely doesn’tÂ excuse theÂ localÂ 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,Â 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 openÂ near meÂ 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’tÂ screening in my area. Last year I traveledÂ three and halfÂ 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,Â almost no distance will stop me fromÂ catching The Road as soon as possible (assuming those bastards at Dimension Films release it in 2009).Â Sure it sounds insane. But years ago, people actually used to do this regularlyÂ (as much as IÂ whine aboutÂ my city not obtaining smaller moviesÂ in a timely fashion,Â people had to wait weeks for films likeÂ 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 forÂ Flowery Film Theory 101.Â The physical, monetary, time-consuming act of seeking out one small, great film in a farÂ away land (like Des Moines)Â 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 someÂ city playing aÂ 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.