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10 of Kathy Shaidle’s Greatest Hits

These are some of the Canadian culture critic's most memorable broadsides and inspiring provocations. Volume 1.

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

April 26, 2014 - 3:30 pm
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2. April 16, 2012:

Four Ways My Moviegoing Habits Changed After I Grew Up

#3: Going alone lost its frisson when I no longer had a home that I was desperate to escape from.

I’ve been a movie buff all my life, but the way I consume movies (as the kids put it these days) has evolved.

Sure, the technology has changed. Good thing I didn’t “follow my dream” and become a film projectionist, because I’d be on the unemployment line. And I finally dumped my last box of old VHS tapes on the sidewalk the last time I moved.

But I’ve changed, too.

I’ve written about these changes here before, like how fogeyish it made me feel when I realized I no longer automatically identified with the teenagers in movies.

Sometimes I miss the old me: the weird girl who scanned the new TV Guide with a red pen, hoping All About Eve was coming on, and who practically lived at our city’s only “rep” cinema…

#4 — The Last Picture Show

It’s been a porn grindhouse and a church of sorts (see above), but when I lived a block away, it was the Broadway Cinema.

The year I started high school, 1979, that “Pussycat Theater” sign came down, and Debbie Does Dallas gave way to El Topo, King of Hearts (with its freaky poster) and other repertory cinema staples.

The Broadway was the only rep in my scuzzy steel town, where interest in “weird” movies wasn’t exactly high. In those days, long before Netflix and TCM and DVDs, we local “artsy” types were lucky enough to live within broadcast range of Canadian stations that showed classics and foreign films in heavy rotation, supplemented with exclusive interviews with directors, actors, and cinematographers, on shows like Saturday Night at the Movies or as it was initially and more lyrically known, Magic Shadows:

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But the Broadway’s biggest advantage was that it was close enough to my house to reach in five minutes, yet far enough away to serve as my second home.

On many nights, for many years, I decamped to the Broadway during that sundown stretch before my stepfather staggered home (and hopefully passed out) and my mother got back from her late shift at the hotel restaurant, around 11:30 p.m. The theater opened at 6:30; shows started around 7 and ended around 11.

It was as if the Broadway had manifested itself in the perfect spot, at the perfect time, just for me.

The Broadway was ahead of its time, especially in my working class hometown: besides popcorn, you could buy hot apple cider, coffee and tea (herbal or regular), along with homemade cookies and squares.

The place was of its time, too — you could still smoke in movie theaters then. I’d set up base camp in the back row in the far right corner, arranging my army surplus bag, notepad and pen, copy of Absolute Beginners or the latest NME on the lumpy, squeaking seat next to mine. I lit up a cigarette, put my Chuck-covered feet up on the unoccupied seat in the next row, and waited.

And sure enough, I saw a lot of “weird” and not so weird stuff: the original Solaris, Wild Strawberries, Amarcord, Metropolis, Tatie Danielle.

Sometimes I went there with friends, to midnight screenings of Rocky Horror, armed with toast and other props. Quadrophenia was a VERY big deal. The Song Remains the Same — another weekly staple — not so much: that was for headbangers and stoners.

But mostly, I went there alone. I didn’t like sharing the Broadway with other people.

For a long time I thought I wanted to be a movie director, but it turns out I’m a klutz with cameras. The only good series of still photographs I’ve ever made was for a college film project, meant to be a Ken Burns style (before that’s what it was called) tribute to my Velveteen Rabbit of a movie theater. But I was too scared of the school’s Steenbeck to finish my first (and last) movie.

A few years after I moved to Toronto, the Broadway closed down.

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#3 — Dim Lights, Big City

Toronto is a city of moviegoers. I’ve had friends who schedule their vacations around TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival. When TIFF built its new headquarters a few years ago, they cleverly stacked residential suites above their offices, successfully marketing the Festival Tower as “one part condo, one part film festival” — complete with its own screening room (and concession stand.)

And instead of just one Broadway-type rep theater, Toronto had at least seven or eight when I moved here in the late 1980s. Some people eagerly await delivery of the Sunday New York Times crossword; here, we watched for the empty yellow newspaper racks to fill up again, when the monthly tabloid-style rep cinema schedule hit the streets. Maybe the latest hits at Cannes were coming to town. Maybe a rare showing of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was on the roster. Movie Christmas came every 30 days.

You stuck the schedule for your favorite rep theater on your fridge, with the movies you planned to see boldly circled. Such a display was a signifier of “cool.”

The solitary habits I’d picked up back home stuck for a while. But going to the movies alone lost its frisson when I no longer had a home that I was desperate to escape from. Now I could retreat into the safe, quiet apartment of my own that I’d decorated in my imagination thousands of times.

With the emergence of the VCR, a veritable epidemic of video stores erupted across the city; along with the big chains, independent video stores like Suspect and Eyesore that specialized in foreign & cult films sprang up. My neighborhood video stores were stacked floor to ceiling with Spirit of the Beehive and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! I’d trundle from video store to beer store, then stock up on cigarettes and hunker down for the night (and sometimes, the day.)

Last year, now married and sober and smoke-free and more than gainfully employed, I tried to recapture that same “movie bunker” magic when my husband went out of town. I piled up a bunch of DVDs I’d never bothered watching, bought chips and dip and grabbed a bottled water and turned off all the lights, figuring I’d enjoy the feeling of having the couch and TV all to myself for the first time in years.

God, it was boring.

All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're taking this WAY to seriously. Star Wars is a kid's movie. Its not supposed to be realistic, its supposed to be fun....and its a ton of fun. Who cares if they have ray guns and sound in space? What counts is that they blast the bad guys to smithereens. Besides, who can resist Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini? You don't like George Lucas? Yeah, I bet he's weeping about that every time he looks at his bank statement. Get over yourself and stop whining about other people.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The FIRST Star Wars released is the only one worth watching... right from "empire" it was a merchandising machine that lost all appeal....

And Carrie was scrawny and loose in that bikini....too much weight loss too fast to be "sl*t-hot" by Hollywood standards, rather than showcase her natural beauty....that wholesome round-faced, almost Motherly Beauty she had with her hair down in the Medal Ceremony after destroying the first Death Star, is by far the loveliest moment of The Princess on screen.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
All of them are merchandising machines. Its kiddie entertainment, that's the point. My dad, and every other kid his age, had a Davy Crockett coon skin cap.....Star Wars is no different.

Scrawny? What, is this fat acceptance week? You can have Lena Dunham, I'll take Slave-Girl Leia any day of the week. I'll pass on motherly beauty, it does nothing for me. I like em slender, young, and underdressed.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, Kathy...

For all the reasons you mention, "star wars" (notice the lower case?) as it became a Social Phenomenon, does indeed suck, and in a rather embarrassing way for those of us who saw it in its first release, BUT….

The First (and, IMHO, only one worth watching) Original Release was a PHENOMENAL Motion Picture in and of itself. I’m sorry you slept through it. I'm sorry you weren’t old enough to see it before knowing nearly all about it. It was ruined for you, already a cliché before the theater darkened that night, and that my dear, is a very sad thing…

Because, for a certain generation of Adventurous Boys, ones who’s Dads and Uncles were in WW-2, kids who built endless models of Spitfires and Messerschmitt’s believing The Battle of Britain was the ultimate in manly, righteous chivalry, kids who ran home after school to watch Steve McQueen OWN those freaking Krauts (even after he got caught, AGAIN!) in “The Great Escape” playing on the 4:30 movie, like, three times a year for a decade…..

Well, for us, Star Wars (caps this time, sugar!) was THE culmination of every hero-fantasy we ever imagined, and by God, it was OURS. Not in black and white, not John Wayne on a horse, not some “tail end of the studio era” re-run of a movie that was originally released the year before we were even born….No. This one was Ours. Today. And it was GOOD.

Because it was, for one gleaming moment, a vision of who we KNEW we were supposed to be, reflected back at us for the first time, in REAL-time…

Cocky, idealistic, proud of our heritage, brave…militaristic in the POSITIVE sense, fighting the Krauts AND the Hessians all at once as Home-Spun Patriots taking to arms, but with Starships and Blasters instead of Muskets and Mustangs…

Star Trek was wierd, we didnt quite get it...Set for Stun, and The Prime Directive..who are the bad guys, are you going to kill these aliens or not? WTF are you DOING there in the FIRST place!?!

No, Star Wars was different...It was all of our fathers and big-brothers heroics transformed FOR US, even AHEAD of us, in a way we already understood, but though was only in the past…battles we never would be allowed to face, reduced to pretending to BE our fathers, when we knew we never could…No, Star Wars gave us a vision of Ourselves, Brave Into the Coming Future, and it was GOOD.

It was indescribably awesome to see in its original release, in a REAL theater, way before Darth and Luke and the Droids became embarrassing merchandise for effeminate geeks…right from that first opening scene (Oh. My. GOD! How big is that thing!?) to the fast-paced final battle, we saw who we could be, tomorrow…

Technically skillful AND Physically capable of necessary, righteous violence, with clear confidence to judge good from evil, to CHOOSE the right side, and to nobly face the possibility of Death, with Honor.

The Blessed Spitfire, that sacred ghost of a past we could not be worthy of, was an X-wing…. and the future would wait for us to fly her, in OUR time, we could fight evil, and too, be MEN.

Amazing stuff for a 12 year old, growing up in That Last Twilight of Real American Boyhood, between the Shadow of Viet Nam and The Dawn of The Nanny State….

Pity my son will never know of such things.




12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Root 83. That was an awesome post my friend. I completely agree with the sentiment, although for me that experience came from a different source. Ms. S. perhaps can't really understand this, tis a boy thing. FWIW I lived near an RAF base in 1972 and I can tell you that the memeory of the Spitfire was alive in the minds of many young English boys: when I saw one in the Imperal War Museum, I could think of NOTHING better than flying that thing over France and blasting away at the Messerschmidts.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you, Eightrock

What that film WAS and what it BECAME are so tragically opposite it makes me weep. I just tried to watch The Original with my own son for the first time on DVD, and the clumsy sacrilege of the Lucas Ego has utterly ruined it.

We will see no more of this franchise in our household....

Spits, Hurricanes, Mosquito's, Lancasters, I built them all...and lets not forget the Swordfish pilots who crippled the Bismarck...if ever a tiny fleet was sent to battle The Death Star, it was they...and you do know much of the "combat dialog" in S.W. was straight from "the Dam Busters" right?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
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