Sunday, July 29, 2018
Super Watch: Superman - The Movie (1978) at Austin's Paramount Theatre
Format: Paramount Theater Summer Classic Film Series
Viewing: I believe we are northwards of 40 at this point. Maybe the 50th.
The past few years, I haven't had the wherewithal or ability to get downtown much for Austin's Classic Cinema Series at The Paramount Theatre. This year's programming fit the bill for showing "classic film", and while I understand *some* grumbling from friends who don't love the line-up, if you're part of the TCM twitter crowd, as these things go and for the audience it's aimed at - honestly, it's one of their better years. Have I made it down there? No.
I wasn't sure I'd actually bother to go down and see Superman: The Movie (1978) as part of their family film sub-series, either, but Jamie cut me loose to go with PaulT, so I made an effort. Unfortunately, I got my times wrong and I was buying my soda, thinking I had 30 minutes to leisurely find Paul and chat for a bit, they shut the doors. I ran up to the balcony and got to my favorite seat in the theater.
I'm glad I did.
Something has fundamentally changed about the programming of Superman: The Movie in the past few years. I'd argue that ten years ago, when the film was shown, it was the best they thought they could do for getting a "classic" movie (ie: something people know more than 20 years old), but it was not clear what sort of affection people had for the film. Or how well they knew it.
Superman: The Movie is *funny*. There's some broad comedy for the kids, but there's also plenty of character and referencing bits and whatnot that I tend to believe are pretty clever. It's a comic book hero movie that never heard of the term "grim n' gritty", and so there always seemed to be this level of embarrassment about parts of the film. Thus, you got few laughs where the movie absolutely earns them (Reeve as Clark is hysterical), and always a ripples of laughter during the "Can You Read My Mind" sequence.
But a funny thing happened. I don't remember the audience at the last screening or two of this movie, but as I plunked down in my seat, missed the preamble portion and the film went into the credits... the crowd went nuts. People were clapping and cheering for the "S". Reeve's name got applause, as did Kidder's. Kids were quiet throughout (and there were a lot of kids), proving you don't need a cut and a joke every three seconds to keep their attention. Folks cheered the first appearance of the suit. When the movie makes the turn to Metropolis and Reeve appears as Kent, he got all the right giggles (as did Kidder, especially at the "does he have a boyfriend?" bit). The crowd went ballistic at the shirt rip, and people seemed to really love the romantic banter between Superman and Lois on the balcony. And, wonder upon wonder, I didn't hear a single titter during "Can You Read My Mind?".
As much as I'll whine about people using their phones or talking during a movie, I love it when an audience can get into a movie and cheer for heroes and hiss bad guys. Or just applaud terrific moments. Honestly, I couldn't have been happier to share in that with a whole bunch of people today.
I don't know if people have adjusted in their thinking on superhero films, if it was because we were with the audience the film was always intended for - an all ages audience looking for thrills and fun, or if... and I truly believe in this... Superman is here for us as that shining example of what it means to be a good-guy in an era in need of truth, justice and a better American Way. But the film worked the way it was always intended to work.
If nothing else, it was a Superman you can take your kids to, who kids might want to be. Heck, who I want to be at age 43. And if the 5 year old boy I saw running around with his fist in front of him was some evidence that Super: The Movie still works its magic, the 11 year old girl who turned to her parents moments later and said "That was soooo much better than Man of Steel" - that was the closing argument in the power of the movie 40 years later.
I'm not clear as to what the story is with WB and film prints. Clearly their 35mm prints are beat to hell - and this was another example of this film showing up in less than ideal shape. The reels had obviously come from different original prints in a variety of conditions and wear. I've heard there's no DCP for Superman: The Movie, which makes no damn sense. And this was at least the third time I've seen a screening since the mid-00's where the film broke or had issues during the showing. So, speed it up with the 4 or 8K transfer, WB, and start getting a DCP out there to theaters.
Nonetheless, the audience put up with it. They were there to see it through.
It was great to see the film at the Paramount for the 40th Anniversary, and to see Margot Kidder again for the first time since her passing. I'll confess to getting a little teary when she first appeared and again during the helicopter rescue. And, man, you have to love how she threw herself into the role, giving it the moxie that it needed and spun the character of Lois forward for the next 4 decades.
Anyway, great afternoon out. Paul and I hung out in the balcony lobby for an hour after the film shooting the breeze. Always good to catch up with my dude.