The Ecstasy of the Press Screening

You think you’ve accomplished things in your life? You think you’ve amounted to something. Well folks, get ready to reevaluate your lives. I’d like to take you back to one summer 2008, when, in my capacity as a student journalist and part-time alt-weekly film critic, I earned a rare and exclusive privilege. I saw The Dark Knight at a press screening. A full four days before its opening.

I left the theatre buzzing. I knew things about Batman and the Joker that these suckers on the street didn’t know. These rubes and maroons would have to wait a full four days to find out the shocking fate of Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), or how the Joker’s brilliant ferry-boat scheme would be foiled, or who would take the rap for Harvey Dent’s untimely depth. Just think — two years ago I was a teenage nobody from the suburbs of Toronto. Now I was the kind of guy who got to see The Dark Knight four days early.

Looking back, this was maybe the stupidest chapter of my life. But god help me, back in those days I loved the ritual of signing my name and outlet on the little sheet of paper at the entrance, and (if it was a really big movie) leaving my flip-phone at the entrance, and making my way to the “Reserved – Press” seats, and pulling out my little notepad that I rarely wrote in, and kicking back to enjoy Cop Out or Love Happens or I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell a week before the plebes. I know I wasn’t alone. In my undergraduate days, working in student media, I saw many amateur reviews that began with some variation of, “As I walked out of the press screening…”

My face turns scarlet as I write this, but back when I was in high school, when movies were practically my only interest, I fantasized about my ideal vacation destination: the Cannes Film Festival. That glorious mecca of culture where titans of cinema unveiled their latest masterworks. Oh how I dreamed of walking down the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals for the virgin unspooling of Wong Kar-wai’s latest. Well, here we are in 2017 and I have a used, ex-rental copy of that particular movie (a chef-d’œuvre by the name of My Blueberry Nights) gathering dust on a shelf at my parents’ house, and I didn’t even have to cross the Atlantic for it. The “historic” Cannes screenings of Antichrist and Fahrenheit 9/11 that I read about with such anticipation have faded from the popular memory. This year, the DCP prints they show will be the same as at the Yonge/Dundas Cineplex. This year, I see Cannes is showing the new season of Twin Peaks, hopefully direct from Thierry Fremaux’s laptop.

Looking back on the many mornings I spent hauling my ass out to the see garbage kids’ movies at Yonge/Eglinton for the privilege being able to write 300-word capsule reviews, I’ve come up with these two proposals:

  1. There are 73 reviews of Smurfs: The Lost Village on Rotten Tomatoes right now. I would humbly suggest that this is too many.
  2. I’ve seen enough movies. Most of them are bad. From now on, I only want to go to parties.

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