When the Lights Go Down

Guest blogger Michael James Kacey writes:

No, this isn’t a blog about romance. You know, turn the lights down, turn on the soft music, light the candle and, if you’re lucky, hope magic happens.

This blog is about movies, specifically about watching them in the theater. Many of my fondest childhood memories are from “going to the movies.” I remember when my grandmother took me to see Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The colors were so vivid and the imagination of the tale was awe-inspiring to me. Everything was so big! She also took me to Disney movies such as The Aristocats until Alzheimer’s prevented any more trips.

Then there was my dad; he took me to see Battle for the Planet of the Apes (God love him—not a great film, not even to a ten-year-old) and I especially remember documentaries like The Ra Expeditions, Chariots of the Gods and The Late Great Planet Earth. He was my movie buddy until I was a teenager and went by myself or with my friends. Even then, when I would discover a great film experience, I would invite him to join me. I remember taking him to see Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back.

I only ever remember seeing two movies in a theater with both my parents, however: The Pink Panther Strikes Again and Star Trek – The Motion Picture. One memory of sheer joy was of all three of us laughing so hard during the opening scenes of The Pink Panther Strikes Again that it was hard to breathe! The whole audience at that showing was in stitches and the euphoria was contagious.

During my years in the Army I saw a lot of movies at the Post movie theaters. In fact, I’d go see anything. Many lousy movies (notably Lou Ferrigno in Hercules) but also discovered some gems that at first held no interest for me (The Breakfast Club and This Is Spinal Tap). Heck, I think The Incubus scarred me for life and I couldn’t tell you whether it was a good movie or a dog. But something the filmmaker did stayed with me, giving me a sense-memory of dread…

In Okinawa, it’s a challenge to spell “Don Ameche”!

But with the birth of the VCR I found myself watching movies at home on a small television. The quality wasn’t as good and the experience was, although convenient, very different. DVD and Blu-Ray further pushed me away from the pricey trip to the movie multiplex. That’s too bad really, because there is something special about seeing a movie with a crowd (provided it’s a good movie, because during the bad ones people talk, flop around in the seats and even text).

Lately, circumstances have driven me back into the movie theater, or more specifically, the upscale screening rooms of Hollywood. As a member of SAG-AFTRA I have the fortunate luck of being able to go, gratis, to see movies that are recently released or, even better, yet to be released. In many cases the screenings are followed by a Q&A with the director and/or some of the actors. Argo was a great experience made even better by listening to Ben Affleck talk about it in detail once the lights came up. Same thing for Flight, which not only included director Robert Zemeckis and actors Denzel Washington and John Goodman, but also the screenwriter, John Gatins. The writer in me got great satisfaction listening to the reflections of John Gatins. And, last but not least, the experience of watching Lincoln and hearing from Daniel Day-Lewis about his process as an actor creating such a marvelous performance.

Experiencing all of this movie watching in a theater has had an unexpected benefit for me personally. I suddenly feel more creative and focused on my own projects, and also, more in touch with my past experiences that have been so instrumental in my creative journey in the first place. The past, the present and the future (or hopes for the future) are all with me right now. I think it’s called “being centered.”

The lights dim, the music swells and the images flicker in a mesmerizing fashion. Then, if you’re lucky, the magic happens.

When I started this blog, I said it wasn’t about romance. Could be I was wrong.

I’m just saying…

Live from Baghdad (2002); l to r: Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Keaton, and Michael James Kacey

Michael James Kacey is an actor, filmmaker, writer and cartoonist. His blog I’m Just Saying… is dedicated to “life, liberty and the pursuit of a show business career.” In truth, it’s about anything that comes to mind. His acting credits include Beverly Hills 90210, All That, and the Mick Jackson directed film Live From Baghdad. Personal filmmaking efforts are the features Daybreak and The Poet Laureate of Radio: An Interview with Norman Corwin. His current project is the documentary film Radio Changed America.

On the web, also check out michaeljameskacey.com and Anthracite Films; Mike can be found on Twitter as MJKacey.