What’s better than Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation monsters? I’d say very few things in this world. And whenever I come across a clip of his animated art, I long for a moment of film that seemed to actually have a soul. In fact, when I watch something by Harryhausen I am again encouraged to follow a long time dream I’ve had to start a single-screen movie theater in the heart of a small town (and why not Fredericksburg?) kinda like Century’s Baldwin theater which I grew up around the block from. It would have 70s multi-colored carpet, a kick ass concession stand (with Dots and Twizzlers), movie posters galore, and one great film after another. If this theater ever happens—which admittedly is about as likely as education truly reforming—every weekend for the opening month would feature a Ray Harryhausen double feature matinee on both Saturday and Sunday. The program would look something like this:
–The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
–Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
—Clash of the Titans (1981)
—Clash of the Titans (1981) [No typo, how can his greatest project not be shown twice?]
The more I think about our current dearth of classic cinemas, or any kind of re-run movie house culture beyond cable TV, Netflix, and the like (especially if you’re far enough removed from a major city), the more I see it as the death of what proved one of the most important institutions of my childhood. And I often wonder if the “inevitable” passing of the single-screen movie house wasn’t just one possibility amongst many (and I guess the same can be said for its existence in the first place). I wonder what cultivating a social sense of movie going, seems sharing around some of the greatest narratives of the 20th century have really lost their physical context all together. Unlike books, so much of cinema depends upon space, scale, and a shared sense of being in the moment. We’ve lost that tradition to some great degree, but no one seems to bemoan it—-everyone is still weeping over the much heralded death of the book. Whereas as cinema culture has all but died already, and never really got enough disciplinary and curricular respect in the academy to ever really get a proper burial. I feel like cinema, and some kind of larger cultural knowledge of film, is something that is increasingly hard to get, and what better way to work towards the noblest of goals than with a real-life movie theater. A place to experience the wonder and magic of the greatest art form as part of growing up within a community. These are the things I am truly nostalgic for, a deep sense of love driven on by a longing to return home.
*I’m aware Ray Harry Hausen had noting to do with the making of the 1933 King Kong , but King Kong would provide an excellent opportunity t frame the beginnings of stop-motion animation, and suggest what was the very inspiration for much of Harryhausen’s work. Plus, how can you have a double feature with Might Joe Young, and not show King Kong as the first leg?