Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Best of 2014, Locke

The cinema has been in a state of decline for quite a while now. Theaters have been quietly disappearing from the landscape, sometimes to reopen under different ownership, but sometimes, they are simply gone as in the case of the Neptune Cinema, now a concert venue. Fortunately, after the Egyptian's sudden closure in the summer of 2013, it reopened this fall under new ownership. But sadly, Seattle lost two more movie houses, the Harvard Exit and the Varsity. So 2014 was a tumultuous year for the cinema as the number of screens quietly decline and more and more movie-goers are happy to watch movies at home on the small screen.

As has been the case for several years now, most of the cinema I saw in 2014 was in nearly private screenings. As someone who values the experience of watching film in a cinema, with an audience, I know the sparsely populated screenings have more than a little to do with my not making it out to see many of the big movies of the year.

I still maintain hope that the movie house has a future, due to my experiences as a projectionist at a small, independent, volunteer run cinema. In 2014, the audiences were larger and more enthusiastic than in previous years. I work on Monday nights, historically the slowest night of the week, and saw audiences climb from the low single digits to 20-30 people most nights. I don't understand the trend, but it is one that suggests that young people today will still leave home to watch movies.

So in the first weeks of 2015, I plan to write briefly about a few of my favorites of 2014.

Locke (2013) dir. Steven Knight

In this intensely suspenseful drama, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) spends nearly the entire duration of the film seated behind the wheel as he drives and battles some internal demons. This is a film that isn't in a hurry to reveal Ivan Locke's reasons for not being at home with his family watching the big game, but is instead driving to another destination. He has also left the site of an extremely important concrete pour and much of the film is spent on the phone with Donal (Andrew Scott) making sure that the concrete is poured correctly in his absence.

What is most amazing about Locke is that it is so skillfully crafted that despite being focused on Tom Hardy's face as he answers a never ending series of phone calls, the film never becomes tedious or claustrophobic. No, I spent the duration on the edge of my seat, completely invested in the outcome of this construction site pour. I have never cared so much about concrete and rebar in my life. But as any glitches are being dealt with at the construction site, the real story is being revealed. That night, a haunting sense of obligation and duty takes him away from his family and his work and it is in the need to make different choices than his own father that has resulted in this drive which will likely end both his career and his marriage. And it is incredible that this emotional journey is conveyed simply by the voices in this car and the emotions playing out on Locke's face.

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