Guess what? If you're one of the slackers watching a pirated copy of Gravity on your TV, or if you're one of the suckers paying almost $20 to see it at a Regal Cinemas, you're doing it wrong.
I'm usually not one for the shrill, hand-wringing, oh-dear-god-kids-are-watching-movies-on-their-phones sort of panic that entirely too many annoying cinephiles engage in, but Gravity really is a powerful reminder of how different it can feel to see certain films on a giant screen, with a group of strangers, instead of just watching something at home. Over the weekend I went to check out OMSI's recently renovated Empirical Theater, which during the day plays mom-approved documentaries about bugs and pyramids and leaves but during the night plays stuff like Gravity. The Empirical Theater is markedly cheaper than most first-run theaters—$7, and that was for 3D—and the four-story screen and Atmos sound are a massive improvement over the fake-IMAX IMAX at places like Lloyd Cinemas and Regal Bridgeport. Watching something like Gravity on a screen like this, with Atmos sound, isn't going to be anything like watching it at home—at home, you'd get maybe a quarter of the total experience that a film like Gravity is meant to provide. And when the film is all about how the universe doesn't care if you live or die, it's kind of an all-or-nothing experience, yeah?
Movies like Gravity—that need to be seen big, that use 3D to their benefit, that are works of technical, nerve-wracking brilliance—are few and far between. And to be fair, Gravity doesn't get everything right: I've heard people grumble about the dialogue in Gravity, and I've found it hard to argue with them. But like actual movie critic A.O. Scott, I found seeing the film a second time changed my thoughts about it:
It’s not that the dialogue improved—it will not be anyone’s favorite part of the movie—but rather that its relation to that silence became clearer. Stone and Kowalski jabber on, to themselves and each other and to Houston “in the blind,” partly to keep the terror of their situation at bay, to fight the overwhelming sense of how tiny and insignificant they are in the cosmos. (Via.)
Anyway, if you're the sort of joyless philistine who just wants to read nitpicks about one of the best films of the year, I'll leave that to Chris Hadfield and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. For everybody else, I'll simply tell you that OMSI's Empirical Theater only has Gravity for a few more days—its last night at the theater is
this Sunday, January 19 Thursday, January 23 (see below). If you haven't seen Gravity yet—or if you've only seen it at home—head out to OMSI. Sit in the middle of the auditorium, so the screen's in front of you and the sound is all around you, and remember what it can feel like to watch a movie.
DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: Whee! Thanks to some misinformation, it turns out you've got a few more days to check out Gravity at OMSI than originally reported. The film's last day at OMSI is Thursday, January 23.