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The Best Moviegoing Memories of 2012

December 31, 2012

By John C.

Silver Linings Playbook PosterEvery December, one of my favourite parts of counting down to the New Year is the YouTube montages of the previous year in movies, and Matt Shapiro’s 2012: The Cinescape is a stunning piece of editing.  Beautifully piecing together perfectly placed moments from the year’s cinematic highlights, it’s a video that already makes us nostalgic for 2012.

My list of the best and worst movies of the year won’t be coming until later in January because I’ve still got some catching up to do for both lists.  But 2012: The Cinescape got me thinking about some of my favourite moviegoing experiences from over the past year.  These films and more will all be honoured throughout my top ten list and ensuing countdown of honourable mentions, but this is the time when I wear my heart on my sleeve and open up about the perfect moments behind some of my favourite movies of the year.

Although every other memorable experience on this list is one that was shared with a big audience, the first is a moment of solitude that reminded me exactly why movies can be both singular and universal.  I finally caught up with the Canadian classroom drama Monsieur Lazhar last February in the week leading up to the Academy Awards, where it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.  I went to see the film at TIFF Bell Lightbox, with only a handful of other people in the theatre.  There was a lot going at that point in my life, but as I let the quiet power of the film wash over me and found myself overcome with emotion during the bittersweet final scene, it was one of those perfect moments when I knew everything was going to be okay.

I missed the screenings of The Hunger Games and went to catch up with the film at the first showtime I could find on opening day, March 23rd.  There happened to be several  groups of young teenagers in the theatre, which isn’t always the best audience to be with when seeing a film for the first time.  I braced myself for texting and talking, but the crowd came alive in a different way during it, cheering and applauding and even growing silent at all the right moments throughout the film.  That’s the power of seeing a blockbuster like The Hunger Games with an audience of fans, but the film still felt profoundly personal for me, and this is why it remains one of the best I’ve seen this year.

The next great experience also happened around one of the biggest and best movies of the year.  The awesome publicity team at Disney went all out for their Toronto premiere of The Avengers, even bringing in Mark Rufallo and Cobie Smulders to walk the red carpet.  The huge AVX auditorium at the Scotiabank theatre was packed right to the front, with the big audience of fans cheering and clapping throughout much of the film.  The movie didn’t start on time, but I don’t think anybody minded staying out late for the film and the experience of watching it play out for the first time was exhilarating.

Disney also hosted another one of my favourite screenings in early June with their premiere of the latest Pixar film Brave, including an insightful Q&A with director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian.  The bagpipe player and Scottish dance performances were a nice touch, getting everyone into the right mood for the film, providing some of the most pure fun I had at a screening in 2012.  The next few events on my list all happened during the Toronto International Film Festival in September, most specifically over the first weekend, when so many memorable experiences always takes place.

There is something special about seeing a movie for the first time at TIFF, even if it’s the sort of film that you don’t traditionally think of as one to play the festival.  The Princess of Wales is unfortunately closing sometime in 2013, but I still remember the Saturday afternoon that I spent at the theatre watching Hotel Transylvania with a great crowd who shared their enthusiasm through thunderous applause.  The film is an animated comedy and the theatre is a classic venue set up for live performances, but this juxtaposition led to a palpable sense of fun that permeated throughout the entire audience on that early September day.

The next day, I got up at 7:00 AM to buy tickets for the Sunday morning screening of Silver Linings Playbook at the gigantic Elgin Theatre.  It was a choice that was rivalled only by the young woman I spoke with in line, a Jennifer Lawrence fan who told me she got up at 6:45 AM.  But it was a move that paid off for a great experience.  The crowd came alive with laughter for the most entertaining moments, grew quiet during the emotional beats of the story and applauded right along with the film after the climactic dance at the end.  I’ve seen and loved Silver Linings Playbook two more times since then, but it doesn’t get much better than that for one of my favourite movies of the year.

Equally memorable was the time I spent at the same theatre for the premiere of The Sessions later that afternoon, another personal favourite that ranks among the very best movies of 2012.  By the end I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house, and when director Ben Lewin came out on leg braces for the Q&A, the entire crowd got up from their seats and delivered one of the biggest and most emotional standing ovations that I have ever experienced.  Some moments make you feel alive, and watching a crowd of people all stand up at the same time in a tidal wave of applause is most certainly one of them.

Although missing the premiere of The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a big disappointment at TIFF, the afternoon that I finally caught up with the film ranks among my favourite moviegoing experiences of the year.  I have read Stephen Chbosky’s source novel more than once and already knew how the story was going to play out, but I was still completely overcome with feelings throughout the film.  The last fifteen minutes were a powerhouse of emotion, and watching the iconic final scene play out on screen is another one of the most memorable and moving moments I had at a theatre this year.

There might have been even more, but these were all perfect moments that ranged from emotional to just plain fun and every one of them confirmed for me why it’s worth sitting in the dark.  My official list of the best movies of 2012 will be coming closer to the end of January, but there’s no better way to honour the end of 2012 than with the memories of when I saw many of these films for the first time.  At the stroke of midnight, let’s all raise a glass to many more moments like this at the movies in 2013.

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