A Movie Blog by Craig Koban







Guest contributors: Naomi Kyle, Achara Kirk, Mike Falkow, and Al White


January 29, 2014


"Memory...is the diary that we carry about with us." 

- Oscar Wilde

I remember like it was yesterday. 

It was May 25, 1983.  The sun was a brilliant gleaming beacon in the clear skies above Saskatoon.  I was a bright and plucky (make that pudgy) 8-year-old lad about to embark on a grand and feverishly anticipated cinematic quest that began three awfully long and agonizing years in the past.  

My dad was the purchaser of two advance movie tickets, which I held in my hand in a sweaty and trembling grip.  To me, they were like two golden tickets to gain entrance to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  I recall anxiously fidgeting in my car seat on route to the theater, like a victim of too much sugar intake, but I was not high off of candy...I was deliriously excited for what we were about to see.  We arrived at the grand Paramount Theater on 2nd Avenue, and even though we arrived an hour and a half before showtime, a line-up of insatiably giddy movie patrons were already there, awaiting for the doors to open.  After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the doors to the movie palace flung open and my dad and I hurried in, got refreshments, picked some prime real estate seats and sat back.  We then awaited for the curtain to rise.  Sure enough, it did, and when John Williams' triumphant 20th Century Fox fanfare reverberated through the sound system and the glimmering Lucasfilm logo appeared on the silver screen...I was in a state of youthful geek nirvana.  I finally, after 36 months of waiting, would find out if Darth Vader was indeed Luke Skywalker’s father.  36 months, for such a young and impressionable child, was a near unendurable test of willpower and fortitude. 


An original RETURN OF THE JEDI themed issue of Canada's Tribute Magazine that I still have from the 1983 premiere.

Of course, I am talking about 1983’s RETURN OF THE JEDI, a movie, for its time, that was perhaps the most hotly anticipated movie in the history of the medium, and it's a filmgoing experience that has yet to be duplicated for me.  Going to the movies has become a perfunctory experience for me over the years, which left me thinking that there are so very few truly memorable and transcending experiences at the movies that have left me in a state of perpetual childlike awe and wonder.  It soon dawned on me that it would be wonderful to allow some of my industry friends and colleagues an opportunity to share what some of their most memorable cinematic experiences were during the course of their lives.  We all hold such memories so incomparably close to the heart, which, I think, is what makes them resonate so deeply within us.  They also reinforce the transformative power of the movies as a social-cultural art form; there's nothing like them. 

So, I’ve decided to gather together below the respective movie recollections of four people in particular that I had the humbling and sincere pleasure of interviewing over the course of the last six months.  They all have also worked on GEEKS, a short film/pilot that I spoke of with much reverence in a past blog, which will now, incidentally, be made into a feature film that begins shooting in the summer of 2014 for release in 2015.  I think that the anecdotes presented here not only provide for a wonderful cross section of tastes and prerogatives, but they also reflect the rich and limitlessly eclectic variety that the movies provide for us as a form of ethereal escape.   

After all, we all have our own RETURN OF THE JEDI buried deep within our subconscious that has meaningfully touched us, in one form or another, during our lives.




'GEEKS' FILM CREDIT: Alyx (cast) / short and feature film

I have to admit that this question had me stumped at first.  Usually when I go to the movies the movie is what makes the experience for me.  Everything surrounding it: driving to the theater, getting my ticket checked, finding the appropriate seating…it's all menial compared to that very special feeling you get from watching a good film on the big screen.  Risking defeating the purpose of this anecdote, I very well could have just described my favorite film, but I have too many to narrow down.  Also, having never been to any special premieres I decided that my most memorable filmgoing experience would have to revolve around something more personal and unique, making my first IMAX movie experience the perfect fit.   

It was my first time visiting the Old Port of Montreal as a child.  I believe I was 9.  Accompanied by my aunt and younger brother, the movie was WINGS OF COURAGE.  Located at the Montreal Science Centre, it was an afternoon showing and I can recall walking up to the venue: springtime with little greenery around, and the architecture of the building was unlike anything I had seen, almost spaceship-like.  Nothing special about it now that I'm an adult, sadly.  My aunt bought us a bowl of popcorn, something my parents never let us indulge in until we were much older, and inside we went to find our seats near the middle rows.  Noticing the comfiness of our chairs we waited for the film to start.  Much of what we saw is now a blur to me, except for a scene of this old-timey man in an office and a few shots of an airplane flying through a wintry tundra. There is one scene, however, in which the main character almost freezes to death.  It really struck me to where I am certain that this scene will go through my mind if I'm ever caught in a deadly freeze of my own.  

And may that never happen…ever.






'GEEKS' FILM CREDIT: Samara (cast) / short and feature film

When I think about my most memorable experiences at the movies they often have less to do with the film that I'm actually watching and have more to do with the people I'm sharing the experience with.  This is definitely true in the case of this story I'm about to share.  

Those of you that have read Craig's interview with me probably already know that I have a great love of fantasy novels – witches, wizards and especially vampires are some of my favorites.  So it probably comes as no surprise that I loved the TWILIGHT series of books.  I had watched the first film at the cinema with my youngest sister Belinda and we had such a great time that when the second movie (TWILIGHT: NEW MOON) came out we decided to make a big event out of it. 

We got together a small group of girls and booked tickets to the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square for the release day of the movie.  For readers that are not from London, the Odeon in Leicester Square is a massive cinema complex and is also the place where pretty much all the movie premieres in London are held.  It's also the most expensive movie theater in London, so choosing to go and see TWILIGHT there (and on opening night) was kind of a big deal for us as we normally wouldn't do that.  

On the night of the movie we had a quick glass of wine at the bar across the way and made the short walk to the theater.  It was packed with legions of mostly female fans of all ages and there was also a girl outside the cinema who was giving out free copies of a new vampire novel by a different author (score!).  After getting our drinks and popcorn we got in line with all the other people who were waiting to see the movie as well.  The atmosphere was full of excitement and anticipation.  It was electric! 

This trip to the movies sticks in my mind because it was such a great shared experience – not only with my friends, but with the whole audience.  We had all enjoyed the first movie and we were all excited to see the next one and knew what we were getting into.   And the best part was how boisterous it all was; it was like going to see a pantomime.  When Jacob ripped off his shirt, all the women screamed and cheered in appreciation.  Subsequently, when Edward's topless moment came there was a group sigh of disappointment at the sight of his less-than chiseled physique (I'm Team Edward all the way, but seriously Robert Pattinson...if you knew you were going up against a buff Taylor Lautner would you not have spent a few sessions at the gym at least?).  But best of all, I got to share this with one of my favorite people in the world – my little sister Belinda.

Sadly, I moved away before the last few installments in the franchise came out.  Watching the movies at the cinema just hasn't been the same without Belinda – probably the only other person I know who loves vampires as much as I do.  TWILIGHT will always be our thing and if we're ever in the same country when an adaptation of a favorite book comes out at the cinema she will always be the first person I want to see it with.






'GEEKS' FILM CREDIT: Morris (cast) and Producer (short film)

As long as I can recall, I've had a fondness for the movies.  Being transported to another time and place while sitting back in a comfy chair and being entertained, enlightened or inspired.  One of my earliest filmgoing memories is seeing THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.  It was magical to me, as a young kid, escaping into this space opera on the big screen.  It felt real, as real as anything I'd experienced.  And as I looked on with pure wonder and imagination in my eyes, I don't think I could've understood how deep and indelible a mark it was making on my creative impulses. 

I remember seeing E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL with my parents in the theater and crying uncontrollably at the end.  So much so that my folks had to take me for a walk afterwards in the park, so that they could calm me down.  

I remember hiding under the seats during a screening of THE WIZARD OF OZ because the flying monkeys were so terrifying to me.  

Then in primary school, our principal, Mr. Stanley, would reward the swimming team every time we won a big competition.  His reward was to take the whole team to the movies.  One of those films was EMPIRE OF THE SUN.  Christian Bale is spectacular in that film, but as a 10-year-old, I didn't know who he was, or who he would ultimately become.  All I knew was that there was this kid, similar to me in age, going through a dramatic journey of self-discovery in a world at odds with itself.  Again, it left quite an impression on me.  

The movies I saw as a young kid, the theaters I attended, in many ways crafted my love of film and the filmgoing experience.  The big screen, the dark room, the feel of the seats, the smell of the popcorn, but more than any of those little details...the stories and the films themselves.  And the way they made me feel.  These stories from half a world away somehow resonated with me, a young boy in a movie theater at the bottom of Africa. 




'GEEKS' FILM CREDIT: Writer, director, creator / short and feature film

It may sound like a cliché, but the cinema has been in my life for as long as I can remember.  Ever since I charged up and down the aisles, zapping my invisible blaster throughout RETURN OF THE JEDI, annoying dozens of avid STAR WARS fans, I’ve been in love with the magic, the presence, and the stoic celebration of what the movie theater represents.  To be able to sit in a red throned seat, to watch those curtains draw back gracefully, the lights dim, and to feel the energy of a room full of people waiting to be entertained, moved, and distracted.  Waiting to be a part of something both personal and yet wholly universal.  To be told stories. 

I’ve been desperate my whole life to know that feeling from the other side.  To be seated one day in a room of strangers ready to judge my own stories.  Ready to tear them apart, to challenge, or perhaps, just for a moment, to be distracted and affected.  And perhaps, just perhaps, for one single ticket holder to feel a little less alone when they exit.  As if they have found a friend.  Someone to hold hands with on the way out.  

There have been more films than I can name that have affected me in such a way, but two in particular stand out as turning points in my life.  Movies that changed my path in dramatic ways.  And surprisingly, neither were ones I saw alone (which, I find, is usually the easiest way to be affected in the cinema).  

The first was back at the tail-end of 1995 while holidaying with my father in Zermatt, Switzerland.  They have a wonderful art cinema there, which still stands to this day (albeit in a slightly modernized form).  Nowadays I’ve had the privilege of living in bustling cities and I'm quite used to the broad spectrum of luxurious and boutique-antique cinemas that Western fashion supports, but at the impressionable age of 15 I wasn’t aware of the joys a truly ornate theater could bring.  Dark stairs leading down to a red lit bar.  Large double doors opening to what I would now compare to a cabaret show room - dotted thin tables, red clothed lazy chairs, towering walls with sculpted pillars, a stage draped in a thicker, darker red cloth and a boastful chandelier, hanging triumphantly in the center of the room.  

We were there to see a film that would change my life and would continue to this day to be in my top three titles of all-time.  It was David Fincher’s SEVEN.  I knew little about it at the time, save for the tantalizingly beautifully ugly teaser and the savvy poster with the seven sins crossed out one-by-one.  I was nervous, excited, and slightly fearful.  My anticipation was well placed.  When the lights dimmed and the chandelier shuddered from its central place to fold away neatly to a side enclave, the curtains drew and those now iconic opening titles began to roll...I was enraptured.  Completely absorbed and captured as if all my senses were held hostage by the mood, the enriched cinematography, the strange bitter sweet flavors and sounds of the completely unique world unraveling before my eyes.  

I was, in fact, so engrossed that I failed to even notice until after that I was seated the whole time with my father on one side, and to my other - Anthony Hopkins and his mistress.

It was 15 years later, in 2010 that my other truly defining cinematic experience took place.  From the age of 3 all I had wanted to do was direct.  After the experience in Zermatt at 15 I had a renewed feverish passion and drive which was sadly bullied somewhat out of me during my teen years.  I finally entered film school at the age of 19 a cripplingly shy, introspective daydreamer who couldn’t muster enough confidence to wrangle any peers into my obsessively passionate and ridiculously impossible projects. 

Then, in 2010, at the age of 30, I attended a screening during a renowned London-based horror festival that I have attended every year for the past 11 save for one.  The film was a micro-budget romance/sci-fi/road trip movie from a first time director, shot on prosumer gear with no script and a crew of five.  It was called MONSTERS.  And it changed my life.  

I sat in the theater tired from the usual slew of mediocre to passable to horrendous and occasionally entertaining festival entries (28 films in 5 days can take its toll), but cautiously excited.  I could not have been prepared for the experience I was about to encounter.  MONSTERS, for me, is one of those incredibly rare films that you watch with your heart in your throat, riveted by the beauty and majesty of it all, while you curse the director for making the film you always wanted to make before you got the chance to.  

But instead of being deterred by it, I felt immensely inspired.  Getting to talk with the creator/director Gareth Edwards afterwards only filled me with more feverish excitement.  He is, without a doubt, the nicest man I’ve ever met in the film industry and undoubtedly the most talented (I’m certain his follow-up, GODZILLA, will prove this to the world at large).  I came out of the film and his inspirational speech and immediately spent all my savings on purchasing the same prosumer gear he used to make MONSTERS.  I went off and made my first short, a wholly over-ambitious and flawed little film that I’m ashamed of now, but that opened enough doors for me to allow me to keep kidding myself I could be a director.  And hopefully one day, one as confident and honest as Gareth.  

I’ve been lucky enough to stay in contact with him via e-mail and the occasional press junket over the following years and his kind advice and support of my numerous projects keeps me on track, keeps me inspired, and keeps me feeling that there is hope.  

I hope that one day I can indeed be sitting there in a cinema, as the lights go down, and the rustle of popcorn is momentarily self-consciously staggered.  The curtains unsheath, the screen flickers and I can wait, with bated breath, to feel that energy - of a room about to put their faith in my film for 90mins.  In the hope they can forget the world outside just for a single, tiny, brief moment.  And they can feel a little less alone. 








(Left to right): GEEKS short film teaser poster A and B and the feature film teaser poster.

  H O M E