Cinema Very Verite

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Newsroom

In the summer, we scatter, we soak, we sizzle, we shvitz. And sometimes, we just need to sit still in the dark. One minute, you’re sweating into your Doritos® Locos Tacos Supreme and then next you’re alone watching the animated sequel to a sequel you didn’t see just because the film has the word “ice” in the title.

Far be it for me to begrudge anyone a chance to disappear into the crisp anonymity of an August matinee, but — don’t choke on a Junior Mint — you are missing out on a magical movie experience: outdoor summer screening.

I was dubious, too. Did I really want to wait until dusk — whenever it finally rolls around — to sit, subjected to the elements, and watch a movie with traffic and without popcorn? Well, I did. And I loved it. And I’ll do it again. And I hope you’ll join me.

It was a dark and muggy night. The Sunday sun had yet to set over the vacant-lot-turned-garden-park across from the Woodbridge Pub on Trumbull. We wandered around the neighborhood, free from sticky floors and extortionist concessions, enjoying the public art and post-bellum architecture. Before the movie, we were besieged by a roving band of brass musicians who treated us to something sousaphonic.

And then, Rushmore. Max Fisher (not to be confused with Max Fisher), with the Fisher Building in my peripheral vision. Making his mark on venerable Rushmore Academy, just like so many Wayne State Warriors and, before them, Tartars, across the street. I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul — you and me both, Cat Stevens.

These free Sunday showings come courtesy of a local group called Bikes and Murder (bikesandmurder.com). Don’t let the name worry you — they wear bicycle helmets and defend against fictitious zombies. In fact, as far as I can tell, their gatherings are bereft of even on-screen nemeses. Instead, when the cyclists aren’t cycling, they’re enjoying fine films with kind buds.

Up the street in lush New Center Park (newcenterpark.com), upcoming Wednesdays on Grand Boulevard offer E.T. (no phones, homey), The Princess Bride (as you wished) and Caddyshack (so you’ve got that going for you).

Apparently, not everyone shares my zeal for cinema under the stars. Juliet Lapidos argued in a Slate magazine polemic that “sincere movie-watching cannot, in fact, take place at outdoor screenings.” She observed the hidden costs of free outdoor screenings: “At nearly every Bryant Park film I’ve attended, either Camembert or Prosecco has been in evidence — sometimes both.”

Well, Ms. Fancy-Pants-New-Yorker-with-a-Shakespearean-name, in Detroit, we like our cheese to be American and our wine to be beer. And the best thing about seeing movies outside isn’t that it’s free of cost but free from the walls that close us off from the outside world. On screen and off, it’s the simple joy of meeting friends in the park.

But why constrain ourselves to the view from the grassy knoll? Once we’ve freed movies from the climate-controlled black boxes that traditionally entomb them, unconventional places and spaces hold even greater potential for creating a 3-D experience that doesn’t require wearing glasses on top of your glasses. Some Detroit screenings I’d like to see:

8 Mile. Not on 8 Mile (fast drivers and bright strip-club lights) but in the Michigan Building, where they shot the epic “rhyme fight” (or whatever the kids call it these days).

The first 10 minutes of all three  Beverly Hills Cop movies. At Mumford.
Dream Girls. On the lawn of Hitsville, USA.
Gran Torino. Eastside!
The Warriors. Admittedly New York, but irresistibly Dequindre Cut.
No Robocop. Too predictable, especially for those of us whose nonfictional directives are to serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law.
Fin.

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