I went to see Captain Marvel earlier this year. I’m not sure whether I would have done were it not to make sense of things in the then-upcoming ‘Avengers: Endgame’. And I’m guessing I’m not the only person to have been swallowed up in this Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One scene really struck me, not for its brilliance, but because of its warm, nostalgic tone. It left me feeling wistful, and almost homesick. When our central character comes crashing to Earth, the film cleverly and whimsically establishes the ‘when’ and, much more poignantly, the ‘where’ by having her land in a vast Blockbuster video store. Here, as expected were thousands of VHS cassettes neatly arranged in aisles, grouped into categories, scattered with life-sized cardboard cut-outs – it was all so evocative I was instantly right there again, as if I’d travelled back in time myself.
I must have made countless trips in the 80s and 90s to video stores, first with my dad, and then with friends, choosing films to watch. After VHS cassettes came DVDs, then Blu-rays; then the stores closed as we started online ordering of DVDs for hire through the post – how ludicrously ancient that sounds now! – and now, cable and streaming services provide far more convenient, and instant access to movies. (Remarkably, there does remain one single Blockbuster store – in the USA, of course.)
Back then, in the 90s, some people said cinema would die – but then came the launch of Lord of the Rings, the Matrix trilogy, Harry Potter, Avatar, and Star Wars Reborn – so now cinema is as big and bold and profitable as ever. Just ten years ago, no-one had ever tried to do what Marvel has – to make a huge, connected, but diverse franchise. No-one knew if it could work. But now, I can’t really imagine movies without it.
I suspect that no technology can kill cinema, or the business of people flocking to see the latest movie blockbuster, because there’s something so essentially human about the whole experience. For most of our history, as long as there has been spoken language, when the day’s work is done, and the sun is set, we, homo sapiens, have gathered around a fire with food, for warmth, comfort, and company, and have listened to stories.
Cinema is just the latest evocation of this. We are drawn by the light of the projected image, flickering like the flames of the campfire; and the throng of the audience around us makes us feel part of something bigger – like we belong. The joy of closing out the daily bustle of life and giving ourselves to a narrative, sharing an emotional journey with friends and strangers, is so significant, I can’t imagine there’s a human culture that doesn’t do it.
All this is precisely why we have a film club here at The Canbury Hub. Watching movies together is something humans are wired for, and we want to make sure that some of the movies we watch, and the messages and meanings they bring, are good, rich, satisfying and life-affirming. We also want to make it possible for those who have no-one to go to the cinema with, or who want to talk or think more deeply about movies, to enjoy being part of a social group where we snack, watch together, and then spend a little time sucking the marrow out of what we’ve just seen.
Everyone is welcome to come along. Why not join us for our annual Summer Film Festival later in August. The festival will include a family-friendly film special in the afternoon, followed by some delicious fresh barbecue, and then the fun and artistry of the Coen Brothers’ ‘O brother, where art thou?’, a sepia-tinted Kentucky Bluegrass musical riff on Homer’s Odyssey (not that you’d notice).
Check out canburyfilm.club for more details on what’s coming up.