The Best Picture of the Year is King Kong.
It is good that I saw King Kong in the cinema of my youth.
I was home for Christmas. We couldn’t get out to the Century in Folsom to make the early show, so we went to the Century on Ethan Way, the old century, out by the State Fairgrounds. I grew up about a quarter mile from here. This is the cinema where I saw the Sting seven times—at least once sneaking in by prying open a fire door with a ball point pin. This is the cinema where I dressed up in a stupid costume to get in to see Star Wars for free the weekend it opened, and where it actually played for an entire year. This was the theatre of my youth. Not only that, but King Kong was showing on one of the old screens, in one of the domes, those huge round auditoriums that always made me feel like the movie was beings shown in a planetarium—a total cinema experience.
It is good that I saw King Kong in the theatre of my youth because it was the kind of movie I saw there when I was eight, nine, and ten—or rather, it made me feel the same sense of awe and exhilaration I felt when I first saw Star Wars. This was a movie like movies are supposed to be. Peter Jackson has created a fantastic entertainment—an action pic that doesn’t let you down, an epic that can wrench your heart out, a romance (bestial, to be sure) that is pathetic in the original sense of the word—deeply emotionally moving. Of course he started with a great story (to which he paid homage in a lot of amusing ways—especially using identical titles, much of the same music, and recreating the ridiculous “Kong Dance” for the theatre scene). And we already know how great the effects are that come out of his shop. Considering what they were able to do with Gollum, it’s not surprising how real and believable Kong was, but it still amazed, and his interactions with Anne were…I’m out of superlatives…they were complete; complete in the sense that there was nothing missing. You (I at least) really truly believed that these two characters cared deeply for one another. Not believed in the usual viewing a performance and saying “that was believable” sense, but believed as in I was totally lost in their interaction to the point that, for the moments when they were on the screen, I believed that they were real and I was spying on them. The movie ceased to exist and I came to believe that it was real. That hasn’t happened to me since I was a kid.
And that is why King Kong should win best picture. It probably won’t, and there are a lot of pictures out there that are deserving (this is a great year: has anybody besides me seen Capote? Wow!). But this, like Lord of the Rings before it (currently, probably, my favorite movie, The President’ Analyst not withstanding), and Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jaws, and The Godfather, this movie returned movies to what they should be—jaw dropping, awe inspiring, pure entertainment bordering on a religious experience. It was simply great.