Richard Crouse is a curator of the Cineplex Flashback Festival (formerly the Digital Film Festival) which runs from Feb 3rd to 9th across Canada and will be showing movies like The Running Man, Heat, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park and many more.
Richard chats with The Action Elite about the festival.
For those who don’t know the Cineplex Digital Film Festival has had a name change to the Flashback Film Festival; why was now the right time for the name change and why the change?
I think that everybody knows now that when you go to the movies it’s more than likely digital projection and that name did the job for a few years to let people know that we were showing movies in the best possible light with the latest technology. Now everybody knows that and so I thought, it was time to come up with a name that better reflected what the film festival is. We’re looking back at some amazing movies that maybe you haven’t seen for a long time or maybe never seen on the big screen and we’re giving a flashback to those. So I think the new name is more reflective of what this is.
I think I prefer the new name as it triggers the nostalgia nicely.
How are the films selected for the festival?
We sit around a table and argue and that is kind of all it is; I mean we get together, we have meeting after meeting and then just start throwing titles around. Then when you start doing that we look for connections between the films and you start thinking “Oh, how long has it been since The Princess Bride was out? Maybe it’s an anniversary…” or “Was Starship Troopers really 20 years ago?”
We start doing research in that way because we like having films that are tied to an event like an anniversary or something like that. We found a number of them here and some, like Pulp Fiction is a movie that just never gets old. As soon as you mention it, it’s just a groundbreaking piece of cinema that there’s never a reason not to show it. So that one was a no-brainer but it’s all trial and error. We think “what would our audience like to look at and what would we like to have another look at and how can we best get those on the screen?”
Is Pulp Fiction your favourite of this year’s selection?
It’s certainly one of them; Pulp Fiction is one of those movies where I remember the first time I saw it in the theatre. This was pre-internet in 1994 and so I hadn’t read everything or seen a thousand trailers or heard how they shot it and all that kind of stuff. I’d read the reviews and it was getting fabulous reviews so I bought a ticket, I lined up, I saw the movie and was absolutely blown away by it. The cool thing was it was so different and so kind of shocking to people that they weren’t leaving; they were sitting through the credits and then talking to each other in their seats and so shows were getting more and more delays as the days went on. I saw it in probably the second or third showing of the day and so while everybody sat there and talked about the movie I ran out to the box office, bought another ticket and got in line for the next show because I wanted to see it again. So yeah, maybe it’s one of my favourites for sure. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Heat and Fargo on the big screen; these are films that I’ve seen already but there is no better way to see a movie than on a cinema screen.
I’m particularly looking forward to Blade Runner which I’ve also never seen on the big screen.
See, depending on your age that’s a possibility too; with a lot of these films you may have never got to see them before in the theatre. If you were a teenager in 1987 and now you have kids of your own then now’s a good time to take them and introduce them to The Princess Bride on the big screen. When I was a small kid there was only one theatre in the small town where I lived. It was in Nova Scotia far away from the regular distribution route so we didn’t necessarily get all the movies that everyone else saw but every time a new movie came out I went to see it. I didn’t know what it was at the time but I always loved going to the movies. There’s something about the experience of going to a movie theatre and sitting with strangers and watching a story, sharing a communal experience that has stayed with me since I was able to talk my way into seeing The Poseidon Adventure when I was too young to actually been allowed in.
How far out do you start planning the festival? Is it months before?
Oh yeah! We’ve been talking about this for realistically 6 months but honestly the Festival wraps this year on February 9th and I imagine on the 10th I’ll get an email saying “Hey! Do you wanna have lunch?” which means “do you want to come over and argue about what movies to put into the festival next year?”
So it’s a long process of narrowing down the choices and then making sure we can access the movies we want to show. There are some movies we weren’t able to get DCP prints of so we weren’t able to use those. Maybe next year or the year after there’ll be good digital prints of those we can show. So it takes a while to hone the list down and make sure we have all the assets to send around to all the theatres because it’s in 24 theatres across the country.
How do you decide what theatres they will play in?
That’s above my pay grade (laughs) but I think they are playing pretty much everywhere but I’m not sure how it’s done; I think it’s done in a secret office in a tower somewhere…
How did you end up getting involved with the festival originally?
Well I’ve been a film critic in Toronto for more than 20 years and for the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been working with Cineplex on different projects. Throughout the year they’re showing a lot of older films and I would do little promo videos for them or I would do an interview with someone. We showed Pan’s Labyrinth a couple of years ago and I interviewed Guillermo Del Toro so we put together a night where we showed a 25-30 minute interview I did with him about making Pan’s Labyrinth and then showed the film.
So we’ve been doing little projects like this all the way through and a few years ago they approached me to come up with a title, figure out themes and do all that kind of stuff. It’s what I do for a living; every day is spent sitting around talking and/or arguing about movies with someone on some level. Why not here where we can actually put on something? It’s pretty cool; this is the only national film festival. We go from coast to coast in 24 theatres and there’s nobody else that does this kind of thing.
I love how it shows older films as I’m one of these miserable people that thinks older films were generally better…
(laughs) Well it goes up and down for me; part of the appeal of these movies is nostalgic. You’re looking back at something that you maybe connect with a time in your life. There’s a lot of reasons why these movies strike a chord; not only are they all great but for some people they mean a great deal. They are significant because they always used to go to the movies every Saturday with their dad and went to see The Princess Bride or Legend or something like that. Maybe your first date was at Jurassic Park and maybe you want to relive that nostalgically so there’s all those things that go into watching older movies and enjoying the whole experience of it.
For me it’s nice to actually go into a movie and not think about having to write a review for it. I can just sit back and enjoy it.
Absolutely there’s that too; for people like us it is just a pure pleasure.
Do you find you can still enjoy a movie when you’re watching it for the first time or are you in critique mode?
No, I go to the movies all the time; my wife is an editor and she makes trailers and promos for films so she is just as wired into this as I am. I get to see more stuff than she does because I see 400 movies a year and a lot of them are while she’s at work so often on the weekends we’ll still go to the movies and see maybe a few films. I look forward to it and I like going to the movies. I see probably 11 a week professionally and then maybe 1 or two at the weekend. Generally, it has to be some kind of strange circumstance that I don’t enjoy going to a movie theatre.
A lot of people think watching movies all day and reviewing them is a bit of a dream job. Do you agree and love what you do?
I do love what I do; but I think like anything it’s not for everybody. With the good comes the bad and luckily lately it’s been more good than bad in terms of the movies I have to sit through. I get to see great movies and then I get to interview the actors and the directors and talk about them. For me as a kid growing up loving film there is no other job for me. So I’m happy someone lets me do it that I can make a living doing it. I always try to go in with an open mind and just try to have a good time at the movies.
With the Oscars just announced what are your thoughts on this year’s nominees?
Well if you look at the trifecta which are Moonlight, La La Land and Manchester By The Sea I think you’ll have seen the films that will win most of everything. I like all of those films very much but La La Land really stayed with me. I saw it at a press screening during TIFF and it was a movie that frankly I wasn’t all that interested in because I don’t really like musicals. I dialed the settings back to zero and decided to go and see it. If there had been a rewind button on my theatre seat, I’d have hit it and watched it again right afterwards. I’m happy it’s been recognized and because it’s a musical it didn’t just get shunted aside. I’d have liked to have seen Annette Benning get nominated for 20th Century Women; I think the Best Actress category this year is really strong and you could have had 7 or 8 nominees there and I don’t think there would have been anybody that didn’t belong on that list.
I would have liked to have seen a bit of a shake up in the Best Pictures. I by and large liked all the movies that are there but there’s a 10th spot that’s just open. They open it up to 10 nominees every year and they rarely ever fill it. There are hundreds of movies released every year; I refuse to believe that they can’t find a tenth movie. Last year they only had 8 and this year they have 9. I’m thinking why not throw something in there like Deadpool? The whole idea of expanding the field to 10 nominees was that you could include something like Deadpool or Batman or something with a wider audience appeal. They took a big step forward in nominating people of colour this year and I’m really glad they did that. Now the nominations reflect what’s going on in the world and the people that are watching the movies which is great. Now they have to fill that troublesome 10th spot maybe with something controversial and I’d be a happier guy.
It’s still strange that stunts still get no recognition but visuals effects do.
Yeah, it’s funny; they don’t seem to appreciate comedies or stunts.
Finally, are there any plans to expand the festival over the next few years?
Yes, every year it gets a little bigger and a little different so I’m not really sure what the next step will be but I’m sure we’ll start talking about that on the 10th. Whether it’s a name change or something else we try to do something a little different.
For the festival lineup and tickets, go to Cineplex.com/FBFF