The 8th Annual EMOs

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34 films. 17 different theaters, from New York to Bucksport, Maine, and Culpeper, Virginia. 3976 minutes (that’s over 67 hours). And way, way too much $$$$.

That, in a nutshell, was my year in film, 2014. But this is more than a nutshell. This is Ethan’s Makeshift Oscars. So let’s get into it. As always, to get nominated for an EMO, a film must have been released in 2014 and I had to see it in 2014. No limits on the number of nominations per category, though I try to keep it to 10; in the competitive categories, nominees are listed in ranked order from the cut-off line to the winner. And of course, be sure to stay tuned for the second half of the EMOs, where every film is a winner in its own way.

Check back in a while for a more detailed (and, once I’ve caught up with a few more late-year limited releases, accurate) top 10 of the year. Enjoy!

Best Action Film:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Godzilla

Funniest Film:

  • Chef
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Land Ho!
  • Obvious Child
  • Frank
  • Dear White People
  • Inherent Vice
  • Birdman
  • The LEGO Movie

Most Fucked-Up Protagonist:

  • Curtis, “Snowpiercer”
  • Andrew Neyman, “Whiplash”
  • Riggan Thomson, “Birdman”
  • Eric Lomax, “The Railway Man”
  • Mark Schultz, “Foxcatcher”
  • Amelia, “The Babadook”
  • Amy and Nick Dunne, “Gone Girl”
  • Lou Bloom, “Nightcrawler”

Most Deserving to Have Everyone Involved in Production Die a Horribly Painful Death Just For Making Me Watch the Trailer:

  • Tammy
  • A Long Way Down
  • Left Behind
  • The Other Woman
  • The Legend of Hercules
  • I, Frankenstein

Worst Science:

  • Interstellar
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Godzilla
  • Transcendence

Rising Above It Award (for acting performance significantly above the overall quality of the film it’s in):

  • Brendan Gleeson, “The Grand Seduction”
  • James McAvoy, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
  • Jeremy Irvine, “The Railway Man”
  • Emily Blunt, “Edge of Tomorrow”

Scene-Stealer Award:

  • Emily Watson, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Ed Harris, “Snowpiercer”
  • Robert Downey, Jr., “Chef”
  • Domhnall Gleeson, “Calvary”
  • Toby Jones, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Breakthrough Actor/Actress of the Year:

  • Evan Peters, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
  • Chris Pratt, “The LEGO Movie” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • Dave Bautista, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • Jenny Slate, “Obvious Child”
  • Carrie Coon, “Gone Girl”
  • the collective cast of “Dear White People”

Best Poster:

  • Under the Skin

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  • Whiplash

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  • Inherent Vice

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  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

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  • Foxcatcher

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  • Nightcrawler

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  • Rosewater

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  • Men, Women and Children

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  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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  • Birdman

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Best Trailer:

  • Mommy
  • Godzilla
  • Boyhood
  • Knight of Cups
  • Gone Girl
  • Force Majeure
  • Selma
  • Nightcrawler
  • Birdman
  • Inherent Vice

Best Scene:

  • Eating a piece of cake, “Under the Skin”
  • Skydiving into San Francisco, “Godzilla”
  • Business over dinner, “Nightcrawler”
  • Brothers warming up, “Foxcatcher”
  • Docking, “Interstellar”
  • On the beach, “Calvary”
  • A syndicate of dentists, “Inherent Vice”
  • Despair, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • “Not quite my tempo”, “Whiplash”

Best Use of An Existing Song:

  • “The Obvious Child,” Paul Simon, “Obvious Child”
  • “In a Big Country,” Big Country, “Land Ho!”
  • “Come and Get Your Love,” Redbone, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • “Hero,” Family of the Year, “Boyhood”
  • “Vitamin C,” Can, “Inherent Vice”

Best Original Song:

  • “Where No One Goes,” by Jónsi, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
  • “For the Dancing and the Dreaming,” by Jónsi and John Powell, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
  • “Song of the Heavenly Maiden,” by Joe Hisaishi, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • “I Love You All,” by the Soronprfbs, “Frank”
  • “Everything is AWESOME!!!” by Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island, “The LEGO Movie”

Best Original Score:

  • Alexandre Desplat, “Godzilla”
  • Herbert Grönemeyer, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • James Newton Howard, “Nightcrawler”
  • Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, “Gone Girl”
  • Jóhann Jóhannson, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”
  • Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • Antonio Sanchez, “Birdman”
  • Jonny Greenwood, “Inherent Vice”
  • Mica Levi, “Under the Skin”
  • Joe Hisaishi, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

Prettiest Pictures:

  • Benoît Delhomme, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Hoyte van Hoytema, “Interstellar”
  • Benoît Delhomme, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Jeff Cronenweth, “Gone Girl”
  • Larry Smith, “Calvary”
  • Robert Elswit, “Inherent Vice”
  • Robert Elswit, “Nightcrawler”
  • Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski, “Ida”
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”
  • Daniel Landin, “Under the Skin”

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Andrew Bovell, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”
  • Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan, “Frank”
  • Gillian Robespierre, “Obvious Child”
  • Isao Takahata, Riko Sakaguchi, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Chris Miller, Phil Lord, “The LEGO Movie”
  • Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook”
  • Justin Simien, “Dear White People”
  • E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, “Foxcatcher”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
  • Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
  • Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, “Ida”
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Armando Bo, Alexander Dinelaris, “Birdman”
  • John Michael McDonagh, “Calvary”

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Robin Wright, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Andrea Riseborough, “Birdman”
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Frank”
  • Carrie Coon, “Gone Girl”
  • Joanna Newsom, “Inherent Vice”
  • Rene Russo, “Nightcrawler”
  • Kelly Reilly, “Calvary”
  • Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
  • Emma Stone, “Birdman”
  • Tilda Swinton, “Snowpiercer”

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Will Arnett, “The LEGO Movie”
  • Tyler Perry, “Gone Girl”
  • Dave Bautista, “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”
  • Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler”
  • Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
  • Chris O’Dowd, “Calvary”
  • Edward Norton, “Birdman”
  • J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
  • Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”

Best Actress:

  • Aki Asakura, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • Tessa Thompson, “Dear White People”
  • Jenny Slate, “Obvious Child”
  • Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Agata Trzebuchowska, “Ida”
  • Agata Kulesza, “Ida”
  • Essie Davis, “The Babadook”
  • Scarlett Johannson, “Under the Skin”

Best Actor:

  • Domhnall Gleeson, “Frank”
  • Tyler James Williams, “Dear White People”
  • Earl Lynn Nelson, “Land Ho!”
  • Paul Eenhorn, “Land Ho!”
  • Michael Fassbender, “Frank”
  • Channing Tatum, “Foxcatcher”
  • Miles Teller, “Whiplash”
  • Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
  • Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, “A Most Wanted Man”
  • Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”
  • Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”
  • Brendan Gleeson, “Calvary”

Best Acting Ensemble:

  • Frank
  • The LEGO Movie
  • Snowpiercer
  • Dear White People
  • Boyhood
  • Calvary
  • Inherent Vice
  • Birdman

Best Director:

  • Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook”
  • Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
  • Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
  • John Michael McDonagh, “Calvary”
  • Pawel Pawlikowski, “Ida”
  • Jonathan Glazer, “Under the Skin”
  • Isao Takahata, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman”
  • Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Best Film:

  • Frank
  • Nightcrawler
  • Dear White People
  • Foxcatcher
  • Whiplash
  • Boyhood
  • Inherent Vice
  • Ida
  • Under the Skin
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya
  • Birdman
  • Calvary

Best “Drunk History” Impression: “The Legend of Hercules”

I mean I guess I might get Hercules, the Bible and “300” confused after ten shots of tequila too.

Most Ineffectual World-Conquering AI

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Least Sexy PG-13 Robot/Human Sexytimes

Biggest Waste of Morgan Freeman’s Talent…the Week of April 18

Most Tech-Savvy Neo-Luddite Terrorist Group

Least Invested Johnny Depp

and

Most Misguidedly Aspirational Title: “Transcendence”

I just couldn’t stop.

Most Plot Twists Telegraphed Through Casting: “Non-Stop”

Liam Neeson is stuck on a plane with a murderer who could be ANYONE…of the five name actors involved with this film. And gee, I wonder if Julianne Moore is going to be important maybe.

Most Fraught Ethical Issues Raised and Then Immediately Dismissed By a Feel-Good Comedy: “The Grand Seduction”

I mean I guess we’re all OK with blackmailing a doctor in order to bring an environmental-unfriendly petrochemical factory to a tiny picturesque island with a population that couldn’t possibly sustain responsible business models…because…Brendan Gleeson said so?

Most Inexplicable Absence of a Piece of Pop Culture Inside Another Piece of Pop Culture:  “Groundhog Day” and “Edge of Tomorrow”

Time-manipulating alien invaders, exoskeleton-equipped super-soldiers, Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt romance; I’ll buy it all, but fuck off if you ask me to believe the future forgets about Bill Murray.

The Closest Thing We’ll Ever Get to Colin Firth in “Taken”: “The Railway Man”

I’m just saying, Hollywood is leaving a considerable amount of money on the table here.

Most Depressing Captain America Movie: “Snowpiercer”

Maybe that whole time when he was trapped under the ice Steve Rogers was eating babies to survive.

Best Archival Villain: Nazi videotape, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

I don’t think my NYU graduate education in moving image preservation has properly prepared me for the eventuality of discovering Toby Jones’ consciousness downloaded onto 1000 quad machines. I want my money back.

Most Concerned I’ve Ever Been That an Actor’s Veins Might Literally Explode on Screen: Hugh Jackman, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Can someone please tell Mr. Jackman that he can stop being so polite and everyone will be OK if he stops taking steroids now please?

Biggest Genetic Gamble: the child of Sofia Vergara and Jon Favreau, “Chef”

May the odds be ever in your favor, kid.

Most Blatant and Ill-Conceived Attempt to Be Disney But Not Disney: “How To Train Your Dragon 2”

“Everyone knows that the mom always dies in Disney movies…so…what can we do differently….”

Most Actors Acting in Completely Different Movies: “Gone Girl”

I’m not even entirely convinced Tyler Perry knew he was in a movie at all, or if they just filmed him laughing at David Fincher.

Most Han Solos: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Everyone loves s cocky space pirate. Or fifteen.

Most Anatomical Questions Raised: “The Theory of Everything”

Look, Stephen, I know you’re British and don’t discuss these things. But a throwaway joke is not enough detail here. Forget the black hole stuff. I need charts.

Dumbest Film-Related Complaint of the Year: not enough Godzilla in “Godzilla”

^ Honestly, I don’t know what fucking “more Godzilla” you need.

Cheekiest Punctuation: “Land Ho!”

This could’ve gone to “I, Frankenstein,” but the one thing I would like to reward about THAT film is that they got their grammar right.

Most Likely To Drive You Insane Trying to Figure Out Who’s Voicing That Robot: “Interstellar”

For the record, I love Bill Irwin – he’s freaking phenomenal in “Rachel Getting Married” and does a great job with TARS. But goddamn if he doesn’t sound like every single other famous male actor in Hollywood. Ever. Seriously, I considered that he was the recycled voice of Marlon Brando for a little while.

Most Fucking Instances of Fucking Ralph Fiennes Saying “Fuck” A Fucking Lot: “The Grand Budapest Hotel

Clearly this is so stunning that we must give Wes Anderson all the screenplay awards.

Best Evidence That Everything About the Abortion Sequence in “Juno” Can Go Fuck Itself: “Obvious Child”

To be clear, “Juno” is still a solid-to-good movie overall. But just everything about those scenes. Every. Thing.

Best Cinematic Birth Control Since “Eraserhead”: “The Babadook”

Nope nope nope no children nope nope never nope.

Greatest Disparity Between the Quality of a Movie and the Quality It Has Any Business Being: “The LEGO Movie”

I don’t remember the last time an hour-and-a-half long toy commercial made me cry. Don Draper would be so proud.

Saddest. : “A Most Wanted Man”

RIP, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Chiara Mastroianni Award: “Nightcrawler”

So this one requires a bit of explanation. Maybe you know Chiara Mastroianni, European actress and model:

A perfectly attractive and striking woman; but, and with no insult meant here, just not the stunning ethereal being that you would expect from the union of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, two of the most beautiful humans ever to walk this planet:

                          

So how is this relevant to “Nightcrawler?” Well, imagine Marcello Mastroianni is “Taxi Driver” and Catherine Deneuve is “Network.” Now combine the two, if you get my drift. Stunning on paper, very good in practice – and yet…

God Damn It He Sings Too: Michael Fassbender, “Frank”

Life just isn’t fair.

Yo, Is This Racist? : “Dear White People”

Nope!

Most Fascinating Beard/Hair Combo Ever Known to Man: Dave Schultz/Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”

I just can’t….stop….staring at it….

Bloodiest Depiction of Music Since the Lost Director’s Cut of “Mr. Holland’s Opus”: “Whiplash”

I never even considered it before, but I feel really bad for the janitors at Juilliard now.

Best Candidates for the Next-Next Season of “True Detective”: Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”

With Doc Sportello in the mix we could easily fill Matthew McConaughey’s stoned rants.

Best CGI: “Boyhood”

It’s really amazing what they can do with computers today, man.

Most Ridiculously Art-House Movie of the Year: “Ida”

I mean, it’s a Polish film about a nun discovering the emotionally devastating truth of her family’s death in the Holocaust, filmed in black-and-white Academy ratio. Are we sure this is an actual movie that exists or just a super dedicated Funny or Die sketch?

Highest Combined Total of Physical, Emotional and Social Distress: “Under the Skin”

Ugggggghhhhhhh I’m so uncomfortable but I kind of like it? It’s really weird to be a film snob sometimes.

Most Unexpected Anti-Buddhist Propaganda: “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

FUCK YOU, MOON BUDDHA.

Most Likely to Confuse Insecure Film Critics: “Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

“But…but…they make fun of critics…….must…activate…humorless douchebag mode….”

Most Terrifying Evidence That Littlefinger from “Game of Thrones” Is Attempting to Cross Into Our World Through the Vessel of Aidan Gillen: “Calvary”

It would appeeeeeaaaaarrrr soooooooo…

“Interstellar” and the Film Question

This past week I was working my usual shift in NYU’s Film Study Center archive, digitizing some 16mm student films from a production course twenty years ago. A couple of my co-workers, both cinema studies undergraduates, were cataloging in the same room, and as is wont to happen when you get a couple bored work-study students together in the same room, we started slacking off and chatting; and as is wont to happen when you get a couple cinema studies students together in the same room, the conversation turned to movies.

The question inevitably rose about who had seen “Interstellar,” Christopher Nolan’s latest cocktail of artistry and hype (which, it really must be noted, still can’t hold a candle to the corporate machine, internet be damned). We discussed the film’s early release scheme, by which theaters still equipped with 35mm and 70mm projectors had begun screening Nolan’s film two days earlier than the now-standard all-digital multiplexes. Meekly, one of my co-workers asked if there was really any difference between digital projection and a 70mm print. The other quickly shook his head, assuring “No, you can’t tell at all.”

Somewhere a dozen synapses fired in my brain, but I managed to swallow any follow-up comment. I wanted to rant about the flatness of a digital image, about motion blur and film grain and frame rates and flicker. But I did not, because I am well aware that I am someone who has chosen to care about such things, whose passion for film has branched into the behind-the-scenes processes that put a moving image on a screen. I know that there are many dedicated film lovers – not to mention casual film-goers – who do not share this interest, and for whom the digital revolution has made a far bigger impact on the consumption of movies than on the actual honest-to-god image in front of their eyes. This friend of mine was not wrong; if you are not specifically looking for the differences between digital and film projection, it is unlikely you would ever spot them at all.

Except, and here perhaps lies the rub, when things go wrong. I myself chose to see “Interstellar” in 70mm at New York’s famed one-screen movie palace, the Ziegfeld Theater – I had heard some reports of a muddy 70mm IMAX sound mix at the Lincoln Center AMC, and was concerned that the switch in aspect ratios between scenes filmed in IMAX and scenes without would be distracting; but I wanted the sharpness of color and widescreen clarity offered by regular 70mm. And while on the whole I consider this a great choice, there was a noticeable hiccup: for the first 15-20 minutes of the film, probably equivalent to the first reel of the film (though it had evidently been plattered to avoid reel changes), a sliver along the top of the frame was somewhat out-of-focus. Whatever the problem was, it eventually resolved itself, and I settled in for another two and a half hours or so of Matthew McConaughey learning that love is, in fact, all you need.

This is the kind of minor projection issue that has essentially disappeared from cinemas: short of catastrophic equipment failure (blown speakers, broken bulbs) or a badly ingested DCP, digital projection has smoothed over many of the small factors that used to affect film screenings: dust and dirt in the gate, the timing of reel changes, masking, focus, jitter. These are the sorts of things that people now, after having become accustomed to digital projection, are more likely to notice than a sharper depth of field between the specks of light that make up the starry void of space in “Interstellar,” or the more natural lighting on the folds of one of Jessica Chastain’s sweaters. At worst, some people probably walked out of my screening complaining about those out-of-focus scenes; at best, they came out wondering, again, why they even bothered with the difference.

In some ways, I wish I could join the latter group, that I could sit down right now and discuss this absorbing, ambitious and occasionally frustrating film entirely on its creative merits. There is certainly much to talk about there: the ham-fisted sincerity of Nolan’s script, the thrilling propulsion of his editing, the valiant and often affecting work of his cast, the unique thematic conundrums posed by a film that seems to be drawing from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Right Stuff” in equal measure.

But much was made in the film’s PR campaign of that early-film-release gimmick, and we need to talk about why moves like this are not just stunts; and we need to talk about why you should care, even if you didn’t think twice about seeing “Interstellar” digitally projected and don’t think you could spot the difference between an emulsion and base scratch if your life depended on it.

Kodak, the world leader in manufacturing film, is not doing so hot. Their sales of film stock have dropped 96% since 2006, from over 12 billion linear feet to under half a million in 2013. Their business model makes downsizing to more boutique, small-batch production untenable – the timeframe for bankruptcy is starting to look like a matter of months, not years, and once Kodak goes, the vast majority of filmmakers will not even have the option of shooting on their namesake medium. There was some good news this summer when a coalition of directors, including Christopher Nolan, along with Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, and others, helped to pressure studios into committing to purchase a certain amount of film stock per year. This may be enough to keep Kodak afloat, or it may not – either way, it’s important to recognize this as a stopgap measure, and understand the disconnect between these filmmaker’s wishes and Hollywood practice that might make the whole thing come crashing down anyway.

It is all well and good for directors to praise the benefits of shooting on film, but the patronage J.J. Abrams might give Kodak by shooting Star Wars Episode VII on film will mean bupkis if the movie is not also distributed and exhibited on film. Kodak did not make billions and billions of feet of stock to satisfy the needs of directors (nor of archivists, nor artists, nor amateurs); shooting and editing a movie on film doesn’t require nearly so much film stock as projecting it simultaneously in 3,000 theaters across the country once did. Nolan’s insistence that “Interstellar” not only be released on film, but released early in those cinemas that could handle it, was the first shot fired in film’s defense since 20th Century Fox and “Avatar” forced a mass, scorched-earth conversion to digital in 2009. If film is going to survive, its advocates have to make moves to keep it financially viable.

What that means for the average movie-goer is that when you go to see “Interstellar,” you’re voting with your wallet. Something similar will likely happen next year with Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” and perhaps even “The Force Awakens.” I do not ask anyone to make the choice between seeing a film on digital and not seeing it at all; ultimately our film culture will be a vibrant and fruitful place, no matter what format it’s projected from. But if you DO have the opportunity to see “Interstellar” in 35mm, in 70mm or 70mm IMAX, I urge you to do so, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with how cool Gargantua the black hole looks on the big screen. Right now, this is about giving artists the tools to make the art they want. Not every director will want to shoot on film, nor should they; it’s not my idea to wind back the clock, nor to ignore the many many advantages that digital cameras and projectors have offered the film world. But the option should be there.

The day after seeing “Interstellar,” I took a rather ridiculous one-day, 12-hour-round-trip road trip to Rochester, to see Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” projected on a nitrate film print at the George Eastman House. Nitrate film was banned back in 1952 because of its unfortunate potential to get a bit, well, dangerous. The Eastman House is one of only three theaters in the country still allowed to project it. As the film rolled, I realized the differences between nitrate and the later acetate film prints weren’t enormous – the film had a beautifully sharp contrast and exquisite clarity, but you could easily see that in an acetate print that was stashed away in ideal storage conditions for decades and never projected, as this nitrate print had. But there was something I had never quite seen before: a silver sheen to the film’s mid-tone grays, just a slight difference in coloration that gave even the darkest, most shadowy corners of Manderlay an indescribable radiance.

When audiences lost nitrate, they lost that glow. We’re facing another kind of fundamental shift in the way we see movies, but unlike the case in the ’50s, this is not an issue of safety. We don’t have to lose film altogether. Maybe you can’t tell the difference between film and digital projection. But there are those of us who can. And we need your help.

For Your Consideration: Nov. 7, 2014

One of the year’s most hotly anticipated titles, Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” finally drops today – or, if you’re lucky enough to live near one of the handful of theaters around the country that managed to hang on to their old film projectors, perhaps you’ve already seen it in early release. Nolan and Paramount’s decision to make “Interstellar” available two days early to theaters with 35mm and 70mm projection has caused quite a stir, not to mention a lot of whining from many theater owners (who, in fairness, were more or less forced by studios to abandon film and convert to digital projection five years ago when “Avatar” was released). But, after $1.5 million in Tuesday and Wednesday screenings alone, it seems fair to say that “Interstellar” is going to do all right; and while Nolan isn’t going to keep Kodak in business by himself, it’s nice to see the public’s attention drawn to the behind-the-scenes technology that makes moviegoing possible.

To celebrate the history of 70mm (which you can read a nice little summary of here), this week we’re picking out three of our favorite films that were filmed in the super-widescreen format. It really pains me to put streaming options next to these ones. Just….try and put them on the biggest screen possible, yeah?

– Ethan

“Ben-Hur” (1959)

Cast: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell, Sam Jaffe, Finlay Currie, Frank Thring

Available to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant and iTunes, on disc from Netflix

If ever there was a movie made for the big screen, it’s “Ben-Hur.” The first movie to win still-unbeaten record of eleven Oscars—a feat unrivaled for almost four decades—this epic set in Biblical times is so grand the screen doesn’t feel big enough to contain it. The story of a friendship gone sour between a Jewish prince and a Roman commander, it is at times ludicrous, a soap opera sheathed in classical dress—with a side plot featuring Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ. But it’s an exhilarating spectacle that pulsates and dazzles for the length of its 212 minutes. The nine-minute chariot race is one of the most famous sequences in cinema history, setting the blueprint for every competitive race or car chase in the movies since (“The Phantom Menace” is a prime example). To top it all off, it’s the only Hollywood film to make the Vatican’s official list of approved religious films.

– Elaine

“Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962)

Cast: Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith, Richard Haydn, Percy Herbert, Tarita Teriipaia, Henry Daniell

Available to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant and iTunes, on disc from Netflix

Based on the 1932 British novel, “Mutiny on the Bounty” has been remembered more for star Marlon Brando’s on-set antics than for its own merits. But this battle of wills on the high seas features a very fine performance, not from Brando, but from Trevor Howard. Howard, his voice gravely and his lip perpetually set in a curl, outshines his counterpart as Captain William Bligh, a cruel, conniving man whose brutality finally drives his men to mutiny.

As in any odyssey, we yearn for the sight of land, and the movie’s visuals deliver spectacular vistas of Tahiti and the ocean from which it rises. Thanks to the luscious cinematography by Robert Surtees, who won an Oscar for his work on “Ben-Hur,” when the Bounty finally reaches her destination, we, like the sailors, believe that we have made it to paradise (for all its problematic imperialist overtones).

– Elaine

“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

Cast: Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Instant and iTunes, on disc from Netflix

Yeah, so it’s really not like “Interstellar” needs another pre-emptive “2001” comparison. But even unseen and un-dissected (by me, anyway), the comparison is kind of unavoidable when it comes to the film’s technical specs. Wouldn’t you know it, there’s just something about space that attracts directors to a sense of scope (select scenes – yes, you can probably guess which – from “The Tree of Life” were shot in equivalent 65mm). In some ways it’s almost counter-intuitive: why do you need extra image detail and color quality to convey the black nothing of outer space? But then you watch Kubrick’s masterpiece and you realize you can count the stars on the screen just like you can pick out the thousand flecks of the Milky Way on a quiet country night, or that the radiating visions of Dave’s descent into Jupiter are practically burning themselves on to the surface of your eyes – and that’s the reason some directors choose to go big.

– Ethan