The Belcourt Opens a Door to the Past

The Belcourt Opens a Door to the Past: "The series opened a Narnian-like door to 1999, but also to a further world of great films of the past."

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The Prestige. Arrival. The Departed. No Country for Old Men. Tree of Life. There Will Be Blood.

If you would’ve asked my favorite films, these names would be at the top of the list. And they are great films that I love. But you may notice a trend: they are all relatively “young.” And while most of us have learned that new doesn’t always mean, “good,” and old, “bad,” or vice versa, we are never wise to neglect the past and what can be learned from it.

Earlier this Spring, The Belcourt Theatre in Nashville announced they would be showing 25 movies released 25 years ago, throughout the month of June. Rewind to 1999. I was 13 going on fourteen (Liesl, anyone?), staring down the new millennium with the rest of the world, to whatever degree my 8th grade brain could comprehend. Like many of my friends, I was part of the latch-key generation of now deemed elder millennials and I knew every current storyline of the Monday Night Wars between the WWF (not yet WWE) and WCW. I knew Green Day’s latest album and the most recent video game releases. But I wasn’t deep into film at this point. I knew Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey, but not Philip Seymour Hoffman or Alexander Payne.

So, I was excited to see the Belcourt showing a group of films canonized in so many minds but ones I missed as a teenager. The series included many films I had never seen (Magnolia, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Insider), some I already loved (The Sixth Sense, Office Space, Fight Club), and others I had never even heard of (Run Lola Run, Ghost Dog, Ratcatcher). Soon after the festival was announced, I bought a five pack of tickets, picking four I hadn’t seen (Magnolia, Ripley, The Insider, and Election) and a favorite I had never seen on the big screen (The Sixth Sense).

The opportunity to see these previously missed films prompted me to consider what else I had missed. The series opened a Narnian-like door to 1999, but also to a further world of great films of the past. I began to compile a list of “classics” I had missed and never gone back for. I decided this would not just be a five-film journey over the course of a month but a summer of catching up on long treasured movies. Within a few weeks I devoured nearly two dozen films held high by others but unseen by me. There was A Few Good Men, Heat, Almost Famous, Reservoir Dogs, and (forgive me) The Godfather Parts I and II, just to name a few. And I was not disappointed. More often than not, I was blown away by what I found—films that stood the test of time and lived up to an almost impossible amount of hype. My palate was deepened and the well from which to choose favorites expanded rapidly. 

But this wasn’t the only door the Belcourt opened with the 1999 series. They also opened a door of conversation around these films. Every screening I went to was packed out—filled to a level rarely seen now for even the most anticipated new releases. It was clear the series struck a chord. Additionally, the theater had various individuals from the local film community give brief intros at several of the screenings. A layer of significance was added in hearing one person’s perspective on why that specific film still matters 25 years later. Following my screenings, I would often dig into reviews, whether on Letterboxd, in a podcast, or otherwise. My reflections would then spill over into conversation with those close to me, some in person, others through a series of texts. Often, I gained insights and new reasons for appreciation that didn’t come to me upon initial viewing. I grew to see why these stories are still loved decades later and the filmmakers who created them so respected. I was delighted to find my own reflections in the musings of others and challenged by takeaways I hadn’t come to on my own. 

And isn’t that why we go to the theater or turn on a movie to wind down for the night? Yes, to be entertained, but also to be invited into story. To see ourselves there. To spark a conversation with a friend who felt the same experiencing it for the first time. To build another point of connection. To remember we aren’t alone.

I’m already hoping for a 2000 series from the Belcourt next year. I’ll be one of the first to buy a pass and fill a seat to dig into what I missed. I’m grateful this door was opened and I’m excited to continue further in.

*For those in or around Nashville, be sure to check out and support the Belcourt. It’s one of the few places left to experience the magic of “going to the movies.” Their membership options are very affordable for the year and include great benefits like discounted tickets and concessions, and early (sometimes exclusive) access to seminars and screenings that include in person filmmaker and/or actor Q&A sessions.

This post comes to us courtesy of our friend, Brett McIntosh. Follow Brett on Letterbox’d.

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