Patti Smith, Ira Glass and more tell us their best moviegoing experiences

By
Photography Mark Aghatise

Published March 23, 2018

A good cinema experience can transport you. A bad moviegoing experience can leave you with little more than popcorn stuck in your teeth and 30 less bucks in your bank account. Both can be equally memorable, we found out, when we posed the question to This American Life host Ira Glass, musician and author Patti Smith, director Kenneth Lonergan and Snatched actor Kevin Kane. As they celebrated the second anniversary of independent cinema mecca Metrograph, these bold-faced names reach back in time to pull out their favorite cinematic memories.

Ira Glass

I just had the experience of rewatching The Future [2011] by Miranda July. In the first minute, the dialogue is so good that I literally had to pause it and be like, “I will never write as well as the things she’s doing in the first minutes of the movie.” Every sentence that a character says totally and completely changes the scene they’re in—it’s like a poem. It’s so perfect. It’s just this couple and they’re sitting on a couch and I remember thinking, “This is why I will never be a screenwriter.” I would totally recommend it to anybody. That movie is so wonderful, and also, it’s an utterly representational film about this couple—plus, it’s narrated by a cat.

[My worst experience was] when I was a kid, I went to see Let it Be [1970], and I like the Beatles, but I don’t think I was prepared for what it is, which is a long, in my mind, very, very slow movie. And I just walked out. I walked out of Let it Be. I don’t even remember [at which point I walked out] it’s so long ago … Whatever year Let It Be came out. I was born in 1959 so probably I was 11 or 12 and yeah, I remember thinking, “What is this trash?!” whereas now I really enjoy it. So that was pretty bad.

Kenneth Lonergan

One of my best moviegoing experiences was an anniversary [screening] of Casablanca [1942] and they showed it in a pretty good movie theater somewhere in the ’50s, and it was a full house. I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid going to the Regency. And I’ve seen it about a hundred times and it’s just great to see it with a real audience really responding to the movie the way you’re supposed to. I don’t know if that counts. I love old movies. When I grew up there were over a dozen revival houses in New York. I saw Charlie Chaplin, I saw Humphrey Bogart, I saw James Cagney, I saw Bette Davis, I saw Lauren Bacall, I saw Barbara Steinbeck, all in movie theaters, not on television, and I think it’s a big loss. So that’s why a lot of places like Metrograph are incredibly valuable.

Kevin Kane

When I was young, very young, I went to see Goodfellas [1990] with my dad, and we’re from South Philadelphia and we moved to South Carolina so we were in a whole theater full of Carolinians who were horrified at this movie, and we laughed at it like it was a comedy. So we were, the biggest idiots in the whole thing … So that was one of the best.

Patti Smith

I love the movies so I have too many to say. One of my most wonderful [memories] was seeing [Akira] Kurosawa’s Ran [1985] with my husband in Detroit on my birthday. Because when we went into the movie theater it was a clear day, the movie was like four hours long or something, and there was a snowstorm while we were in the movie theater and the movie was so intense, and when we came out there had been a blizzard and the whole world was covered in snow. So we felt like we had never left the movie. But I don’t have bad experiences at movies because I love the movies. I only go to movies that I know I’m gonna love. It’s entering another world.